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Championship matchup is one more appropriate gift

by - Published March 16, 2013 in Columns
bigeast

NEW YORK – The first Big East semifinal was a thriller. The second one wasn’t, but its result leads to the possibility of one in the final championship game in the Big East Tournament as we know it. What’s not a possibility, but rather, a given, is that the second one sets up a final that is only fitting for a very different reason.

With Syracuse already in the final by virtue of a 58-55 overtime win over Georgetown, Louisville then punched their ticket with a victory over Notre Dame. The Cardinals gradually pulled away from the Fighting Irish, who were able to hang around most of the night and even tied the game in the first half, for a 69-57 victory.

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New year, higher stakes with conference play intensifying

by - Published December 29, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

With the new year arriving in a few days, we’re about to bite into the meat of conference schedules.

Already, about half of Division I conferences have played at least one conference game. The Summit League’s South Dakota State sits at 3-0, giving the Jackrabbits the most conference wins of any team in the country. There’s a random fact for you.

In many ways, it feels like the season starts anew when conference play begins in earnest when the calendar turns to a new year. Yes, there are plenty of fantastic nonconference games throughout the season, and some of the best rivalries involve teams from different conferences, such as this weekend’s bout featuring Louisville and Kentucky. However, no matter how intense those rivalries might be, the stakes just aren’t as high when the winner doesn’t gain ground in the win-loss column of its conference standings.

I like to view the nonconference schedule as a time for growth. Teams get two months to adjust to new arrivals — on the roster or coaching staff — while playing only a few games conference games. That gives the coaching staff a chance to settle on an effective rotation and integrate any late additions because of transfer rules or early season suspensions.

In addition to growth as a team, the nonconference slate gives teams a chance to build their résumé for the NCAA Tournament. For the vast majority of D-1 programs, the only route to an NCAA Tournament is the automatic bid awarded with a conference tournament championship. However, for a bunch of teams, November and December help set expectations for conference play. Just look at Indiana, which entered the season unranked. The Hoosiers beat up some overwhelmed competition, which wouldn’t do Indiana any good in the eyes of the selection committee members come March. Then the Hoosiers went out and beat Kentucky. That’s a massive win that will help solidify Indiana’s NCAA Tournament status, even if the Hoosiers scuffle a bit in Big Ten play, finishing with only a .500 Big Ten record.

On the other hand, teams like Vanderbilt enter conference play knowing they have some work to do. The Commodores started the season as a top 10 team, but they have dropped games to Cleveland State, Xavier, Louisville and Indiana State. A couple of those losses are surprising while a couple are missed opportunities. Right now, the Commodores’ best wins are against Oregon, Oregon State and North Carolina State. None of those teams is a lock for the NCAA Tournament. So Vanderbilt must make hay in the SEC, especially against Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Mississippi State. The Commodores get those teams six times, and Vanderbilt probably needs to win at least three — preferably one on the road — to feel secure about an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

And that just spices up already-compelling conference slugfests.

We go coast to coast with news from around the college basketball nation.

We’ll have at least two undefeated teams heading into 2012, as Baylor and Syracuse don’t play again in 2011 after winning last night. And that’s more than previously unbeaten Indiana and Louisville can say after dropping their first game of the season last night. Missouri plays Old Dominion Friday, and fellow unbeaten Murray State will also be in action Friday, against Eastern Illinois.

Connecticut might not be undefeated, but the Huskies are 1-0 without Jim Calhoun on the sidelines this season, CBS Sports.com reports. The Huskies beat South Florida last night, the first game of Calhoun’s three-game suspension, which is his punishment from a recruiting scandal in which he was cited for creating an atmosphere of compliance in Storrs.

Rhode Island is 1-11 this season, and that’s with senior guard Jamal Wilson in the lineup for 11 of those games. Life won’t be any easier for coach Jim Baron after he suspended the team’s leading scorer for breaking team rules, according to an Associated Press report. Wilson is averaging 17.5 ppg for the struggling Rams.

One of the complaints about conference expansion/realignment/destruction is the loss of rivalries that get the fans going. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are looking to avoid those situations via a strategic partnership that will allow the conferences to schedule multiple games between its members to encourage compelling match ups, which could include rivalry games, according to an ESPN.com report.

Maryland had to wait 10 games to get Ukrainian big man Alex Len on the court, writes Eamonn Brennan for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. However, he could become a critical player quickly, as evidenced by his 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in his first game Wednesday against Albany.

In case you missed the big news of yesterday, Louisville coach Rick Pitino announced that he intends to call it a career when his contract expires in 2017, according to the Associated Press. At 59, Pitino is already looking ahead to the end of his coaching run, which includes trips to the Final Four with three different teams (Providence, Kentucky and Louisville).

Selfish NCAA Rule Betrays Mission to Student-Athletes

by - Published May 2, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

  1. Starting next season, players will no longer be able to test the NBA Draft waters. According to the Associated Press, the NCAA approved a rules change that forces players to decide whether they wish to remain eligible for the NBA Draft by the first day of the spring signing period for recruits. This move helps college coaches replace departing players. But it kills players’ opportunity to gauge their draft stock as few NBA teams are prepared to provide full predictions by mid-April.
  2. George Mason wasted no time in finding a new coach. According to the Associated Press, the Colonials picked former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who was fired at Georgia Tech this past season after 11 years and a 190-162 record. In more than a decade with the Yellow Jackets, Hewitt established a reputation for recruiting top-notch talent, but he only made one deep run in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Connecticut in the 2004 championship game. He replaces Jim Larranaga, who left the school to coach Miami.
  3. Nearby, in Washington, D.C., George Washington will be in search of a new coach after firing Karl Hobbs, according to the Associated Press. Hobbs led the Colonials for 10 years, including a great 2005-06 season in which George Washington finished 27-3 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. And in Atlanta, Georgia Tech replaced Paul Hewitt with Brian Gregory, choosing Dayton’s coach over several other candidates, including a 15-year-old from Connecticut. Wha?! According to the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, Ethan Peikes sent Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich a letter containing a cogent argument for why Peikes should become the Yellow Jackets’ next coach.
  5. Colgate presumably didn’t get any applications from 15-year-olds, but the school did find its coach from a relatively young member of the coaching ranks. According to the Associated Press, Colgate hired 33-year-old Temple assistant Matt Langel to replace Emmett Davis, who was dismissed after 13 seasons and a 165-212 record.
  6. Wisconsin extended the contract of coach Bo Ryan through 2015-16, ensuring stability for one of the best programs in the Big Ten, according to the Associated Press. Ryan has a 242-91 record in 10 seasons in Madison, and his teams regularly excel in the NCAA Tournament and enjoy one of the toughest home court advantages in basketball.
  7. Likewise, in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Fox received an extension with Georgia. The Bulldogs will keep Fox through 2015-16 and increase his pay to $1.7 million per year, according to the Associated Press.
  8. Amid coaching changes, some players decide it’s time for a fresh start, especially if a new coach has a significantly different system. That looks to be the case at North Carolina State, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Freshman point guard Ryan Harrow will leave the Wolfpack to look for a fresh start rather than play for new coach Mark Gottfried.
  9. Give coach Bill Self credit. Even though Kansas is losing plenty of firepower this off-season, the Jayhawks will face a brutal schedule next season, with Kentucky and Ohio State definitely on the horizon, according to the Associated Press. Kansas also will be in the Maui Invitational with Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee and Michigan.
  10. And Kansas might find some tougher competition out of Oklahoma in the Big 12 than originally expected. New Sooners coach Lon Kruger has added two Juco players recently to help hasten the rebuilding of the Oklahoma program, according to Sports Illustrated’s “Fan Nation” blog.
  11. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has completed a major overhaul of his staff, according to the Associated Press. Pitino added Kevin Keatts as an assistant coach. Keatts arrives at Louisville after coaching Hargrave Military Academy for 10 seasons and winning two national prep championships. Keatts joins Wyking Jones and Pitino’s son Richard on the staff.
  12. Quick hits from the NCAA’s attendance report, via ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for the “College Basketball Nation” blog: total number of people attending games is up compared with 2009-10, average per Division I game is down a tad (because of more Division I schools), and average NCAA Tournament attendance is down slightly.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

The general consensus is that the NCAA is being selfish in its decision to change the rules on players testing the NBA Draft as early entrants. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, though the NCAA has an opportunity to do right by student-athletes.

The NCAA is responsible for guiding student-athletes through the collegiate educational experience. That’s not my take; it’s theirs. From the NCAA’s website:

The NCAA’s core purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.

By shifting the deadline for players to decide whether they will remain in the NBA Draft or return to school to mid-April, the NCAA is robbing student-athletes of a chance to maximize their educational experience. To borrow a Texas Hold ‘Em poker analogy, the NCAA will be forcing players to go all-in or fold before the flop while letting them see only one card.

In recent years, players have been able to figure out the strength of their draft hand — to see that other card — by receiving evaluations from NBA scouts during late April and May. A few years ago, players had until June to decide whether they’d remain in the draft or return to school. NCAA coaches hated that because they didn’t know what their roster would like and how they should adjust their recruiting strategy in the spring.

The first step in this anti-player direction was a change to the players’ decision deadline to early May. That prevents players from receiving much information, but they can at least make an educated decision about the likelihood that a team will pick them in the first round.

To clarify what’s at stake, the NBA only guarantees contracts to first-round picks. If you’re No. 31, you have to compete with every other unrestricted free agent, NBA Developmental League player and international walk-on who wants a shot at an NBA contract. Good luck. Oh, and you can’t go back to your college team. When early entrants remain in the draft, they’re no longer eligible. You don’t hear of too many players who pay to earn a degree without a scholarship from a school if they fall out of the first round and don’t receive a contract.

For NCAA early entrants, the NBA Draft can be a life-altering decision. Because the NCAA will restrict the relevant information that student-athletes can gather by the mid-April deadline, the NCAA has the responsibility to fulfill its core purpose: ensure that the educational experience is paramount. And that experience is paramount to the self-centered interests of coaches who fear they’ll lose their jobs without NBA-caliber players on their roster instead of leftover recruits.

For the NCAA to fulfill that purpose, it needs to create a method for student-athletes to receive NBA evaluations throughout the season. Perhaps the NCAA should form a consortium of current or former NBA scouts who provide monthly ratings or reviews, citing comments from NBA executives. If the NCAA wants to follow the money, it would need to wade into the world of sports agents, who are perhaps most motivated to gauge players’ value and translate that into NBA dollars. An objective sports agent might not exist, but that’s for the NCAA to figure out.

As the rules stand now, the NCAA is failing its student-athletes. A failed system is bound too fall apart as soon as a better alternative presents itself. And that could quickly emerge from the heavily financed underworld of unscrupulous sports agencies and self-employed talent consultants, who might take an even more aggressive stance and try to fill a need in this evaluation process — if the NCAA doesn’t step up to fully educate its players.

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Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

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bostonuniversity

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cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

Hoopville Archives

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors hold college showcase

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

Massachusetts 11th grade AAU Tournament recap

Teams gathered at Mass Premier Courts to chase the state title in the oldest age group, and one champion was a familiar one.

Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

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Recruiting Coverage

Suffield Academy looks to grow into Class A in NEPSAC

September 29, 2014 by

suffieldacademy

Signs of growth are present at Suffield Academy, and along the way the basketball team moves up into NEPSAC Class A this season as they try to keep the program growing.

Wilbraham and Monson has a new leader with a similar level of talent

September 29, 2014 by

wilbrahamandmonson

A busy Sunday started with a trip to Wilbraham and Monson Academy, where there is a new head coach who has been at the school and some good talent to work with.

Williston Northampton begins a new chapter on the hardwood

September 26, 2014 by

willistonnorthampton

A new era is dawning at the Williston Northampton School on the hardwood. It includes a new head coach who is changing some things up right away.

Kent School has some pieces to compete in NEPSAC Class A

September 25, 2014 by

author_kasiecki

The Kent School might not have the talent or depth of its neighboring prep school, but they have a team worth watching that could compete in Class A this season.

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September 25, 2014 by

hoopguy-cyan

South Kent has a lot of size and lineup options this season. That will enable Kelvin Jefferson’s team to be very competitive in NEPSAC Class AAA.