Rants

Can’t get into college hoops because players leave early? Man, that’s lazy

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I feel bad for Jeff Miller. The Orange County Register columnist can’t get into college hoops. The player turnover — the best ones usually end up in the NBA after one or two seasons, he writes — robs the game of its stars and makes it tough to root or even follow a team. The game lacks an identity, he writes.

From his column:

The best players aren’t around long enough to grab and then hold onto our ever-divided attention. There’s no point in investing yourself in John Wall knowing he’s going to be John AWOL as soon as possible. … For every Kyle Singler at Duke and Kalin Lucas at Michigan State, there are dozens of wildly talented players in college right now who will be gone before we figured out what school they were even at.

He’s not entirely wrong. Some of the game’s best players do leave school early. John Wall played just one season. Blake Griffin two. Carmelo Anthony one. Magic Johnson two. When those guys left, the game suffered.

Yes, that’s sarcasm.

It’d be great if every player stayed four years. It doesn’t happen — guys like Duke’s Kyle Singler and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette are exceptions — but it clearly hasn’t hurt the game. Ratings for the 2010 NCAA tournament were the highest in a decade. Obviously some people are able to follow these face-less teams.

See, here’s the thing: Players have never been around the college game long. A maximum of four years? That’s nothing compared to NBA careers, which stretch anywhere from 10 to 15 years, and with far, far more games. That’s the reason NBA players are a better known commodity than college guys. They’re around forever. Sometimes you wish they’d go away and stop taking up space for the younger guys who just got out of school. (Not to mention the nomadic nature of most NBA players. Seems like every team brought in five new players this season. How’s that for continuity?)

If the player turnover makes college basketball too tough to follow, then don’t do it. If you’re too lazy to learn a few names from November to March, it’s no biggie. You can still fill out a bracket when you recognize the schools involved or get the 12-year-old down the street to help you out.

Want more? @BeyndArcMMiller‘s also on Twitter. Click here for more.

Overstating Hummel's loss? No way

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What to do with Purdue? No one seems to know.

Robbie Hummel’s season-ending injury created a dilemma for anyone dumb enough (like me) doing a preseason Top 25. It’s hard enough to rank teams without seeing them play any games. It’s harder still when a team loses its best all-around player and shooter. Purdue’s adjusting, but it’s anyone’s guess as to just how good it’ll be.

Brent Drinkut/AP

(Not to mention losing two starters in Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer. It’s not like Purdue only lost Hummel. The starting PG and the lock-down perimeter defender are also gone, both of whom were crucial in Purdue’s Sweet 16 run last season. Kramer averaged 13.5 ppg in those two NCAA tourney wins. Anyway.)

The Boilermakers were slated to be a Top 4 team with Hummel. Without, they’ve been slotted anywhere from eighth (coaches’ poll), to late teens (Gary Parrish), to 23rd (Andy Katz) to 26th (yours truly).

Should one player affect a team’s ranking that much? Ken Pomeroy thinks not.

Look at it this way – Temple was previously 23rd in Katz’s list. If you added a healthy Hummel to Temple, I don’t think you would consider the Owls to be national-title material. If you think Hummel had some special value to Purdue that he wouldn’t have on another team, leave him out of the argument for a second. Pick any player in college basketball and add him to Temple’s roster. He still couldn’t make the Owls’ the second-best team in America.

It’s a fair argument, but I think Ken’s underrating Hummel.

Here’s Hummel’s stat line from 2009-10:

15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 45.6 FG%, 36.4 three-point% 90 FT%

Good right? Now consider his best tempo-free stats:

122.1 ORtg, 26.0 %Shots, 20.8 DR%, 3.6 Blk%, 4.8 FD/40

Some of that might look like gibberish, but the ORtg (offensive rating, or how efficiently he scores) is 46th best in D-I – and 15 points higher than JaJuan Johnson’s. It’s nearly 20 points higher than E’Twuan Moore’s. Hummel also took a quarter of the available shots,  hit the defensive boards at a higher rate than Johnson, blocked shots and drew fouls at a high rate for a guy who’s best as a spot-up shooter.

Put it this way: Purdue’s still capable of being a Top 25 team. The defense will be nasty and Johnson and Moore are elite players. But the Boilermakers will struggle to score, and when they do, it won’t be pretty. Hummel solves most of that by stretching the defense and opening up things for others.

Would Hummel make Temple a Final Four contender? Absolutely. There’s always room for a 6-8 forward who can handle the ball, rebound and hit 3s. Every team wants that guy. Especially those teams in the 15-25 range of a Top 25 poll.

In fact, I’d say the team at No. 18 in my Top 25 would love to have Hummel. The only reason Butler’s not a serious Final Four contender this season is that they’re missing Gordon Hayward.

You know who plays like Gordon Hayward? Robbie Hummel.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Let's be realistic about Duquesne

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Who knew Duquesne fans could be so demanding?

The Dukes followed up their feel-good 21-13 season that included a trip to the A-10 tournament title game with an uneven 16-16 mark. That wasn’t good enough.

“Sometimes everyone, our fans included, look at all the negatives and not the positives,” Duquesne coach Ron Everhart told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We can be disappointed with what happened last season, but take away knowing some of the good things that we did. Now is a time that we have a group of guys I feel really good about, a great mix of older guys and younger guys.”

Must’ve missed the part where big things were predicted for Duquesne. Sure, four starters returned from that surprisingly good 2008-09 team, but the Dukes did lose leading scorer Aaron Jackson. The rest of the roster was mostly filled with sophomores and freshmen. Considering how Everhart’s turned around that program, I wouldn’t call a .500 season a failure.

Still, let’s talk big picture.

Not being satisfied with 16 wins is a sign of a program on the rise. Expectations are a good thing. But realistic expectations are even better.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

When NCAA eligibility dramas aren't equal

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Two of college basketball’s premier programs are dealing with freshmen eligibility questions. But you’d never know it.

Everyone’s atwitter (pun intended) about Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter. Did he receive more than $100,000 in salary and expenses from his Turkish club, Fenerbahce Ulker? Or is the team merely staging a prolonged shakedown for a payment or the return of Kanter’s services?

All it took was a N.Y. Times article with Fenerbahce’s general manager denying the shakedown and ripping Kanter’s academic qualifications. “Enes has a good basketball potential yet academically, he is not gifted as much,” Nedim Karakas told the paper.

As a result, my Twitter feed blew up. Responses ranged from indignation regarding Karakas’ comment, to Fenerbahce’s stance on the shakedown to outright weariness on the whole drama.

(Count me among the final group. I’d ready for the NCAA to rule on Kanter so we can all move on.)

Meanwhile, Kansas is still waiting on the NCAA to rule on Josh Selby, who is in limbo because of his association with Robert Frazier, the business manager for Carmelo Anthony. Selby’s mom says Frazier’s a longtime family friend and has merely advised her son. The NCAA is making up its own mind.

Not that anyone seems to care outside of Kansas.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self and Selby spoke at the Jayhawks’ media day, but didn’t have much to say, mostly because they didn’t have anything to report.

“We hope to have a resolution to it sooner rather than later. But I don’t know when that will be,” Self said. “I certainly understand why this has taken a little bit of time but I do think there will be a positive conclusion. Hopefully, shortly. But I don’t know that to be a fact.”

Most seem to think it’s only a matter of time before Selby – Rivals.com’s No. 1 recruit in 2010 – is eligible. Kanter’s anyone’s guess. (John Calipari says Kanter will play.)

Thing is, both players are crucial to a pair of Final Four contenders and both are in a similar situation. But it’s not that Kentucky or Kansas did anything wrong in taking these guys — several schools wanted Selby, while Kanter de-committed from Washington to head to Lexington — but the underlying theme is that Kentucky is, in fact, cheating.

Why the disconnect? Maybe it’s the overseas and payment issues surrounding Kanter that makes the news around him more frenzied. Maybe it’s that he plays for Kentucky, which is in 24/7 coverage. Or maybe it’s that he’s a Calipari recruit.

Schadenfreude may as well be an English word.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Preseason Wooden Award list always imperfect

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Brian Snyder/Reuters

The preseason Top 50 for the Wooden Award will always be an imperfect list. Anything that precludes certain players – freshmen, transfers and medical redshirts aren’t eligible for the preseason 50, but can be added later – is destined to be mocked.

That automatically excluded two of last year’s five finalists – John Wall and Wesley Johnson – from consideration. This season, that means ignoring guys like Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Kyrie Irving, among others.

Then there’s the 50 on the list. Some, like Arizona State’s Ty Abbott, don’t belong. Not when omissions include these guys:

  • West Virginia’s Kevin Jones (after a breakout sophomore season, he’ll be the Mountaineers’ main man this year)
  • Xavier’s Tu Holloway (point guard won’t have impressive stats, but he’s the leader and defensive stalwart for a Top 25 team)
  • Georgetown’s Chris Wright (Austin Freeman gets most of the attention, but Wright’s the driving force for the Hoyas)
  • Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried (averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals last season; ask NBA scouts if he belongs on the list)

Those four are the biggest snubs. At least two will be on the midseason update, not to mention at least five freshmen. Revamp the rules!

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

How much cheating are we willing to tolerate?

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New NCAA president Mark Emmert supports tougher penalties for schools who break the rules. It’s sure to be a popular statement among fans and pundits, who’ve watched as the summer months turned into a bit of a dramatic mess.

Forget the notable arrests and just focus on the NCAA issues: UConn and Tennessee self-imposed penalties due to violations, while some star recruits have had transcript issues. And that’s just for hoops. I don’t even want to get into football’s problems.

“It’s very complicated, a highly dynamic environment,” Emmert said Tuesday. “Around elite athletes, there are always people who see an opportunity to make money in the future, so the opportunities for those things are sort of omnipresent and what the university president and athletic directors have to do is be as rigorous as they can with what the university stands for, their values and be very attentive to it.

“And even then, sometimes, that (rules violations) happens.”

AP

So here’s the thing — if rules violations happen, how much cheating are we willing to tolerate?
 
Bruce Pearl undoubtedly stepped afoul of NCAA rules. He and his staff not only made impermissible calls to recruits, he reportedly hosted prospects when he shouldn’t have. Some might scoff at the idea that a guy should be pilloried because he didn’t break laws, only rules that may be seen as antiquated. Regardless of how you view Pearl, he’s not doing anything other coaches already do. (He just did them at what seems to be a much, much higher level and is being punished accordingly.)

A survey of 20 coaches by ESPN’s Dana O’Neil found that most don’t trust their peers. When CBSSportsline’s Gary Parrish interviewed 10 coaches after the Pearl mess, all 10 admitted they’d made impermissible calls. Some a few times; some many times.

“Any coach who tells you he hasn’t is lying,” one told Parrish. “We’ve all done it. You don’t need to interview coaches to get that answer.”

Some might argue that world view — “Rules? The rules don’t apply to me.” — is part of what makes great athletes and great coaches, well, great. They don’t always do things according to the rules. They do things how they think they should.

Even the game’s legends don’t escape that type of behavior if people associated with their program choose to ignore the rules.

But some bad behavior we choose to ignore. Some we choose to laugh about. Some we choose to vilify.

So what are we willing to tolerate?

Not the blatant cheaters. No paying players or agents. No grade changing.

Yet if we accept that some NCAA rules are silly — text messaging, for one — but still need to be followed, perhaps that’s one violation to tolerate. If coaches or programs run afoul of those rules then we can treat said rule breakers lightly. The same might apply to impermissible calls. But there’s a point where even silly rules stop being silly and start being serious. From Parrish’s article:

The only debate was whether the illegal calls are more often a sign of confusion or intentional cheating. One coach said the number of them typically tells the story.

“There’s a difference between 15 and 200,” he said. “It might be accidental if you make 15 impermissible calls over a two-year period, but you can’t accidentally make 200; that’s cheating. There’s no way the gray area leads to 200.”

To understand the gray area you must first understand that coaches are only allowed to call prospects once a month starting June 15 before their junior years, then twice a week starting August 1 after their junior years. It’s also important to note that calling a prospect’s family member is the same as calling a prospect. There are also guidelines that make it improper to call prospects while they’re at sanctioned summer events. So some impermissible calls, the coaches said, are rooted in calendar confusion and can be unavoidable.

“Let’s say there’s a kid I’m recruiting who’s scheduled to play in an AAU event, go home for a day, then play in another AAU event,” said one coach, citing just one example of how an impermissible call might get made. “I can’t call while he’s at either event, but I can call while he’s home. So on the day that he’s scheduled to be home, I call his cell phone. But what if his team decided at the last minute to go straight from the first event to the second event without going home? Now I’ve just made an impermissible call, and it was unavoidable.”

Thankfully, this is where Emmert comes in. The NCAA is supposed to examine those gray areas and decide what sort of punishment is necessary. Egregious violations call for serious consequences. When minor violations continue to mount, so should the consequences. And the small stuff? That’s where common sense applies.

We can tolerate coaches and programs who stretch the rules. If I expect a little forgiveness for jaywalking (there were no cars in either direction!) or speeding (seriously? it’s only 50 mph on the Interstate?), then I’ll probably cut a coach some slack who makes a few impermissible calls. But blatant rule breaking is out. That’s not worth tolerating, no matter how good a coach or athlete you are.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.