Monthly Archives: May 2011

Penn State: The Coaching Search Rolls On

Just when basketball in Happy Valley seemed to be back on the rise, for the first time in decades, it appears that they may be headed back to square one.

The Nittany Lions were on a serious high after getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time in over 10 years and seemed ready to build for the future, only to be left high and dry by the very man that seemed to be resurrecting the program.

After eight topsy-turvy seasons in Happy Valley, Ed DeChellis jumped ship (literally) over the weekend, deciding to take the vacant job at Navy.

Are those tears of joy, Ed?

Dechellis may have thought it was the best move for his career, although I’m hard pressed to believe that, but he clearly didn’t think about the impact it would have on a Penn State program that he coached (in some capacity) for more than 20 season.

The Nittany Lions now must jumpstart a coaching search unexpectedly and extremely late in the offseason, when everyone else has already had their shot at the big names.

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Thursday’s Twithitters: Best College Hoops Writers

After Linda Gonzalez, former Manhattan and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez’s older sister, released her Top 10 worst sports writers list on her blog that set off an internet firestorm (which has been since removed but the Rush the Court boys had a very interesting interview with her), the boys here thought we should release our list of BEST national college basketball writers. No need to bad mouth anyone…here’s a list of some of our favorite basketball writers.

Top 3 Writers:

Giblin

  1. Gary Parrish, CBS – Very entertaining writing that knows everything that’s going on in the world of college basketball. His Weekend Look Aheads and Weekend Look Backs are full of great information, easy reads, and funny. And the guys isn’t afraid to tell it how it is.
  2. Jeff Goodman, FOX Sports  CBS – If there is one person who beats one of the writers from ESPN consistently to break a story,

    Jay Bilas's Twitter = Genius.

    it’s Goodman. Goodman was recently plucked from FOX Sports by CBS – they get a phenomenal writer strengthening their already solidcollege basketball crew.

  3. Jay Bilas, ESPN – Jay Bilas is one of the best. He’s a very opinionated analystbut is very fair in his analysis. But the reason he’s great: his Twitter. Absolutely hilarious. If you aren’t following him, you need to start.

Mayo

  1. Seth Davis, SI– Davis isn’t gimmicky, but for my money he’s got the most

    No one is better at telling it as it is - isn't that right, NCAA

    knowledge of the combination of the game and the personnelout there. He calls the NCAA out on their BS better than anyone, and he is just the best pure writerout there.

  2. Jay Bilas , ESPN – Bilas is known for his TV persona as much as anything but he can really write as well. He might have the best X’s and O’s knowledge of any of the analysts or writers out there, and as a former player (at Duke no less) he brings a very interesting perspective that not many guys can duplicate.
  3. Andy Katz, ESPN – NOT because he does Obama’s bracket every year. Katz is just a wealth of information and seems to be the first, or one of the first, to break many of the major stories in college hoops. Plus, it seems like he’s got a direct line to every coach in America.

Hughes

Is Dana O'neill underrated or just under the radar?

  1. Dana O’Neill, ESPN– This may not be the most popular pick and Yes she’s awoman writing about men’s basketball, but Dana knows what she is talking about when it comes to the NCAA. She also does great feature pieces on under the radar guys as well as high school prospects, accurately capturing more than meets the eye. Really underrated!
  2. Fran Fraschilla, ESPN – Some of you non-Insiders might not see much of Fraschilla on the ESPN main page, but the dude has tons of insight on recruiting and is definitely a reliable source when it comes to anything NCAA related.
  3. Seth Davis, SI – Confession: I don’t rely on SI for College Basketball very often, as I’m usually scouring ESPN’s entire site for info and analysis, but Davis does catch me me peeking over now and again. He is a master of breaking down the tourney and always reliable when it comes to breaking news.

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Mid-Major Coaches Taking the Extension: Pros and Cons

Cinderella runs in the NCAA Tournament are no longer surprises to college basketball fans. The question no longer is will there be a Cinderella, but how many teams will try on the slipper in a given year. The deep run in the tournament not only brings attention to the school and its players, but the coach as well. With the high rate of turnover in college basketball, the NCAA Tournament has become a pseudo-audition of sorts for many coaches of mid-major programs.

It is an interesting concept. Many NBA scouts complain that GMs put too much stock into a three-weekend tournament when evaluating talent. Everyone is captivated by the NCAA Tournament, and given that the games are on a national stage, it makes sense as to why a talent evaluator could fall in love with a guy who gets hot at the right time and leads his team to the second or third weekend.

Take a guy like Gordon Hayward, for example. Hayward was smart because he realized that after leading Butler to their first National Championship appearance, and being the driving force behind that run even though Butler very much played with a team-basketball concept on both ends of the floor, his stock could not get any higher than it was at that point. Hayward is a fine player, and probably will become a solid rotation player in the league, but ask the Utah Jazz whether they would change their minds if they could do it over again and you’d likely get a pained look and a head nod.

Well, this is not a unique concept just to players. Coaches of mid-major programs are beginning to use the tournament as a spring board into the off-season, where a successful March can translate into major bargaining power with their current schools or an opportunity to move on to a more high-profile gig. The point is, guys who lead an underdog to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond may not necessarily leave a Naismith trophy, but they won’t leave empty handed.

It used to be that the mid-major coach was as good as gone once they led their team to the second weekend, but that paradigm took a big turn after the ’05-’06 season when Jim Larranaga chose to take a big extension at George Mason rather than bolting for one of the many higher profile programs that had expressed interest, including his alma mater Providence. Instead, Larranaga took a pay raise and a whole bunch of extra years on his contract and stayed put…

Well, until this past off-season, when he signed with Miami.

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Kareem Wants a Statue, Which College Player Deserves One?

In case you haven’t heard, former Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar is upset he doesn’t have a statue outside of the Staples Center like Jerry West or Magic Johnson. And apparently some Lakers fans don’t really care. Earlier this month, LSU decided to honor Shaquille O’Neal with a “Shaqtue”  outside their basketball arena.

It got me to thinking : which college players of the last 10 years would be most deserving of having a statue of some sort? Which players were the ultimate representatives  of their school with their incredible play and unforgettable moments?

Here’s my list with reasons why and why not:

(Obviously there really aren’t many players in the history of the game that deserve a statue but just go with it.)

  • Shane Battier, Duke 

Why: Where to begin with Mr. Battier? He won the Naismith and Wooden Player of the Year Awards his senior year where he led the Blue Devils to the 2001 NCAA Championship earning the Tournament MOP in the process. He exemplified the type of defense that Coach K’s best teams have had, winning 3 NABC Defensive Players of the Year Awards in the process. One of the most hated players in Duke history who received the wrath of opposing teams’ fans, but as baseball legend Reggie Jackson once said – “Fans don’t boo nobodies.”

So close! But this artist forgot about 15-20 of Shane's famous ridges.

Why Not: Duke doesn’t do the statue thing, opting to retire jerseys – Battier has his 31 retired. With so many good players, it would be tough to choose which were the best. But the real reason is simple : what sculptor could ever perfect Battier’s imperfect ridges? His head is like a Ruffles potato. No one would attempt it.

  • Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse

Why : Pretty much single-handedly took the Orange to the 2003 NCAA championship (ok, Hakeem Warrick gets a little credit). In their run to the championship, Melo led Syracuse in points, rebounds, minutes played, field goals, and free throws. He was simply dominant and rewarded Jim Boeheim with his only National Championship.

Why not: He played one season at Syracuse. He dominated but you can’t get a statue for one season.

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Good Bye Gary: A Quick Look at Williams’ Legacy

News broke a couple Fridays ago that Maryland head coach Gary Williams would be opting to retire, ending a 42 year coaching career, the last 22 of which spent as the head coach at his alma mater. At age 66, you figured Gary didn’t have a ton of years left in him, but this was still a bit of a surprise to most Terp fans. Williams’ slightly abrupt retirement coupled with the fact that Maryland tried to make a fairly quick hire–he retired on a Friday and Mark Turgeon’s hire was announced on a Monday night–have seemed to overshadow a significant legacy left behind.

Let’s pause and examine.

The Numbers

Gary’s .637 career winning percentage in a head coaching career spanning 33 years speaks for itself. He ended his career as third all-time in ACC head coaching wins and the winningest coach in Maryland history. Add a national championship, a couple of Final Four appearances and ACC Coach of the Year awards, three ACC regular season titles, and an ACC tournament title, and that sounds like a  Hall of Fame career to me. The ACC was always kind of like playing in the AL East with Duke and North Carolina being like the Red Sox and Yankees, making his numbers all the more impressive and possibly all the more underrated.

The Legacy

After his first year at the helm, Williams and the Maryland program were penalized for major violations that occurred before Gary took over. Besides taking away scholarships for years to follow, the NCAA also banned the Terps from postseason play for two years and took them off live TV for one. Despite being saddled with limitations that would set some programs back a decade or more, Gary had his team back in the Sweet 16 in four years. He would build the Maryland program into a national contender for years to come.

Williams was known for his intensity on the sidelines. There was rarely a game where he didn’t sweat through his suit jacket, and he could often be seen in with his back turned to the bench in a tirade. But, his players always responded to him. Gary was always known for winning without superstars. Walt Williams, Joe Smith, Steve Francis, and Juan Dixon probably rank as the top four players he ever had in some order. Certainly not bad, but in 22 years as the Maryland head coach with as much success as he had in a conference like the ACC, you might expect some more star power. Of course, that can be seen in two ways. On one hand, it makes his resume that much more impressive, especially given that two of those four players I just mentioned only played in College Park for one year. On the other hand, it begs the question of why he couldn’t get more big-time players to come to campus.

Some, probably most, Maryland fans would tell you that Williams intentionally avoided the All-American type guys because of his resistance to associate with AAU coaches. Still, some others have rumbled that Williams was not the most aggressive recruiter, especially after winning his first championship. This became a more common gripe in the years after the departures of key recruiting guys like Jimmy Patsos and Dave Dickerson. In reality, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. In any case, it proves how good Williams was when he was on the sidelines. Williams undoubtedly coached with a chip on his shoulder and his best teams always mirrored that trait. That chip on his shoulder might have played a part in his famously contentious relationship with Debbie Yow, but with Yow moving onto NC State and Williams continuing at his alma mater and now retiring there, I think it is obvious who won that battle. Williams has always been beloved by fans, and maybe more importantly (depending on your perspective) the boosters.

Williams can say all he wants about it just being the right time in his life to call it quits, and I am sure there are many elements of truth to that–he is 66 years old, after all, and has been doing this for over two-thirds of his life. However, you can’t tell me that this decision didn’t have a whole lot to do with Jordan Williams’ announcement that he would be declaring for the draft officially and hiring an agent earlier in the week. The Terps would have been a very interesting team to watch next year had (Jordan) Williams returned, and I’d bet my house that Gary would have come back for one more year had Jordan returned to school. If you look at his best teams, his flex offense has always run the smoothest when he’s had a great big man. The timing of his decision was certainly no coincidence.

The Future

I wouldn’t cry for Gary quite yet. After notifying the Terp faithful of his plans to retire, Williams was given a cushy Special Assistant to the Athletic Director job in Maryland’s athletic program. Basically, Williams will be called in for spot duty but mostly be getting paid to play golf. Not bad.

Williams, however, was very much a part of the decision-making process when it came to making a new hire. Gary will absolutely be a significant voice in all things Maryland basketball in the future years.

Maryland will undoubtedly miss the steward of its basketball program, but early reports seem to indicate that they are in very good hands with Mark Turgeon. Not only has he had a track record of success, which Hughes profiles here, but he has the stamp of approval of the man that will go down as the greatest coach in Maryland history of any sport.

Now, he just has to replace Jordan Williams…

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Thursday’s Twithitters: Early NBA Prospect Thoughts

Thursday’s Twithitters has arrived and we’re talking NBA prospects for these former college stars (and a dude from the Congo). Mock drafts are all around here, here, and here. All of them seem to agree with our lottery sweepstakes projection with Kyrie going number one to Cleveland. Yay us!

But we also looked at some of their mock drafts and decided who we thought were the most underrated and overrated prospects in this year’s draft. We start with the guys we think are undervalued…

Most Underrated Prospects:

Giblin

  1. Reggie Jackson, Boston College – Yes, I am a homer. Jackson’s freakish 7-foot wingspan and ability to get to the rim are not being valued enough. His outside shot improved every season at BC and he’s got a good feel for the game. He’s only going to get better at the point. Some team’s going to luck into a great player late first round.
  2. Keith Benson, Oakland – Why is Benson not getting more love? Are guys like Kenneth Faried that much better? He’s got NBA size and athleticism and has some good inside skills. He could be better than both Morris twins.
  3. Isiah Thomas, Washington – Everyone is pointing out his lack of size. We get it. But look at J.J. Barera and his contributions in the NBA playoffs. Thomas’s lightning fast quickness and ability to get in the lane will make him a great bench player for many years in the league. And of course he’s COLD BLOODED!

Mayo

  1. Tobias Harris, Tennessee– Harris is solid in all aspects of the game and has great basketball IQ. His play during his freshman year wasovershadowed by the chaos of Tennessee’s program because of the Bruce Pearl circus that unfolded throughout the year. He probably won’t be picked until the later first round, if not the second, but can really be a legitimate starter in the league.

    Is Faried one of the safest selections in this years draft?

  2. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State– Faried got his name out thereby leading Morehead State to a first-round upset of Louisville this past tournament but still isn’t a household name. He is built like a brick house and might be the best rebounder in the draft. He likely won’t go until the later lottery but could be the perfect complimentary player for a potential contender. Think Joakim Noah.
  3. Jordan Hamilton, Texas – Hamilton has great size and athleticism, and he is one of the most versatile scorers in the entire draft. Yet, you don’t hear his name too often when it comes to lottery picks. I see him as a bonafide starter and potentially a great number two option offensively.

Hughes

  1. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State – NCAA’s All-Time leading rebounder, of course I’ll take him. His game reminds me a lot of Ben Wallace. A tad undersized and still developing offensively, but in today’s game how often do you find a guy who puts defense and rebounding ahead of all else?
  2. Chris Singleton, Florida State – Defense is becoming even more of a fad than the 3-pointer in the NBA and Singleton brings it better than anyone in this draft. At 6’9 and 225 and with elite athleticism he could effectively guard each of the Heat’s Big 3 at different points in a game. Give his offense some time but at the very least you’re getting a great wing defender for years to come.
  3. Josh Selby, Kansas – He had his struggle while in Lawrence, but the upside is too good to overlook. A bad year doesn’t necessarily mean a bad career. If you need any further proof, see: Brandon Jennings. Sure, there is a lot of risk in the pick, but with terrific guard fundamentals and a developing shot how could someone rightly pass him up in the 20’s.

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UNC Recruit Values Spelling

Highly rated shooting guard P.J. Hairston made his decision to attend North Carolina over rival Duke undoubtedly for multiple reasons. One in particular, though, was fairly surprising given the aura and profile of Coach K’s program: they kept spelling his name wrong in recruiting letters!

It just goes to show you how mechanical and robotic the recruiting process can be for all college sports. Millions upon millions of letters get sent out to potential recruits starting early on in high school. If you have the right size and weight and build, you can bet you will get some initial letter inquiries expressing interest in your services. It is surprising, though, that Hairston, being the high profile recruit that he is, ran into these issues. You would think that after weeding out the pretenders, schools like Duke wouldn’t have issues like this with guys they are targeting; though, it also begs the question of how seriously they were considering him if they didn’t check their spelling.

It reminds me of a story I was told about current Georgetown guard Markel Starks’ recruiting process. Starks was very highly recruited out of Georgetown Preparatory School, and one night he was attending a function with his coach where he spotted the head coach of one of the programs that was most aggressively recruiting him.

His coach said, “Go up and introduce yourself and say hello.”

So he did. When he came back to his coach, he said, “That guy had no idea who I was.” And, in that moment, Starks, who knew that John Thompson III knew very well who he was, had his mind made up about where he was going to school.

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NBA Draft Lottery Rapid Reactions

The Cleveland Cavaliers have won this year’s NBA Draft Lottery. Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, and Enes Kanter might be getting a little nervous right about now. Joking aside, now that the draft order has been revealed, things should start to take shape in terms of who is going where. It’s amazing how much better a situation the number two and three picks have than the first overall. Cleveland might legitimately not have a guy on their roster who will be a starter on their team in three or four years, whereas Minnesota (#2) and Utah (#3) both have some good young talent and might be a few good breaks away from making something of themselves. Let’s go over the top six–and yes it was going to be the top five, but I’m a Wizards fan, live with it.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick that makes the most sense: Kyrie Irving

Cleveland needs everything. In reality, their best player is probably Baron Davis, who plays the same position as Irving, but Davis is nowhere near a long-term solution for Cleveland. Given the fact that the NBA is becoming a point guard-driven league, Irving makes the most sense. Many draft pundits believe he is the best player in the draft, anyway.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Pick that makes the most sense: Brandon Knight

The Wolves are absolutely salivating over Kyrie Irving, but Brandon Knight has risen on many draft boards as of late and may not be the worst consolation prize. He is a smooth player who has plenty of tools and a lot of room to grow as a player. Enes Kanter is definitely a possibility here and might have more value, but David Kahn is absolutely desperate for a point guard (insert Ricky Rubio joke here). Plus, Kahn seems to actually believe in his current center, Darko Milicic, as evidenced by the contract he gave him last season. If Kahn truly believes this team is a point guard away from being a contender in the near future, Knight has got to be the pick.

3. Utah Jazz

Pick that makes the most sense: Derrick Williams

The Jazz have their frontcourt pretty much where they want it with Al Jefferson, Paul Milsap, and newly acquired Derrick Favors, who has all the tools to be a star (you can bet he will be in a future edition of “Ranking the Risks” one way or the other). They also have a promising point guard in Devin Harris. Where they are lacking are their wing positions. If Derrick Williams falls into their laps, Jazz fans will have to be doing back flips.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick that makes the most sense: Enes Kanter

Getting Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter in the same draft could be just what the Cavs need to rebuilt the franchise that LeBron left behind in ruins. These two guys could easily be the best two talents in the whole draft, and allowing them to grow up together in the league will remedy what the Cavs were never able to do for LeBron; that is, give him another young talent to develop with. Kanter missed this past season because of ineligibility, but make no mistake, he is not your typical finesse European big man–he is an absolute beast in the paint.

5. Toronto Raptors

Pick that makes the most sense: Kawhi Leonard

The Raptors could go a number of different ways here. They certainly could do worse than adding an athletic swingman with some size. Kawhi Leonard is a guy who didn’t have a huge body of work in college, but he was the driving force behind San Diego State’s resurgence this year. Considering they just used a lottery pick on Ed Davis last season and also have guys like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozen on the roster, Leonard and his high ceiling make sense here.

6. Washington Wizards

Pick that makes the most sense: Tristan Thompson

You know the Wiz aren’t going to pick a point guard here, so where do they go? Thompson represents a guy who can score in many different ways, and for a team without much versatility on the team besides John Wall, that should give them a lot of value. The dark horse pick here for me is Alec Burks. There is still a ways to go until draft night, and if Burks impresses in workouts, he might have an outside shot to get up this high, since there are no other two-guards to really give him a run for his money.

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Bryce Drew taking over for Homer…GOOD!

Longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew will be stepping down as head coach for the Crusaders and his son Bryce Drew will take over after serving as an assistant for the past six years. Homer’s other son Scott is currently the head coach for Baylor where he has been the head coach for the past seven years after taking over for Homer at Valpo for one year in 2002-2003.

Scott has rebuilt Baylor after the Patrick Dennehey murder scandal and Homer has had some mild success at Valparaiso with seven NCAA tourney appearances, but Bryce  is still the most famous Drew because of one shot…

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Kyrie or Derrick? Breaking Down the NBA Draft Lottery Sweepstakes

With the NBA draft lottery results ready to be announced Tuesday night, the fates of top overall prospects Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams will be known. We’ve already looked at both Williams and Irving as NBA prospects and clearly think they can be All-Stars at the next level; but one prospect really doesn’t stand above the other.

While some NBA draft’s have had a can’t miss prospect that will be the number 1 pick no matter who wins the lottery (Patrick Ewing, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Kwame Browne), the winner of this year’s draft lottery will likely pick based on need. More specifically, if they have their point guard of the future – the team will pick Derrick Williams. If not, Kyrie’s their man.

Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving's destinations will be determined Tuesday.

Let’s breakdown the team’s likely choice based on their odds of winning the lottery starting with the team with the best odds: David Kahn’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

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