*

It's no mystery what potential title game Maui Invitational organizers wanted to create when they designed this year's bracket.

They were trying to set up a championship clash between Kansas and Indiana when they placed the two blue bloods on opposite sides of the draw.

The Maui Invitational bracket released Tuesday has the reigning Big 12 champion Jayhawks pitted against host Chaminade in the opening round of the tournament. Assuming Kansas avoids an upset of monumental proportions, it would meet the winner of UCLA-UNLV in the semifinals.

Indiana will open against Wake Forest on its side of the bracket. The winner of that game will likely meet a much-improved Vanderbilt team that finished last season on a hot streak unless the Commodores fail to get past rebuilding St. John's in the opening round.

A Kansas-Indiana matchup would be an appealing one given that both teams will likely begin next season ranked in the top 15 in the nation.

The Jayhawks have an excellent chance to win an 11th straight Big 12 title thanks to the return of steady point guard Frank Mason Jr.,  breakout candidate Wayne Selden and all-conference power forward Perry Ellis. Highly touted freshman big man Cheick Diallo should also make an instant impact because his ability to run the floor, alter shots in the paint and finish above the rim complements the more polished but less athletic Ellis perfectly.

Indiana slipped into the NCAA tournament last season despite a lack of any semblance of a true frontcourt presence, but the addition of five-star big man Thomas Bryant could go a long way toward shoring up those issues this year. Surrounding Bryant will be one of the nation's elite backcourts, a group highlighted by star point guard Yogi Ferrell, high-scoring wing James Blackmon and ultra-athletic combo forward Troy Williams.

The biggest threat to a potential Kansas-Indiana title game is probably Vanderbilt, which should contend in the SEC and return to the NCAA tournament next season if the duo of Damian Jones and Riley LaChance can build on their strong finish to last season. Neither UCLA nor UNLV can be counted out either, but the Bruins need other scorers to emerge around returning standout Bryce Alford and the Rebels must hope that their newcomers can offset the loss of Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 28, 2015, 5:43 pm

Six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left tibia, Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody's offseason got even worse this past weekend.

The SEC's leading returning scorer was arrested early Saturday morning near campus for DUI. The Jackson Clarion-Ledger first reported the news on Monday. 

The news is far from ideal for an Ole Miss program that is counting on Moody to be its leader next season.

The 5-foot-10 senior guard started 33 of 34 games last season and averaged 16.6 points and 2.4 assists while leading the Rebels to a surprise NCAA tournament bid. He also led the SEC in free throw percentage and 3-point field goals made and finished third in steals. 

Moody is expected to recover from his injury in time for the start of the season. Ole Miss has yet to make an announcement regarding whether he'll face punishment for his DUI arrest.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 27, 2015, 5:34 pm

Virginia's chances of remaining an ACC title contender beyond next season improved significantly on Sunday when the Cavaliers landed a transfer many of the top programs in the nation coveted.

Austin Nichols, Memphis' leading scorer and shot blocker this past season, chose Virginia over a host of other suitors, a source confirmed Sunday afternoon to Yahoo Sports.The 6-foot-9 forward will have two years of eligibility left after he sits out next season. 

It's no surprise Virginia secured Nichols since Tony Bennett's team has been considered the favorite since earlier this month when Memphis lifted transfer restrictions that would have prevented the Cavaliers staff from speaking with the forward.

Virginia heavily recruited Nichols out of high school before the former top 50 prospect chose hometown Memphis instead. The Cavaliers also have a built-in advantage due to the connection between Nichols' ex-AAU coach Ernie Kuyper and the family of John Paul Jones, the man after whom Virginia's arena is named.

Nichols' ability to score in the paint, to rebound and to alter shots at the rim should be a huge help to a Virginia program that will graduate frontcourt standouts Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill after next season. Nichols averaged 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore at Memphis and blocked 3.4 shots per game, third most in the nation behind only LSU's Jordan Mickey and UConn's Amida Brimah.

Virginia was one of the schools Memphis initially blocked Nichols from transferring to earlier this month because of the possibility the Tigers could play the Cavaliers at the 2016 Emerald Classic. Memphis backed off that hard-line stance when the Nichols family threatened a lawsuit, paving the way for him to commit to a Virginia program already on the rise. 

The Cavaliers have won back-to-back ACC regular season titles and could begin next year in the preseason top 10 despite the loss of versatile wing Justin Anderson and defensive standout Darion Atkins. They should be relevant again the following season with Nichols in the fold to bolster the frontcourt.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 26, 2015, 7:27 pm

When Southern Mississippi released the notice of allegations it received from the NCAA on Friday evening, the severity of the violations allegedly committed by former coach Donnie Tyndall proved two things.

Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart did not do a good enough job vetting Tyndall before hiring him almost 16 months ago, but Vols officials made the correct decision acknowledging that mistake and firing him after just one season this past spring.

The most severe allegation against Tyndall asserts that he arranged fraudulent academic credit for seven prospective student athletes during his two-year tenure at Southern Miss from 2012-2014. That allegedly includes one instance in which Tyndall paid for the online courses himself. 

Tyndall also allegedly provided thousands of dollars in cash and prepaid cards to help two players pay for their expenses associated with room and board. Lastly, the NCAA says Tyndall failed to cooperate with its investigation and went so far as to obstruct it by deleting pertinent emails and providing false or misleading information to enforcement staffers.

It won't be clear how severe a punishment Tyndall will receive until sometime next year because both he and Southern Mississippi must first respond to the Notice of Allegations and then appear in front of the NCAA's committee on infractions. Regardless, the looming threat of a lengthy suspension or worse would have made Tyndall susceptible to transfers and radioactive to recruits were he still the coach at Tennessee today.

Tyndall issued a statement to the Hattiesburg American on Friday evening in which he denied intentionally committing any violations but accepted responsibility for any that occurred under his watch.

“To the extent violations occurred, I wish I had prevented them, and I apologize to the Southern Miss community for any harm caused by violations that occurred," Tyndall said. “However, I did not knowingly violate NCAA rules, nor did I encourage or condone rules violations by anyone on the coaching staff. A fair review of the evidence will show that the allegations that I did so are simply wrong.”

It will be Tyndall's ability to refute the most severe of the allegations that will probably determine whether he will work again in college basketball anytime soon.

Todd Bozeman, Bruce Pearl and Kelvin Sampson are among the coaches who have bounced back from severe NCAA violations to eventually become head coaches again. Tyndall enjoyed enough success at Morehead State, Southern Mississippi and his lone year at Tennessee that another program may someday take a chance on him, but Morehead State also received probation and NCAA sanctions during his tenure.

That checkered history will not be easy to overcome.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 25, 2015, 2:16 pm

Arkansas was already poised for a fall next season after stars Bobby Portis and Michael Qualls both opted to enter the NBA draft.

What happened Wednesday won't help.

Arkansas has indefinitely suspended guard Anton Beard and forwards Jacorey Williams and Dustin Thomas after they were arrested on suspicion of first-degree forgery.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that surveillance cameras caught all three players using counterfeit bills at three different locations last Friday and Saturday. First-degree forgery is a Class B felony in Arkansas that can carry a prison sentence of five to 20 years.

"We have become aware of a pending legal issue involving three men's basketball student-athletes," a statement from the Arkansas athletic department said. "The student-athletes have been suspended indefinitely from the men's basketball program. Our continued expectation is that our student-athletes conduct themselves in an appropriate manner at all times."

While Thomas is a Colorado transfer who will not be eligible to play until the 2016-17 season and Williams has been a reserve for his first three years in Fayetteville, Beard was supposed to be one of the Razorbacks' standouts during the 2015-16 campaign.

Beard averaged 5.7 points per game as a freshman last season and showed glimpses of potential. The point guard sparked Arkansas for a stretch during league play this past season but faded terribly late in the year and went scoreless in the NCAA tournament.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 23, 2015, 2:46 pm

The most memorable part of Drake's ill-fated appearance at last year's Big Blue Madness may no longer be him donning Kentucky warmups, participating in the pre-scrimmage layup line and missing a jump shot by an embarrassingly large margin.

That has been surpassed by something that happened a couple hours later.

A Freedom of Information Act request by SportingNews.com revealed Wednesday that Kentucky has self-reported a minor NCAA rules violation stemming from impermissible communication between Drake and three prospective recruits who attended Big Blue Madness. Kentucky actually went so far as to send a cease-and-decist letter to Drake after he posed for photos with guard Charles Matthews, forward Carlton Bragg and center Stephen Zimmerman. 

Me and Drake 😈😈 pic.twitter.com/f2gaOj8HVH

— Carlton Bragg (@carltonbragg31) October 17, 2014

Big Blue Madness was Crazy!!!' Loved It! pic.twitter.com/F65u44Pxo3

— Team Matthews (@nichole0335) October 18, 2014

In the letter obtained by SportingNews.com, Kentucky officials said they patrolled the halls at Rupp Arena and warned both Drake and the recruits in attendance they could not have contact. Those efforts were not successful as Drake crossed paths with Matthews, Bragg and Zimmerman while visiting with the team in the locker room after the event.

The level III violation Kentucky received is negligible and will not lead to further punishment, a fair outcome considering the encounter with Drake clearly had no impact on the recruitment of Matthews, Bragg and Zimmerman. Matthews had already committed to Kentucky before Big Blue Madness, while Bragg chose Kansas last year and Zimmerman picked hometown UNLV this past spring.

What will be interesting to see is if this impacts the relationship Kentucky coach John Calipari has cultivated with Drake the past few years.

Drake coached one of the intrasquad teams at Big Blue Madness in 2009. He sat behind the bench during the NCAA tournament in 2010.  He invited Calipari and the entire Wildcats team on stage with him during a concert in Lexington a few years ago. He credited Calipari with inspiring him to finish high school.  And he received a 2012 national championship ring with the name "Drizzy" engraved in it.

Having Drake attend Big Blue Madness every year is largely a coup for Kentucky because it makes the event an even greater selling point for recruits.

The Wildcats just would be better off if they can find a way to keep him and the high school prospects in attendance from crossing paths.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 22, 2015, 9:48 pm

Even though North Carolina likely won't respond to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations for another few weeks, one of the school's former women's basketball players fears she knows what's coming.

Meghan Austin expects the Tar Heels athletic department to sacrifice its tradition-rich women's basketball program in hopes of avoiding serious punishment for its two biggest revenue producers, football and men's basketball. 

Austin, a 2008 North Carolina graduate currently coaching at Montreat College, penned an editorial for the Raleigh News & Observer on Monday accusing the Tar Heels athletic department of already showing signs of making its women's basketball program "the scapegoat." Austin noted that men's coach Roy Williams got a contract extension earlier this summer but women's coach Sylvia Hatchell has thus far not received the same show of support.

"Our program was not the only team in the report, yet we are the ones being talked about the most. Roy Williams and his program were in the report, and he got a contract extension. The football program was in the report, and its coaching staff was confident enough to tell recruits that they will not receive any repercussions from the NCAA investigation.

"That leaves the female sport as the one program negatively affected by these allegations. It’s really hard to work for a boss who doesn’t support you and have your back, and that is what Hatchell and her staff are forced to do at this point. It is hard to believe that in the year 2015, we still have people of power who do not support female teams as well as they do their male counterparts.

"I am proud to be a member of the UNC women’s basketball program, but I cannot say I am proud to represented by an administration that will throw a legendary coach to the wolves to protect men’s athletic teams."

The Notice of Allegations hit the Tar Heels with five potentially serious violations in the wake of the NCAA's lengthy investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.

The first two allegations state that North Carolina athletes received impermissible benefits unavailable to the rest of the student body when their academic counselors obtained special assistance and privileges for them. The next two allegations target African American Studies department officials Deborah Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang’oro for their failure to cooperate in the NCAA's investigation.

The charge of lack of institutional control is the most serious one. It asserts that the athletic department failed to properly monitor the actions of members of its academic support staff and cast a blind eye to why so many athletes were enrolled in African American Studies courses.

We'll have to wait until North Carolina responds to the Notice of Allegations to find out whether Austin is correct that the school's strategy is to sacrifice women's basketball, however, that is certainly a reasonable prediction. Women's basketball is the sport most frequently mentioned in the notice. That's because of allegations that counselor Jan Boxill committed major violations in the form of improper academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.

Whether the NCAA's committee on infractions would accept such a strategy is another question. There is ample evidence in the Notice of Allegations that athletes from the football and men's basketball programs also benefited from taking paper classes.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 22, 2015, 3:35 pm
The Motor City Muslims pose for a team picture clad in warmups that read Brotherhood. (via Ali Altimimy)

Only a few weeks before their debut tournament this past spring, members of the nation's only known all-Muslim AAU basketball team were still grappling with an important decision.

Did they want to select a team name that would make it easier to blend in on the AAU circuit or one that would highlight the differences between themselves and their opponents?

The Motor City Muslims logo (via Ali Altimimy)A brainstorming session among the players produced some tolerable yet unimaginative possibilities, from the Ballers, to the Warriors, to the Mustangs. Coach Clarence Archibald offered a more daring alternative when he suggested the team show pride in its faith and culture by opting for a name featuring either the word "Muslim" or "Islam."

"Some of them were a little hesitant, but I pushed pretty hard," Archibald said. "We all know Islam often is unfortunately portrayed in a negative way in the media. I wanted to be sure we were easily identifiable as an all-Muslim team because it gave us an opportunity to change people's mindsets by showing them we're as American as home runs and apple pie."

In an era when young Muslim Americans sometimes try to avoid detection by removing any outward signs of Islam in public and by going by names like "Mo" instead of "Mohammed," Archibald's players boldy chose to wear their identities across their chests. They named their team the Motor City Muslims and emblazoned a custom-made logo on the front of their jerseys featuring a basketball player clad in a traditional Islamic robe and turban.

Such an unconventional choice made it difficult for the Motor City Muslims to keep a low profile at the tournaments they attended in Michigan this year.

Strangers often gawked or whispered when the team prayed together between games or broke its huddles by shouting in unison "bismillāh," the Arabic word for "in the name of God." Other teams also tended not to take the Motor City Muslims as seriously as they would have opponents of a different culture or skin tone.

"Some teams looked at us and thought, 'Oh this is an easy win. What are they even doing here?'" said starting point guard Zeeshan Tariq, a rising sophomore at Harrison High School. "When I'd turn around during warmups, they'd just be fooling around on the side like they didn't even need to warm up to beat us because it would be such an easy win."

Though the Motor City Muslims didn't have any surefire Division I college prospects or any players taller than 6-foot-3, opponents quickly learned to overlook them at their own risk. The team won a handful of games in the 16-and-under tournaments it entered the past few months before taking the July live period off while fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The formation of an all-Muslim 16-and-under AAU basketball team in the Detroit suburbs was the brainchild of a man not far removed from his own playing days. 

Ali Altimimy, the 26-year-old youth director at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is a former high school and community college basketball player whose love for hoops is only exceeded by his passion for his religion. He is skeptical that his own basketball career would have blossomed had he not challenged himself by playing AAU ball, so he wanted to give the same chance to some of the Unity Center's best young recreational players.

"I asked the guys, 'What if we start a team? Would you be down?'" Altimimy said. "They were all over the idea. They were like, 'Yeah, sounds amazing.'

"For me, that was exciting because basketball was my go-to thing when I was their age, along with my connection to God. If I wanted to get away from my parents bugging me or all the negativity and stigma surrounding Islam, basketball was my refuge."

Altimimy recruited 18 high school freshmen and sophomores to try out for the team, some from the mosque at which he works and others from neighboring towns. He didn't actively pursue boys of other faiths, but he says he'd have welcomed them had they heard about the tryout and asked to participate.

The next task for Altimimy was attempting to talk Archibald into getting involved, no easy task since the coach has a family, a full-time real estate job and another AAU coaching position running the more well-established Michigan Soldiers. Fortunately, Archibald was a fellow Muslim who had held clinics at the Unity Center before and believed in what Altimimy was trying to accomplish, so much so that he agreed to carve out time to lead practice twice a week and coach the team at tournaments.

"My wife wasn't happy, but such is life," Archibald said. "It was something I wanted to do. We've had some kids at the Unity Center who were talented enough to play basketball at the next level, but they didn't have anyone to push them. There are a couple who are in college now that said, 'I wish you had this for us when we were growing up.'"

Before Archibald and Altimimy could worry about molding the Motor City Muslim's best players into college prospects, they first had to focus on basics.

One priority was helping the players develop the fundamentals they would need to someday make the jump to the varsity team in high school, anything from ball handling, to boxing out, to maintaining a low defensive stance. Another priority was eliminating the cliques that had formed among players of Indian or Pakistani descent and those with Middle Eastern roots. Once that was done, there was still the vital task of preparing the team for the challenge of wearing "Muslims" on their chest at a time when that word still can inspire fear and distrust.

"What I told them was that they were representing Islam," Altimimy said. "If we can show people that we're ballers and we can hoop but that we're also regular young people, that would be big."

The importance of debunking the negative image of Islam isn't lost on the Motor City Muslims, but many of them were more eager to discredit another unflattering stereotype. They wanted to show that an all-Muslim team could be more formidable on the basketball floor than many opponents expected.

At their first tournament, the Muslims buried a trio of threes and ripped off a 9-0 lead against an opponent that had been giggling at them in warmups. Weeks later, they shocked a team with one of the better point guards in Michigan by coming within a basket or two of winning.

One of rising sophomore guard Omar Shalal's favorite memories came at a tournament in Brighton at which other teams were laughing at the Muslims after they played a poor opening game. The Muslims warmed up for their second contest determined to leave a better impression.

"The other team was making fun of us before the game and acting like we were a bunch of pushovers," Shalal said. "We played one of our best games that day and blew them out. All the other teams came on the court afterward, congratulated us and said, 'Wow, you guys are actually pretty good.' They went up to one of our top players and said, 'You can go somewhere with basketball if you keep working at it.'"

Successes like that explain why the Motor City Muslims are unlikely to be merely a one-year phenomenon.

Many of the current players enjoyed their experience enough that they expect to play again next year in the 17-and-under division. Altimimy and Archibald are also discussing expanding the program by launching a couple new teams for younger players in hopes they'll get used to the competition level early and grow together.

"There are a lot of good players in the gym at the mosque I go to, but they just want to play against each other," Tariq said. "They don't ever want to go out and expose themselves against better competition and show out at tournaments and tryouts. I feel like this team helped some of our guys overcome that fear. I feel like it helped us grow and gave us a chance to show what we can do."

Video highlights of the Motor City Muslims:

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 22, 2015, 12:40 am

The NCAA announced a pair of subtle but smart tweaks to its selection and seeding process on Monday, one to prevent last March's biggest controversy from reoccurring and the other to avoid a potential issue that nearly arose at the top of the bracket.

The first change ensures that the last four at-large teams voted into the 68-team tournament field no longer automatically are sent to the First Four. Now the selection committee has the freedom to elevate one or more into the main draw if the ensuing seed scrubbing process reveals they a stronger resume than a team initially voted in ahead of them.  

This change should be known as the UCLA rule even though the NCAA's release makes no mention of the Bruins. It's a clear response to the uproar over UCLA receiving a spot in the NCAA tournament's main draw last March when many analysts were skeptical Steve Alford's team even had a resume worthy of the First Four. 

UCLA's inclusion in the main draw ahead of the four teams sent to the First Four and at-large snubs Temple and Colorado State was controversial because the Bruins were 4-12 away from home on the season and had only beaten four top 100 RPI opponents all season. The furor lingered even after UCLA proved itself by advancing to the Sweet 16, a run aided in part by a dubious goaltending call in the opening round against SMU and a cushy round of 32 draw against 14th-seeded UAB. 

“It’s a small, yet significant, alteration to the language outlining our seeding process,” said Joseph R. Castiglione, the vice president and director of athletics at the University of Oklahoma and the chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2015-16 season.

“Making this change gives the committee the opportunity to properly seed every team, whereas previous procedures did not permit appropriate scrubbing of the last four at-large teams," said Oklahoma athletic director Joseph Castiglione, the selection committee chair.

“Selecting teams usually involves looking at teams in groups of eight. Scrubbing is comparing two teams against one another and sometimes there’s greater clarity during that process due to head-to-head competition, record versus common opponents or wins against tournament teams. This tweak provides us with the opportunity to scrub teams even more thoroughly.”

The other adjustment to the selection process gives the committee greater flexibility to balance the top two seed lines.

Bracketing principles previously dictated that the committee prioritize geographic proximity over competitive equity when assigning the No. 1 and 2 seeds to a particular region. Now the committee can consider moving the strongest No. 2 seed out of its natural geographic area to avoid placing it in the same region as the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.

This change is a response to how close the committee came to having no choice but to send Wisconsin to the same region as then-undefeated Kentucky last March. Only the Badgers' late ascension to the last No. 1 seed enabled them to avoid joining the Wildcats in Cleveland, where two of the strongest teams in the entire field could have met in the Elite Eight. Wisconsin instead upset Kentucky a week later in the Final Four. 

“This change doesn’t mean we are going to a true S-Curve but if we can achieve it, or come closer to having more competitive balance on the top two lines without compromising our existing principles and without putting a team at a great disadvantage, we will consider it," Castiglione said.

While I still believe competitive balance should be prioritized over geographic proximity in all decisions pertaining to teams on the top four seed lines, this is at least a step in the right direction.

There's no way Wisconsin would rather have played Kentucky in Cleveland in the Elite Eight than a weaker opponent somewhere else. Thanks to this small but important rule change, teams in the future won't face that problem.  

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 20, 2015, 5:13 pm

Many coaches whose jobs are in jeopardy assemble a cupcake-heavy schedule designed to make getting to 20 wins as attainable as possible.

Dave Rice certainly did not take such an easy way out.

The embattled UNLV coach has put together a schedule laden with challenging opponents entering what appears to be a sink-or-swim season for him and his staff. The Rebels haven't won an NCAA tournament game in Rice's first four seasons and they haven't reached the postseason at all the past two years.  

The first big challenge for UNLV will be the Maui Invitational, which includes national powers Kansas, Indiana and UCLA and improving Vanderbilt and Wake Forest. The Rebels would probably have to pull an upset to finish with a winning record in Lahaina. 

UNLV also has three matchups with Pac-12 competition, a road game at likely preseason top 15 Arizona, a home game against Arizona State and a neutral-court matchup in Las Vegas against a very strong Oregon team. The Rebels pulled off a memorable upset against the Wildcats last season in Las Vegas but lost to the Sun Devils in Tempe by 22 points.

As if those games weren't tough enough, the Mountain West decided to throw in another challenge by handing UNLV by far the toughest assignment in the league's head-to-head challenge with the Missouri Valley Conference. The Rebels will visit Wichita State, a likely preseason top 15 team with one of the best backcourts in the nation. 

UNLV has enough to talent to survive that gauntlet in spite of the early departures of first-round draft pick Rashad Vaughn and undrafted forward Christian Wood.

Anchoring UNLV's frontcourt will be elite incoming freshman Stephen Zimmerman, a skilled center who chose the Rebels over the likes of Kentucky, UCLA and others. He'll be joined by former Oregon transfer Ben Carter and ex-top 100 recruits Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.

UNLV will have more outside shooting and scoring options in the backcourt than it had a year ago when Vaughn and Patrick McCaw were the two primary weapons. McCaw is the most proven perimeter weapon, but Rutgers transfer Jerome Seagears, sharpshooter Jordan Cornish and incoming freshmen Jaylen Posner and Derrick Jones should offer support.

Whereas many other Mountain West teams opt to schedule soft in November and December in hopes that piling up wins will impress the selection committee, UNLV has annually challenged itself in non-conference play. That has paid off with high-profile victories against North Carolina and Arizona, but it has also taken a toll in other years too.

UNLV will have to hope its newcomers mesh with its returners in time to enjoy some success in Maui and against some of the tough December opponents.

Rice and his staff need a bounce-back season, but they didn't make it easy on themselves. 

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 16, 2015, 6:45 pm

A team consisting mostly of Kansas players won the U.S.'s first World University Games championship in 10 years on Monday. The U.S. overcame a late deficit to defeat Germany in double overtime in the gold-medal game.

For Kansas, the hope is that a high-level tournament like this will provide a nice springboard into the new season this fall. Here's a look at the three biggest things we learned about Kansas the past few weeks in Korea:

1. Wayne Selden may finally be ready for a breakout year

The Wayne Selden that Kansas fans had been hoping to see the past two seasons finally emerged the past few weeks in Korea. The rising junior wing averaged 19.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in Team USA's eight games, all while shooting a much higher percentage than he did during a topsy-turvy sophomore season in which he struggled to finish at the rim.

An exhausted Selden shot only 6-for-28 in Monday's double overtime title game against Germany, but even then he found a way to make an impact. He sank a go-ahead three that gave his team the lead for good in double overtime.

On a Kansas team that also returns standout point guard Frank Mason and all-conference forward Perry Ellis, Selden doesn't need to average 19.3 points per game next season. But if he can develop into a reliable wing scorer who can be counted on to consistently put up double figures, it would go a long way toward easing the pressure on Ellis and Mason and making Kansas a legit national title contender.

2. Frank Mason will have the ball in his hands late in games

Whereas Kansas entered last season with questions about who would fill its starting point guard job, there's no doubt who the Jayhawks will turn to this year. Frank Mason seized that job with a breakout sophomore season last year and showed signs in Korea that he might be ready for a starring role this fall.

Mason tallied 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the U.S.'s gold-medal victory against Germany, but it was his performance late in close games throughout the tournament that hinted that he might be Kansas' most important player next season. He showed poise and confidence with the ball in his hands, sometimes calling his own number and other times dishing to an open teammate. 

With Selden and Mason seemingly locks for starting jobs on the perimeter, that leaves one more spot in the Kansas lineup for Bill Self to fill. He could either go big with wing Svi Mykhailiuk, a Ukraine native who could not play in this tournament, or go smaller with combo guard Devonte' Graham or sharpshooter Brannen Green, both of whom were injured and also sat out in Korea. 

3. Hunter Mickelson has a chance to crack Kansas' frontcourt rotation

Buried on the bench throughout much of his junior season, Hunter Mickelson entered the World University Games eager to take advantage of a chance to prove himself. Cliff Alexander had moved on to the NBA and elite incoming freshman Cheick Diallo could not play for the U.S. team, opening up possible playing time for Mickelson.

The 6-foot-10 former Arkansas transfer certainly made a case for playing time in Korea, not only scoring in the paint but also doing a credible job rebounding and protecting the rim. At times, Mickelson was the U.S. team's most productive big man during the tournament. 

It's likely Diallo who will start alongside Perry Ellis at center next season for Kansas, but Mickelson made a case to be ahead of fellow returners Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor in the rotation. Lucas and Traylor are both superior rebounders but are limited in their ability to score or alter shots at the rim.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 14, 2015, 5:37 pm

Xavier basketball coach Chris Mack is a fun follow on Twitter and generally seems to be a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. 

But he might have gone a bit too far Monday night while tweeting during the Home Run Derby at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Mack took a shot at Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols suggesting he would need steroids to win. He also misspelled Pujols with the insult. 

Pujhols needs an oxygen tank or 💉💉. I'm sorry, did I tweet that?

— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) July 14, 2015

Mack was poking fun a sensitive subject in baseball, but it's just not the kind of comment you expect to see from a major college basketball coach during an event like this. 

Pujols, who made it to the semifinals but ultimately lost to rookie Los Angeles Dodgers centerfielder Joc Pederson, was the oldest competitor in the contest at 35. 

The new rules for the derby this year require players to try to hit as many home runs as they can in 4 minutes. If they hit certain numbers, they earn extra time. It made for a more entertaining night but tired guys out. That led Mack to suggest Pujols would need a little something extra. Mack tweeted earlier in the day that he was attending the Home Run Derby with his father. 

A few fans called Mack out for his poor choice of words and Mack responded. 

@CoachChrisMack Not much tact for a coach, eh?

— Alex Goldstein (@KosherNation) July 14, 2015

 

@KosherNation Cards fan ehhhh. Relax

— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) July 14, 2015

@CoachChrisMack Didn't ask your editor about that one, did you?

— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) July 14, 2015

@CoachChrisMack come on Chris. You ought to be able to spell Pujols

— Martin Feeney (@evelynseal) July 14, 2015

- - - - - - -

[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: July 14, 2015, 3:40 am

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The highlight of the first week of the July live period is the Nike EYBL finals at the Peach Jam, an event that annually lures some of the most well-known college coaches in the nation thanks to its star-studded field.

I spent this past Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Peach Jam watching games and chatting with the coaches on hand. I've written extensively about Duke's recruiting successes already, but here are eight other takeaways from the event:

1. At a tournament featuring many of the most coveted prospects in the nation, the MVP was an unranked 5-foot-9 point guard without nearly as much hype. Auburn commit Jared Harper was outstanding at times during the tournament, tallying 24 points in the semifinals and 34 in the title game to lead a loaded Georgia Stars team to the championship. With Auburn coach Bruce Pearl watching courtside, Harper expertly controlled the pace of play and showed a knack for scoring and passing, sinking 21 threes in eight games and tallying more than twice as many assists than turnovers. Small sample size of games or not, it appears Auburn has found its point guard of the future.

2. Chris Paul doesn't merely attach his name to Team CP3. The Los Angels Clippers point guard takes pride in being extremely involved with his grassroots club. Paul was on the bench for each of Team CP3's games this past week in South Carolina, instructing players during timeouts, shouting encouragement between plays and generally living and dying with every basket. To sum up how competitive Paul is, consider what he did during Team CP3's final game of pool play. Paul led a fake 5-4-3-2-1 chant to try to convince an opposing player that the shot clock was about to expire.

3. If De'Aaron Fox wasn't already considered the Class of 2016's best point guard, he made a strong case for himself at Peach Jam. The Houston Hoops point guard showcased a lightning-quick first step to the rim, excellent court vision and an ability to finish in traffic in leading his team to the quarterfinals. About the only thing glaringly missing from his game at this point is a consistent jump shot. Coaches from Arizona, Kansas, Louisville and LSU were on hand for most of his games, but the program with the most at stake with his recruitment may be Texas. New coach Shaka Smart reportedly first called Fox on his second day on the job and has made him a top priority ever since.

4. California Supreme failed to reach the Peach Jam quarterfinals, but its most coveted prospect still asserted himself well. Rapidly improving 6-foot-11 Brandon McCoy solidified himself as one of the Class of 2017's top big men by blocking shots, rebounding in traffic and scoring either on short jump shots or with his back to the basket. He has excellent size, length and athleticism for a prospect his age and simply needs to continue to get stronger and develop his skill level. Arizona, Oregon, San Diego State were among the programs who sent their head coaches to scout McCoy. One high-major head coach whose team reached the NCAA tournament last year confided that he loved McCoy but wouldn't bother to recruit him because he didn't consider him a realistic target.  

5. Two of the most interesting recruiting battles to watch will be whether Kentucky can pry elite prospects Malik Monk and Miles Bridges away from programs in their home states. Monk, maybe the Class of 2016's top shooting guard, is a Fayetteville, Ark. native whose older brother Marcus starred for the Razorbacks. Arkansas coach Mike Anderson watched every one of Monk's games, as did either Kentucky coach John Calipari or his assistant Kenny Payne. Bridges is a fast-rising small forward from Flint, Michigan, a city that has produced a lot of Michigan State standouts over the years. He narrowed his list of schools to five finalists on Monday — Michigan, Michigan State, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana.

6. The most oft-discussed player on Team CP3 this past week may not have been Harry Giles or any of the other high-major prospects on the roster. Almost everyone who watched Team CP3 left buzzing about its tiny backup point guard. Darnell Rogers, the son of 5-foot-5 former George Washington star Shawnta Rogers, was listed at 5-foot-3 on a team roster but he might not even hit 5 foot without the poofy mohawk he sports. Nonetheless, Rogers is a legitimate Division I prospect drawing interest from his dad's alma mater and a handful of other mid-major programs. He showed a good enough floater and jump shot to be effective on offense, but where he makes the most impact is with his ball pressure defensively. His quick hands and feet make him a nuisance guarding opposing point guards from end line to end line.

7. Virginia coach Tony Bennett was scouting a young forward in a U-16 game on Saturday when an elderly spectator unknowingly wandered into a section of seats reserved for the coaches, plopped down beside him and struck up a conversation. It would have been easy for Bennett to have been terse or gruff, especially since the man had limited basketball knowledge and no idea he was speaking with the head coach of the two-time reigning ACC champions. Instead Bennett displayed patience and kindness, learning that the man was from Baton Rouge, informing him that was also his wife's hometown and quizzing him about his favorite restaurants in the city. To me, that conversation was as impressive as any of the high-flying dunks or no-look passes I saw on the court that day. The way Bennett treated the man says a lot about his character.

8. I asked a couple of coaches I chatted with for their all-Peach Jam team, and this was the consensus: PG De'Aaron Fox, SG Malik Monk, SF Jayson Tatum, PF Harry Giles, C Wendell Carter. I have no argument with that quintet, but Miles Bridges certainly was impressive too.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 13, 2015, 5:59 pm

The most exaggerated storyline from Duke's national title run this past spring was the notion that the Blue Devils' reliance on one-and-done freshmen represented some sort of seismic shift in recruiting philosophy.

In reality, Mike Krzyzewski has long pursued prospects of that caliber. The difference is Krzyzewski is now landing them in bunches.

A Duke program that once appeared to be falling behind both Kentucky and North Carolina in the hunt for elite talent suddenly is threatening to overtake both as college basketball's trendiest destination for top recruits.

In their past two recruiting classes, the Blue Devils have landed seven Rivals.com Top 25 prospects — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Brandon Ingram, Chase Jeter, Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard. Duke added to its haul Sunday when elite forward Jayson Tatum, Rivals.com's No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2016, chose the Blue Devils over fellow suitors North Carolina, Kentucky and Saint Louis.

The scary thing for Duke's opponents is how well the Blue Devils are positioned to extend that run for years to come. They are considered the favorite to land 6-foot-10 forward Harry Giles, a freakish athlete and close friend of Tatum's who is maybe the Class of 2016's premier prospect. They also are among the leading contenders to nab elite point guard Frank Jackson and a handful of coveted Class of 2017 prospects, most notably skilled 6-foot-10 big man Wendell Carter and AAU teammates Michael Porter and Trae Young.

The most talented player in the Class of 2018 is also already on Duke's radar. Krzyzewski and at least one Blue Devils assistant sat at mid-court this past week for many of forward Marvin Bagley's games at the Nike EYBL finals in North Augusta, S.C.

Duke's recent recruiting surge represents a clear upgrade over the period that preceded it.

While Krzyzewski won a national title with a collection of three- and four-year players in 2010 and seldom went a year without landing at least one McDonald's All-American, the Blue Devils' often were at a talent deficit when facing the country's best programs. Krzyzewski swung and missed on top targets uncharacteristically often, losing Greg Monroe to Georgetown in 2008, failing to pry John Wall away from John Calipari in 2009 and finishing second to North Carolina in a spirited battle for Harrison Barnes in 2010.

How did Duke reverse that trend and reclaim its status as college basketball's chic program? There are a handful of factors that have played a role

One is the way Krzyzewski has capitalized on his role with USA Basketball. The NBA's stars embracing and lauding Krzyzewski has only enhanced his image and made him more attractive to today's top prospects, as has the additional face time he has logged with high school players at the U-17, U-18 and U-19 levels.

Another factor is the academic fraud scandal that has ensnared North Carolina. The threat of looming NCAA sanctions and a potential postseason ban has crippled the Tar Heels' pursuit of Ingram, Tatum, Giles and other top prospects.

But maybe the biggest reason for Duke's success is Krzyzewski's 2011 hire of ex-Blue Devils guard Jeff Capel as associate head coach. The former Oklahoma and VCU coach has shown a remarkable knack for building relationships with prospective recruits, spearheading the Blue Devils' pursuit of Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Winslow, Okafor and Jones, among others.

The way in which Capel wooed Okafor and Jones was especially impressive because their pact to attend college together made for a very unusual recruitment. He communicated with them via conference calls and group texts and invited them to visit campus together yet he also made a point of pursuing them as individuals too.

With Jones, Capel pointed out Duke hadn't offered a scholarship to any other class of 2014 point guards and emphasized that he was a top priority whether Okafor came too or not. With Okafor, Capel was proactive in addressing Duke's reputation for running a guard-oriented offense that seldom prioritized playing through the low post.

"One of the scare tactics other programs use against us for bigs is they'll tell them, 'All you're going to do is screen and rebound,'" Capel told Yahoo Sports last March. "We knew Jah was hearing that, so we tried to combat it early. We told him, 'This is what you're going to hear. When we've had guys like you, we threw the ball to Mason Plumlee when he was a senior. When Elton Brand was here, he got the ball. The offense ran through him.' I think we got through to him and I also don't think it hurt us that we had Tyus helping us, talking in his ear."

The success of Okafor-Jones arrangement has given Duke a new angle to pitch to top recruits. Now the Blue Devils can encourage them to come to Durham with one or two other top prospects and chase a championship together the way Okafor and Jones did, a selling point that appeals to best friends Giles and Tatum as well as some of the Class of 2016 and 17's other elite players.

“You see something like that, two great players teaming up, it definitely influences you,” Tatum said Thursday. “They had one goal in mind, they accomplished it and they had a great time doing it. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

The potential for Duke to finish with the nation's No. 1 recruiting class for a third straight year next spring certainly doesn't spell doom for any of college basketball's other top programs. Kentucky will continue to attract top players as long as John Calipari is its coach, Arizona and Kansas will keep landing McDonald's All-Americans year after year and North Carolina will be fine too once the extent of its NCAA sanctions become clear.

Nonetheless, none of those programs is signing virtually every elite player it targets. These days, the only program that can say that is Duke.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 12, 2015, 8:48 pm

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Two of the top recruits in the Class of 2016 couldn't help but notice last spring when longtime friends Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor achieved their goal of capturing the national championship together.

Forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum have spoken about trying to do something similar in college, whether at Duke or one of the other top programs that would gladly make room for both of them.  

“You see something like that, two great players teaming up, it definitely influences you,” Tatum said. “They had one goal in mind, they accomplished it and they had a great time doing it. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

The increasing possibility that Giles and Tatum could opt to play together in college could make Duke, Kentucky or North Carolina next year’s big winners in recruiting. The Blue Devils are regarded as the favorite to land Tatum, while the Wildcats and Tar Heels are the only other programs both players are still considering.

Whereas Jones and Okafor conducted weekly conference calls with one another’s family, went on visits together and ultimately committed during simultaneous press conferences, a potential Tatum-Giles package deal is not nearly as well organized. Tatum says he intends to commit “very soon” — definitely by the end of the summer. Giles still has a list of eight programs he is considering and intends to take his time.

“I’d love to play together, but we have to do what’s right for both of us,” Giles said. “[The Okafor-Jones package deal] was a little different because they committed at the same time. If we go to the same school we’re not going to commit at the same time.”

It’s easy to see why programs would be eager to take both Giles and Tatum after seeing the chemistry the two consensus top-three recruits have developed playing together for USA Basketball the past few years.

Giles, a lanky, athletic 6-foot-10 power forward, and Tatum, a smooth, skilled 6-foot-8 small forward, led the U.S. U-19 team to a gold medal in Greece last week even though both were two of the youngest players on the roster. They roomed together on that trip, further cementing their interest in playing together in the future.

Neither Giles nor Tatum had much time to rest or adjust to a time change before leaving for the Nike EYBL finals at the Peach Jam, but neither have allowed fatigue to diminish their impact.

Giles has led Team CP3 to a 3-1 record in pool play by averaging 18.3 points and 12 rebounds. A big reason the St. Louis Eagles are one of four remaining unbeaten teams in pool play is because Tatum is averaging 23.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

“It’s tough,” Tatum said. “I definitely feel it in my body. The time change has me pretty tired right now, but you’ve got to get used to it and get over it.”

While Giles and Tatum could both envision themselves wearing the same uniform in college, both caution not to count out the other schools besides Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina on their respective lists.

Giles is also considering Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse, Wake Forest and UNLV. Tatum insists he has genuine interest in hometown school Saint Louis even though the Billikens lack the historical pedigree of the other programs pursuing him.

“It’s definitely real,” Tatum said. “A lot of people don’t expect them to be on my list, but I love my hometown, I love the school, I love the players, the program, the people that work there, the atmosphere. I’ve visited the school numerous times and it’s still a strong possibility for me.”

Rivals.com video of Jayson Tatum:

Rivals.com video of Harry Giles:

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 11, 2015, 12:19 pm

Syracuse is college basketball's attendance kings for the second straight year.

The Orange edged Kentucky and Louisville for the crown, drawing an average of 23,854 fans a game despite an uncharacteristically mediocre season and a self-imposed postseason ban. The Wildcats were second at 23,572 fans per game and the Cardinals were third at 21,386.

The NCAA released its entire attendance report from the 2014-15 college basketball season Monday. Here's a look at some of the stats that stand out:

• Highest attendance per game: 1. Syracuse (23,854), 2. Kentucky (23,572), 3. Louisville (21,386)

Comment: Syracuse's two-year run as average attendance leaders is notable because Kentucky had long been the kings in that category. Before the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats finished No. 1 in 17 of the previous 18 years.

• Lowest attendance per game: 1. Grambling (305), 2. St. Peter's (442), 3. Chicago State (477)

Comment: How did Grambling manage to draw smaller crowds than most high school teams last season? It had a lot to do with the product the Tigers put out on the floor. They went 2-27 with their lone two wins of the season coming against lower-division Lyon College and Selma University.

Highest per-game attendance among non-power five conference schools: 1. Creighton (17,048), 2. BYU (16,125), 3. New Mexico (14,571)

Comment: It's impressive that Creighton and Nebraska drew so well considering neither was remotely close to contending for an NCAA tournament bid last season. It's also telling that Memphis fell out of the top three. The Tigers' attendance declined from 16,121 in 2013-14 (No. 9) to 13,915 in 2014-15 (No. 22).

Lowest per-game attendance among power five conference schools: 1. Washington State (3,190), 2. USC (3,552), 3. TCU (4,123)

Comment: It has to be alarming for Washington State to be last for a second straight year despite making a coaching change in between. USC also can't be thrilled to be in the bottom five for a second straight year when coach Andy Enfield was hired in part to restore interest in basketball at the school. He'll need to make strides on the court and in the stands in the coming years.

Highest per-game attendance among non-Division I schools: 1. Northern State (3,402), 2. Augustana (2,697) 3. Fort Hayes State (2,656)

Comment: The only change from last year is Augustana replacing Dixie State in the top three.

Largest average attendance increase from last year: 1. NC State (+2,795), 2. Auburn (+2002), 3. Virginia (+1,978)

Comment: Virginia's second consecutive appearance in the top three in this category is a result of its rise in the ACC pecking order under Tony Bennett. Auburn's appearance is undoubtedly a product of the Bruce Pearl effect as the Tigers enjoyed an attendance surge in his first year on the job. 

Best average attendance per conference: 1. Big Ten (12,781), 2. ACC (11,368), 3. SEC (10,819)

Comment: The Big Ten topped this category for a fourth straight year despite the addition of basketball-bereft Rutgers, but the ACC closed the gap considerably. The Big 12 was fourth in this category, followed by the Big East and Pac-12.

Highest attendance in all games (home, road and neutral): 1. Kentucky (845,594), 2. Wisconsin (711,115), 3. Duke (664,146)

Comment: Duke's appearance speaks to how big a draw the Blue Devils are when they're away from home. Cameron Indoor Stadium seats less than 10,000 fans, so they're not getting the same bump from home games that some of the other top programs are.

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 6, 2015, 5:14 pm

The FIBA U-19 World Championships concluded Sunday with a dramatic title game rife with clutch shots, jaw-dropping highlights and end-to-end action.   

Croatia's Luka Bozic could have given his team the lead when he went to the free throw line trailing by one with four seconds left in regulation, but instead he offered the U.S. new life by sinking only one of two foul shots. The heavily favored Americans responded by seizing control in overtime and escaping with a well-earned 79-71 victory.

Give USA Basketball credit for winning gold at the past two U-19 World Championships because that age level has traditionally been the most difficult for the Americans to dominate. Before its victory in 2013, the U.S. had only held the U-19 world title once since 1995, a product of other nations sending more cohesive teams and top American prospects passing on the chance to play to focus on preparing for college or the NBA draft instead.

Besides delivering heartache for Croatia and a mixture of jubilation and relief for the U.S., this year's U-19 tournament also gave viewers a chance to see some of the world's most coveted prospects play against one another. Here's a look at what we learned with an emphasis on stuff that will impact college basketball in years to come:

1. The top of the Class of 2016 is incredible

The tournament confirmed the already popular opinion that the top players in the Class of 2016 have a chance to be special. Not only did guard Josh Jackson and forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum each make the U.S. roster as high school seniors-to-be, the young American trio was the story of the tournament from start to finish. 

Giles dominated in the paint with his length and athleticism, averaging 14 points and 10.6 rebounds despite logging only 21.2 minutes per game. Tatum scored in double figures in all seven games and nearly took the head off a late-arriving Greek defender with a dunk in the semifinals. And Jackson showcased the versatility that is his trademark, sinking 50 percent of his threes, finishing at the rim and spearheading the U.S. full-court press with his defensive prowess.    

The success of Giles, Tatum and Jackson against older competition made up for the absence of many of the Class of 2015's top players. Rivals.com's highest-rated 2015 prospect on the team was Arizona-bound Allonzo Trier (No. 12), though Kentucky signee Isaiah Briscoe (No. 10) would have been a key player had he not gotten hurt just before the team left for Greece. 

2. Villanova's Jalen Brunson will be an impact freshman

Even though Villanova returns one of the nation's better point guards next season in Ryan Arcidiacono, there is no way the Wildcats will be able to keep incoming freshman Jalen Brunson off the floor. Rivals.com's No. 20 prospect emerged as the victorious U.S. team's most indispensable player by the end of the tournament, earning MVP honors after averaging 14.0 points and 5.6 assists. 

Brunson was at his best in the two closest games the U.S. played, a semifinal win over host Greece and the overtime title game victory against Croatia. He consistently displayed poise under pressure, erupting for 30 points against the Greeks and following that up with 14 points and 7 assists in a team-high 40 minutes against Croatia. 

How will Villanova integrate Brunson next season? The perimeter-oriented Wildcats will probably go with a two-point guard look as they have at times in the past under Jay Wright. While Arcidiacono's erratic outside shooting is a concern if he plays off ball, multi-point guard lineups have a good recent track record — the past two national champions both used them. 

3. Oregon has reason to be excited entering next season

The coach who emerged as the big winner from the U-19 tournament might be Oregon's Dana Altman after two of his players turned in brilliant performances. 

Six-foot-7 sophomore-to-be Dillon Brooks emerged as Canada's top player, leading his team to a fifth-place finish by averaging a team-high 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Incoming freshman Tyler Dorsey showcased the scoring prowess that made him one of California's top high school players the past few years, leading Greece to a semifinal appearance by averaging 15.9 points, shooting 55 percent from the floor and burying 52 percent of his threes.

These developments bode well for a talented but undersized Oregon team that will have to absorb the loss of high-scoring lead guard Joseph Young next season. Expect Brooks to make a big leap next season after starting 33 of 36 games as a freshman and expect Dorsey to emerge as one of the Pac-12's highest scoring newcomers from the onset.   

4. Other international college prospects also showed promise

Oregon's staff probably wasn't the only one that came away from the U-19 tournament encouraged about next season's roster. Coaches at UNLV, St. John's, Nebraska and Wake Forest also surely were pleased with what their players accomplished.

UNLV-bound forward Justin Jackson and guard Jalen Poyser were two of the Canadian team's best players besides Brooks. The 6-foot-7 Jackson became a fixture in Canada's starting frontcourt by averaging 14.8 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds, while the aggressive Poyser emerged as a high-scoring reserve by putting up 7.9 points per game despite only averaging 13.9 minutes off the bench. 

Six-foot-10 Spanish center Yankuba Sima showed why he could see immediate playing time for St. John's next season by posting 9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. Nebraska-bound Jack McVeigh had a nice tournament for Australia, averaging the second most points on his team. And Wake Forest rising sophomore Konstantinos Mitoglou was effective at power forward for Greece, turning in double-doubles in victories against Spain and the Dominican Republic.

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 6, 2015, 3:03 pm

Whether it's leading the nation in home attendance 10 straight years, camping out by the thousands for the right to attend a practice or helping John Calipari surpass 1.3 million Twitter followers, Kentucky supporters are a bit more obsessive than other fan bases.

Now comes further proof the citizens of Big Blue Nation are different: They have their own matchmaking service.

BBNMeetup.com launched on Thursday, billing itself as the dating site "with the goal of helping Kentucky fans find love with other Kentucky fans." Users will discover many familiar features other mainstream dating sites possess and one element unique to BBNMeetup: a metric that allows users to rate how passionate a Kentucky fan they are and seek out others who are equally fair weather or fanatical.

It's fair to wonder if a site devoted exclusively to one fan base can possibly provide a large enough dating pool to keep its clientele happy, but consider that Kentucky isn't like other states. A Mashable study from last year revealed that "basketball" was the most commonly used word on dating profiles among residents of Kentucky.

BBNMeetup has generated nationwide publicity in the lead-up to its launch, so much so that a torrent of visitors apparently even crashed the site this morning.

Congrats! Only the #BBN could crash a dating site before it launched! #BBNMeetUpDotCom #youpeoplearecrazy

— BBNmeetup.com (@BBNmeetup) July 2, 2015

So break out your selfie sticks and your finest throwback Jeff Sheppard jerseys, all you single Kentucky fans, because it's time to snap a flattering profile picture.

John Calipari's Wildcats fell two wins shy of winning a title this April. Thanks to BBNMeetup, perhaps some of their fans will get rings anyway.

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 2, 2015, 7:47 pm

Already well positioned next season with its top six scorers returning from a 23-win NCAA tournament team, Cincinnati took a big step Wednesday toward securing its long-term future too.

The Bearcats landed three commitments in less than 24 hours, a pair from promising recruits Nysier Brooks and Jarron Cumberland and the other from coveted transfer Kyle Washington.

The most impactful addition might be Cumberland, a muscular 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Wilmington, Ohio, who is Rivals.com's No. 65 prospect in the Class of 2016. Cumberland had interest from the likes of Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Xavier and Butler, but a blue-collar, hard-nosed program like Cincinnati ought to be a good fit.

A 6-foot-8 big man from New Jersey who thrives on doing the little things, Brooks is another good fit for the Bearcats even if he is less heralded than Cumberland. He seldom scores any other ways besides tip-ins and dump-off passes, but he is an effective interior defender and rebounder.

The last among the three additions is Washington, a 6-foot-9 forward who transferred from NC State after he averaged 6.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a sophomore. Washington will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in the 2016-17 season and will provide a potential replacement for top big man Octavius Ellis, who will play his final college season next year.

Next season's Cincinnati team has a chance to contend for the American Athletic Conference crown and advance deeper into the NCAA tournament if young stars Troy Caupain and Gary Clark can become more efficient scorers.

And with Brooks, Cumberland and Washington all set to debut the following season, there's good reason to believe the Bearcats can sustain their momentum.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 1, 2015, 5:48 pm

Most cold-shooting big men won't deign to dabble with attempting free throws underhand because they're fearful of being ridiculed for it.

Credit Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku for daring to be different.

Onuaku, a 46.7 percent free throw shooter this past season, is experimenting with the Rick Barry-esque granny stroke this summer at the suggestion of Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The 6-foot-10 sophomore showed off his new approach in the U-19 World Championships over the weekend, sinking 2 of 4 foul shots in the U.S. team's opening victory over Iran.

Onuaku logged 17.8 minutes per game for Louisville as a freshman, averaging 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and making an impact defensively with his ability to block shots. He is expected to play a greater role for the Cardinals next season with Montrezl Harrell off to the NBA.

In two games for the U.S. U-19 team, Onuaku has made a limited impact off the bench. He had four points and four rebounds against Croatia and two points and five rebounds against Iran.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 29, 2015, 4:05 pm

In the first 11 NBA drafts since Rivals.com began ranking high school basketball prospects, ex-Tennessee wing Scotty Hopson had been the only top-five recruit to go unselected.

Hopson finally has company on that not-so-illustrious list.

Sixty prospects heard their names called during Thursday night's NBA draft, however, former Kansas big man Cliff Alexander wasn't one of them. The consensus top-five recruit ranked ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell only a year ago will now have to try to latch on with an NBA franchise as an undrafted free agent and win a roster spot in training camp.

Alexander's draft night tumble comes on the heels of an underwhelming freshman season at Kansas.

Hailed as an elite power forward capable of overpowering defenders in the paint and dominating the glass, Alexander flashed only occasional glimpses of that potential. A foot injury last summer and a chest ailment during the season hampered Alexander, as did the playing time he lost with his inconsistent production and effort. 

Things only got worse for Alexander when his season ended amid an NCAA investigation after his mother, Latillia, accepted improper benefits from a third party. Alexander averaged a modest 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, yet he had little choice but to leave Kansas since he was unlikely to be eligible to play right away the following season.

Many mock drafts still projected Alexander as a late first-round pick when he entered in April, but some red flags began emerging. He measured at just over 6-foot-7 without shoes, he suffered a knee injury that hampered him during workouts and he failed to prove to skeptical scouts that he had good enough footwork, outside shooting or athleticism to make up for being undersized.

While that certainly explains why no NBA team used a first-round pick on Alexander, it's still shocking that none of them bothered to take a second-round flier on him. This is a kid that many compared favorably with Towns and Jahlil Okafor as recently as a year or two ago.

Give Alexander credit for his positive attitude after what had to be one of the most disappointing nights of his life.

Started from the bottom before #motivation

— Cliff Alexander (@CAlexander) June 26, 2015

Alexander has plenty of company on the bottom Thursday night as he is one of 18 underclassmen who entered the draft early but were not among the 60 players selected. Here's a look at the most high-profile early-entry candidates to go undrafted.

1. Cliff Alexander, F, Kansas

Comment: The culmination of a stunning fall for a top-five recruit frequently mentioned in the same breath as Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns as recently as a year ago.

2. Christian Wood, F, UNLV

Comment: The 6-foot-11 forward is a tantalizing combination of size and length, but his maturity and work ethic are both lacking.

3. Robert Upshaw, C, Washington

Comment: Even though Upshaw is the best shot blocker in this draft, concerns about his off-court issues and his heart problems kept him from being selected. 

4. Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky

Comment: Had Harrison been selected on Thursday, Kentucky would have been the first school to have seven draft picks in one year.

5. Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona

Comment: The one-time highly touted recruit has a nice pick-and-pop jump shot but no other elite skills to set him apart from other prospects.

6. Trevor Lacey, G, N.C. State

Comment: Lacey's decision to leave school a year early made sense because of his age even though he was not selected. He'll make a lucrative salary overseas if he doesn't make an NBA roster.

7. Chris Walker, F, Florida

Comment: An NBA-caliber athlete who still looks like he doesn't know how to play basketball, Walker had no business leaving school early.

8. Michael Qualls, G, Arkansas

Comment: An ill-timed knee injury during workouts wrecked Qualls' hopes of being selected in the second round.

Related NBA draft video from Yahoo Sports:

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 26, 2015, 6:18 am

Three months after Jim Boeheim revealed his intent to retire in three years, Syracuse also clarified its succession plan.

Chancellor Kent Syverud announced Thursday that assistant coach Mike Hopkins has been formally named Syracuse's head coach-designate and will replace Boeheim following the 2017-18 men's basketball season.

"For more than 25 years, Mike Hopkins has demonstrated the true meaning of Orange pride and loyalty," Syverud said in a statement. "He has contributed so much to the success of the Syracuse basketball program. I know Mike is ready to lead the program into the future and carry forward the success that has occurred under Coach Boeheim."

The timing of the decision is significant because Syracuse just introduced a new athletic director on Monday. Even though the announcement technically came from Svyerud, it's safe to assume Hopkins also has Mark Croyle's support as the right choice to oversee the transition into the post-Boeheim era. 

The revelation of Syracuse's succession plan provides some stability to a proud program rocked by NCAA sanctions earlier this year. In addition to last season's postseason ban, the NCAA vacated more than 100 of Boeheim's victories, suspended him for nine games next season and handed down crippling scholarship and recruiting restrictions.

Setting the succession plan in stone is a smart move by Syracuse because it eases uncertainty among both fans and prospective recruits. Hopkins had been unofficially acknowledged as Boeheim's eventual successor for years, but he also interviewed for the USC job and several others during that period, raising the question of whether he would remain long enough to inherit the job.

Now that there's a finite time table in place and he has the public support of his administration, Hopkins has less incentive to look elsewhere. That's crucial for a Syracuse program that would not be in an ideal position to hire from the outside while still dealing with scholarship restrictions in 2018.

A prominent candidate from outside the program might not want to step into that mess. Hopkins, however, apparently has no such fear.

"I'm honored, humbled and grateful for this special opportunity," Hopkins said in a statement. "Very few people are afforded the privilege to coach at their alma mater. I want to thank Chancellor Syverud, the Board of Trustees and Jim Boeheim for entrusting me with this great program."

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 25, 2015, 7:48 pm

When Oregon forward Elgin Cook tweeted Jamal Murray last week congratulating him on his commitment and welcoming him to the Ducks, it raised an obvious question.

Did Cook have inside information that the last uncommitted five-star recruit in the class of 2015 was going to choose Oregon?

Turns out Cook's since-deleted tweet was erroneous since Murray did not choose the Ducks. The highly touted Canadian point guard instead announced Wednesday evening that he is headed to Kentucky, a huge coup for a program that must replace seven members of its rotation from this past season's 38-1 Final Four team.

Originally a member of the class of 2016, Murray began strongly considering reclassifying after earning MVP honors for his 30-point, five-assist masterpiece of a performance at April's Nike Hoop Summit. The 6-foot-5 Murray thrives with the ball in his hands but is big enough to guard opposing wings, which will be crucial for a Kentucky team that will also feature returning point guard Tyler Ulis and high-scoring incoming combo guard Isaiah Briscoe. 

Murray became a critical recruit for Kentucky when John Calipari uncharacteristically swung and missed in his pursuit of a handful of top recruits this spring. Jaylen Brown (Cal), Ivan Rabb (Cal), Malik Newman (Mississippi State), Stephen Zimmerman (UNLV), Brandon Ingram (Duke) and Cheick Diallo (Kansas) all spurned the Wildcats, leaving Calipari in jeopardy of taking thinner roster than usual into next season.

The addition of Murray alleviates much of that concern.

With him, Ulis, Briscoe in the backcourt, Calipari has a trio of guards who should thrive in a dribble-drive offense and potential capable backups in freshman Charles Matthews and veteran Dominique Hawkins. Highly touted freshman Skal Labissiere and returners Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee should serve as mainstays in the frontcourt.

It's foolish to ever count out Kentucky in a recruitment, but it's mildly surprising that Murray became the prospect who ended the Wildcats' string of spring misses. Oregon appeared to have the strongest connection between the presence of an assistant coach (Mike Mennenga) who was once co-director of Murray's grassroots program and the addition of Villanova transfer Dylan Ennis, Murray's former teammate on the AAU circuit.

Alas, it was not to be for Oregon, which knows the pain of finishing second in the pursuit of a five-star prospect all too well. The Ducks have been the runner-ups in the recruitment of Anthony Bennett, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon, among others.

Elgin Cook's tweet gave Ducks fans hope this time might be different. Instead Murray altered next season's college basketball landscape by choosing Kentucky instead.

Rivals.com Video of Jamal Murray

 

For more Kentucky news, visit CatsIllustrated.com

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 25, 2015, 12:05 am

A reserve guard on the Wofford basketball team drowned early Monday morning after apparently diving off a bridge into a South Carolina lake.

Nineteen-year-old Jeremiah Tate and a fellow counselor at Camp Thunderbird reportedly jumped off the Buster Boyd Bridge into Lake Wylie at around 2 a.m. The other counselor survived the 30-foot plunge. Tate did not resurface until divers pulled his body from the water about two hours later. 

Tate was a rising junior at Wofford who was majoring in accounting and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Pre-Law Society. He played sparingly his first two seasons for Wofford, appearing in 10 games as a freshman and three as a sophomore and averaging less than a point per game.

"The entire Wofford College family is devastated and saddened today by the loss of Jeremiah Tate," Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson said in a statement from the school.

"Jeremiah was such a dedicated, loved and respected member of the men's basketball team. He had a wonderful personality and had many friends on campus extending outside of the athletic department. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with his family. He will truly be missed."

Tate's Wofford teammates also reflected on his death via Twitter.

Still in shock that I lost a brother #RipTate

— Justin Gordon (@J_Gore24) June 22, 2015

It's an honor to have been able to call you my teammate, but more importantly a friend and a brother. Rest easy Tate. pic.twitter.com/RPeOLnvGQB

— Ryan Sawvell (@SAWDADDY_) June 22, 2015

I'm really going to miss the "old man" jokes coming from him #RIPJeremiah @Jay_Tate1 pic.twitter.com/SzUVsLyJdt

— Ryan Sawvell (@SAWDADDY_) June 22, 2015

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 22, 2015, 5:33 pm

The last time Michigan State secured a commitment from an elite prospect, center Caleb Swanigan changed his mind soon afterward and eventually signed with Purdue.

The Spartans are hoping their latest commitment yields a better outcome. 

Josh Langford, a 6-foot-6 guard from Madison, Ala., committed to Michigan State on Monday after  taking an official visit to the school over the weekend. Langord, Rivals.com's No. 17 prospect in the class of 2016, chose the Spartans over the likes of Kentucky, Arizona and Duke, among others. 

The addition of Langford will help Michigan State replenish a perimeter corps that lost leading scorer Travis Trice this spring and will lose seniors-to-be Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes next year. Langford could play alongside promising West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, pass-first point guard LouRawls Nairn and deadly shooter Matt McQuaid if all three opt to remain in East Lansing beyond the 2015-16 season.

What Langford will bring to Michigan State is the versatility to score in multiple ways. He has the size, athleticism and skill to attack the rim off the dribble or score in the post and he has improved the range and consistency of his jump shot too in recent months.

Langford's decisiion is a punch to the gut for rival Michigan because the Wolverines had a realistic chance to land the wing before accepting a commitment from fellow five-star guard Tyus Battle earlier this year. Battle decommitted over the weekend, leaving the Wolverines no time to get back in the race for Langford. 

With Langford and fellow top 100 prospect Nick Ward both having committed already, Michigan State could be poised to assemble a special 2016 class. They're also in contention for a pair of top in-state prospects, point guard Cassius Winston and forward Miles Bridges.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 22, 2015, 4:06 pm

One of college basketball's most creative haircuts belongs to one of the sport's better point guards.

Bronson Koenig, a key player on the past two Wisconsin teams that have reached the Final Four, posted a photo of himself Tuesday night with a fresh haircut honoring his Native American heritage. The signature element of the haircut is a feather deftly carved into the side of his head.

The only instructions Koenig apparently gave his barber was to give him a haircut that would reflect his Native American pride. Koenig has spoken previously about his desire to learn more about his heritage and become a source of inspiration to young Native Americans.

"I'm always curious because I didn't know all that much, and in history classes we'd only talk about it a little bit," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in February. "But I would be really interested because that is my people and we don't learn much about them."

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 17, 2015, 8:33 pm

The timing of Minnesota's decision not to medically clear incoming freshman Jarvis Johnson did not sit well with the point guard's family.

Curtis Johnson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his son felt blindsided when university officials shared the news earlier this month.

“We felt a little misguided in the way the recruitment went, and then the sudden decision last week," the elder Johnson said. “Under the circumstances, time didn’t allow us to make an educated decision even. We felt pressured by it.”

Jarvis Johnson had an internal defibrillator installed in eighth grade after his heart stopped during a practice and he was diagnosed with hydropathic cardiomyopathy. Doctors cleared him to play thereafter, enabling him to emerge as one of the state of Minnesota's top recruits and lead powerful DeLaSalle High School to four consecutive state championships.

It's totally understandable Minnesota would want to protect itself legally by having its own doctors decide whether to clear him to play, but it's a shame that there appears to have been a communication breakdown between the school and the family.

Johnson's family ought to have been aware this was a prerequisite for Jarvis to be able to play for the Gophers. Perhaps there also might have been a way to accelerate the process so that Jarvis might have time to find other options for the 2015-16 school year.

Ultimately, if Jarvis Johnson decides to leave Minnesota and seek another program willing to medically clear him to play, there is a precedent for such a move. 

Virginia Tech wouldn't clear forward Allan Chaney to play as a result of a heart condition, so he resurfaced at High Point in 2012 and played for parts of two seasons until another medical scare forced him to give up basketball in Dec. 2013. A similar second scare ended the career of former top 100 recruit Emmanuel Negedu soon after he transferred from Tennessee to New Mexico because the Lobos agreed to clear him to play. 

Other similar cases ended without incident. Pepperdine wouldn't clear Will Kimble to play after he collapsed in practice, so he transferred to UTEP, playing the 2004-05  and 05-06 seasons with a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest.

"Everyone in my circle was comfortable and we had no reservations about it at all," Kimble told Yahoo Sports in 2010. "I believe that this condition is something that can be monitored, and if you have a good crew of doctors looking after you, I believe it's something you can play with. My understanding was my defibrillator is going to protect me. More so, the risk was what is going to be the after effect of the defibrillator kicking in."

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 17, 2015, 4:52 pm

Meet Danielle Green, one of the most relentless women in sports. Green played for the Notre Dame basketball team from 1995-2000, and then joined the Army in Iraq, where she lost her left arm during an attack.

Green, a natural lefty, re-taught herself everyday tasks and simultaneously went back to earn her masters degree in counseling. After earning her degree, Green became a readjustment therapist at the South Bend Veterans Center in Indiana.

Green’s ability to give back to a community is the reason why she is the recipient of the Pat Tillman Award this year.

Congrats to our alum and @USArmy veteran Danielle Green, who'll receive @ESPYS Pat Tillman Award. http://t.co/UCzoKFupQG

— NOTRE DAME WBB (@ndwbb) June 16, 2015

Green will be recognized at the ESPY’s in July, marking her the second recipient of the award.

A @ndwbb alum, @USArmy vet, purple heart recipient & now an #ESPYS Pat Tillman award winner. Congrats, Danielle Green http://t.co/D1XmCuPCEZ

— ESPYS (@ESPYS) June 16, 2015

"She’s incredibly driven to make a difference for local veterans of all generations and genders," Pat Tillman Foundation spokeswoman Michelle McCarthy said in an email to Yahoo Sports. "She sees a real problem on the ground level, and she’s standing up to lead others in the effort to improve access to VA care and resources."

The Pat Tillman Foundation was founded in 2004 and gives scholarships to military veterans and their spouses. The foundation gives its Pat Tillman Award for Service, which honors “an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes Pat’s legacy.”

Tillman was a former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger who died in 2003 serving in Afghanistan.

“A decade after his death, this award is another incredible way to honor Pat’s spirit of service by empowering individuals like Danielle” McCarthy said.

 

Author: Celia Balf
Posted: June 17, 2015, 12:25 am

At a time when most Bay Area basketball fans were distraught over the Golden State Warriors' 2-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, dozens of patrons at one Walnut Creek bar couldn't stop smiling.

The Saint Mary's coaches, staff and alumni who filled this particular bar had just watched a beloved former Gaels star make a big splash on basketball's grandest stage for the second consecutive June.

Exactly 359 days after ex-Saint Mary's guard Patty Mills erupted for 17 points in 18 minutes off the bench in the decisive game of San Antonio's NBA Finals victory over Miami, it was fellow Aussie Matthew Dellavedova's turn to thrive in the spotlight. The former undrafted free agent again filled in admirably for injured point guard Kyrie Irving, hounding league MVP Stephen Curry into a poor shooting night, hurling his body across the floor to chase down numerous loose balls and even mixing in 20 points for a depleted Cleveland team in dire need of secondary scorers.

Dellavedova's spirited effort was one of the biggest reasons a Cavs team written off after Irving's season-ending knee injury now stands two victories from vanquishing the favored Warriors. While LeBron James has averaged 41 points so far in the series and continues to carry Cleveland on his back, it was Dellavedova who sank Tuesday night's biggest basket, a late off-balance bank shot with Curry draped all over him after Golden State had rallied to within one in the final three minutes.

"We had an alumni event for the game, and it was tremendous," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett. "There were a lot of Warriors fans there, there were a lot of Delly fans there and then there were some that were torn. There were people there who were Warriors fans for years and years, but they like Delly so much they couldn't help but be happy for him"

If Dellavedova's impact on this series has come as a shock to most viewers, Bennett is far less surprised by his former point guard's achievements. The longtime Saint Mary's coach learned never to underestimate Dellavedova after he earned all-league honors three straight seasons, reached the NCAA tournament three times and finished as the school's all-time leader in scoring, assists, free throw percentage and 3-point shots.

Even though Dellavedova went undrafted because he lacks the size and athleticism of a prototypical NBA guard, Bennett saw signs during the Aussie guard's Saint Mary's career that he could be a productive role player. Dellavedova worked as hard as any player Bennett has coached to improve his defense, transforming himself from a liability as a freshman to a pest who has held his own against the league's best shooter today.

Dellavedova also consistently coaxed the best out of his teammates with his mixture of relentless effort, contagious enthusiasm and leadership skills. Whether it was scouring autobiographies written by Phil Jackson, Andre Agassi or John Wooden or perusing books analyzing patterns to how greatness is achieved in any field, Dellavedova actually researched leadership during college and took tidbits from everything he read.

"Here at Saint Mary's, we kind of knew all this stuff about Matt being around him, but it's kind of fun to see everyone else in the country learn about him," Bennett said. "Everyone's seeing how hard he plays and how tough he is. We knew it, but now everyone else is recognizing it too."

Dellavedova and Mills are both part of an Australian pipeline to Saint Mary's that Bennett established almost by accident nearly 15 years ago.

Bennett inherited a two-win team lacking backcourt depth in 2001, so he made a late offer to Adam Caporn, a guard from the Australian Institute of Sport that he'd only seen in a few highlight reels. Caporn had a good enough experience at Saint Mary's that he recruited AIS teammate Daniel Kickert, a forward who went on to star for the Gaels and play professionally overseas afterward.

The success of Kickert convinced Bennett that recruiting Australia could be a way for Saint Mary's to attract elite talent without having to go head-to-head with higher-profile programs. Bennett has made sure his staff has at least one coach with Australian ties every year for the past decade, a decision that has helped him land about a dozen Aussie standouts including the highly regarded Mills and the less heralded Dellavedova.

"We can still get some of the best players over there, so it would be stupid for us not to recruit those kids," Bennett said. "There's a comfort level for those kids with us. And with Patty and Delly doing what they've been doing recently, it would be silly for us not to recruit Australia hard."

Saint Mary's hasn't made the NCAA tournament or posed as great a threat to league rival Gonzaga in the two years since Dellavedova graduated, but Bennett is hopeful that slight step backward is only temporary. He believes the success of Dellavedova and Mills in the NBA Finals can only help showcase Saint Mary's to recruits in Australia and the United States.

"What Delly and Patty have done the past two years, there's not much marketing-wise you can do better than that," Bennett said. "We're really proud of those guys and what they've done."

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 10, 2015, 9:10 pm

Whether it's Mark Gottfried, Billy Kennedy or Steve Prohm, coaching at Murray State has proven to be an ideal springboard to a high-profile job.

Matt McMahon will be the next to attempt to have enough success to make a similar jump. 

One day after Prohm left to become the next coach at Iowa State, Murray State announced Tuesday that McMahon will be his successor. McMahon spent the previous four seasons at Murray State as an assistant to Prohm before leaving last month to join longtime friend Eric Konkol's staff at Louisiana Tech.

The immediacy of the McMahon hire suggests Murray State officials had a plan in place for a while in case Prohm departed. Prohm has been linked to a few jobs the past few years including his alma mater Alabama, which ultimately chose to hire Avery Johnson instead of him earlier this spring. 

The allure of McMahon for Murray State is surely that the first-time head coach played an integral role in the program's success the past four years.

The Racers amassed a sparkling 104-29 record during that span, taking an undefeated record into February in 2012 and reeling off 25 consecutive victories at one point this past season. They also won an NCAA tournament game in 2012, captured league titles in 2012 and 2015 and produced two NBA-caliber guards, Isaiah Canaan of the Philadelphia 76ers and likely 2015 first-round draft pick Cameron Payne.

McMahon will undoubtedly follow a similar blueprint to the one that proved successful for Prohm the past few years. The Racers will play at a fast pace just as they did last year when they were eighth nationally in points per game at 79.0.  

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 9, 2015, 10:21 pm

The major rules changes designed to make college basketball less of a slog are now official.

The NCAA on Monday approved a series of recommendations made by college basketball's rule committee last month including shortening the shot clock, reducing the number of timeouts allotted to each team and increasing the freedom of movement for offensive players.

The most significant change is the implementation of a 30-second shot clock after two decades of offenses having 35 ticks to attempt a shot.

Proponents will note the shorter shot clock should lead to more possessions per game, which should result in more points. Opponents will question whether the change will achieve its goal of a more watchable sport since a shorter shot clock favors defenses and could result in a decrease in shooting percentages.

The other issue with a reduced shot clock is that it's a move toward homogeneity in a sport that is at its best when there's a contrast in styles among opponents.

Whereas most NBA teams rely on man-to-man defense and pick-and-roll offense, college teams play favor many different styles, from Virginia's pack-line man-to-man and patient motion offense, to VCU's fast-paced offense and frenetic full-court pressure defense, to everything in between. A 30-second shot clock wouldn't force every team to dramatically alter its style, but it represents an erosion in the level of contrast.

There's also a chance a shorter shot clock will damage one of the best postseasons in American sports. The popularity of the NCAA tournament is built on the possibility of a high seed falling in the early rounds, but more possessions per game increase the likelihood of the expected outcome because the lesser talented team will have to outperform its opponent more trips down the floor.

The other changes have been almost universally lauded — and with good reason. They address the trends that have inspired concern among high-ranking officials in the sport.

Each team will have four timeouts instead of five and will only be allowed to carry three into the second half. Team timeouts that come within 30 seconds prior of scheduled TV timeouts will become TV timeouts with the exception of the first team timeout of the second half.

Defensive rules will also be tweaked with a wider restricted area underneath the basket and greater freedom of movement for cutters and players driving with the ball. The rules prohibiting clutching, grabbing and arm bars on defense should go a long way toward increasing scoring and shooting percentages if referees actually enforce them.

The push to improve the sport coincides with concern over the decrease in scoring in college basketball.

Scoring in Division I plunging to 67.5 points per game for the 2012-13 season, the lowest in the 3-point era. An emphasis on freedom of movement during the 2013-14 season led to an uptick, but that evaporated quickly and scoring plunged back to 67.7 points per game this past season. 

The changes implemented represent the recognition that reform is needed despite an NCAA tournament that produced great games and high ratings.

College basketball's postseason is still as intriguing and action-packed as ever, but its flawed regular season is in need of improvement.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 8, 2015, 8:57 pm

Steve Prohm probably feels much better today that his alma mater Alabama hired Avery Johnson instead of him earlier this spring.

Being snubbed by the Crimson Tide two months ago enabled Prohm to land a better job Monday.

Instead of beginning a rebuilding job in Tuscaloosa, Prohm will inherit a top 10-caliber roster at Iowa State. The Cyclones have announced they've hired the highly successful former Murray State coach as the successor to Fred Hoiberg.

Prohm's challenge will be making sure that Iowa State's recent resurgence doesn't end with the departure of its beloved head coach. Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls last week after transforming the Cyclones into a perennial Big 12 contender during his five-year tenure, leading them to four NCAA tournament bids and back-to-back conference tournament titles.

What surely made Prohm attractive to Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard is the success he enjoyed in four seasons at Murray State.

He compiled an impressive 104-29 record, nearly leading the Racers to an unbeaten regular season in 2012 and developing NBA guards Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne during his tenure. He also favored a similar up-tempo, free-flowing yet efficient system to what Hoiberg has run at Iowa State the past few years. 

Enough talent returns from last season's 25-win team at Iowa State that Prohm should enjoy instant success if he can handle the pressure of following a revered coach and design a scheme to capitalize on what he has coming back. From there, the key will be whether he can find a way to recruit to a school that traditionally hasn't attracted elite prospects.

The state of Iowa is not an especially fertile recruiting ground, nor do its schools even typically land its best in-state prospects. The last two Iowa-born McDonald's All-Americans, Marcus Paige and Harrison Barnes, both went to North Carolina, while fellow Iowa products Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrenz all starred at Kansas in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The way in which Hoiberg circumvented that problem was by turning Iowa State into a popular destination for talented transfers in need of a second chance, from Chris Allen, to Royce White, to Will Clyburn, to DeAndre Kane, to Jameel McKay. More recently, Hoiberg also pursued impact recruits out of high school as well because the Cyclones had grown in stature enough to land some of them.

It will be interesting to see if Prohm can follow the same formula.

From Mick Cronin, to Billy Kennedy, to Mark Gottfried, Murray State has produced some highly successful coaches in recent years. Iowa State will have to hope that Prohm is the next. 

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 8, 2015, 4:53 pm

The rebuilding job Chris Mullin inherited at St. John's became a little bit more difficult Friday when one of his best players announced he will not return next season.

Rysheed Jordan, the Big East's ninth-leading scorer this past season, will forgo his remaining two years of college eligibility and pursue a professional career. The 6-foot-4 guard is ineligible for the NBA draft until 2016 because he missed last month's early-entry deadline, but he could play overseas next season or in the D-League.

"Playing professional basketball has always been a goal of mine. I believe I am ready to take the next step in my basketball career and plan to work hard to achieve my dream of playing in the NBA," Jordan said in a statement released by the school. "I am thankful for the opportunities and support St. John's University has provided to me. This decision was made with my family's best interests in mind."

The unusual timing of Jordan's announcement stems from the academic issues that he encountered during spring semester.

The New York Post reported that Jordan is academically ineligible to play for St. John's next fall. He could have rejoined the team in December if he passed his summer and fall semester classes, but he opted to turn pro instead. 

"We support Rysheed and wish him well in his professional endeavors," Mullin said. "He has the potential to play at the highest level of our sport."

A former top 50 recruit, Jordan has the potential to get an NBA look someday if he can perform with more consistency than he did at St. John's. He averaged 14.1 points and 3.1 assists to help St. John's reach the NCAA tournament last season, but his off-the-court issues were a constant source of distraction for the Johnnies.

The loss of Jordan makes it all the more important that Mullin was able to land talented freshman point guard Marcus LoVett Jr. earlier this spring. It will be LoVett who will likely inherit a larger-than-expected role as a freshman with Jordan no longer available to serve as a lead guard and primary ball handler.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 5, 2015, 8:51 pm

For a program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2011 and returns only three scholarship players from last season's team, Washington should enter the summer feeling at least somewhat optimistic about its future.

The Huskies will welcome an eight-man recruiting class that could be formidable enough to one day get the program back to competing for Pac-12 titles the way it did at the apex of Lorenzo Romar's tenure.

The latest addition is former Florida signee Noah Dickerson, a 6-foot-8 forward Rivals.com ranks No. 81 in the class of 2015. Dickerson chose Washington over Pac-12 rival Cal on Thursday after reopening his recruitment earlier this spring when Billy Donovan left Florida for the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

I've finally found my home. I'm a Washington Husky 🐺🐺 pic.twitter.com/cqGYVPKQw7

— Noah Dickerson (@NDickerson41) June 5, 2015

For Dickerson, the appeal of Washington surely stemmed from the available playing time in the frontcourt. The Huskies don't return a single frontcourt player from last season, having lost Shawn Kemp Jr. and Gilles Dierickx to graduation, Robert Upshaw to dismissal and Jernard Jerreau via transfer.

Dickerson will join a recruiting class that includes fellow Rivals 150 prospects Dejounte Murray, Matisse Thybulle and Marquese Chriss. The other newcomers eligible next season are guards David Crisp and Dominic Green, forward Devenir Duruisseau and junior-college center Malik Dime.

Enthusiasm for that recruiting class should at temper some of Washington's disappointment over how its once-promising 2014-15 season ended. A Huskies team in contention for an NCAA tournament bid for a while collapsed after dismissing Upshaw and then lost top guard Nigel Williams-Goss via a transfer to in-state rival Gonzaga.

It's unlikely the combination of standout guard Andrew Andrews, returning role players Quevyn Winters and Donaven Dorsey and an eight-man recruiting class will get Washington back to the NCAA tournament next season, but the Huskies can at least build a foundation for future success.

They've endured a rough patch the past few years. Next season could be a new beginning.

For more Washington news, visit The Dawg Report

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 5, 2015, 4:20 pm

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt addresses the media following meeting in May. (AP)Almost two weeks after it confirmed it had received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, the University of North Carolina finally revealed the contents of that 59-page document on Thursday afternoon.

The Notice of Allegations hit the Tar Heels with a lack of institutional control charge and four other potentially serious violations in the wake of the NCAA's lengthy investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.

The first two allegations state that North Carolina student-athletes received impermissible benefits unavailable to the rest of the student body when their academic counselors obtained special assistance and privileges for them. The next two allegations target African American Studies department officials Deborah Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang’oro for their failure to cooperate in the NCAA's investigation.

The final allegation is the most serious one, the charge of lack of institutional control. It asserts that the athletic department failed to properly monitor the actions of members of its academic support staff and cast a blind eye to why so many athletes were enrolled in courses in the African American Studies department.

"Although the general student body also had access to the anomalous AFRI/AFAM courses," the Notice of Allegations reads, "student-athletes received preferential access to these anomalous courses, enrolled in these anomalous courses at a disproportionate rate to that of the general student body and received other impermissible benefits not available to the general student body in connection with these courses."

The Notice of Allegations arrived nearly a year after the NCAA decided to reopen its investigation into sham classes offered at North Carolina in the African American Studies department. Federal prosecutor Kenneth Wanstein subsequently uncovered new information pertaining to the scandal, revealing last October that more than 3,100 students were enrolled in the classes in question over an 18-year period and that student-athletes accounted for nearly half the course enrollments.

North Carolina must respond within 90 days to the Notice of Allegations, which it received May 21. School officials will then meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis and await a ruling on what the penalties will be, a decision that history suggests likely won't come until sometime early next year.

Since the allegations against North Carolina are so broad rather than sport-specific, it's unclear how the school's football and men's basketball programs will be affected. There's no pertinent case for the NCAA's committee on infractions to use as a model as it determines penalties, so it could come down to a gut feeling from members of the committee.

The sport mentioned most frequently in the notice is actually North Carolina's women's basketball program. That's because the notice alleges that women's basketball counselor Jan Boxill committed major violations in the form of improper academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.

As part of North Carolina's statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham and Chancellor Carol L. Folt acknowledged previous mistakes but also noted the efforts of the university to address them. Here's the full statment:

“We take the allegations the NCAA made about past conduct very seriously. This is the next step in a defined process, and we are a long way from reaching a conclusion. We will respond to the notice using facts and evidence to present a full picture of our case. Although we may identify some instances in the NCAA’s notice where we agree and others where we do not, we are committed to continue pursuing a fair and just outcome for Carolina.

“We believe the University has done everything possible to address the academic irregularities that ended in 2011 and prevent them from recurring. We have implemented more than 70 reforms and initiatives to ensure and enhance academic integrity. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of those measures and, wherever needed, put additional safeguards in place.”

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Related Video:

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 4, 2015, 5:26 pm

The dismissal of Hanner Mosquera-Perea earlier this spring left Indiana scrambling for another big man to play behind highly touted incoming freshman Thomas Bryant.

The Hoosiers solved that problem Tuesday night by adding a player very familiar with the rigors of a Big Ten schedule.

Former Michigan big man Max Bielfeldt committed to Indiana, selecting the Hoosiers over Nebraska and Iowa State. The 6-foot-8 graduate transfer will have one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately.

A career backup at Michigan, Bielfeldt earned playing time with all-out hustle and solid defense last season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 14.5 minutes per game. He chose to transfer when John Beilein could not guarantee him a scholarship for a post-graduate season because the Wolverines were saving it for elite prospect Jaylen Brown or several other potential recruiting targets. 

Transfer haven Iowa State was thought to be a strong contender to land Bielfeldt before coach Fred Hoiberg left for the Chicago Bulls. That left Indiana in the driver's seat as Nebraska could offer more playing time but is not in a position to contend for an upper-tier Big Ten finish next season.

Bielfeldt will likely compete with rising sophomore Emmitt Holt to be the first big man off the bench for the frontcourt-bereft Hoosiers next season. Indiana will undoubtedly start three guards again with perimeter standout Troy Williams seeing a lot of time at power forward.

It will be interesting to see the reaction Bielfeldt receives when Indiana plays at Michigan next season. He gave his all for the Wolverines for four years, but now he'll be wearing rival colors. 

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 3, 2015, 2:08 pm

If saying goodbye to the university where he has become an icon feels at all bittersweet to newly hired Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, at least he can take solace in the health of the program he is leaving behind.

Iowa State basketball has grown strong enough under Hoiberg that its golden era doesn't have to end with the departure of its golden boy.

Whoever Iowa State's new coach is will take over a program that has progressed remarkably quickly since 2010 when athletic director Jamie Pollard risked the future of a success-starved program on a beloved alum who had never coached at any level before. Hoiberg transformed the Cyclones into a perennial Big 12 contender, leading them to four NCAA tournament bids and back-to-back conference tournament titles the past two years.

Enough talent returns from last season's 25-win team that Iowa State will begin next year in the top 10 in the polls regardless of who its new coach is. The Cyclones also have strong brand recognition among recruits because of their free-flowing style of play and an enthusiastic fan base that has helped Hilton Coliseum regain its reputation as a house of horrors for opposing teams.

Of the many candidates to succeed Hoiberg, his top assistant T.J. Otzelberger might be the most obvious choice. Otzelberger is a proven recruiter who returned to Iowa State this spring after spending a couple years on Washington coach Lorenzo Romar's staff.

UTEP coach Tim Floyd and Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek are two other coaches with Iowa State ties who could draw interest from Pollard. He could also make a run at established mid-major coaches like Murray State's Steve Prohm or Stephen F. Austin's Brad Underwood should he decide that a connection to Iowa State is unimportant to him.

The best choice will be a coach who can handle the pressure of following a revered coach, design a scheme to capitalize on the current talent-laden roster and find a way to recruit to a school that traditionally hasn't attracted elite prospects.

The state of Iowa is not an especially fertile recruiting ground, nor do its schools even typically land its best in-state prospects. The last two Iowa-born McDonald's All-Americans, Marcus Paige and Harrison Barnes, both went to North Carolina, while fellow Iowa products Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison and Raef LaFrenz all starred at Kansas in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The way in which Hoiberg circumvented that problem was by turning Iowa State into a popular destination for talented transfers in need of a second chance, from Chris Allen, to Royce White, to Will Clyburn, to DeAndre Kane, to Jameel McKay. More recently, Hoiberg also pursued impact recruits out of high school as well because the Cyclones had grown in stature enough to land some of them.

The new coach would be wise to maintain that formula. It has produced one of the best runs in Iowa State basketball history, one that doesn't have to end even with Hoiberg on his way to Chicago.

When Pollard gambled by hiring Hoiberg in 2010, he had only a downtrodden program in search of its first winning season in five years to pitch. Now he can sell prospective coaches on a top 10-caliber roster and program with a proven formula for winning.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 1, 2015, 11:55 pm

When Kelly Olynyk emerged from a redshirt year two years ago with a stronger upper body and a revamped post-up game, the ex-Gonzaga forward did more than just develop into a first-team All-American and a first-round draft pick the following year.  

His success also paved the way for Gonzaga to become a destination for elite transfers hoping to make a similar transformation while sitting out a year.

Kyle Wiltjer transferred from Kentucky in 2013, became one of the nation's most versatile scorers this past season and is considered a potential national player of the year candidate next year. Highly touted former Washington point guard Nigel Williams-Goss chose the Zags earlier this spring and will sit out this coming season. And this past weekend Gonzaga landed another prized transfer, outdueling Georgetown and SMU for former Missouri forward Johnathan Williams III. 

The addition of Williams goes a long way toward solidifying Gonzaga's frontcourt after next season. The Zags will definitely lose Wiltjer and mammoth center Przemek Karnowski to graduation and could also lose rising sophomore Domantas Sabonis to the NBA draft. 

Williams should give Mark Few a frontcourt piece around which to build for the 2016-17 season. The 6-foot-9 former consensus top 75 recruit was one of the few bright spots for a dismal 23-loss Missouri team as a sophomore, averaging a team-high 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks and showcasing the ability to score in the paint and from the perimeter.

Where a redshirt year could help Williams is if he is able to further diversify his offensive repertoire. He sank 34 percent of his 3-point shots as a sophomore, but he could get more consistent with his jump shot and improve putting the ball on the floor.

With Williams and Ryan Edwards in the frontcourt, Gonzaga should be in good shape even if Sabonis leaves for the NBA next spring. That group will join a backcourt that should also include Williams-Goss, former top 100 recruit Josh Perkins and several capable wings.

So Gonzaga is well-positioned to be nationally relevant not just next season but the year after. And they owe some of that roster building success to the precedent Olynyk set while sitting out two years ago. 

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 1, 2015, 3:08 pm

Former Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison worked out for the Indiana Pacers this week and said NBA teams have taken particular interest in two issues when evaluating him. 

First, they want to know how Harrison feels about the prospect of being separated from twin brother, Aaron, this summer when both will either be drafted or signed as free agents, presumably with different teams. The Harrison brothers helped Kentucky reach the Final Four each of the past two seasons but couldn't bring a national title back to Lexington in either year. They decided to turn pro following their sophomore season. 

"They know we're probably not going to go to the same team and they didn't want that to be a problem," Andrew Harrison told the Indianapoils Star after his workout with the Pacers. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to being an individual and we both can show the world what we can do without each other."

Teams also have asked Harrison about his notorious press conference blunder following Kentucky's Final Four loss to Wisconsin. A reporter asked Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns about the difficulty in defending Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky. Sitting at the podium, Harrison appeared to mutter "F--- that N----" under his breath in reference to Kaminsky. 

He later apologized but nearly two months later, it's still of interest to teams considering using a draft pick on the 6-foot-5 guard. Harrison told the Star it is a non-issue at this point. He called Kaminsky 'my boy.' The two players share the same agent. 

Andrew Harrison is seen as a late-first, or early second-round pick by most mock drafts. Aaron Harrison is viewed as a second-round pick at best and possibly an undrafted free agent. 

 

- - - - - - -

[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: May 29, 2015, 8:28 pm

University of Indianapolis guard Dai-Jon Parker, known for his smile and outgoing personality, drowned Thursday in a boating accident at Morse Reservoir, officials said. 

The news stunned numerous college and professional players who competed with and against Parker in the past. 

Parker was a senior on last season's team after transferring from Vanderbilt where he played three years. He grew up in Baton Rouge, La., but played his high school basketball in Milton, Ga., at Milton High School. He was part of a state championship team in 2010. 

The Indianapolis Star reported Parker and another man were being pulled on an inner-tube behind a pontoon boat when they hit a large wave that knocked them both into the water. Parker never resurfaced according to witnesses, who called 911 for help. He was not wearing a life jacket. 

Parker was  found at the bottom of an 11-foot deep portion of the lake two hours after he went missing. First responders used sonar technology to help locate him.  

The University of Indianapolis issued a statement on Parker's death after it was confirmed. 

“The entire University of Indianapolis community mourns the loss of Dai-Jon Parker, a senior student-athlete with a vibrant personality who had a great future ahead,” the statement said. “This is a tragic situation for everyone involved, and UIndy is offering counseling and support to the people closest to him. Please keep Dai-Jon’s family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”

Lost one of my brothers today. We all are going to miss you. Rest in peace Dai

— Shannon Scott (@3SScott) May 29, 2015

Can't believe it. Never saw Dai without a smile on his face. You'll be missed by anyone who ever met you pic.twitter.com/ttpJzmygyu

— Evan Nolte (@EvanNolte) May 29, 2015

Man RIP Dai Jon Parker can't believe it good dude since i met him in high school, prayers to his family!

— Jabari Brown (@Bari_BrownIDF) May 29, 2015

Man in the words of my big bro @bambam2068 #liveeachdaylikeitsyourlast !! Appreciate life and all that it entails. RIP Dai Jon Parker

— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) May 29, 2015

Dangg man it's crazy the stuff that happens... RIP Dai Jon Parker

— Roosevelt Jones (@rozayyjones21) May 29, 2015

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings also issued a statement. 

"We are extremely saddened with the news of Dai-Jon's death," Stallings said. "Everyone who watched him play basketball knew what kind of athlete he was. But, to those of us who knew him and loved him, he was as good and happy of a person as you would ever meet. He always had a smile on his face and I will always remember him for that smile and the positive spirit he had. We send our deepest condolences and prayers to his family, friends, and others who were lucky enough to have met him. The Vanderbilt basketball family will miss him."

 

- - - - - - -

[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: May 29, 2015, 6:44 pm

The hatred Michigan State coach Tom Izzo already has for Twitter undoubtedly intensified Wednesday as a result of an alcohol-fueled rant by one of his former players.

Garrick Sherman, an ex-Spartans big man who later finished his career at Notre Dame, unleashed a memorable series of tweets about his two years in East Lansing. Among the subjects the 6-foot-10 center touched on included his poor relationship with Izzo, rampant marijuana use among his Michigan State teammates and the time he urinated in a condom to help an ex-Spartans wing pass a drug test.

(And, warning, some of Sherman's language was NSFW)

At the final four izzo told me “not to fucking embarrass myself in front of a crowd bigger than my home town” after I air balled a shot 😂😂😂

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

I pissed in a condom and gave it to Durrell summers to pass a drug test. Suck it #NCAA #stillwenttothefinalfour #suckstobeyou

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

If that last tweet doesn’t make me twitter famous I give up

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Besides, What is the ncaa gonna do?! Give my final four ring to Utah state, the next relevant university who didn’t bend the rules behind us

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Izzo might actually hate me more ( if that’s possible) when he loses scholarships cause I drunkenly spilled half his team smoked weed 😂😂😂

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

The timing of Sherman's tweet coincided with the end of his professional team's season in the country of Georgia. It was well past 2 a.m. in Georgia when Sherman began tweeting and he acknowledged that he had been drinking for quite a while. 

Yes I know my tweets have been more risqué than usual. Our season ended today so I may or may not have consumed some alcohol.

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Over/under 100 followers I lose on this drunken rampage

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Why would Sherman reveal things that paint the Michigan State program in a bad light? He insists it was to spotlight the ineffectiveness of the NCAA rather than to embarrass Izzo or the Spartans. 

If nothing else gets accomplished. Let this Twitter rant show the inability of the ncaa to do anything at all of substance

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

You guys miss the entire point lol every team in NCAA smokes. My point is NCAA is a joke. I still cheer for MSU. I have no resentment at all

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Last time, I don’t dislike msu. I like them. Honestly!! I liked my teammates!!! I just think the NCAA is a joke. But do as you wish Twitter

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Such an epic rant wouldn't be complete without a couple more cheap shots, and Sherman definitely did not disappoint.

First target: Kentucky

Honestly,though if the ncaa is concerned about my helping out a teammate through being sober,Kentucky players salary should be more concern

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 27, 2015

Next up: Doug Gottlieb, whom Sherman had feuded with previously over a crack the CBS analyst made about his beard.

Where’s my boy Gottlieb? I wanna go at his bitch ass one more time lol

— Garrick Sherman (@gsherm11) May 28, 2015

Sherman was a role player at Michigan State who blossomed into a quality starter his final season at Notre Dame. He averaged 13.5 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds for an Irish team that collapsed in the second half of the season after losing star Jerian Grant.

So Sherman had a few nice moments as a college player. None are quite as memorable, however, as Wednesday's Twitter rant.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 28, 2015, 3:51 am

The NCAA's annual release of the newest Academic Progress Rate data will once again have minimal impact on the upcoming college basketball season.

None of the teams penalized for substandard scores hail from major conferences or even quality mid-major leagues.

Alcorn State, Florida A&M, Stetson and Central Arkansas are the only four teams that received postseason bans for the upcoming season. Alcorn State, Central Arkansas and Savannah State also face practice time restrictions, while Florida A&M faces that and other potential penalties including scholarship reductions, coach-specific punishment and contest restrictions.

To avoid a potential postseason ban, teams must achieve a multi-year APR score of at least 930. The power-conference programs with the least margin for error are Texas Tech (935), TCU (937), Mississippi State (938) and Washington State (938).

The NCAA used the release of APR scores to issue a press release trumpeting that the overall four-year APR scores had increased by two points nationwide and that the boost was fueled in part by football and men's basketball. Average scores for men’s basketball players increased four points to 961 and for football players increased five points to 956.

“More college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom, and I applaud their commitment to academic achievement. We are pleased and proud of their accomplishments," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the release. "Our goal always has been to encourage students to achieve academically and earn their degrees. Every year, Division I students prove that both academic and athletic success are achievable.”

How much stock should be placed in the APR formula is certainly debatable, but the high scores across all sports should serve as a reminder of the lunacy of the freshman ineligibility proposals from the Big Ten and other conferences earlier this year. 

If "more college athletes than ever are succeeding in the classroom" under the current model, then the idea of adopting a decades-old rule that would force all freshmen to sit out a year seems only more unnecessary and implausible.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 27, 2015, 6:28 pm

Thanks to an annual salary that has ballooned to nearly $8 million per year, John Calipari has priced himself out of the market for many NBA gigs because all but the most lucrative ones would require him accepting a pay cut.

Now the Kentucky coach's top assistant is in a similar position in terms of landing a head coaching job at the college level.

Kenny Payne has signed a three-year deal worth a total of $2.1 million, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday. His average annual salary of $700,000 is higher than at least 22 of last season's NCAA tournament head coaches, according to USA Today's annual study, and more than twice as high as at least 14 of them.  

What that means is Payne probably won't leave Kentucky until a power-conference program offers him a head coaching job — or at least not until a deep-pocketed mid-major comes along. Payne would have to take a significant pay cut to coach at even the most successful small-conference programs.

It's unclear where Payne ranks among the highest paid assistants in the country because private schools like Duke aren't legally obligated to report salaries, but there's a good chance he's very near the top of the list. SMU assistant Tim Jankovich reportedly received a contract worth $700,000 a year in 2012 when he left his job as Illinois State's head coach to become the coach-in-waiting for the Mustangs whenever Larry Brown decides to step down.

Payne's new contract represents a $200,000 annual bump in pay over his previous one, a reward for a 38-1 season in which Kentucky fell two wins shy of becoming the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win the national title with an undefeated record. Fellow Kentucky assistants John Robic and Tony Barbee both signed one-year contracts this offseason, Robic's worth $415,000 and Barbee's worth $375,000.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 26, 2015, 2:47 pm

Three weeks after he left to become the new coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, former Florida coach Billy Donovan found a unique way to express how much his two decades in Gainesville meant to him.

He and his wife took out a full-page ad in Sunday's Gainesville Sun to say goodbye to Gators fans and thank them for their understanding and support.

BillyD & wife Christine say goodbye to #Gators via full-page ad in Gainesville Sun. Class act. Hardly a surprise. pic.twitter.com/mx1O80gwZD

— Chris Harry (@GatorZoneChris) May 24, 2015

One reason saying goodbye was tough for Donovan is because he has so many good memories from his Florida tenure. He built a program that had previously only been to five NCAA tournaments into a national power, winning two national titles, reaching four Final Fours and advancing to the Elite Eight seven times.

Credit Donovan for a great gesture that will surely further solidify the affection Florida fans have for him. Here's the full text of the message from Donovan and his wife:

“GOODBYE” is so difficult, especially after having spent two decades in this community. (And as you’ve seen before, leaving you all has never been easy for us!)

"The University of Florida and Gainesville embraced us from the day we arrived so long ago, and we have grown to love not only this local community that has so loved us, but all of Gator Nation — from Crescent Beach to Cedar Key, from Miami to New York, from Jacksonville to San Fransisco, to all over the nation and globe.

"We are so grateful to Jeremy Foley, staff and leaders at the University of Florida, along with scores of players and coaches who have become part of our family. And, of course, the Rowdy Reptiles.

We leave with hearts full of love and cherished memories of euphoria and heartbreak — on and off the court — shared at every step with our Gator family.

We are excited for all that Mike White brings as he puts his own unique mark on Florida basketball…Fannnnntastic!

And so, rather than goodbye, …until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

— Billy and Christine Donovan

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 24, 2015, 4:51 pm

North Carolina coach Roy Williams insists he was not involved in any academic impropriety. (AP)In a wide-ranging interview with the Asheville Citizen-Times earlier this week, North Carolina coach Roy Williams explained his greatest frustration with the NCAA's investigation into the academic fraud that took place at the school.

"It would help if the NCAA would just tell us what the allegations are," Williams said.

Williams apparently got his wish soon afterward. North Carolina announced Friday it has received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, but chancellor Carol L. Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school will not release the details of the report until a later date.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” Folt and Cunningham said in a joint statement. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible.

"The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law. When that review for redactions is complete, the University will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the news media. When we respond to the NCAA’s allegations, we will follow this same release process."

The NCAA announced last June that it was reopening its investigation into academic irregularities at North Carolina when some people of interest who previously wouldn't speak with investigators agreed to cooperate. Enforcement staffers cannot force anyone to speak with them since they do not have subpoena power. 

The decision to reopen the investigation came soon after Kenneth Wainstein uncovered new information about the irregularities in North Carolina's African-American Studies department. His report revealed that more than 3,100 students were involved during an 18-year span and that student-athletes accounted for nearly half the course enrollments.

Another factor in the NCAA's decision to reopen its investigation was surely the explosive allegations made by Rashad McCants, a member of North Carolina's 2005 national championship team. McCants alleged that his academic advisers at North Carolina steered him to take sham classes in the school's African-American Studies department in order to ensure that he remained eligible. He also accused tutors of writing some of his term papers and said he passed classes in which he only seldom showed up.

Both North Carolina coach Roy Williams and many former Tar Heels players have since refuted McCants' allegations. In a statement released last June, the other members of the 2005 national title team insisted they "attended class and did our own academic work."

"We want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims," they said in a statement. "We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety."

It's difficult to predict the severity of North Carolina's punishment without knowing the details of the Notice of Allegations, but anything from a postseason ban, to scholarship reductions, to the vacating of past wins is certainly possible.

That uncertainty has hurt North Carolina on the recruiting trail already. Negative recruiting by rival coaches has contributed to the Tar Heels swinging and missing on a handful of recent high-profile recruits including Class of 2015 stars Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 22, 2015, 4:29 pm

The departure of seven key players from last year's 38-win juggernaut didn't cause John Calipari to scale back his non-conference schedule for next season.

(via UK Athletics)The Kentucky coach has assembled a non-league slate loaded with marquee games against name-brand opponents.

A Champions Classic matchup against reigning national champion Duke will provide the first test of how good next year's Wildcats will be. The Blue Devils lost four starters from their title team, but they'll reload behind returning standouts Matt Jones and Grayson Allen and the nation's most decorated recruiting class. 

Among the challenging games Kentucky will play in December include a visit to UCLA, a neutral-court matchup with Ohio State in Brooklyn and a home game against rival Louisville. The Bruins should be highly motivated after the Wildcats embarrassed them in an 83-44 rout last December and the Cardinals should again have a Top 25 caliber team despite the loss of stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier. 

Perhaps the most challenging non-league game of all for Kentucky will come Jan. 30 at Kansas as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The likely preseason top-five Jayhawks return much of their perimeter talent from last year's Big 12 championship team and bolster their frontcourt with the arrival of top recruits Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg.  

"Putting a schedule together, especially one like this, is fun," Calipari said in a school-released statement. "Having to play those games is a different story. To understate it, this will obviously be a challenging schedule for a young team like ours, which lost more than 85 percent of its scoring and nearly 80 percent of its rebounding. We're excited for the challenge."

Kentucky indeed will enter next season with more questions than usual thanks to an uncharacteristic string of recruiting misses this spring. Elite prospects Ivan Rabb, Malik Newman, Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown and Stephen Zimmerman all turned down offers from the Wildcats, leaving them with far less depth than they had last season.  

Opening the season in the top five is still a possibility for Kentucky thanks to the return of standout point guard Tyler Ulis, breakout candidate Marcus Lee and a now healthy Alex Poythress. They'll join a recruiting that class that will definitely include Rivals No. 1 overall prospect Skal Labissiere, wing Charles Matthews and high-scoring combo guard Isaiah Briscoe.

There's also still a chance Kentucky could add highly touted Canadian point guard Jamal Murray if he opts to sign with the Wildcats and reclassify from the Class of 2016. That would certainly help Kentucky navigate a schedule that should again be one of the nation's toughest.  

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 22, 2015, 2:36 pm

At a time when the NCAA is fighting the perception it profits from the images and likenesses of its unpaid athletes, one of its member schools has launched an advertising campaign that will only further weaken that already shaky argument.

LSU's Ben Simmons-themed ad campaign (via LSUSports.net)LSU is using highly touted incoming freshman basketball player Ben Simmons as the centerpiece of a 2015-16 season ticket promotional blitz that will include billboards and print and social media advertising. The "25 is Coming" campaign is such a blatant reference to Simmons' jersey number that the school didn't even bother to pretend otherwise in the release it sent out Wednesday.

"This year’s campaign will focus on the arrival of the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Ben Simmons, and his chosen jersey number '25,'" the release stated. Through this '25' campaign, fans wishing to become season ticket holders will have the opportunity to lock in their season tickets for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center."

Did LSU have concerns about whether its Simmons-heavy ad campaign was appropriate at the height of a nationwide debate over whether college athletes are being exploited? An athletic department spokesman did not immediately return an email from Yahoo Sports seeking comment, but a subsequent report from ESPN.com's Darren Rovell may shed light on why the Tigers felt comfortable with their approach. 

A New Era: LSU official tells me it had permission from Ben Simmons to market him like this, compliance approved it pic.twitter.com/xdaZ6BzSD4

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 21, 2015

A tweet Simmons sent Wednesday evening corroborates the notion that he was aware of the campaign and he is on board with it.

Can't wait to throw on the Number 25 this season for #LSU

— Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25) May 21, 2015

LSU is certainly not the first program to try to monetize the arrival of a top incoming recruit without explicitly using his name and likeness in advertising.

In 2007, Memphis put up a season ticket sales billboard that featured a picture of a red rose and the slogan "Witness a Rare Fall Bloom," a thinly veiled reference to incoming freshman phenom Derrick Rose. In 2012, UCLA trumpeted the arrival of highly touted freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson with a splash page on its website the day after signing day announcing in all caps, "The Future Is Here." Below were pictures of each freshman and information on how to order season tickets.

What makes LSU's ad campaign more notable is that the climate of college sports is different now.

Ex-UCLA forward Ed O'Bannon won a highly publicized lawsuit against the NCAA last year challenging the organization's use of names, images and likenesses of athletes for commercial purposes. The Northwestern football team exerted further pressure for change last spring when it voted whether to unionize.

In 2013, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas goaded the NCAA into leaving the jersey sales business by exposing that typing the name of a high-profile college player into NCAA site's search function produced that athlete's jersey for sale. The NCAA has long insisted that jerseys hawked by its member schools aren't connected to specific players because they only have numbers on the back and not names.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that LSU would try to include Simmons in its marketing efforts simply because it would be a missed business opportunity not to do so.

The 6-foot-8 Australia native is Rivals.com's No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2015, a projected top-five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and the most anticipated prospect LSU has signed since Shaquille O'Neal. He's part of a promising LSU recruiting class that also includes high-scoring guard Antonio Blakeney and Louisiana Mr. Basketball Brandon Sampson.

It makes sense LSU would market the arrival of Simmons and that class. It just further pokes holes in the NCAA's antiquated concept of amateurism that the Tigers have chosen such a blatant approach.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 21, 2015, 5:02 pm

John Calipari's "Players First" recruiting philosophy and the Kentucky fan base's thirst for championships clashed again Wednesday when the Wildcats coach addressed a crowd of 3,000 business executives after receiving a humanitarian award at Rupp Arena.

Most of the 15-minute speech consisted of Calipari describing the qualities a good leader should have and explaining how he gets his players to come together in pursuit of a common goal. The only potential surprise was what Calipari insisted Kentucky's primary objective last season was.

"Last year we started the season with a goal," Calipari said. "You may think it was to win a national title or win all the games, [but] it was to get eight players drafted. Well, how can you be about your team if you're worried about getting players drafted? We kind of work it the other way. What are your dreams? What are you looking for? What are you trying to get out of life? How can we help you with that?

"For me, the mission for me is to be a vehicle to help others reach their dreams, to be the stone that creates the ripple in their lives that goes on and on and on. Now in our state, they want my mission to be, 'win national titles, win national titles.' My mission is bigger than that."

Wednesday's speech certainly isn't the first time Calipari has made headlines by seemingly prioritizing draft picks over championship rings.

When Kentucky had five players selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft, Calipari riled longtime fans and former players by proclaiming it "the biggest day in the history of Kentucky's program." When Kentucky became the first college program to produce the No. 1 and 2 picks in the draft two years later, a beaming Calipari told reporters, "Somebody told me they are going to call it the Blue Room instead of the Green Room."

It's understandable that many Kentucky fans chafe at the idea of Calipari valuing individual achievements more than team accomplishments, but those people should consider the purpose of such comments. In reality, Calipari is using the media to speak directly to recruits, many of whom care more about identifying the best platform to reach the NBA than selecting a program where they can win a national title.

Does Calipari care deeply about winning championships at Kentucky? Yes. His disappointment after last month's Final Four loss to Wisconsin was proof of that.

Does Calipari care more about producing draft picks than winning titles? Doubtful. Both are surely important to him, but he recognizes that attracting elite prospects is the best way to contend for championships every season.

Do fans have a right to be irritated whenever Calipari insists championships are secondary to him? Probably, but they should also understand why he says that stuff too. It's a calculated recruiting tactic — nothing more and nothing less.

Ultimately, Kentucky will fall at least one shy of Calipari's goal of eight draft picks since Alex Poythress suffered a season-ending injury in December and opted to return to school. The Wildcats could still get seven players drafted next month, an impressive enough accomplishment that Calipari should once again get plenty of face time on draft night.

Maybe this time he'll stop short of calling it the biggest night in Kentucky basketball history, but you can bet he'll still find another way to sell his program to recruits.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 20, 2015, 10:54 pm

The past two years, Virginia's modest non-conference slate didn't reflect its sudden emergence as a national power.

That will change next season when the two-time ACC champions will play a non-league schedule worthy of their newfound elite status. 

The marquee non-league game on Virginia's schedule next season will be a potential top 10 clash against reigning Big East champion Villanova. The Cavaliers will host the Wildcats next December and play a return game in Philadelphia the following season, CBSSports.com reported Tuesday.

In addition to that intriguing matchup, Virginia will also host a loaded Cal team expected to crack the top 20 in the preseason polls next year. The Cavaliers will also visit Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, face Big 12 power West Virginia on a neutral floor in the Jimmy V Classic and travel to George Washington in a return game of a home-and-home series that began last season.

The rest of Virginia's non-league schedule won't be known until the Cavaliers release it, but that quintet of games is a major improvement. Only Maryland's surprise emergence as a Big Ten power and Davidson's unexpected rise to Atlantic 10 contention made last year's slate respectable. 

Virginia should have enough returning talent to thrive despite its upgraded schedule.

Leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon, starting point guard London Perrantes and frontcourt standouts Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey all return. The Cavaliers will count on rising sophomore wing Marial Shayok to enjoy a breakout season and help replace the departed Justin Anderson.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 20, 2015, 2:55 pm

When Wake Forest invited comedian Stephen Colbert to deliver its commencement address on Saturday, athletic director Ron Wellman had to know a joke at his department's expense was surely going to be part of the speech.

The Demon Deacons endured a dismal 2014-15 school year in the major sports, finishing with a 3-9 record in football, a 13-19 record in men's basketball and a 13-20 record in women's basketball.

Sure enough, Colbert didn't disappoint. He mocked the state of the Wake Forest athletic department with a joke that referenced the student body's longtime tradition of toilet-papering the trees in the quad after memorable victories.

"Still, while Wake has been a trailblazer, this is a school that respects tradition," Colbert said. "Traditions like rolling the Quad with toilet paper after big wins. And this is actually an eco-friendly tradition because, looking at this season’s win-loss record, you guys saved a lot of paper."

To be fair to the 2015 Wake Forest graduating class, they did find reason to roll the quad in spite of the school's lack of athletic success during their four years in Winston Salem. In March 2014, they celebrated the resignation of basketball coach Jeff Bzdelik by toilet-papering the trees.

Colbert's joke received more chuckles than boos but immediately afterward he found a way to get even the most ardent defenders of Wake Forest sports back on his side.

"Let me win you back," he said. "Duke sucks."

(Thanks, FTW)

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 8:54 pm

Purdue will certainly be bigger after landing a McDonald's All-American for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday afternoon.

Whether the Boilermakers will also be drastically better will depend on Matt Painter's ability to turn a logjam at center into a strength rather than a weakness.

Five-star prospect Caleb Swanigan is a strong, sure-handed low-post scorer who is most comfortable in the paint on both ends of the floor. He joins a frontcourt that already possesses a pair of centers with similar skill sets — 7 footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.

For that arrangement to work, Swanigan is probably going to have to spend the majority of his time at power forward.

The upside will be that Purdue will frequently have two dominant rebounders and low-post threats on the floor, which should create mismatches against smaller opponents who play only one true big man at a time. The downside will be that Swanigan will have to prove on defense that he can stay in front of more nimble Big Ten forwards like Indiana's Troy Williams, Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes and Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff.

Spacing on offense also could become an issue since Haas, Hammons and Swanigan are each most effective within six feet of the basket. Neither Hammons nor Haas have a single 3-pointer in their Purdue careers, while Swanigan hasn't had a reason to develop a consistent jump shot to this point because he has always been able to overpower opponents around the rim.

The other concern for Purdue is the lack of a proven point guard to get the ball to those low-post weapons in spots where they like to score. The Boilermakers hope that Texas-Arlington transfer Johnny Hill can be as steady as Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus turned out to be this past season, but Hill played in a weaker conference than Octeus and didn't post as impressive numbers.

All those issues may diminish Swanigan's immediate impact for Purdue, but his addition is still a plus for a Boilermakers program that had to work hard to land him. Swanigan initially committed to Michigan State last month before backing out of his initial pledge two weeks ago.

Once Swanigan cooled on the Spartans, he considered two other options besides Purdue. He could have joined close friends and fellow elite recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb as part of the most anticipated recruiting class Cal has signed in decades. Or he could have capitalized on late interest from Kentucky and helped fill the void created by the departure of seven key players from last year's Final Four team.

Purdue out-dueled the Bears and the Wildcats because Swanigan is from just up the road in Fort Wayne and because it had been recruiting him the longest. Matt Painter also had a natural advantage in the form of Roosevelt Barnes, Swanigan's guardian and a former Purdue linebacker.

Excellent depth at wing and in the frontcourt gives Purdue hope of beginning the year in the top 25, but the Boilermakers may still be hard-pressed to contend in the Big Ten even with Swanigan. Preseason top-five Maryland and fellow top teams Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin will each be formidable competition.

Some have already said that Swanigan's decision could give Purdue one of the nation's top frontcourts, but that also might be a bit premature.

Skilled forward Kyle Wiltjer, mammoth center Przemek Karnowski and elite prospect Domantas Sabonis all fit together perfectly at Gonzaga. Perry Ellis and top recruit Cheick Diallo could form a great tandem at Kansas. Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson also have good chemistry at North Carolina.

For Painter, building an elite frontcourt could be more challenging. One option is developing Swanigan's perimeter skills this summer. Another is utilzing more zone to enable his big men to stay around the rim.  

It's a good problem for Purdue to have, but Painter will have to be creative to solve it.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 4:29 pm

At a time when the Illinois football program is already under investigation for alleged mistreatment of players, the school's women's basketball coaches also face similar accusations.

Parents of three of the four Illinois players who have left the program since the end of the 2014-15 season sent letters to university officials alleging misconduct by head coach Matt Bollant and associate coach Mike Divilbiss. The Champaign News-Gazette published copies of the letters, which accuse Bollant and Divilbiss of creating racial tension on the team, emotionally and verbally abusing players and jeopardizing their health by forcing them to play through major injuries.

Many of the issues appear to stem from alleged favoritism shown by Bollant and his staff toward players he recruited as opposed to holdovers as he tried to establish a new culture within a program that hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2003. Bollant attempted to instill toughness in his players after replacing Jolette Law in 2012, but the families of former players Jacqui Grant, Taylor Tuck and Taylor Gleason believe that he went too far.

Gleason's father alleged that the coaches referred to Law's former players as "crabs" and would threaten to leave them on the sidelines throughout practice so they wouldn't "infect" the rest of the team. Many of the black players on the team were recruited by Law.

"The code word for racial issues and tensions on the team was the word "culture" and the need to separate Jolette Law's players from the current recruits," Grant's father wrote. "Jolette Law's players were referred to as "the dog pound". At one point, there was an idea to hold separate practices for the African American players in an effort to get them to quit."

The families also described an atmosphere in which coaches belittled players about personal issues and threatened to pull scholarships without sufficient cause. They allege that Tuck was forced to play with a high ankle sprain, Gleason was forced to play with TurfToe that was later diagnosed with a broken foot and Grant was forced to play with an enlarged spleen while suffering from mononucleosis.

“As a lifelong resident of the State of Illinois, this is nothing less than shameful,” Grant's father wrote. “Matt Bollant is the orchestrator. Mike Divilbiss is the muscle. The balance of the coaching staff are spectators. The results are both embarrassing and intolerable to anyone with an ounce of common sense and morals.”

In the wake of the allegations first published in the Daily Illini, Divilbiss has resigned as associate head coach and LaKale Malone has been promoted as his replacement. An Illinois spokesman told the Chicago Tribune that Bollant is not facing disciplinary action at this time after an internal investigation that began in late April found that no violation of NCAA rules or university policy had occurred.

Bollant took Illinois to the WNIT in his debut season in Champaign before enduring losing seasons both of the past two years. Before coaching the Illini, he enjoyed a tremendous five-year run as Green Bay head coach, taking the Phoenix to four straight NCAA tournaments including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in 2011 and 2012.

Grant, a two-year starter for Illinois, intends to transfer to DePaul, as will guard Amarah Coleman. Gleason is transferring to Oakland and Tuck will graduate this spring.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2015, 2:42 pm

Michael White's first big victory at Florida arrived months before he'll coach the Gators in a game for the first time.

The former Louisiana Tech coach persuaded highly touted shooting guard prospect KeVaughn Allen to honor his pledge to Florida.

Allen, Rivals.com's No. 67 prospect in the class of 2015, had been wavering since Billy Donovan jumped to the NBA to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder. His stepfather John Curry told Arkansas radio host Bo Mattingly a couple weeks ago that Allen intended to seek a release from his letter of intent, but White was able to gain Allen's trust on Monday after meeting with him in person.

Allen's decision to attend Florida ensures that White will retain three out of the four members of Donovan's final recruiting class. Forward Keith Stone and forward Kevarrius Hayes will join Allen in Florida's 2015 class, but forward Noah Dickerson received his release from his letter of intent last week.

Of the four signees, Allen could be the most critical next season. The high-scoring 6-foot-2 Arkansas native will likely have a chance to play immediately at wing with Michael Frazier declaring for the NBA draft and fellow starter Eli Carter opting to transfer. 

It would give Florida more hope of a bounce-back season in year one under White if Allen proves capable of handling a big role as a freshman. He'll join a nucleus that includes returning starters Kasey Hill and Dorian Finney-Smith and capable reserve forwards Devin Robinson and Alex Murphy.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 7:41 pm

One thing is clear after watching the above video of Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams reading mean tweets about himself.

He doesn't take himself too seriously.

Williams laughs at himself constantly while borrowing an always funny bit from the Jimmy Kimmel Show. He chuckles at someone insisting he has the "fattest neck" they've ever seen. He howls when someone says his hoarse voice sounds like he gargled with barbed wire. He even smiles when someone compares one of his ties to a Super 8 bedspread.

The only other takeaway from the video: How does Williams not know who actor Channing Tatum is? Take a couple hours off from recruiting this summer, Buzz, and go watch 21 Jump Street.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 5:21 pm

The outlook for UConn improved dramatically over the weekend when the Huskies landed maybe the most accomplished graduate transfer to change schools this spring.

Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall's leading scorer this past season, announced he has chosen UConn over Ohio State, Pittsburgh and a handful of other top suitors.

The addition of Gibbs, fellow graduate transfer Shonn Miller and a pair of top 100 recruits gives UConn hope of bouncing back from a 20-15 campaign last season that ended with an opening-round NIT loss. The Huskies have enough talent to potentially crack the preseason top 25 despite the graduation of star guard Ryan Boatright.

There's no bigger reason for optimism than Gibbs, who should replace Boatright as UConn's main perimeter threat to score himself or create for others. The 6-foot-2 rising senior averaged 16.3 points and 3.8 assists and shot 43.6 percent from behind the arc this past season for a Seton Hall team that ascended into the top 25 in early January but crumbled amid injuries and internal dissension thereafter. 

Playing alongside Gibbs in the backcourt will be returning wings Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis, both promising double-digit scorers who struggled with consistency this past season. Sometimes Hamilton and Purvis would perform like the scoring threats UConn needed alongside Boatright last season. Other times Hamilton would struggle with shot selection and Purvis would all but disappear, leaving Boatright to attempt to carry the offense by himself. 

The other insurance policy against that this season is the arrival of high-scoring guard Jalen Adams, Rivals.com's No. 23 recruit in the Class of 2015. He'll likely begin the season as Gibbs' primary backup at lead guard but also should see plenty of playing time alongside the Seton Hall transfer when coach Kevin Ollie opts to go to a lineup with multiple ball handlers who can attack the rim.

UConn appears to be in solid shape in the frontcourt as well with defensive anchor Amida Brimah returning and Miller and promising freshman Steve Enoch joining the fold. Brimah is an elite shot blocker who is blossoming into a threat to score around the rim, while Miller averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season at Cornell and should help cover up Brimah's weaknesses on the glass.

The quality of that supporting cast is a big reason Gibbs selected UConn over the other programs who were pursuing him. He needed to be sure he was making a good decision after previous stops at Texas and Seton Hall did not go how he planned. 

At Texas, Gibbs was a lightly used freshman on an NCAA tournament team, unsatisfied with his playing time and unsure if he could carve out a bigger role with fellow guards Sheldon McClellan and Myck Kabongo set to return the following season. At Seton Hall, Gibbs had all the playing time he wanted but it was for a team in disarray and a program that hasn't reached the NCAA tournament since 2006.

At UConn, Gibbs hopes to have the best of both worlds. He'll have the chance to showcase his ability for a team that has a chance to return to the NCAA tournament and do some damage after the disappointment of sitting home this past March.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2015, 2:43 pm

At a time when Drew Summerlin felt the lowest, the 11-year-old with Asperger's received a morale boost from his favorite basketball team.

University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams sent Summerlin an autographed team picture and a heartfelt letter last week encouraging him to remain strong despite months of torment from bullies at his school.

The team photo Williams sent Summerlin (via Facebook)The envelope from Williams arrived about two weeks after a group of boys attacked Summerlin during lunch at Iroquois Middle School in Rochester, N.Y. Summerlin sustained a concussion severe enough that he had to stay home from school the next few days.

"I'm so sorry and upset with what you have been going through," Williams wrote. "Someday those kids will realize how terribly they acted and will be ashamed.

"Drew, I want you to know that I am so proud for how you have handled things and know you are a kind person and anyone would be lucky to be your friend. Although life is not always easy, don't ever give up and continue to be the person that you are."

The Summerlin family initially had no idea how Williams learned of their son's plight, but they have since discovered they have a childhood friend of Drew's father to thank. A North Carolina spokesman said a man named Derek Nipper sent Williams video of Drew discussing the attack clad in a North Carolina T-shirt and told the coach that the boy was a huge Tar Heels fan.

Drew Summerlin indeed watches almost every Tar Heels basketball game with his father, a North Carolina native and lifelong fan. The autographed photo and letter from Williams was such a touching gesture to Summerlin that his parents intend to frame them and hang them in his room.

"Oh my goodness, he was so excited," his mother Jaime Summerlin said. "He kept saying, 'Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?' It was really cute. We're trying to take a negative thing that happened in our son's life and turn it into a positive. The Tar Heels definitely helped with that."

Seeing their son happy was special for his parents because Summerlin had endured a rough couple months at school.

Summerlin's mother said the bullying began when one boy in his class made up a "you have cooties" game called 'The Drew Touch.' Whenever one of Summerlin's classmates would touch him, someone would yell, "You've got The Drew Touch." If that child touched another classmate, they would yell, "Drew Touch, can't touch back."

The letter Roy Williams sent Summerlin (via Facebook)The teasing escalated when the same boy began harassing Summerlin on Instagram. His mom said the boy called Summerlin profane names, made fun of his disability and even went so far as to say, "I f---ing pray for his death every night."

"My husband and I were struggling to figure out just what to do about this situation, the right thing to do," Jaime Summerlin said. "I had been calling and emailing the principal. They tried a few times having the boys get together and talking but when they get out of the office, the picking on him started right up."

For Summerlin's parents, last month's attack was the final straw.

Unsatisfied with the school's response, Jaime Summerlin asked her son how he'd feel about sharing his story with several local TV stations. He agreed in hopes his anti-bullying message would help prevent other kids from going through what he has endured.

The publicity helped grow an anti-bullying Facebook group known as #DrewTouch. Many of the group's 2,800 members wore blue for Drew last Friday or posted pictures of themselves holding up signs with the hashtag #DrewTouch written on them.

Of all the support Drew has received, the letter from Williams is still among the most meaningful to him.

"Our whole family is big Tar Heels fans," Jaime Summerlin said. "The Tar Heels play and our lives stop. Everyone watches. For them to take the time to do that was an amazing gesture."

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 14, 2015, 3:48 pm

The Big Ten-ACC challenge will again provide maybe college basketball's most anticipated non-league game next season.

It will be Maryland at North Carolina on Dec. 1 in a potential preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. 

The Tar Heels are a strong candidate to begin the season atop the polls thanks to the return of four starters from a 26-win Sweet 16 team. All-American candidate Marcus Paige, potential breakout star Justin Jackson and talented big men Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each might have been selected in this year's NBA draft had they opted to declare.

Maryland also is a contender for preseason No. 1 if its returning standouts mesh with some promising new arrivals. High-scoring point Melo Trimble and versatile forward Jake Layman return from last year's breakout season, while elite freshman center Diamond Stone, talented former Georgia Tech power forward Robert Carter and ex-Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon are the best of the crop of newcomers.

Great as the North Carolina-Maryland game could be, there will be some disappointment that the Terps were not pitted against former ACC rival Duke. The storylines for that matchup of likely top 10 teams would have been especially compelling with Sulaimon facing his former team and Krzyzewski facing the program he vowed never to schedule again after the Terps left the ACC for the Big Ten.

Instead Duke will host Indiana, not a bad consolation prize considering it's a battle of blue bloods and likely preseason top 20 teams. The reigning national champs will reload behind the nation's best freshman class, while the Hoosiers return the core of last year's high-scoring NCAA tournament team and add freshman big man Thomas Bryant to shore up their frontcourt.

The Duke-Indiana matchup is probably the best of an intriguing slate of second-tier games that also includes Louisville at Michigan State, Virginia at Ohio State, Wisconsin at Syracuse and Michigan at NC State. Heck, even Purdue at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame at Illinois and Florida State at Iowa all pit potential NCAA tournament contenders against each other.

Credit organizers for again putting together a slate replete with plenty of must-see games. The ACC leads the series 10-4-2, but the Big Ten won last year's event.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 9:01 pm

Three months after the passing of one of college basketball's coaching icons, the man who worked by his side for three decades has also died.

Bill Guthridge, former North Carolina coach Dean Smith's longtime assistant and eventual successor, died Tuesday night at age 77. North Carolina confirmed the news Wednesday morning.  

Guthridge and Smith were nearly lifelong friends who grew up 90 minutes apart from one another in Kansas. Their coaching careers took them to different places for awhile until 1967 when Smith asked Guthridge to leave his alma mater Kansas State and come work for him as an assistant coach at North Carolina.

Over the next 30 years, Guthridge remained by Smith's side, turning down head coaching opportunities at Arkansas and Penn State to stay at North Carolina. He helped Smith lead the Tar Heels to 30 seasons of 20 or more wins, 11 Final Fours and two national championships, the first in 1982 and the second in 1993.

When Smith retired unexpectedly in 1997, he pushed for North Carolina to reward Guthridge for his loyalty and promote him to head coach. Guthridge coached the Tar Heels for three seasons before stepping aside, earning Naismith coach of the year honors in 1998 and leading North Carolina to Final Four appearances in 1998 and 2000.

One of Guthridge's most significant feats as an assistant coach was discovering a skinny shooting guard from Wilmington named Mike Jordan. Guthridge discovered Jordan before any other ACC program thanks to a tip from the athletic director in his county.

"When I first saw him, he jumped out at me because of his athleticism and competitiveness," then-North Guthridge told Yahoo Sports in 2012. "I thought we should recruit him, but I didn't know how good he would be."

Jordan soon became North Carolina's top priority after he dominated Smith's basketball camp the summer before his senior year. Guthridge and Smith out-recruited the likes of Maryland, South Carolina, Duke and NC State after other schools became aware of Jordan's talent when he emerged as the best player at the prestigious Five-Star Camp in Pittsburgh later that summer.

Though Jordan earned ACC freshman of the year honors and sank the game-winning shot in the national championship game his first season with the Tar Heels, it wasn't until the start of his second season that Guthridge realized he might be coaching one of the best ever.

"We couldn't believe how good he was as a sophomore," Guthridge recalled. "We ran a drill in practice where players went one-on-one against each other. There was nobody who could stop Michael and Michael could stop everyone. That was really something then."

Guthridge kept a small office next to Smith's at the Smith Center in retirement and was a regular at North Carolina games until health problems began to take a toll. His wife told the Raleigh News & Observer earlier this year that her husband had been diagnosed with a heart condition five or six years earlier and that his memory was rapidly fading. 

Perhaps it's fitting that Guthridge's death came so soon after Smith's. They were inseparable for decades at North Carolina, so now Guthridge is following Smith once more.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 3:40 pm

It's probably no coincidence that word of John Calipari's imminent contract extension at Kentucky leaked out Tuesday evening hours after a potentially attractive NBA gig opened up.

This was likely a strategic move from the Wildcats aimed at quashing the Calipari-to-the-NBA speculation that pops up every spring.

Many of the beat writers covering Kentucky reported within minutes of one another Tuesday that school officials were close to finalizing a one-year, $8 million contract extension with Calipari that would run his deal through 2022. Like previous contracts, this one also includes a $1.6 million bonus if Calipari is still the coach of Kentucky on July 1, an extra incentive for him to remain in Lexington.

Whereas Calipari's previous extensions have been formally announced once they became official, word of this one came the same day as the New Orleans Pelicans fired coach Monty Williams despite 45 wins and a playoff appearance. That gig could be intriguing to Calipari if New Orleans shows interest due to the presence of two of his former players, blossoming superstar Anthony Davis and ex-University of Memphis guard Tyreke Evans.

The New Orleans job is one of several potential jobs with players with ties to Calipari that could become available this spring. A divorce between Tom Thibodeau and Chicago appears imminent barring a deep playoff run from the Bulls, while David Blatt's longevity in Cleveland could also be determined by how the Cavs fare the next few weeks.

Calipari has turned down overtures from NBA franchises before during his Kentucky tenure, but seldom have they boasted a playoff-caliber roster and a potential future league MVP entering his prime. Though Calipari was one of a handful of elite college coaches who passed on the Cleveland job last spring, that was well before anyone was certain LeBron James would return there.

There's no guarantee New Orleans will have any interest in Calipari or any of the other jobs will open, but the contract extension with Kentucky won't prevent him from talking to an NBA team if he wants. He's clearly content in Lexington, yet he's also still free to pursue his dream job should it become available.

In reality, this contract extension merely serves as a preemptive strike against annual speculation Calipari could return to the NBA, something that creates uncertainty among prospective recruits and whips Kentucky's fan base into a frenzy.

It doesn't change the fact he could still leave, but it certainly sweetens the pot for him to stay.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 13, 2015, 2:49 pm

Having failed in its bid to land Alabama graduate transfer Ricky Tarrant this spring, Clemson missed its best chance to address its lack of perimeter scoring in time for next season. 

Instead the Tigers will have to settle for adding a fellow transfer who won't be eligible to play for them until the 2016-17 season.

Ex-Robert Morris guard Marcquise Reed, last year's Northeast Conference freshman of the year, announced Monday that he will transfer to Clemson. Reed had also reportedly visited USC, UMass and Tulsa before deciding on the Tigers.

The addition of Reed should eventually help shore up Clemson's biggest weaknesses — its inability to score efficiently and its lack of perimeter shooting.

The 6-foot-1 Reed averaged 15.1 points per game and shot 41.3 percent from behind the arc for a Robert Morris team that lost to Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He was at his best against the toughest teams he faced too, lighting up the Blue Devils for 22 points, erupting for 24 against North Carolina and scoring 21 against the very same Clemson team he now will join. 

Clemson has lacked many perimeter scorers of that caliber during Brad Brownell's tenure. For the past four seasons, the Tigers have remained competitive in the rugged ACC because of their formidable half-court defense, but they have finished an average of 211th nationally in points per possession.

Reed will help just like Tarrant would have had he not chosen Memphis. The upside is Clemson gets Reed for up to three seasons. The downside is the Tigers will have to wait a year for him to be eligible to contribute.

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 12, 2015, 4:18 pm

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


five − 2 =

Looking for older news? Search in the archive