The RTC Podblast: Regular Season Finale Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2014

It’s all about coming full circle on the 2013-14 regular season in this week’s RTC Podblast, and to help us through some of the key questions as we enter the final weekend of play and start looking ahead to March Madness, the guys welcome Sporting News‘ columnist Mike DeCourcy. For those of you who have been listening to us all season, you might recall that DeCourcy was our first Rush the Take guest way back in the preseason. He may have aged five months since then but his takes are as relevant as ever. Full circle.

As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Also keep an eye out early next week as we’ll be releasing a bunch of podblasts previewing the upcoming conference tourneys as we head into the heart of Championship Fortnight.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record.

  • 0:00-3:05 – Down Goes Duke
  • 3:05-5:18 – Struggling Syracuse
  • 5:18-8:27 – Saint Louis Blue
  • 8:27-25:20 – Rush the Take: Mike DeCourcy
  • 25:20-35:35 – Final Weekend Preview
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AAC M5: New Year’s Day Edition

Posted by Ross Schulz on January 1st, 2014

AAC_morning5_header

  1. Tim Sullivan of the Louisville Courier-Journal writes that it was time for the Cardinals to part ways with the oft-troubled Chane Behanan. He said that given the football program’s leniency with keeping assistant coach Clint Hurt in the face of a show-cause penalty, there should be no additional backsliding with Behanan. A three- or maybe even four-guard lineup may be the best option for the Cardinals moving forward. It’s a silver lining for Pitino that Behanan’s departure comes at the end of December instead of the end of February, though. Plenty of time still remains for Pitino to tinker with rotations to put the Cardinals in the best position for the postseason.
  2. Mike DeCourcy argues that Louisville, minus Chane Behanan, is done as far as defending its national title. The Cardinals were already somewhat light in the frontcourt and have compounded that weakness by losing their best rebounder as well. DeCourcy believes there is a chance, with some luck and the right match-ups, that Louisville could still make the Final Four. But even if things fell perfectly for Rick Pitino’s team this postseason, Louisville is too thin up front and lacking in elite frontcourt talent to become one of the leading contenders to win it all.
  3. South Florida guard and team leader, Anthony Collins, continues to sit out while recovering from a late summer bursa sac removal procedure. Head coach Stan Heath called the situation a “nightmare 101.” Collins was only expected to miss a week or so back in September, and even though he returned to action in the third game of the season and remains the team’s assist leader at 5.9 dimes per game, he clearly isn’t himself and hasn’t been able to play as much as expected. Collins’ knee also recently developed tendinitis, limiting his effectiveness even more. When healthy, Collins and USF are capable of contending for the upper half of the AAC and a postseason berth. But the Bulls can’t go much longer without him at full strength, as they have already lost two of their last three games without him in the lineup.
  4. After an up-and-down non-conference portion of the season that saw Cincinnati finish with an 11-2 record, the Bearcats are now ready to tip things off in their inaugural AAC season. The Bearcats fell at New Mexico in the Pit, but also were blown out by crosstown rival Xavier before rebounding with solid wins against Pittsburgh and Nebraska. Cincinnati will welcome SMU to town tonight for both schools’ AAC opener, which will provide the Bearcats another opportunity at a solid win. Cincinnati hopes to continue two trends into conference play — playing good defense and shooting a high percentage from the foul line. The Bearcats have held opponents under 70 points for 20 straight games and are shooting a Mick Cronin-era best 71 percent from the free throw line.
  5. A Cincinnati Hall of Famer and one of the all-time great players in the school’s storied history, Connie Dierking, passed away on Sunday. Dierking was an exceptional rebounder, still holding the school’s single-season record with an average of 18.8 boards per game in 1956-57. He led the Bearcats to a Missouri Valley Conference Championship in 1958 while averaging a double-double of 15.8 points and 14.9 rebounds per game. Current head coach Mick Cronin called Dierking one of the pioneers that helped build the winning tradition of Cincinnati basketball. Dierking later returned to the city where he played professionally for the Cincinnati Royals of the ABA. May he rest in peace.
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The RTC Podcast: 2013-14 Preseason Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 17th, 2013

seasonpreview (1)Welcome back to the third season of the RTC Podcast. From now until the second week in April, from Midnight Madness to March Madness, from the upstart American Athletic Conference to the venerable Atlantic Coast Conference, podcast host Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) will guide the RTC editors, microsite correspondents and even some special guests through more college basketball discussion than anyone could possibly listen to in a single sitting. We hope you’ll try, though.

This preseason edition of the podcast is meant to get things started, to tease the season out from a view still several weeks away from opening night. Over the course of the next three weeks, we will drop a preseason RTC Podblast for each of the seven major basketball conferences before turning back to the national picture in early November with a second preseason edition. After that, we’ll be back to the normal weekly schedule of a full podcast in the first half of the week with a shorter podblast reviewing that week’s action at the end.

Sporting News/Big Ten Network's Mike DeCourcy Joined Us This Week

Sporting News/Big Ten Network’s Mike DeCourcy Joined Us This Week

Now, about those guests… This week we’re thrilled to introduce a new segment to the podcast called Rush the Takes. In each of these weekly segments, we’ll invite a prominent college basketball analyst or personality to join the discussion for a bite-sized morsel of a chat about what’s happening in the game. This week we’re happy to announced that venerable Sporting News columnist and Big Ten Network analyst Mike DeCourcy (@tsnmike) took some time out of his busy schedule to join us. You’ll definitely want to hear his specific observations on the freshmen class at Kansas, beyond Andrew Wiggins — it’s well worth your time.

As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record. Feel free to contact us through Twitter or email — we’re listening.

 

  • 0:00-2:06 – Introduction
  • 2:06-5:54 – Offseason Recap
  • 5:54-13:30 – Let’s Talk 2014 Title Contenders
  • 13:30-19:27 – This Year’s Diaper Dandies
  • 19:27-22:46 – Is the ACC Getting Overhyped?
  • 22:36-33:32 – Rush the Takes – Interview with Mike DeCourcy
  • 33:32-45:27 – “Listener” Emails and Podcast Wrap
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Morning Five: 08.01.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 1st, 2013

morning5

  1. See that date up there at the top of the post? Yeah, August 1. Also known as the downswing of the summer, and the corresponding slow, gradual ramp-up to the next college basketball season. It’s not yet time to get excited, but it’s definitely worth a nod to the notion of a season getting here sooner rather than later. With that said, how about some super-duper-early preview materials to get the month started? SI.com‘s Andy Glockner gets things going with a look at the new Big East, featuring three new schools and an interesting existential question on whether a basketball-centric conference can survive and even thrive in major college athletics. And in case you missed it from a few days ago, Glockner also did a review of the remnants of that conference — the AAC — with a heavy emphasis on the defending national champions. 
  2. While on the subject of these two non-BCS leagues, Mike DeCourcy examines how a proposed $2,000 “living expenses” stipend that the top football conferences are hoping to add (especially if they pack up for a Divison 4 entity) would impact the likes of these conferences. It’s not an easy question to tackle, nor is it something that the “high-resource” schools populating the Big East and AAC necessarily want to see happen. That said, as DeCourcy notes, there is no realistic scenario where huge basketball schools like Connecticut, Cincinnati or Georgetown would allow regional and national rivals in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 to offer recruitsan additional and legal financial incentive without also doing so on their own. Those schools would simply have to rework their financial sheets to make it happen, which may require some level of creativity among their accountants and senior management, but let’s not pretend that college athletics isn’t awash in money. The issue at most relevant schools is on the expenditures side, not the revenue one.
  3. And what about those revenues? It’s time for your near-daily Ed O’Bannon lawsuit update, and this one is a good one. In a 2-1 appellate decision involving a different case but one that will be instructive to the O’Bannon group’s decision, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled on Wednesday that video game maker EA must face claims against it for the usage of college players’ likenesses. The video game company had argued that it was protected by artistic license under the First Amendment, but the court rejected that argument. EA, of course, was notorious for using college football and basketball player likenesses to the point of absurdity in its video games, yet still claiming player anonymity because the names were removed from their virtual jerseys. It sounds ridiculous, and it is. As the court stated: the video game likeness had the “same height, weight, skin tone, hair color, hairstyle, handedness, home state, play style (pocket passer), visor preference, facial features, and school year” as the defendant (former Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller). What does this mean for O’Bannon? SI.com sports law expert Michael McCann believes that it means EA will settle its case with that group, leaving its co-defendants the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Corporation to twist in the wind for the major payouts. Either way, this is another signal that big change is on the horizon.
  4. Stipends, Division 4, huge-dollar lawsuits… the NCAA is taking hits on all sides right now. Still, the prevailing wisdom is that no matter what transmogrified shape major college athletics eventually assumes, everyone’s beloved NCAA Tournament will not be messed with. The positive cash flow of over $700 million per year to the NCAA (and eventually parsed out to the schools) is just too valuable to destroy — so goes the thinking, at least. But, as Gary Parrish notes in one of his best columns in a long while, the potential of the monied schools choosing the nuclear option is at least worth our consideration. If there’s a dollar to be made, this cabal has proven that they’ll pursue it, time and time again, and often in the face of public sentiment. If, as we’ve also argued in this very space, the big-time schools decide that they can run their own version of March Madness resulting in a larger piece of the pie than they currently receive, then, as Parrish says, “smarter people [have done] dumber things.” We cannot disagree.
  5. In the meantime, America is stuck with the Texases and Ohio States of the world sharing postseason basketball space with the likes of VCU and Gonzaga. Arizona, as a member of the burgeoning Pac-12, is closer to the former group than the latter. And with Sean Miller at the helm, the Wildcats are poised to dominate west coast basketball and stay as a national powerhouse for the next decade or longer. This SBNation.com report from Scott Coleman notes that only two schools have ripped off top 10 recruiting classes in each of the last three years: Kentucky, obviously, but also Miller’s Wildcats. This year’s recruiting class will join a strong returning group from last season to potentially vault Arizona to the top of the Pac-12 standings, and if the reports about Aaron Gordon’s performances over the summer are any indication, he may just find himself standing as the best prospect in the country not named Andrew Wiggins this time next year.
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Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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Morning Five: 05.28.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 28th, 2013

morning5

  1. We have seen a lot of strange transfers over the years, but the decision by Katin Reinhardt to leave UNLV is among the more puzzling ones we have seen. Coming out of high school Reinhardt was a highly regarded shooter, but not considered among the truly elite members of his senior class. Reinhardt is hardly alone in his decision to transfer as it has become an epidemic not only within the UNLV program, but college basketball overall. The interesting aspect of Reinhardt’s decision to transfer is that he felt he needs to showcase his talents more particularly his ability to play point guard if he hopes to play in the NBA. It is true that Reinhardt did not get to play point guard much in his freshman season, but that does not mean he did not have the ball in hands enough to showcase his skills as he took the second most shots on the team last year despite making an atrocious 35.8 percent last season (that’s below the 38.1 percent that the relatively selective Marshall Henderson shot last season). The early buzz is that Reinhardt may be headed to USC and with their Dunk City offense he may be ideally suited to run the offense as his errant shots can serve as lobs for his teammates.
  2. The Julie Hermann saga continues to unfold at Rutgers and it seems to get more complicated with each passing day. It seems like there are more and more people from Hermann’s past coming out on both sides of the accusations from her days at Tennessee. Yesterday, Hermann came out and stated that Rutgers President Robert Barchi had assured her that her job was safe. That might be news to New Jersey political leaders who seem to be less than thrilled about the hiring at this time. At this point if Hermann and Barchi keep their jobs they will probably be on very thin ice.
  3. As part of their ongoing series on NBA Draft trends, CBSSports.com took a look yesterday at how the major conferences have done in the NBA Draft in the past 15 years. The fact that the ACC comes out on top should not be too surprising, but some of the trends in other conferences are interesting particularly the lack of first round picks coming out of the Big Ten, which has probably been the best conference in the country the past two seasons. The one caveat when looking at this analysis is that it keeps the picks in the conference that the school was in when the player was drafted so the relative strength of conferences in this analysis will shift when that is taken into account assuming that they were drafted because of the type of player they were and the school they went to more than the conference they played in.
  4. In the narcissistic world of prep recruiting, it isn’t all that often that young wunderkinds like Andrew Wiggins shun the over-the-top pomp and circumstance in favor of a short and sweet announcement to announce their college destination. Yet Wiggins’ subtle announcement two weeks ago, given in the presence of a single local Huntington, WV, reporter and some family members, characterized how far Wiggins is willing to go to eschew the typical circus atmosphere that surrounds a player of his caliber (some players a decade his elder would do well to take note). Wiggins one-upped himself on the understated but classy front on Sunday with a thank you note in the Herald-Dispatch to the citizens of the community of the small Ohio River burg who spent the last two years supporting him at Huntington Prep. It’s a gesture that many of us are taught to do at a very young age by our parents — the simple thank you note — but so few in his position actually remember. So far, if these early indications represent the true character of Wiggins rather than just another choirboy charade, he has an early fan in all of us here at RTC.
  5. For anyone who has ever worked in the confluence merging between politics and policy-making, what appears to be simple on its face may be quite a bit more complex behind the scenes. Such is likely the case in the matter of DePaul‘s promise from Chicago to partially fund a new home arena, and the near-simultaneous closing of over 50 city schools because of a lack of funding ($1 billion in the red). Mike DeCourcy tackles the topic as an exercise in juxtoposition, and again, on its face it sounds like another example of whacked-out priorities. But the fact of the matter is that city budgets are hugely complex organisms — a fact that DeCourcy notes in  his final paragraph — and there is likely to be a set of tradeoffs that makes substantially more sense when digging into the numbers of each initiatve. Still, the key takeaway here is that questions should be asked and the Mayor’s Office should explain those reconciliations. Otherwise, well, it just looks like misplaced priorities.
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Morning Five: 05.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. In yesterday’s M5, we linked to an LA Times article exploring how new USC head coach Andy Enfield is taking to his new environs in Hollywood. What’s been forgotten amid all the buzz surrounding Enfield is the school that allowed him to become a household name in the first place — Florida Gulf Coast. According to the Fort Myers (FL) News-Press, new head coach Joe Dooley has been adjusting to the job through a whirlwind of recruiting trips, a national search for an assistant coach, and getting to know his returning players. One interesting idea put forth in the article is that Dooley appears to be looking at graduating seniors with another year of eligibility as a quick solution to gather some quick elite-level talent. It’s not a bad thought, especially considering that the brand recognition of FGCU is likely to give the program a number of marquee non-conference games next season, a nice selling point for players at bigger schools who might be looking to trade down for one year.
  2. Mike DeCourcy is back with his Starting Five column this week, and he took some time out from his trip to the British Isles to tackle several interesting subjects: notably, Andrew Wiggins, Andy Enfield, and our favorite, RTCing. On the subject of Wiggins and where he thinks he’s headed (or should head) next season, he couldn’t have been more politically savvy, writing 200 words on the “prediction” without actually answering his own question! With respect to Enfield, he gives the new USC head coach a puncher’s chance at making Trojans basketball a hot ticket, but we’re in agreement with him that the focus of the school on football makes it a very tough place to become truly relevant. Finally, he also attacks the practice of RTCing as a “massive potential liability,” and of course he’s right on that point — but it’s also incredibly fun for the students involved, and love it or hate it — ahem, we fall in the love category — it’s one of the few unique traditions that college basketball can claim as its very own, and we hope that it remains part of that fabric of the sport for as long as we’re around.
  3. Yesterday’s transfer news includes a couple of good players looking to take advantage of the graduate exception to play their final season immediately at their new location. Florida State forward Terrence Shannon announced that he will enroll at VCU for his last campaign, giving Shaka Smart’s already-talented Rams a big and athletic post player who can team up with Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham in an outstanding frontcourt next season. Out west, Arizona State’s Evan Gordon has been granted his release and is rumored to be considering a transfer closer to his home in Indiana for his last season. The obvious choice for Gordon would be Tom Crean’s Hoosiers, given that older brother Eric played in Bloomington a few years ago, and the personnel losses that IU faces this offseason. As players around the country move toward graduation and recognize the immediate value of this exception, we expect to see quite a few more of these free agency situations before the month is out. Somewhere up in Wisconsin, Bo Ryan just kicked his dog.
  4. One of the best movies of all-time is the documentary Hoop Dreams, a Chicago prep basketball saga that follows the high school careers of William Gates and Arthur Agee through their many ups and downs. Both Gates and Agee have reached middle age by now, but they remain quasi-celebrities by virtue of their affiliation with the movie and the raw reality of the stories they told. The Dagger‘s Jeff Eisenberg tells the story of William Gates, Jr., Gates’ son, who as a high school senior at Samuel Clemens High School in San Antonio, just recently accepted a scholarship offer to play Division I basketball at Furman. Anyone who struggled with the disappointments that the elder Gates suffered after blowing out his knee in Chicago two decades ago has to love this story of a family’s redemption. Great piece of work here.
  5. Finally, in a sad testimony of just how far the industry of journalism has fallen (and the end seemingly nowhere in sight), the New York Daily News laid off longtime college basketball scribe Dick “Hoops” Weiss. A mentor to many in the business and a true gentleman admired by everyone privileged to have met him at MSG or one of his 40+ trips to the NCAA Tournament, we surely hope that he will find a comfortable landing spot somewhere else. It’s a shame that someone so influential to the game of college basketball for nearly a half-century can be thrown out like yesterday’s news, but as we’ve said many times before, the modern era of reporting and sports writing seemingly will not stop itself in its vulgar race to the very bottom.
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Morning Five: 04.24.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on April 24th, 2013

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  1.  As we approach the only NBA Draft early entry deadline that actually matters — in other words, the Association’s draft deadline on Sunday, April 28 — several prominent underclassmen have yet to make their final decisions. With a couple of announcements expected later today, USA Today‘s Scott Gleeson gives a nice rundown of the pros and cons for five notable players — Louisville’s Russ Smith, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, Miami’s Shane Larkin, and Baylor’s Isaiah Austin. Smith, who met with his head coach to discuss his decision on Tuesday, says that he has been losing sleep over the choice to stay or leave Louisville, and that he’s been riding the fence on the topic for the two weeks since the Cardinals won the national title. None of this group is a certain lottery pick, so the question of improvement next season versus a deeper draft is surely weighing heavily on all of their minds. 
  2. There’s been quite a bit of chatter this week about shortening the length of the collegiate shot clock as a mechanism to improve the offensive ineptness that has infected the game in recent seasons — those oft-derided 39-38 games and such. Andy Katz polled a number of high-major Division I coaches and found widespread support for a 30-second shot clock, which makes sense at a certain level. Coaches with generally more talent on their rosters are always going to argue for a faster pace — when things break down, pure talent and athleticism take over (similar arguments were made when the clock was reduced from 45 seconds to its current 35 in 1993). As Mike DeCourcy correctly notes, scoring has plummeted to its current level as a result of numerous factors (Louisville coach Rick Pitino has his own ideas) but the shot clock likely isn’t one of them. In fact, when you mix inexperienced and, frankly, less talented players with improved defensive strategies as a result of advanced scouting techniques (Synergy and the like), what you’re likely to be left with is a devil’s concoction of even more sloppy play as college teams rush to get a shot at the basket. Reducing the shot clock to improve scoring sounds great in theory, but what the NCAA Rules Committee should be discussing are ways to clean up the same game that once regularly produced average team scoring in the 70s (1964-81 with no shot clock; 1987-2003 with a 45- and 35-second shot clock) rather than the 60s (2004-present).
  3. As everyone knows, it’s transfer season, and a few notable names came across the wires yesterday.Marshall’s DeAndre Kane is expected to finish his degree this summer and will use the one-year graduate transfer rule to find (presumably) a higher-major program to showcase his wares for a year. Whoever gets him will receive a high-volume shooter (26.3% of all possessions) who also brings a solid assist (42.0%) and steals (2.8%) rates to bear — quite the free agent pick-up if you ask us. Alabama’s Trevor Lacey, a two-year starter at the point guard position who led the Tide in assists and was second in scoring last year, is also moving on to another as-yet-undetermined program. And then there’s this story about Purdue’s Sandi Marcius, who planned to graduate this summer and himself take advantage of the graduate transfer rule — that is, before he realized that the school wasn’t going to pay for the $7,000 he’d need to actually finish that degree. Stay tuned on this one — it’s likely to get weird.
  4. Let’s all take a moment to welcome new Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan back to college basketball. The longtime NBA coach hasn’t really been around the sport in over two decades, but at least the former Scarlet Knight (Class of 1977) actually wants to be there in the wake of the Mike Rice fiasco. He was introduced at a news conference yesterday and seemed very excited to get started on his new five-year, $6.25 million contract. He’s going to need to earn every penny of it. With massive player defections, substandard facilities, a move to the best basketball conference in America, and the stink of an amateur hour coaching fiasco still fresh on everyone’s minds, the rebuild at Rutgers will be monumental.
  5. This is a neat story by Eric Prisbell at USA Today about recruiting wunderkind Alex Kline, the now-18-year old who goes by the handle @therecruitscoop on Twitter and who those of us who follow such things have known about for a few years now. As it turns out, Kline is now finishing up his freshman year at Syracuse and his life has become a whirlwind of tips, networking, writing, and homework assignments mixed in with a little bit of fun now and again. Perhaps the most compelling part of his story, though, is his founding of the Mary Kline Classic, a prep all-star event each spring that raises money for cancer research and honors the life of his mother, who passed away from a brain tumor when he was only 10 years old. Keep on keepin’ on, Alex, you’re already doing great things, but it’s obvious much, much more is coming.
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Morning Five: 09.27.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 27th, 2012

  1. Has the interminable fight between the NCAA, the state of North Dakota, and its flagship university over the usage of a nickname finally come to an end? In the latest twist from a saga over North Dakota‘s Fighting Sioux nickname that has spanned decades without resolution, all parties announced on Wednesday that they have come to an agreement that hopefully satisfies everyone involved as well as the affected stakeholders. The NCAA has since 2005  threatened schools like UND with what it deems “hostile and abusive” nicknames, and the state has in recent years gone through considerable legal wrangling and even a ballot measure put to the voters over the divisive issue. This agreement ends North Dakota’s use of the nickname (considered offensive to a local Sioux tribe), but will allow much of the imagery embedded into the school’s sports arenas to remain, at least until father time wears them off. In return, the NCAA will allow the school to host postseason events on its campus, while the university and its alumni get to work deciding on options for a new and more agreeable nickname (they will have three years to think about it ).
  2. It’s extremely rare that we’ll go from a North Dakota blurb to a Montana one, but this is a weird news cycle. Will Cherry, Montana’s best player and the leading candidate for the Big Sky POY in 2012-13, has broken his right foot and will miss as much as the next three months of action. The 6’2″ guard was named last season’s Big Sky DPOY and has shown enough versatility and athleticism to make it onto the radar of NBA scouts searching for the next Damian Lillard. The hope for the Grizzlies is that Cherry, who will not have surgery on the foot, will recover quickly and only have to miss a handful of games at the start of the season. A quick review of the Montana schedule suggests that a return date by the start of conference play on December 19 would be ideal.
  3. Josh Pastner is the kind of coach whom everyone seems to have a very strong opinion about — many folks think his only real talent is salesmanship, an ability to convince potential recruits on the virtues of Memphis basketball so that they sign to play for him. Others think that he’s someone who has perhaps appeared a little green on the sidelines at times, but is a tireless worker whose chops in coaching up young players just needs some time to mature. With news this week that Memphis has received a commitment from elite 2013 east coast prospect Kuran Iverson (The Answer’s cousin), there’s one fact nobody can dispute — the Tigers coach has proven without question that he can leave the Mississippi River watershed to fill out his talented recruiting classes. The next step, of course, is to convert all that on-court talent into postseason success (and nobody cares about Conference USA titles when you’re bringing in these hauls), and, as Mike DeCourcy notes, there is a general sense among those in the know that Pastner is about to turn the corner on building his program and improving his career 0-2 NCAA Tournament record.
  4. DeCourcy must have had his typewriter working overtime yesterday, as he also published a related article on Big East recruiting with the clear thesis that available evidence suggests that the Big East as a basketball conference might not be as ‘dead as in doornail dead’ as many seem to think. According to the Rivals recruiting rankings for the Class of 2013, 16 of the 72 players (22%) in the top 115 who have already chosen schools are headed to the Big East. It’s a fair point, but a closer look at the numbers reveals the devil in the details, which is as of right now, the Big East can boast volume and depth but not much in terms of star incoming talent — of the 24 committed players who are currently ranked in the top 50, only four of those are headed to the Big East (three to Memphis; one to Louisville). By way of a contrast, the ACC and SEC already have four commitments each in the top 30, with more surely on the way once Kentucky and North Carolina are finished.
  5. Here’s a piece of trivia for your Thursday morning: Name the handful of pairs of schools that reside in the same city and also play basketball in the same multiple-bid conference. Most people will get the Pac-12′s UCLA and USC immediately; some will remember that Big Fivers Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph’s have one more season together in the Atlantic 10; if you want to get clever you might even recall Conference USA’s Rice and Houston; but how many folks outside of the Old Dominion State will remember that VCU‘s joining of the A-10 means that a bitter crosstown rivalry with Richmond is about to get realer. Gary Parrish writes that the two schools separated by only seven miles as the crow flies might be near one another in proximity, but they’re worlds apart in style and attitude. All we can say is that the two games scheduled for conference play are going to be must-see television, mid-major style. Can’t wait.
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Morning Five: 09.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2012

  1. Another day, another scandal involving the, ahem, good name of college basketball. With all the allegations getting tossed around the sport in recent months, we’re starting to wonder if the best course of action is simply to burn the whole thing down and start completely over. After Tuesday’s disappointing news that even the nation’s top academic institution, Harvard, isn’t immune from student-athletes behaving badly, you’ll forgive us if we’re feeling a little more than down about our game. The skinny: SI.com’s Luke Winn has reported that senior co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry — two of the Crimson’s best three players — have been implicated in a cheating scandal along with over a 100 other students for acts in a class about Congress “ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism, on a take-home final exam.” With the fall semester enrollment deadline pending this week, Casey and Curry are expected to withdraw from school for the entire 2012-13 academic year in an effort to preserve their final year of eligibility after their cases have been adjudicated. And with those withdrawals goes much of the hope surrounding the Crimson basketball program next season — the Crimson had more than enough talent and experience to win the Ivy League again and make the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. More to come on this later today…
  2. How’s about some better news to focus on with your coffee this Wednesday morning? Mike DeCourcy has us covered with his column discussing six important factors that could shape the upcoming season. Most of his points revolve around the significant loss of elite talent from last season, but keep in mind that going into 2011-12 many people thought that the return of the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones would dominate discussion throughout the year. Although each player’s team made it to at least the Elite Eight, such a notion turned out to not be true. The talk last year mostly revolved around Kentucky’s precocious freshmen, Syracuse’s deep and athletic juggernaut, the resurgence of Indiana, and both Bill Self and Frank Haith’s coaching mastery. DeCourcy’s comment that “we’ll find something to enjoy” is absolutely spot on — predicting what that will be is the hard part.
  3. The NIT Season Tip-Off is one of the few remaining marquee preseason events that actually handles itself like a basketball tournament should, in that, it actually holds a tournament where winners advance and losers go home. And this is why it remains one of our favorites. The NCAA, who runs the event, announced yesterday that the top four seeds in this year’s Thanksgiving week event will be Michigan, Kansas State, Virginia, and Pittsburgh. Although John Beilein’s Wolverines will be the clear favorite in this event, there’s always some room for potential upsets — in a cursory review of the bracket, one intriguing subplot might be CJ McCollum’s Lehigh squad disposing of a revamped Pittsburgh team before heading to NYC to once again grab the national stage.
  4. It wouldn’t be a Morning Five this month without some mention of Billy Gillispie, so here’s the latest on the wild saga involving the Texas Tech head coach. On Tuesday two new pieces of information were released. First, an ambulance was called to Gillispie’s house on Monday of this week after a 911 call was made from the residence, but local hospitals had no record of Gillispie getting admitted anywhere. Next, in a text message sent to the AP Tuesday night, Gillispie himself stated that he plans on a treatment plan for high blood pressure “amongst other things” at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In the meantime as he deals with his health issues, Texas Tech has named associate head coach Chris Walker as the man in charge of the day-to-day operations of the team and told Gillispie in no uncertain terms that he is not to engage with the program in any way until he’s ready to sit down with the administration and discuss his future.
  5. If you’re a fan of the chaos theory of sports — that basically, the best possible scenario is the worst possible scenario — you’re going to love where the Lance Thomas case at Duke appears to be headed. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, not only is the New York City jeweler who extended Thomas nearly $70,000 in credit three years ago not talking to much of anyone, but in order for the NCAA to actually pursue what appears to be an obvious violation, they will have to do so by the end of 2013. So there are twin pressures building on the organization, but unless some degree of on-record information comes out through trial (highly unlikely), the NCAA will have to find a rat or some other documentation willing to assist them in this investigation. Chaos theorists loves this stuff, because it (mostly) leaves everyone outraged and upset.
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Morning Five: 08.10.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 10th, 2012

  1. Years ago when things were still going well for Billy Gillispie at Kentucky, we took him and his supporters to task for the ridiculous and utterly embarrassing notion that offering scholarships to 8th graders was a good idea (Michael Avery, anyone?). Thankfully coaches are no longer allowed to sniff around the junior high schoolyards as much as they used to, but that doesn’t mean that young players still can’t make pie-in-the-sky commitments years before they can even drive. As Gary Parrish wrote Thursday, Indianapolis junior Trey Lyles‘ recent de-commitment from Tom Crean’s flagship state school exhibits exactly why it’s probably not a great idea to listen to what 13- or 14-year olds think they’re going to do four years from now. A top 10 player in the Class of 2014, Lyles no doubt wanted to see what other fish are in the sea, and who can blame him? There’s something to be said for the concept of being wanted — and we’ll give credit to Lyles for the realization that few opportunities in life are as good as the one he has in front of him right now.
  2. A little more recruiting talk today, as Michigan‘s Class of 2013 is shaping up as perhaps the best that the school has enjoyed since Ed Martin was sending bags of hundreds to Ann Arbor on his days off. With the quick ascent of 6’6″ wing Zak Irvin on ESPN.com’s latest top 100 list — he rose more than 20 spots to #21 after a great summer — the Wolverines currently have a three-player class that ranks second only to Florida on ESPN’s list. Keeping in mind that only four of the top 20 players in this class have yet committed, this class led by Irvin gives John Beilein a shot at putting one or even two recruits (depending on how Derrick Walton’s senior season goes) into the McDonald’s All-American game next year for the first time since 2002 (Mitch McGary as a fifth-year senior was ineligible last season). Michigan will start next season in the preseason Top 10 — get used to seeing the Wolverines at or near those lofty heights for many years to come.
  3. Marquette announced yesterday that it was investigating a possible NCAA rules violation involving its men’s basketball program. Very few details were released by the school, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that a source disclosed that the violation may be related to recruiting. It is perhaps unrelated, but already this summer the Golden Eagles have lost a junior college transfer named TJ Taylor after only two weeks on campus. Regardless of what the violation turns out to be, it sounds like a relatively minor violation where any punishment the school suffers will be completely irrelevant.
  4. Three months from now we’ll either have a brand-new president or another term from our existing one. If you listen to the talking heads on television, the decision from the American people on this important civic duty may come down to class warfare — the concept that the rich and poor are in conflict with each other in divvying up the pie. ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf drills down to the bone on a similar issue: the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) has inspired an arms race of sorts on the academic side of the athletic shops. The wealthiest schools can afford to provide computer labs with the best equipment, traveling tutors, language labs, and so forth — anything to help keep academically marginal kids at those schools eligible. However, at a number of the poorer schools (such as, in his example, Mississippi Valley State), the idea of spending $2.6 million on academic support services for athletes (as Texas did in 2011-12) is laughable. If there’s one thing we know from several thousand years of world history, it’s that the poor never actually win the battle no matter how much the rich say that they ultimately will. Good piece by Medcalf, well worth the read.
  5. We mentioned in yesterday’s M5 that UNC’s Roy Williams was listed by his peers as the most “overrated” head coach in college basketball. We also scoffed at the idea that someone who has won two national titles in under a decade at the helm in Chapel Hill could ever be truthfully considered “overrated.” It appears we are not alone with this opinion, as Mike DeCourcy rips the results to shreds with a laundry list discussing all of Ol’ Roy’s achievements. If you can get past the bizarro world reference to Kelly Clarkson and Paula Abdul, DeCourcy’s argument is spot on. The easiest criticism in all of sports is to dismiss accomplishments because of “all the talent” available to a coach (nevermind how talent is determined at the time) — but the fallacy in that stance is that it ignores the countless coaches who also recruit great talent yet never actually produce with it. We pose the question again — if Roy Williams is an “overrated” coach, how many national titles should he have reasonably won by now?
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Morning Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 20th, 2012

  1. The Big East may have officially lost some stalwart programs from its lineup this week, but not without taking its commensurate pound of flesh. After agreeing to exit settlements totaling $15 million with Pittsburgh and Syracuse earlier in the week, the league announced on Thursday that it has dropped its lawsuit against here-today, gone-tomorrow program TCU. TCU of course had agreed to become a member of the Big East before reneging on that commitment to accept a better (and more commonsensical) invitation to the Big 12. The Big East had sued the school for its $5 million entry fee, but according to this report, the two parties have agreed to dismiss the case and settle for the disputed sum. If you’re counting at home, that’s a grand total of $20 million that flowed into the coffers of Big East banks this week — that might almost be enough money to buy some future relevance.
  2. When you think of Big East basketball forever more, one of the first images that should come to mind is John Thompson standing on the sideline at Georgetown, towel draped over his shoulder, menacing look on his face, preaching tough-as-nails defense and the togetherness of team. He’s been a radio personality in the Washington, DC, area ever since, and although he has never shied away from making strong statements, he’s rarely been what we would call controversial. As DC Sports Bog‘s Dan Steinberg notes, Thompson may have stepped over that fine line with his comments Wednesday about Penn State’s Joe Paterno. In a number of rambling statements, Thompson ultimately concludes that Paterno was “a damn good man” who made a “terrible mistake.” If you read for the nuance of Thompson’s quotes — discussing  the fallibility of humans and the ‘false gods’ we as a society build up — you see where he was going. But the key question to us is whether anyone who fails to act on knowledge of a known child molester can be a damn good man, and at the end of the day, that’s an equally damn tough argument to make.
  3. We wonder what Big John would think of the Big Ten‘s latest proposal that would give its president Jim Delany “the power to terminate Big Ten coaches for actions that ‘significantly harm the league’s reputation.’” Call it the Paterno Principle if you like, but one thing is for sure — the Big Ten basketball coaches who were interviewed off the record by Gary Parrish are not fans of this proposal. The words “arrogance” and “stupid” were used by his interviewees, and we’re guessing, rather vociferously. While we certainly understand the desire by the Big Ten to protect its own interests, we’re not sure that this idea is in any way legal or even completely rational. Leagues have the ability to punish its member institutions for any number of transgressions, but to interfere with the employer-employee relationship at large state universities (all but one)? It seems like a considerable overreach.
  4. It appears that the decision by Class of 2013 superstar recruit Jabari Parker to shut down his summer activities at the various AAU camps around the country was a good one. His father reported that tests this week show that his right foot is fractured, with no specific timetable for the smooth wing’s return other than sometime before the high school season begins in the fall. Frankly, as Mason Plumlee noted in his quotes in yesterday’s M5, it might not be a terrible thing for a player like Parker to spend some time away from the rankings-obsessed summer circuit in favor of helping his high school team get better next season.
  5. Mike DeCourcy finishes us off this week with his Starting Five column, where presumably Fake Mike DeCourcy asks Mike DeCourcy insightful questions about interesting topics facing the game today. He riffs on Duke without Austin Rivers, Kansas without elite talent, Jabari Parker without summer basketball, Jim Boeheim without the Big East, and Seth Greenberg without the bubble. It’s well worth a read on a beautiful Friday morning.
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