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.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky