Posted on: May 2, 2011 2:55 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 3:00 pm

Knight truly debating a return to UK? Unlikely.

Posted by Matt Norlander

Try not to read too much into it, that's all I can say to Kentucky fans and those who are looking for a story where it probably doesn't exist. Taking this with a grain of salt, that's probably the safest bet. But Brandon Knight, nevertheless, did tell a group of students that he was "50-50" on returning to the University of Kentucky next season.

It's not going to happen, but in the relatively slow first-week-of-May news cycle for college basketball, this qualifies as something to build a blog post around. Primarily because: If Knight goes back, Kentucky's on North Carolina's level. And I can't deny I'd love to see him back.

I've written here before about the unexpected return of so many good college players, and I'd love it if Knight decided to head back to Lexington, giving our sport yet another boost of hype heading into the 2011-12 campaign. But at this point, unless he really suffers at teams' workouts, Knight's as good as gone, as he should be.

The encouraging thing about Knight's right to waffle: he's the most NBA-ready player Kentucky has. If he's unsure, what about his teammates who've also already put their names into the pool? Terrence Jones is solid in some areas, but there's a lot of need for improvement in his game. Junior DeAndre Liggins, the defensive specialist who also declared, is physically ready for the next level, but his offensive game has miles and miles to go, even if he his a sneaky-good 3-point shooter.

No chance all three come back, but one of them very easily could. Liggins is seen as a second-round pick; Jones could conceivably play his way into the top-five in the 2012 Draft, should he choose to spurn immediate millions now.

The triumvirate has six days left. The deadline to withdraw is May 8. If even one of them is with the Wildcats next season, we'll have a tight preseason race at the top.

Photo: AP

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: May 1, 2011 4:32 pm

Butler's Howard wins dubious award

Posted by Eric Angevine

What's in a name? The immortal bard would have us believe that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But what if you call a rose the Eddie Sutton Tustenugee award? How does that smell?

Butler Bulldogs senior forward Matt Howard was selected by a national media panel to receive a postseason honor by that name, and will be honored at the Tulsa Sports Charities Legends in Sports Dinner on April 31.

The purpose of the newly-created award - to honor a DI player who exhibits tenacity, dedication, discipline and unselfishness - is unmockable. The John and Judy Marshall Foundation has chosen the right player for the honor, without a doubt. The name of the award, on the other hand, might be a tad more risible.

The Tulsa World explained the name in a little more depth in an April 29 article.

The “tustenugee” word in the award’s title comes from the language of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The word translates to “warrior.”

“With this award, we are honoring a great player, a warrior, Matt Howard, who places team above self, while also paying homage to a coach, Eddie Sutton, whose legacy is steeped in discipline and dedication,” said director of Tulsa Sports Charities Tommy Thompson in a press release.

Tustenugee sounds like a great word, but definitely one that will draw a snicker. What bothers me a bit more is the second paragraph in that quote.

Eddie Sutton was a great, great coach. I will not dispute that. However, the phrase 'steeped in discipline' does not come to mind when I think of the man who took Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State to the NCAA tournament. Sutton resigned under a cloud of NCAA sanctions after his Kentucky staff was found to be paying players. While at Oklahoma State, he crashed his car while under the influence of alcohol and prescription painkillers. Even after his career was nominally finished, Sutton found a way to commit one more cynical act, by coming in as interim coach of the San Francisco Dons in 2008, staying just long enough to cadge his milestone 800th win out of a program that got nothing but dubious headlines out of the deal. Discipline on the court? Sure, I'll give him that. Elsewhere, not so much.

Maybe Howard knows all this, or maybe he just doesn't want to spend any time in Tulsa. Whatever the reason, he's sending his father to pick up the award in his place.

Howard is a warrior, and he deserves praise for his leadership and discipline. The Marshall Foundation has good motives. But any award named after a coach who can be called Eddie "Boxful of Cash" Sutton on the internet without kicking off a libel suit is bound to draw out a few less-than-favorable memories from those who know college basketball.

Photo: US Presswire
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:37 pm

Which schools are most overvalued in NBA draft?

Posted by Matt Jones

This is not a new story, but with the NBA draft deadline having just passed and little happening in the post-Easter weekend sports world, I found it interesting. Two years ago, the blog 82games.com sought to determine which schools were most overvalued and undervalued by the NBA in the draft process. The process for making the determination was by no means scientific. The author utilized only the past 20 years and by starting in 2009, the older players' careers and their longer careers were ultimately given more weight. Still, the methodology, while not perfect, was adequate for determining whether players from certain schools are more consistently over or under valued by NBA teams. 

The blog compared a players' career per-game average in points/rebounds/assists versus the average totals for other players who were also picked in the same slot in those 20 NBA drafts. A per-game comparison (as opposed to a per-minute method) is not a good way to evaluate an individual player, but it is a decent method for an enterprise such as this, which is seeking to make a macro judgment about a larger pool of players. After determining the difference from the average person selected at the same pick, a particular player would be categorized as either a star, role player, etc and then rated versus the other colleges. Only schools with five or more players were ranked in the total school comparison.

Amongst all teams, these ten schools were ranked as the most consistently undervalued by NBA teams (number of NBA picks during selected period in parentheses):

1. Wake Forest  (7)

2. UTEP   (5)

3. Marquette (7)

4. Xavier  (8)

5. Clemson (6)

6. Kentucky (15)

7. Alabama (13)

8. Depaul (6)

9. Purdue (6)

10. Pittsburgh (6)

In a bit of a surprise, Wake Forest took the top spot, thanks in large part to the three superstars it has produced, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and Josh Howard (who is a superstar relative to his No. 29 overall draft status). Spots 2 and 3 are taken by UTEP and Marquette, both of which are helped in large part by having produced Tim Hardaway and Dwayne Wade. What is most striking is that, with the exception of Kentucky, none of the top 10 are traditional powerhouse schools, showcasing that the NBA is very likely to undervalue many second-tier programs, just as most fans do as well.

Here is the list of the most overvalued programs in the NBA draft:

1. Louisville (11)

2. Vanderbilt (5)

3. Colorado (5)

4. Gonzaga (5)

5. Indiana (13)

6. Mississippi State (6)

7. NC State (9)

8. Missouri (9)

9. Iowa  (10)

10. Texas Tech (5)

During the 20 year period studied, Louisville had the most players consistently overvalued by the NBA. Pervis Ellison, Samaki Walker, Reece Gaines, Felton Spencer and Cliff Rozier were all picked in the lottery during this period and none averaged more points than the average player picked at their position. Also disappointing is Indiana, which produced few top players during the end of the Bob Knight era and has seen its overall status as a program drop during the same period.

Finally, the blog ranked the top powerhouse programs based upon NBA draft performance as well. Because a school that produces only five players in 20 years can have its status changed by one high profile star or bust (see Marquette with Wade or Gonzaga with Adam Morrison), the higher sample size makes this a bit of a better comparison. Here was the ranking of top programs with 15 or more players selected during the 20 year period:

1. Kentucky (15)

2. Michigan  (16)

3. Connecticut  (21)

4. Arizona  (28)

5. UCLA  (26)

6. Syracuse (15)

7. Georgia Tech (19)

8. Michigan State (16)

9. North Carolina (22)

10. Maryland (16)

11. Texas (16)

12. Kansas (22)

13. Duke (28)

Amongst the programs with the most picks in the draft, Kentucky players have been the most consistently undervalued. The production by players such as Jamaal Magloire, Tayshaun Prince, Chuck Hayes and Rajon Rondo from low draft spots, places Kentucky at the top of the list. The biggest surprise of the list (with the exception of Georgia Tech having 19 players drafted during that period) is the school at the bottom of the list, Duke. The Blue Devils are the most overvalued group of players in the NBA draft by a substantial margin, with the greatest number of players performing below the average player at their position. Also interestingly, North Carolina's players are valued exactly at the correct point according to the scale. With the 22 players the Tar Heels have produced for the NBA during that period, their final NBA production has been exactly average for any player picked at their positions.

What does all this mean? Probably not much. Potentially NBA teams should consider Brandon Knight or Deandre Liggins a few picks higher or Kyrie Irving a couple of picks lower. But probably what it does mostly is give college basketball fans something to argue about during the offseason. And that in and of itself is productive.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 10:43 pm

Calipari sets out the gospel according to Cal

Posted by Matt Jones

If there is one consistent in college basketball, it is that if a controversial issue exists, John Calipari will be part of the discussion. Thanks to his four freshman drafted in the first round of last year's NBA draft and the recent decision by two current UK freshman, Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, to enter this year's draft, Calipari has become the physical embodiment of people's opinions about "one and done" college players. First came the now infamous Bob Knight statement in which he suggested that Calipari's "one and done" players did not attend class. That statement was later shown to have no factual basis and Knight was then forced to apologize. Then today, Louisville Courier Journal columnist Rick Bozich, wrote that Calipari would upset UK fans by allegedly valuing NBA draft picks over college wins, an article that seemed somewhat odd coming on the heels of a Wildcat Final Four trip.

On the heels of the Bozich article, Calipari decided today to address these issues in a manifesto of his "player's first program" philosophy on his Coachcal.com website. Calipari stated that when recruiting players, he doesn't make "outlandish promises" about playing time or starting positions, but instead tells them that they will need to perform at the highest level. But he also stated that when a season ends, Calipari believes his job is to help players "make the best decisions, with the best information." The coach says he sees his job not to "convince them to come back if that's not in their best interest," nor is it to try and "shove anybody out the door."

Calipari then rejected the dichotomy laid out in the Bozich piece and said that it was a "lie" to suggest that "it's impossible to win championships with that type of young, elite talent." He goes further to suggest that it is a "ludicrous statement" to argue that a program can't win championships with players who seek to leave for their NBA dreams early.

The coach's latest set of statements is his attempt at chiming in on a greater debate taking place in the state of Kentucky, as to what his role should be in the decisions of players looking at the NBA. With the return of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones to college, a few Kentucky fans and a lot of media members believing themselves to be spokesmen for UK fans, have questioned why UK's duo of Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones would not make a similar decision. The argument has been made, most notably in the Bozich piece, that Calipari's focus on sending his players to the NBA runs counter to his role as basketball coach for the program at Kentucky. Calipari has said numerous times that he sees his role as being one of an advocate for the players' best interest, and his statement today was likely designed to reinforce that belief.

At the Final Four in April, Calipari told the media that he was against the "one and done" rule currently in place, but so long as it existed, he would use it to try and build the best basketball program possible. Even if he is against the rule in theory, as the person who is most obviously exploiting it for his program's gain, those against the rule make him their number one target. Calipari believes he can win championships and at the same time, do right by players by sending them to the league early as well. Time will tell whether he ends up continuing to be correct.


Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky
Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 10:57 am

Making the Leap: UK trio declares; no agents yet

Posted by Matt Norlander

The question was hanging out there: Would Kentucky do what North Carolina did? Would the core of the team return and make UNC vs. UK the dominant storyline heading into next season?

Turns out: no. At least, it doesn't seem that way. Freshmen Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, along with junior DeAndre Liggins, formally released today, through the university, they'll be putting their names in the 2011 NBA draft pool.

As of now, none in the trio has signed with an agent, nor publicly stated they'll do that in the near future. That's what Kentucky fans will hold on to in the short-term. The writing on the wall for this got etched yesterday, when freshmen Doron Lamb chose to announce he'd be staying with UK for his sophomore season. Conventional thinking was, If Lamb's making this decision now, and he's making it alone, then his fellow frosh must be forgoing next fall in Lexington. Indeed that's the case.

“I support the decision these three have made to take advantage of the process of putting their names in the draft,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said via the linked press release. “They were a joy to coach this year and I would love the opportunity to continue to coach them again next season.  I will always support my players in weighing their options and doing what is personally best for them and their families.”

NBA Draft
Either way, Kentucky's still going to be very strong next season. The 2011 class is considered by some to be the strongest Calipari's recruited. If/had the three names here been a part of the 2011-12 team, then Kentucky would've had hype that zipped past the highest atmospheres on earth.

All the players quoted in the release carry a tone of eager and guarded optimism. They're happy to be moving closer to realizing their NBA dreams, but all want to see where they stack up in this year's draft, and what NBA scouts think of their greatest strengths and weaknesses. In my opinion, Knight's got no reason to come back. Marquis Teague is the incoming Freshman Guard du Jour for Calipari, and he'll be much better suited with the ball in Cal's offense than Knight.

Knight grew into a force of a point guard, scoring 17.3 points per game alongside his 4.2 assists. According to the school, his 657 points this season was a Kentucky freshman record. He reached that milestone thanks to a Kentucky-freshman-best 87 3-pointers. Liggins averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He was a defty 3-point man, hitting at a 39.1-percent clip. Jones, the SEC freshman of the year, put up 15.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

Knight's good enough and his stock is high enough: he can and should stay in the draft. The other two, we'll see. Terrence Jones can't go right, and everyone, including Steve Wonder, knows it. There are strengths, but also real drawbacks. Liggins is a fantastic defender; he's actually more suited to leave right now than Jones, I think. A lot of his skills are refined, and his length will be what makes scouts endear to him.

The deadline to withdraw one's name from the draft is May 8.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 19, 2011 8:25 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2011 8:26 pm

Bob Knight apologizes for false statements

Posted by Matt Jones

ESPN analyst Bobby Knight apologized to the University of Kentucky and its former basketball players on Tuesday for false statements he made during a speaking engagement in Wabash, Indiana. While speaking to a group of Indiana fans, Knight decided to take another opportunity to poke a jab at a favorite target of his, Kentucky coach John Calipari. He stated that he was against the college "one and done" rule and said that Kentucky's team in 2009-2010 had five starters in the NCAA tournament that all had not been to class their entire Spring semester.

The statement immediately set off outrage throughout the Bluegrass state and was shown to be false. All five of Kentucky's starters finished the Spring semester at Kentucky, with one player (Patrick Patterson) graduating from Kentucky and another (Darius Miller) still on the team currently. UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart issued a statement expressing "great offense" at Knight's comments and two of the players on the team, Patterson and Demarcus Cousins, both tweeted out their disappointment in Knight's statement.

On Tuesday, Knight responded to the criticism with the following statement:

"My overall point is that 'one and dones' are not healthy for college basketball. I should not have made it personal to Kentucky and its players and I apologize."

The statement does give college basketball fans the rare chance to see Bobby Knight apologize for anything, but is evasive of an actual apology for his false statements. He does express contrition for making a statement "personal" to the Kentucky players, but doesn't address the fact that the statements were also demonstrably false. After Knight's statement, Norby Williamson, executive vice president of ESPN production released this statement:

"Bob Knight's comments do not reflect the opinions of and are not endorsed by ESPN. We have communicated to him our disappointment and welcome his apology."

As of yet there has been no acknowledgement by Knight that his statements were false and when I contacted ESPN spokesman Mike Humes on Tuesday, he had no comment on whether Knight would acknowledge the false statements or whether he would be disciplined by the company.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 13, 2011 8:54 pm
Edited on: April 13, 2011 8:55 pm

John Calipari says players should look at the NBA

Posted by Matt Jones

In an informal session with local media in Kentucky, John Calipari said that he believes three of his players from last season's Final Four team, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Deandre Liggins should all put their names into the NBA Draft and get an official evaluation from teams in the league. The coach said that for those three kids to at least explore the draft was at this point a "no-brainer" of a decision and one that he supported. Calipari said that due to the potential NBA lockout, the number of players who have stated that they will return to college and the uncertainty of the draft selection order, this may be the most difficult projection for potential draft entrants that he can remember. But he does believe his three players would be best served by testing the process and getting an evaluation from NBA teams.

Calipari noted that he believes Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones both have the potential to be selected in the lottery, but he is unsure where each would be slotted. If the players find out that they could be at the end of the lottery, they might be best suited to return to school. If however, they are guaranteed a selection towards the top of the lottery, Calipari said that it may make more sense to keep their names in the draft.

The Kentucky coach was however definitive about one issue, the fact that he believes an NBA lockout is inevitable. For Calipari, the likelihood of the lockout changes the calculus for all of these players. "The lockout really kind of screws everything up because a lot of kids are pulling their names because what if the lockout goes the whole year?...I have asked my guys, are you prepared for a lockout, because it is coming." 

Calipari noted that being prepared for a lockout contingency means understanding that a player will have to pay his own living expenses, including basketball trainers, and that any money that is given to him by an agent will have to be paid back with interest. He notes that if a lockout lingers on, players will have to be self-motivated, with no outside force to ensure that they are maximizing their basketball skills.

Calipari did note that he believes another Kentucky freshman, Doron Lamb, will return to Kentucky and is unlikely to put his name in the NBA Draft. "If he comes back and puts on 15 pounds of muscle, he is a lottery pick," the coach said. 

When asked if Calipari's future in Lexington was certain after a number of rumors of potential NBA interest, Calipari suggested that such rumors are usually created for those trying to have an effect on recruiting. "I laughed when the newest rumors came out because I said, 'You're not screwing up our recruiting because we already have these kids signed." While not answering directly about his future, he did speak in depth about his team next season and how he would play, regardless of what players return to go with his No. 1 overall recruiting class.
Category: NCAAB
Tags: Kentucky
Posted on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 5:30 pm

Counting down the top 10 moments

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Monday night’s title game between Connecticut and Butler ended the 2011 NCAA tournament on a somewhat sour note, as Butler had a historically bad shooting night and neither team was particularly impressive for 40 minutes. This year’s Big Dance, though, was a lot more than just the national championship game. The Final Four was the most unpredictable in history, with zero No. 1 or No. 2 seeds reaching the national semifinals for the first time ever. Two mid-majors reached Houston, including one that would not have been included in the NCAA tournament last season. There was Cinderella runs, upsets, buzzer beaters and outstanding individual performances – everything you could ask for in an NCAA tournament. When we reflect on the 2011 NCAA tournament, what moments will stand out? Here’s one man’s take.

10. John Calipari and DeAndre Liggins: The battle between Kentucky and North Carolina in the Elite Eight was one of the best games in the NCAA tournament. Big baskets by both teams, trash-talking from players, intensity all over the place. Up one with 35 seconds left, Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a four-point lead they would never relinquish. Liggins went over to head coach John Calipari, who hugged Liggins and gave him a kiss. Kentucky was going to the Final Four.

9. First day finishes: The first Thursday of the NCAA tournament is always must-see basketball. Last year was arguably the greatest first day in history, but 2011 gave it a run. Within the first seven games of the day, we had Butler senior Matt Howard’s game-winning layup against Old Dominion; Temple’s Juan Fernandez’s leaner to beat Penn State; and Richmond’s Kevin Anderson’s running fallaway with 18 seconds left to clinch a win over Vanderbilt. There were two other buzzer-beaters in that first set that we’ll get to in a bit.

8. Derrick Williams’ block: Similar to what he did against Washington in the regular season, Arizona forward Derrick Williams saved the Wildcats’ win against Memphis with his block of Wesley Witherspoon in the final seconds. It seemed as if Witherspoon had an open lane to the basket, but Williams stepped over from the other side of the basket to send Witherspoon’s shot the other way. Arizona would escape, 77-75.

7. Bradford Burgess’ layup: Down one with the ball under Florida State’s basket with 7.1 seconds left in overtime, everyone was curious what Shaka Smart was going to design. Bradford Burgess slid to the basket, though, getting a perfect pass from Joey Rodriguez and beating Derwin Kitchen for a game-winning layup. Florida State would fail to get a shot off at the other, allowing VCU to win, 72-71, and advance to the Elite Eight.

6. Title game guards: Connecticut’s Kemba Walker and Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked down too many big shots throughout the tournament – we could make a top 10 of plays by just Walker and Mack. Walker scored 33 points against Cincinnati, 36 against San Diego State and hit a clutch step-back jumper against Arizona to help get the win against the Wildcats. On the other side, Mack simply refused to miss in the final minutes of games. He knocked down a huge 3-pointer against Florida with 1:21 left to give Butler a lead, then went on a tear against VCU in the national semifinals.

5. Demonte Harper’s jumper/Kenneth Faried’s block: This was another one of the fantastic finishes from the first Thursday. Trailing by two in the final seconds, Morehead State’s Demonte Harper hit a pull-up jumper from the top of the key with 4.2 seconds left to give the Eagles a one-point lead. At the other end, Louisville’s Mike Marra seemed to have an open 3-pointer to win it – but Kenneth Faried skied out and blocked the shot, preserving the first round’s biggest upset.

4. VCU beating Kansas: Everyone knew VCU needed to play the perfect game to beat Kansas. Well, the Rams weren’t exactly perfect – and they still managed to win by double-figures. They became the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four, but they were the first team that needed to win five games in order to get to the national semifinals. Just three weeks earlier, people had been complaining that VCU was even in the NCAA tournament – Shaka Smart and company proved everyone wrong.

3. Arizona vs. Texas ending: Talk about a change of emotions. Texas led Arizona by two in the final 15 seconds, when Derrick Williams was blocked by Tristan Thompson. Jordan Hamilton called timeout when he picked up the loose ball. On the ensuing inbounds, Cory Joseph was called for a five-second violation – although the five seconds were only about four and change in reality. Arizona would throw it in to Derrick Williams, who finished a 3-point play to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. J’Covan Brown missed at the other end – Arizona would survive. Again.

2. Brandon Knight’s game winners: Both of Brandon Knight’s last-second shots could be top-five moments. In the second round, Knight drove the lane and made his only basket with 2.0 seconds left to hold off upset-minded Princeton. Knight was at it again in the Sweet 16. Facing top-seeded Ohio State, Kentucky was tied in the final 10 seconds. Knight drove past Aaron Craft and pulled up from the right elbow, knocking down a jumper with 5.4 seconds left to give Kentucky the win.

1. Pittsburgh vs. Butler ending: As soon as it happened, everyone knew it would be the defining moment of the 2011 NCAA tournament. Andrew Smith gave Butler a one-point lead with 2.2 seconds left on a layup. On the ensuing desperation play, Pittsburgh’s Gilbert Brown was bumped out of bounds by Shelvin Mack. Brown went to the free-throw line, making the first. He would miss the second free throw, with the rebound falling in the arms of Butler’s Matt Howard. When Howard tried to turn and heave it towards the other end, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson barreled into him, committing a foul 90 feet from the basket. Howard would hit the game-winning foul shot and send top-seeded Pitt packing.

Photo: US Presswire

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com