Tag:Matt Norlander
Posted on: August 22, 2011 10:44 am

Memphis avoids recruiting violation with Shabazz

By Matt Norlander

The odds Memphis lands No. 1 overall 2012 recruit Shabazz Muhammad aren't very good. Tigers fans won't want to hear that, but it's the truth. There are a lot of big-time schools, plus the tug of his hometown team, UNLV, involved right now.

Nevertheless, Josh Pastner is a hell of a recruiter. That's why he's still in the mix, and if anyone can get it done from a perceived, big disadvantage, he can. For a minute there, though, Memphis' recruitment of Muhammad didn't look on the up and up.

Fortunately for Pastner and Co., they're no longer in hot water over the recruitment of a player that could one day wind up as a No. 1 overall NBA draft pick. Turns out, an interview Muhammad gave to DevilsIllustrated.com (that's a Duke site, yes) tipped off the NCAA about what Memphis may or may not have been doing outside the rules of play. Kyle Veazey, the great new writer for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, wrote the story over the weekend.
Muhammad's claim that the Tigers were "calling and calling and calling" prompted a question from the NCAA's Basketball Focus Group, an arm of the enforcement division formed in 2008 to gather information and explore potential violations in the sport. ... But that wasn't all the BFG asked the U of M last year. It asked the school to explain what it knew about how Muhammad paid for the plane ticket for his unofficial visit to Memphis. It asked about Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe. It asked for information about other prospects who went on an unofficial visit.
The unofficial visit is something we can really get into detail at another time; how so many of these players are getting money to fly to far-off colleges is a scandal ripe and waiting to be exposed. In Muhammad's case, his ticket was paid for by a man named Tyrell Jameson and was found to be OK. The report also stated Memphis reported six secondary violations last season. Sounds bad, but it's really commonplace and looks to be inconsequential.

As for the calls, Memphis is in the clear because Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, is an AAU coach. Since Muhammad wasn't yet a senior in high school, there are strict restrictions (restrictions that need to be eradicated by the NCAA as soon as possible) on when coaches can call a player or his family. Since Holmes coaches, though, a loophole is there for teams to contact him about general, vague reasons. Like wanting information about players on his team and guys he's coached against.

Memphis was perfectly in the right to do it, and if no one was else was then they slipped behind in that area of Muhammad's recruitment. The phone-call rule scares again, though. Coaches, programs and the NCAA would be better served if this barbed wire was taken away from playing field in recruiting.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 20, 2011 2:53 pm

Yikes: U.S. won't win a medal at World Games

By Matt Norlander

This will probably largely go unnoticed over the weekend, but we had an underwhelming performance from our nation's college players at the World University Games (WUG). Entering play Saturday, the men's team, in its history, had a 136-8 record, all-time.

Make it 136-9. The United States fell to Latvia in the quarterfinals Saturday, 76-74, meaning a medal is no longer in play for the Red, White and Blue. It's the first time the U.S. won't pack minerals in its suitcases on its way home from the WUG.

A big let-down, even if this team wasn't the best possible collection of college talent we could've sent over there (plenty of players didn't go due to team obligations on foreign trips, amid other road blocks). What stings more is the fact this was the only loss for the United States in the Games. But in do-or-die play, that's the breaks.

If players from Duke, North Carolina, Baylor, Louisville, etc. had been a part then you'd figure USA would've run away with it.

The U.S. missed its final five shots in the closing minutes.

“I thought our guys came out and gave a good effort,” Matt Painter, the U.S. head coach, said. “Lithuania was a little bit quicker to the basketball. They outrebounded us by about six. If you can pinpoint one area, probably the loose balls and a couple of those long rebounds probably ended up being the key to the game. That was something that we talked about. You got to give Lithuania credit. They did a good job of running down some long rebounds and being able to get the loose balls and in my opinion that was the difference.”

Vanderbilt's John Jenkins put up 17 for a team-high; Ashton Gibbs' 16 and JayMychal Green's 12 followed. Jenkins admitted the team was outworked -- a common lament whenever the U.S. underperforms on the global stage.

“We still want to play hard,” Jenkins replied on how the U.S. is looking to respond in its next two games. “We didn’t accomplish our goal, but the worst thing we can do is give up and not play our hardest. We have to keep giving it our all and try to finish out strong.”

Bad shooting (34 percent) also led to the loss.

The U.S. has its exhibition-type game against Romania Sunday. If it wins, it will be playing for fifth place.

We've got moving pictures for you, too.

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Photo via USA Basketball
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 20, 2011 11:32 am
Edited on: August 20, 2011 12:06 pm

NCAA responds to Hathaway leaving UConn

By Matt Norlander

Jeff Hathaway did in fact end up "retiring" Friday, shortly after news reports surfaced that he was done at UConn.

"It has been incredibly rewarding to have collaborated with so many exceptional individuals during this proud period of academic and athletic excellence," Hathaway by way of a statement. "After 20 years of being associated with UConn, I felt the time was right for me to pursue new challenges. I wish the very best to all those associated with UConn athletics, and to this great university, now and long into the future."

A little surprised by the kind words, considering Hathaway was effectively shoved out the door? That's because his agreement to leave includes a clause that states he can't turn heel on his former employer, a school that he worked at for nearly two decades.

Hathaway's departure presents a new opportunity for UConn, but that can be addressed later. What about the NCAA? Hathaway is the chair of the 2011-12 Selection Committee. He's the guy who has to deal with media and fan scrutiny in the seconds, hours and days after the brackets are revealed for the NCAA tournament.

And now he's no longer affiliated with a member institution of the NCAA. This situation, I believe, is unprecedented. The chairman suddenly no longer working for anyone. On one hand, it's a good thing -- he'll have all the time in the world to watch as many games as possible! But on the other, you've got a somewhat-disgraced former athletic director out on the street and simultaneously being the face of your most publicly known committee.

This was the NCAA's response to this transgression, per VP of communications Bob Williams:

“Earlier today, Jeff Hathaway informed Greg Shaheen, NCAA Interim Executive Vice-President of Championships and Alliances, of this evening’s announcement of his retirement from the University of Connecticut.

Mr. Hathaway is concluding the fourth of his five-year term on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.

In the near future, our staff will work with Mr. Hathaway to determine the best approach regarding the balance of his term, including the status of his service as chair the committee during the 2011-12 academic year."

Ominous. I've put in further questions to the NCAA regarding Hathaway's status, and if there's currently any legislation that prohibits someone from participating on the Selection Committee if they're not employed by a member institution. This post will be updated when I can get a response.

Update: I have spoke with a source at the NCAA. There is a rule in place that states a non-employed member of the NCAA can't be on the Selection Committee. But the NCAA isn't quite sure how they're going to tackle this delicate situation right now, as it's never occurred before. My completely speculative guess: Hathaway won't be on your TV screen the night of Selection Sunday, 2012.

Photo: AP

Posted on: August 19, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 2:33 pm

We've got the G'town-China fight animation video!

By Matt Norlander

What's better than the genuine article? An animation video recreating the incident with egregious embellishment. This is infinitely more watchable, believe it or not.

We've hit some sort of nexus with this video-recreation-of-a-video-that-ex
ists, but I'm not complaining. The essential, dramatic recreation of Thursday's events are born out of a party in a Georgetown frat house, apparently, and then get down to business: retelling the melee as it happened ... on a green basketball court. And includes a bear-sized Panda walloping what I can only safely assume is Jason Clark.

A compatriot of the panda can then be seen hurling condiments from the stands. There's an intense, flamboyant referee, as well as an all-too-accurate computer recreation of John Thompson, III. At one point, a Bayi player starts spitting hot fire -- literally. Dylon is not featured, however. Soon enough, this essential feature moves on to players fighting in the outdoors amongst political figures. There's a deft underlying message being sent here.

NMA World Edition outdoes itself again. And if you'd like, the Miami-scandal report is also a go.

Share this with everyone you've ever known. Do it now.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 19, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: August 19, 2011 1:17 pm

Report: Today is Hathaway's final day at UConn

By Matt Norlander

The New London Day reports it has sources claiming today, Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, is the final day of employment for Jeff Hathaway as athletic director at Connecticut.

I'm setting the over/under on Jim Calhoun announcing his return as the coach of the Huskies for Monday at 4:15 p.m.

It's a buyout situation, of course. Hathaway's come to the end of the line, and if he doesn't take the deal then he'll officially be fired by UConn and its new president, Susan Herbst. The Day reports:

The sources said Hathaway will have until the end of business today to accept a buyout plan. If Hathaway does not accept one, he will be terminated.

The sources said Hathaway has asked for $3 million plus other bonuses. It was unclear what UConn has offered. Hathaway works under a six-year contract that rolls over yearly. His base pay, according to the university, is $351,717 with another approximately $600,000 annually for speaking engagements and other duties.

Hathaway's job performance was recently subjected to a "360 evaluation" by MGT of America. The report, which the sources said reveals mostly unflattering opinions about Hathaway from more than 30 people interviewed, is due today.

Hathaway had long been rumored to be on his way out. There are a number of reasons for it, but Calhoun's insistence were chief among them. To say Calhoun detests Hathaway would not be out of bounds; the long-frosty relationship between the two has been public knowledge for awhile now.

With Hathaway leaving there's a spot open at one of the top basketball programs in the country. It's an interesting and challening job. Calhoun will be gone within three years, so going forward, it's quite a gig to take. The person coming in will have to handle Calhoun's ego and the expectation of hiring a big-time men's basketball coach to Storrs, Conn., which is in the middle of nowhere. Calhoun will want a coach on staff to take over, while the boosters and fanbase will likely expect and/or want a national time to take the reigns once Calhoun leaves.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 19, 2011 10:22 am

Trippin': Ball State visits Vancouver, Victoria

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

Examine Ball State and discover a team that’s not easy to get an idea or perception around. Statistically it’s quite average. In all but one category, that is.  But there is change afoot. Despite having not gone to the NCAAs in ages, Billy Taylor coached the team to a 19-13 record last season, its best in years. Like Akron, which we posted on Thursday, the Cardinals reside in the MAC — which should be a very good mid-major league in 2011-12.

Is Ball State a MAC contender? Billy Taylor obviously believes so, perhaps because it’s in the MAC West, which most expect to be much less tangled than the East. The Cardinals just got back from their Canadian trip in which they went 4-0 playing games in Vancouver and Victoria.

Taylor said he’d never seen a team of his lock together and show true camaraderie at the start of a season.

What Taylor learned: “The thing I really liked was that I saw our guys become a team. You usually don’t see that kind of bonding at this time of year. That usually comes later, with practices and travel and all that. Not with this team this year.”

What impressed him: “There were two areas I was impressed. One, our rebounding. We really hit the glass hard. Matt Kamieniecki posted 13 rebounds per game. Jarrod Jones has almost nine rebounds per game and Chris Bond had almost eight. Our second thing was our assist numbers were really high. We had 28 assists in two of the games and mid-20s in another game.”  

What concerned him: “For me, it always goes back to defense. Will we be able to sustain it? We played solid defense but I wasn’t always the happiest with our 3-point defense. Now, these are teams we didn’t know about prior to the game, so we had to adjust on the fly, but I’d like to see us cover better in half-court defense.”

— The team isn’t completely healthy, unfortunately. Tyler Koch, a transfer from Wright State who red-shirted last year, had left hip surgery at the end of July. The injury appears to be an old one. Taylor said he practiced with it last year, but there were issues. He made the trip with the team, but his return doesn’t have a timetable yet. Koch is a 6-4, 190-pound junior.  

— Taylor was definitive in his starting five. It’s unlikely the rotation will see a change before the start of play in November. The Cardinals went with the same five to start every game in Canada. That lineup: senior 5-11 point guard Randy Davis; 6-2 junior guard Jauwan Scaife; Bond plays the 3; Kamieniecki, standing 6-7, is the 4; and Jones is the 6-9 center. Jones and Davis are seniors.

— Overall it’s a pretty good balance for this team, and there hasn’t been too much experience lost. Pierre Sneed, who started about half the games last year and started as a sophomore, is the kind of guy Taylor needs. He’s a senior leader who’s OK knowing he’ll come off the bench.

—While on the trip, the team went whale watching and actually saw some whales. To anyone that’s done this, it’s not a guarantee, although I’ve heard there are some places that now have the technology to locate and ensure your afternoon isn’t wasted looking at only the swells.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 18, 2011 1:59 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 2:09 pm

Video of the Georgetown-Bayi brawl

By Matt Norlander

And this is most definitely a brawl. It escalates quickly and immediately. Not sure what the worst part is: the boiled-over donnybrook, or the fans who, well after tempers settle, pelt and shower the Georgetown players and staff with water bottles.

Truly stunning video, and it comes by way of the irreplaceable Timothy Burke.

And I have to include this photo, which is so troubling and iconic to the incident. It comes from Reuters, via DC Sports Bog.

That guy at the heart of the fight isn't wearing a uniform.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 18, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2011 1:37 pm

Trippin': Can Zips make another run at MAC title?

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

Akron's among the best mid-major teams that you never think about. The Zips have had a healthy run the past seven years under head coach Keith Dambrot. They reached the NCAAs last season, falling to 2 seed Notre Dame in the second round.

The team just got done with its Canadian trip to Toronto and Montreal. The Zips went 5-0 in their exhibitions. Nice -- even if that didn't mean too, too much. Dambrot's a pretty level guy, by the way. When talking to him about his group, he didn't seem as reactive to what'd transpired on his trip the way other coaches do. Maybe that's why he's been able to average well over 20 wins since 2005.

What Dambrot learned: "Well, we have a lot to learn. We're behind mentally from the teams we've had in the past, but we're more athletic than we've been. We still have to figure out the rotation."

What impressed him: "We played hard defensively and shared the ball well offensively. I was glad to be able to get six new guys out there to play." Yes, Akron will bring in six green guys to the roster this season. It's a turnover Dambrot hasn't dealt with in some time. 

What concerned him: "Just the lack of being game-tested. We lost four guys who've been in four straight MAC title games." Two of those players are playing professionally. Steve McNees is now in Austria and Brett McKnight, a leading scorer for four years, signed in Germany.

-- Freshman Nick Harney led the team in scoring, Dambrot said. The other two standouts were Chauncey Gilliam (a transfer from Maryland-Baltimore County) and Brian Walsh (a Xavier transfer).

-- The good news is the team has no major injuries it's dealing with. Everyone's healthy, Dambrot said, save for one minor wrist injury which won't be an issue in the coming weeks.

-- The Zips also lose, in addition to McNees and McKnight, Darryl Roberts and Mike Bardo. Roberts was really key, as he was a very disciplined and very reliable point guard for Dambrot. All told, it's about 45 percent of the team's minutes played from last year are up for grabs.

-- If the team is going to thrive, it's going to have to ride Nikola Cvetinovic. Now, Cvetinovic did not make the trip with the team, but it wasn't disciplinary; he's currently playing in the World University Games for his home country, Serbia. Because of the Games, in fact, Akron went against all-star teams that didn't have true all-star rosters -- many a player is currently playing in the event in China.

-- There are only three seniors on this year's team -- Cvetinovic, Brett McClanahan (who will move from small forward to shooting guard) and Kyle Petersen -- and they'll all see playing time. Dambrot said he's got a good idea of the starting lineup. Cvetinovic and McClanahan will line up with junior 7-footer Zeke Marshall, sophomore point guard Alex Abreu and junior forward Quincy Diggs.

-- Dambrot ended by saying his team's ability and confidence can be seen in his seven-year run. He won't change his strategy, even with a lot of experience gone. What he is concerned about is the strength in the MAC's East division. HE admitted the Zips probably have "the least amount of impact players coming back ... so it's no definite thing."
Category: NCAAB
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