Jim Calhoun

UConn’s punishment: fair, or an axe to grind?


Yesterday, it became official: UConn lost their final appeal to the Committee for Academic Performance on a waiver that would allow them to compete in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

The quest isn’t over, however. As some point in the coming months, the CAP will make a decision on what data they will use to determine whether or not they administer punishments like the postseason ban. The way the rule is currently set up, the NCAA requires a rolling, four-year average of APR scores to be higher than 930, up from the 900 it was previously.

The problem is that the four-year average starts with the 2007-2008 season and ends with the  2010-2011 season, meaning that UConn’s four-year average is 893. Where the issue lies is that UConn’s score is heavily weighed down by a disastrous 2009-2010 APR score of 826. The past two seasons have been much, much better. In 2010-2011, UConn scored a 978 on the APR and this past year, the Huskies were perfect.

What that means is if the CAP decides that they should use the most recent data — the four-year rolling averages that starts with the 2008-2009 season and ends with 2011-2012 — then the Huskies will, in fact, be eligible for the tournament.

And that right there is why folks in Connecticut feel as if they have been railroaded by this decision. Congress is getting involved. Hartford Courant columnist Jeff Jacobs, who has been as critical of the Jim Calhoun era as anyone, hits it right on the head with this column from Friday:

For decades, the NCAA thought and acted like a glacier. Suddenly, it was an avalanche. There was a scandal with Ohio State. There was a scandal with Miami. There was Cam Newton’s father shopping around his son like a piece of meat. The NCAA came under enormous fire. NCAA president Mark Emmert had his chance to make a great mark. He called a retreat for college presidents. The result was many good intentions that became legislation.

“Here’s the thing I want people to understand about that postseason rule,” UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said. “We want it. We want it! It’s great for college athletics and our student-athletes. It’s great to motivate them to say you need to buckle down and do the things necessary to participate and to prepare for when your career in sports ends.

“At the same time, you can’t change the rules midstream and punish institutions just because you decide, ‘Well, there’s a lot of pressure out there. There are a lot of things going on out there in the world and people are mad. Other people are doing these things. So you know what? We can’t get to them so we’re going to punish you.’ No opportunity to adjust, not even one year.”

From stipends, to multiyear scholarships, to admission standards to punishment for bad APR, there were landmark changes made on the fly last year. When you make such massive changes, an organization must also be open and flexible to make adjustments on the fly. The stipend rule was sent back for more work.

Take a look at UConn’s roster from the 2009-2010 season. Not a single one of those players will be in uniform next season. Only one — Alex Oriakhi — played in 2011-2012. Only six won a ring in 2010-2011.

I understand that this kind of turnover with players that aren’t in good academic standing is precisely the kind of issue that leads to poor APR scores. I get that.

But does it really make sense to punish a group of kids for the academic issues of their predecessors, especially when they have helped turn around the problems the program previously had?

I have my own issues with the way that Jim Calhoun runs this UConn program, but it’s tough not to view this ruling as the NCAA and the CAP having an axe to grind with a coach that has sleazed his way to three national titles in 12 years.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.