CBT Exam Week Essays: Choosing the next coach at UCLA

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For college students and college basketball fans, Exam Week is the worst week on the schedule. For students, this week is the culmination of three months worth of procrastination, cliff notes and wikipedia. For college basketball fans, it’s the lightest week of hoops action we will see all season.

With so very little going on this week in terms of action, the staff at College Basketball Talk is going back to school. Over the next five days, the CBT Staff will be responsible for answering an essay question in one of five different subjects.

The first subject of the week is Sociology.

UCLA is, historically, one of college basketball’s most successful programs.
If you could hire any coach in America to rebuild the Bruins in terms of wins, respect and fan support, who would it be, and why?

By David Harten

First, one must take away all obvious candidates, because those candidates, who are currently in life-long positions or positions that they currently have no interest in leaving, wouldn’t take the risk. That includes Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, John Calipari.

Ben Howland needs to be let go by the Bruins. He did very well in his more formative years with three-straight Final Fours and some solid, character-based recruiting class, but that time has passed. The players either don’t respect him, don’t want to play hard for him, or both. There is too much turmoil surrounding that program and too many players have left the team to justify another season, short of a four Final Four run this season, which would take a miracle. Every coach has a limit at a program, just look at Bruce Weber at Illinois.

So who is the one person that could revive the storied UCLA program, short of a hologram John Wooden? One had to factor in a few things.

The first has to be that he’s been a winner at all stops, mid-and-high major. Secondly, he has had to have run a clean program, at least to the point that an athletic department doesn’t have to look over its shoulder for the NCAA on a yearly basis. Third, the recruiting ties to the right regions have to be there as well. And if he’s new to the area, the question becomes, can he build enough relationships to plant roots in new areas? The final, but just as important question is, are his players good people? When they graduate/exhaust their eligibility, do they keep themselves in line as citizens?

It’s with all these criteria that the best candidate would be Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.

For one, Marshall has proven his success on multiple levels. In his first job at Winthrop, Marshall went 194-24 in nine seasons at Winthrop and has gone 109-60 in five seasons as the head coach of the Shockers, with an NIT title in 2010-11 and an NCAA Tournament berth. He’s building a resume at a school that had been down. He fits the bill for a coach who is primed for a move up.

He inherited a team that took a dive after Mark Turgeon left due to mass transfers. After an 11-20 season, Marshall has built the program back with his players and his way. Now, he’s finally seeing the benefits.

He also runs a tight ship. Players graduate and they stay out of trouble. The team plays both half-court and full-court schemes with discipline. He scouts junior colleges relentlessly, something UCLA rarely does but should now due to the influx of high-major talent there, and also makes serious runs at Top 100 recruits in the prep ranks, including getting Fred Van Vleet this season. He currently sports players on his roster from all over, including Minnesota, the Bahamas, Canada, Las Vegas and Alabama. He lands them from all over.

He’s an east coast guy, but he’s been able to establish recruiting roots at every stop he’s been at. The man deals in relationships, something of a lost commodity in college sports. He knows how to get what he wants, and does it with both parties smiling.

Marshall is also a great X’s and O’s coach. He recruits tons of wings and combo guards to run a solid motion offense built around getting to the rim. You think west coast kids who grew up on the Lakers and run-and-gun offenses won’t love that?

Bottom line, Marshall is the coach that knows what he’s doing. He can fit in anywhere, get the players he needs and then move them to do what he wants. You’ll never hear about the program being in the dump and you’ll never have to worry about his team’s commitment to him.

Gregg Marshall is the man to lead UCLA, should Howland be let go. He’s most definitely a candidate no one saw coming, but plenty of those type of coaches have had great success. He’ll do it and he’ll do it his way.

Professor’s Notes: Gregg Marshall is a phenomenal choice. His track record of running a clean program and recruiting high-character players would be a blessing at UCLA. You cover all the grounds and provide enough statistical evidence to support your opinions. Points are being docked for the copious use of contractions. Also I would have liked to see the more names of coaches who seem to be “lifers”, i.e. Mark Few, Tom Izzo and Tom Crean.

GRADE: A-

Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

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