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USC to offer four-year scholarships in football, basketball

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USC announced on Monday that the athletic department will start offering four-year scholarships to members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams beginning on July 1st, 2014.

“In taking this action, USC hopes to help lead the effort to refocus on student-athlete welfare on and off the field,” AD Pat Haden said in a release.

Theoretically, guaranteed four-year scholarships are a good thing. Ensuring that a player can’t be left without school being paid for is a good thing, particularly on the football side of things. It also goes a long way towards emphasizing education and the idea that these kids are, in fact, student-athletes.

But in reality, it likely won’t have that much of an effect on how basketball teams operate. When it comes down to it, kids that didn’t cause problems on or off the court weren’t often getting their scholarships pulled in the first place. And even with a guaranteed four-year scholarship, if a coach says, ‘I need you to transfer because you won’t play here’, most kids will end up leaving the program because — surprise, surprise — they want to play.

If four-year guaranteed scholarships do happen to catch on, the biggest impact might end up being felt by late-spring signees. That’s when a program will start reaching to bring in a player that might not be good enough to play at that level. If a team in the Big 12 needs front court depth, they’ll sign a 6-foot-8 player that probably belongs in the Missouri Valley or the Southland simply because that player is 6-foot-8 and capable of running without tripping over his own feet.

But if, in two years, they need an open scholarship to land a top 100 recruit, it’s that 6-foot-8 mid-major recruit that will get run-off. If a player doesn’t want to transfer and the coach knows that he’ll have to guarantee four years to a player he’s reaching on, will he still be willing to offer that player in the first place?

Cynicism aside, the point here is that this is a step in the right direction for player rights.

Will other schools follow suit?

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.