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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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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Vitale Goes Negative

I've long believed Dick Vitale's popularity is due, in part, to his willingness to praise and hesitancy to criticize. Game after the game, I hear him hype players and lavish praise upon coaches. His few disparaging comments are couched in favorable undertones, often about future potential or past success.

Until now. His latest about USA Basketball takes no prisoners:

- "The problem is, we don't have a team. It is a group of individual stars."
- "They don't understand roles, and they cannot shoot 3s."
- "You can't play without 3-point shooters and without legitimate point guards. It is humiliating so far."
- "It comes down to hunger as well and I have to wonder if the foreign countries have more of that than we do! How hungry is our team?"
- "I don't know how much pride they have. It hurts to watch these countries humiliate some of our best."

Etc. Wow.


Knocked Out?

Chrise Chase lets it rip, strongly criticizing the ACC for expanding and eliminating the conference's famed double round robin system.

What I want to know is whether expansion will undermine the conference's vaunted reputation. As Chris notes, Wake Forest-Miami won't have the allure of Wake Forest-UNC, Maryland-Virginia Tech won't have the cachet of Maryland-Virginia, and Georgia Tech-Boston College won't rival Georgia Tech-Duke. Over several years time, diluted rivalries could dilute the ACC's strength.

The double round robin system is not sufficient for conference teams to develop exciting rivalries (witness the Pac-10), but it may be necessary (extreme examples, UNC-Duke for one, aside). Only time will tell.


too good to be true

Brandi Chastain has a blog and is posting live from Athens.

The blog's title? "It's Not About the Bra."

The connection to college basketball? I don't know. (Though if you give me six degrees, I'm sure I could find one). Still, I couldn't resist.


Not a Blogger

On Monday I criticized Dick Vitale for including Florida among his preseason elite.

Today I learned Vitale didn't care much for my commentary. (Or, more likely, never saw it. But wouldn't it be nice if I could get his attention?) In his latest edition of "V-Mail," Dukie V writes:

I think the Gators are a player or two short of winning it all.

Not exactly. In prior seasons, Donovan has had the talent to win several championships. I think the Gators are a head coach short of winning it all.


They Said It

TO: Dave Odom
FROM: Lou Holtz

"He does a good job of going up and catching the football. I think he could help our basketball team. Once we get through with the national championship game, he will be free to go over to basketball."
-- South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz on freshman wide receiver Sidney Rice, a former high school football and basketball star.

Under Odom, South Carolina may quickly work itself out of the SEC's cellar. With or without Holtz's help.


Friday, August 20, 2004

bling bling

This blog is worth $6,474.16? Explain.


God help us

Live from Athens, Bret Begun writes about Olympic basketball on the MSNBC blog.

But you're not just adjusting to Greek life here. You're adjusting to Greeks who are trying to adjust to you, and the international community at large. That's where life gets weird. Inside the Olympic venues—at least at the Helliniko Indoor Arena, where the preliminary basketball games are played—things are less a cultural land of confusion. There's a discernible effort on the part of organizers to Americanize things. Prior to the men's basketball game against Puerto Rico Sunday, the loudspeakers were blasting Usher's "Yeah!" At the first timeout, members of The Basketball Fan Squad, wearing backward visors, rode around the court on Razor scooters and launched T-shirts into the crowd. At halftime, the Crazy Dunkers set up trampolines and, uh, dunked crazily. Near the end of the third quarter, a bleache-blonde dance troupe did a routine to "I Will Survive."



flying high

The Boston College Eagles scored another late-summer pickup, inking 6-foot-10 John Oates to commit to play for them this fall. I don't expect Al Skinner to duplicate last season's success -- August 2003 signee Jared Dudley averaged 11.9 points and 6.6 rebounds for BC -- but I do believe Oates will strengthen the team's frontcourt and enable Craig Smith to be more aggressive down low.

Al Skinner is as solid a coach as they come. He's one of the few coaches whose judgment on players I trust, almost without a fault. If another Big East coach signed a player in late August, I'd chalk one up for desperation. But when Skinner signs 'em, I give him more than the benefit of the doubt. I give him credit for a strategic pre-season addition.


ranked too high

Meet the Syracuse Orangemen. They're ranked too high because:

1) Too much of their offense comes from on-again, off-again Gerry McNamara. When he's on, he's among the game's best players. But when he's off, the 'Cuse don't have enough offensive weapons to win big games.
2) The Billy Edelin saga. Continues. According to Andy Katz, Syracuse will be without their starting point guard for the fall semester. Even if freshman Josh Wright is ready to direct the offense early on, I figure Edelin's return will disrupt team chemistry.
3) Boeheim's zone defense is effective given the right personnel. Hakim Warrick is a stud, but the 'Cuse need another solid post player or two to maximize their defensive potential.
4) Bad karma. Syracuse is ranked high by virtue of last season's tournament heroics. But winning two close games in the final minutes does not a Top 10 year foretell.


an irrelevant tidbit

In 2002, 1348 or 2312 folks (58.30%) polled at AmIAnnoying.com thought Dickie V was annoying. In 2003, 622 of 889 folks (69.97%) believed ESPN's famed college basketball analyst was annoying.

The website's poll doesn't exactly meet strict scientific guidelines, but it does suggest that Dickie V might be getting more annoying with time.


credit

where credit is due.

I really like Blogger's new header. Rather than simplistic and annoying advertisements, a stylish self-promo for Blogger itself and a search engine that enables you to query through a blog's past posts. Doesn't hurt that the header's color scheme works well with college ball's design.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

on a dime

Dime Magazine's preseason Top 25, via Scott and the Georgia Tech Sports Blog, the standard-bearer of sports blogs (for my money).

Syracuse, Florida and Stanford are ranked too high, Memphis and Washington too low.


five for fighting

Mike DeCourcy earlier this week wrote a column titled "Five reasons not to allow five seasons" for college ballers. I'd love to hear your thoughts on his argument.


Washed Out College Players

Would make a great addition to the US of A's Olympic team, argues Chris Ford over at ESPN. (A lot of things I am, but an ESPN Insider is not one of them. Thanks to my good friend Jason for the article).

Let's forget filling up our international teams with NBA stars and start tapping a pristine reserve of American basketball players that no one talks about. Let's have the role players on Team USA come from a pool of Americans overseas who happen to be international stars.

A number of American players are having very successful careers playing in the Euroleague right now. Former college stars like Tyus Edney, Scoonie Penn and Trajan Langdon are dominating. Given our lack of shooting and understanding of the international game -- why can't these guys get a spot on our roster? "People totally forget about guys like that," Pistons international scout Tony Ronzone told Insider. "They'd be perfect for what we're trying to do. European teams value them and respect them. They play against the top international talent every night and dominate. Why wouldn't they do the same thing in international tournaments. They're proven competitors against the top players in the world."

Why have NBA players just for the sake of having them? Especially when you can have experienced players who not only know the game, but have been dominating in it for years. Scoonie Penn thinks a different group of American players could lead Team USA to gold. Penn, a former Ohio State star and Big 10 player of the year, was one of the top players in the Euroleague last year playing for Cibona in Zagreb, Croatia. I got him on the phone on Tuesday. He too has been watching the Olympics. Unlike most Americans, however, he isn't surprised. "The European game is very different," Penn told Insider. "It takes a while to get used to. The zone. The lane. The refs. It took me several months to really get into the groove there. There's no way a team is going to play together for a few weeks and pick up all the nuances. That takes years."

Penn, like a growing chorus of NBA scouts and executives, believes that a few players like himself would make a big difference."We know the players, know the coaches and what they like to do," he said. "We know the refs and understand the team game. You can't be an individual over here. They beat that out of you. We've learned how to play the team game. We've really got the best of both worlds. We've played the American game at the college and NBA level and we know the international game inside and out."

As usual, Scoonie's making sense. (I miss ya, man). Chris Ford's "International Six" includes Joseph Blair, Tyus Edney, Scoonie Penn, Trajan Langdon, Anthony Parker, & Marcus Brown. Give me a few days and I might come up with a six of my own...But, in theory, Ford's suggestion makes a lot of sense. Former college stars now lighting it up in Europe know the international game better than their NBA counterparts. So what if they're not America's best? They're America's best at the international version of America's game.



better an assistant coach

than a player?

Last night, Connecticut assistant coach Clyde Vaughan was arrested in a prostitution sting. While Clyde's arrest is a hit to the school's image, I believe many Husky boosters would be more concerned if the police had caught a player, say Josh Boone, in yesterday's sting.

Ah, fans' priorities.


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

to europe with love

Robert Rothbart, a 7-foot-1 and 225-pound recruit who averaged 21 points and led the state of California with 15 rebounds a game, today reneged on his commitment to Indiana and declared his plans to play professional basketball in Europe.

His decision is a huge hit to Indiana's fortunes. I had expected him to start - and produce - for the Hoosiers...Add Mike Davis to the list of endangered coaches. Were it not for the mid-summer addition of former Auburn star Marco Killingsworth, I'd be counting down Davis' days in Bloomington.


Chuckles West

I'm a big fan of Arizona State's Ikechukwa Somotochukwa Diogu. "Ike," as he is commonly known, is a bona fide power forward. A great banger down low, he cleans the glass with the best of 'em and scores in droves. Were it not for Lawrence Roberts' return, Diogu would end the season a first team All-American. As it is, and despite playing for Pac-10 bottom-dweller ASU, Diogu will probably finish the year with better numbers than any other power forward in the college game (you heard it here first), but fail to get the respect he deserves as a result of Roberts' higher profile.



An encouraging sign for Diogu is his summer work ethic. As Mike DeCourcy notes, Diogu spent his summer between camps, among them Tim Grgurich's camp, Reebok 's ABCD camp, and the Michael Jordan Flight School. At the Grgurich camp, Diogu honed his skills against the likes of Jermaine O'Neal and Zach Randolph.

For those interested in learning more about Diogu, I suggest you read Curry Fitzpatrick's piece from Ike's freshman year.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

herb!

Courtesy of Julius Hodge, Herb Sendek finds himself off the hot seat. But unless he makes significant progress as a coach, establishes N.C. State as an upper-echelon ACC program, or scores a series of recruiting coups, his return to the list of endagered coaches is only a matter of time. Which is why I always make a special point to read about Herb's recruiting classes.


pub

Dick Vitale last month posted his preseason All-Rolls-Royce squads. Not a bad set of selections, on the whole.

Several of college basketball's best, however, deserve more publicity than they regularly receive. Among these, All-Rolls-Royce team members Hakim Warrick, Francisco Garcia, Ryan Gomes, Ike Diogu, Sean Banks and Craig Smith.

On the other hand, several of the game's best receive more than their fair share of media attention. Among these, All-Rolls Royce team members Raymond Felton, Chris Thomas, J.J. Redick, Kennedy Winston and John Lucas Jr.


lappas looks forward

While I look backward. Steve Lappas can tell Seth Davis he's optimistic about this season's Minutemen, but I'll believe wins when I see them. UMass lost more games than it won in each of the last three years as Lappas led the program further and further into mediocrity.


lady luck

Ken Pomeroy is up with a few great posts on the luckiest and unluckiest clubs of 2004.

How does the stat man quantify luck?

Using an adaptation to Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball. Conceived in the 1980s by statistician Bill James, the "theorem" predicts the winning percentage of a baseball team based on how many runs the team scores and how many runs it allows.

Expected Winning Percentage = RunsScored^2 / (RunsScored^2 + RunsAllowed^2)

If a team's actual winning percentage is lower than it's expected percentage, it is a beneficiary of good luck. If the opposite is true, it is a victim of bad luck. Further, as Ken notes:

If a team wins a lot of close games and loses a few blowouts, their actual record would exceed their "Pythagorean record." They would be the beneficiary of luck, because you would not expect them to be dominant in close games especially given that they had a few lopsided losses. The opposite case would indicate a team is unlucky.

To apply James' formula to basketball, Ken raised points scored and points allowed to the 10th power.

Expected Winning Percentage = PointsScored^10 / (PointsScored^10 + PointsAllowed^10).

His results?

Louisville (3.8 less wins than expected), Arizona (2.6), Cal Santa Barbara (1.9), Pennsylvania (1.9), and Florida State (1.8) were among the unluckiest teams last season. Look for each to improve this year.

Southern Illinois (3.0 more wins than expected), Wisconsin Green Bay (2.7), Stanford (2.1), Syracuse (2.1), Princeton (2.0), Tennessee (1.9), and Virginia (1.8) were the luckiest teams this season. Look for each to regress this year.


Monday, August 16, 2004

easy does it

Ever wonder why (in addition to competitive pressures) many college basketball programs operate beyond the bounds of ethical behavior and outside the academic codes of conduct applied to the rest of the university?

Because even when a program is found guilty of serious violations, the NCAA merely slaps 'em on the wrist. Witness Georgia (a repeat violator of NCAA rules because of sanctions imposed on the football team in 1997).

Jim Harrick's Bulldogs were found guilty of wiring a player money, giving out false grades to players who had failed to attend class, and not requiring student-athletes to pay for their own long-distance calls. Harrick Jr., if you remember, was found to have given his players a final exam chalk full of difficult questions, including "How many goals are on a basketball court" and "In what league do the Georgia Bulldogs compete?" (See if you could pass his test here).

The result? Four year's probation -- but no postseason ban. One (!) scholarship lost for each of the next three seasons. Ugh.

Harrick deserves out of coaching. Forever. (Yes, the ABA counts). Jr. Deserves a one-way ticket to the county jail. And Georgia is worthy of a two-year postseason ban, several lost scholarships and a financial penalty.


absent from work?

Two months ago, before my short hiatus, I wrote that from a PR perspective Cincinnati couldn't have handled Huggins (paid) "suspension" better.

Turns out coach wasn't exactly on a break from Cincy basketball. Gregg Doyel recently learned that sometime during his "suspension," Huggins helped with the Bearcats' search for an assistant coach. Although he was out of town when Northeastern coach Ron Everhart came in for an interview, Huggins likely suggested athletics director Bob Goin pursue Everhart (or, at minimum, approved Goin's pursuit).

As Doyel put it, "either the man's suspended, or he's not." But the episode affirms my belief that Huggins' neck was never on the line. As for Cincinnati? Once a semi-legit, rule-skirting program, always a semi-legit, rule-skirting program.


Early Ed

Pre-season conditioning is essential. Mike DeCourcy's latest dish captures the progress -- at least in terms of teamwork and conditioning -- being made in Corvallis. John may not have the Beavers tournament bound this season, but it shouldn't be too long before OSU is in the Pac-10's upper echelon.

Oregon State coach Jay John was pleased 15 members of his roster were enrolled in the school's second summer session, which runs from mid-July to early September. Because OSU is on the quarter system and doesn't start its fall term until the last week of September, the Beavers could fall behind their Pac-10 opposition in preseason conditioning. Having the players in school during August allows them to keep pace...



billy boy

Dick Vitale includes Florida in his preseason Top 30. Why he does so is beyond me.

Perhaps because the Gators return their core players from last season. Vitale writes, "Coach Billy Donovan has a triple threat in Walsh, Roberson and Lee."

My point exactly. Matt Walsh, David Lee and, most notably, Anthony Roberson, led the Gators to a first round exit in last year's NCAA Tournament. Roberson played selfishly and Walsh poorly. Lee? A surprising non-factor.

Back in March, both Gregg Doyel and Mike DeCourcy dissected the Gators many problems. I quoted select highlights from their pieces here.

Expect little teamwork, much selfish play, and little player development under Donovan's watch again this year. As long as Billy roams the sidelines at Florida, no amount of talent will enable the potential-heavy Gators to be an Elite Eight mainstay.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

homeboy?

How much of an impact will Washington's NCAA apperance have on the school's recruiting? Only time will tell. For now, Lorenzo Romar is making all the right moves. Adding Jon Brockman would be a coup. From Mike DeCourcy's Inside Dish:

Expect PF Jon Brockman of Snohomish, Wash., to decide on a college within a month. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has made recruiting Brockman a priority, but it will be a challenge for him and North Carolina coach Roy Williams to lure Brockman away from West Coast schools, such as UCLA and Washington. Most analysts do not rate Brockman in the top 10, but he might be the most desirable recruit in the class of 2005. That's because his energy and strength should make him an immediate contributor at any program -- and Brockman appears likely to remain in school for four seasons. . . .

For my money (and with or without Brockman), Washington's as good a bet as any to be the third or fourth tournament team from the PAC 10 for each of the next two seasons.


kidding

Saul Smith wants to coach college basketball.

Good for him. Bad for the first team he coaches.

At Kentucky, Saul got playing time by virtue of his last name. But Tubby was kidding himself; Saul wasn't a legitimate starting point guard for a national championship team.

After Kentucky, a short stint in the NBDL, and several years as an assistant, Saul will get a head coaching job by virtue of his last name. But again, the AD who hires him will be kidding themselves; Saul won't be a legitimate head coach at any mid-major institution that hopes to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.


unfortunate but understandable

My officemate's younger brother plays for LaSalle. After last month's scandal, the Explorers are without a coach.

Despite the school's best efforts, they will continue to be so. The University of Pennsylvania's Fran Dunphy just turned down LaSalle despite "a 110 percent effort -- financially and otherwise" to get him on board.

A wise decision. Why leave Penn, a school he has coached for fifteen years and at which he feels comfortable, for a difficult rebuilding project at a mid-major school?