Morning Five: 09.20.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 20th, 2013

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  1. Yesterday, the NCAA announced that it was opening up the bidding for the 2017-2020 Final Fours. Cities have until October 11 to submit their bids. The obvious major criteria is that the event will be hosted in a dome with a capacity of at least 60,000 and be able to provide at least 10,000 hotel rooms within a reasonable distance of the venue. We have expressed our distaste for playing basketball games in giant domes, but we understand the NCAA’s reasoning–greater access for fans and more money for the NCAA. Final Fours have traditionally been held in a select group of cities so we will be interested to see if the NCAA steps outside of its usual rotation.
  2. One of the reasons that we tend to stay away from recruiting stories is the random speculation that seems to follow many recruits. Yesterday was another example of this with Isaiah Whitehead, who eventually announced that he was committing to Seton Hall, but not before Twitter managed put out a variety of rumors about where Whitehead was going, what kind of package deal was involved, and if another package deal would be voided by this package deal. In the end, Kevin Willard was able to land a five-star point guard and the most highly touted Seton Hall recruit in recent memory. The questions regarding how he got Whitehead (almost certainly because Willard agreed to hire Whitehead’s high school coach as an assistant), which we will discuss separately, are another issue, but despite how shady it may seem it is still within NCAA guidelines.
  3. It has been four years since Michigan star Rumeal Robinson was arrested on fraud charges and it appears that another star of that era–Tate George–may soon be joining him. George, who hit a turnaround desperation game-winner in the 1990 Sweet 16 (only to be outdone the next round by some guy named Laettner), is accused of wire fraud totaling $2 million including $250,000 that he reportedly stole from fellow former Connecticut star Charlie Villanueva. According to reports, George convinced Villanueva and others to invest in a project in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but was never able to return the money on their investments and when it started falling apart fired his accountant then sent fraudulent letters claiming to be the accountant. The size of the fraud may pale in comparison to some more famous recent cases, but the fame of the individuals involved–especially in Connecticut–should make this front page news there for some time to come.
  4. We have posted quite a few links to articles about the relationship between higher education and the NCAA’s mission during our six and a half years of running the site, but I don’t think we have ever posted anything about the same relationship between high school education and sports. That is until The Atlantic published an article questioning how we as a country distribute our money and focus in high schools. The primary focus of the article is on high schools since they are a bigger part of American culture and learning, but the same argument can probably be made about college sports and how we allot our educational resources. As the article notes, organized sports are offered to school-aged individuals, but in the form of a club system rather than being integrated into schools. We have seen some suggestions of moving college sports to a club model and with the reported push towards a “Division 4″ model we would not be surprised if this model is advocated in the future.
  5. Grantland’s feature on Korleone Young might fall outside of our usual realm of college basketball, but as one of the more prominent prep-to-pro busts in history it is certainly worth a read if only as a cautionary tale. Perhaps the most interesting part to college basketball fans is the part in the middle of the piece about Myron Piggie, who has become an infamous figure in AAU and NCAA lore. Piggie is most well-known for his relationship with Corey Maggette and JaRon Rush and his payments to the team’s players. You may remember Piggie from the prank that Maryland pulled on Duke in 2005 or the outrage at Duke walking away from the scandal unpunished.
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Morning Five: 09.26.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 26th, 2011

  1. We guess this technically is still news even though we don’t buy the whole “BREAKING” aspect that the mainstream media has tried to make it out to be, but we guess we have to mention that the SEC has formally accepted Texas A&M into the conference with its first games starting next season. If there is anything noteworthy with this announcement it is that the SEC has basically called out the Big 12 schools that threatened legal action and told them to go ahead and file their ridiculous lawsuit because no reasonable court would accept it. Of course, our next reaction was that now that the SEC has 13 teams in the conference for next season they will need to get a 14th team pretty soon. Of course, we all know what that means. More conference expansion rumors. . .
  2. Former Connecticut star Tate George was arrested late last week on accusations that he defrauded investors of nearly $2 million in a Ponzi scheme based on the premise that he was operating a $500 million real estate portfolio. The details of the reported scheme are kind of complex and are detailed in great length in the well-investigated piece that we linked, but things do not look good for the former UConn legend who hit what would have been “The Shot of the 1990 NCAA Tournament” before Christian Laettner hit the first of his two “The Shot”s. Given the involvement of former Stanford point guard Brevin Knight we wonder if there will be more names of prominent college basketball coaches and players coming out in the near future.
  3. Taylor Branch made waves recently with his prodigious article in The Atlantic (discussed here) that generated quite a bit of discussion online, but was met with little public resistance until Seth Davis decided to chime in with a dissection of Branch’s column. For his part, Branch has responded to Davis (sort of) where he concedes several of the points that Davis makes, but points out several other major issues in his article that Davis did not address. However, the most interesting thing to us is that Branch essentially uses his literary glove to challenge Davis to a podcast duel. As much as we are looking forward to this confrontation (Seth, stick to sports and avoid civil rights) we are also looking forward to speaking with Mr. Branch later this week about the issue, which we will update you on when we have more details.
  4. We have started our series highlighting the schedules of some of the top teams in the country. Andy Glockner at SI.com has taken a slightly different approach as he has chosen to highlight/call out the teams that play some highly suspect schedules. The list runs the gamut from 3 of the top 5 teams in the country (not counting some middling program called Duke) to a team that has never made the NCAA Tournament. We have not had a chance to go through every single team’s schedule yet (don’t worry, it is coming), but we think there are probably a few other BCS conference teams that are not featured that have pretty embarrassing non-conference schedules. However, based on the schools that Glockner selected we are guessing that he had some pretty interesting e-mails this week.
  5. After deciding to go public with his diagnosis of prostate cancer in April Steve Lavin has decided to undergo treatment. At the current time Lavin is deciding between surgery and/or radiation therapy and will make the decision within the next two weeks to treat what the team’s physician described as a “relatively low-grade cancer”. According to St. John’s, Lavin is not expected to miss any time and should be able to rejoin the team for their first practice in mid-October. We wish Lavin the best of luck with whichever treatment option he pursues.
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Past Imperfect: The NCAA’s Greatest Weekend

Posted by JWeill on March 24th, 2011

Past Imperfect is a series focusing on the history of the game. Each week, RTC contributor JL Weill (@AgonicaBossEmail) highlights some piece of historical arcana that may (or may not) be relevant to today’s college basketball landscape. This week: the greatest Sweet 16 and Elite Eight ever, the 1990 NCAA Tournament.

By the time the 1990 NCAA Tournament hit its second weekend, fans had already been treated to quite a show: 16th-seeded Murray State pushing top seed Michigan State to the wire; Loyola Marymount’s emotional return to the court following the tragic passing of All-American teammate Hank Gathers and stunning rout of defending champion Michigan; upsets by Ball State, Dayton and Northern Iowa; surprise takedowns of high seeds Kansas, Purdue and No. 1 Oklahoma.

But as much as the results, 1990 in many ways represented a modern apogee for college basketball – a natural peak that was a nexus of upperclassman experience, elite talent and athleticism and a growing American obsession with this quirky college tournament cum mega-event. As television numbers soared and a new generation of basketball fans came of age, interest in the NCAA Tournament was at an all-time high, and the product on the court was worthy of it.

Basketball is a game that has weathered changes in style, scandals of all levels and cycles of roster attrition, any of which might have crippled a less beloved sport. But while there have always been flaws, much of the negativity and cynicism that has since widened the gap between fans of the college game and fans of the modern NBA at the end of the 1980s had yet to be amplified by the combination of youthful revolt, unmitigated marketing and an ever-present media lens that we accept as the norm today. Likewise, at the time the 1990 tourney tipped, ESPN had yet to dominate the sports broadcast market the way it does now and, while viewership of cable television was certainly widespread, Americans were still mostly attuned to a tradition of watching major sporting events like the NCAA Tournament on network, and even more so, local television. And, certainly not to be ignored, this was long before the Internet changed forever the way fans consumed, discussed and dissected the sports the watched.

NBA talents with years of college experience like Michigan State’s Steve Smith made the 1990 NCAA special.

But if in these many ways the beginning of the 1990s was a more innocent time for fans, it was a more experienced and developed time for college basketball. Since Magic Johnson had been drafted No. 1 overall as a sophomore in the 1979 NBA Draft, only 12 underclassmen had been selected in the draft to that point, and of those, none had been freshmen from Division I colleges. There was a fundamental agreement that freshmen were not physically ready to play with grown men in the NBA, and despite the Spencer Haywood decision of the early 1970s granting high school players the right to be drafted, only three high school players had opted to skip college entirely: Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby.

The result was that coaches continued to build teams around star players who they knew were not only talented, but also would be around long enough to accrue the experience that came with having played at least two years in college already. Any fan of college basketball knows that while added playing experience is certainly no guarantee of success at the college level, it sure does help.

So came the 1990 tournament, flush with future pros, plus Hall of Fame and soon-to-be-household-name up-and-comer coaches, too. There were blueblood programs and upstarts alike. And the opening weekend of the tournament was a fantastic one. But if the first two rounds had produced great games and standout individual performances, it was only a prelude to the grand waltz of the weekend ahead. From March 22-25, 1990, college basketball showed, on its grandest stage, all of the best things its season-ending tournament had to offer: emotion, drama, intrigue, and controversy – not to mention collegiate athletics played at the highest level.

It all began with a bang. Two years before a miracle full-court pass and shot at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., would become one of the most replayed and remembered moments in NCAA Tournament history, another, different but equally improbable full-court catch and shoot would captivate college basketball fans’ imaginations … for all of two days.

Few people remember now that when coach Jim Calhoun took over the University of Connecticut program it was arguably the worst in Division I. Now, in just his fourth year, Calhoun had the Huskies as the East Region’s No. 1 seed, facing a talented fifth-seeded Clemson in the Sweet 16. Strong and oozing confidence, UConn opened a 19-point lead. But in the second half, Clemson went on a 25-8 run to cut the lead to two with just over three-and-a-half minutes left. With only 12 seconds remaining in the game, Clemson sophomore David Young hit a three-pointer to give the Tigers their first lead since early in the first half. UConn point guard Tate George missed a jump shot with four seconds left, Clemson rebounded and was fouled. But after forward Sean Tyson missed the free throw, UConn collected the rebound and called time out. One second remained on the game clock.

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Villanova and Pittsburgh put the madness back in March Madness

Posted by nvr1983 on March 29th, 2009

After nearly 10 days of college basketball critics bemoaning the lack of excitement in this year’s edition of March Madness, two of the Big East’s best teams answered all of those critics by submitting an all-time classic. After one of the strangest 10 seconds you will ever see, Scottie Reynolds made an end-to-end run that might replace the Danny Ainge and Tyus Edney versions on NCAA Tournament highlight reels from now on as this was on a much bigger stage with a trip to the Final 4 on the line. Even with Reynolds miracle, Pittsburgh still had its shot, but a 75-foot desperation heave by Levance Fields was off-target and the Villanova fans which filled TD BankNorth had their biggest moment since 1985 when Rollie Massimino, who attended the games in Boston, guided the Wildcats to their only national championship.

It was a game that showed off everything that the Big East was this year: tough, physical, surprisingly high-scoring, and always entertaining. The Wildcats came out of the gates strong and held a 22-12 lead with 9:27 left before the #1 seeded Panthers joined the fight. Relying on its three stars (DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, and Fields), Jamie Dixon‘s squad cut the lead to 2 with an 8-0 spurt in 1:09. From that point forward, the two team traded punches like world-class heavyweights (back when being a heavyweight actually meant something) as neither team was able to stretch their lead beyond 5 points. Villanova relied on a balanced attack (Dwayne Anderson with 17 points, Reynolds with 15 points, Dante Cunningham with 14 points, and Shane Clark with 11 points) while Pittsburgh relied heavily on its two 1st team All-Big East performers (Young with 28 points and 7 rebounds and Blair with 20 points ant 10 rebounds) to keep it in the game.

A tight game throughout. . .

A tight game throughout. . .

After trading haymakers for nearly 37 minutes without either team achieving any separation, Pittsburgh appeared to have a chance to do so coming out of a Villanova timeout with a 4-point lead and the ball out of bounds with 3:05 left.  Instead, that’s just when the madness started. Jermaine Dixon, who had hit a tough jumper just moments earlier  (with a shot that was reminiscent of one that his brother Maryland star Juan Dixon used to hit not too many years ago) to give the Panthers the lead, had the ball stolen from him and in an attempt to recover fouled Dwyane Anderson for the conventional 3-point play. A Sam Young turnover and a Corey Fisher lay-up later, the Wildcats had the lead with 2:16 left, but Fields hit a pair of free throws to give the Panthers the lead back. The Wildcats showed their mettle by scoring the next 5 points to take a 4-point lead with 47 seconds left. As he has done all night long, Young provided the answer for the Panthers with a clutch 3-pointer (“Onions!” as Bill Raftery would say) with 40 seconds left to cut the lead back to 1. A pair of Fisher free throws and a Reggie Redding free throw allowed the Wildcats to stretch the lead back to 4 with 20 seconds left.

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