Turning Cinderella runs into recruiting success is key for mid-majors

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Any coach can put together the right game-plan, taking enough advantage of mismatches and getting his team to execute well enough that his group of guys can pull off an upset.

Get that team’s confidence going, and that team can reel off a couple of upsets in a row.

That’s how Cinderella runs in the NCAA tournament happen. Since our sport’s postseason playoff is a single-elimination tournament and not a five or seven-game series, we see these runs quite often. It’s part of what makes March Madness unique and beloved.

But, generally speaking, it’s not sustainable. Coaching wins games. Talent wins titles. There’s a reason that coaches known for their x’s-and-o’s hire ‘recruiters’ to their staff, while coaches that are capable of bringing in talent on their own will go out and hire tacticians as assistant coaches.

And that’s why, to build a program, it’s so important to capitalize on the exposure of a postseason run.

On Tuesday, Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com took a look at how VCU, Butler and George Mason have recruited since their respective Final Four runs, and it’s quite clear that the Rams have made the biggest jump of the three. Since their 2011 Final Four run, VCU has signed two top 100 recruits — Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess — while earning a commitment from a third — Terry Larrier — on Monday. The other six recruits they’ve signed or currently have committed are three-star players.

During that time, VCU has remained in or around the top 25 while making the jump from the CAA to the Atlantic 10. Perhaps most impressive is that Smart has yet to reap the benefits of his most talented recruits, as Burgess was ineligible last year, Johnson was a role player and Larrier is 15 months from actually playing a game. When you consider how Smart has coached up the two- and three-star recruits he’s landed, it’s easy to see why the best is yet to come for the Rams.

The same cannot be said for George Mason. Not only did their recruiting remain on the same level, four of the six best players they brought in in the next three years transferred — Jay Threatt (Delaware State), Vlad Moldoveanu (American), Luke Hancock (Louisville) and Kevin Foster (Fresno State). Jim Larrañaga left as well, and Mason has been more-or-less irrelevant since then.

Butler is the most interesting case. Not only did they have arguably the best young coach in the game — better than Smart, in my opinion — but they were also able to turn their success on the floor into success on the recruiting trail. Stevens brought in Rotnei Clark in 2011, who became eligible last season. He landed four-star recruit Kellen Dunham in the Class of 2012 and four three-star recruits — two of whom, Nolan Berry and Elijah Brown, were ranked in Rivals top 150 — in 2013. It should also be mentioned that the Bulldogs were in the mix with a couple of high-profile local players in the Class of 2014 before Stevens headed off to the NBA.

Butler also managed to climb their way from the Horizon to the Atlantic 10 all the way into the Big East this season. If Stevens had stuck around and Roosevelt Jones hadn’t broken his wrist, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that the Bulldogs would have, once again, but in and around the top 25 all year long.

So take note, Florida-Gulf Coast.

If you want to take a program from being good at the mid-major to being nationally relevant on an annual basis, the key is to capitalize on the recruiting trail when you have the limelight.

John Calipari lobbies for change in one-and-some rule to help athletes

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.

In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.

“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.

“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”

“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”

Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.

Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.

But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.