There's a lot going on in the sports world right now: Baseball is in the playoffs, NFL & NCAA football are in the middle of their season, NBA preseason games start up this weekend, NASCAR's season is nearing a class, the WNBA playoffs are going on... Okay, I was just kidding about the last one. Nobody watches the WNBA. But the point is that college basketball has been squeezed out of the news cycle. But there are still stories out there. Here's a quick round-up of some of the more interesting stories around the web right now:
Kelvin Sampson just won't go away - The Kelvin Sampson story continues to dominate the IU campus. Indiana University is insisting that they knew nothing of Sampson's actions, and that therefore they should not be on the hook for any further punishment by the NCAA. Sampson, meanwhile, is insisting that Indiana was well aware of what was going on. To me, this is like watching one of those court shows on daytime television - I feel sympathy for nobody. First of all, Kelvin Sampson is a dirty coach, period. He should have known better. To break the same rule that got him in trouble at his previous job is just arrogance. But at the same time, even if Indiana University is correct, they're still wrong. They knew they were hiring a dirty coach. After so many years of a clean program under Bobby Knight, they sold out and hired a coach with a checkered past because they thought he could bring more wins than Mike Davis. Guess not. It's possible that they're going to turn the corner this year, as Tom Crean was a wonderful hire. He's a great recruiter, and a very good in-game coach as well (in addition to being a person with no history of bad behavior). Both Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson were powerful recruiters, but I always felt like neither could coach their way out of a wet paper bag. Crean should make Hoosiers fans happy. This year is going to be tough for him, of course. Basically the entire team is gone, and they're re-building from scratch. My guess is that Indiana fans will be optimistic about it, however, if we are to learn anything from University of Michigan football fans this year. Fans are willing to deal with a rebuilding year when it feels like they're moving in the right direction. And I think that the University of Indiana is doing just that.
Preseason tournament fields are set - This page also gives the dates of the tournaments. As usual, the preseason NIT and Coaches vs Cancer will have elite fields. The Old Spice Classic is again full of outstanding teams. Most of the other big tournaments continue to be strong: Maui and Paradise Jam, for example. The Legends Classic has also caught on - after being a second tier tournament, it managed to put together a top tier field in '07, and now looks set to stay with another strong field. One tournament that has lost a lot of its luster is the Great Alaska Shootout, although that can't be a huge surprise. They were one of the first to get in on the preseason tournament business, and they got their pick of top programs. But now that are nearly a dozen of these things, how many schools are going to choose Alaska over Florida or Hawaii in late November? The only legitimate bubble team going out there this season is San Diego State.
Travis Ford update - Longtime readers know that I've always been a big Travis Ford fan. He is a big upgrade for Oklahoma State, and he should be able to achieve things in the Big 12 that he couldn't do in the Atlantic Ten. In my preaseason Big 12 predictions, I listed Oklahoma State as a bubble team that might come up just short of an at-large bid. With Ford, I might have to put them in. He does have a lot of good talent to work with, including seventh-year senior Byron Eaton (just kidding... but it does feel like he's been around forever).
Should we feel sympathy? - In one of those stories that casual fans will never see, star point guard Abdul Gaddy re-committed to Arizona, meaning that Lute Olsen cut a commitment that he had to point guard Reger Dewell. I usually am not a fan of CBS Sportsline college basketball writers (they tend to be pretty arrogant, and they're terrible as far as predictions go), but Gary Parrish has a good article on this topic. I have to agree with him here - I don't feel bad for Dewell. These kids are superheroes from time they're 12 years old, and they and their entourages get wined and dined by these coaches - to pretend that they're the same as kids in non-money sports is preposterous. They lie to coaches and back out of commitments all the time, so I don't feel sympathy of Dewell because a coach took the same action against him. I do have to say, though, that Lute Olsen is not a saint in all of this. He has shown a penchant for dishonesty, as it was just last season that he intentionally undermined Kevin O'Neill (by showing up at practices and games and speaking to O'Neill's players behind his back), and then backed out on a promise to let O'Neill be his successor. O'Neill showed a lot of character in agreeing to step down as head coach and rejoin Olsen as an assistant, and it showed a lack of character in Olsen's letting him go. So, while I don't feel bad for Dewell, I do have to say that I've lost a bit of respect for Olsen's integrity over the past few years.