Jim Boeheim: Great coach, but at what cost?

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You are going to read plenty of words today deifying Jim Boeheim’s 900 wins and the job that he has done turning a private school buried in lake-effect snow in Upstate New York into one of the nation’s preeminent basketball programs.

And, frankly, the majority of those words are going to be well-deserved.

Boeheim’s consistency with the Orange has been unreal. He’s won more than 20 games in 34 of the 36 seasons he’s been at the helm. He’s made the NCAA tournament 29 times, reaching the title game thrice and winning it all once, on the back of Carmelo Anthony. His career at Syracuse will span the creation and the destruction of the Big East, a conference that he won 15 titles in, ten times finishing atop the regular season standing and five times hoisting the conference tournament trophy. His 900 wins but him behind only Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski on the all-time list, and he’ll pass Knight before the calendar turns to January.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he’s spent his entire career in the same spot. He enrolled at Syracuse as a walk-on in 1962, eventually becoming team captain on a roster that included Dave Bing. When he began his coaching career in 1969, it was as a grad assistant on the Syracuse bench. He stayed there until he was named head coach in 1976, and as never left. In a day and age where every job is a stepping stone, that’s an incredible feat.

But — there’s always a but — it will be interesting to see how many of the glowing columns you’ll read today mention the arrest record of Boeheim’s players. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, in a 661 word column on Boeheim’s 900th win, had all of this to say about it: “what has overshadowed Boeheim’s success recently are the off-court issues surrounding the program and the fact he’s only got one national title to his credit.” And in a way, that’s actually a perfect representation of Boeheim’s attitude towards his players off the court. I’ll let Mike Rosenberg of SI.com explain:

He doesn’t worry too much about what his players do with their free time, how they dress or what they say to the media. He expects them to produce on the basketball court and be good teammates. The rest is not really his problem.

The next time he talks about his players being role models for anybody will be the first time. The Syracuse Post-Standard recently reported that his star point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, admitted shoplifting from a store and paid a $500 fine. Boeheim’s response: “Syracuse police have found nothing to investigate.The mall, the store, is happy and satisfied with the result. Michael is satisfied with the result.” In other words: So what? If players get in trouble, he says: Hey, players get in trouble. When is the next game?

Carter-Williams was caught shop-lifting — reportedly a pair of gloves and a bathrobe — last Sunday. He started and played 38 minutes on Saturday against Canisius, the Orange’s next game. Last season, Fab Melo was arrested for fourth-degree criminal mischief after an ugly incident involving his then-girlfriend. Melo didn’t miss a game until he was suspended during the season for an academic issue.

There’s more as well. The Georgetown blog Casual Hoya compiled all of the legal issues involving Syracuse players (some of the incidents on that list occurred when their time at Syracuse was over, but what do you expect from a rival?), which includes names like Derrick Coleman, Jonathon Wallace, Todd Burgan and Jonny Flynn.

In a way, Boeheim’s attitude towards his player’s off the court troubles is almost, in a sense, refreshing in its honesty. He’s not there to shape the lives of these young men. He’s not trying to claim that he’s the Mother Theresa of the hardwood. He’s there to do his job. He’s there to win basketball games and, hopefully, shuffle these players off to a long and thriving career as professional basketball players. And, quite frankly, he’s damn good at doing that.

He’s done to the 2-3 zone what Bobby Knight did to motion offense. He’s one of the best ‘ball coaches’ to ever grace our presence. He gives one heckuva press conference, whether he’s ripping the local beat reporters, defending one of his stars or giving his opinion on the availability of automatic weapons in out country.

But if you’re going to paint Jim Boeheim as the Patron Saint of Upstate New York, be sure to spend a couple of brushstrokes highlighting just what he allows to go on in and around his program.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Five-star guard Anthony Edwards reclassifying to 2019

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Five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards announced his intention to reclassify from the Class of 2020 into the Class of 2019 on Tuesday.

The Atlanta native was one of the major breakout players of last summer, as Edwards earned rave reviews nationally with his strong play. Edwards is such a major talent, that upon moving up to 2019, 247Sports immediately put him as its new No. 1 prospect in the class.

The move is also good for college basketball fans. Because Edwards has the kind of scoring package and athleticism that will make him one of the must-watch freshmen of next season. Edwards joins a Class of 2019 group that doesn’t have a lot of star power and must-see talents. After averaging over 20 points per game in the Under Armour Association this summer, Edwards became one of the hottest recruits in the country.

Edwards told Evan Daniels of 247Sports that Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan State and North Carolina are the five schools currently prioritizing him — as he hasn’t set any official visits yet. With his ability to easily play above the rim, or knock down deep perimeter shots, Edwards is going to be one of the major recruiting attractions of this spring.

Since he’s jumping into the recruiting process so late, we probably won’t have a decision for quite some time. But once Edwards joins the college ranks next season, he’ll likely be generating headlines from the moment he starts playing.

Kentucky’s John Calipari calls himself an ‘overrated recruiter’ hours after losing James Wiseman

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari made headlines even after losing top recruit James Wiseman to Memphis on Tuesday afternoon.

After Wiseman decided to stay home and play for high school former coach Penny Hardaway and the Tigers on Tuesday, Calipari spoke with reporters before his Wildcats are scheduled to host Winthrop. According to a report from USA Today Network Tennessee’s Nicole Saavedra, Calipari spoke for over five minutes on the subject of recruiting, while providing the typical Calipari spin. Although Calipari can’t directly mention Wiseman’s name due to recruiting restrictions, he nonetheless made some pointed remarks about Wildcat recruiting.

“I’ve said it all along, I think I’m overrated as a recruiter,” Calipari said Tuesday. “We’ve had kids that made the decision to come here and it’s played out well for almost all of them. But my thing is, I want to be able to sleep at night. I want to make sure I’m telling the truth. I want to make sure I’m sticking with guys.

“I’m not saying that about anyone else,” Calipari continued. “Everyone recruits the way they recruit, but you’ve got good programs and good coaches and that’s why we don’t get everybody we recruit. We’re not the only ones out there trying to get good players and trying to help kids.”

While Calipari has the right to speak about the state of his program and the program’s recruiting at any point in time, these comments only hours after losing Wiseman definitely raise some eyebrows. Mostly because Calipari has an unbelievable ability to force attention back onto himself and his program in spite of a major recruiting loss.

Nobody actually believes Calipari is an overrated recruiter. He’s had the No. 1 or No. 2 ranked recruiting class for 10 consecutive seasons. He has two five-star prospects and one high-end four-star prospect in the fold for 2019. But he knows how to spin things into attention for him and his program, and it’s part of the reason he’s so good at what he does.

Clemson advances to title game in Cayman Islands

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Marcquise Reed scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, Elijah Thomas had his second straight double-double and No. 16 Clemson beat Georgia 64-49 on Tuesday to advance to the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic.

Thomas finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Clemson (5-0), which is off to its best start since the 2013-14 season. Shelton Mitchell, who scored a season-high 22 on Monday, chipped in with 13 points and David Skara had three of the Tigers’ nine steals.

Coach Brad Brownell won his 154th game at Clemson, three away from passing Bill Foster for second in program history.

Derek Ogbeide led Georgia (3-2) with 11 points. Nicolas Claxton, who scored 22 points in an 80-68 win on Monday, was held to three points on 1-of-9 shooting — but he had nine rebounds and five blocks.

James Wiseman picks Memphis over Kentucky

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In a move that was both shocking and not at all surprising, James Wiseman announced on Tuesday afternoon, live on Sportscenter, that he will be playing his college basketball for Penny Hardaway at Memphis, spurning John Calipari and Kentucky in the process.

“The whole city of Memphis knows my decision,” Wiseman said moments before unveiling a unicorn with a Memphis logo on it.

Wiseman, who has drawn some comparisons to Chris Bosh in the past, will join top 50 prospect D.J. Jefferies and four-star recruit Malcolm Dandridge in Penny’s second recruiting class.

The decision is surprising because of the obvious: Wiseman is a consensus top four player in the class. Many had him as the top prospect in the Class of 2019 before Tuesday’s news that Anthony Edwards would be reclassifying. And he just picked Memphis, who hasn’t been truly relevant in nearly a decade, over Calipari and Kentucky, the man that was responsible for making Memphis a powerhouse?

In a vacuum, that is baffling.

Except we’re not in a vacuum.

Wiseman, a Nashville native, moved to Memphis to play his high school basketball for Penny when Penny was still the head coach of East High School. He played his AAU ball for Penny’s AAU program, which was rebranded after Penny took the Memphis job. When that team did not make the trip to Las Vegas for the final July Live Period over the summer, Wiseman played for Hoop City Basketball Club, a program that was previously known as M33M and owned and operated by Mike Miller, who is now a Memphis assistant coach.

To be frank, it probably would have been more surprising if Wiseman had picked Kentucky over the Tigers.

As a player, Wiseman has a chance to be pretty good. He’s a 6-foot-11 lefty with a projectable 3-point stroke and enough size and athleticism to be effective in the paint in college. There are some concerns about how that game will translate at the NBA level — he’s not really a switchable big, his shooting isn’t  yet good enough to make him a true stretch-five, he’s not yet an elite shot-blocker — but this isn’t about the NBA. This is about Memphis, and Wiseman will be terrific for Memphis.

It is also a validation of the decision for Memphis to hire Penny.

Well, to be frank, the validation came when local products Alex Lomax and Tyler Harris committed to the program as a flood of season-ticket holders made their return to the FedEx Forum. The Memphis basketball program is back in the black, and after two years where Tubby Smith torpedoed the goodwill they had in the community, that matters.

But that excitement for a new head coach is only going to last so long if there isn’t a product on the court worth watching, and landing a player like this — someone that played for Penny growing up, that has a relationship with the coach, that played his high school ball in the city, that can be a potential all-american and lead Memphis towards the top of the American — is exactly what he needed.

And I’m sure Penny would tell you, his commitment was never in doubt.

Best Bets: Where do you want your money for the second day of the Maui Invitational?

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The second day of the Maui Invitational will tip-off tonight, the headlining game being No. 1 Duke’s date with No. 8 Auburn.

As always, here is a look at the slate of games from a gambling perspective:

No. 1 DUKE vs. No. 8 AUBURN, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Line: Duke (-11)
  • O/U: 167.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Duke 89.25, Auburn 78.25
  • KenPom Projection: Duke 82, Auburn 76

On paper, this game looks like it will be one of the most entertaining of the season.

Duke is already must-see TV every time that they take the court. That’s what happens when you have Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish on the court at the same time. Magic happens. Auburn, on the other hand, is really, really good themselves. If you haven’t seen them play yet, they are somewhat undersized — they like to play a pair of athletic, 6-foot-8 forwards that can space the floor and protect the rim up front — but they love to press and play in transition as much as anyone.

And it’s Auburn’s style of play that I think will play into Duke’s hands here. The Tigers want to play fast. Last year they finished the season ranked 18th in pace. This year, they are just 67th, but they have already played a couple of teams that tried their damnedest to take the air out of the ballin Xavier and Washington. They currently rank fifth-nationally in defensive turnover percentage, gambling for steals in that full court pressure to try and create opportunities for easy buckets at the other end of the floor. They attack the glass (fifth in offensive rebounding percentage), shoot a ton of threes (and make them at a 39.4 percent clip) and struggle to clear the defensive boards.

Duke?

Well, they want to play fast. That is the entire basis of what Mike Krzyzewski has built this season. He has three guys on the floor that were primary ball-handlers in the high school ranks, and that doesn’t include Zion Williamson, who is the nation’s best grab-and-go forward. They are built to play in transition, and they are already top 40 nationally in pace. Like Auburn, they pound the offensive glass (they get nearly 40 percent of their misses) and have some issues boxing out. They haven’t proven to be turnover prone yet, either.

There is something of an unknown here, as Duke has yet to face a team that is going to be able to pressure the way Auburn can, but I just can’t see that fazing them.

PICKS: To get an idea of how fact the line is moving here, when I started writing this, the over-under was 162.5. As I get ready to hit publish, it has already jumped to 167.5. The line for Duke has moved from (-10) to (-11). I got my bets in before the lines moved. I still love Duke and I still think the over hits, but if you are going to bet it, get it in quickly.

ARIZONA vs. No. 3 GONZAGA, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)

  • Line: Gonzaga (-10)
  • O/U: 154.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Gonzaga 82.25, Arizona 72.25
  • KenPom Projection: Gonzaga 81, Arizona 72

Early on this season, Gonzaga is playing faster than they have in the past, which makes sense. With the talent and athleticism they have on their roster, they are going to be able to beat a lot of teams down the floor. Prior to Monday night’s win over Illinois, the Zags had scored at least 94 points in all three of their games this season and won all three by at least 23 points. That included a game against Texas Southern (who won at Baylor) and a win over Texas A&M, who was without two starters.

The game against Illinois was a different story. The Zags looked like they were ready to pull away when Trent Frazier went bonkers and made it a game. I do not think that Arizona — who is not your typical Arizona team — has the horses to run with the Zags this year. If it wasn’t for a takeover performance from Justin Coleman down the stretch on Monday night, the Wildcats would have lost to an Iowa State team missing four players, including two starters.

Yes, the Zags are without Killian Tillie, but Filip Pertrusev and Jeremy Jones have been somewhere between fine and good in his absence.

PICKS: Gonzaga (-10) is the bet that I would make here. I would lean toward the over as well.

XAVIER vs. SAN DIEGO STATE, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: San Diego State (-1)
  • O/U: 153.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: San Diego State 77.25, Xavier 76.25
  • KenPom Projection: San Diego State 76, Xavier 75

This one is pretty simple: I think that Xavier is the better basketball team here, and after dropping one in overtime on Monday afternoon, I think the Musketeers will bounceback with a win here.

PICKS: If you can get Xavier (+1), then I would take that. I also lead towards the under here, as the total is pretty high for two teams that play good halfcourt defense. The under went 3-1 in Maui yesterday.

IOWA STATE vs. ILLINOIS, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Line: Iowa State (-2)
  • O/U: 154.5
  • Vegas Implied Score: Iowa State 78.25, Illinois 76.25
  • KenPom Projection: Iowa State 80, Illinois 74

The KenPom projection here would usually lead me towards taking the Cyclones, but keep in mind that Iowa State is playing without four rotation pieces, including their three best big men and their best guard. So it makes sense that the line would lean closer to Illinois.

PICKS: I think the bet here is Illinois. Brad Underwood is a smart coach, and he knows that Iowa State and their shortened bench will have tired legs. I honestly think the better bet is the over. Illinois really wants to run and neither team plays much, if any, defense. In fact, all Illinois wants to do is to try and force turnovers. They gamble and give up a lot of layups. Give me Illinois (+2) and the over.