Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Post-Draft BP68

With the NBA Draft complete I owe you a Post-NBA Draft BP68, and that's what you're getting in this post. This will be the last bracket projection until the Post-Midnight Madness BP68, which will be in mid-October. After that the next bracket projection will be published in mid-November.

Posting will continue for the next few months like it's been the past two months. There will be some transfer/signing news, and I'll take some looks at big signings from the class of 2012. Things will pick up in early October.

But for now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday.... which if you're keeping track is less than nine months away:


2. Duke
2. Louisville
2. KANSAS (BIG 12)

3. Florida
3. Pittsburgh
3. Texas

4. Vanderbilt
4. Wisconsin
4. UConn

5. Alabama
5. Purdue

6. Texas A&M
6. West Virginia
6. Marquette
6. Michigan State

7. Baylor
7. New Mexico

8. Xavier
8. Florida State
8. Michigan

9. Georgetown
9. Virginia Tech
9. Illinois

10. BYU
10. Oklahoma State
10. Cincinnati
10. San Diego State

11. Villanova
11. Indiana
11. Miami (Fl)

12. Notre Dame
12. Washington State
12. California
12. Saint Louis
12. Washington

13. Missouri
13. South Carolina




Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
NC State, Virginia, Duquesne, Rutgers, Iowa, Northwestern, Kansas State, Drexel, VCU, Tulsa, UAB, Northern Iowa, Wichita State, Stanford, Saint Mary's, Nevada, New Mexico State

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Clemson, Maryland, George Washington, Seton Hall, St. John's, Minnesota, Nebraska, Old Dominion, Central Florida, Marshall, Cleveland State, Detroit, Indiana State, Colorado State, Colorado, Oregon, USC, Utah, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Boston College, Georgia Tech, Dayton, South Florida, Iowa State, Oklahoma, James Madison, UTEP, Valparaiso, UW-Milwaukee, Princeton, Iona, Drake, Arizona State, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Charleston, San Francisco, Fresno State

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jereme Richmond's Uncle Is Insane

With the NBA Draft completed, I wanted to mention briefly what's coming up this week.

First, I will have a new BP68 in the next couple of days, which will be my last bracket projection until October. My most recent BP68 was way back in mid-April, and is here.

There is also some more player movement to talk about. There are some transfers, coaching changes, late signings, et cetera, that are worth talking about. And I'm sure there will be more coming later this summer. I'll also talk a little bit about some early 2012 recruiting.

The title of this post is in response to this unbelievable article from the Chicago Tribune. Most people were surprised, as I was, when Richmond left Illinois after his freshman year. The day before the Draft I did a preview, and Richmond was on my list of guys that I thought should not be taken by any team in any spot. Here's what I said:

If I'm an NBA team, I never draft a guy who can't even start for his college team. He was a big high school recruit, but not as big as Josh Selby, and he was even more of a disappointment during the season than Selby was. He scored only 7.6 points per game, with 5.0 rebounds per game and as many turnovers as assists. I don't even know what his skill is - he wasn't one of the best shooters, scorers, passers, rebounders or defenders on Illinois. He needs at least another year or two in college, and is almost a lock to go straight to the NBDL for a couple of years. I wouldn't take him even with the last pick in the NBA Draft.

Here's what Jereme's uncle told the Tribune:

NBA executives have to be a fool not to consider him. They have to be fools and they are fools, but what they're going to do is they're going to get him for cheap... He's way better than (No. 1 overall selection) Kyrie Irving. He's right there with (North Carolina's) Harrison Barnes. I can't tell the difference. Jereme is soft spoken and he's different, but that doesn't make him a bad person.

Better than Kyrie Irving? The Irving who was arguably the best player on Duke when healthy, as opposed to the Jereme Richmond who couldn't even start for an Illinois team that barely snuck into the NCAA Tournament? You expect family members to over-rate their family members. But that has to be the single worst I've seen in quite a long time...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thoughts On The 2011 NBA Draft

The NBA Draft is tomorrow, and in the past I've basically ignored it from this blog's perspective. I certainly watch the Draft to see where players I care about go, and to see which players go to my beloved New York Knicks (yes, I loathe Isiah Thomas with every fiber of my being, so thanks for asking). I do always throw up a new bracket projection around the NBA Draft, and I will have one up in the next week. But that's it.

But this year I figure I'll write down my thoughts. I can't speak for the players that didn't play Division I basketball. I'm one of the 0.1% of Americans that cares enough about European basketball to at least check the scores and results from the Euroleague and EuroBasket on the web, but I basically never watch any games, and don't feel capable of judging these players. So for all the pre-Draft hype about a player like Bismack Biyombo, I have no educated opinion on his ability to play in the NBA.

But I do watch a ton of Division I basketball, and I do spend a lot of time projecting how players will develop, so there's no reason that I can't project tomorrow's draft picks a little bit. At the very least it will give people something to look back on and laugh at five years from now, since I'm sure I'll say at least something stupid.

The 15 Top Prospects:

The NBA always invites the top prospects to be in the "green room" during the Draft, and that list of players is here. Of those 15 players, 12 played on Division I teams last season. Here are my thoughts on a few of them:

Kyrie Irving - It might seem a bit silly to put the player expected by everybody to go #1 to be "underrated", but I'm calling him that in response to the near unanimity among draft analysts that this is a very weak draft, and that Irving is at best going to be an average starting point guard. I first of all would be hesitant to call this draft weak, since it's very hard to project that sort of thing. Typically, a draft is called "strong" if it has a superstar at the top (Oden/Durant, Derrick Rose, etc), which is a silly way to do it since about 60 other players will be selected.

I'm particularly confused by how down everybody is on Kyrie Irving. I know that he only played half a season in college, but that didn't stop plenty of people from hyping up Dwight Howard and Kwame Brown and other players who came right out of high school. Irving in particular is good at everything. He's an excellent passer and ball handler, and he's got a great head. He strikes me as very mature for somebody his age, and I expect him to be a hard worker and a team leader. He doesn't have the raw physical size or athleticism of a point guard like Derrick Rose, so I don't see an MVP in his future, but I think he's a future All-Star.

Derrick Williams - Williams is expected to go in the top four picks, but in my opinion it's insane if he drops below the second pick. Williams is 6'8", shot 42-for-74 (56.8%) behind the arc this past season, led all players from BCS conference teams in fouls drawn per 40 minutes played this past season, and is a great rebounder. He's got superb athleticism for his height. He's not a great defender yet, but he has all of the physical tools to become one, and once he does he'll be good enough to be the #2 or #3 guy on an NBA title team.

Kawhi Leonard - I can't speak for the foreign players, but of the Americans he'd be my third pick, behind Irving and Williams. Leonard does everything - he was the primary playmaker, the best scorer, the best rebounder, and the best defender on this past year's tremendously successful San Diego State team. His defense is particularly impressive in my view, and he can come into the NBA and immediately guard absolutely any guard. A lot of people don't realize how big he is - he was listed at the draft combine as 6'6", 227 pounds. To compare, Shawn Marion is listed by Dallas as 6'8", 228 pounds. So Leonard can come in and be a Marion-style defender, but with better scoring ability. Leonard can be a sixth-man off the bench as a rookie.

Klay Thompson - He's been a big time scorer since his freshman year at Washington State, but a lot of that was just volume scoring for a team that didn't have a lot of help for him. He's not a particularly efficient scorer (a 52.5 eFG% this past season), and he's not that quick for a shooting guard. The fact that he is 6'6" helped him score over college defenders, but it won't help him in the NBA. And he's never been a player who made his teammates better. His teams never won, and while part of that can be blamed on inferior teammates, I also saw that team go on too many runs with him on the bench. Not to mention the off-the-court worries with his marijuana suspension. Not only would I not take him with a Lottery Pick (Chad Ford has him going 10th overall), but I wouldn't take him with any first round pick.

Jimmer Fredette - This one pains me, because I thought that Jimmer was actually underrated by casual fans during the season. Too many people viewed him as just a white guy that shoots threes. His athleticism was tremendously underrated, and he is a very good passer. But that said, I'm shocked to see so many experts actually project him as a possible top ten pick, and say that he's a guarantee Lottery Pick. Fredette is, in my view, a little bit of a tweener player. He's projected as a point guard, but I don't think he has the quickness to be a modern NBA point guard. He's only 6'1", and will have trouble defensively against most anybody he is matched up with in the NBA. I think his ceiling is higher than a guy like JJ Redick or Kyle Korver, but there's too much risk that he'll turn out to be another one of those players. A three-point specialist simply isn't worth a Lottery Pick. I'd take Fredette if he fell to me outside the top 20 picks.

Kemba Walker - Walker was the big star of the NCAA Tournament, so he's getting a ton of hype and he's almost universally being projected to go in the top ten, and some have him in the top five. Besides the fact that guys whose stock soar during the NCAA Tournament have a tendency to flop in the NBA because of the fallacy of judging a player on a really small sample size, there are a bunch of reasons to be down on Walker. He's only 5'11", which means that many point guards are going to tower over him and make it difficult for him to shoot. He scored a lot of points and created a lot of highlights in college, but that was because he had the ball in his hand and was asked to make the play on almost 100% of possessions while on the floor. He will have to be more efficient with less of the ball in the NBA. He's an average-at-best defender, and he's a poor outside shooter (33% on 227 threes taken this past season). Other than his ball handling skills, I don't see what he's supposed to be elite at. After Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight is the only other big time point guard prospect this year, in my opinion. If those two are gone and you've got to take a point guard, I'd probably take Norris Cole before I'd take Walker. I'd even view Isaiah Thomas as basically the same player as Walker, and he's projected to go in the mid-to-late 2nd round, mostly because he played in the Pac-10 instead of the Big East, and because he didn't have a glamor run through the NCAA Tournament.

Marcus Morris - He was a good college player, but I'm very surprised to see everybody taking him as a top ten pick. He'll probably drop no further than 12th no matter what happens. I just don't get why anybody think he's ever going to be an NBA starter. What is his skill? He's 6'7", 230 pounds, which makes him about halfway in size between Derrick Williams (6'7 1/4", 248) and Klay Thompson (6'6", 206). Carmelo Anthony is 6'8", 230, as is Rudy Gay. Even classic "undersized bigs" that succeed despite struggling against bigger players are much bigger than Marcus Morris, such as Carlos Boozer (6'9", 266) and Zach Randolph (6'9", 260). What has anybody seen from him that makes them think he can play small forward at the NBA level? He's a power forward who is way too small to play power forward. There's no way I'd spend a Lottery Pick on him.

Late First/Early Second Round Picks:

Isaiah Thomas - I'm a big Isaiah Thomas fan (despite his name - see above). I know that he's only 5'9", but Kemba Walker is only 5'11", and it's not like you'd be spending a Lottery Pick on Thomas. What Thomas did in the Pac-10 tournament this past season was remarkable (you can read my take on it here). He's a great scorer and playmaker, has improved rapidly throughout his three seasons at Washington, and is a great clutch performer. His height will keep him from ever being a superstar, but he can be an explosive player off the bench for a good NBA team. If I was picking late in the first round I'd definitely grab him.

Marshon Brooks - He probably compares closest to Klay Thompson. They're both shooting guards who dominated the ball for inferior teams, and they're only an inch apart in height. But Brooks had teammates that were even worse than Thompson, played better competition in a better conference, and was a more efficient scorer. He's also quicker and didn't rely on using his height to score. And Brooks developed more during his career than Thompson, who was a star right away as a freshman. It's insane to me that so many people are projecting Thompson above Brooks. To me, it's a lock that Brooks will be the better pro.

Kenneth Faried - With draft picks you can talk about ceilings, and I'll readily admit that Faried is unlikely to be a superstar. There are plenty of other players in this draft with a higher ceilings. But to me, Faried is a sure thing. He's going to be an outstanding rebounder, he will provide toughness, he'll be a solid defender, and a high quality character. I'll be surprised if when all is said and done, he doesn't end up being one of the ten best players from this draft. I know that his rebounding numbers were inflated by his weak competition, but rebounding is also the skill that always translates best from college to the NBA, and he did dominate the paint against Louisville in the NCAA Tournament. I'd take him with any pick outside the top ten, unless I already had elite rebounding on my team and a guy like Marshon Brooks was still available.

Norris Cole - Very unknown because he played at Cleveland State, but he was quite the star there. He's a good scorer, a great passer, and an excellent defender. He did absolutely everything for a Cleveland State program that hadn't made a postseason tournament in almost 20 years before he showed up, and won a conference title, won an NCAA Tournament game, and also made a pair of NITs before he left. He doesn't have the size or speed to be an NBA star, and he's going to have to work on his outside shooting to be a successful NBA player, but there's no way I'd let him get out of the first round.

Josh Selby - His stock has dropped like a rock, but he's still being projected to go in the middle of the first round by a lot of people. I think I've seen him projected to go to my Knicks with the 17th pick more than any other player, and I'm begging them not to do it. He was disappointing after all the hype he got, and didn't even start down the stretch for Kansas. He definitely needs another year or two at the college level before he'll be ready for the NBA, which means there's a real chance he'll end up in the NBDL. He dominated high school ball, but he doesn't have a skill that was even good at the college level. He wasn't one of the best perimeter defenders on Kansas, he's not a good passer, and he's not a good shooter for a guard (36.2% behind the arc). His 93.8 Pomeroy ORtg made him by far the least efficient offensive player on Kansas (every other player in the 11 man rotation had an ORtg over 100). There's no chance I'd spend a first round pick on him.

Nicola Vucevic - Like Marcus Morris, when I looked at the first mock drafts this spring I was shocked to see how high he was being projected. He's seen as a borderline Lottery Pick, and it's looking unlikely he'll survive the top 20 picks. The only rationale appears to be that of the top 100 prospects, he's the biggest (6'10 1/4", 260 pounds). But first of all, that height was a lot smaller than he was listed in college (as a 7-footer), and he's never played up to his size. He likes to play on the wing and takes a lot of jump shots, and he's a good-but-not-great rebounder. He can score, but no NBA team is going to run their offense through him, even on a second unit. He's going to get out-muscled by NBA power forwards, and isn't a good enough scorer to make up for that. I know that this draft is weak at the center position, but that's not an excuse to take a guy 20+ spots above where he deserves.

The Rest:

Jordan Williams - It's looking unlikely that Williams will go before the middle of the second round, and I think he'll be a steal there. He's going to be an undersized power forward (6'8" 247), but he's been a guy who always played bigger than his real size. He's tough and physical, and has an array of ways to score in the paint. I don't know how somebody who watched him and Nicola Vucevic play would take Vucevic over him. Vucevic is 2.5 inches taller, but if you didn't have a tape measure and just watched them play you'd have sworn that Williams was taller. And Williams dominated the ACC while Vucevic was just a good Pac-10 player. I'd definitely take Williams first.

David Lighty - I know that he was part of the Thad Five, and it feels like he was a 9th year senior this past season, but I don't get why NBA teams dramatically downgrade a prospect just because they're a year or two too old. Lighty is going to be a glue guy in the NBA. JaJuan Johnson was picked as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, but my pick would have been Lighty. And he's improved dramatically as an outside shooter (up to 42.9% behind the arc as a senior). Every team wants to have a guy who can defend both guards and small forwards well and can stand in the corner and hit threes. He will end up being one of the first guys off the bench for good NBA teams for the next decade. You're saying that's not good value for a late first round pick? Instead he probably won't even get taken at all.

Jon Leuer - He won't be physically ready to play big minutes his first year or two in the NBA, but he's still growing into his body. He was measured a true 6'10" at the Draft combine and will be even better when he adds 20 pounds of muscle. He's athletic enough to drive the lane, and can step outside and hit threes (37% on 146 attempts as a senior). He won't ever be an NBA star and he is not very good defensively, so I wouldn't spend a lottery pick on him, but he'll end up being a better NBA player than most of the players taken in the latter half of the first round, despite the fact that he'll almost certainly fall to the second round himself.

Matt Howard - I wouldn't spend a first round pick on him, but the fact that I haven't seen a mock draft yet that has him even being picked in the second round seems ridiculous to me. He doesn't have the athleticism to be a star, but he's a tough rebounder, a very good passer, a good outside shooter (39.8% behind the arc as a senior) and a high-effort/high-character player. I'd be ready to put him at the back end of my nine-man rotation right away if I was an NBA coach. It's a mistake that scouts often assume that 18-19 year olds will develop but 21-22 year olds won't . Howard is the perfect example of a guy who improved leaps and bounds between his junior and senior years, and there's no reason he won't continue to improve, particularly with the passion he plays with. I'd take him early in the second round.

LaceDarius Dunn - The fact that there are some mock drafts that have him getting picked at all makes me wonder if those people ever watched him play. There's no chance I'd let him on my team. He's a ball hog who doesn't know how to pass despite the fact that he's an inefficient scorer, and he punched his girlfriend in the mouth and broke her jaw. I even called for Baylor to bench him during the season. There is no upside. Don't touch him.

Jereme Richmond - If I'm an NBA team, I never draft a guy who can't even start for his college team. He was a big high school recruit, but not as big as Josh Selby, and he was even more of a disappointment during the season than Selby was. He scored only 7.6 points per game, with 5.0 rebounds per game and as many turnovers as assists. I don't even know what his skill is - he wasn't one of the best shooters, scorers, passers, rebounders or defenders on Illinois. He needs at least another year or two in college, and is almost a lock to go straight to the NBDL for a couple of years. I wouldn't take him even with the last pick in the NBA Draft.

DeMetri McCamey - I'm going back to Illinois for probably the single most disappointing player in the Big Ten last season. McCamey does not give good effort, he has a bad attitude (to the point that he was benched many times in his career) and hasn't developed at all since being a really good freshman (I was actually really high on him a few years ago). But he needs to get better to make an NBA roster, and if anything he's regressed over the past two years. There's no chance I'd spend a draft pick on him.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Saif Saaeed Shaheen, And Why Jay Bilas Is Wrong On Paying College Athletes

The idea that top basketball and football players should be paid some compensation is not in any way new. There have been some clamoring for it for decades. But the volume has picked up over the past few months for a couple of reasons. First, a class action lawsuit was taken against the NCAA by college basketball players, with Ed O'Bannon as the name atop the suit, to get money for former players that had their likenesses used in NCAA sports video games (and that lawsuit is not going away anytime soon). Then things really began to heat up with ESPN's Fab Five documentary.

The mainstream media isn't paying a whole lot of attention to it (other than professional controversy monger Jason Whitlock), but it has been getting a lot of play on the internet, both on blogs and twitter. Jay Bilas has particularly been hammering the issue, posting multiple times every day on this issue. Bilas is arguing for an "Olympic-style" system for college sports. Bilas is the college basketball commentator that I respect most, and he does a great job of analyzing games, but he couldn't be more wrong on this issue, including for reasons that I haven't seen articulated anywhere (and will get to in this post).

But I'll get to that in a moment. First, let's go through the old arguments:

Why Colleges Shouldn't Pay Players Directly:

It's interesting to me that the idea of colleges paying players directly has fallen out of vogue, because that used to be the argument I'd hear. The reason this position has become less popular has been because of the deluge of research saying that almost all athletic departments already lose money (see here and here for two of many examples).

Paying athletes in the revenue sports would mean either cutting the non-revenue sports, or cutting academic spending. And if you really believe that we should keep everybody but football and basketball players from having the opportunity to be a student-athlete, or that paying athletes is more important than paying 100 more professors, then your priorities really are messed up, no matter how much you love sports.

Jay Bilas: Use The "Olympic Model"

Jay Bilas has been on a mission the past couple of months pushing this idea. You can read about it here. It's behind the ESPN Insider pay wall, but you can read the key passages in an approving post from The Big Lead here. He's been absolutely hammering this on twitter every day for a couple of months now, and I'll go through a few of those as I analyze his arguments.

The Jay Bilas model basically boils down to letting athletes get endorsements. He points to Olympic athletes, who aren't really paid by the US Olympic team, but are allowed to do tv commercials to supplement their income. Michael Phelps gets to do Subway commercials, for example. Bilas says that athletes should be able to do local car commercials, or sell their autograph. As he argues, college athletes are already compensated, we're just debating how much they get compensated.

Legalization Of Endorsements Would Make "Endorsements" A Joke:

This is the first problem with the Jay Bilas model. Sure, there are a handful of athletes who are well known enough to get national commercials, and plenty of others that could get paid $500 to do an ad for a local car dealership. But we all know what would immediately happen: every big money booster would begin offering endorsements to every key recruit. Instead of spending $1 Million putting your name on the weight room, why not give the five incoming basketball recruits $200,000 to "endorse" your company's product?

What are the problems with this facade? Where to begin?

  • If you're complaining about the current system being a joke, don't create a new system that would be a joke. Don't call it "endorsements" - just call it "payment". The idea that the owner of a local company who donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to a university's sports programs is going to make sure that the stars of the team don't get more than market value for endorsements is preposterous - nobody believes that would happen.
  • Jay Bilas argues that the NCAA could review business deals to make sure they're legit, but how can you possibly control the value of contracts? Even if the NCAA did think they could tell companies what they were allowed to pay players, boosters would always find a way around it by hiring the players to do more. Hire them as consultants, hire them to give motivational speeches. Print a million posters with their picture on it. They'll be able to spend the money if they want to.
  • This will negatively impact all of the other sports by concentrating the money on the players that need it least. When boosters give money to a school to improve a training facility or weight room, that often benefits athletes from other sports. And much of the money boosters donate often goes to academic purposes. That will end once boosters can give their money directly to athletes.
We Don't Even Allow "The Olympic Model" With Professional Basketball or Football

This is the angle that I haven't seen anybody talking about, and why I wanted to write this post. Yes, we do allow companies to sponsor "amateur" Olympic athletes, but we don't allow that model for team sports. Nike isn't allowed to tell players that they'll get an extra $5 Million in their contract if they come and play for a certain team. Teams aren't allowed to entice free agents by saying "We'll give you $x Million over 5 years, and we'll also hook you up with a Gatorade contract." Why is that?

Most importantly, teams would be unable to win outside large cities. Do you think Nike would be happier if Chris Paul was playing in New York or Los Angeles? Or Dwight Howard? Of course. They'll pay big money to make it happen. Smaller cities do have financial disadvantages, but American sports go through great effort to alleviate that through revenue sharing, player drafts, free agency compensation, salary caps, etc. None of those would exist in college sports - the best players would be bought by the big money schools with no recourse for smaller schools.

And this is something that doesn't apply to Olympic sports. The only way it could would be if big American companies were paying big money to buy foreign athletes to change their citizenship. Right now, US companies are just helping Olympic athletes make a living by paying them - they aren't affecting the competitive balance of the Olympics.

In fact, it's not unheard of for people to try to spend money to mess with the competitive balance at the Olympics. Qatar is famous for buying athletes. The most notable is probably Saif Saaeed Shaheen, who was known as Stephen Cherono when he broke the steeplechase world record with Kenya. Qatar also does this with other sports, including soccer.

But first of all, this is not an issue in any country in the western world. Most people want to root for people from their own country at the Olympics - they won't feel good rooting for players that have been bought. But more importantly, international sports have all sorts of rules that keep this from being a very powerful tool. The Olympics bans athletes from representing more than one country in a three year span, so Saif Saaeed Shaheen was effectively banned from the sport for three years, which included being forced to miss the 2004 Olympics. It's even more strict in soccer, where you cannot play a competitive match with the senior level squad of more than one nation. So Qatar is forced to buy players that are very young, and is unable to get any truly elite athletes that way.

The Jay Bilas "Olympic Model" would be completely different. Athletes could be bought and sold and switch schools at will, with no need to sit out. Fans wouldn't be rooting for students that go to the same school as them, but mercenaries that went to the highest bidder.

Star Basketball And Football Players Are The Least Needy People On Campus

Many of the people I've seen clamoring for more money for star basketball and football players were star basketball and football players themselves. And I think they need to see it from the perspective of athletes from other sports. If you're on the North Carolina crew or track & field teams, you work just as hard as the basketball and football players. You give up just as much of your time. You have dedicated as much of your life. But you're not talking to tv and newspaper reporters every day. You don't have half the girls on campus wanting to sleep with you. You don't have great jobs from boosters waiting for you if you graduate and don't succeed in professional sports. In fact, you typically don't have professional sports to look forward to at all.

Basketball and football players are already treated far better than other athletes at the same school, even at schools small enough that they don't run profits from their so-called "revenue sports". They basically all get scholarships (as opposed to non-revenue sports, particularly male sports, where the whole team is often sharing pieces of just a handful of scholarships), and at any big school there is a big study center with computers, free snacks, free tutors, etc. They get better grades than normal students for the same work from star-struck teachers, or from teachers afraid to hurt the team by failing one of the players. And of course, again, the girls. Many old people may forget what it was like to be a 20 or 21 year old male, but I can assure you that most of those kids would not trade the girls they get for four years for being sports stars for $100,000 cash.

If you ask athletes from non-revenue sports, or students that aren't athletes at all, they'll tell you that the last people on campus that deserve more compensation are basketball and football stars.

What Would Happen If We Went With The "Olympic Model"?

Overnight, the number of competitive schools in the major sports would drop to a couple of dozen. There's simply no way we'd see another George Mason or Gonzaga or Butler in basketball. Jay Bilas has argued that smaller schools can't compete for the top recruits anyway, and that roster limits will keep the top schools from keeping all of the top recruits.

But this is false. The Rivals list of top recruits in the 2011 class has Top 100 recruits going to schools like Harvard, Alcorn State, Gonzaga and Charleston. And the reality is that recruiting is even more spread out than Rivals admits, because those scouting services are biased toward players going to top schools. When a kid signs with Duke or Kentucky their ranking will always move up.

And not only are smaller schools stealing top recruits, but they have a big advantage nowadays for mid-level recruits. Would you rather be on the bench for a Big East school, or would you rather star in the Missouri Valley? Many kids would now choose the latter. But what if the Big East school can have their boosters hook you up with an $800,000 "endorsement deal"?

Yes, The Current NCAA System Is Stupid In Many Ways

I get as upset as anybody else at how silly the NCAA can be at times. They crucify athletes and coaches for lying in a meaningless investigation, but look the other way at John Calipari's shading dealing, and all of the players being paid on the Auburn football team.

And yes, the concept of "student athlete" is a joke for many top basketball/football players, who never go to class and can barely spell. Though it should be pointed out that this stereotype isn't true of all players - there are kids playing at a high level at big time BCS conference schools who also have engineering degrees, or go to business or medical school after they gradate. Plenty of kids spend road trips studying and taking exams.

But the solution to all of the bad behavior isn't to throw up our hands and say "The system is broke. Let's go the whole nine yards and make NCAA sports even seedier than any of our professional sports leagues." The solution is to fix the problems we have now.

I would support new rules on coaches. I would ban them from coaching for a period of time anytime a team they coached gets a serious punishment (see: Calipari, John). I would have stricter audits of student athlete academic performances, to make sure that they're getting grades that they deserve. I would punish coaches that encourage kids to miss class. I would forbid coaches from recruiting a kid that played on a team in the past two years that had as a coach somebody currently on the college's staff, and I would forbid college teams from hiring somebody who is a relative or a former coach of one of the team's players or recruits.

There are other ideas, and certainly my ideas aren't perfect. But we can fix college sports without destroying them. I have a lot of respect for Jay Bilas. But on paying athletes he's flat out wrong.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Schools For Ryan Harrow, Luke Hancock And DeAndre Daniels

Ryan Harrow will transfer from NC State to Kentucky - It's been known for some time that Ryan Harrow would be transferring. He'll have to sit out the 2011-12 season, so this transfer won't affect the coming year, but it could mean a lot for Kentucky in 2012-13. It's always hard to project Kentucky's lineup more than one year ahead because John Calipari has such a high NBA defection rate every year, but if there's one thing that his young teams have tended to lack it's a true point guard. They had one this past season in Brandon Knight, but it's rare for a true freshman to be able to really play the point (John Wall played a lot of point and was obviously a great player, but he was never really a true point guard and was more of a true scorer). Harrow is an excellent distributor who will help provide experience and calm on offense.

Luke Hancock will transfer to Louisville - This is a big decision for both teams. Hancock was, in my opinion, the second best player on a very good George Mason team this past season. He's an efficient shooter, a very good passer, and has NBA length. He also has two years of eligibility remaining, which presumably will begin with the 2012-13 season for Louisville. Like with Kentucky, Louisville is a bit hard to project more than one year away, and we'll have to see how their 2011 recruiting class develops, and who Rick Pitino can put together for his 2012 recruiting class, but I have no doubt that Hancock will play a big role for that team as soon as he is eligible. For George Mason this is a big blow. This was a team primed to run away with the Colonial and to be (in my opinion) a Top 25 team. But losing Jim Larranaga and getting Paul Hewitt is (in my opinion) a downgrade. And while Hewitt did grab Erik Copes, he's still a downgrade from Hancock, who is leaving. George Mason will still be a good team that will be at least bubble quality, but the CAA is now up for grabs, with Drexel, VCU and perhaps even Old Dominion having a real chance to grab the title.

UConn lands DeAndre Daniels: I've talked a couple of times recently about the major depth problems that UConn has for next season (see here for an example). Things got tighter with the school being knocked down to ten scholarships by poor academic performance. Jim Calhoun has now filled that tenth spot with a very good recruit in Daniels, a very athletic 6'8" forward who can run the floor like a guard. UConn has a lot of size returning (Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith, Tyler Olander, Niels Giffey, Enosch Wolff and Michael Bradley), but only Smith has any speed. The rest are just big bodies. Daniels can play small forward, and will compliment their explosive backcourt scorers (Shabazz Napier, Jeremy Lamb and Ryan Boatright).

UConn could definitely use a fourth guard for depth purposes, and while they haven't been closely linked with one, don't be shocked if they find one. Jim Calhoun has never been a coach to hesitate to cut one of his own guys loose, and one of those bigs will find their scholarships pulled if Calhoun can find a little bit more depth. But unless he does find one, then even with Daniels I find UConn very overrated heading into next season. The Huskies will get Final Four hype coming into the new season, but I see them still as the fourth best team in the Big East, and even with Daniels I see them ending up with something in the 4 or 5 seed range.

Penn State Hires Patrick Chambers

With Ed DeChellis leaving for Navy, Penn State has filled their coaching vacancy with Boston University's Patrick Chambers.

Chambers is a little bit of an unknown. He did spend a few years as an assistant at Villanova, but otherwise has just spent two years as a head coach at Boston. Penn State is going to be a complete rebuilding job. I don't want to repeat everything I said in this post, but suffice to say the team is going to be a shell of the 2010-11 squad for the upcoming 2011-12 season. And the rebuilding job is going to take even longer, because hotshot transfer Juwan Staten has backed out of commitment after DeChellis left, and is now headed to West Virginia instead (I'll have another post on that transfer sometime soon).

Chambers is known as an excitable, energetic young coach, but his task will be daunting. Penn State doesn't have a lot of natural advantages relative to other Big Ten teams. They struggle to fill their arena, and they have a lot more in-state competition (Pitt, Villanova, Temple, et al) for less talent than does the Nittany Lions football team. This is a complete rebuilding job, and the top priority for Chambers has to be his 2012 recruiting class. The only way Penn State doesn't finish in last place in the Big Ten this coming season will be if another team horribly disappoints because of injuries or just general bad play. No coach on earth could earn even an NIT bid with the roster that Penn State has right now.

But I've pointed to recent short-term success stories at bottom-tier BCS conference programs. What Mike Rice has done in one year at Rutgers is a perfect example of what is possible at Penn State. Only time will tell.