Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who will be next season's Public Enemy #1?

Greg Paulus graduated. So did Tyler Hansbrough. Steph Curry has entered the draft and signed with an agent.

Now comes news that Eric Devendorf, the guy that every loved to hate, has officially signed with an agent, ending his collegiate career.

Eric Devendorf has signed with an agent.
(photo credit: USA Today)

The Orange, who reached the Sweet 16 as a #3 seed after making a run to the Big East tournament finals, were an early Final Four favorite in 2010. They had everyone of significance coming back, plus they were adding wing Wesley Johnson (a transfer from Iowa State that tore up Syracuse practices this season).

But then a weird thing happened. Jim Boeheim all but ushered his top three scorers out the door. He "recommended" that Jonny Flynn enter the draft, and essentially forced Devo and Harris to leave school.

Flynn made a good decision to leave. With so many potential first rounders pulling out of the draft, Flynn has an outside chance of sneaking into the lottery, and is pretty much a first round lock.

To be honest, I think Devo was gone regardless. He graduated this past year (he was a junior in basketball terms because he missed a season with a knee injury), has a kid, and couldn't seem to keep himself out of trouble. Devo is a long shot to be a first round pick, and there is a good chance that he goes undrafted on June 25th. He is not big, strong or quick enough to play in the NBA, and while he is an excellent shooter (especially in the clutch) and solid playmaker, he won't be able to defend NBA wings. But his game (if not his attitude) is perfectly suited for Europe, and I would expect him to make a nice living over there for years.

The curious one is Harris. Most people expected him to be a one-and-done guy coming out of high school, but playing in the Big East really exposed Harris's weaknesses. While he is an excellent athlete, aggressive on the glass, and a solid defender, he is only 6'5" and lacks the handle or the jumper to play the perimeter in the league and he is a terrible decision maker. He really could have used another season to hone his skills.

So why did Boeheim show these guys the door?

Well, for starters they needed the scholarship space for their incoming class (and for Johnson).

But more than that, it just seems that Boeheim never really liked this group, especially Harris. According to Andy Katz, after the season, Boeheim didn't hear from Harris, who was in the coach's doghouse for much of the second half of the season, for three weeks. Boeheim also gave this quote to Katz:
We lost three starters but I'll take Wesley Johnson over Paul Harris and Andy Rautins over Eric Devendorf. In some ways, Triche will be better for us. He's really good.
While Boeheim may be correct, I don't think I would want to stay and play for a coach that has no qualms with blasting his former players in the media like that.

The Orange should, however, still compete atop the Big East next season. They return an excellent front line with Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson and Rautins was really impressive down the stretch last season as more than just a shooter. If Triche and Johnson can come in and be as good as Boeheim is saying they are, don't be surprised if this Cuse team makes another Sweet 16 trip.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Maybe Tim Floyd should have taken the Arizona job

About a month ago, USC looked like they had the makings of a Final Four contender. They were returning basically everyone from a team that had overcome an injury-filled season to win the Pac-10 tournament and give Michigan State all they could handle in the second round of the dance.

I mean, look at this starting line-up - Taj Gibson, Renardo Sidney, Demar Derozan, Daniel Hackett, and Dwight Lewis.

No wonder Tim Floyd decided to pass on the Arizona job. During the press conference in which he announced his intentions to stay with the Trojans, Floyd said

But there is something really special about building your own traditions, your own histories and doing it with a group of guys that you love. ... I have never been more excited to be a Trojan.
Those days must seem like so long ago.

First, Gibson, Derozan, and Hackett all declared for the Draft, and all three have signed with (or have every intention of signing with) an agent. Now, Sidney, who is a five-star recruit (#16 by Rivals, #7 by Scout), has backed out of his verbal commitment to the Trojans. From the LA Times:
the source close to the Sidney family said school officials expressed concern about signing the player while an NCAA investigation into former USC stars Reggie Bush, a Heisman Trophy winner in football, and O.J. Mayo, a first-round NBA pick last year, was still open.

Sidney's father, Renardo Sr., "didn't want his son to be the scapegoat for those allegations," the source said without elaborating why that could happen. "Neither side wanted an impending investigation hanging over them."
Renardo Sidney looks to be headed to the SEC.
(photo credit: LA Times)

Sidney's recruitment has had a number of these snags. Sidney transferred to Fairfax High in LA three years from Mississippi, and for a time it looked like UCLA was the favorite to land the 6'11" big man. But two days before he was to announce his college decision, UCLA unexpectedly dropped out of the chase. Most speculated that it was because he had not yet received an SAT score that would allow him to be eligible.

Now it seems as if Sidney is all but going to Mississippi State. While it is obvious that Sidney is a talented young man, is he going to be worth the risk? In a word, yes. The Bulldogs return basically everyone from a team that made a run to the SEC tourney title, and teaming Sidney with Jarvis Varnado (assuming he pulls his name out of the draft) gives MSU arguably the best front line in the conference.
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Does anyone still care about Greg Paulus?

First, it was Michigan. Then, it was Syracuse. Now, its ... North Carolina?

Take a look at this picture, which was first posted over at Rush the Court:

Gotta be a photo shop job, right? There is no way that Paulus is dumb enough to take a picture with a baby decked out in Tar Heel gear while wearing a Carolina t-shirt.

Well, the Dagger has another theory. Apparently, the picture was taken on an ACC barnstorming, and the Tar Heel blue jersey just happens to be the color of the team that Paulus was placed on. As for the baby? Well, its a baby, and Paulus seems to think that the picture is pretty funny.

The bottom line is that when it comes to rivalries, fans care a whole-helluva-lot more than the players do. Sure, when Duke and UNC tangle, both teams are going to fight and scrap to pull out a W, but not anymore so than if they were playing Wake when Wake is atop the ACC, or Maryland when the Terps are competing for conference crowns, or Clemson when ... you get the point.

Once the buzzer sounds, the players on both sides are friends. Hell, Wayne Ellington and Gerald Henderson were high school teammates.

You think they hate each other?

So to any Duke fan that sees this picture - take a deep breath, relax, have a chuckle at the picture, and remember that Greg Paulus is now Syracuse's problem. Continue reading...

Isiah Thomas is already making friends, retracts scholarship offer to recruit

I liked the Isiah Thomas hiring at Florida International University when I first heard about it. For starters, the guy has been in and around the NBA, either as a player, coach, or in the front office, since 1981. He is a hall of fame point guard with two rings, and his previous job was the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations. This does not exactly seem like the kind of guy that wants to hang around FIU for thirty years (which is probably a good thing).

While Thomas has been unsuccessful at just about every stop since his playing career ended, he is still Isiah Thomas.

How hard could it be for him to recruit at this level?

Think about it. The Sun Belt conference, which FIU plays in, is good (Western Kentucky was two points from making their second straight Sweet 16; in the last two seasons, Sun Belt teams have knocked off the likes of Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, and USC) but is still thoroughly a mid-major (17th in the RPI in 2009).

Should it really be that difficult for Zeke to land a few high major recruits that fell through the cracks? I mean, its Isiah Thomas!! What point guard wouldn't want to play for him? Do you think that one year out of the NBA means he no longer has any contacts in the league?

FIU has not had a winning season since 1999-2000 (when they went all of 16-14), and I get the feeling what they are trying to do with this is to get the program back on its feet by hiring Thomas, who they hope will start winning immediately. And when he does and gets lured away by a bigger program, then they can go out and get a good coach who is, how shall I put this, more respectable.

Plus, he's coaching for free this year.

It looked so good on paper, but Thomas may be well on his way to blowing up this program as well (look at his wake - the CBA, the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks). Last week, Thomas retracted a scholarship offer to Chris Rozier, a Jacksonville, Florida, native who had committed to FIU's previous coaching staff.

Chris Rozier had his scholarhship offer withdrawn by Isiah Thomas.
(photo credit: Rivals)

To be fair, this goes the other way all the time (just look at how many players withdrew their commitments when John Calipari left Memphis). But as good as you are as a coach, being able to recruit might be the most important aspect. Landing local talent, especially when you are at a school like FIU that doesn't have the unlimited budget and the ability to recruit the entire country, and thus establishing relationships with the local high school coaches is probably the most important aspect of recruiting.

It doesn't seem as if Zeke is off to a great start with those Florida HS coaches. From
Wolfson basketball coach Bruce Rosebrock was bothered by the way FIU handled Rozier's recruitment at the end.

"I think it could have been handled more professional, especially when you consider the people involved are supposed to be professionals," Rosebrock said. "I've gotten calls from several college coaches apologizing for the way that Chris was treated by FIU. They were apologizing for their profession."

A spokesman at FIU said Thomas was assembling his staff and was unavailable for comment.
Florida is a big state, and Jacksonville is a long way from Miami (345 miles away, it is akin to saying Jim Calhoun alienates local coaches if he spurns a player from a DC high school), but it is still in Florida. Word travels quickly through the coaching ranks, and establishing a bad relationship with one coach could be disastrous.

So will this turn out to be a poor decision by FIU?

Possibly. All Thomas needed to do was shake a few hands, land all the second tier talent in Florida (which there is a ton of), take FIU to a tournament or three, and he is off to some SEC school.

Two weeks into his tenure, and he already has an enemy at a Florida high school.

Nice work, Zeke.
Continue reading...

Yo, you heard the new T-Pain joint featuring ... Jim Nantz?

Not really sure what to say about this video. Genius? Hilarious? Someone has way too much time on their hands?

Regardless, it is absolutely worth the watch.

Continue reading...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

NBA DRAFT NEWS AND NOTES: Tomorrow is the deadline to declare for the NBA Draft early. In the last couple of days, we have seen a number of players make their intentions known (for a full list of the NBA Drafy Early Entries, click here):

  • Iowa State sophomore Craig Brackins will be returning to Ames for his junior season. I'll be honest - this is a bit of a surprise to me. Brackins averaged 20.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg for the Cyclones this past season, and he was projected by many to be in the later first round, especially with the number of players that have returned to school.
  • Both Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims will be headed back to Michigan for another season under John Beilein. Good news for Beilein, as Michigan looks like they will be competing for a Big Ten title next year.
  • UConn freshman Ater Majok, who has yet to play a second for the Huskies, has declared for the draft but has not yet hired an agent (that is, unless the rumors that he has signed with UConn manager/Nate Miles handler Josh Nochimson are false). If Majok does return, there is a chance that he will face repercussions for any contact he had with Nochimson (apparently, the former UConn manager hooked up Majok with a trip to an all-star game in Louisville). Let's say Majok does, in fact, leave school. That means that neither Miles nor Majok, the two guys that have the NCAA investigating the Huskie's recruiting practices, will have played a second in Storrs. And neither was due to the shady recruiting (Miles violated a restraining order, and Majok was not eligible to play). Majok was expected to be a big time contributor up front for the Huskies, who lose basically their entire front line with Adrien graduating and Thabeet going pro.
  • Not NBA Draft news, but Calipari landed another ex-Memphis signee as Darnell Dodson, a JuCo transfer with three years of eligibility left, has signed with UK.
Continue reading...

Charges have been filed in the Rick Pitino extortion case

Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of Tim Sypher (the Louisville equipment manager and longtime Pitino colleague), has been charged with extortion and lying to the FBI. She wasn't just extorting Pitino; she as looking to make a fortune. From the Courier-Journal:

They discussed the possibility of a house, cars and money. The affidavit goes on to say that Tim Sypher delivered to Pitino on March 6 a written list of demands from Karen Sypher calling for college tuition for her children, two cars of her choice, a house paid off, $3,000 cash per month and a lump-sum payment of $75,000 if Pitino leaves U of L.

According to the affidavit, the note says, “If all is accepted, I will protect Rick Pitino’s name for life.”

The affidavit said she later withdrew her demands and through an attorney requested $10 million from Pitino.
We still have no idea what Sypher has on Pitino. But for $10 million, it must be pretty juicy. Speculating here, but it seems that the dirt most likely is some type of romantic relationship between Sypher and Pitino or some knowledge of a crime/NCAA violation Pitino committed. From the Strait Pinkie:
Pitino told FBI agents that he received three voice-mail messages in late February from a man who threatened to go public with criminal allegations against him. In the third message, the caller said the news media would be notified about the claims in two weeks.

Pitino told the agents he believed they stemmed from an encounter with Sypher six years earlier, after which she met Tim Sypher, the basketball team’s equipment manager, and later married him.
Whatever this ends up being, I hope it blows over soon.

Continue reading...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How good of a recruiter is Calipari?

First, he lost Xavier Henry to Kansas. Then, he lost Nolan Dennis to Baylor.

Now, it seems as if he may be losing John Wall to ... Duke? According to Wall handler confidant Brian Clifton, Coach K laid down a very impressive speech when the two met last week. Is it enough to woo Wall?

Maybe not.

(photo credit: ESPN)

Simply put, Calipari's last two point guard recruits ended up as the #1 pick in the draft (and in the national title game) and as a consensus first round lock. Coach K's? They have yet to get past the Sweet 16, were both benched for Jon Scheyer/Elliot Williams, and one may even end up playing quarterback for Michigan Syracuse.

Results speak for themselves.

Wall is supposed to be narrowing his list of eight schools down to three or four by Monday.

In other recruiting news, it seems that Lance Stephenson is now going to be choosing between St. John's and Maryland. Maryland seems like the obvious choice, but if Greivis Vazquez doesn't stay in the draft, will there be enough shots available for a one-and-done guy like Stephenson?
Continue reading...

Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington declare; Is Duke the team to beat in the ACC?

Already today, we have had Steph Curry declare for the NBA Draft. In his press conference, Curry said that he would be hiring an agent, thus ending any chance he could return to Davidson.

But he wasn't the only star from the state of Carolina to declare today.

UNC's starting back court, juniors Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, both declared for the draft today as well. Since both players tested the waters last season, the decision to declare is final - they will not be able to return to Chapel Hill.

Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson both entered the NBA Draft today.
(photo credit:

What does this mean?

For starters, we aren't waiting for anymore stars to make their decision (this list is about as comprehensive as you will find). But more importantly, it makes Duke the clear cut favorite in the ACC, even with Gerald Henderson going pro.

UNC may have a ton of talent on their bench and some great recruits coming in, but it is near impossible for a team to lose guys as talented as Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington and still be a title contender.

Wake Forest was proven to be nothing more than average by season's end, and they will be losing James Johnson, and possibly Jeff Teague.

BC loses Tyrese Rice.

FSU loses Toney Douglas.

Clemson loses KC Rivers.

Duke brings back two of their three stars (Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler), their star in the making (Elliot Williams), and adds two top 50 big men in Ryan Kelly and Miles Plumlee's brother Mason. Add Nolan Smith and Olek Czyz to the mix, and you have a pretty damn good rotation.
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Jeremy Tyler to go pro

Jeremy Tyler has decided to skip his final year of eligibility and head to the professional level.

Pretty standard post, right?

It is, until you consider that Tyler is a 17 year old finishing up his junior year in high school.

Tyler, a 6'11" center from San Diego High School currently committed to Louisville, will be leaving school to play pro ball in Europe for two seasons before he is eligible for the draft. According to the article, Tyler looks like he is headed for Spain, but he has yet to sign anything.

Maybe the decision by Brandon Jennings to skip college for Europe will have a bigger effect than first thought.

A quote from Tyler to the New York Times:

Nowadays, people look to college for more off-the-court stuff versus being in the gym and getting better. If you're really focused on getting better, you go play pro somewhere. Pro guys will get you way better than playing against college guys.
I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this decision. I've never been a fan of the one-and-done rule, simply because it is strictly in place to benefit the NCAA and the NBA.

But leaving high school early to go pro?

There is no question that Tyler is good (he is #9 in Rivals top 150 for 2010), with a chance to be great. One scout told Dan Wetzel that Tyler could play in the NBA right now, and many people have him projected as the #1 pick in the class of 2011. But sending a kid - and a 17 year old junior is very much a kid - to another country to play professional basketball against grown men is going to be quite trying.

Just ask Brandon Jennings, who averaged just 5.8 ppg and 2.3 apg in Italian League games and 7.6 ppg and 1.2 apg in 16 Euroleague games.

But this decision is different for Tyler, mainly due to his size. Playing at the high school level, Tyler may face five guys all season with his size, and maybe one with his combination of size and ability.

Explain to me how a center with NBA aspirations is going to get better going up against 6'4" and 6'5" kids triple-teaming and hacking the hell out of him.

He isn't.

So he was basically left with two decisions: go to a basketball factory (like an Oak Hill Academy) and then spend a year a Louisville, where he is pretending to be a student athlete and watching white guys is suits line their pockets off of his ability; or go play pro ball in Europe, where he can make a good chuck of change, spend everyday going toe-to-toe with grown men his size, and spend every waking hour working on his game.

While I do believe this makes sense, both financially and from a basketball standpoint for Tyler, I wish there was some way to keep kids like Tyler and Jennings from heading overseas.

Because in reality, the only people truly getting hurt are college basketball fans.
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BREAKING: Steph Curry Decision Day

Steph has set an 11:30 am press conference where he will announce his NA Draft intentions. If you believe Scott Fowler, a columnist for the Charlotte observer, then Curry has yet to even make a decision on his draft status.

Here's the weird thing: Davidson coach Bob McKillop still doesn't know what Curry's decision is going to be. And neither do Curry's parents.

"He told us he just wants to sleep on it," Dell Curry, Stephen's father, told me Wednesday night. "But he honestly hasn't told us what he's going to do yet."

Said McKillop Wednesday night: "I don't think Steph knows what he's going to decide right now. His heart is feeling one way. His head is feeling another way. Somehow, he's got to get his heart and his head feeling the same way."
We will have more on this after the news conference.

UPDATE: Steph has declared for the draft, and in an emotional press conference, he said he would be hiring an agent. Curry made the right decision. More on that later today Continue reading...

The NCAA is slowly doing away with the "testing the waters" process

Once again, the NCAA and its coaches are acting in their own best interests.

In a season where the pre-draft camp, which was the only place outside of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (which is only for 64 seniors with an outside chance of landing in the second round) that prospects could play five-on-five in front of pro scouts, has been eliminated, the NCAA has voted to reduce how long NBA draft early entrants have to decide whether or not they will stay in the draft.

They also did away with the rule that allowed players 30 days to declare their intention to return to school if they did not get drafted. Both rule changes will take effect August 1st.

I have no problem with the second part of the rule change. If you stay in the draft, you should lose your eligibility.

The change I disagree with is moving the deadline to withdraw your name up to May 8th (this year, the deadline is June 15th, just 10 days before the draft). I understand why the change was made - mainly because it affords coaches time to sign players if they do end up losing underclassmen to the league (the end of the spring signing period is May 20th), but it also reduces the amount of time these "amateur athletes" spend being bombarded by agents and increases how much time they spend in the class room - but that does not mean it is the right decision.

Having that extra time to go through extensive individual workouts allows these kids to really get a good grasp on their draft standing and make an informed decision about whether or not to stay in the draft.

UNC is a perfect example. Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green all declared and then withdrew their names from the draft, returning to school and winning a national title. But with the earlier deadline, do you think that all three would have been back? All three were projected as borderline first-rounders, and it wasn't until their workouts, when none of the three could get a first round guarantee, that they withdrew their names.

To be honest, I don't think it (it being the pre-draft camp) will make all that much of a difference this year. For guys like a Luke Harangody or a Donald Sloan, it is pretty much a guarantee that they will not be a) flown around the country for workouts with NBA teams because of the economy and b) picked anywhere near the first round. If Harangody does get invited to workouts, it will be by teams that are looking at other power forwards, and want someone going against them that the know will be playing hard.

But like I said earlier, this won't even be the biggest change to the NBA Draft process. Without the pre-draft camp, a lot of guys that are borderline first rounders won't have the same chance to prove themselves. Take a kid like Jrue Holiday. Holiday entered his freshman season with all the hype in the world (I even read a couple D-Wade comparisons), but he struggled with his consistency and rarely looked dominating during a disappointed season for the Bruins.

One of the issues is that Holiday was supposed to be a point guard, but he was playing off the ball with senior Darren Collison still on campus. Now, if the pre-draft camp still was happening, then Holiday could have gone in there and ran the point in some five-on-five scrimmaging. Maybe he proves to some scouts that he can run the point, and it was Ben Howland's system (which has and always will limit individual stats) and playing out of position that led to his mediocre season.

Or maybe he goes into the five-on-five games, struggles running the point, and realizes that if he comes back for a year and develops his game, he could be a lottery pick next season.

As it stands, if Holiday remains in the draft, he is likely to fall to the back end of the first round, if not the second round. Without the five-on-five, it makes the decision of whether or not to remain in the draft that much more uninformed.

Moving the deadline to withdraw to May 8th will further complicate the decision-making process.

And kids like Holiday are going to be the ones that are hurt the most.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Xavier and CJ Henry to Kansas

Jeff Goodman is reporting that both Xavier Henry (the #3 recruit in the country according to Rivals) and his brother CJ, who just finished a season at Memphis, have decided to attend Kansas. Xavier originally committed to Memphis, but was allowed out of his LOI when Calipari left for Kentucky. During his original recruitment, Kansas (where Henry's father went to school) and Memphis were the final two.

If they weren't already, this makes Kansas easily the favorite for the 2010 national title. They return just about everyone of significance (including probable all-americans Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins), and add Henry, who is the dominant wing scorer they were missing last season.

The ripples of this decision may be felt as far away as Queens, NY. Many thought that Lance Stephenson would be headed to Kansas, but if Henry does in fact end up there, it looks like the NYC prodigy will end up somewhere else. If I am Norm Roberts, I am doing everything I can to get "Born Ready" in a Johnnies uniform next season. The kid does have some character issues, but he is a program changer that can push St. John's back into relevance in the Big East.
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John Wall is Pretty Good at Basketball, and Lance Stephenson has a TV Show

I'm not always the biggest fan of highlight mixtapes.

Yes, they are, most of the time, an absolute joy to watch.

But they are far from the best way to gauge the ability of a high school kid. Watching two minutes worth of clips of the absolute best plays this kid has made over the course of a season does not tell you enough about the player. Hell, you could have put together a two minute highlight tape of me in high school that would have made it look like I was a scholarship player (I'll tell you a secret - I wasn't).

You don't see the player's decision-making ability, his on-the-ball or weak side defensive ability, or his all-around offensive game (let's just say it is rare to see a player sliding over to take a charge or pulling up for a 12 foot jumper in the lane on one of these highlight packages).

That said, I just watched the John Wall youtube mixtape that has been spreading through the interwebs.

He's going to be a star (video after the jump):

Wall, who is Rivals #1 overall recruit for the class of '09, has yet to decide on a school (and may even be eligible for the Draft because he is a fifth year senior in high school).

Wall isn't the only top prospect still undecided on where he will attend school.

Lance Stephenson, who is a consensus top 10 recruit and, like Wall, has yet to sign with a college for next season. But he has signed on for a TV deal.

I don't know how we missed this (oh yeah, it was right in the middle of the NCAA Tournament), but the former web series "Born Ready" (titled after Stephenson's nickname) has been picked up by MTV 2.

I haven't seen the show, but here is the trailer for it:

And in case you were wondering, here is a good read on how both Wall and Stephenson rose to prominence.

UPDATE: Figured I'd give you guys this as well - the story behind the notorious battle that OJ Mayo had with Stephenson during the '05 ABCD Camp.
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More on the Rick Pitino extortion case

Now this is just getting weird.

Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of longtime Pitino colleague Tim Sypher, was interviewed this afternoon by Fox 41. It was actually the second time that the station had interviewed her, but apparently the first time around they did not air any of what she had said because her accusations could not be substantiated.

It was much of the same in part two, as the specifics from the interview could not be aired. But look at how stressed this woman looks in the 15 or so seconds she does talk.

What does she have on Pitino?

For those of you still catching up on what has happened, check out this Pat Forde interview on ESPN earlier in the week.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SCOTTIE REYNOLDS: Reynolds, who just completed a junior season at Villanova where he led the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1985, has declared for the NBA Draft. It is a good move for Scottie. He probably is not going to stay in the draft as he looks to be a second round pick at best right now. But by going through the process he can gauge where he currently stands and what exactly he needs to improve on. Continue reading...

Rick Pitino is Being Extorted?

We don't know much about the situation as it stands currently. As far as I can tell, this is what has happened: Someone tried to blackmail Rick Pitino, and Pitino asked the FBI to help investigate a possible extortion scheme. Pitino's son, Richard, has left Louisville to join Billy Donovan's staff at Florida. Karen Sypher, the estranged wife of longtime Pitino assistant (dating back to three years in Boston) and friend Tim Sypher, has been named as the subject of the investigation. The Sypher's are in the process of getting divorced.

So what is going on?

No one really seems to know at this point (although, it always seems like this stuff will leak out eventually). We'll be keeping an eye on this one as it develops. Continue reading...

NBA DRAFT NEWS AND NOTES: As many people have predicted, Gerald Henderson entered his name into the NBA Draft on Monday. Most people have 'G' slated to land in the mid-to-late lottery, and considering that the junior has yet to test the waters, it is a good decision for Henderson to declare.

After three seasons at Duke, everyone in the country should know that Henderson is a world class athlete. But this season, after getting off to a slow start, Henderson proved how good of scorer he could be. He ended the year averaging 16.5 ppg and 4.9 rpg, but it was his development of a consistent perimeter stroke that sent him soaring up most NBA draft boards. Henderson still needs to work on his ball handling ability, but his athleticism and his defensive ability seem like they will translate well to the NBA game. He probably ends up being somewhere between a Shannon Brown and a Richard Jefferson.

While it will obviously hurt the Blue Devils to lose a player of G's caliber, they still have plenty waiting in the wings. Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer both return, and the minutes freed up with Henderson gone will probably go to Elliot Williams, who looked like a star in the making the last month of the season.

Henderson is expected to sign with an agent.

- With Henderson declaring, there are only three household names left that have yet to make a decision - Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington. Personally, I think it would be in the best interest for all three players to leave now. At 5'11", Lawson was the most dominant player in the country for the last two months of 2009. In all reality, he is not going to be able to raise his stock anymore than it already is - especially after he proved he can shoot and he won a national title. Strike while the iron's hot?

The same can be said for Ellington. Yes, the junior shooting guard could definitely use another season refining his game, specifically his ball-handling and his defense, but he is coming off of a Final Four MOP and a season where he looked absolutely unstoppable at times. Can he put up the same kind of performance over the course of an entire season without Hansbrough and, in all likelihood, Lawson? While Ellington is not quite a lock for the first round, this draft class is getting weaker and weaker with all the players that have been returning to school - which also means that the 2010 draft is getting stronger. This might be his best chance to get a guaranteed deal.

For Curry, it is a bit of a different story. I think he should have left after his sophomore season, so that the flaws in his game were not so readily apparent when he was forced to become a point guard. According to Jonathon Givony at Draft Express, Curry is gone. Bob McKillop said that Curry is still officially undecided, but knowing how Givony works, he is probably hearing this from NBA scouts/front office personnel/what have you. If you just got a new job, who would you tell about accepting the job first - the current one, or your future employers.

Curry was supposed to make a decision by today, but an announcement never came. More on him when it does.

- Ricky Rubio has officially made himself available for the 2009 NBA Draft. His name has floated about for a while. Many thought that he was going to wait until the 2010 Draft to enter. Rubio is the 6'4" point sensation from Spain. While he is still quite raw, his potential all but guarantees him a spot in the top 5.

Depending on who you read, Rubio has the makings to be somewhere between Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Not bad company.

- Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal has entered his name into the NBA Draft. He looks very likely to stay, as so many players rated ahead of him are coming back to school. Lawal has excellent length, athleticism, and energy, especially going to the glass. After a fantastic start to the 08-09 season, he fell off towards the end of ACC play. Right now, it looks like he will fall somewhere in the 15-25 range.

A good comparison for Lawal is Jordan Hill. Hill went back to school for his junior year, and now looks like he will end up in the top 5. I'm just saying.
Continue reading...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Andy Kennedy Pleads Guilty

And here I was foolish enough to think we had heard the end of this story.

We have written about this incident three times before (which also happens to be three times too many), so if you are too lazy to follow the link, here is a quick synopsis of what has happened so far:

Andy Kennedy, the coach of Ole Miss and former coach of Cincinnati, heads out with some members of his staff to a nice place for a quiet night out The Lodge for "college night". At the end of the night, thoroughly inebriated, he hops in a cab to head home. Some way, some how, there ends up being a physical confrontation in the cab between Kennedy and the driver, resulting in Kennedy's arrest. After some priceless unintentional comedy (Kennedy's wife sued the cab driver for ruining their sex life, while the Cinci police released a video in which Kennedy says that his arrest will be an international incident, to which the cops reply "whatever, we deal with the Bengals all the time"), it seemed like this story was dead.

Not quite.

Kennedy has pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge after originally being charged with assault. His punishment? 40 hours of community service, six months probation, $100 fine plus court costs, and it can all be expunged from his record in a year.

A bit of a slap on the wrist for an international incident, no? Continue reading...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cali-perrryyy, Caliperry

Anyone ever heard of Scoupe?

Yeah, me neither.

A little internet sleuthing tells us that not only is Scoupe "a G", but he is also a rapper based out of Lexington, Kentucky. And if you are anything in Lexington, you are a fan of the University of Kentucky.

Scoupe is no different. He has recently released a mixtape aptly titled "Calipari, Calipari", on which the title track is the new, self-proclaimed theme song for UK basketball.

Take a listen:

While Scoupe is never going to be confused with hip-hop behemoths like a Jay-Z, a Nas, or a Tupac, the song isn't exactly terrible. My favorite line: "The whole Blue fans stand up and toast, we finally got a ball coach".

More John Calipari news: Not only has he hired two former Kentucky players (and national champions at that), Scott Padgett and Tony Delk, to his staff, he has also bought a house worth $2.295 million ... and the lot next to it for $550,000.

And Jim Calhoun makes too much money? Continue reading...

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Apologies to everyone that has visited BIAH in the last six days or so. The site (aka my computer) is currently experiencing technical difficulties, but I have been in touch with Apple's customer service, and they have been over the top helpful worthless as I try to figure out exactly where my computer currently is.

But rest assured, BIAH will be back (hopefully by tomorrow) as we try and keep you up to date on all the off-season happenings. Continue reading...

Friday, April 10, 2009

NBA Draft News & Notes: Miami forward Dwayne Collins, a junior, will test the waters of the NBA Draft, but likely will not sign an agent. Collins is strong, athletic, and has excellent length, but he is still very raw offensively and is a bit short to play on the inside in the league. If he left, he would be a second rounder at best.

Shawn Taggart, the 6'10" junior forward from Memphis, will also be entering his name into the draft. He is not expected to sign with an agent either. Everything I said about Collins could be said about Taggart. Josh Pastner should expect him back at Memphis.

So Russ Pennell takes a team with just about zero expectations to the Sweet 16, and what is his reward? A D2 job? Pennell has signed with Grand Canyon University for next season. You would think that there was some D1 school that would have taken a flyer on this guy, no?

UNC is making a late run at John Wall. Wall is from North Carolina and apparently grew up a Tar Heels fan, dreaming of playing in the Dean Dome. With Lawson halfway out the door, it is a perfect fit right? Not if you ask AAU coach Brian Clifton:

I have no desire to talk to, to be involved with, to visit, to contemplate in any shape, form or fashion John Wall going to play for Roy Williams. Zero.
Right now, it looks like Kentucky, Baylor, Duke, and UNC are the four front runners for Wall.

Tasmin Mitchell will put his name into the draft, although he won't sign with an agent. Good move by the junior, because he is not projected to go in the first round and there is a good chance he goes undrafted.

Nic Wise will also be testing the waters. If I'm Wise, I leave regardless. He is probably not an NBA pick at this point, but how much is he going to improve his stock playing for Arizona next season? Would you draft a single person off of Indiana this year? Wise proved how good of a point guard he could be at the end of last season, and while there may not be an NBA team with which he is the right fit, the kid stands to make a good living playing ball in Europe.

Take a guess at who broke the Josh Pastner-Memphis story? Hint: You will never get it right. Continue reading...

Jim Calhoun to Return to UConn

Calhoun had a lot to deal with this season. It started with a pre-season bout with cancer, the third time in his career life he has beaten the disease, ended with a thorough whooping from Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans in Detroit, with a little bit of turmoil and a lot of bit of scandal in between.

With the pending investigation into his program and the significant losses the Huskies face (Hasheem Thabeet, AJ Price, Jeff Adrien, Craig Austrie, possibly Stanley Robinson), it seemed to many that this run to the Final Four was the perfect way for a coach like Calhoun to ride off into the proverbial sunset.

If you know who Calhoun is, then there is one certainty - he is going to do things on his time.

Calhoun has announced that he will, in fact, be returning to coach the Huskies in the 2009-2010 campaign. In a statement released by the school, Calhoun said:

In many ways, the journey of this past season has made me realize how much I love coaching this game, how much I love my kids and how much I enjoy being at Connecticut.
Having your school be investigated by the NCAA is not exactly the best way to attract top tier talent, especially when there is a chance the investigation involves a player currently on the team (Ater Majok).

But Calhoun is one of the best coaches in the country, especially when it comes to getting kids to the league. And if he is anything, he is resilient. So if the Huskies do end up having a down year, don't expect any excuses out of Calhoun.
Continue reading...

Syracuse Orange: Without a sure-fire lottery pick on their roster, the Syracuse Orange have been one of the trendy picks for 2009-2010 NCAA champion. I mean, they made it to the finals of the Big East tournament and reached the Sweet 16 of this NCAA tournament this season.

But just because you aren't projected as a lottery pick doesn't mean you won't declare for the draft.

Earlier this week, news came out that Jonny Flynn, Jim Boeheim's stud point guard, would be declaring for the NBA Draft, although he won't be signing with an agent. This makes sense for him as most have him going somewhere in the middle of the first round. Hell, Boeheim even pushed him to leave.

(photo credit:

Thursday, reports started to trickle out that Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris would also be declaring for the draft, but they would, in fact, be signing with an agent.

As far as academics are concerned, Devo is a senior and is on track to graduate in May (for all the negative things said about him, Devo managed to graduate from Syracuse in four years - how many college hoopers can say that?), although he does have one year of eligibility remaining. With everything he has gone through in his four years at Syracuse, and given the fact that he has a daughter, can you really blame the guy for wanting to get out and start making some money? I doubt he is cut out for the NBA (simply just not athletic enough), he is a smart basketball player with a great jump shot. I'd be willing to bet he heads to Europe and makes six figures.

Paul Harris is a different story. Harris has a shot at turning himself into a first rounder. He has the body and the athleticism to be a good small forward in the NBA if he can get his jump shot and handle to NBA caliber. But Harris and Boeheim seemed to be feuding a bit at the end of the season. Harris put up some great numbers, but never was a good decision maker. It seemed like, at some point, Boeheim became fed up with it and began yanking Harris from the game early and often.

Regardless of the reasoning, Syracuse stands to lose their three best players from last season's team. You can end all that national title talk now.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

2009 NCAA Tournament - Most Dominant Performances

Individual: Cole Aldrich vs. Dayton - This was easy. Not only was this far and away the most dominating individual performance on the tournament, it might have been the most dominant performance of the entire season. For those with a short memory, Aldrich posted a triple double against Dayton with 13 points, 20 boards, and 10 blocks. Yes, 20 boards and 10 blocks. Aldrich absolutely controlled the paint, especially on the defensive end.

Dayton's star forward Chris Wright, who had gone for 27 points and 10 boards against West Virginia in the first round, was just 4-16 from the floor against Kansas. As a team, Dayton shot just 22.2% from the floor. Why? The Flyers were not the greatest perimeter shooting team in the world, instead relying on their athleticism to score in the paint, either off of penetration or an offensive board. It was Aldrich's presence inside that was the main reason Dayton struggled so much.

Cole Aldrich blocked 10 shots against Dayton.
(photo credit: John Biever/

The other impressive part about this performance is that it single-handedly boosted Aldrich's NBA Draft stock. Here me out. People want Hasheem Thabeet because he is a game-changer on the defensive end. But the biggest worry about him is that he is incredibly raw offensively. Against Dayton, Aldrich put on display just how good he can be on the defensive end (he is 6'11" with a huge wing span). Given that he is already leaps and bounds more advanced offensively that Thabeet is (and he still is far from developed), this defensive performance makes him a much more intriguing prospect for teams that need interior defense but won't get Thabeet.

Team: North Carolina - Again, this one was easy. It wasn't any particular game, either. During the entire tournament, there was 32 minutes of basketball where UNC was not in complete control. With 8 minutes left in the second half against LSU in the second round, the Tigers got a three from Marcus Thornton to tie the game at 63. The Heels scored the next 11 points, taking control and eventually beating the Tigers by 14.

In each of the other five tournament game, UNC jumped out to big first half leads: 53-34 against Radford, 53-42 against Gonzaga, 32-23 against Oklahoma, 49-40 against Villanova, and, lastly, 55-34 in the finals against Michigan State. The Heels won all six games in the tournament by double figures, averaging a 20.2 point margin of victory.
Continue reading...

NBA Draft News and Notes: A day after Chase Budinger signed with an agent, reports have surfaced that Jordan Hill will also be entering the draft. No surprise here. Hill, who had an all-american campaign averaging 18.3 ppg and 11.0 rpg, is projected as a top ten pick and is expected to sign with Bill Duffy (aka the guys that paid OJ Mayo).

Jeff Goodman is reporting that DeMar Derozan is leaving USC and will be signing with an agent. We've heard the same thing elsewhere as well. UPDATE: It looks like all three Trojans (Derozan, Daniel Hackett, and Taj Gibson) will be making themselves eligible for this years draft. Contrary to prior reports, however, it seems as if Hackett is the only one that will be signing with an agent for now.

A week after James Johnson announced he is leaving school, Jeff Teague has announced that he will be testing the NBA Draft waters. That leaves Al-Farouq Aminu. No one seems to know with him. Some are reporting that he has told the Deacon's coaching staff that he will be back, while other outlets say he is gone ... for good.
Continue reading...

James Harden: Most media outlets are currently reporting that James Harden will declare for the draft. Harden had an excellent sophomore season, averaging 20.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 4.2 apg for the Sun Devils. But the year ended on a sour note as he struggled in two games during the dance. The biggest knock on Harden during the season was that he was not aggressive enough, and he did nothing to prove those doubters wrong as he averaged just 9.5 ppg on 3-18 shooting in the two games. Still, Harden is predicted by many to go in the top five, and it would be a shock if he dropped out of the top ten. Continue reading...

DeMarcus Cousins Commits to Kentucky

DeMarcus Cousins, who decommitted from Memphis when coach John Calipari took the Kentucky job, has followed him to Lexington. He committed there last night, according to Gary Parrish.

Most expected Daniel Orton to rescind on his commitment to Kentucky if Cousins came (UPDATE: All day, reports circulated that Orton had asked out of his LOI, but Orton's father has denied those reports), simply because a front court with Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Perry Stevenson would be very crowded. But Cal is the best recruiter in the country, and there may actually be a chance he gets Orton to stay.

As for Xavier Henry and John Wall, well, that is up in the air right now. On Saturday, news was leaked that Henry was all but gone to Kansas. But now word has leaked that Josh Pastner will hire Carl Henry, the father of Xavier and CJ (who is already at Memphis), in an effort to keep him. John Wall is still a huge question mark. It was rumored that Memphis was at the top of his list when Cal was there, and I'm sure Kentucky is somewhere up there now.

Big Blue fans are salivating right now. Imagine this line-up - Jodie Meeks, Patterson, Cousins, Orton, Wall, and Henry. Can you say Final Four? Continue reading...

2009 NCAA Tournament - Best Dunks

No lists here. Nothing needs to be ranked. We all know what the best dunk was (sorry Sticks, its true), but that was far from the only poster that was made.

Jeremy Pargo on some poor kid from Akron:

The Blake Griffin series:

Elliot Williams with a one-handed dunk in traffic against Villanova.

Stanley Robinson saves a little face with a huge tip dunk against Michigan State. I know that technically a tip dunk is when you grab a rebound in the air and dunk it before hitting the ground, but dunks of this nature need a better name than "tip-dunk". It is a different beast all together. Suggestions? Side note: this dunk signified the end for UConn, as the ensuing inbounds led to Durrell Summers and-one lay-up.

Gerald Henderson with a huge dunk against Texas.

I know it didn't count, but you gotta love when a little guy like Jonny Flynn gets up like this.

Sergio Kerusch of Western Kentucky with a nice dunk off of a back door feed. Not really sure what that music is though.

And the best dunk of the tournament:

I know I missed some nice dunks somewhere, so leave a comment and let me know.
Continue reading...

2009 NCAA Tournament - All-Tourney Team

One stipulation - your team needed to make at least the Sweet 16 to be considered.

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: The national player of the year was fantastic, as expected. In four games, he averaged 28.5 ppg and 15.0 rpg (6.0 of those coming on the offensive glass). But those were far from his most impressive stat. Remember, this came in four games during the NCAA Tournament. Griffin was 46-59 from the field. That's 78%. Are you kidding?

Goran Suton, Michigan State: Suton did not put up the best numbers during the dance. He averaged just 13.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg. But he came up huge when the Spartans needed him. He scored 17 of MSU's 27 first-half points against Louisville. He hit a number of big baskets down the stretch in Sparty's victory over Kansas. And against UConn, his presence on the perimeter was one of the major reasons that Hasheem Thabeet was unable to camp out in the paint.

Cole Aldrich, Kansas: If last season's Final Four was Cole Aldrich's introduction to America, his performance in three games in this year's dance was him coming out party. Aldrich was flat-out dominant in these three games on both ends of the floor. For the tourney, he averaged 17.7 ppg, 15.7 rpg, and 5.3 bpg. Among those three games was a triple double, just the sixth in NCAA Tournament history, where he went for 13 points, 20 boards, and 10 blocks against Dayton.

Wayne Ellington, North Carolina: Ellington may have played his way into the first round of the NBA Draft with his performance in the NCAA Tournament. He was borderline unstoppable at times. Over the course of six games, the Final Four MOP averaged 19.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, and 2.7 apg, all while shooting 55% from the floor and 53% (17-32) from deep.

Sam Young, Pitt: While Levance Fields got the recognition as the Panther's leader and DeJuan Blair got all the accolades for being an animal in the paint, Young was Pitt's go-to scorer all season long. That continued into the tournament, where Young averaged a team-high 23.3 ppg (which included 32 against Oklahoma State and 28 against Villanova) and also grabbed 7.8 rpg.

And your 2009 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player:

Ty Lawson, North Carolina: Lawson was flat out unstoppable all tournament long. He got into the lane at will, buried threes every time he was open, and one numerous occasions absolutely took over a game. For the tournament, Lawson averaged 20.8 ppg, 6.8 apg, 4.2 rpg, and 3.2 spg (which included a title game record eight steals). Some of his notable performances? The 21 points he scored in the second half the carry UNC over Louisville; 17 points he had in the first half as UNC ran away from Gonzaga early; and the 7 steals he posted against Michigan State in the first half of the finals, which was huge reason that UNC was able to, literally, run away from the Spartans.
Continue reading...

2009 NCAA Tournament - Best Call by an Announcer

Announcers are often an overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of a sporting event. Quite often, they are egotistical maniacs that would rather turn the attention from the game at hand to themselves. But sometimes, when you call a moment just right, it becomes intertwined with that moment, becoming just as much a part of history as the play itself. Think miracles. With all the drama and the intrigue involved in the NCAA Tournament, legendary calls can make an announcer a cult hero.

You want proof?

Gonzaga. The slipper still fits.
Batista with the catch.
This is March Madness.
Holy Mackeral.
Hamilton at the buzzer.
By George, the dream is alive.

And my personal favorite (although not from the NCAA Tournament, Bill Raftery + Gus Johnson = the perfect storm).

Who made the best call this year? Well, we have a tie here, folks. One of them was a bit of a sleeper coming in, but the other is a bit of a usual suspect.

Kevin Harlan calling the end of Gonzaga's win over Western Kentucky in the second round.

Gus Johnson calls Kalin Lucas's three-point play to put Michigan State ahead of Kansas in the Sweet 16. "Count it and the foouullllll".

Continue reading...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2009 NCAA Tournament - Best Ending

Villanova 78, Pitt 76: A battle between Big East turned out just how most expected it too - a slugfest. Villanova landed the first punch, jumping out to a quick 18-8 lead. But as you would expect from this Panther squad, they were not going to go away. They went on an 8-0 run, sparked by a Fields triple and capped by a Blair three-point play, which cut the lead to 22-20. Villanova would cling to a one possession lead for a while, but another three by Fields, this one a tough step-back J, tied the game up at 30. Sam Young hit a pair from the charity stripe with 4 seconds left in the half to give Pitt a 34-32 lead heading into the break.

The second half was much of the same, with the teams trading the lead several times. eventually, Pitt would take a 67-63 lead with 3:26 left on the clock. But Villanova would respond. Dwayne Anderson and Corey Fisher would score 10 of Villanva's point during an 13-5 run which opened up a 76-72 lead after a Reggie Redding free throw with 20 seconds left. Words wouldn't do the last 20 seconds justice, so just watch the ending (the video clip starts with 46.9 seconds left, but its worth it):

Honorable Mentions

Siena 74, Ohio State 72 2OT: Great endings to regulation and both overtimes.

Wisconsin 61, Florida State 59 OT: Trevon Hughes finishes a three-point play with 2.0 left in OT to advance Wisconsin.

Continue reading...

North Carolina was the real "team of destiny"

There may not be a better coach in the country at breaking down a team's weaknesses than Tom Izzo. The guy has an unbelievable ability to put together a game plan that will maximize the Spartan's strength and his opponent's weaknesses.

Against Louisville, the Spartans played a slower game, focusing on tough defense and limiting turnovers and bad shots, because Izzo knew that the key for Louisville was getting into their press after a score. The result? Louisville scored 13 points in a 15 minute second half stretch.

Against UConn, Izzo had the Spartans going up and down the floor, knowing that forcing the Huskies to play a transition game would minimize the Thabeet effect. It worked, as the big fella had just six boards and two blocks.

But Izzo came up blank against the Heels.

Why was that?

Because UNC did not have a weakness this year. Not one.

The Heels celebrate their title.
(photo credit: Getty Images)

They have the best point guard in the country. Their shooting guard and their power forward are both in the top three at their position. Their small forward is going to be picked in June's draft. Their center is going to average a double-double as the focal point of the offense next year. Their first guard off the bench is the ultimate glue guy, while their first big off the bench would start for just about any other team in the country.

But talent can only get you so far if your team does not play well in its system (see UConn circa 2006).

That's the thing. UNC's players were perfectly suited to their secondary break offense. In a nutshell, this is how the UNC break works (my college squad actually ran the same system). Make or miss, your are looking for three guys to get out and run the floor - your two wings players to get out wide and sprint to each corner, and one of your big guys (whoever does not get the rebound or take the ball out of bounds) to sprint to the block. You look for your point guard to take an outlet pass and push the ball up the floor, trying to hit an open wing as early as possible.

If nothing is there on the initial push, the Heels look to swing the ball around the perimeter in what is called a four-out, one-in set (the big that threw the outlet trails the play and is the fourth). This is what is known as the secondary break, and is what makes UNC so dangerous. The theory behind the secondary break is that, by pushing the ball up the floor, you catch the defense out of sync and not set. Maybe Hansbrough beat his man down the floor and has a seal on a guard under the rim. Maybe the defense forgot to locate Danny Green, and he is left open for a three. Maybe the opposing point guard is retreating and off balance, which allows Lawson to get into the lane. It goes on and on.

Ty Lawson finds Tyler Hansbrough for a lay-up in the second half.
(photo credit: Getty Images)

Think about that. UNC's offense is essentially designed to beat the defense down the floor, and then take advantage of mismatches on the offensive end. When you have seven guys on your team with a legitimate chance to be an NBA draft pick, exploiting mismatches becomes pretty easy.

Yes, the Heels offense has been phenomenal from day one. No one can argue that. But the knock on UNC throughout the season was that they didn't defend. They gave up penetration too easily, especially to high-scoring lead guards.

But what once was a weakness for this team became a strength down the stretch.

Take a look at their last three games. Oklahoma was 2-19 from three, Villanova was 5-27, and Michigan State was 7-23.

Why did they struggle so much from three? The casual observer would say that it was because these three teams forced shots from the perimeter. Which is true.

The reason, however, that they had to force so many tough threes was a direct result of the Tar Heel defense. As I said before, what was once a weakness had become a strength for this team. No one was able to get penetration against UNC during the NCAA tournament. Not Willie Warren. Not Scottie Reynolds or Corey Fisher. And not Kalin Lucas.

Ty Lawson's eight steals contributed to the six turnovers committed by Kalin Lucas.
(photo credit: Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press)

Those are three very talented basketball players that I just mentioned. Their lines against UNC?
  • Willie Warren: 18 points, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 6-16 from the floor, 2-9 from three, 4 points with six minutes left in the game.
  • Scottie Reynolds/Corey Fisher: 30 points, 11-37 from the floor, 3-15 from three.
  • Kalin Lucas: 14 points, 7 assists, 6 turnovers, 4-12 from the floor.
Not exactly what you would expect from those three guys.

For the game, UNC forced 21 turnovers and scored 25 points off of them. And more than anything, that was the difference in this game. UNC jumped out to a 55-34 lead at halftime, scoring 17 points off of 13 Spartan turnovers. Yes, UNC's break was vicious last night, but would it have been anywhere near as effective if they Heels hadn't forced those 13 turnovers?

(Hint: the answer's no.)

I am 24 years old. I have been a huge college basketball fan as long as I can remember. But as much basketball as I watched growing up, I couldn't tell you too much about the teams that played before this decade. I think it would be safe to say that my first real memory of college basketball, one where I was cognizant of what was happening beyond a nice dunk or a big three, was the game between Duke and UConn in the 1999 title game.

I never saw Ewing's Georgetown teams play or any of Wooden's UCLA teams. I was in kindergarten when UNLV was running rebellious all over the country, and in first grade when Duke usurped the throne. I fully admit that I have a limited firsthand knowledge of college basketball's historically great teams.

But in my short time as an avid college hoops follower, this UNC team that played in the NCAA tournament is the best team I have ever seen play. They are unstoppable offensively, punching you in the mouth with an early run, then taking the air out of the ball and executing you to death in the second half. They have talent at every position on the floor. As many as seven guys from this team could end up being drafted. And to end the year, they started playing some of the best perimeter defense in the country.

Izzo said it best. Before the title game, Izzo was quoted as saying "If we play good and they play good, we're losing." What happened? UNC played a perfect first half, taking a 55-34 lead, and erasing any doubt as to who would win the title 10 minutes into the game.

Yeah, I know. Michigan State was playing in Detroit, trying to shine a light on a downtrodden city and its suffering inhabitants.

But this UNC team returned for guys that would have been picked in the 2008 NBA Draft. Why? Because they wanted this national title.

The Heels were last night's real team of destiny.
Continue reading...

Is Tyler Hansbrough the best college basketball player of the last 20 years?

Has there ever been a more decorated college hooper? Four time all-american, and a three-time consensus first-teamer. He won a national player of the year award. He is the ACC's all-time leading scorer. He is college basketball's most prolific free throw shooter, ever. He is the first guy to lead his team in scoring and rebounding for four seasons in ACC history. Conference player of the year. All-ACC teams. The list goes on.

But now, it is complete.

With the win last night, Hansbrough silenced his doubters that said his legacy was not complete without a title.

Hansbrough celebrates his national title.
(photo credit: Detroit Free Press)

So now his legacy is complete. But what, exactly, is that legacy?

For the last few years, Hansbrough has been one of the most hated players in all the game, right up there at JJ Redick and Christian Laettner's level. He got all the foul calls, but was never called for a travel. He played too hard, but he didn't show enough emotion. He'll never make it as a pro, but he was dumb to come back for his senior season. He put up great numbers, but he wasn't as good as everyone says he is.

But doesn't being the best and being hated go hand-in hand? How many people love Kobe Bryant that don't wear purple and gold?

And let's face it, over the last four season, Hansbrough has been the best. Sure, Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant had great seasons, but I challenge you to name me one player that even nears Hansbrough level of play over this four year period.

So if he is the best over the last four years, how does that stack up with the players of the last 20? How do you determine "the greatest college basketball player?"

I see three criterion. First off, you have to have played at least three, preferably four, years in school. Part of what makes college athletes so amazing is that they are able to perform at a high level in the classroom as well as on the court/field/pool/etc. Carmelo Anthony taking one semester's worth of classes while leading Syracuse to a national title should not get him put into consideration.

The second is that you have to have won something. Conference crowns, made a Final Four, the Preseason NIT. Something. You cannot be the greatest even without having won anything.

The third, and maybe the most important is that you have to be remembered for what you did in college. Tim Duncan played four years at Wake Forest, leading them to a couple very successful years. Many people put him in the conversation as greatest college basketball player. But how many people can tell you, off the top of their head, where Tim Duncan went to college. Then think about how many can tell you where Laettner went to school.

Hansbrough passes all of these with flying colors. He passed on the NBA Draft three times, even though he probably hurt his draft stock in the process. He has won numerous ACC titles, reached two Final Fours, and now has won a national title. And I challenge you to find a single (knowledgeable) person that thinks Hansbrough can ever come close to duplicating his collegiate success in the league.

So was Hansbrough better than Laettner? There is no easy answer to that question, and odds are your choice probably centers more around the shade of blue you wear than on any factual evidence.

I will say this. I won't remember Hansbrough for his exploits on the court. I won't remember him for winning this title. I won't remember him for the ridiculous dances he did to celebrate.

Tyler Hansbrough seconds after the clock ran out last night.
(photo credit: AP)

What I will remember him for is putting team first. Think about this - Hansbrough, as good as he was, was not the MVP for this UNC team. He was not the focal point of what the Heels wanted to do offensively, and while he did average over 20 ppg, he was not the go-to player for this team.

That distinction would go to Ty Lawson. Hansbrough was in and out of the line-up during the season's first seven games, sitting out four of them and playing limited minutes during the other three. UNC's record: 7-0. Ty Lawson sat out two games during the ACC Tournament. UNC's record: 1-1.

This was best exemplified during the Elite 8 games against Oklahoma. Hansbrough was going to have a chance to go up against the guy that took his national player of the year title in Blake Griffin. Most players would salivate at the opportunity to make a statement in a match-up like this.

Not Hansbrough.

He finished with just 8 points and 6 boards, spending much of the game as a decoy (four field goal attempts) and a defender. Griffin? He went for 23 points, 16 boards, and a couple thunderous dunks, solidifying his standing as 2009 POY.

Hansbrough lost their 1-on-1 battle, but he won the war as the Tar Heels advanced to the Final Four with a 72-60 win.

And that was perfectly fine with Hansbrough. Why? Because he was all about UNC, all about his team, and all about winning.

That is how I will remember Hansbrough.
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4/7 - Some Links, Some News

A number of players of declared, or strongly hinted that they will declare, for the NBA Draft in recent days. For a full list of the players that have declared their intentions, click here.

  • It's official. Blake Griffin is going pro. Who saw this coming?
  • Pitt's DeJuan Blair will be putting his name into the NBA Draft. The sophomore forward was the co-Big East player of the year after averaging 15.7 ppg and 12.3 rpg. It is probably a good time for him to head out. Both Sam Young and Levance Fields are graduating, which makes it seem fairly unlikely that Pitt will duplicate their success from this season. Blair would also probably end up being the focal point for opposing defenses, which could severely decrease his production. Blair is probably a mid-to-late first rounder this year.
  • Earl Clark looks like he will be taking his game to the next level, and the junior forward is also expected to sign with an agent. Tough loss for Louisville, who will also lose Terrence Williams to graduation. Without those two, the Cards are left without a playmaker on their roster.
  • Yesterday, we wrote about Sean Miller taking the Arizona job, and how there was a chance he could be at a severe disadvantage with some of his players heading to the draft early. That exodus has begun, as Chase Budinger will be putting his name into the draft, and he is gone for good as this is his second time declaring. Budinger is an excellent athlete and an excellent scorer. Expect him to be taken near the back end of the lottery.
  • Jodie Meeks, the prolific junior scoring guard from Kentucky, will enter his name into the NBA Draft. Meeks, who is not expected to sign with an agent, is projected as second rounder. With Calipari coming to Kentucky, I see Meeks going through the draft process before withdrawing his name from the draft.
  • Along those same lines, South Carolina junior Devan Downey will be testing the NBA Draft waters. He is not signing with an agent, as he probably would not end up getting drafted. Tyler Smith, a junior forward for Tennessee, is also expected to declare, and he won't sign wiht an agent either. Chad Ford is reporting that Greivis Vasquez is going to test the waters, but I cannot find it anywhere else.
  • Ed Davis, UNC's freshman center, will "definitely" be returning to school. So will Clemson's Trevor Booker.
  • The rosters for the Portsmouth Invitational have been announced, and there is a ton of talent at this year's event. One of the reasons is that the NBA pre-draft has dramatically scaled back their event, and this will be the only place that these seniors can get scouted playing five-on-five basketball.
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