Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: August 26, 2011 9:58 am

We were misled about Renardo Sidney

By Matt Norlander

We said it wasn't a good sign more than a month ago. Renardo Sidney did not take the trip with Mississippi State when the Bulldogs went overseas at the beginning of August. It was originally believed that he chose under his own volition -- perhaps even rebelliously -- to go to Houston to work out with John Lucas and improve his game, as well as his attitude.

Let's be clear and shed a light for fans, who probably already know this, but just in case. Overseas trips only happen a few years, per rule, for college programs. When they do get them, they're expensive, require a lot of planning and are pretty important to the coaches. For those who've ever traveled to Europe or Asia or Africa or Australia: think about the prep you did, then multiply that by about 20. Coaches want the whole team together if the whole team is permitted to go. There is some credence to the cliche that these trips are good for group bonding. Many a coach will tell you some of these excursions really, truly can be a positive impact for the season ahead.

For a player to get left behind, it's usually a rule, a serious injury/illness or a punishment for some harsh behavior. We now know Sidney didn't go to Europe because of Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury -- not because Sidney chose to stay behind. Stansbury said this Thursday to Brandon Marcello of the Clarion-Ledger, as well as other members of the local media down in Starkville, Miss.:

“Let’s make sure to get this clear: it was not his decision to go to Houston,” Stansbury said. “Everybody understand that. I made that decision, nobody else made that decision. I made the decision, OK? That’s where that is and, again, would I have liked for him to have been on the trip? I would have and it would have been good, but there are some things he had to handle that he hadn’t handled. Since then, he has. ... He fulfilled some obligations he had to have for the team. And he did that. So, we’ll see if he keeps progressing. We all want to hope and believe he can.”

There are still hurdles for Sidney to clear and much peace of mind to accomplish on Stansbury's behalf. Stansbury, in many ways, has put his job on the line to keep Sidney in a Mississippi State uniform. He stuck his neck out last season; Sidney played in 19 games and averaged 14 points, 7.6 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs went 17-14.

I'm not certain Sidney's going to change. He's back on Twitter, with a new handle that doesn't really compute -- LawandOrder1. Alrighty. Listen, I'd love for Sidney to play well, stay on the right path and not make Stansbury look like a fool. But it's evident there are still problems existing between coach and player, and perhaps player and team.

Because Sidney didn't make the trip, this has now reached the point where, even if Stansbury and Sidney say there isn't a problem, speculation will continue well into the season. Until Sidney has an extended period of good play and better behavior, he and his coach have put themselves into a situation where questions will continue to be asked about whether he was ever remotely worth having on the team.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 25, 2011 1:53 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 1:56 pm

Northwestern's non-con schedule weak as usual

By Matt Norlander

It seems Northwestern is determined to make this getting-to-the-NCAA-tournament scheme as difficult as possible -- without actually making it as difficult as possible.

The Wildcats have never been to the Big Dance. This you most likely already know. The reasons are plentiful. And in 2011-12, if Bill Carmody's team fails to find itself in the Big Bracket come Selection Sunday, we'll have known one of the primary reasons all along. Look at this non-conference schedule. Or save yourself a click and scan to the slate below.

I'm not saying Northwestern has to line up opponents the way Gonzaga or Memphis does (though it looks bad when non-BCS teams annually get more ambitious than the Wildcats), but at least try to mix in one more tough opponent. Give yourself two credible, major-conference teams in the non-con. Don't want to hear about scheduling woes, either. This is a pattern. Check out where Northwestern's found itself in SOS and non-con SOS in the past few years. It can't land even two worthwhile, legitimate games -- and that falls on Carmody (right).

Part of being a good coach is getting your team into good games outside your league. It's not challenging itself as much as it should. And when those dog days of the Big Ten schedule come calling in early February, the boys in purple have a penchant for petering out.

The team needs more beef in its November and December appointments. It will barely receive a boost in the Charleston Classic this season, even if the event is trying to debunk common thought that it's one of the weaker early-season tournaments.

Here's who the Wildcats have assembled for their upcoming campaign:
  • 11/13: vs. Texas-Pan American
  • 11/17: vs. LSU
  • 11/18: TBD Charleston, S.C. TBA
  • 11/20: TBD Charleston, S.C. TBA
  • 11/25: vs. Stony Brook
  • 11/29: at Georgia Tech 
  • 12/02: vs. Mississippi Valley State
  • 12/04: vs. Baylor
  • 12/15: vs. Texas Southern
  • 12/17: vs. Central Connecticut
  • 12/18: vs. Eastern Illinois
  • 12/22: at Creighton
The Baylor game is nice. Very nice, considering Northwestern got Baylor in what could be Scott Drew's biggest year of expectations in Waco. But beyond that, there's nothing, really. The Wildcats are left to win the majority of these games, plus bank on hoping a few of them have exceptional seasons of their own. That formula almost never works in a team's favor. If Northwestern enters Big Ten play at 10-2 but one of those losses is to Baylor, how far along are they, really?

I will not bury NU prior to the start of the season. But I will say its already behind about 50 other programs with better talent and more impressive schedules. This is not the way you break into the world's greatest sporting event.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 25, 2011 12:04 pm

Jared Sullinger slimming up for sophomore season

By Matt Norlander

Call it Sullinger's Sophomore Slim Strategy. Or don't. I don't really care. I've got a blog post to write here.

After a somewhat-hefty existence as a freshman, Ohio State focal point Jared Sullinger has been taking his diet and game pretty seriously this summer. He was noticeably lighter when attending LeBron James' camp at the beginning of July, and it seems the shedding of skin is continuing.

Bob Baptist spoke with Sullinger recently
about how he's gone about losing his weight, which could realistically be anywhere between 10 and 25 pounds, depending on how heavy he truly got last season.

Sullinger told Baptist he's currently at 270 pounds. And all along, he's planned to be well under that number by the time the season starts. Looks like it's probably going to happen. Clearly, this a man of his word.

Some of what he told Baptist:

"I cut my diet down. A lot of the 'goods' and not so much of the 'bads.'"

What are the 'goods?'

"More greens. I have a more colorful plate now."

Sullinger also did the mandatory things that must be a part of any diet: knock out the crappy grub, mainly of the fast-food variety, and keep the portions smaller. Sully was listed at 280 pounds last season. If that floated a little closer to three bills, I wouldn't be all that surprised -- and neither would most of Sullinger's Big Ten opponents in the paint.

But remember, Sullinger is the big man in Ohio State's scheme and that's a critical cog to how Ohio State was so effective last season, operating the most effective offense in the country. He's got to be healthy, but how low will he go before it impacts how he impacts a game? There's a sweet science to be perfected here, as Sullinger will look to increase his stamina without sacrificing too much of his girth and force.

Baptist also reported Sullinger's body fat has dropped from 23 to 14 percent.

Photo: AP
Posted on: August 25, 2011 10:15 am

DePaul assistant coach's house ransacked

By Matt Norlander

This may be the worst story affiliated with overseas trips this summer.

DePaul assistant coach Billy Garrett returned home after the team's nine-day "goodwill" trip to France on Sunday only to discover that his house was cleared out. How devastating. You know how it is after a long trip/vacation. It's almost always such a great, memorable time, but those hours and minutes before you get home can be excruciating. You just can't wait to walk in through the front door, take a gander and say, "Finally. Home."

The most stressful part of Garrett's trip came the minute it ended. The Chicago Sun-Times first reported the story:

“They took everything,” Garrett said. “They cleaned us out. Things that can’t be replaced, this really took some time.”

Garrett, his wife, Annissa and son Billy Jr., who accompanied him on the Demons’ 4-0 trip, were all devastated. An emotional Garrett was extremely distraught when talking about some of the items that were taken.

“My father [William] was the first black that played basketball in the Big 10’” he said. “They took that jersey and his Globetrotter jersey. They also took my son’s city championship ring and oxygen tank.”

The oxygen tank is critical because Billy Jr. suffers from a sickle cell disease. It's about as worst-case scenario sans any bodily injuries as you can get. Seriously, who raids homes anymore? I thought we'd largely moved past this as a society. 

The good news is no one in Garrett's family was hurt because of the crime. The bad: it's safe to assume the criminal(s) involved here knew Garrett's family would be away and took advantage once he was across the Atlantic.

Photo via DePaul athletics
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:51 am

Jay Wright flash-mobs to Katy Perry

By Matt Norlander

I'd say we've got about a few more months -- till the end of 2011, I suppose -- before this flash mob fad fades out. But if you notice an increase in the activity in the next few weeks, just credit Jay Wright. The man dictates trends. The Villanova coach purposely put himself in the middle of one of these things on Villanova's campus yesterday, as the school had a welcome barbecue of sorts. University president Father Peter Donohue is the other conspicuous fellow who surfaces a few seconds into the video.

Naturally, Katy Perry's "Firework" was the choice for this spontaneous soundtrack. I'm not sure what this accomplishes, and years down the road we may look back at flash mobs as the first sign the aliens sensed vulnerability, but it's clear Jay Wright wins again.

Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 4:31 pm

Trippin': Get to know Dayton's new coach

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Matt Norlander

If you’re tired of the Brad Stevens driver’s license jokes, prepare for yourself later next season for the onslaught of Archie Miller cracks. The new Dayton coach is 32 years old, has a stomach full of fire but looks like he’d be the perfect candidate to be your local high school’s starting point guard. Plus, that name: Archie. It just rings with whippersnapper undertones.

And then there’s the fact he’s Sean Miller’s younger brother. Miller’s ready for those questions and stories to come when the season begins, too. But right now, he and his team just got back from a European trip wherein they went 4-0 against the Holland U-23 national team as well as other junior teams in Belgium and France.

Miller didn’t care much for the games though. It was about the practices. This was the first time he got to work with his team; Miller was hired in April after Brian Gregory took the Georgia Tech job. Miller said he was very serious and direct in practice from the start. That’s his style. He has to offset those youthful looks and inexperience at the head-coaching level with a tone and demeanor with his new guys.

He said they responded terrifically, a credit to Gregoy and his staff.

“Eighty percent of the learning curve of how we practice is now out of the way,” Miller said. “Now it’s why we practice and why were’ doing certain things.”

What Miller learned: “I think the one thing most coaches want to learn about is their depth. But I also learned we have to be really, really smart the way we practice and how we protect ourselves. As a coach, in terms of strength, I think we’ve got a conditioned a group that works really hard.”

Who or what impressed him:  “For me, the most positive things happened before the games even started. But also, Kevin Dillard and Chris Johnson were a step above in terms of where they’re at talent-wise and experience-wise in where we play. Other guys had terrific stretches in games, but the way I look at us and how I see us, they’re above right now.”

What concerned him: “The frontcourt productivity is a question mark and a concern as of now.”

— The team currently has 10 scholarship players. Two incoming freshman jumped ship once Gregory left for Tech.  “I know people can say, ‘You could say there’s not a lot of whole lot of depth and continuity in their classes,’” Miller said. “It’s up to us to do a great job of recruiting going forward. We’ll do just fine with what we have.”

The Flyers will also have transfers from Georgetown (Vee Sanfaord) and LSU (Matt Derenbecker) available for 2012-13.

— More on who Miller is. When I asked him to sell himself to me, he responded: “I’m very nuts-and-bolts. I have always been that way, not only with being a player (at N.C. State), but the everyday process is so important to me. That’s what we’re about. Every day they’re competing, getting better. Me, personally, am very direct and very honest. When I played I was very blunt and in telling people both what they do and don’t want to hear, because it’s about the bottom line.”

— Injury-wise: The Flyers were down two in Europe: sophomore Ralph Hill, who’s dealing with a stress fracture in his foot; and sophomore Devin Oliver, who caught mono in early August and missed the trip. Paul Williamswent on the trip and played,  which was a victory. He’d been battling a deep knee bruise since the end of last season. It was so bad they almost elected to have him go under the knife.

— Miller said Dillard and Johnson are the only surefire starters as of now. He rotated starting lineups on the trip to “keep guys honest,” and said his frontcourt is up for grabs. It’s likely Paul Williams will also crack the starting five come the fall.

“I’m not as concerned as to who’s starting, but more concerned with roles and rotations,” Miller said.

— On his relationship with his brother: “It’s instant and daily communication. He’s everything to me. We’re obviously family, but part of the reason we went to Arizona is to achieve something together. Our relationship will go from practice comments to planning. Scheduling to recruiting to shooting the [expletive] about anything.”

— And on the pressure of comparison to his brother: “I put a lot of pressure on myself because, number one, I think anyone in college basketball knows it’s a hard-ass job. I have one of the best jobs in the country. This is a really special place. I think, as a young coach, having a chip on your shoulder or not, it’s about having a fearless approach, no matter who you are.”

Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:27 pm

Some clarifications on Gillispie, Texas Tech

By Matt Norlander

Yesterday, I wrote an opinion piece on Texas Tech and Billy Gillispie. In frank: I have my doubts about the future of the program under him due to the collateral damage his reputation could have in recruiting. The post was buttressed off a SPORTSbyBROOKS report that Billy Gillispie had been something of a nuisance in Lubbock since arriving there earlier this year. Many people who had spent many years at Tech prior to Gillispie's arrival are no longer working there.

I received a couple of, let's call them concerned, calls regarding my post and some innaccuracies contained within, which were catalyzed by the Brooks post. Multiple sources affiliated or formerly affiliated with Texas Tech called to clarify and rectify three things they state are patently false. This blog and myself are never above reproach, so here are the retractions:
  • Billy Gillispie and former assistant Chris Beard were never physically separated by Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt.
  • They were never separated because Beard and Gillispie were never involved in a physical altercation. Ever.
  • Gillispie was never outright verbally abusive toward Beard, so speculation of that behavior is incorrect. It never happened and never had an impact on Beard choosing to leave Tech's program earlier this summmer.
So there you have it. Beard is still gone and Tech moves on with a new staff and prepares for a new era under Gillispie.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: August 24, 2011 11:04 am

Kansas ready for big game -- in September

By Matt Norlander

The lockout at basketball's professional level is providing an ironic twist that usually goes the other way. Right now, the NBA's loss is college basketball's gain. Kansas hoops is about to take advantage of the work stoppage and give its fans a rare treat, similar to what Kentucky did recently.

Being that Kansas football has a bye the weekend of Sept. 24, Bill Self and the basketball program are taking advantage of an available fall Saturday in Lawrence.

Former Kansas players and coaches will participate in an exhibition game at Allen Fieldhouse. It's being billed as the Legends of the Phog game. I like it. I like it a lot.
Former KU coaches Larry Brown and Ted Owens will coach a collection of former KU players who have been part of three NCAA titles, 54 conference championships, 13 Final Fours and 2,038 all-time victories. The rosters will include many current NBA Jayhawks, including NBA All-Star Paul Pierce, as well as many other recent KU standouts.

“It’s going to be a spectacular event,” Self said in a statement. ”Not very often can you spin a negative into a positive but we get an opportunity to do so with the NBA lockout. There have been numerous times we’d like to get all these guys back at the same time, but it’s always been hard for the current NBA players to come back because their schedules run similar to ours."

Paul Pierce is the big name, of course, but who else could we see? Well, Cole Aldrich, Mario Chalmers, Darrell Arthur, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden and Julian Wright are all former 'Hawks who make a wage in the Association. None of those were named in the press release, but it does state a good number of NBAers will play, so I think it's fair to expect a decent portion of the names above to make their way to Lawrence that weekend.

I want Scott Pollard more than anyone, though. Make that happen, Kansas. His appearance at last year's Midnight Madness was epic and went tragically underreported. For all I care Pollard can be the ebullient official making Larry Brown's life hell for an afternoon.

The game is being held for a good cause with a tragic twist, though. A majority of the proceeds will go to the family and a fund-to-be-determined in honor of former Kansas basketball assistant Neil Dougherty. Dougherty died this summer of a heart attack. Other monies will go to the local Boys & Girls Club.

Tickets go on sale soon for $20, which isn't so bad. I wouldn't be surprised if the event nearly sold out.

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