RTC Top 25: Week 2

Posted by KDoyle on November 26th, 2012

Let’s cut right to the chase: Duke is #1 and Indiana #2. This may upset some, considering Indiana began the season as our #1 team, is a perfect 6-0 with a good win against Georgetown, has perhaps the best offensive attack in college basketball, and has shown little — if any — weakness. But, there is little denying Duke’s resume at this point (more on that after the jump). Two Big East squads—Georgetown and Cincinnati—made power moves up in the rankings after impressive weeks, while two other teams have plummeted right out of the Top 25—UCLA and Memphis. There wasn’t just movement at the top of the rankings, as five new teams have entered the Top 25 after strong showings during “Feast Week.”

This week’s QnD after the jump…

Quick ‘n Dirty Analysis.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.19.12 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 19th, 2012

  1. A judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought forth by current Los Angeles Laker and former UCLA Bruin, Reeves Nelson, on Thursday. Nelson sued Sports Illustrated and writer George Dohrmann after the story, “Not The UCLA Way” ran last March. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy found that the lawsuit infringed on the right to free speech, not to mention Dohrmann had numerous sources to back up the claims made against Nelson. The story cited accounts from Bruins players and staff members who alleged Nelson urinated on players’ clothes and got into numerous fights with teammates, while also mistreating team managers and walk-ons. Nelson was kicked off the UCLA team last December, three months before the story ran.
  2. With that out of the way, we’re going to designate this “Preview Friday” here at the Pac-12 wing of RTC. We start with a look at the league from CollegeBasketballTalk, who thinks the increased talent brought into the conference this season will lead to a better product and more respect nationally. To narrow down the important stuff, the story gives us 13 impact newcomers to watch, five breakout players, a player of the year, a coach under pressure, and an all-conference team. In the projected standings category, CBT throws us for a loop by slotting UCLA at third behind Arizona and Stanford. Colorado, California, and USC round out the upper half.
  3. Each preseason there is usually a conference with more coaches on the hot seat than the rest of them, and it comes as no surprise after last year’s awful play that the Pac-12 trumps all of them in 2012-13Johnny Dawkins. Craig RobinsonHerb Sendek. Even former California head man Ben Braun makes the list. What’s really interesting is that all three coaches have gotten on their hot seats through different circumstances. Not too long ago on The Farm, Stanford was a basketball powerhouse, and the fact that Dawkins hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament in his four seasons there doesn’t sit well with Cardinal fans. That NIT Championship last April? Just means you should take the next step this year. Craig Robinson’s Oregon State Beavers have been somewhat of a bust after winning the CBI in his first season. With four returning starters, Robinson needs to get the Beavs to the NIT this year. And in Tempe, Herb Sendek gave Arizona State fans a taste of victory by winning 20+ games in three consecutive seasons. But just 22 wins over the last two years has his seat scorching going into 2012-13.
  4. CBSSports national preseason honors list features a pair of UCLA freshmen. Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish named forward Shabazz Muhammad the National Freshman of the Year, a member of the All-First Team roster, and All-Freshman First Team roster. Bruin point guard Kyle Anderson comes in on the fourth team All-American roster and first team All-Freshmen list.
  5. We end with a terrific Pac-12 Preview, straight from the Jon Rothstein files. Included are five burning questions facing the conference, preseason power rankings, a first team roster, and 10 breakout players, among other things. Be sure to check back throughout the day as we continue Preview Friday with an in-depth Oregon preview and our second burning question of the preseason.
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Morning Five: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 18th, 2012

  1. Wednesday was a huge media day around the world of college basketball, with not one, not two, but three power conferences holding their Media Day yesterday. Why conferences don’t think to stagger these a little better to dominate the entire national spotlight seems like really poor planning to us, but nobody asked for our opinion on marketing best practices either. The ACC Media Day (“Operation Basketball”) took place in Charlotte; the Big East in New York; and, the Big 12 in Kansas City. Let’s take a brief look at some of the storylines from each one. In Charlotte, the ACC media cartel mimicked the coaches earlier this week in rating NC State as the preseason favorite to win the league, with 26 first-place votes. Duke followed in second place with 21 first-place votes, while North Carolina was picked third. The preseason all-ACC first team includes UNC’s James Michael McAdoo, Florida State’s Michael Snaer (unanimous), Duke’s Mason Plumlee, and NC State’s  Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie (unanimous, POY). The Wolfpack are certainly the school du jour this preseason in the ACC, but can a 9-7 team from last season really get over its losing tendencies to overtake Duke and North Carolina this season? We certainly shall see.
  2. A few hundred miles up the eastern seaboard, the Big East did its thing in NYC, with the media sniffing around for angles related to the last season for conference stalwarts Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Louisville made immediate headlines for its unanimous selection by conference coaches to win the league this season, but it was the Cardinals’ loquacious coach who caused the biggest stir with his comments that his team “could have the best 10 players in America” — including Big East preseason player of the year, Peyton Siva — and that, according to Zagsblog, he still truly believes that the additions of Temple and Memphis next season can adequately replace the losses of the Orange and Panthers. Jim Boeheim, quite naturally, vehemently disagreed with Pitino’s assessment (“I think he’s full of s–t.”). Boeheim’s team was picked to finish second in the league standings, with Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Pittsburgh following the Orange in the top six. Joining Siva on the preseason first team were Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, Georgetown’s Otto Porter, Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley, Providence’s Vincent Council, and Siva’s Louisville teammate, Gorgui Dieng. Pitt’s Steven Adams was selected as the preseason Rookie of the Year. In one other significant announcement from Big East Media Day, the league announced an extension with Madison Square Garden that will keep the Big East Tournament there through 2026.
  3. Moving to the Midwest and Kansas City specifically, the Big 12 emphasized a league in transition with the additions of West Virginia and TCU replacing the dearly departed schools of Missouri and Texas A&M. Throw in new coaches at Kansas State and Texas Tech, and there were quite a few get-to-know-you introductions going around the Sprint Center on Wednesday. We plan on having a more detailed post on what happened there a little later today on our Big 12 microsite, but to whet your appetite, take a look at this quasi-live-blog from the Charleston Daily Mail‘s Mike Casazza. His descriptions of the day’s events have a definite “we’re not in the Big East anymore” feel to them, as the Mountaineers are a minimum of 870 miles from the nearest Big 12 school (Iowa State). Here’s hoping that WVU hedged on jet fuel when it was at its lowest market rate.
  4. And now to today’s Kentucky segment, as the defending national champion is pretty much a daily newsmaker for one thing or another. On Wednesday during an ESPN segment with Hannah Storm, head coach John Calipari said without reservation that superstar recruit Nerlens Noel is in fact eligible to practice and play this season (video clip here). Additionally, the Wildcats picked up their fourth commitment from a top 30 player in the Class of 2013 yesterday when power forward Marcus Lee picked UK over California. Calipari of course still has his eyes set on adding top 10 prospects Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and/or Aaron Gordon to his mix, a group of which — on paper at least — would represent the best recruiting class of all-time. Finally, on Wednesday evening ESPN played its first All-Access piece on Calipari’s Wildcats — which basically comes off as a half-hour infomercial promoting his program. Remember when UK fans once complained that Coach K’s AMEX commercials were an unfair advantage? We wonder what those people are saying now.
  5. We’re hoping that this is the last time we mention this player’s name in this space, but former UCLA malcontent Reeves Nelson‘s defamation lawsuit against Sports Illustrated was thrown out of a Los Angeles court on Wednesday. Defamation suits often turn on the status of the plaintiff as a public or private figure, and Nelson’s notoriety as a prominent college basketball player at one of the nation’s elite programs qualified him as a “limited public figure” that would require a clear showing of malice toward him by the magazine. In the absence of evidence that author George Dohrmann made up some of the anecdotes involving Nelson in the March story about UCLA’s out-of-control program, “Not the UCLA Way.”  Nelson’s case was destined for failure. The judge said that the story was well-sourced and that Dohrmann had “spent a lot of time” on it.
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UCLA Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 14th, 2012

Last year the Bruins started two seniors in their backcourt, ensuring that the 2012-13 squad would have a new batch of guards. But along with those graduating seniors, three different Bruin frontcourt players that earned time in 2011-12 are no longer with the program. Below we’ll break down those five players in roughly the order of the degree to which they’ll be missed.

Lazeric Jones – He spent just two seasons in Westwood after transferring in from a Chicago junior college, but Jones had a very solid career for the Bruins. In his first year he stepped right into the point guard role and provided much-needed stability along with a capacity for putting the ball in the hole himself when he needed to. Playing with talented wing players like Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, Jones led the team in assists, steals and free throw percentage while chipping in a respectable nine points per game. As a senior, he gladly took on the role of playing off of the ball more as classmate Jerime Anderson took over most of the lead guard duties. Jones again adjusted well to his new role, picking up more of the scoring duties (he led the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game), while still leading the team in assists from the two-guard slot. He also led the team in minutes and, along with Anderson, took on a leadership role for a team that was in disarray following their disastrous start amid serious chemistry problems. While he won’t go down on the list of all-time UCLA greats at the point, he overachieved in his time in Westwood and displayed a heart and toughness that endeared him to Bruin fans — his leadership will be missed.

Lazeric Jones, UCLA

In Just Two Seasons At UCLA, Zeke Jones Endeared Himself To Bruin Fans

Jerime Anderson – Anderson’s career at UCLA was, in a very generous word, underwhelming. At one point considered a four-star recruit and the #5 point guard in the 2008 recruiting class, it quickly became quite apparent that he was not all he was cracked up to be. After mostly sitting behind veteran Darren Collison in his freshman season, Anderson was the heir apparent to the point guard position in 2009-10. But he struggled with his shot, turnovers and, most obviously, defense early in that year, and as the Bruins’ losses piled up, his minutes decreased. In 2010-11, both his expectations and minutes were fewere. But in a fine bit of redemption, Anderson was actually a very solid player last season for the Bruins. As a whole, his college career is a case of unwarranted expectations that had no chance of being met turning into expectations so low that his almost nine points per game and turnovers on 20% of used possessions qualifies as a feel-good story. Read the rest of this entry »

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UCLA Week: Evaluating the Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on August 13th, 2012

There are no two ways around it, so we might as well get right to the punch: The past three seasons at UCLA, even with an NCAA Tournament appearance and win in 2010-11, is in the conversation for the worst stretch of three consecutive seasons in the history of the storied program. Aside from the transition at the end of the Steve Lavin era to the beginning of the Ben Howland era, you have to go back to Wilbur Johns in the World War II era for a string of three such poor seasons in Westwood. All that is bad enough, but if you consider where this program was at the end of the 2007-08 season, coming off three consecutive Final Fours and welcoming in the nation’s #1 recruiting class, such a precipitous fall was highly unlikely.

Kevin Love, UCLA

It Has Been Four Unsatisfying Seasons Since Kevin Love Helped UCLA Last Advance to A Final Four (Mark J. Terril, AP Photo)

So how did Howland and the Bruins go from being on the verge of ushering another great era of UCLA basketball to missing the NCAA Tournament in two out of three seasons? Much of it has to do with underachievement from that 2008 recruiting class. In the 2008-09 season, after future pros like Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute departed early (a certain byproduct of the type of success the Bruins were having), the Bruins rode gutsy performances by veterans like Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya to a solid 26-9 overall record, but failed to win the Pac-10 for the first time in three years and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in resounding fashion by a Villanova team that outhustled and outfought the Bruins. More ominous for UCLA was the fact that none of the highly-regarded freshman class made much of an impact that season. And despite point guard Jrue Holiday’s struggles as a frosh, he couldn’t get out of Westwood fast enough, declaring for the NBA Draft while averaging just eight points and four assists in his lone season.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 05.25.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on May 25th, 2012

  1. Money was a big story in the Pac-12 this week. First and foremost, USA Today unveiled an estimate of the worth of the Pac-12 television deals this week. Navigate Research, a Chicago-based firm that has done multimedia rights valuations for other schools and conferences figures that all told, between the conference’s deals with ESPN and Fox and their ready-to-launch Pac-12 Network, each school in the conference should expect upwards of $30 million a year over the life of their 12-year agreement. About $21 million per school is guaranteed by the deal with ESPN and Fox, with the remainder of the total based on the success of the new conference networks. While the Big Ten Network generated $79.2 million worth of profit in 2011, they have to split those profits with Fox, their partner in that venture, while the Pac-12 will own their network outright.
  2. Based on that kind of income, it is easy to see why Larry Scott earned almost $1.9 million in salary and bonuses in his first full year as Pac-12 commissioner. That figure makes Scott the highest paid conference commissioner in the land and means that he earned more than three times the compensation of previous Pac-12 commissioner Tom Hansen in his final full year. Given the wonders that Scott has done with the Pac-12’s finances, image and future prospects, I would guess that most Pac-12 fans see this as money well spent for the conference.
  3. Former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson has hired a lawyer and intends to sue Sports Illustrated and writer George Dohrmann for $10 million, claiming the article published by the magazine in March was guilty of defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit claims that many of the stories in the article about Nelson were either false or drastically overstated. The lawsuit includes statements from 18 current or former players at UCLA that refute anecdotes in the article. For instance, former Bruin player Tyler Honeycutt states that the memorable tale of Nelson urinating on his clothes and bed was completely false, while recent UCLA graduate Tyler Trapani refutes the story about Nelson stepping on his chest during a practice drill. Bruin transfer and recent New Mexico big man Drew Gordon denies the claim that Nelson gave Gordon a black eye during a fight (and even denies ever having a fight with Nelson), while Alex Schrempf claims that the story that Nelson purposely in injured him by intentionally hacking him from behind is false as well. Seems like this is about the get very, very interesting as Dorhmann and SI attempt to defend themselves against this lawsuit.
  4. Washington State’s coaching staff is back at full strength again, as head coach Ken Bone hired Ray Lopes to take Jeff Hironaka’s spot on the bench. Hironaka was reassigned (read: demoted) to director of player development , and Lopes, who was most recently an assistant at Idaho, will fill his spot. Lopes is no stranger to Pullman, having coached under Kelvin Sampson on the Palouse in 1993-94, before following Sampson to Oklahoma before winding up as a head coach at Fresno State for a three-year stint. However, at both of those stops, Lopes ran afoul of the NCAA, first getting mixed up in the impermissible phone call saga with Sampson at Oklahoma, then continuing the practice in Fresno, eventually winding up with a three-year show-cause penalty for 457 impermissible phone calls while at Fresno State.
  5. Finally, after plenty of speculation that this would come to pass, Colorado redshirt sophomore point guard Shannon Sharpe will be transferring out of the program in order to play closer to his home in southern California. Sharpe’s career at Colorado goes down as a disappointment, after injuring his knee in his first practice with the Buffaloes. All told, he scored 99 points in just a hair over 600 minutes in his career in Boulder. He will have a year of eligibility remaining when he plays again at a lower-tier school (Big West schools like Cal State Fullerton or UC Irvine or perhaps Loyola Marymount or Pepperdine of the WCC would look like good landing spots where he could make an impact), although there is a possibility that he could apply for a waiver on having to sit out a year since both of his parents died of heart failure while he was in high school and he is returning home to take care of the family home.
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Morning Five: 05.24.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 24th, 2012

  1. You may have heard that a group (Coalition of Intercollegiate Athletics) issued a statement criticizing John Calipari for his recent actions and statement regarding Kentucky‘s scheduling. The group, which is composed of 59 faculty members from FBS schools, says that Kentucky’s desire to play neutral site games is ”the type of warning sign we would expect to see on the path toward a full professional model.” Most writers who have already written about this statement have, in our opinion, correctly ripped the COIA for their self-righteous tone, which is mildly amusing with all of the other bad things going on in college athletics and they decide to focus on this. One thing that we are still having trouble understanding is why those same writers continue to rip Calipari for his decision to essentially put the Kentucky-Indiana series on hold because of his desire for neutral site games. Numerous writers have penned columns saying that Calipari should submit to Indiana’s wishes in order to continue the series to do what is right for college basketball. Calipari’s job isn’t to make college basketball overall better it is do what is best for his players and his program. If he decides to do something that is not “in the best interest” of college basketball and it does not break any rules, we could care less about how he schedules and think that any criticisms of him for doing so come off as self-righteous.
  2. If you thought that the conference realignment rumor mill could not get any more ridiculous yesterday may have raised the bar as reports surfaced that Florida State, Clemson, and Miami were exploring a move to the Big 12. Those reports were based on a statement made by TCU‘s athletic director, but were subsequently squelched by the same person who said that he was only making a statement that the rumor mill indicated those schools were interested in moving. Outside of FSU, we had not heard of any potential moves so basically he was the driving force of the majority of that rumor. Of course, with all of the strange moves we have seen during the last few years nothing would surprise us at this point.
  3. The report that Reeves Nelson was suing Sports Illustrated for its  story earlier this year about UCLA did not really come as much of a surprise to us given what was reported about him and how litigious our society has become. The story, which was written to show how chaotic the UCLA program had become, featured several stories about Nelson including one where he urinated on a teammate’s bed. The lawsuit states that the reported events were not adequately investigated and is asking for $10 million in damages. We doubt that Nelson will get that much, but Tyler Honeycutt the supposed victim of the aforementioned incident claims that it never happened so the case may be a little more interesting than it appears at first glance.
  4. Ohio State plans to give 500 of its student-athletes iPads this coming school year as part of a new digital initiative the school is undertaking with a plan to give all 1,110 athletes the devices within the next two years. The iPads will be pre-loaded with materials already given to the student athletes and will have Wi-Fi capability. We applaud the effort to try to give the student-athletes something educational in addition to their scholarships, which we assume many of these individuals are already getting, but we know that this will become the subject of quite a few jokes for rival schools given the tendency of some old Buckeyes for trading in things for tattoos.
  5. Many Kansas State fans are probably interested to see what Bruce Weber can do to replace Frank Martin. There may be some question about Weber’s ability to coach, but there should not be any question of his ability to lure in assistant coaches after the stunt that one of his new assistant coaches pulled this past week. Newly hired assistant Chester Frazier, whom you may remember from his days at Illinois playing under Weber and getting a little too physical with Eric Gordon, was playing for a German professional basketball team until he got a call from Weber inviting him to join the Kansas State staff, which Frazier jumped at. And we literally mean jumped at as he abandoned the team he was playing for in the middle of their league playoffs. While we are sure that some Kansas State fans appreciate the dedication we imagine that he will have a tough time selling his future players on sticking with the team after he has done something like this.
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Baby Bruins v.2: Comparing UCLA’s Situation Now to Top-Ranked Class of 2008

Posted by EJacoby on April 25th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.

With the news on Monday that top unsigned big man Tony Parker is headed to UCLA next season, the Bruins now have a super-stacked recruiting class for next year that should give Ben Howland’s squad a great chance to become elite right away. Recall that last week we discussed that bringing in an elite recruiting class doesn’t necessarily result in program success, with one of the highlight examples being Ben Howland’s #1 class of 2008 Bruins. That UCLA team brought in the top recruiting class and also had some returning veteran talent, but the team badly failed to meet expectations (some of the roots of UCLA’s transgressions were recently highlighted in a popular Sports Illustrated article in late February). Fair or unfair, the 2012 class and next year’s team is going to have to deal with comparisons to those 2008 Baby Bruins, at least until it starts to win. This time around, though, their coach’s job is on the line too. Let’s take a quick look at how the two classes and situations match up, and why UCLA fans should have no reason to expect a repeat performance this time around.

Now That Tony Parker Signed with UCLA, the Bruins Have Huge Expectations Again (Photo: Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Back in 2008, UCLA was coming off of three straight Final Four appearances, one of the best runs of team success of the past decade for any program. Bringing in the top recruiting class that offseason was no surprise, and that group of freshmen was expected to continue the long tradition of winning in Westwood. Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and Drew Gordon were part of a group of five top-50 recruits who were quickly dubbed the Baby Bruins, players who “were famous before they played a game,” as the SI report claims. The freshmen also got to play alongside some returning veterans, most notably senior All-American Darren Collison. But UCLA was unable to win with this group right away that season nor during the next four years. Instead of stacking up Ws and bringing home banners like the previous groups led by Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Kevin Love, the Baby Bruins never made the Sweet Sixteen in four years and failed to make the NCAA Tournament twice. The disastrous chemistry on the team throughout this period led to players fighting and transferring, and it all ended up in far more losses than anyone expected. UCLA entered this offseason really in need of a talent (and attitude) infusion.

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UCLA: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 23rd, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: UCLA.

What Went Wrong

Team chemistry. While Reeves Nelson is the fall guy for this, after displaying abominable behavior for two-plus years on this Bruin team before eventually being dismissed in early December, the problem went deeper than that. There was supposed senior leader and point guard Jerime Anderson getting busted for stealing a laptop in the offseason and earning a light two-game suspension as a result. There was center Joshua Smith showing up for his sophomore season in worse shape than his rotund, breathless freshman edition. And given that he was close friends with Nelson, it appeared at times that his buddy’s bad attitude rubbed off on him. Aside from behavioral issues, there was also a case of mismatched parts on this team, with a talented frontcourt supported by guards that were in a bit over their heads (despite the relative success that Anderson and backcourt-mate Lazeric Jones enjoyed). And there was head coach Ben Howland who had undoubtedly one of his poorest seasons on the sideline. He was unable to respond to the attitude issues with Nelson in a timely fashion, struggled to meld newcomers like the Wear twins in quickly and in the end, was widely questioned for his inability to find playing time for guys like freshman guard Norman Powell and sophomore center Anthony Stover.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Is In The Midst Of A Three-Year Downswing With UCLA (Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

What Went Right

Still, after the Bruins got around to ditching their Nelson anchor, the team developed into a solid Pac-12 squad. After getting off to a terrible 2-5 start with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee mixed in with more reasonable defeats in Maui, the Bruins went 17-9 the rest of the way. Travis and David Wear, regarded as Charmin-soft early in the year, turned into the team’s top two leading rebounders and solid interior players. Smith showed some progress on the conditioning front and somehow Howland turned the combination of Jones and Anderson into a quite competent Pac-12 backcourt.

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Contrary Opinion: UCLA Story Salacious, But Nothing New Here

Posted by AMurawa on February 29th, 2012

Yesterday about this time, when news broke that George Dohrmann would be publishing a “highly negative” piece about the UCLA basketball program, there were plenty of people who immediately expected the worst. I, for one, figured that today I’d be writing about potential NCAA violations and speculating on who may be the next basketball coach for the Bruins. While the Sports Illustrated piece is certainly not something that is going to be framed and hung on the wall in Ben Howland’s office, compared to those previous expectations, Bruin fans can take a deep breath and relax. Sure, there are loads and loads of very unflattering portraits of former and current players, and mostly of Howland, but still the most damning fact against Howland is a 14-18 record in 2010 and a 16-13 record right now; this Dohrmann piece just explains how the program got to that point. And while there are plenty of salacious details and anecdotes, none of them really change what we already knew about the UCLA program before yesterday.

Ben Howland, UCLA

Ben Howland Was Painted In An Unflattering Light, But There Were No Great Revelations (Kelvin Kuo/US Presswire)

At the bottom of this piece, the finger points squarely at problems with a couple of recruiting classes — the groups of 2008 and 2009. The 2008 class featured guys like Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon and J’Mison Morgan, while the 2009 class ominously included Reeves Nelson, but also Anthony Stover, among others. There are allegations of drug use among these players (and other players on recent UCLA teams), but the bottom line problem was Howland’s inability to sufficiently discipline these players for their numerous missteps. The poster child here is, of course, Nelson. There are stories seemingly by the barrelful about how bad of a teammate he was. After 2010 recruit Matt Carlino sustained a concussion early in his freshman year causing him to miss time, Nelson repeatedly railed on him for being soft, called him “concussion boy” and went out of his way to instigate contact with Carlino during practices, eventually helping to drive Carlino out of the program. Nelson also had repeated altercations in practice with another eventual UCLA transfer, Mike Moser. There are reports of Nelson abusing people all over the Bruin program, from student managers all the way up to assistant coaches. And all that is just scratching the surface of what is in the article, knowing full well that there are plenty of incidents that didn’t make the piece and never even reached Dohrmann’s ears. And, until this season, Howland did nothing about it.

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SI Story Highlights UCLA’s Downfall Through Ben Howland’s Shameful Lack of Control

Posted by EJacoby on February 29th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter. 

The historic UCLA basketball program is in a shocking lull right now, and Sports Illustrated magazine has an upcoming feature story on why it’s not just because of poor performance on the court. George Dohrmann’s piece has been released on SI.com for an early look, and it is a must-read for all the telling details and anecdotes about the Bruins’ culture from the past five seasons. We’ll give you our reaction to the investigative piece and why coach Ben Howland might not last another season in Westwood.

Here's The Magazine Title Page of the Upcoming Story in Sports Illustrated (SI App)

Mike Moser, UNLV’s star player and the nation’s sixth-leading rebounder; Chace Stanback, the Runnin’ Rebels’ second-leading scorer with the nation’s seventh best three-point shooting percentage; Drew Gordon, New Mexico’s dominant forward and double-double machine; and Matt Carlino, averaging 13.0 points and 4.7 assists for BYU. What do they all have in common? Each of these players was once a highly touted recruit for coach Ben Howland at UCLA before transferring from the program to become star players elsewhere in the West. The departure of these four players is one of the reasons why the Bruins currently sit in sixth place in a weak Pac-12, looking at missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years and just four years removed from a run of three consecutive Final Four appearances. The feature story in Sports Illustrated set for publication later this week details why these players left campus, what kinds of unfortunate treatment other former players received, and how UCLA has struggled so badly recently, referencing mainly the ignorance of head coach Howland towards detrimental player actions.

Dohrmann’s piece, which includes interviews with over a dozen former players and team managers, highlights a general culture of recent disarray surrounding the Bruins’ basketball program. Dohrmann’s interviewees offered “a detailed inside account of how seemingly minor problems, if left unaddressed, can quickly sabotage even a storied program led by one of the nation’s most respected coaches.” The piece details how Howland, though incredibly knowledgeable of the game, fostered poor relationships with his players both on and off the court. The coach ran practices with a double standard, often ridiculing lesser players for mistakes they made while letting similar errors slide when made by stronger players. The reason, as some in the article suggested, was that Howland was afraid of upsetting star players to the point that they might transfer or leave for the NBA as soon as possible. Off the court, players would go out of their way to avoid Howland, such as one player opting to take the stairs if he ever saw the coach waiting for an elevator.

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Pac-12 Burning Questions: Surprises and Disappoinments?

Posted by AMurawa on February 23rd, 2012

Each week through conference play, we’ll offer up a couple of different takes on the biggest question of the week in the Pac-12. This week:

 “Which team has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing? Likewise, which player has had the most surprising season, and which has had the most disappointing?”

Connor Pelton: The most surprising team is Colorado. The Buffaloes were picked by almost every pundit in the nation to finish around tenth in the Pac-12, and here we are with two weeks left in the season looking at a team that is third in the conference and a lock for the NIT. Obviously, their altitude-assisted homecourt advantage has something to do with it, but I think it is great. It is one of the things that make the sport so interesting, so I’m definitely not counting that against them. The most disappointing team has been UCLA. Granted, the Bruins have done better in Pac-12 play, but they have been so wildly inconsistent that you barely notice when they do something good. It took them six games to beat a Division I team, and they had a few head-scratching losses early on.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson And Colorado Have Soared To New Heights This Year (Matt Caivano/Daily Camera)

The most surprising player has been junior forward Brock Motum from Washington State. Motum has been the key to all but a few of Washington State’s 14 wins, and his stats have been amazing. His 17.8 PPG is up +10.2 points from last season, his 6.5 RPG are a +3.5 improvement, and he is averaging +12.9 MPG. His shooting range and ability to completely take over a game is better than any other big man in the conference. The most disappointing player that has completed a full season (Here’s looking at you, Reeves Nelson, Josh Watkins, Jabari Brown, and Jahii Carson) is junior forward/center Joe Burton from Oregon State. Hopes were high for Burton’s junior year as many thought he would take over the point-center role that the Beavers abandoned last season. Early on however, it became apparent that Burton didn’t have the shooting range to take on that position, and as the season progressed he became more and sloppy with the basketball. He has now lost his starting job and his minutes have severely declined over the past few games.

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