Morning Five: 09.26.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 26th, 2013

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  1. A random late September day was an odd time for the tried-and-true “baseball model” argument to once again rear its ugly head, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney did his part in making a discussion of one-and-done headline-worthy on Wednesday. His stated premise is one that we’ve heard hundreds of times before: that the NBA (and interestingly, he also mentions the NFL, which is usually immune from this argument) and colleges should work together to allow elite basketball and football players to enter the “pro ranks” — whether through the minor leagues, IMG training, or whatever else — immediately out of high school. As he puts it, “if an athlete wants to professionalize themselves, professionalize themselves.” Forgetting the dripping irony implicit in comments from someone who has done more to “professionalize” his conference than any other administrator, he relies on the value of collegiate “brands that have been built over 100 years” to suggest that college athletics will be just fine without the star power of Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and the rest. Here’s the thing: they won’t be. While it’s true that Michigan fans will continue to watch Michigan football in the same way that Kentucky fans will watch Kentucky basketball regardless of the talent wearing those uniforms, the rest of the country will not. Casual fans of both sports want to see stars, the “next big thing,” and as we already know from the awful preps-to-pros era of college basketball (roughly 1997-2005), the game suffered as a result of the loss of its best players before they ever made it to campus.
  2. Now, this isn’t to say at all that league rules forcing basketball players to spend a “gap year” between high school and the pros in college, overseas, or in the D-League is fair to them either — the above argument relates more to what’s best for the sport of college basketball rather than the elite players themselves. As such, Dana O’Neil gives the flip side of the debate, which is to ask what true positive effect does that single year between the ages of 18 and 19 have on NBA Draftable players like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker? She figures that Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel lost approximately $2 million as a result of his knee injury last season, but she doesn’t address the money that #1 pick Anthony Bennett made for himself because of his one successful year at UNLV (the same dichotomy might be shown in a comparison between the stock drop of UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad versus the rise of Kansas’ Ben McLemore). Still, her point about the NBA protecting itself from draft mistakes is a salient one — teams hope to avoid the next Kwame Brown by evaluating men playing against other men — but her underlying question as to “the point” of the one year in college seems forced. The point is that the one-and-done rule is actually better for nearly all parties involved except for the tiny percentage of highly-evaluated high schoolers whose stock ends up dropping during that one season — it’s better for the NBA, its teams, college basketball, its teams, and even some of the players themselves (the ones, like Anthony Bennett and Kyrie Irving, whom it helps). Two years would be even better.
  3. We mentioned yesterday that SI.com‘s Andy Glockner is unveiling his top 20 current college basketball programs this week, using a methodology that includes historical and contemporary success, sustainability, budget, facilities, league affiliation, fan base, and recruiting pipeline. The biggest surprise in our view in the #16-20 grouping was the inclusion of Illinois at #19, but his latest group has a couple more interesting placements. At #15 was Memphis, which no doubt has a great fan base and facilities, but my goodness, it’s tough to swallow a program that has underachieved relative to its talent in each of its head coach’s four seasons on campus. The other peculiar placement is certainly UCLA at #12, behind a football-first school of Florida at #11 and back-to-back Sweet Sixteens Indiana (somewhere in the top 10). With a brand new Pauley Pavilion, this is probably based on some hesitation about Steve Alford as the new head man in Westwood, but if he can prove to have even an average recruiting touch in Southern California, it would be hard to buy this program falling outside the top 10. We’re looking forward to his rankings on Thursday — how will he handle North Carolina and Syracuse — do they fall into the second five behind Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan State?
  4. Arkansas‘ Bud Walton Arena suffered a good bit of water damage due to torrential rains in the area last Friday, and as a result the men’s and women’s basketball teams have been forced to hold preseason practice sessions at the school’s PE/Rec building. While flooding of a school’s home arena isn’t a typical occurrence, the outsourcing of the team’s workouts to the intramural courts highlights the school’s need for a permanent basketball practice facility. Arkansas remains the only of the 14 SEC programs without one, and the Razorbacks’ 15-year long dalliance with mediocrity is partially to blame, especially from a recruiting standpoint. The damage to the arena isn’t expected to be long-term, certainly good news for the Fayette-nam Rim Rockers and all the other intramural stalwarts tired of ceding their best courts to the SEC’s most middling program.
  5. One of the best health stories of the past few years in our sport has been that of BYU’s Dave Rose. He was one of the very small percentage of survivors of pancreatic cancer, having a large tumor removed from the organ back in 2009. He recently spent another few days in the hospital after a six-month scan revealed a few more cancerous spots on his pancreas, and the Salt Lake Tribune filled us in on how he is feeling heading into a new season. Rose has proven to be someone with an eminently positive attitude, and it shines through in the piece. Still, a relapse from his remission with such an aggressive disease is cause for concern. We will certainly send equally positive thoughts his way, and hope for the best as his team heads into what should be a quite promising season on the hardwood.
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Morning Five: 05.02.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 2nd, 2013

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  1. Over the past five years or so, the college basketball puppet-masters have made heroic if not completely successful attempts to spice up the early November opening of the season. Between the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon, the Champions Classic, the Armed Forces Classic and the various aircraft carrier games, there have been some hits and some misses, but if nothing else these events suck a small percentage of the oxygen out of a sports media universe dominated by the pigskin at the time. According to ESPN.com‘s Jason King, there may be another entry into a crowded opening week on the horizon. bd Global is reportedly putting together the final touches on a multi-game event that would take place in Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, just 20 minutes away from Cowboys Stadium, the site of next year’s Final Four. The concept, of course, is that this event — which would include some prominent semi-local Big 12 schools and other national programs — would bookend the 2013-14 season in exciting fashion, while calling attention to the site of next year’s (and future years’) championship weekend. We’re all for it, but is it too much to ask that the event organizers hold this on the actual opening day of college basketball?
  2. There were a couple of prominent transfers Wednesday, with the announcements that Kansas State’s Angel Rodriguez will land at Miami (FL), and Arizona’s Angelo Chol is leaving Sean Miller’s program. There was some speculation originally that Rodriguez may follow his former coach Frank Martin to Columbia, South Carolina, but because of a family health issue, he sought a location relatively close to his home in Puerto Rico and Miami is about as close as he can get. Rodriguez also played his prep basketball in South Florida, so he’s already familiar with the area. If he manages to receive an NCAA family health waiver to suit up next season, he can step right in at the point guard slot vacated by Shane Larkin and would immediately become the team’s best player. Chol found himself in a big man logjam last season in Tucson, averaging a couple points and rebounds per game in only about nine minutes per outing. Even with Grant Jerrett’s decision to leave for the pros factored into next year’s playing time calculus, the addition of top five prospect Aaron Gordon meant that things were unlikely to improve much for Chol in that regard. The San Diego native is likely to give San Diego State a good, hard look as a possible destination.
  3. With everyone providing their post-draft deadline Top 25s for next season, CBSSports.com‘s Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman went one step further with their predictions of how the preseason All-America teams are likely to look in November. Keeping in mind that players who are consensus locks in the preseason sometimes have a tendency to fall completely off the list by March, their selections generally make good sense at this time. Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Russ Smith are easy selections, and Mitch McGary probably is a good choice for a fourth. Their wildcard selection, however, is where you just never know… Andrew Wiggins is everyone’s rising superstar du jour, but it wasn’t that long ago that Harrison Barnes was a two-time lock for First Team All-American (he made zero major AA teams at UNC) and Anthony Davis was on a clear track to become the next Bill Russell (Damian Lillard instead was the NBA’s consensus Rookie of the Year). We say this not to point out specific mistakes because everyone makes them, but really to highlight the extreme fallibility of predictions such as these (by anyone).
  4. If that’s not enough to get you hyped for next season, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil backs these guys up with her argument that the 2013-14 season, with a tremendous group of returnees buttressed by an equally impressive group of newcomers, is shaping up to be something special. Frankly, it’s a really tough argument to make. The 2011-12 season trotted out the same argument with the returns of rising stars Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones, to name a few, but that season was mostly marked by a clear delineation that Kentucky and North Carolina, when fully healthy, were the best two teams in America. For our money, a season like 2012-13 was actually more exciting simply because there were more legitimate contenders to the crown — Indiana, Gonzaga, Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Florida and even Miami (FL) looked like they had the chops at one time or another — before Louisville crowned an exciting NCAA Tournament with a storybook run to the title with a likable group of players. Hey, we’re ready for next season right now — let’s tip it off regardless of who is around to play the games — but we for one don’t think parity in college hoops is at all a bad thing. It works for the NFL, why not us?
  5. When RTC was just getting started several years ago, we had a somewhat quaint notion that if we asked nicely and didn’t show up looking like Russell Brand on a 72-hour bender, we might be able to convince a few schools to allow us to cover games as members of the credentialed media. The first school that gave us such an opportunity was Boston College, and the SID who allowed it to occur was Dick Kelley. This week SI.com‘s Pete Thamel wrote a tremendous story describing the unbelievable depth of positive impact that Kelley has had on a school’s athletic department in so many more ways than simply handling media requests. For the last two years, Kelley has been battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and at the time of Thamel’s piece, he has lost the use of both his arms and legs and can no longer speak. Yet he still attended basketball practices and all but one of BC’s home games this season. The story is an inspirational one, and sometimes it’s difficult to get emotionally attached to someone most readers have never met. But for us, not only was he willing to give a couple of part-time bloggers a chance to become legit, he also helped open the door for RTC (and so many others in our wake) to cover high-level Division I games in a professional way. Literally hundreds of games, dozens of conference tourneys, and three full NCAA Tournaments later, we will always remember how we were initially treated by a class act in every sense of the phrase. Take care, Dick.
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Morning Five: 11.20.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 20th, 2012

  1. The big news of the day happened off the court and likely behind closed doors in a room with paintings of men who have been dead for over 100 years as Maryland is headed to the Big Ten after its Board of Regents approved the move and Rutgers is expected to join suit later today. Obviously these moves are driven by football-generated television revenue, but it is unfortunate how this move will negatively affect some current college basketball rivalries, particularly Maryland-Duke. The decision to invite Rutgers, a school that has largely been irrelevant in revenue-generating sports, appears to be motivated by its proximity to New York City and the huge television market that comes with it. Our writers at the Big Ten microsite have already provided an overview of how these moves will affect the Big Ten, and the ACC microsite has chimed in as well, but for our part the loss of Maryland as a charter member of the ACC is one of the sadder stories of the entire conference realignment era and we wonder how Terps fans will take to their new conference.
  2. Nobody with half a brain these days still thinks that schools give much, if any, consideration to their student-athletes, fans or sentiment to longstanding and traditional rivalries when making these purely financial decisions to chase the highest possible payout. This mindset is perfectly laid out by ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil, who with a scathing edge to her pen, writes: “The landscape is a storm-ravaged mess and the last idealistic fan has left the building, seeing this entire enterprise for the sausage-making caper it is. College sports are gaining money and losing credibility, the sham of amateurism and purity reserved merely for the athletes and their vow of poverty.” Pat Forde follows her with a missive describing how Maryland and Rutgers’ incompetence both on the fields of play and in the boardroom are virtually meaningless in modern realignment calculus. What does matter: “Location, location, location [near major media markets]. That’s what this latest round of conference realignment is about.” Both are absolutely correct, of course — in just the last year we’ve lost (or will lose) Missouri-Kansas, Syracuse-Georgetown, and now Duke-Maryland. All in the name of more dollars. At what point do those dollars level off when fans realize that Rutgers-Michigan or Maryland-Iowa simply doesn’t have quite the same passion and intensity surrounding it?
  3. Wednesday’s game between Kentucky and Morehead State was supposed to be a nice homecoming for former Wildcat star Sean Woods (you may remember him as the guy who hit the shot before Laettner hit The Shot). It may not turn out to be so friendly, though, after a story was published in the Louisville Courier-Journal in which Woods criticized the current Wildcats for their sense of youthful entitlement. Perhaps as the result of some harsh local feedback, Woods backed off his earlier statements via his official Twitter account. We are guessing that Woods’ clarification will be enough for most Wildcat fans — his banner hangs in the Rupp Arena rafters, after all — but there will probably be a few of the less reasonable ones who use it as an excuse to create a minor scene on Wednesday night.
  4. While the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament has been able to bring in big name programs the past two years — Kentucky (2011) and Ohio State (2012) — it has failed to draw large crowds even when Big Blue Nation invaded Mohegan Sun last season with an absolutely loaded team. Now the organizers are trying to overcome that with a  2013 field that includes two powerhouses — North Carolina and Louisville — as well Richmond, Belmont, and a group of four local schools. Having been to the event once we would be surprised if even the presence of these two schools could make up for the odd atmosphere surrounding the arena and casino, but it should at least make for a better televised final. Along the same lines, the Maui Invitational announced its field for the 2014 tournament (two years from now), and it includes the following eight schools: Arizona, BYU, Missouri, Purdue, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Kansas State, Chaminade. It’s not the strongest Maui event we’ve ever seen, but we’d expect at least three of those teams to rank in the Top 25 that season, perhaps more.
  5. Speaking of the Garden Isle, we don’t typically discuss game results in this space, but on the 30th anniversary of Chaminade‘s historic upset over #1 Virginia in 1982, we thought it was too coincidental to fail to mention the Silverswords’ 86-73 victory over Texas on Monday night. Certainly there are failures in the comparison — first of all, Texas 2012 is not Virginia 1982. The Longhorns aren’t even ranked, and they are playing in Maui without their best player, Myck Kabongo, in the lineup. Secondly, the gap between Division I and Division II basketball isn’t what it was 30 years ago — better training methodologies and techniques at all levels of basketball have helped, but the regular gutting of high-D-I hoops by the NBA creates situations like at Texas where Rick Barnes faces a rebuild every couple of years (Ralph Sampson would have without question been one-and-one in today’s environment). Still, it’s pretty cool. Texas has by far the nation’s top athletic department budget (last check: over $150 million) and it’s unlikely that Chaminade even surpasses a cool million. Could the D-II darlings use a home court advantage to take down Illinois tonight — nobody knows the answer, but it’s stories like these that answers the question of why we watch the games.
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Morning Five: 08.09.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 9th, 2012

  1. International basketball has a number of differences from the US game, ranging from the legal goaltending rule to the trapezoidal lane to a much higher tolerance by officials of cheap shots during game action (see: Anthony, Carmelo vs. Argentina). While Team USA’s core group of players has gotten used to FIBA rules by now, Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks are learning on the fly while they’re touring around Switzerland and France. According to this Lawrence Journal-World report, in KU’s first game on Tuesday night, Swiss forward David Ramseier lost his s#&% after a technical foul call went against him in the second quarter. From Bill Self: “He went nuts. He went absolutely nuts. I’ve never seen that. I saw Bill Romanowski do it in football one time, and I saw Roberto Alomar do it in baseball one time. But this guy went and actually did it twice. He’s going after the official and did it twice.” A physical assault that may have resulted in expulsion from the team (or at least a suspension) in America apparently held no weight overseas — Ramseier was back in the Swiss lineup on Wednesday. For what it’s worth, KU won both exhibition games but not without working for it; the Jayhawks outlasted the Swiss team by three points on Tuesday and four points on Wednesday.
  2. Moving stateside to poor treatment of officials, the NCAA on Wednesday publicly reprimanded Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin for his “profane and abusive language toward a game official” during UC’s Sweet Sixteen loss against Ohio State last March. The NCAA had previously censured Cronin for this same incident, but UC had appealed it on his behalf — that appeal was denied. For the record, Ohio State was tallied with 11 total fouls in that game versus 21 for the Bearcats, resulting in 27 free throw attempts for OSU (making 19) against eight for UC (making five). That 14-point difference in foul shots made essentially accounts for the difference in the game (81-66) — no wonder Cronin was so hot. Does anyone know what he actually said to warrant such a strong reprimand?
  3. CBSSports.com has been crushing it this week with its series revealing what coaches really think about a number of topics. We learned Tuesday that Temple’s Fran Dunphy is considered the most underrated head coach in the land, a fact not too surprising considering how well his teams have done at both Pennsylvania and now Temple. On Wednesday, the most overrated head coaches were listed and the “winner” is a man who 98% of programs around the country would love to have on their sidelines — North Carolina’s Roy Williams. In nine years at UNC, he’s won two national titles and taken the Heels to three Final Fours and six Elite Eights. Everyone knows that he always has great talent at his disposal, but come on… should Williams have gone to six Final Fours and won four titles in the same period — would that make him accurately rated? Rick Barnes, the second-place “winner,” on the other hand…
  4. While on the subject of Roy’s alma mater, ESPN.com‘s Dana O’Neil wrote a piece Wednesday excoriating the NCAA for its seemingly (ok, definite) inconsistency in refusing to further investigate North Carolina for an academic scandal featuring athletes getting pushed into certain courses for easy As. As she clearly writes in the article, it’s certainly no secret that college athletes and students alike know where to find the easiest professors and courses, but there’s a clear distinction between “equal-opportunity baloney classes” and those that exist as fraudulent academic portals for athletes (Jim Harrick, Jr., on line two). She correctly points out that the NCAA would have no problem calling such grades into question at the high school level; but, when it involves its member institutions, it says it has no jurisdiction? It sounds like a really weird mandate, but Robbie Pickeral takes the time to explain in detail how the NCAA defines the issue: If players are clustering in certain classes as a result of academic-related counseling, then the NCAA defers to the university in handling it. If players end up in those courses as a result of the athletic department steering them there, then and only then does the NCAA get involved. What’s left unsaid here, of course, is what happens when there’s an unspoken pressure — even a wink/nod agreement, perhaps — for academic counselors to push players to those classes in the spirit of what’s best for the university (largely influenced by UNC sports).
  5. While we’re piling on the NCAA today, we may as well use this opportunity to check in on the Ed O’Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the organization and its licensees regarding the ongoing usage of his and other players’ names and likenesses in video games, published materials and so forth. The three-year old case is working its way through the system, but on Monday the O’Bannon group of plaintiffs convinced a judge to agree with them that the NCAA must “turn over information relating to revenue that its members receive from broadcast television, radio and Internet rights as well as reports tied to income from sponsorships, licensing, sales of advertising.” Clearly this sort of information is highly sensitive, but it’s a key victory for the athletes in that it shows that their case is meritorious enough for a federal judge to require the NCAA to release such documentation. In a nutshell, this case isn’t going away.
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ATB: Bids Earned From Montana to Brooklyn While Power Conferences Do Battle…

Posted by EJacoby on March 8th, 2012

Tonight’s Lede. The Big East Tournament continued in the early afternoon, but nothing crazy has happened in New York City, yet, with all favorites moving on to Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Big 12 and Pac-12 tournaments also got underway on Wednesday, but all of the top seeds had byes until later rounds. The most exciting action once again took place in the smaller conference tourneys, providing more do-or-die action with Big Dance tickets on the line. We start with the best game of the night, which took place in the Patriot League:

Your Watercooler Moment. C.J. McCollum Outduels Mike Muscala for Lehigh Victory

C.J. McCollum Put the Team on his Back to Send Lehigh Dancing (Getty Images/R. Martinez)

The Patriot League final took place on #1 seed Bucknell’s court, and the home team’s star player went off for 30 points and 14 rebounds. But it wasn’t enough, as the conference’s leading scorer made a few more plays for the road team. C.J. McCollum, the league Player of the Year who put up ridiculous numbers this season, again ran wild for the Mountain Hawks on Wednesday night. The junior guard scored 29 points with five assists, three rebounds, three steals, and two blocks, doing it all for Lehigh including hitting 10-13 free throws with several of them in the final four minutes. Mike Muscala had a monster double-double for Bucknell, but he could not convert on the team’s final couple of possessions and didn’t get enough help from his teammates. Lehigh held on to win, 82-77, and is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Brooklyn Represents the Northeast Conference Once Again. LIU-Brooklyn is one of the highest scoring teams in Division I, and not even the NEC’s best defensive team could slow down the Blackbirds on Wednesday night. LIU defeated Robert Morris, 90-73, on Wednesday night to capture its second consecutive NEC title. The Blackbirds head back to the NCAA Tournament where they last were disposed of by North Carolina in a high-scoring round one game. Expect much of the same for an LIU team that has high-flying forwards (Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere each average about 17 points per game), but doesn’t play a whole lot of defense. The attacking style worked in the NEC, but could it work as a #15 seed in the NCAAs? Regardless, Brooklyn will be in the house for the Big Dance. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 11.02.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 2nd, 2011

  1. Last night was supposed to be the start of the NBA’s 2011-12 season, but because of that lockout thing, doors were shuttered and the lights were off at the nation’s largest multi-purpose arenas. You know how we could tell? In the span of 30 minutes during last night’s Sportscenter, we saw not one, not two, but THREE separate highlight packages involving Top 25 teams playing in games of exhibition nonsense.  Yes, the WWL is just as starved for live hoops as we are, and they’re willing to show it in the form of exhibition nonsense.  For those of you wondering, the three teams involved were Syracuse, Kansas, and Arizona. All three won handily.
  2. If this really had been the NBA’s debut evening, none of those games would have been on anyone’s radar in Bristol, but it begs the question whether NBA fans will make room for college basketball during their winter of discontent. In a piece assessing the possibility, Dana O’Neil argues that the impact on attendance was virtually nil when the league was last locked out in the 1998-99 season . While true, she doesn’t address the likeliest area where NBA-turned-temporary-college fans would see any increase: television ratings. Interest in a sport can take many forms, but from our view, John Q. NBA is more likely to start watching marquee college matchups in November and December than he is to travel through the cold to catch a garbage game at Local State U. Whereas in previous years he may have been busy watching the Lakers vs. the Nuggets on his flat screen the week of Thanksgiving, he might instead this year be satisfied watching Duke vs. Michigan in Maui.
  3. Grantland is back this week with what they’re calling their Preseason All-America awards (shameless plug: our preseason AAs went live yesterday). Their writer, Jay Caspian Kang, seems to have a sufficient grasp of the sport and its key players (even if he runs a little UNCentric), but we need to put in a call to Gary Parrish this morning, because Kang did the unthinkable in choosing the Carolina floor general, Kendall Marshall, for a spot on the 1st team over the more heralded star of the Tar Heels, Harrison Barnes (2d team). If you want to get technical about it, he actually chose four players — Marshall, Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), and John Jenkins (Vanderbilt) — over the smooth-as-silk Barnes (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger is the only true post on his first team). Again, it doesn’t bother us all that much — if someone had left Shaq off the 1992 or Duncan off the 1997 teams, we’d be more outraged — but it is peculiar given what he writes about Barnes as someone lacking in “elite-level skills.” Worth watching…
  4. It’s not every day that a Congressman makes news for trashing the NCAA (that’s usually left to the likes of people like us), but Illinois representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) went on record Tuesday at a congressional forum of college sports in comparing the NCAA to “Al Capone and the Mafia.” The 64-year old who represents the largest majority-minority district in the House of Representatives (the South Side of Chicago) also holds the distinction as the only elected official to have defeated Barack Obama in an election (the Democratic primary for his seat in 2000). He infamously said at the time that the now-president “went to Harvard and became an educated fool,” and it’s clear that the irascible politician has not learned to better hold his tongue from controversial statements in the intervening decade. The context of his comments related to injuries sustained by athletes while playing college sports and his anger with how the NCAA handles its medical hardship cases.
  5. He’s baaaaaack. Luke Winn‘s first edition of the Power Rankings is back, just in time for you to enjoy over your morning latte. Winn once told us that he sometimes spends upwards of 20 hours on these articles, which we all know is a complete and utter lie (he has most of it in his head already). Still, his weekly PR is something that you need to spend some time with, so put your office phone ringer on mute, close out any instant messages you have going, and get to work figuring out what he’s talking about when he refers to such elusive yet fascinating concepts as possession poundage or Marcus Camby with a unibrow. When you’re done with that, spend the next half hour trying to come up with a name for his Thomas Robinson comparison at #12 — we have one name in mind ourselves, but aren’t sure about its validity. You?
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ATB: Post-Holiday Blues for UConn

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2010

The Lede.  We hope that everyone came out of the long holiday weekend fully intact, with perhaps an iPad, some Air Jordan XXIs or Final Four tickets under the tree.  This week certainly won’t be as glacially-paced as last week was, but we really won’t move into the heart of the season until after New Year’s day and the interminable bowl season comes to a close.  Still, tonight started off the week with what was on paper a fairly good matchup of two top ten teams, but most of us had an inkling that the UConn Huskies were due for the wheels to come off sooner or later; it was really only a matter of which Pittsburgh team might show up.

Pitt Disassembled the Huskies With Relative Ease Tonight (PPG/M. Freed)

Your Watercooler MomentAs Suspected, It’s Kemba and Friends.  There’s a reason that everyone who has a Twitter account was on the record over the last few weeks stating that UConn was nowhere near as good as their undefeated record and top five ranking might suggest.  In tonight’s highly-anticipated game between Walker’s Huskies and the Pitt Panthers, it was Jamie Dixon’s team that showed the balance, poise and defense required of an elite team with its eyes on a national championship trophy.  UConn, on the other hand, looked like an exposed team with one star player but not much else to show for its troubles.  Walker ended the game with 31 points, but it was a difficult night shooting for the all-American guard, as he had to take 27 shots to do it.  His ten made field goals accounted for more than half of UConn’s total of 19, and with that fact it is clear that Pitt’s strategy was to limit Walker’s scoring opportunities while shutting everyone else down.  They did just that.  The one player who has the talent to play with Pitt along with Walker is Alex Oriakhi, but as described below, he did his best ostrich impression by putting his head in the sand (8/1)  and drawing the ire of coach Jim Calhoun after the game.  Pitt, on the other hand, looked completely different from the team we saw wilt versus Tennessee a couple of weeks ago; rather, the Panthers looked confident and capable from everywhere on the floor, including a superb 21/7 asst outing from Ashton Gibbs in a true comeback performance for the talented junior.  So what does a late December Big East opener mean for these two teams?  What we took from the game is that Pitt, originally projected to win the Big East, is still at the top of that list along with Georgetown and Syracuse, while UConn is going to continually run into problems in trying to run its entire offense through Kemba Walker night after night.  As talented as he is, he can’t beat everyone by himself.  The teams playing him in Maui were caught somewhat off guard by his abilities, but the Big East has seen what he can do and knows how to neutralize him — other Huskies are going to have to step up if UConn wants to sniff the top ten later this season.

Tonight’s Quick Hits

  • Pitino’s Bombino’s, Part Two.  Twenty-one seasons ago Rick Pitino took a mishmash group of Kentuckians and molded them into what became one of the most beloved teams in program history, the Pitino Bombinos.  Using a full-court pressure assault and relentless three-point shooting as the two principles above all else, the Bombinos went 14-14 when many prognosticators didn’t think they had the talent to win half that many games.  Cut to this year’s Louisville team, and the similarities are there — the Cards produce turnovers on over a quarter of their opponents’ possessions and shoot threes at a very high rate (43% of all field goals attempted).  Little was expected of this U of L team but they’re dominating lesser opponents and have catapulted out of the gates with an 11-1 record heading into this weekend’s Bluegrass Battle against Kentucky.  We’re not sure we’ve ever seen a team hit 17 of 23 treys as the Cards did tonight against Morgan State, not even those very Bombinos that Pitino coached in Lexington a generation ago.  We’re excited to see whether the Cards can keep it up.
  • Louisville’s Balance.  Preston Knowles went for 31 points and Kyle Kuric 25 tonight, but already this season seven Cards have put up games of fifteen or more points in the scoring column.  It’s still early in the season and Louisville has played a lot of Hostesses, but Pitino has ten players playing double-figure minutes and eight of those guys are contributing at least five points per game.  Given how short his bench has been in recent seasons at Louisville, this is definitely a different looking Cardinal team.
  • William Buford’s Breakout Game? Because his Buckeyes have been playing so well this season, not much has been written about how presumptive star wing Buford really hasn’t had the breakthrough year that everyone expected from him.  He’s certainly played well (with season averages of 13/5/4 APG), but his numbers are generally down from last season and there’s been an adjustment for him playing off of Jared Sullinger instead of Evan Turner.  Tonight was the first time all season he showed his complete offensive package, going for a season-high 23/4/5 assts/2 stls on 9-11 shooting against UT-Martin.  If Thad Matta can get star production from his elite wing to go along with Sullinger’s nastiness inside (another 18/11 dub-dub this evening, his sixth of the year), then OSU could be the best team in America come March.

… and Misses.

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Dana O’Neil Opens Eyes With Poll of Coaches

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

As we mentioned in today’s Morning 5, Dana O’Neil’s enlightening piece exposing the raw perceptions that coaches have on their peers in the world of college basketball and the sport in general is fascinating stuff.  It’s obvious that she knew it too, as the bulk of the article was filled with direct quotes from anonymous high-major coaches telling the truth as they saw it.  There is a lot of meat to this article — numerous raise-your-eyebrow statements that had us questioning and hopeful for more.  So we thought it might be interesting to cherry-pick the nine quotes that we thought were the most compelling and do what we do (make inappropriate comments and wildly speculate about things).  Enjoy.

Dana O'Neil Sheds Light on Unseen Areas of the Game

Regarding fraternity among coaches:

“It’s sad,” another coach said. “I grew up in this game with an idea of what I thought it was or what I thought it should be. Now I see it’s not like that at all. You have low- to mid-major guys aspiring to move up who will do anything to get there and you have guys who, once they get used to a certain lifestyle, will do whatever it takes to keep it.  There’s less of a brotherhood here than there is in football and that bothers me,” another added. “We have more guys stabbing each other in the back or using you guys [the media] to go after their agenda. That’s a big problem.”

We found this quote somewhat surprising in that we figured that competition among football coaches would be even more intense given the structure of their system, where the pyramid is extremely top-heavy and the small schools have virtually no chance to get there. 

On gender roles:

Along with the coach who called the women, “the gestapettes,” another said, “If the NCAA was serious, they’d hire someone who knew what they were doing, not these women out here trying to get a husband.”

Sexist caveman coaches, for the win!  Dana must have especially enjoyed hearing those quotes as the only nationally-focused female college basketball writer of note in the industry.  Ridiculous, and we’d happily buy her a Cosmo if she would tell us who these cretins were (see what we did there?). 

On recruiting to name-brand schools:

Here’s what I think happens a lot — a team loses a kid to someone else and all of a sudden that someone else is cheating. Every time North Carolina loses a kid, someone else is cheating. It’s like there’s so much arrogance with them; they can’t believe someone would rather go somewhere else, so the other team has to be cheating.

We hear this from fans of the major schools (like UNC) all the time.  Seriously – ALL the time.  But it was enlightening to hear it coming from the coaching ranks as well.  We guess nobody is excused from the tendency to blame extraneous factors when things go wrong.  Not even coaches. 

On expense accounts:

One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick.  They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?”

We discussed this one on the M5 and in the comments.  If we assume that the coach in question was talking about the most recent NBA Draft (fresh on his mind), then we’re talking about four schools here — Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse or Georgia Tech.  One commenter pointed out that DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors worked out together in New Jersey before the draft.  Connecting a few dots together, we can make some further assumptions about which school was setting up expense accounts and which school wasn’t.  Or, we could just admit that this is nothing more than rumor and means absolutely nothing. 

Regarding phone call violations: 

I get a kick out of the phone calls. Who gets caught with that anymore? It’s a joke. They’re out there catching the guy with the one phone. How about the guy with two and three bat phones?

This quote really makes the UConn assistant coaches and Kelvin Sampson look stupid, right?  Even low-level drug dealers and amateur terrorists  know that you should use burners for any illicit calls. 

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Morning Five: 07.23.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2010

  1. We hope to have more up on this later today, but this article by Dana O’Neil quoting prominent college coaches (anonymously, of course) about what is wrong with college basketball is reaching an epic level of buzz right now.  There is so much good material here that it’s difficult to pinpoint the best part, but one particular quote stuck out…  “One of my players [who left early for the draft] was working out with another top-five draft pick,” a coach said. “They got to talking and my kid said something about not having money or whatever on campus. The other kid said, ‘My coach set up expense accounts all over town for me. Yours didn’t?” If we assume that the coach is referring to the 2009-10 season, he’s got to be talking about Kentucky, Ohio State, Georgia Tech or Syracuse, right?  Who is your money on?
  2. Luke Winn gets all the tough assignments.  This week he’s reporting back the Alps of Austria with the twenty NCAA players who performed the best in the European Under-20 Championships.  Ok, maybe he wasn’t actually there (we have no idea, actually), but he still comes up with a good list.   Leading the way is… say it with us, now…  Arizona’s Kyryl Natyazhko from the Ukraine.  The 6’11 rising sophomore averaged 17/8 in the tournament, which is great news for Sean Miller’s team as they bring back a deep front line with Derrick Williams, Jamelle Horne and Solomon Hill.  Natyazhko only played eleven minutes per game last year, but with numbers like that, there are signs that he could have a breakout year in the desert in 10-11.
  3. In this article, Seth Greenberg comments on the First Four expansion of the NCAA Tournament, which some folks are humorously calling the Virginia Tech Invitational.  You have to figure that the Hokies would have gotten a bid in two of the last three seasons had there been a 68-team field, so there’s probably some truth to that quip.
  4. Rob Harrington of USA Today takes a look at the summer recruiting circuit to see what themes have emerged as Las Vegas gears up with over 600 AAU teams in town for its various events this weekend.  A quick primer — Michael Gilchrist is still #1, there has been no apparent “Butler Effect,” and players are milking the process to announce in made-for-tv style events.
  5. CBS Sportsline is doing an interesting piece called the Flourishing Five to while away the summer months where they break down the top five college programs in America who are at the top of the heap in both basketball and football.  Their #5 choice is Pittsburgh, an interesting one to say the least.  The obvious choices for the top two are Texas and Ohio State, but who are the others?  Florida has to be considered among the top four, but the other one is a bit perplexing.  Would UNC be an option with Butch Davis now at the helm in football?  How about Wisconsin with Bo Ryan and Bret Bielema getting it done?  The top four should be released over the next couple of weeks.
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09.25.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on September 25th, 2008

It’s officially Autumn, which means cooler air is around the corner and the sweet cacophany of bouncing basketballs echoing through a gymnasium is coming…

  • Dana O’Neil gives a pretty good roundup of injured players who are either all the way healed or expected to be so by the time the meat of the season begins.  One of those players, Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf, is back from an ACL injury with another year of eligibility in tow.  Another, Alabama’s Ronald Steele, is a hard-luck guy who RTC is hoping catches a few breaks this year – he deserves it. 
  • Tubby Smith’s nephew, William L. Smith, was stabbed and killed last weekend at an off-campus apartment complex in Worcester, Mass. 
  • UConn’s Nate Miles, he of the five high schools, was arrested for violating a restraining order.  We’re shocked, I tell you, that Jim Calhoun’s charge is acting up!  Shocked! 
  • Jamie Dixon‘s deal with Pitt has been extended through the 2016 season at a minimum of $1.3M per annum.
  • Remember Pierre Pierce?  The former Iowa star who spent 11 months in prison for a multitude of charges will be allowed to serve his probation in France while playing professional basketball there this winter. 
  • Here are six teams to watch in the 08-09 season seeking to break long NCAA droughts.
  • More Stephen Curry.  The Wooden Tradition, not to be confused with the Wooden Classic (UCLA v. Depaul; San Diego St. v. St. Mary’s), will feature Purdue v. Davidson and St. Mary’s v. S. Illinois on Dec. 19 in Indianapolis.  In case you were wondering how the new Mr. March spent his summer, click here
  • HoopsAddict has it’s All-Americans out – Tyrese Rice over Darren Collison is a weak call. 
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Fast Breaks 07.31.08

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2008

As July leads into August, here are some tasty bits of knowledge for the summer heat…

  • Richmond’s top player Dan Geriot is expected to miss the 08-09 season with a knee injury.  Auburn’s best player, Josh Dollard, was simply kicked off the team for not getting his sh!t together.
  • Guess we know how Texas A&M-Corpus Christi made the Tourney two years ago. 
  • Thuggins, summertime, scofflaws.  Any questions?
  • It appears as if Illinois’ Jamar Smith violated the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol; he’ll learn his fate at a Sept. 17 hearing.  In other news, a 21-year old ball player recently had sex with a woman. 
  • Memphis could be in some hot water over an improper phone call made by the FedEx CEO to one of his employees (who also happens to be the mother of the #2 rated PG in the class of 2009, Abdul Gaddy). 
  • Baylor????  No, really, Baylor????
  • Gregg Doyel says he’ll bury the hatchet with Coach K if he brings home the gold medal next month.  The most interesting part of this piece is the story about Coach K torpedoing Doyel’s book deal in 1999.   
  • Yes, UK Fans are insane.  We mean that in a good way, of course.
  • Andy Katz takes a look at the Wake Forest program one year after the untimely death of head coach Skip Prosser.
  • We thought this article by Dana O’Neil about coaches working themselves too hard in light of Prosser’s heart attack was going to suck, but we really enjoyed it.  Coaches whine and complain about the summer circuit, but they really love it (poor headline, ESPN). 
  • Jeff Goodman breaks down his top ten prospects from the summer camps in Vegas.
  • Gary Parrish gives an interesting insight into how programs game the summer recruiting circuit by not hiring assistant coaches until after they’ve developed good relationships with top prospects (sidenote: why did Arizona fire Miles Simon – that guy won them a championship!).  He follow that up with another article on how coaches get creative but ethically suspect in getting recruits onto campus in a legal manner.
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6.11.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on June 10th, 2008

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