Adam Glatczak writes the
"Wednesday Onions" column for CollegeHoopsnet.com.
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It’s been a rather
quiet college basketball offseason-at least it had been until the
recent fiasco at LaSalle (ugh)-but that’s been a good thing after the
embarrassments and conference poaching from last summer. If only
college football didn’t do such a bang-up job of picking up the slack.
Welcome to the University of Miami, Mr. Williams…
-Touching on some
old news now: we won’t go overboard throwing bouquets at Mike
Krzyzewski for staying at Duke and rejecting the NBA. We’ll leave that
to ESPN. Besides, how hard of a decision can it really be to choose
between coaching Shavlik Randolph or Kobe (I Just Trust Myself More)
Bryant? Still, when you think about the particulars in this-about $10
million dollars a year, possible part-ownership of the team-you have
to admit it says something about Coach K that he would turn that down.
You can probably count the number of college coaches who would’ve
rejected such a pay increase on about two hands.
-A lot of people
wanted to see Krzyzewski go to the NBA, just to see what life was like
without his pick of the McDonald’s All-America litter every year. What
many appear to forget is that Coach K was once known for doing more
with less. Even his first NCAA championship team in 1991 was regarded
more for the sum of its parts than its whole, even with Christian
Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill. In his first 10-15 years at the
school, Krzyzewski routinely took very good players and made them into
a great team, much like Lute Olsen still does at Arizona. Duke has
only really received its national icon status in the past five years,
and even that’s happened as much because of ESPN’s hype as anything
else. While picking on Duke has evolved into a cool thing to do,
though, (and pretty much everyone not a fan is sick and tired of
hearing about the Blue Devils) it shouldn’t be forgotten that Coach K
can do a little coaching, too. He would likely be just fine if he
wasn’t getting the primest of the prime recruits.
-However, we’re not
sure if we have much sympathy for Coach K or any other coach going
forth who recruits high schoolers who indicate they’re looking at
going to the NBA. The frequency with which the top high school players
are skipping college and going pro has become so high that colleges
could save a lot of time and headache by not even wasting their time
chasing these guys. It’s been widely reported that one reason for
Krzyzewski’s flirtation with the Lakers has been the high schoolers
going pro, but there’s a simple fix for college coaches who don’t like
this: don’t recruit them. Programs like
Pittsburgh are proving you can be a consistent national contender
without recruiting the rent-a-players. Instead of trying to always
take the easiest way out and just recruit the best athletes, it’s time
for coaches to start getting players who want to be in college and
want to improve.
-Fifth year of
eligibility for players…competition-wise, it’s likely a wash. The top
programs still wouldn’t keep the NBA wannabees around any longer, but
with no 5/8 rule now they can just keep bringing in more players. Some
believe smaller schools who traditionally have more seniors will gain
an advantage, but whatever advantage there was before was likely wiped
out when the 5/8 rule was tossed.
Most likely the
effect on athletes (the effect that should matter the most, by the
way) is their process of getting out of school with a diploma is just
dragged out even further. Coaches aren’t going to be reducing the
demands on players during the season, meaning guys will continue to
take the minimum classes allowed and will continue to flunk classes
while the games are going on. A fifth year of play only prolongs this
process, maybe gets them to within 14 credits of a degree when they’re
done playing as opposed to 26. Again, the real way to improve
graduation rates and education is to reduce the demands on them during
season. While there are always exceptions with students switching
majors, studying abroad, etc., there’s still really no reason the
majority of college students-including athletes-shouldn’t be able to
get out of school in 4 or 4 ˝ years. If basketball is taking up so
much time during the season that it’s hurting grad rates, take a guess
at what maybe should be getting reduced in the schedule.
Scary part about
this is the coaches are proposing it, which tells you they think this
will help them out. They wouldn’t be suggesting it if they didn’t. The
scariest part, though, is that Myles Brand goes along with them and
doesn’t even seem to be contemplating the possible negatives. So we’re
going to say no, no, no. No. If you do it, it has to be done for every
single other NCAA sport out there.
-One other thought:
While the coaches are way behind this plan, it could just turn out to
be another inconvenience to them. There’s no guarantee that players
who play four years are even going to want to play a fifth. While the
coach will no doubt advise them to do so, there’s no way he can force
it. If a player has graduated after four years, maybe he wants to get
to the pros or onto a job and doesn’t want to be stuck in college
another year. Even if he hasn’t graduated, there’s nothing prohibiting
him from leaving. The rule could just be creating yet another roster
uncertainty, and we know coaches are already plum sick of that.
Thad Matta is not one of the college coaches who would’ve turned down
the Lakers’ money. By most accounts it sounds like Matta is supposed
to be one of the better guys out there, but he needs to learn how to
and how not to make a break. In leaving both
handled the situations about as bad as humanly possible.
-No need to dwell
on the lack of college players in the NBA Draft too much if you’re a
fan foremost of college basketball. College basketball is still much
different from the pro game, and with average players getting $40
million contracts and scrawny high schoolers occupying so much roster
space, NBA success shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate judge on whether
a guy can play. It still has to be said, though, that when a Sebastian
Telfair gets selected in the draft seven spots ahead of someone at his
position who is only the freaking reigning college player of the year,
it’s the NBA’s loss. How much more does a college senior have to
prove? The more appropriate question is how much more does he have to
-It’s just a good
thing college basketball coaches don’t make all of their recruiting
decisions based on “upside.” If they did, we’d probably never ever
even heard of guys like Nelson, Bobby Hurley or almost any other point
guard under 6-4.
-One of the most
uncertain offseason situations has been and still is going on at
Illinois-Chicago. UIC looked to have high expectations this year
provided former Prop 48s Cedrick Banks, Martell Bailey and Armond
Williams all graduated and received back their fourth years of
eligibility as hoped for. While there is no official word yet, the
tremors coming out of that area suggest it’s unlikely two of the three
will be back. Reportedly Bailey and Williams are appealing to the NCAA.
It seems Banks will make it, and being the best of the three players
he should help keep UIC in the thick of the Horizon League hunt, but
the Flames won’t be the prohibitive favorites they would have been if
all three returned.
-Much like so many
scandals nowadays, where it seems the truth never will come out, it’s
anyone’s guess who’s lying and who’s not in the
Savovic saga. Here’s a thought, though: why is it every time a
teacher, booster, fan or otherwise makes allegations against a
program, especially one as big as OSU, that person is automatically
labeled a gold-digger and is depicted to be one step from an insane
asylum? It happened with the teacher who spoke out about Maurice
Clarett not taking exams at OSU; in the past, it happened with the
teachers who went public about academic concerns at Tennessee,
Minnesota and Georgia, to name a few, and it’s happening now with
Katherine Salyers. Not saying Salyers can’t be someone with an axe to
grind, but the more schools use this defense the less believable it
becomes. It’s hard to fathom that every time someone levels
allegations against a university or college that their mental health
-Another example of
1) why fans shouldn’t be making plans around their teams’ schedules
until November at the earliest and 2) the continuing plight in
scheduling for schools dealing from non-power positions.
State looked awful nice (and gutsy) a few years when it agreed to a
2-for-1 deal to play Pepperdine, a deal that included a game last year
and called for a return to Malibu this year. In the two teams’ meeting
last year the Cowboys had one of their closest calls all season,
needing two free throws in the final 2.5 seconds to save an 84-82 home
win over a Pepperdine team that finished 15-15. The Cowboys were
scheduled to make a visit to the Waves’ Firestone Fieldhouse this year
but-you guessed it-OSU has wiggled its way out of the game. The word
from Stillwater is that it has to get out of the game for an ESPN date
and that the game is just being put off for a year; make what you want
of that. Even if it is played next year, though, Pepperdine doesn’t
look to be half the team it is this year, when five seniors should
have the Waves near the top of the WCC.
programmers wanting to look smart? Put together a game between
Washington and East Tennessee State and let 5-9 mini-guards Nate
Robinson and Tim Smith go at it. The Huskies’ Robinson is quite
possibly one of the five most exciting players to watch in the
country, and the Buccaneers’ Smith is unquestionably on that list.
Match these two fast-paced squads with the superfly guards, give the
game a little promotion, and laugh all the way to the bank because not
a single person who watches will be disappointed.
-While we’re at it,
here are some other games we’d love to see this year. Almost all of
the fun of November and December has been stripped away thanks to the
NCAA’s still-ridiculous 2-in-4 rule as well as the complete refusal of
top teams to take any kinds of chances during these months. The
ACC/Big 10 Challenge or a round-robin in December including Illinois,
Memphis, Missouri and Florida might look good to TV programmers, but
are the games interesting? Not when you’re fed the same kind of games
all January and February in conference play. The best one can do at
this point is dream of “what-ifs”:
Last year, the Huskies and Blazers put on one of the most entertaining
complete NCAA Tournament games in years. UAB is the closest thing we
have to the old Oklahoma, Loyola Marymount, UNLV or Arkansas teams.
Few games summed up the balance in last year’s tourney field better
than this one. The Terrapins by three, but you’d have to make the
Miners a favorite if it were played in El Paso. It’s not a slam-dunk
that Maryland would win at the Comcast Center, either.
Last year, one of these teams ran the so-called
better than anyone in the country, and it wasn’t the team you think.
There’s also the storyline of AFA coach Joe Scott taking over the
At Xavier. You only need to see one Xavier-Cincinnati game to see how
riled up fans in Cincy can get. Musketeer fans might have Thad Matta
weeping by the end of this one.
Kansas at Pacific,
Wake Forest at Manhattan, Wisconsin at Richmond, etc.
All of these games and many others similar should take place and in
the NCAA Tournament, so the teams benefiting from home court advantage
in the NCAAs one year get faced with the exact same not-so-neutral
circumstances their opponents were up against.
Two of the most unheralded and underrated backcourts in the country,
at least for now. Both have a chance to make a little national noise.
David Dees and Larry Blair are super sophomores who should carry the
Flames for the next three years, while Keydren Clark and Shane Nichols
are short (less than 12 ft. tall combined) but productive-37.3 points
per game combined. And Nichols was just a freshman last year.
Iona and Florida State all in the same tournament.
The Pat Kennedy Leap Frog Invitational, featuring his four previous
stops. Winner can play Kennedy’s current school, Towson.
Missouri at Belmont.
When Billy Tubbs coached at Oklahoma and his protégé Mike Newell was
having big success in the late 80s at Arkansas-Little Rock, Tubbs said
he’d play Newell’s Trojans but would never travel to Little Rock until
the Trojans could win one at OU’s Lloyd Noble Center. Under those
terms, it would be time for the Tigers to make a road trip to
Belmont’s sparkling new Curb Events Center.
The Panthers may not be as good this year as last, when they won 20
games and won at Auburn (yet were just fourth in the
but this is a game that should take place every year. We could come up
with about 100 in-state games similar to this that should be played
every year but aren’t, but in this case both teams tend to be pretty
athletic and fun to watch, and it’s not like travel costs are an
-The postseason NIT
has a reputation for being a springboard for the next season for many
of its final teams left standing. This year will be a good test for
that, as at least three of the four semifinalists from last year can
come into 2004-05 with high expectations. Optimism is high that
Michigan can be a top 25 team, and it might be tempting to put the
Wolverines in if the Big 10 weren’t so bad last year and if the Go
Blue didn’t have such a schizophrenic recent past. NCAA contention is
expected from Rutgers, although Big East teams won’t have games with
Virginia Tech and Miami to pad their win totals anymore. Still, the
Big East tends to produce one or two surprise teams every year. Also,
Iowa State won’t get quite as much hype in the Big 12, but the
Cyclones have a nice backcourt with Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock as
well as a habit of coming out of nowhere when not expected. The only
team that initially doesn’t look like an NCAA threat from here, at
least right now, is Nike University, er, Oregon. Malik Hairston may
think he’s the next Carmelo Anthony, but he’ll probably look more like
Leon Powe. The Ducks are missing far and away their best player from
last year (Luke Jackson), and unless a lot of players were deferring
to him, Oregon looks like a team with a lot of role players and
destined for the NIT. But at least they still have McArthur Court.
-Last month it was
Syracuse changing its nickname, even if it’ll never be acknowledged
here. (Sorry, Nike, SU is STILL the Orangemen) This month it’s
Missouri State changing from Indians to the Red Wolves. The
Indians-as-nicknames dispute is sort of like discussing politics or
abortion, so we won’t go there. We do think, though, that some people
won’t be happy until every single school in the country is nicknamed
after a colored fierce animal (even if that animal doesn’t exist) and
every single logo has been designed by either Nike or some graphics
agency in New York.
Cal State-Fullerton winning the College World Series. Good to see
there’s a sport some schools still can’t quite buy, though they’re
trying. Hilarious how Big 10 commish Jim Delany wants the college
baseball season pushed back a month because northern teams (read: his
Big 10) are at a competitive disadvantage. As has been pointed out by
many sources, where is Delany’s concern for those schools being put at
a competitive disadvantage by the BCS?
-If you’re looking
for a book detailing the all-around decline in the level of play of
basketball in this country-or if you just need some summer reading,
may we suggest Falling From Grace by Terry Pluto. The book is somewhat
dated-it was published in 1995-but it’s surprising just how relevant
it is almost 10 years later. The sources interviewed by Pluto make
some very sharp points; for instance, they explain how the supposed
better defense played by today’s teams is really just a product of a
lack of any kind of emphasis on offense. The descriptions of how
basketball will get hurt by the problems then also proved prophetic,
and one almost fears what Pluto would have to write if he wrote a
similar book now. The book focuses on pro basketball, but many of its
points can apply to college basketball and even levels below. Some of
the points are a little corny or wistful, but most are very much on
target. Pluto’s book does an excellent job of making readers
understand that the problems with basketball are more deep-rooted than
they’re usually presented to be.
-If you watched
college basketball in the 1980s you know the sport was just better
then. Coaches didn’t think of offense as a cancer, seniors were the
most important players on most teams, and schools hadn’t yet gone full
bore in turning the sport into nothing but a cash cow. In this
opinion, some of the best college basketball previews in recent memory
were also done by Sports Illustrated from 1985-88. SI used to set
aside a whole issue special just for college basketball, and it had
some great stories in a time when the game’s presence as a national
sport-on both the men’s and, to a lesser degree, women’s side-was
really starting to develop.
The 1986-87 preview
is a personal favorite, if for no other reason than that was the first
year this writer remembers watching college basketball extensively.
College hoops was fun then because there were so many teams, many
never heard of even for someone who followed college football. Being
introduced to a bracket and schools like San Diego, Xavier, Santa
Clara and Austin Peay was pretty cool just because you didn’t know
anything about them.
At this time,
college basketball was emerging as a big-time TV sport, with the Big
East on everywhere one looked, yet in these glorious pre-BCS times
there was still room for leagues like the WAC, Sun Belt and Missouri
Valley to be legitimate players on the national scene.
SI’s preseason top
1. North Carolina
9. Georgia Tech
14. N.C. State
In addition to the
top 20, SI also listed teams 21-40. Among the teams included were
Cleveland State, Northeastern, Texas-El Paso, Western Kentucky and
Miami (Florida), which had just resurrected its basketball program two
years earlier. A little bit different from the recent ESPN.com top 50,
which omitted any teams even remotely qualifying as sleepers while
going to great lengths to publicize some of the more average teams in
the country as possible national contenders.
interesting notes and pennings from this issue and this time in
-This was, of
course, a year that really revolutionized college basketball, with
both the 45-second shot clock and three-point line introduced. SI
featured Reggie Miller (UCLA) and Steve Alford (Indiana) among those
who would likely make best use of the 3-point line and was right on.
In fact, IU shot over 50% from three on its way to the 1987 NCAA
David Robinson, Armon Gilliam, Billy Donovan, Reggie Williams, Nate
Blackwell, Reggie Lewis, Horace Grant. Just some of the studs and
memorable names from this season, and all were seniors. Wasn’t it
great when the old guys dominated college basketball?
-Not that freshmen
didn’t matter then, either. J.R. Reid, Rex Chapman, Gary Payton,
Derrick Coleman, Lionel Simmons and Dwayne Schintzius were just a few
of the impact freshmen in 1986-87.
playmaker-first point guards were also in abundance at this time. Mark
Jackson (St. John’s), Mark Wade (UNLV), Muggsy Bogues (Wake Forest),
Doug Wojcik (Navy), Sherman Douglas (Syracuse) and Andre LaFleur
(Northeastern) were just some of the slick point guys who didn’t need
to score 15 ppg to have a definite influence on the outcome.
-It’s said over and
over that today’s players lack fundamentals, but watch just one
game-any game-from this time and it’s obvious to even the blind how
much better it was played then. Back then, clear-outs, the high ball
screen and one-on-one play were almost nowhere to be found, while
constant movement, unselfishness and good shooting were in.
-UNLV darn near
went a perfect 34-0 in the regular season. The Runnin’ Rebels lost
just one game, an 89-88 decision at Oklahoma in January. The game
didn’t go into overtime, but maybe it should have; cameras clearly
showed a three-pointer by Vegas at the end of the first half was
incorrectly ruled a two. CBS and Brent Musberger pointed out the
possible effect of this almost immediately after the final buzzer
sounded, and it made for an eerie ending in which one was almost
waiting for UNLV to be awarded a point after the buzzer and for the
teams to run back out on the floor for five more minutes of play.
-On the same
weekend in December in 1986, #3 Iowa played at Cal-Irvine, Michigan
played Middle Tennessee State in a tournament at UAB, and #6 Auburn
played at Texas-El Paso. #4 North Carolina played #2 Purdue in Dallas,
Texas, in a tournament hosted by SMU, and North Carolina State played
AT Division II Tampa-and lost. Think there’s any chance in
you-know-where of those games taking place in those places today?
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