The Morning Mix

Leave a comment

– Myron Medcalf provides a fantastic analysis on the new era of collegiate big men, especially the ones on display in the Sweet-16

– Critically-acclaimed journalist Bob Ryan put together a fantastic (and lengthy) article on this year in New England college basketball

– If Florida beats Marquette, and Louisville beats Michigan State, the West region finals would pit former-Providence star Billy Donovan against his former-Providence coach Rick Pitino. Jeff Eisenberg wrote a compelling article on the subject matter

– Andy Glockner breaks down which Sweet-16 coaches are under the greatest amount of pressure

– Here’s a rather interesting opinion from the Washington Post on late game refereeing. Should refs adjust the implementation of the rules during the final few minutes of the game? Sally Jenkins has some suggestions.

– A lengthy tournament stay can provide a lot of financial support to a mid-major program, but it still pays to be in a BCS-conference

– With everybody paying attention to the status of Kendall Marshall’s right wrist, this would be the perfect time for Harrison Barnes to steal the spotlight

– Jeff Goodman provides an excellent-read on Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and the debilitating disease that he doesn’t let hinder his coaching performance

– The best individual match-up of the Sweet-16 might just be the battle on the block between Yancy Gates and Jared Sullinger

– Eamonn Brennan tries to determine what the ideal Final Four team would look like

– An-awesome read from the Florida Times-Union on the tremendous leadership skills of freshman guard Bradley Beal

A position-by-position breakdown of the Indiana-Kentucky rematch. Will the Georgia Dome play a factor in the postseason rematch?

Iowa State star Royce White has decided to enter the NBA draft. His stock is at an all-time high, and has the talent and physical tools to become a great NBA player. The one issue that could arise is his anxiety disorder and his rather larger fear of flying, which is, as you know, the only way NBA teams travel

– It looks like Texas freshman Myck Kabongo is going to enter the NBA draft, becoming yet another Longhorn to exit Austin early in his career. Since 2003, nine underclassmen have left Texas for the NBA draft. Of those nine, seven have been guards

Rutgers big-man Gilvydas Biruta has decided to transfer.The Lithuanian-born sophomore was plagued by consistent foul trouble throughout the season. While no potential landing spots have been announced, Rhode Island seems to be a logical fit, as Biruta played for new Rams head coach Dan Hurley in high school.

– As we mentioned yesterday, three players, including leading scorer T.J. McConnell, are transferring from Duquesne. What does McConnell’s loss mean for the Dukes? We know for a fact that McConnell will not be heading to Pittsburgh or Robert Morris. McConnell, who is one of the most unheralded guards in the country, wants to play for a bigger school

UConn junior forward Alex Oriakhi has decided to transfer. The big-man had a difficult year due to the arrival of Andre Drummond. Because of the APR sanctions against UConn, Oriakhi would be able to play at his new school right away. This factor will make him a hot commodity on the transfer market

– Maryland got some good news yesterday. All-conference guard Terrell Stoglin announced his intentions to return to College Park for his junior season

– Michigan’s standout freshman guard Trey Burke is going to inquire about his NBA draft status. This comes just a day after it was announced that three Wolverines had decided to transfer

– Trey Zeigler’s face value is going to get him to a bigger school than he might be worthy of. The former-four star recruit decided to attend Central Michigan in order to play for his father Ernie. But when the school fired his dad last week, the shooting guard decided to transfer

– Bobby Hurley, the older brother of new Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley, has decided to bypass the Wagner opening to follow his brother to Kingston. But, as Adam Zagoria explains, Hurley still longs to be a head coach eventually

– VCU head coach Shaka Smart has turned down Illinois’ $2.5-million offer to become the Illini’s next head coach

– Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall has no interest in the vacancy at Nebraska. As of now, Nebraska has yet to make any formal offers

– Shaka Smart and Frank Martin will serve as guest in-studio analysts for CBS’ coverage of the NCAA tournament this weekend

– What does Missouri need to focus on in the off-season? Rock M Nation provides a detailed report

– Butler lost to Pittsburgh last night in the College Basketball Invitational. Brad Stevens hopes his team can make it back to the Big dance next year, because sitting out has been excruciatingly difficult

– A pretty-awesome story about a guy who found a basketball signed by the entire 1962 Cincinnati team that won the National Championship. Where did he find the autographed basketball? At a storage auction, of course!

– The Washington Post has selected their Elite Eight in the “Most Hate College Teams” bracket

– The TD Banknorth GArden will be the only regional site to have a unique hardwood floor. The home of the Celtics will have the NCAA tournament layout, but with its signature parquet pattern. But the various Boston championship banners belonging to the Celtics and the Bruins will not be hanging in the rafters

Yet another reason why Marquette head coach Buzz Williams is the most interesting and entertaining coach in the country

Bob Knight finally said the word “Kentucky”, which undoubtedly made The Big Lead very happy

– Speaking of Bobby Knight and his refusal to say the word “Kentucky”, KSR broke down how coach Knight might interact in society without using the word

– This is the greatest and most hilarious basketball flop you will ever see

Former UConn assistant levies serious accusations at Kevin Ollie

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

On Thursday, after a Freedom Of Information Act request filed by local newspapers, UConn released more than 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the investigation that led to the decision to fire of Kevin Ollie.

In those documents were the fairly innocuous NCAA violations that were allegedly committed by Ollie that UConn used as “just cause” for firing him and digging themselves out of the $10 million that he was owed on that contract.

But that is just the beginning of where this thing gets interesting, because there are more accusations levied at Ollie than what UConn was able to confirm.

Let’s start with this one: Former assistant coach Glen Miller said that Ollie paid $30,000 to the mother of a recruit to allow her to afford an apartment and move to Connecticut to be closer to her son. He didn’t have any first-hand information — his wife had befriended the mother of the player and opened up about it while they were on a road trip together — but that’s not the only bomb that Miller tried to drop. He also alleged that Ollie fired his former agent because he wouldn’t help him to recruit, which Miller implies is the agent paying players to go to UConn.

Again, none of these allegations are corroborated. This is Miller, a long-time UConn assistant that was fired — and is clearly still bitter about it — passing along things that he had heard second-hand. One story was from his wife, the other was from one of the most powerful agents in the business. There’s no proof those conversations actually happened, let alone that what was discussed is actually true.

But this is a good example of just how ugly this thing has a chance to get.

There is $10 million on the line for a school and a state that is not exactly overflowing in cash, but is there a larger cost that could be associated with this decision? Could fighting to save that $10 million eventually turn up major violations within the UConn program?

As it stands, Ollie has not technically been fired by UConn yet. He is only suspended with pay as of now. The process to fire him included a hearing with athletic director David Benedict in April and a hearing with school president Susan Herbst last month. Both Benedict and, as of yesterday, Herbst supported the decision to fire Ollie with cause, meaning that he will now be forced to face arbitration. If that ruling goes against him, he will have the option to take UConn to court, which, it seems, he will be willing to do.

Which is where the headache for UConn comes into play.

Do they really want to have a case that has already had these accusations come to light get discussed in a court of law? If this is what a FOIA turns up, what happens during depositions? For a program that has already dealt with their share of NCAA scandals — which, mind you, did not get Jim Calhoun fired — is it really worth the money to risk having even more turn up?

The worst kept secret in college basketball is that UConn is grasping at straws with this decision. They want anything they can find that will allow them to get out from underneath what, in hindsight, was a terrible contract.

And in the end, that could cost them more than just money.

Report: Alleged NCAA violations against former UConn coach Kevin Ollie revealed

Getty Images
2 Comments

Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie allegedly committed multiple NCAA violations that led to his dismissal last spring, according to a report released Wednesday by the Hartford Courant.

Ollie was dismissed from the position after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign as he’s been in a battle with the school over the remaining $10 million on his contract. Since Ollie was fired for just cause, the school is trying to withhold that remaining money as the case will proceed to arbitration. UConn president Susan Herbst upheld the school’s decision to terminate Ollie for just cause on Tuesday as he is still, technically, suspended without pay.

According to documents obtained by The Courant under a Freedom of Information Act request, Ollie and his staff committed multiple violations, including an impermissible phone call between Huskies legend Ray Allen and a recruit. Multiple UConn players were also sent to work with an outside trainer on campus, and later, in Atlanta. Another violation occurred when Ollie shot baskets with recruit James Akinjo during an official visit as the video was posted by Akinjo’s guardian on Twitter. The video was later deleted.

Among the 1,355 pages of documents that The Courant obtained, it includes the NCAA’s transcripts from their investigation as well as UConn’s case to terminate Ollie as head coach.

Perhaps the worst violation includes the alleged involvement of the trainer, as Ollie allegedly had a friendship with Derrek Hamilton. During the 2015-16 season, Hamilton allegedly worked out UConn players after hours during on-campus workouts as well as off-campus workouts. Three players also allegedly traveled to Atlanta to train with Hamilton as the players were fed, transported and housed for free — all of which are NCAA violations.

The NCAA has yet to proceed with any action against UConn as 900 pages of the report were based on the NCAA’s interviews and findings. Former UConn coach Glen Miller was also granted immunity in exchange for his testimony to the NCAA regarding the violations.

These alleged violations are a new step in the Ollie case, as the case does not look great for him to receive the remaining $10 million on the contract. Ollie and UConn still have to go through arbitration, but the release of these documents, and alleged violations, is very hurtful to Ollie’s case.

Harvard captain Chris Egi opts for Wall Street instead of pro basketball dreams

Harvard
Leave a comment

Harvard forward and team captain Chris Egi is opting to skip potential professional basketball options in order to pursue a career on Wall Street.

In a great profile from Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada, the 6-foot-9 Egi will become an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs after his four-year career with the Crimson ended after this season.

At one point considered a top-100 prospect in his high school Class of 2014, Egi never found consistent footing on the Harvard basketball team as he played sparingly over the course of his four seasons. Injuries and a competitive roster forced Egi to re-evaluate his basketball ambitions as a concussion forced him to miss a lot of his senior season.

“I kind of made an agreement with myself that I’d put it all in for a final shot senior year. But chances were it wasn’t going to be basketball for me unless something great happened,” Egi said in the story.

“[Playing professionally] would be a great experience and part of me wants to do it. But part of me feels like this isn’t the path for me and there are a lot of opportunities here that aren’t about playing basketball and I want to take advantage of those and get started on this new journey.”

While Egi never got stable playing time with Harvard, he could have been an intriguing professional player thanks to his run-and-jump athleticism. Since Egi is also Canadian, he would not have fit under some international league policies that limit the number of American players on certain rosters. If healthy, Egi could have eventually morphed into a serviceable pro after a disappointing college basketball career.

In the classroom at Harvard, however, things were hardly disappointing for Egi. In fact, it appears he might have made the correct decision by going the Wall Street route. Selected to give a commencement speech at Harvard’s underclass graduation late in May, Egi shined as he told his family’s story and personal experiences at the Ivy League school he always dreamed of attending.

As Michael Porter Jr. joins Puma, will brand make splash into college basketball?

Getty Images
Leave a comment

As the 2018 NBA Draft approaches, Puma has made major headlines by signing a handful of lottery picks — including the potential top two picks in Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley.

Puma’s aggressive move to get back into basketball continued on Wednesday afternoon as ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. — another likely top-10 pick — will sign a multi-year deal with the apparel company.

Dormant in the basketball business since Vince Carter signed with the brand as a rookie in 1998, Puma has become one of the intriguing subplots of this year’s draft as they attempt to position themselves in a crowded basketball apparel market that includes heavyweights like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour.

But while Puma has made a splash by signing three potential top ten picks, and another potential lottery pick in Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith, the intriguing question becomes what the brand might do at the college and grassroots levels of basketball?

Besides targeting 2018 NBA draft picks, Puma has recently made a strong push as a lifestyle brand by forging partnerships with music icons like Jay-Z and Rihanna. The brand’s soccer division also received a boost when they opted to sign Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku to a roster that already included the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann. The company also has a longstanding partnership with 11-time Olympic gold medal sprinter Usain Bolt.

So, even outside of professional basketball, Puma is trying to make major moves, while spending major money, over the last several months.

Having star NBA talents signed to apparel deals is one thing. Those same companies often attempt to align with as many college programs and high school programs as possible. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have also formed their own spring and summer grassroots basketball leagues over the last decade with the EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet and the Under Armour Association.

While Puma is undoubtedly spending enough to be seen by the masses, it’s hard to say if they have the monetary means, or the labor, to make a major push into smaller basketball levels like college and the AAU scene. Multiple basketball and apparel sources speculated to NBCSports.com that Puma’s sudden rise into the NBA doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll want to make the leap into college or high school basketball.

That’s been the natural progression of the other apparel companies who have made a major mark in basketball, as those brands value the long-term relationships and local credibility that comes with having top-notch college and high school players wearing their product.

Maybe Puma doesn’t see things that way as they try to align themselves with star professional players. And for all of the talk of Nike having long-term relationships with Ayton, Bagley and Porter, all three of them jumped at the chance to make the most money with the new(ish) kids on the block. Money will still be the ultimate factor in a lot of athletes signing with apparel companies.

If Puma does decide to enter the college athletics arms race, it would certainly make for a fascinating apparel company to enter the mix. Since Puma has credibility in sports like golf, tennis, soccer and track and field they could also make a splash signing larger schools to long-term apparel deals that go across all sports.

But it remains to be seen what Puma’s long-term goal is after signing four strong draft prospects. Puma is off to a great start re-entering basketball, but we have no idea what kind of end-goal they have in mind. Or if that even involves college basketball.

Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis commits to Kentucky

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Reid Travis announced on Wednesday morning that he will be committing to Kentucky.

Travis had spent the past four seasons at Stanford, where he averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 boards and, when healthy, had been one of the best big men in the Pac-12 for the better part of three seasons.

But injuries had taken a toll on the 6-foot-8, 250 pound forward. He played just eight games his sophomore season due to a stress reaction in his left leg, for which he was given a medical redshirt for. In total, Travis missed 35 games in four years with the Cardinal.

Travis is a terrific rebounder and a low-post scorer that will immediately provide a Kentucky team with plenty of perimeter talent with an anchor in the paint. Travis will be the only scholarship player on the roster with more than one season of experience.

If there is a concern here, it’s that Travis and fellow forward P.J. Washington play a similar style. Both are somewhat undersized bigs that do most of their damage in the paint, and neither are known for their ability to be a rim protector or to stretch the floor. Spacing, once again, is going to be an issue for this Kentucky team, even with all the perimeter talent that is on the roster.

But there is a ton of perimeter talent. Ashton Hagans, Kelden Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Quade Green. Kentucky is not short on pieces, but like we seem to say every season, the key to unlocking that talent is finding a way for all those pieces to fit together. It’s not perfect, but this is certainly a more balanced roster than Kentucky had a year ago, and if anyone has earned the faith that he can find a way to make it work, it’s John Calipari.