Larry Brown, Ryan Manuel

Is Larry Brown building SMU a program, or a team to send him into retirement?

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Much has been made of Emmanuel Mudiay’s commitment to SMU from over the weekend.

When a basketball program that has gone two full decades without reaching the NCAA tournament beats out Kentucky and John Calipari for a top five recruit, a lot of people take notice.

One of the most consistent reactions to Mudiay’s commitment, however, has been that this will make SMU a force to be reckoned with in the AAC. And in the short term, that may be true. Mudiay will join a team in 2014-2015 that will already include 2013 McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier, one of the nation’s top Class of 2013 JuCo’s in Yannick Moreira, former Villanova Wildcat Markus Kennedy and Illinois State transfer Nic Moore.

That’s a solid core to work with in 2014-2015. Just for fun, pretend that SMU somehow manages to land another top five player in the Class of 2014 in Myles Turner, who said that Mudiay’s commitment brought SMU back into the picture for him.

That would be enough for the Mustangs to contend with UConn and Memphis for the AAC title, which would be an incredible accomplishment.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that SMU suddenly has a strong basketball program.

The bottom-line is this: when powerhouse basketball programs sprout from a barren hoops landscape, more often than not it’s the result of one head coach consistently building the profile of the school. Think Lute Olson at Arizona or Jim Calhoun at UConn or Scott Drew at Baylor. I’d even argue that Rick Barnes and Billy Donovan can be thrust into that conversation.

Longevity and consistency has been the key to each of those programs.

Larry Brown is not going to be at SMU for long. He turns 73 next month. He’s not in it for the long haul; he’s looking for one last hurrah. Assuming that Turner does end up going to SMU, let’s say that Brown leads the Mustangs to a top three finish in the regular season, a spot in the top 15 nationally, an AAC tournament title and a run to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament.

Awesome!

Then Moreira graduates, Mudiay and Turner go on to be the one and done lottery picks everyone thinks they will be, and Frazier decides to leave school as well to avoid being the only holdover on a team that’s bound to take a hit the following season.

Does Brown hang around for another year? Does he still want to coach when he turns 75 during the 2015-2016 season? Does he want to put in the effort to rebuild SMU again? Who knows, but that’s assuming a lot for a coach known as a basketball nomad that would have already put in three years at one school. If he leaves along with all of the talent in the program, will one Elite 8 appearance give SMU any name cache? Or will that simply be the outlier, the trivia question that us hoop junkies will be able to answer at our neighborhood pub quiz in March of 2025?

Here’s another bit of trivia for you: the last time that Larry Brown coach in college, he led Kansas to the 1988 NCAA title and then jumped to the NBA, avoiding recruiting violations that left the program banned from the 1989 NCAA tournament — the first time that a reigning champion couldn’t defend their title — and on probation for three years. Before that, Brown coached at UCLA from 1979-1981, where an appearance in the 1980 title game was vacated and the school was put on probation for two years when Brown left. To be fair, Brown arrived at UCLA at the end of the Dan Gilbert era, and the violations that were investigated had less to do with Brown than it did with the previous 15-20 years of Bruin basketball.

That’s not exactly a promising trend.

The door is open for SMU — and a school like Houston — to become a nationally relevant program the same way that Baylor has over the last five or six years. There’s plenty of talent in Texas, and the likes of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech certainly aren’t landing those players. Mudiay, following in Frazier’s footsteps, could be the guy that opens those floodgates.

SMU could be the next Baylor.

But the program could also be Larry Brown’s final coaching challenge.

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see him retire in April, 2015, and see the Mustangs spend another 20 years waiting to get back to the NCAA tournament.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.