Monday, August 11, 2014

Morning News: Catching Up On O'Bannon, Doug Wojcik, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kenny Kaminski And More

If anyone wants to donate paper towels to UCLA, they're interested.
It's that time for another Morning News post. There are kids are on campus!... Some of them, at least. We're reaching the end of the summer, and getting closer to more regular blogging. As I've been doing all offseason, I'll be catching up on news from over the past few weeks.

Autonomy/O'Bannon Before getting to the actual college basketball news, I want to touch briefly on the autonomy vote and the O'Bannon ruling. I've talked on these issues before, so I only want to address the impact of those two things on college basketball itself. And I think the answer is: Not much. Even if the O'Bannon ruling withstands appeal, the media has vastly overreacted to what really shouldn't produce any significant change.

The primary change that is coming was inevitable once the autonomy vote came, which is some kind of stipend or "cost of attendance" payment to athletes - something along the line of $2000-$3000/semester. Big schools have wanted this for a long time and the autonomy vote will finally allow them to get it. On the record, they want the stipend to help kids struggling to make ends meet, but off the record they simply believe it will provide a recruiting advantage. The O'Bannon ruling simply says that the NCAA can't ban those small stipends if conferences and schools want them. The O'Bannon judge, despite ruling against the NCAA across the board, still does not allow athletes "salaries", a direct piece of merchandise or video games, or to be endorsed. All that it allows are these relatively small stipends.

Will the stipends help the big schools in recruiting? I guess. But I doubt it will mean much. The bigger/wealthier  schools already spend so much money on their athletes to attract recruits, from personal chefs to charter jets to beautiful training facilities, that I doubt an extra few thousand dollars will make a difference. Also, this situation already exists for many athletes. Most college sports fans don't realize this, but scholarship athletes who live off campus already receive stipend checks to pay for room and board. If these checks are more than sufficient to pay for room and board (as is generally the case) the players get to pocket the extra money.

I remain supremely skeptical that any significant changes to college sports will ever happen. The world Jay Bilas and his allies want, where college sports are blown up and replaced by minor league football and basketball and players can be paid millions of dollars, just seems so incredibly implausible on so many levels. And the NCAA holds a trump card in that it can run to Congress and ask for anti-trust protection. In the end, I think we're getting what the O'Bannon judge suggested: $2,000-$3000/semester stipends to help supplement what is already covered by scholarships. It will mean a little bit of pain for kids in non-revenue sports (a few schools will have to cut some non-revenue men's and/or women's teams to pay for these stipends), and it might impact recruiting a little, but fundamentally college sports will remain basically the same.

College of Charleston Fires Doug Wojick This was one of the more slow-moving firings in recent memory. He's been on the way out for weeks, after allegations of verbal abuse. Presumably the last few weeks have simply been about lawyers negotiating the terms of the firing, to prevent a lawsuit down the road, but the net effect on the basketball program itself is pretty rough. College of Charleston has basically missed out on summer recruiting, hurting them for this coming season as well as the next couple of seasons.

College of Charleston did fine in their first season in the Colonial, finishing 6-10 in conference play. But there was no real reason to expect them to be significantly better next season, so certainly don't expect to hear much of them anytime soon. The next we'll hear from this program will be when a new coach comes in.

Emmanuel Mudiay Going To China This move presumably happened because Mudiay failed to qualify academically at SMU. The history of American basketball players in China is not great, so it remains to be seen how much of that supposed $1.2 Million he ever actually receives and what this does to his NBA prospects, but certainly this is a huge blow for SMU basketball next season. The Mustangs were strong enough last season to make the NCAA Tournament and were only left out as punishment for their crap strength of schedule, but with Mudiay in the fold Larry Brown's team was going to be a consensus Top 25 team preseason.

That all said, you can still make a case for SMU being a Top 25 team. There is other talent, including Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, and they still add Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert. UConn is also likely to be a borderline Top 25 team, so expect either UConn or SMU to be the preseason favorite in the AAC.

Kenny Kaminski Dismissed From Michigan State Kaminski will transfer to another school, but has not made that decision yet. In the short term, this is yet another blow for a Michigan State team that is heading into next season really short on depth - particularly in terms of players that can score. Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling are gone, as well as Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd. Kaminski provided front court depth, and also was an outside sharpshooter.

With Matt Costello the only proven front court returner, Tom Izzo will be forced to play a lot of small lineups built around Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine and Lourawls Nairn. My most recent bracket projection had Michigan State as an 11 seed, and they might end up dropping out of my next bracket. They certainly have the look and feel of a bubble team.

Vanderbilt's Eric McClellan Heading To Gonzaga This is some old news that I didn't get around to before, but it's important enough that it really should be mentioned. Vanderbilt's last season went into the tank once they lost McClellan, an explosive and dynamic backcourt playmaker. They were likely going to be near the bottom of the SEC next season even with McClellan, and so without him they'll likely be pretty poor.

This has been a fantastic summer for Gonzaga. They had a bunch of quality big men, including the newly added Kyle Wiltjer, and their questions were in the backcourt. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are very good, but there was nobody else returning who was at all proven. With the additions of Byron Wesley and now Eric McClellan, along with star 2014 recruit Josh Perkins, the Zags suddenly have a wealth of explosive backcourt options. The Zags have to be in contention for the Top Ten in the preseason polls.

Ohio State Will Likely Be Without Trevor Thompson The Virginia Tech transfer had applied for a hardship waiver, but it has been declined, and he will likely have to sit out the season. The big man will still be a good pickup for the Buckeyes, but it'll have to wait for another year.

Marquette's Todd Mayo Leaves To Go Pro Marquette's roster went into flux after the coaching transition, and things still haven't quite settled down. Todd Mayo didn't start a game last season for Marquette, but he was fifth on the team in minutes, earning 24 minutes per game off the bench and finishing as the team's third leading scorer. He would have been the top scoring returner. The thing with a coaching transition like this is that Marquette is going to end up with a small and young roster next season - it's inevitable. But if Wojo can't put together a good 2015 recruiting class and his team shows improvement throughout the season, it'll be a successful first year.

Josh Fortune Transferring From Providence To Colorado Fortune, one of the most important players at Providence this past season, is not a superstar, but he'll provide backcourt scoring depth and will have a good chance to start when he's eligible in the 2015-16 season. This is one of those moves that we'll be able to evaluate better a year from now.

Devon Walker Out For The Season Florida should still be a very good team next season, and very much in contention for the SEC title. But as talented as they are, it's tough to win when you have a total turning over of talent. Florida lost four starters from last season's team, and Walker's torn ACL costs them a proven bench piece. Rutgers transfer Eli Carter will be expected to step in and eat many of those minutes, though Carter himself is coming off a serious injury (a broken leg that forced him to sit out all of last season), so he's far from a sure thing himself. In other words, expect Kentucky to be the consensus preseason SEC favorite.

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