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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Costa Rica!

Tomorrow in the early morning, I'm off to Costa Rica for the holiday weekend. The blog will be quiet through Tuesday. Check the blogroll for interesting commentary.

I tried, but didn't find much to tie Costa Rica to college basketball. Besides offshore gambling and two tidbits.

1) Jackson State (Jackson, MS) just signed Hernol Hall, a 6-10 high school center from the Central American nation. Hall, a member of the Costa Rican National Team, had also been recruited by Nebraska.

2) Last summer, Kelvin Sampson took his Oklahoma club to Costa Rica for a series of four exhibition games. In the fall, Sampson credited the trip with helping the Sooners get an early jump on conditioning.

Rewarding Mistakes

To summarize, Jared Reiner's appeal for an additional year of eligibility at Iowa depends on the NCAA finding Iowa's doctors incompetent.

Screw up the diagnosis and get your player another year. Love it.

That being said, I sympathize with Jared's plight. If nothing else, the extra year will give the young man an opportunity to take a couple classes (and graduate with a degree, if he hasn't already).

Taking Sides

A Nevada player understands Trent Johnson's decision to leave for Stanford:

"A part of me was sad," Kevinn Pinkney, who will be one of two returning starters next year, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "But part of me was happy for him. It was like a reward for the season and the program he has built here. I probably would've been angry or more sad if he went to Utah or another school," he said. "But this is Stanford. They've had winning records every year. They've gone to Final Fours."

A booster doesn't.

Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick, a Nevada graduate and longtime Wolf Pack sports backer, became one of the first on Wednesday to publicly criticize Johnson's departure. "I think he [Trent Johnson] brought a lot to this community and everything else. But one thing that hasn't been mentioned is he gave his word and he broke it. That's the bottom line."

Whose side, player or booster, am I on? Johnson's hypocrisy aside, take a guess.

They Said It

"People say we fooled Indiana. We're not fooling anybody. What if coach (Mike) Davis got an offer to make millions more with an NBA team and he decides to go? Am I going to write on the Internet and say Davis fooled us? No. I would wish him luck."
-- Nada Rothbart, mother of Hoosiers signee Robert Rothbart, an early entree to the NBA Draft who may yet withdraw and enroll at Indiana in the fall

TV Coverage --> Recruits

Gonzaga, the country's favorite "mid-major," just signed a big time deal. A new agreement with Fox Sports Net and Spokane's KHQ-TV guarantees that all the team's home and road games will be televised for at least the next four seasons.

High school players, particularly those eyeing the NBA, consider the extent to which a school's games are televised when deciding where to attend. Regional coverage in the pacific northwest won't give Gonzaga the same recruiting edge DePaul enjoyed in the 1980's through WGN's coast-to-coast market penetration and season-long coverage. But it will help Mark Few ink an additional Top 100 recruit (or two) a year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

bling bling

Boston Globe columnist Mark Blaudschun talks academics with Georgia Tech's Paul Hewitt:

According to Hewitt, if the NCAA were truly serious about its academic commitment, there would be changes in scheduling. For instance, it could curtail basketball games in the first semester - have none during the week - and extend the season well into the second semester in April, when television has cash cows such as the Masters and major league baseball.

"It would be the right thing to do for kids," said Hewitt, knowing full well that the loss of television revenue for the NCAA would prohibit such a dramatic change.

Hewitt's right, of course. Limiting games to weekends would enable "student-athletes" to focus a little more on being students. But Blaudschun's correct as well. Hewitt's suggestion will never fly. Better to consider other means of enhancing academic standards at the collegiate level.

A Better Booster Bureau

Ray Melick of the Birmingham Post-Herald just authored a great piece on reforming the NCAA. Ray does a wonderful job capturing current criticisms of the organization, even-handedly reviewing suggested reforms and, all the while, advancing his own attitude and opinion on the entire matter. A textbook column for J-School students.

Super Mario?

The nation's top junior point guard, Alaskan Mario Chalmers, has opted to attend Kansas rather than Arizona.

John Schuster of Cat Tracks notes the significance of Arizona's loss:

Since the onset of Chalmers’ recruitment, Arizona was considered the team to beat. Well, after a visit to Kansas last weekend, the team to beat got taken to the cleaners. Chalmers selected KU over the UA at a press conference in Alaska. While not the end of the world, it’s a significant blow to Arizona, which had targeted Chalmers as its focus recruit for the class of 05.

While Jason King of the Kansas City Star suggests last week might have been the greatest recruiting week in Kansas history:

Chalmers' decision put the cherry on top of a week in which KU signed two highly touted high school seniors (Alex Galindo and C.J. Giles) while getting oral pledges from two of the country's top juniors (Chalmers and Micah Downs).

The fact that Kansas was able to bring in four new players - and good ones, at that - in five days has led some to label this as the greatest recruiting week in school history. As he walked off the golf course Friday, Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins did his best to encapsulate all that has transpired. "This is unbelievable, it's big time," Perkins said. "I'm so proud of Bill and his staff. What's happened these past four or five days ... you don't see something like this very often. It's pretty special."

Chalmers is easily the jewel of Kansas' four-player recruiting haul. Along with labeling him as the top point guard, rivals.com has Chalmers ranked as the No. 8 overall prospect in the class of 2005.

Fixing the Problem

So much talent. So little talent development. So many players. So little team play. So many promises. So few results.

Florida's decision to bring former Clemson and Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt on board as an assistant may (or may not) be a wise move, but it won't solve the Gators' problem.

Billy Donovan. The buck should stop with the program's head coach.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Lost in the Shuffle

Yes, Josh Smith declared for the NBA Draft. Yes, Robert Rothbart followed suit. But even if Rothbart fails to withdraw and matriculate at Indiana, the Hoosiers will still welcome four Top 100 recruits to Bloomington in the fall.

They Said It

"We don't have a star system. I don't worry about keeping guys happy. It's their job to keep me happy."
-- University of Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith

Punching Bag


Over the past couple months, I've demonstrated my disdain for Larry Eustachy on repeated occasions.

But I ought to also give credit where credit is due. I couldn't agree more with Eustachy's recruiting tactics. On the job less than a month and in need of immediate help, sign a class heavy on junior college players, rather than taking shots in the dark at as of yet unsigned (and, by your staff, under-researched) high schoolers. Simultaenously, think ahead towards next year's class, initially focusing on high schoolers in the immediate area surrounding the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Business of America

The Fox Networks Group today announced the launch of three regionalized Fox College Sports channels.

The three channels will feature men's and women's competitions across a broad range of NCAA-sanctioned sports highlighted by perennial powers from the ACC, Big 12, Pac 10, SEC, as well as other top conferences. The three networks will combine to telecast more than 800 live NCAA events over the course of a year.

If it means more college basketball on television, I'm all for it. But as a business decision...I'm skeptical. As Rudy Martzke of USA Today noted in February, Fox's regionalized sports channels haven't been a big success. Why expect a similar arrangement to succeed if the stations focus exclusively on collegiate content?

Fox Sports Net tried to take on ESPN in the late 1990s, but its regional sports network concept fell short, and it turned to regional sports news.

"It was doomed to failure," said Fox Sports Chairman David Hill, who was asked by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch to evaluate the creative aspects of a combined national sports channel venture with a cable operator such as Comcast. "It was a group of regional networks that thought they could compete nationally and you can't."

They Said It

"At the end of the day, regardless of what's being said and how much money is being thrown around - that's when I have to look myself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, these kids made a huge commitment to all of us.' That's where my passion lies."

"The easiest thing to do in the coaching profession is when you have had an element of success, to take off and leave and take the next highest paycheck or go to the next elite program. That's never been the agenda for me. My agenda has always been what's best for the kids."

"I am thrilled to be able to stay here and continue what we've started. I don't want to be known as a 'hot commodity.' I want to be known as someone who was a part of building something special."

Trent Johnson, quoted in late March and early April of 2004, when he coached the Nevada Wolf Pack. Today, less than two months later, Johnson left his players to become the head coach at Stanford University.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Always a good decision

Turns out Stanford administrators have much in common with Stanford students. As we say on the other side of the country, in Boston, they're "wicked smaht."

Nevada had improved every year under Trent Johnson. After initially posting a 9-20 mark in 1999-2000. The team was 10-18, 17-13 and 18-14 in subsequent years before going 25-9 this past season -- a school-record for wins.

Of course, if Johnson were to direct four consecutive 25-9 seasons at Stanford, he'd probably be run out of Palo Alto. But now that he's able to recruit kids for PAC-10 play, here's guessing he'll soon have Stanford at 6, 7 or 8 losses a season.

The Few, The Proud

The Zags.

Does Trent Johnson's move mean what Gregg Doyel thinks it means?

If Few won't leave Gonzaga for Stanford, he probably won't leave Gonzaga, period.

A Fun Off-Season Exercise

Without further ado, my Top 25.

1. Kansas. A National Player of the Year candidate, Wayne Simien, a senior point guard, Aaron Miles, and a talented slasher, Keith Langford, make the Jayhawks the team to beat. Subtract a key transfer, David Padgett, from last year's squad, but add five - count 'em, five - Top 100 recruits. Bill Self has reason to smile.

2. Georgia Tech. Hewitt. Jack! Hewitt. Elder! Hewitt. Schenscher! Hewitt. The core group returns…Will the chemistry? Marvin Lewis will be missed, but a handful of recruits and another year of maturity will compensate for his absence.

3. Wake Forest. Everybody's back, including a certain point guard with two first names. Experience counts (a lot, in my early rankings).

4. North Carolina. In Roy Williams I trust. Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants give the Tar Heels Final Four-quality talent. Add Marvin Williams to the mix, perhaps the best high schooler in this year's class going to college, and you have a recipe for success.

5. Illinois. If I name my first son "Dee Brown," would that increase his chances of becoming a star athlete by about 2500 percent? B-Webb proved himself a solid bench coach last season, but he could stand to improve the school's recruiting. The Illini's central weakness is a lack of depth.

6. Connecticut. Calhoun reloads. With Josh Boone, Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown leading the charge, what's not to like? By December, A.J. Price and Marcus Williams should more than compensate for Taliek Brown's production at the point.

7. Michigan State. Drew Neitzel will quickly settle down in Lansing, finding the Spartans a deep club with many offensive weapons. Izzo will C-O-A-C-H this experienced crew to more success that you might expect.

8. Duke. The bad news: With Livingston following Deng into the Draft, Duke will be down to eight scholarship players. The good news: Six of the eight were McDonald's All-Americans. This team will struggle at times, but because Krzyzewski returns, so does the Top 10 ranking.

9. Wisconsin. America will soon learn that even sans Devin Harris the Badgers will cruise through much of Big 10 play.

10. Syracuse. Great players make great plays. Next year, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara will be among the nation's best. (With or) Without Billy Edelin, Boeheim will have little trouble getting "SU" to play his vaunted zone defense.

11. Memphis. Sean Banks will be among this season's most talked about stars. He'll be a force inside as Rodney Carney scores and slashes from outside and newcomer Darius Washington distributes the ball for easy buckets. These Tigers will, more often that not, Refuse to Lose.

12. North Carolina State. A National Player of the Year candidate, Julius Hodge, and a coach not on the hot seat for the first time in years, Herb Sendek, suggest the Wolfpack may be among the most confident and relaxed teams in the country heading into the pre-season.

13. Arizona. If Salim develops as a leader, Arizona belongs in the Top 10. If Stoudamire continues to pout after every missed shot, the Wildcats may drop out of the Top 25. I've split the difference -- and factored in the possibility that another player (two words: Isiah Fox) will step up to lead Olson's club to a PAC-10 regular season championship.

14. Maryland. Was last year's ACC tournament a harbinger of things to come? Only John Gilchrest and Gary Williams know for sure.

15. Kentukcy. Into the pot, throw in Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes, add one part Tubby Smith, and mix in the nation's best recruiting class (four Top 100 signees). What do you get? A Bluegrass special. Kentucky will (at least) compete for an SEC title.

16. Michigan. The Wolverines are back. Last year, Michigan won the NIT. This season, the Big 10's conference tournament? It could happen.

17. Oklahoma State. Tony Allen will be missed. Sorely. But JamesOn Curry joins a talented and battle-tested bunch led by John Lucas.

18. Mississippi State. Lawrence Roberts will be missed. Sorely. But Ontario Harper and the remaining cast isn't too shabby. The Bulldogs will find success in a weak SEC.

19. Alabama. Last year's edition over-achieved in the tournament. But while Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton won't find themselves back in the Elite Eight, they'll be glad they returned this year for a productive regular season.

20. Louisville. Pitino's had enough time to work his magic. This year, the Cardinals cash in. Even without Sebastian Telfair and Donta Smith, Louisville will win 20+ games. Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean are as good a pair as you'll find outside of the ACC.

21. Notre Dame. Dennis Latimore re-surfaces in South Bend to find that Chris Thomas never left. Add Torin Francis and the Irish will find themselves fighting in this year's NCAA tournament.

22. Washington. Nate Robinson will return to lead a wiser, hungrier group of Huskies back into the NCAA Tournament. Romar's crew will profit from another PAC-10 off-year, though Oregon should surprise Washington in at least one of the teams' two battles.

23. Pittsburgh. Julius Page left, but Carl Krauser and Chris Taft returned. Jamie Dixon will continue to prove himself to America's steelworkers.

24. Texas. Big state, big-time recruits. Barnes signed another gem of a class, helping to ease the pain of having four of his starters move on. We'll see if the high school phenoms are as good as advertised.

25. Cincinnati. Looked far and wide, but couldn't find a team to be excited about at 25. Defaulted to Huggins' thugs. Because they're competitive, year in, year out.

Expense Reports

A great column on the lengths early entry players go to so that they remain eligible for NCAA play. For example:

Mississippi State junior forward Lawrence Roberts told ESPN.com Thursday night from Portland that his family paid for his expenses to get to the Blazers from his Houston home...The Blazers have the 23rd pick in the first round and could be looking at Roberts and [Delonte] West for that spot. Each, however, could be on their way back to college for senior seasons if their stock drops into the second-round world of non-guaranteed contracts ... so accounting for each flight, hotel room and meal will be necessary to avoid trouble with the NCAA.

Though it appears Roberts quickly wisened up. NBA franchises should pay to see him, rather than the other way around.

As for the Portland visit? It was the first and possibly the last for Roberts. He said he plans on setting up workouts for teams to watch him in Houston, avoiding the hassle of trying to keep track of his expenses.


This is a blog, not a tombstone. My thoughts are a work in progress.

Having (just now) finalized my Top 25, I therefore feel comfortable putting 'em up, sans commentary, until I find the time to add context to my post-draft entry, pre-draft withdrawl rankings.

The Top 25

1. Kansas, 2. Georgia Tech 3. Wake Forest, 4. North Carolina, 5. Illinois, 6. Connecticut, 7. Michigan State, 8. Duke, 9. Wisconsin, 10. Syracuse, 11. Memphis, 12. North Carolina State, 13. Arizona, 14. Maryland, 15. Kentukcy, 16. Michigan, 17. Oklahoma State, 18. Mississippi State, 19. Alabama, 20. Louisville, 21. Notre Dame, 22. Washington, 23. Pittsburgh, 24. Texas, 25. Cincinnati

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Traveling Together

The Ducks Blog lets us know that Oregon has tentatively scheduled a European tour for next fall, before the 2005-2006 season.

Sounds like a good idea to me. I haven't done the legwork on this one, but my gut tells me that many a recent team has parlayed a foreign excursion into regular season success.

Standard Operating Procedure?

Auburn will pay John Mengelt, an executive recruiter with Breckenridge Partners and an alumnus of the university, $100,000 to find new head basketball coaches for the school's men's and women's basketball programs.

At first, I was a little surprised by the arrangement. I'd never heard of such an agreement and thought the school could save a little dough - and do a better job - by conducting the search itself.

But it turns out colleges occasionally bring in executive search firms to help with new hires in their athletic departments. For example, Georgia hired Baker & Parker before handing Dennis Felton the reins and Kansas employed Heidrick & Struggles (to the tune of $75,000) before bringing Al Bohl on as athletic director several years back.

Of course, just because other schools have hired executive recruiters in the past doesn't mean Auburn made a wise decision for its future. But it did help me get over my initial shock.

$2 million

Good for Marquette. Nice to know money isn't everything at the Midwestern Catholic school.

Bad for Marquette. When he was an assistant at Michigan State, head coach Tom Crean was known to show his team tapes of "The Jerry Springer Show."