Sunday, March 16, 2008

NCAA Selection: What the Committee got Wrong

Congratulations to the NCAA selection committee for getting things mostly right this year, especially granting a deserving South Alabama an at-large bid. One could nit-pick endlessly and fruitlessly over seeding, but it is important to highlight the most significant things that they got wrong. These are part of an unhealthy trend.

Sins of Omission

The failure of the committee to grant Illinois State an at-large bid was the most significant sin of omission this year (a much weaker argument could be made for Dayton). Granted, Illinois State’s most significant wins, sweeps of in-conference opponents Creighton and Southern Illinois were not against NCAA tournament opponents. But it should be noted that 5 NCAA tournament teams, Butler, Drake, Indiana, St. Mary’s, and Western Kentucky visited the home floor of Southern Illinois this season. Only Butler and Indiana were victorious, and Butler’s victory came on a miracle buzzer-beating tre. Illinois State visited Southern Illinois on March 1 and came away with a 57-49 victory.

Illinois State also posted six more wins than two teams which made the field, Arizona and Oregon. Each of these teams finished poorly, with Oregon going 6-6 and Arizona 4-8 in the metric which the committee utilizes (digging a bit further back, Oregon lost 9 of its last 15). Illinois State finished 9-3, with two of those losses coming against #5 NCAA tournament seed Drake. The inclusion of Arizona and Oregon smacks of pandering to the BCS conferences, which have been progressively elbowing out the others when at-large bids are handed out.

Sins of Commission

The following represent the pairings for non-BCS teams in the seeding mid-range:

5 Notre Dame v. 12 George Mason
5 Michigan State v. 12 Temple
5 Drake v. 12 Western Kentucky
6 Oklahoma v. 11 Saint Joseph’s
7 Gonzaga v. 10 Davidson
7 Butler v. 10 South Alabama
7 Miami v. 10 Saint Mary’s
8 UNLV v. 9 Kent State
8 BYU v. 9 Texas A&M

Is this entirely incidental? I hope so. But it is certainly suspicious that a disproportionate number of these pairings automatically prevent non-BCS teams from advancing to the second round. This phenomenon is a continuation from last year, when the committee managed to place three non-BCS teams with a national ranking, Creighton, Memphis, and Nevada, all within the same initial pod of four teams.

The committee should, however, be thank for their work and it should be noted that no matter what they do, the upsets always seem to come. Let the madness begin!

March Madness: Projecting the Field

Here is the field of 65 as I would choose it:


American Patriot; Arkansas or Georgia SEC; Austin Peay OVC; Belmont Atlantic Sun; Boise State WAC; Butler Horizon; Cal State Fullerton Big West; Clemson or North Carolina ACC; Coppin State MEAC; Cornell Ivy; Davidson Southern; Drake MVC; George Mason CAA; Illinois or Wisconsin Big 10; Kansas or Texas Big 12; Kent State MAC; Maryland Baltimore County America East; Memphis CUSA; Mississippi Valley State SWAC; Mt. Saint Mary’s NEC; Northwestern State or Texas Arlington Southland; Oral Roberts Summit; Pittsburgh Big East; Portland State Big Sky; San Diego WCC; Siena Mid-American; Temple A10; UCLA Pac 10; UNLV MWC; Western Kentucky Sun Belt; Winthrop Big South.

At-Large Bids:

Marginal teams not included in the Bubble Breakdown below are discussed, as are the implications of today’s games.

(Arkansas SEC) – Arkansas will take this spot only if they lose today in the finals of the SEC tournament.
Baylor Big 12 – Baylor was a mediocre 9-7 in conference, and had only a 3-8 record versus the top 50, but picked up only one bad loss and had a solid 9-6 RD/NT record.
BYU MWC – Brigham Young only has two top 50 wins, but was the regular season champion of a top-ten RPI conference, and reached its conference finals.
Clemson or North Carolina ACC – One of these teams will take the ACC auto-bid, the other is a safe at-large candidate.
Connecticut Big East
Dayton A10
Duke ACC
Georgetown Big East
Gonzaga WCC
Illinois State MVC – The explicit rationale for including Air Force in 2006 was that it was ‘The #2 team in the #8 RPI conference.” This describes Illinois State this year, which compared to Air Force in 2006, also has two more top 50 wins, an RPI 17 spots better, and a non-conference Strength of Schedule 156 spots better. Illinois State also reached the finals of its tournament, unlike Air Force, which crashed out in the first round.
Indiana Big 10
Kansas or Texas Big 12 – One of these teams will take the ACC auto-bid, the other is a safe at-large candidate.
Kansas State Big 12
Kentucky Big 12 - There might be a question if the bubble were stronger this year, but the 12-5 conference record coupled with 9-3 down the stretch clearly gets Kentucky in.
Louisville Big East
Marquette Big East
Miami ACC – Miami was mediocre 8-8 in conference after an 11-0 start, including three bad losses, but did pick up quality wins against Duke and Clemson.
Michigan State Big 10
Mississippi State SEC – Mississippi State went only 2-7 versus the RPI top 50, and had one bad loss, but did top the SEC West.
Notre Dame Big East
Oklahoma Big 12
Purdue Big 10 – A bubble candidate? No given the 2nd placed finish in the Big 10 and a 5-4 record versus the top 50. But Purdue’s 4 bad losses will not likely be overlooked when it comes to seeding.
Saint Joseph’s A10 – Entering the A10 tournament, St. Joseph’s looked like a dead duck after losing 6 of their previous 9 games. The run to the finals, including a win against Xavier probable puts them in given the 5-6 record versus the top 50.
South Alabama Sun Belt – Granted, two of South Alabama’s top 50 wins were against in-conference Western Kentucky, and they picked up some bad losses. The crucial thing is that South Alabama showed they could defeat tough opposition out of conference when they took down Mississippi State. It should also be noted that South Alabama stretched Vanderbilt to two overtimes on the road.
Stanford Pac 10
St. Mary’s WCC
Tennessee SEC
Texas A&M Big 12 – Despite the mediocre 8-8 conference record, Texas A&M went 5-7 versus the RPI top 50, and picked up no bad losses.
USC Pac 10
Vanderbilt SEC
Washington State Pac 10
West Virginia Big East
(Wisconsin Big 10) Wisconsin will take this spot only if they lose in the finals of the Big 10 tournament
Xavier A10

Multiple Bid Conferences:

Big East: 7 or 8
Big 12: 6
SEC: 5 or 6
Pac 10: 4 or 5
Big 10: 4 or 5
ACC: 4
Atlantic 10: 4
West Coast: 3
Missouri Valley: 2
Mountain West: 2
Sun Belt: 2

Bubble Discussion

Kansas State Big 12 (19-11; RPI 49; SOS 33; 3-6 1-50; 5-7 last 12; 10-7 in conference; 1 bad loss; 5-9 RD/NT)
The fact that a resume like this puts you on the right side of the bubble this year illustrates the mediocrity of this years' bubble teams. It is also a wonderful illustration of why there is no need to expand the number of teams in the tournament field. The top 50 wins and the 10-7 conference record trump the awful 5-7 record down the stretch.

Dayton A10 (21-10; RPI 32; SOS 34; 4-4 1-50; 6-6 last 12; 9-9 in conference; 4 bad losses; 7-7 RD/NT)
Once again, these numbers are mediocre. But Dayton will probably benefit from the fact that they were missing key personnel during the mid-season slump which saw them fall from 14-1 to 17-9.

----------------------------- Cut Line #1 (Valid with losses by Arkansas and Wisconsin)
Villanova Big East (20-12; RPI 51; SOS 48; 4-7 1-50; 7-5 last 12; 10-10 in conference; 4 bad losses; 8-9 RD/NT)
Why does Villanova beat out the following teams? Principally because it was not AS hopeless as the other teams discussed here going down the stretch.

----------------------------- Cut Line #2 (Valid with a loss by Arkansas or Wisconsin)
Arizona State Pac 10 (19-12; RPI 83; SOS 77; 6-7 1-50; 5-7 last 12; 9-10 in conference; 2 bad losses; 6-8 RD/NT)
I hate seeing teams with negative records in conference and down the stretch, especially when they shopped around for the #296 non-conference SOS in the country. But Arizona State is more deserving than any of the teams which follow it. I have them in over Oregon barely (they split the head to head match ups this season) on the strength of quality wins and RD/NT record.

----------------------------- Cut Line #3 (Valid with wins by Arkansas and Wisconsin)
Oregon Pac 10 (18-13; RPI 58; SOS 37; 3-6 1-50; 6-6 last 12; 9-10 in conference; 2 bad losses; 6-10 RD/NT)
Syracuse Big East (19-13; RPI 55; SOS 9; 3-8 1-50; 6-6 last 12; 9-10 in conference; 2 bad losses; 5-8 RD/NT)
The RD/NT record and the more mediocre top 50 record keep Syracuse out.
Mississippi SEC (21-10; RPI 46; SOS 64; 5-3 1-50; 5-7 last 12; 7-10 in conference; 6 bad losses; 7-8 RD/NT)
Mississippi has a 5-3 record versus the top 50, but their bad losses and a conference record 3 games short of .500 should keep them out.
Florida State ACC (19-14; RPI 59; SOS 15; 3-6 1-50; 6-6 last 12; 8-10 in conference; 3 bad losses; 6-10 RD/NT)
Out as a result of their negative conference and RD/NT records, and the bad losses.
Arizona Pac 10 (18-14; RPI 38; SOS 2; 5-8 1-50; 4-8 last 12; 9-11 in conference; 2 bad losses; 8-8 RD/NT)
This one is painful. But a team that goes 4-8 in its last 12 does not deserve to be in.


Charlotte A10 – 5 bad losses
Creighton MVC – 1-7 versus the top 50
Massachusetts A10 – 1-5 versus the top 50
New Mexico MWC – 1-4 versus the top 50
Ohio State Big 10 – 2-10 versus the top 50
Southern Illinois MVC – 6 bad losses, 5-10 RD/NT record
UAB CUSA – 0-2 versus the top 50
Virginia Commonwealth CAA – 0-2 versus the top 50
Virginia Tech ACC – 1-7 versus the top 50. To Seth Greenburg: I have immense respect for you. You are one of the good guys in College Basketball. But leaving out a team that failed to take all but one of its chances to defeat a top 50 team does not make one certifiable.


Texas Arlington has defeated Northwestern State 82-79 in the Southland Conference finals to make the field.

Projected play in game:
Mississippi Valley State (SWAC) v. Mount Saint Mary's (NEC)

With North Carolina defeating Clemson 86-81 in the ACC finals, I can now project the top eight seeds:

#1 Seeds:
1. North Carolina ACC
2. Memphis CUSA
3. UCLA P10
4. Texas/Kansas winner B12

#2 Seeds:
1. Texas/Kansas loser B12
2. Tennessee SEC
3. Georgetown Big East
4. Wisconsin Big 10


The play in game has been announced:
Coppin State (MEAC) v. Mount Saint Mary's (NEC)


has defeated Texas 84-74 and has probably earned themselves a #1 seed.

Illinois has fallen to Wisconsin 61-48 and fails to steal a bid.

Georgia 66
Arkansas 57

Congratulations to Georgia on stealing a bid. Given that coach Dennis Felton has been under fire for doing things right, it could not have happened to a more deserving team.

Friday, March 14, 2008

ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible

The first direct fallout from the looming scandal at Arizona State has landed, with pitcher Jason Jarvis being declared academically ineligible to compete:

Arizona State closer Jason Jarvis on Wednesday was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season, a decision that very likely ends his college career.

An appeal last week of a first-semester grade in an online music course upheld that Jarvis, a sophomore who had two saves this season and 11 last year, did not follow directions while taking an exam. That led to a grade lower than what he needed to be eligible.

Since Jarvis has disclosed that he took all online tests in similar fashion, he would likely face a number of grade changes that “would make it impossible for him to regain his eligibility,” coach Pat Murphy said. . . .

“Jason was not found guilty of academic dishonesty,” Murphy said. “When you look at the entire situation, the conclusion you reach is that at best, this is unfortunate. At worst, it’s unfair.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder had been granted temporary eligibility before the second game of the season, against Vanderbilt on Feb. 23, pending resolution of his appeal.

For his part, Jason Jarvis blames the ASU administration, and hopes to enter the MLB draft:

A short time ago I requested a hearing to appeal a grade change which resulted in the A that I rightfully earned, being dropped to an XE on an Internet music course that I took in the fall of 2007. An XE grade indicates academic dishonesty which I did not commit. My appeal was upheld and I was exonerated for the academic dishonesty. However, the Herberger College of the Arts will not restore my grade back to the A that I rightfully earned so I will get no credit for taking the 3 credit class. According to the NCAA regulations, I am now considered academically ineligible for the 2008 baseball season. I could stay in school and regain my eligibility next year, however, I am continually amazed with the inconsistent way the ASU administration randomly executes their rules to suit themselves with no care whatsoever for the student. So, rather than continue to struggle through the academic bureaucracy at ASU I have decided to pursue a career in professional baseball and I am currently in the process of petitioning the commissioner of MLB to approve me to enter this years amateur draft in June.

The glaring omission in this statement is, of course, what the A mark was changed to. . .

1. Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program
2. Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out
3. ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?
4. ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?

Where have we heard that before. . . There is an excellent piece up at on Arizona State baseball coach Pat Murphy which is worth reading in its entirety. It also contains a few new details on the alleged misconduct within the program:

The complexity and seeming candor of Pat Murphy, undoubtedly, is making things difficult for Arizona State. When a coach is the subject of a university investigation and a school hires an outside firm to determine if he's broken NCAA rules, the normal protocol is that all parties must keep quiet.

"BASEBALL QUESTIONS ONLY," an ASU media type barks after the top-ranked Sun Devils blast Michigan on a cool desert night recently. A gaggle of reporters has little interest in Ike Davis' bat but ample curiosity about the internal rift that could put a major dent in one of college baseball's powerhouses. "IF YOU ASK A NON-BASEBALL QUESTION, THE PRESS CONFERENCE WILL BE OVER."

Murphy, it seems, can't help himself. . . .

Step almost anywhere near Brock Ballpark, and they'll say Mikel Moreno is wrong and Pat Murphy is right. They'll paint Moreno as a bitter 32-year-old valet with fading dreams, an ex-employee bent on taking down a man who's been near the top of his profession for almost two decades. They'll say Moreno's allegations of academic fraud, recruiting violations and other improprieties are unfounded.

But step further, past the campus skateboarders and fist-pumping boosters, and you'll hear people call Moreno a "true Sun Devil," a hard-nosed former MVP outfielder who lived for the maroon-and-gold and just wants to do what is right. . . .

Moreno told investigators from Ice Miller, an Indianapolis-based law firm hired by ASU, that he called and made at least one recruiting visit to meet with coveted junior-college slugger Kiel Roling, eventually convincing Roling to withdraw his commitment to Mississippi and instead go to Tempe. Moreno was listed as a graduate manager at the time. Under NCAA rules, only coaches are allowed to recruit.

Moreno also made allegations of academic fraud.

When word of the university investigation hit in late-February, rumors swirled that more than half the team would be suspended for academic reasons. Murphy has disputed the rumors. The Sun Devils shrugged off the talk and rolled to a 12-0 start.

But questions still linger. Former ASU pitcher Jason Mitchell, who transferred to Central Arizona, told that he and a handful of teammates took online quizzes together last year and helped each other with the answers. Mitchell says the course, Music 354, was popular among baseball players. One semester they'd learn about the history of Elvis; another semester delves into the Beatles.

"We'd take it one at a time," Mitchell says. "One person would go, and the next person would go, and the answers would be the same.

"It is cheating, but I don't think it was anything major. I have friends outside the baseball team in the same classes, and they'd do the same thing. Every single person I knew did the same thing."

Mitchell says Murphy never encouraged him to cheat. The players knew grades were important. If you weren't dedicated enough to go to class, you weren't dedicated enough to play. In team meetings, Murphy called out players who struggled with grades. . . .

Though he calls Mitchell "a good kid," Murphy says he's upset by his former pitcher's claim. He says the university needs to take a serious look at online classes and whether they lend themselves to misdeeds. . . .

Murphy says he's confident the only thing the investigation will drudge up is ticky-tack unwitting violations.

We will see.

1. Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program
2. Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out
3. ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?
4. ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible

Completely Irrelevant RPI Data (To the Pollsters) Final 08 Edition

So, who does better job of determining the strength of teams? Sports writers? The secretaries for college basketball coaches? The RPI? Completely Irrelevant RPI Data is here to help you decide. And as always, do not miss Goro’s Rants, especially this gem of a comment this week:

The definition of a good coach, in an ideal world, should be first and foremost, ahead of any win totals, the ability to graduate his players. Something like 45 out of 48 players under Hinson's watch will have graduated and are now a part of the Missouri State fraternity.

Unfortunately, in today's win-at-all-costs mentality, a coach only gets a finite time to get his team to the NCAA tourney before the university heads get in a snit and pull the plug. It didn't matter that Barry's AVERAGED 19 wins per year, or that he's become such a well-respected dignitary for the conference.

I put all the blame on the insanity and moronity of the NCAA selection committee nitwits during Hinson's tenure in not inviting three very deserving Missouri State teams to the NCAA tourney (2000, 2006, and 2007). Their obvious BCS vanity is by far the biggest reason why Barry's not coming back, and that's really sad. My admonition for the cognitively-challenged MSU bigwigs is this: the new court's got some nice amenities, but you'll be lucky to keep any new coach around another nine years like you just had with Barry Hinson.

The Hall of Shame

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Purdue 24-7 BE (17,16, 37) +20.5

Two weeks ago, Purdue was over-ranked at #16 and #19. Over the past two weeks Purdue beat mediocre Minnesota and awful Northwestern at home. They followed that up by losing on the road to an Ohio State team which is on or around the bubble, before somehow managing to struggle on the road at Michigan before ultimately pulling away. The pollsters managed to reward this series of mediocre performances with an average one spot rise in the polls. To play the broken record, the Big 10 is just not that good this year. Beyond a couple wins against Texas, Big 10 teams had a distinctly undistinguished out of conference record, and Purdue is a classic example. Not only was Purdue defeated by #169 Iowa State on a neutral court, but they also lost AT HOME to #194 Wofford.

#2 Davidson 23-6 Southern (23,25, 41) +17

Davidson falls out of the top spot, but maintains its spot in the Hall of Shame after a week in which it continued to beat up on awful opposition and was rewarded with an average three spot rise in the polls. Lets play blind resumes. Team A has a 26-5 record, which includes a 3-2 record versus the RPI top 50 and a 4-3 record versus the RPI top 100. Additionally, one of Team A’s losses came on the road in double overtime to a ranked team. Team B has a 25-6 record which includes a 0-3 record versus the RPI top 50 and an 0-5 record versus the RPI top 100. Team B played two ranked teams close at home but lost in regular time in both instances. Which team deserves votes in the polls? Which team deserves an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament? Team A naturally, which happens to be South Alabama, which received a total of 53 votes in the two polls this week. Team B is Davidson, which received a total of 241 votes in the two polls this week. Both teams need wins in their conference tourneys to be sure of spots in the dance, but should Davidson lose, they can count on a trip to the NIT, unlike South Alabama, who would still be in with a shout.

Davidson supporters – if you comment here, kindly put those wonderful educations to good use and produce some solid analysis on why I am wrong.

Editorial Note: This was written before last night’s games, which resulted in Davidson winning the Southern Conference tourney, and South Alabama losing in the semifinals of the Sun Belt tourney. Best wishes to Davidson in the quest to validate your ranking with a Sweet Sixteen run. This would, naturally, prove me wrong. Best of luck to South Alabama in your quest for an at-large bid. You represent one of the more interesting bubble cases this year.

#3 Gonzaga 25-6 WCC (20,22, 30) +9

Gonzaga climbs back into third place in this weeks Hall of Shame after two wins against an awful Santa Clara team resulted in a rise in its ranking in both polls. QUE? Gonzaga has one signficiant victory since December 1, on March 1 at home against St. Mary’s. Throughout December, January, and February, Gonzaga developed a shiny record based on wins against patsies while losing to the quality teams it faced. This team is NCAA-worthy but not ranking-worthy, and at some point the afterglow from the Elite 8 run NINE years ago needs to wear off. . .

#4 Butler 28-3 HORZ (12,10, 18) +7

After a couple weeks on the sidelines, Butler re-joins the Hall of Shame after it rose an average of two spots in the poll on the strength of a neutral-court victory over, drum roll please, ILLINOIS CHICAGO! WOW! HOW STUNNING! As in past weeks, the best illustration of Butler’s over-ranking is a direct comparison with Drake. Drake is a team which beat Butler on its home court on February 23rd, but continues to languish well behind (#16, #18 this week) in the rankings. Butler’s best wins came against #49 Ohio State, #57 Virginia Tech, #59 Texas Tech, #62 Southern Illinois, and #64 Florida State, with all of these coming in November and December. Drake’s Best wins came against #18 Butler, #31 Illinois State (X3), #51 Creighton (X2), and #62 Southern Illinois, with the latest of these coming on Sunday. The only category in which Butler can claim the advantage is the arena of bad losses, of which it has none, unlike Drake, which has two (#102 Bradley and #124 Missouri State). All told, Butler is evens at best with Drake. It will be interesting to see how far these two teams progress, if at all, in the tournament.

#5 Stanford 24-6 P10 (11,11, 17) +6

You heard it hear first: “Stanford is not top ten material - at least four teams, Xavier, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and Texas deserve to be ranked higher. This will be established when Stanford loses at UCLA on Thursday, and struggles on the road at USC on Saturday.” Let us remind ourselves of Stanford’s out of conference strength of schedule (#296) which was achieved by playing the following patsies at home: #183 Yale; #188 Santa Clara; #223 Northwestern State; #237 Fresno State; #273 Colorado State; #308 Harvard. They rounded this off with #335 Sacramento State, a 4-24 team whose best win came by one point, at home, against #231 Montana State.

Dropped from rankings:
Mississippi State (now unranked)

The House of Pain

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Oklahoma 21-10 B12 (33,NR, 25) –9.5

I did a double take when this one popped up. Oklahoma was left for dead at 3-5 in the conference, and 15-8 overall after an awful loss AT Colorado State on February 9. Since then, they have won six of their last eight, including wins against Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech, and have made themselves a team worthy of an at-large berth without most people noticing. This is not to say, however, that they are deserving of top 25 spot. . .

#2 Vanderbilt 25-6 SEC (18,17, 10) –7.5

Vanderbilt remains the most consistently disrespected team from the big conferences, although it is difficult to find any fault for their drop in the polls this week given that they lost at ALABAMA to close out their regular season. . .

#3-T Indiana 25-6 B10 (22,20, 16) –5

*GIGGLE* Indiana becomes the first team in the history of this feature to appear in both the Hall of Shame and the House of Pain in the same season. But frankly, this team is clearly not playing to the same level under Dakich as it had under Sampson, and the loss at Penn State on Sunday is a brilliant illustration. At the rate things are going downhill, Indiana may be happy with a second-round exit, as opposed to the Final 4 that was being predicted a few short weeks ago.

#3-T Drake 28-4 MVC (16,18, 12) –5

See above under Butler.

#3-T South Alabama 26-5 Sun Belt (28,30, 24) –5

See above under Davidson.

Dropped from Rankings: Arizona (out of RPI top 25); Pittsburgh (out of RPI top 25)

Average Conference (or State or Category) Bias:

Media Darlings: +11 (Butler, Gonzaga, Davidson)
Teams from Indiana: +6.9 (Butler, Notre Dame Purdue, Indiana,)
Big 10: +4.4 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana)
Pac 10: +2.8 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State)
All Others: +2.4 (Memphis, Xavier, Butler, Drake, Gonzaga, Brigham Young, Davidson, South Alabama)
Big East: +.1 (Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Marquette)
ACC: -2 (North Carolina, Duke, Clemson)
Big 12: -2.8 (Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma)
SEC: -5.25 (Tennessee, Vanderbilt)

After several weeks of constricting biases, things went in the opposite direction this time, for the most part because there are certain teams, like Purdue, which are rarely penalized for losses as they should be, and others, like Vanderbilt, who do not get the benefit of the doubt. The action around Purdue meant that the Hoosier love-fest continued. On other fronts, the ‘Media Darlings’ continued to attract suitors. . .

Teams with closest correlation between ranking and RPI:

1. Memphis +.5
2-T. North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington State (+1, +1, -1)
5. Marquette (-1.5)

Teams included in analysis:

[Any team in the top 25 of the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, or the RPI.]

North Carolina 29-2 ACC; Memphis 30-1 CUSA; UCLA 28-3 P10; Tennessee 28-3 SEC; Kansas 28-3 B12; Texas 26-5 B12; Wisconsin 26-4 B10; Duke 26-4 ACC; Georgetown 25-4 BE; Xavier 26-5 A10; Butler 28-3 HORZ; Stanford 24-6 P10; Louisville 24-7 BE; Notre Dame 24-6 BE; Connecticut 24-7 BE; Purdue 24-7 BE; Drake 28-4 MVC; Vanderbilt 25-6 SEC; Michigan State 24-7 B10; Gonzaga 25-6 WCC; Indiana 25-6 B10; Washington State P10; Brigham Young 25-6 MWC; Davidson 25-6 Southern; Marquette 22-8 BE; Clemson 22-8 ACC; South Alabama 26-5 Sun Belt; Oklahoma 21-10 B12.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Grats to the Pioneers/Graduation Data

Many congratulations to the Pioneers of the University of Denver on taking their 19th NCAA Skiing Championship last week. Denver placed amongst the top five schools in all events, but the outcome was in doubt until its skiers finished an impressive first, second, and eighth in the Men's Slalom on the final day. This allowed them to outdistance second-place University of Colorado by a final margin of 649.5 to 619 points, with the University of Utah finishing a distant third at 550. No specific graduation data is listed for Skiing, but these schools post graduation rates of 83%, 64%, and 58% in sports 'Other' than Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Cross-Country/Track. Cheers to Denver. Jeers to Colorado and Utah.

Special kudos must go to the Panthers of Middlebury College, who, despite being a non-scholarship Division III school, placed fifth overall with 529 points.

The outstanding individual skiiers in the championship were Marie Moe Grevsgaard and Lucie Sikova of Colorado, who were victorious in both races in Women's Nordic and Alpine, and John Buchar of Denver, who won both Men's Alpine races. The following skiers finished on the podium:

Women's Freestyle (Nordic)
1. Marie Moe Grevsgaard, Colorado
2. Lenka Palanova, Colorado
3. Annelise Bailly, Denver

Men's Freestyle (Nordic)
1. Glenn Randall, Dartmouth
2. Marius Korthauer, Alaska-Fairbanks
3. Jesper Ostensen, Colorado

Women's Giant Slalom (Alpine)
1. Lucie Zikova, Colorado
2. Eva Huckova, Utah
3. Lyndee Janowiak, Vermont

Men's Giant Slalom (Alpine)
1. John Buchar, Denver
2. Greg Hardy, Vermont
3. Erik Gilbert, Vermont

Women's Classical (Nordic)
1. Marie Moe Grevsgaard, Colorado
2. Polina Ermoshina, New Mexico
3. Antje Maempel, Denver

Men's Classical (Nordic)
1. Marius Korthauer, Alaska-Fairbanks
2. Kit Richmond, Colorado
3. Juergen Uhl, Vermont

Women's Slalom (Alpine)
1. Lucie Zikova, Colorado
2. Eva Huckova, Utah
3. Jenni Lathrop, Denver

Men's Slalom (Alpine)
1. John Buchar, Denver
2. Seppi Stiegler, Denver
3. David Chodounsky, Dartmouth

Additionally, seven skiers from non-scholarship Division III schools posted top ten finishes and earned All-American Status: Alexa Turzian, Middlebury (2 events); Alec Tarberrry, Middlebury (2 events); Sylvan Ellefson, Bates; Charles Christianson, Williams; Andrew Wagner, Middlebury; Eric Mann, Williams; Megan Hughes, Middlebury. They represent the true ideal of what it means to be a STUDENT-athlete. Congratulations!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

NCAA Football: Police Blotter 03-09-2008

Josh Jarboe of Oklahoma, story from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
DeKalb County star high school football player Josh Jarboe was arrested Thursday evening for receiving stolen property and having a weapon on school property both felony charges for one of the nation's top college recruits. . . .

Jarboe is a standout wide receiver from Cedar Grove High School, ranked by as the 10th-best wide receiver nationally in the Class of 2008.

He committed last month to play for the University of Oklahoma, choosing the Sooners over Florida, Georgia and LSU.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops is aware of Jarboe's arrest but has no comment, according to Kenny Mossman, a senior associate athletics director for communications at Oklahoma.

"He isn't going to make a public comment until the matter moves further along, and then only if it's necessary,'' Mossman said . "For now, the best thing to say is that he has knowledge of it and is monitoring it. ... I don't know if he's spoken to [Jarboe].''

Maurice Simmons of USC, story from the Los Angeles Times:
Maurice Simmons, a linebacker who signed a letter of intent with USC, was arraigned Friday in Compton Superior Court and charged with felony robbery and assault with a firearm in connection with an incident that allegedly took place this week. . . .

Simmons and Hall were arrested Wednesday night after they allegedly robbed a man at gunpoint on a Compton street.

Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies arrested the two men after they stopped a car being driven by Simmons and found a handgun and the alleged belongings of the alleged victim, sheriff's officials said.

USC Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday night that he was aware of "reports" of Simmons' arrest and that he was attempting to gather more information. He declined to comment further.

Justin Francis of Rutgers, story from the Star-Ledger:

A member of the Rutgers football team has been arrested after he allegedly robbed a man in a campus parking lot in New Brunswick, then threatened a student with an air pistol after knocking on his apartment door, authorities said.

An alert sent out by the university reported that Justin Francis, a native of Miramar, Fla., knocked on student's door Sunday night, pulled the trigger three times when the man answered, then ran away, laughing. A short time earlier, he allegedly displayed the fake gun and demanded a cell phone from a man in a university parking lot, police said. . . .

Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano said he could not comment in detail on the matter.

"I don't have a ton of information. I'm going to let the legal system, as I usually do, run its course and I may comment on it then," Schiano said. "But he has been suspended from our team indefinitely."

James Cleveland and Arvell Nelson of Iowa, story from the Des Moines Register:

Two suspended members of the Iowa Hawkeye football team — James Cleveland and Arvell Nelson — have been dismissed from the team by head coach Kirk Ferentz.

The dismissal was announced in a statement issued Thursday the day after Cleveland, entered a not guilty to three charges relating to his arrest of alleged illegal possession of prescription drugs.

“It’s disappointing anytime one of our players doesn’t complete his career with our team and go on to earn their degree from Iowa,” Ferentz said in a statement. “That being said, we wish both James and Arvell success in the future.”

Cleveland, 19, entered the written plea in response to a Feb. 23 arrest by campus police after officer found 21 units of the commonly-abused prescription pain killer oxycodone and 24 doses of muscle relaxant carisoprodol in a his room. Police say that Cleveland acknowledged the drugs belong to him.

Andy Christensen of Nebraska, story from the Lincoln Journal Star:
Nebraska offensive lineman Andy Christensen wound up in jail and indefinitely suspended from the team after Lincoln police were called to the Brass Rail early Saturday in response to an alleged sexual assault.

Lincoln Police Capt. Joseph Wright said Christensen, 21, was jailed on suspicion of first-degree sexual assault, resisting arrest and failure to comply.

Wright said Christensen allegedly approached a 23-year-old woman from behind and put his hand under her skirt. . . .

Christensen remained in the Lancaster County Jail Saturday night. He is to be arraigned Monday.

Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said in a statement that he was aware of the arrest of Christensen, a key cog on the Huskers’ offensive line the past two years.

“The charges against Andy are serious in nature and these types of actions will not be tolerated,” Pelini said. “Andy has been indefinitely suspended from our football program. I will address Andy’s future status when more complete details regarding the situation are available.”

What these coaches really need to comment on is their recruiting practices. And what I really need this morning is a second shower. . .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Are Jocks Necessary?

Asks columnist Lucy M. Caldwell at the Harvard Crimson:
From a practical fundraising standpoint, the answer may be yes—having a strong athletics program enhances development opportunities. . . .
Like Harvard needs a larger endowment. . .
Surprisingly, Harvard boasts the largest NCAA Division I athletics program in the country (larger than Stanford or any state school), and this is something in which many alumni take pride. The need for sports as a component of development is reinforced by historical memory from other colleges. In the forties, when Big Ten member University of Chicago dropped its football team and withdrew from the conference, donations to the college plunged. The school later reinstated its football team and became a Division III member of another NCAA conference. . . .

There’s another, less talked-about problem too. Athletes who feel a weaker connection to Harvard outside of sports are more likely to stay dedicated to their sport. Therefore, relying exclusively on recruiting the academically qualified is potentially problematic, since many of these students abandon their sport in college in order to pursue the endless non-athletic opportunities Harvard makes available.

The frequency with which the latter phenomenon occurs could suggest that the business of competitive college athletics is incompatible with a rigorous academic environment. Some argue that a reason to admit academically dubious athletes is that they tend to possess a deep discipline for their sport and this is grit we can learn from. Yet mediocre athletes can be highly disciplined too—athletic talent is not absolutely correlated with discipline for the sport. . . .
Indeed. I am a classic example, although it should be pointed out that it was that discipline which allowed me to survive and thrive in graduate school.
Finally, since Harvard commands a large endowment and a great ability to attract the most promising students, the University might use this moment as a way of trying to effect change in the college athletic culture. This is not to say that we should have no athletic program, merely that we should be happy with a mediocre one (that may become excellent organically). Perhaps paradoxically, by accepting mediocrity in this area, Harvard can resume striving for excellence in areas that matter more to us.
HERESY! Kudos to Lucy for having the courage to suggest it.

At Georgia, a Commitment to Academics?

Those are the noises coming out of the athletics department at the University of Georgia, which a fellow blogger has described as the Worst University in the United States. From Mark Schlabach at ESPN:
When Georgia hired Dennis Felton as its men's basketball coach five years ago, the school asked him to clean up its program, which had been ridiculed nationally because of academic fraud and NCAA violations committed under former coach Jim Harrick.

Felton cleaned up the program, so much so that the Bulldogs have mostly labored through a 13-15 season with only eight scholarship players. After Felton dismissed two starters before they even stepped on the court this season, Georgia lost 11 of its first 14 SEC games before winning at Auburn 59-54 on Wednesday night. . . .

Might Felton's house cleaning cost him his job?

"I promise you this: If I were to get fired, it would be for not winning enough games," Felton said Wednesday night. "It would not be for a lack of our guys consistently representing our university and our program with class." . . .

"I want to be successful in everything," [Georgia athletic director Damon] Evans said. "There are some sports I want to see us build upon. We are 110 percent committed to Georgia basketball. I think Georgia basketball should be great. Of course, we expect great things from basketball, just like we do from every sport."

Georgia's attrition is what concerns Evans most, according to people close to the situation. The Bulldogs have lost six players during the past two seasons. . . .

At least one college basketball coach suggested Georgia's new academic standards, which require student-athletes to attend dozens of tutoring, study hall and advisement sessions each month, make it too difficult to build a program that will consistently win.

"The job is too hard," said the coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You can't find enough good players who are willing to do all of that."

But Evans, who instituted the policies last year to improve Georgia's lagging graduation rates, defended the new plan. Evans said Georgia's other athletic teams haven't struggled to adhere to the policies.

"First and foremost, we're about academics," Evans said. "Aren't we supposed to encourage our kids to go to class and do what they're supposed to be doing academically? We should be asking more of them academically, to be honest. We've had other teams at Georgia have success under the same guidelines. We want to graduate players from this institution and win basketball games." . . .

The Georgia fan base is already calling for Felton's head. If Evans truly is more committed to graduating basketball players that he is to winning, then one fears that his will be next on the chopping block.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Grats to Fast Bobcat Sylvan Ellefson

SKI FAST is the mantra. I was privileged to be part of a team at Bates College which has produced All-Americans and Olympians despite being a non-scholarship DIII school competing against the big boys. It is thus with both pleasure and pride that I congratulate junior Sylvan Ellefson on his 4th-place finish yesterday in the 10k freestyle at the NCAA skiing championships in Bozeman, Montana, which yields him All-American status:

Ellefson (Vail, Colo.) covered the Bohart Ranch course in 31:20.0, fourth best out of 38 competitors. He was one of only three Americans in the top 10 and the only one from a Division III school. He wins his first All-America honors for his top-10 finish, after missing out on the honor by 0.3 seconds in the 10K Free a year ago.

"I felt great," wrote Ellefson via e-mail. "While my lungs were burning because of the altitude, my skis were fast and I felt the most fit I have in a long time. A big thanks to the coaching staff for some of the fastest skis on the course today and their support. Also to my teammates for getting me going through e-mail and phone calls throughout the week. I have the best team in the U.S."

Ellefson is Bates' first Nordic All-American since Justin Easter in 2003, and his finish is the highest for the Bobcats since 2006 U.S. Olympian Justin Freeman placed third in the 10K Classic in 1997.

"I am so thrilled for Sylvan -- what a great race for him and a great day for Bates," wrote Bates coach Becky Woods via e-mail. "I think we all knew he had it in him, especially given his recent results, but it was exciting to see it all come together here."

Ellefson won two races on the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association carnival circuit this season, becoming the first Bates skier to win an EISA race. He was named First Team All-East by the EISA and was the top-ranked skier from an Eastern college at the end of the season.


NCAA Penalizes Long Beach State

Hopes for the future success of the Long Beach State University Men’s Basketball were high in April of 2002 when Larry Reynolds was hired as the head coach:

"In the last seven weeks, I've talked to people at all levels of basketball and heard nothing but good things about Larry Reynolds as a coach," LBSU Athletic Director Bill Shumard said.

"I had an opportunity to watch his team play and I saw a team that played tenacious defense and unselfish offense. It was 10 guys playing unselfishly in the true sense of a team." . . .

Before becoming an assistant at UC Riverside, where he was assistant head coach for 16 years, Reynolds played for the Highlanders and remembers playing against Ed Ratleff and the 49ers.

"I think a return to those days is just around the corner," Reynolds said.

Three unsuccessful seasons later, Reynolds found himself under fire:

Lute Olsen, Tex Winter, Jerry Tarkanian, Craig Hodges, Ed Ratleff, 24 NBA players, 14 All-Americans, seven NCAA Tournaments and five NIT appearances are synonymous with Long Beach State basketball's rich tradition and demanding legacy.

Not many are more familiar with this tradition than Head Coach Larry Reynolds. . . .

His glamorous tenure at Division II CSU San Bernardino earned him an office inside an architectural marvel of an arena. It also left him in charge of jump-starting a once proud LBSU program that was in hibernation.

Nearly three years later, amid a third losing season, the coach is as optimistic as a person in his tumultuous position can possibly be. Under fire from boosters and supporters of the program, and in danger of missing the Big West Conference Tournament for his third consecutive year, Reynolds pointed out that even the best coaches suffer hardships.

Unfortunately, the best coach who was apparently emulated by his assistant coaches was Jerry Tarkanian, perhaps the most legendary cheater in NCAA history. Last season, Reynolds led the 49ers to an overall 24-8 record which included both Big West titles and a visit to the first round of the NCAA tournament in Columbus, Ohio. Less than a week later, on March 22, Long Beach State declined to renew his contract, and issued the standard pleasantries which indicate that there was a great deal more to the story than was being reported:

"We appreciate the hard work and leadership that Larry provided," director of athletics Vic Cegles said in a statement. "However, I believe it is in the best interest of the university and the men's basketball program to make a change. We had a banner season, but upon an extensive review I came to the conclusion that a foundation had not been built to ensure long-term success."

The rest of the story, was, of course, a looming NCAA sanctions case, which had already hit the press:

Assistant coach Reggie Howard did not accompany the team to Columbus and was put on indefinite leave as the NCAA investigates recruiting violations at the school. The team's recruiting coordinator, Howard was credited with assembling much of the squad.

Today the NCAA had its say, [the full report can be found here] and it turns out to be a doozy of a case, with the penalties including show-case hiring bans for Howard and another former assistant:

INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions has penalized Long Beach State University for major and secondary violations in its men's basketball program. This case involves improper benefits, impermissible transportation and phone contacts, unethical conduct and a failure to monitor by the institution and the former head coach. . . .

The university’s 2005-06 recruiting class included six two-year college transfers, none of which were eligible for admission to the university or athletics participation. Beginning in May 2005, with the knowledge, encouragement and assistance of the coaches, the young men took additional classes, including correspondence courses, at various institutions. Some of the young men needed as many as nine hours in a short period of time to meet academic requirements, the committee said.

The violations committed by two former assistant coaches and the former administrative assistant included paying or arranging for payment to register some or all of the six two-year college transfers in classes, paying or arranging for payment of fees so that transcripts of the transfers’ coursework could be obtained, providing impermissible tutoring and transportation, as well as making impermissible phone calls.

Also, one former assistant coach obtained a correspondence exam for one of the student-athletes, allowed the young man to complete it without a proctor, then forged the name of his friend as the proctor and returned the exam to the issuing institution.

Once an investigation into the violations began, the two former assistant coaches compounded the violations by providing false information to investigators on numerous occasions. In addition, one former assistant coach asked a number of student-athletes to provide false information and the second former assistant coach asked his friend to provide false information regarding proctoring the exam. . . .

The committee also found that the former head coach failed to monitor the men’s basketball program. Though the head coach was aware that the six two-year transfers were deficient academically and taking numerous courses in a short period of time, including one of the young men taking four classes at three different junior colleges, the former head coach did not ask questions regarding their classes, sources of support or the level of his assistants’ involvement with the young men. He also failed to involve the compliance office in the monitoring effort.

The committee also found that the university failed to monitor its men’s basketball program in its recruitment of transfer student-athletes.

The penalties include many of the old standbys, including reductions in scholarships and recruiting contacts. They also include the following:

A vacation of all wins, including any recorded in conference tournaments or the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, in which the six two-year transfer student-athletes competed while ineligible. The individual records of the six young men shall also be vacated. Further, the university’s records regarding men’s basketball as well as the record of the former head coach will be reconfigured to reflect the vacated records and so recorded in all publications in which the men’s basketball records are reported, including, but not limited to, media guides, recruiting materials and institutional and NCAA archives. Finally, any public reference to tournament appearances and performances during this time shall be removed, including, but not limited to, athletics department stationary and banners displayed in public areas such as the arena in which the men’s basketball team participates.

This is the same penalty which was applied to the Oklahoma football program last year. It did not hold up on appeal. To be cynical, it probably will in this case, given that Long Beach State is not one of the big money programs.

Update (1) 6:44 PM

Many thanks to Steve Janisch, Assistant Athletic Director at Long Beach State for supplying the following statement, and to AD Vic Cegles for responding to my requests for comment:

NCAA Releases Findings on Long Beach State Men's Basketball Program

Earlier today the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions released its findings regard violations that occurred in the Long Beach State (LBSU) men's basketball program in summer 2005. In a press release from the NCAA, the committee cited improper benefits, impermissible transportation and telephone contact between student-athletes and former members of the coaching staff, and unethical conduct on the part of former coaching staff members.

According to LBSU Athletics Director Vic Cegles, when the university was made aware of the potential violations in October 2006, swift action was taken to address the allegations. In the course of the university's own internal investigation, the involved coaching staff member was immediately suspended, and two student-athletes were withheld from competition. The university also self-imposed sanctions on the men's basketball program prior to meeting with the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

"Our University has a strong culture and history of NCAA compliance," said President F. King Alexander. "No major infraction has been leveled at our university in over 35 years, and when we became aware of these issues, we move expeditiously to remove the individuals involved and remedy the situation. We have a no-tolerance policy for any coach who crosses these lines. We remain committed to operating in an athletics program with the highest integrity that reflects the broad educational values that our institution stands for."

The findings by the NCAA were consistent with the university's own, and the committee's penalties include acceptance of the university's self-imposed sanctions. The committee also imposed a three-year probation with limited restrictions, and the men's basketball team will be able to compete in post-season play every year through this period. Victories during the 2005-2006 season also would be vacated.

Update (2) 10:10 AM Friday

There is a good wrap-up of the story in today's Long Beach Press-Telegram:

In the summer of 2005, the Long Beach State athletic department was a dinghy without an anchor. The athletic director, Bill Shumard, had been AWOL for a lengthy period, there were small fires breaking out internally, and the captain's chair was still empty when he returned. Then he resigned.

And then chaos quietly ensued.

Larry Reynolds and his basketball staff had been retained by said athletic director, despite 21 wins in three seasons, as a going-away gift of sorts. It may have seemed beneficent - give the poor schmo a break - and it may have even seemed logical - leave the decision to the new men in charge.

But all it really did was give the coaching staff the opportunity to save their jobs at all costs.

There wasn't a president on campus, Robert Maxson having retired and the school a half-year away from hiring F. King Alexander. There was no oversight beyond an interim athletic director who didn't want the job and a department staff that was overworked, undermanned and weaponless.

In an effort to save their paychecks, assistant coach Reggie Howard hit the recruiting gas and did whatever he could to bring in some quick-fix JC transfers with eligibility issues.

Assistant Brent Bargan was caught in his wake. Reynolds conveniently looked the other way. . . .

"I'm happy it's over," Cegles said. "I'm happy for Dan and the student-athletes that there's no postseason ban and that we finally have a chance to move ahead.

"We live in a pretty forgiving society, and there are thousands of examples of that in the sports world. Teams go on probation every day and there are fans living larger than ever (at those schools). That will happen for us."

Here's what won't happen ever again. A basketball coach who alienates everyone on campus after two seasons will be fired on merit (Wayne Morgan) instead of being given three more tumultuous seasons and leaving the program bereft of talent and goodwill.

A coach who wins 11 games in two seasons won't be asked back for a third year, much less a fourth (Reynolds). An athletic director who has issues internally won't be allowed to make a crucial decision on his way out the door (Shumard). There won't be an extended gap of more than a year without someone in charge.

No one will be left to their own devices.

Lets hope not!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out

A new website has been 'created out of a need to publish accurate information about ASU Baseball and the baseball career of Jason Jarvis', a sophomore who is connected to some of the allegations swirling around the program. He released the following statement there yesterday:
I would like to make a public statement that should help clarify rumors that have been going around the local news and baseball world. Recently there have been several inaccurate statements made to the press by former ASU baseball manager, Mikel Merino, about the academics and legitimacy of my grades a s well as some of my teammates. I am an easy target because it’s no secret that I have had academic problems throughout my entire school career. I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was 6 years old. I worked very hard in high school to graduate with an overall GPA of 3.0 so I could attend college. Even though it’s much harder for me than other kids, I remained eligible through my Freshman year at ASU and I have again met all the NCAA requirements for my sophomore year. Now my grades are being called into question by none other than a disgruntled former manager , who lost his job at ASU recently . I have never even once had a conversation about school or school work with Mr. Merino. This person knows nothing about my classes or my grades yet I and my teammates have been called into question. Soon I must attend a hearing to defend myself against false charges. The process of taking online study courses and tests is well documented by others who take these classes at ASU. I am registered with the DRC at ASU and it was on the advice of my academic advisor that I study and take tests in this manner. However it is a possibility that my college career could be over because I followed the instructions of my ASU academic advisor. I love ASU, it's baseball program and my teammates and I am sure I will continue to struggle with my academics due to my learning disability, but I am doing the best I can especially during a very demanding baseball schedule. Hopefully now the readers know the facts and not just what others say. If you want to keep up with the facts of what’s actually going on and not just rumors please visit my website: I look forward to being vindicated.
Let us hope that Jason will, indeed, be vindicated. My fear is that he is now in way over his head.

1. Arizona State: Scandal Looming in Baseball Program
2. Arizona State Baseball: Jason Jarvis Speaks Out
3. ASU Baseball: Cheating in Online Music Course?
4. ASU Baseball: Jason Jarvis Declared Ineligible

Niche Job: NCAA Sanctions Rehab Specialist

It is a sad reflection of the state of revenue sports that there are coaches who can make their living specializing in the rehabilitation of sanctioned programs. But Kudos to Long Beach State head men's basketball coach Dan Monson for doing things right:
Setbacks and NCAA violations aren't new to Long Beach State men's basketball head coach Dan Monson.

In fact, he faced similar obstacles when he was initially hired at Gonzaga and the University of Minnesota.

"I think one of the reasons why it was a good fit for me and a good fit for Long Beach State is that I've been through this before," Monson said. "Gonzaga was on probation when I took over, Minnesota was on probation, so this is my third trip through this. Hopefully, through experience you learn what you do and what you don't." . . .

"First thing I think you've got to establish is your culture and your attitude," Monson said. "And I think we've done a pretty good job of guys doing that - understanding what the expectations are going to be for our program and, hopefully, once you get that changed, you get a little more basketball talent to go with that attitude."

This is not something the head coach hasn't dealt with before. In his first season at Minnesota, Monson walked into an academic scandal and a star player quit the team.

"Minnesota was a pretty big mess," Monson said. "It was the biggest academic scandal in the history of the NCAA. We had a lottery pick, Joel Pryzbilla [of the Portland Trailblazers], who ended up quitting the team halfway through the first year. . . .

Turning around struggling programs is something Monson has become known for. In 1999, he guided Gonzaga to an Elite Eight appearance and the Bulldogs have since been relevant to the college basketball world. After posting just three league wins with the Gophers in the 2003-04 season, Minnesota went 10-6 the following year and pulled off the second-biggest turnaround in the Big Ten in 20 years.

"One thing I've learned is it's not going to happen overnight," Monson said. "We've got to be patient with it, and hopefully the fans can be patient, because you can't build something that has been torn down overnight."
Best wishes!

Amaker Ushers in a new Era at Harvard: of Recruiting Violations?

Almost everyone involved in college basketball engaged in collective head-scratching when Tommy Amaker, who had coached at both Seton Hall and Michigan, was hired this past spring by Harvard. Harvard AD Bob Scalise noted at the time that:
“We’re delighted Tommy Amaker is joining us at Harvard. He has been a well-respected head coach at the highest level of college basketball, and his experience as a player and assistant at Duke, where athletic and academic success is paramount, makes him a terrific fit. We’re looking forward to the support of the Harvard and local communities as we pursue our first Ivy League championship in men’s basketball.”
But at what cost? According to a story in the New York Times the price may very well be both a relaxation of academic standards which are typically as rigorous for student-athletes as they are for fellow students, and an introduction of rule-breaking typical in conferences like the Big Ten, but unheard of in the Ivy League:
Yet the group of six recruits expected to join the team next season is rated among the nation’s 25 best. . . . It is also because Harvard is willing to consider players with a lower academic standing than previous staff members said they were allowed to. Harvard has also adopted aggressive recruiting tactics that skirt or, in some cases, may even violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. . . .

Two athletes who said they had received letters from Harvard’s admissions office saying they would most likely be accepted have described tactics that may violate N.C.A.A. rules, including visits from a man who worked out with them shortly before he was hired by Harvard to be an assistant coach.

An N.C.A.A. spokesman, Erik Christianson, said the organization’s rules state, “Should a coach recruit on behalf of a school but not be employed there, he or she is then considered a booster and that recruiting activity is not allowed.”

Yale Coach James Jones said he had seen an academic change at Harvard. “It’s eye-opening because there seems to have been a drastic shift in restrictions and regulations with the Harvard admissions office,” he said.

“We don’t know how all this is going to come out, but we could not get involved with many of the kids that they are bringing in.”

Harvard’s athletic director, Bob Scalise, acknowledged that Amaker’s staff had recruited some players with lower academic profiles than the previous staff had, but he stressed that no athletes had yet been admitted.

“It’s also a willingness to basically say, ‘O.K., maybe we need to accept a few more kids and maybe we need to go after a few more kids in the initial years when Tommy is trying to change the culture of the program,’ ” Scalise said last week. “It’s a willingness to say that we really do want to compete for the Ivy championship.” . . .

Scalise said he was made aware of “three or four” complaints of recruiting incidents from rivals and sat down with Amaker last November for “a teaching moment.” He said he told Amaker that he and his staff needed to act in ways “beyond reproach.”

But Scalise said he was not aware until told by The New York Times that Amaker’s top assistant, Kenny Blakeney, had traveled a long distance to play pickup basketball with a recruit during periods when the N.C.A.A. does not allow contact with prospective players. Blakeney said he had not been officially hired by Harvard when he visited that recruit and another prospective player. . . .

[Keith] Wright received interest from Illinois, Davidson and other Ivy League members before committing to Harvard.

Wright said that Blakeney had visited him when in-person contact between coaches and recruits was not allowed. Kenyi said Blakeney, a former Duke player, played basketball with him “a couple of times” at his high school last June or July, which is against N.C.A.A. contact rules. Harvard announced Blakeney’s hiring on July 2, 2007. . . .

Amaker, who declined to respond to specific questions in person, released a statement Friday through a university spokesman.

“Harvard adheres to austere standards in every area of the university and I am honored to labor within that framework,” the statement said. “Individuals with knowledge of our staff understand the high principles under which we operate. We work within the spirit of Harvard and the Ivy League.”

The New York Times followed up on their initial story today:

Harvard and the Ivy League have said they will review the possibility that the Crimson men’s basketball program committed recruiting violations. . . .

“We’re going to do what needs to be done, and it’s going to be done in a timely way,” said Jeff Orleans, the Ivy League executive director, who declined to comment further in a brief telephone interview.

Numerous Ivy coaches and athletic directors also declined to comment, saying that any statements should be made through the league. Other coaches said that their athletic directors would not allow them to speak about the issue. . . .

The only Ivy League athletic director who responded to a request for an interview, Yale’s Thomas A. Beckett, said he believed the matter would be handled fairly.

“I think that there are some very bright and very caring people that have worked very hard over many years and decades to make sure the league is operating properly,” Beckett said. “I have full confidence that this will be handled properly and the league will do the right thing, as will Harvard.” . . .

As part of his recruiting pitch, Amaker talked to the players about the possibility of playing together at Harvard. When a reporter visited his office for an interview in January, Amaker had his director of basketball operations, Kirsten Green, print out numerous articles about the recruits.

Publicizing recruiting classes is considered risky in the Ivy League, where nothing is final until admissions letters are sent.

“He just has to learn that things are done different in the league, especially compared to a big-time school like Seton Hall and Michigan,” said Pete Carril, the longtime former Princeton coach, referring to Amaker’s previous coaching stints. “They’re done differently.”

But for how long? Jonathan Lehman, a writer at the Daily Crimson was skeptical of the NYT's comments about relaxed academic standards:

None of this, however, means that Harvard is planning to slip below the lofty codified “standards” for admitting basketball players. It can’t. The Ivy League has a strict system based on a formula known as the Academic Index to govern the admission of athletes. . . .

Amaker cannot navigate around these regulations: If Frank Ben-Eze, the reported prize of his incoming freshman class, does not bump his AI up to 171, he will not be admitted to the Class of 2012 next month. Nor can he attend traditional top dog Penn—another suitor mentioned in the Times article—which had its string of three straight Ancient Eight titles snapped this season.

At the same time he found the allegations of NCAA rule-breaking 'distressing':

Violations of NCAA regulations are a different story. The anecdotes included in Thamel’s article, the one about Blakeney in particular, are distressing. The piece describes Blakeney, who played at Duke when Amaker was an assistant there, playing pickup games and developing friendly relationships with a pair of recruits in the months before he was hired to join Amaker’s staff. Both of the recruits, Max Kenyi and Keith Wright, were eventually wooed to commit to the Crimson and confirmed their meetings with Blakeney in the story. NCAA rules forbid contact by team staffers with recruits during the months in which the meetings occurred and also forbid recruiting by unemployed coaches on the behalf of a school. Blakeney’s actions are fishy at best and consciously rule-skirting at worst.

Harvard should investigate this matter, as well as a more tenuous accusation that Amaker stalked a point guard prospect’s parents to a grocery store and illegally discussed recruiting with them, and I invite the NCAA to do the same. If Amaker or his staff members are guilty of any wrongdoing, the program should be punished.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Completely Irrelevant RPI Data (To the Pollsters) 3-04-08

So, who does better in determining the strength of teams? Sports writers? The secretaries for college basketball coaches? The RPI? Completely Irrelevant RPI Data is here to help you decide. And as always, do not miss Goro’s Rants.

The Hall of Shame

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Davidson 23-6 Southern (25,28, 44) +17.5

Davidson vaults into first place in this weeks’ Hall of Shame out of nowhere. Nowhere is the operative word, as this is a team which should be nowhere close to the top 25. While Davidson has won 19 straight games, there are dozens of teams who would win THOSE 19 straight games. Davidson’s BEST win this year was at #116 Georgia Southern, and Davidson boasts a perfectly awful 0-5 record versus the RPI top 100. The foolishness of this ranking is perhaps best illustrated by comparison with South Alabama, another team from outside the top conferences which has finished well (23-2). Not only does South Alabama have one less loss, they also have a 3-2 record versus the RPI top 50, with its wins including a home tilt against Mississippi State and a win AT Western Kentucky. Somehow, however, Davidson managed 101 votes in the two polls this week compared to South Alabama’s 30.

#2 Purdue 23-6 B10 (15,15, 28) +13

Purdue maintains its #2 spot in the Hall of Shame after the pollsters rewarded its wins against a pedestrian Minnesota team, and an awful Northwestern team with an average 2.5 spot RISE in the polls. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The Big 10 just is not that good this year. Beyond a couple wins against Texas, Big 10 teams had a distinctly undistinguished out of conference record, and Purdue is a classic example. Not only was Purdue defeated by #154 Iowa State on a neutral court, but they also lost AT HOME to #201 Wofford.

#3 Mississippi State 20-8 SEC (27,25, 37) +11

Everyone knows that the top team in the SEC West deserves a ranking. Well, no. But that is the only sort of logic that could yield votes for a team which may be NCAA-worthy, but certainly is not ranking-worthy. Mississippi State has gone 2-7 versus the RPI top 50, and, like most teams in the Hall of Shame, served up the patsies in out of conference play. These included #187 Murray State, #216 Southeastern Louisiana, #217 Tennessee Martin, #277 Texas A&M Corpus Christi, #306 Loyola Marymount, and #329 Louisiana Tech, which boasts a 4-23 record this year.

#4 Stanford 24-4 P10 (7,7, 17) +10

Stanford slips from the fourth to the first spot in this weeks’ Hall of Shame after a good home win against Washington State improved its RPI more than its ranking. But Stanford is not top ten material - at least four teams, Xavier, Wisconsin, Georgetown, and Texas deserve to be ranked higher. This will be established when Stanford loses at UCLA on Thursday, and struggles on the road at USC on Saturday. Note, as well, the patsies which Stanford served up for home consumption, yielding them the #299 Strength of Schedule out of 341 teams: #193 Yale; #189 Santa Clara; #224 Northwestern State; #225 Fresno State; #267 Colorado State; #307 Harvard. They rounded this off with #335 Sacramento State, a 4-24 team whose best win came by one point, at home, against #227 Montana State.

#5 Gonzaga 23-6 WCC (22,23, 31) +8.5

Gonzaga slipped a couple spots, but retains its spot in this weeks Hall of Shame after it solidified its spot in the rankings by defeating St. Mary’s at home. This is Gonzaga’s first significant victory since, let me check, need to do some more checking, oh that’s right, I have to go way back to December 1. Since then, it has been developing a shiny record based on wins against patsies while losing to the quality teams it faced. This team is NCAA-worthy but not ranking-worthy, and at some point the afterglow from the Elite 8 run NINE years ago needs to wear off. . .

Dropped from rankings:
Indiana –1.5; St. Mary’s (now unranked)

The House of Pain

[Team Record Conference (AP ranking, Espn/USA ranking, RPI ranking) Difference between poll average and RPI]

#1 Arizona 17-10 P10 (NR,NR, 25) –14.5

Arizona retains its top spot in the House of Pain, but certainly did not deserve any votes in the polls either this week after two home losses. Given Arizona’s 5-7 record versus the RPI top 50, this will be a VERY interesting case for the selection committee. If Arizona does not pick up road wins this week and bring its record up to .500 in the Pac 10, Arizona could very well be NIT bound.

As an editorial comment, it is interesting that while the Hall of Shame continues to be full of extremely over-rated teams, the candidates for the House of Shame continue to get weaker each week.

#2-T Vanderbilt 24-5 SEC (16,16, 10) –6

Wins against #1 teams like Tennessee are typically rewarded. Even if they are followed up with tough losses on the road against tough opponents like Arkansas. That is, unless you are Vanderbilt. Is this revenge from the pollsters for the principled decision by Vanderbilt to dissolve its athletics department and ensure that it does, in fact, field STUDENT-athletes? Apparently no school without an Athletic Director deserves to be in the top 15. . .

#2-T Clemson 21-7 ACC (24,26, 19) –6

As predicted, Clemson did, indeed climb into the rankings after defeating Miami. The fact that they followed this up by defeating Maryland on the road means that they SHOULD have climbed much further than they did.

#4 Drake 25-4 MVC (20,21, 15) –5.5

Drake finished the regular season 3-3, which certainly qualifies as a slump after starting 22-1. We cannot, however, lose sight of the fact that Drake possesses a spectacular 6-2 record versus the top 50, which is equaled or surpassed by only ten other teams. When one considers that they recently knocked off Butler (#14,#12) on the road, a team with a mere 2-1 record versus the top 50, it is clear that Drake is under-rated.

#5 Pittsburgh 21-9 BE (29,29, 24) –5

Pittsburgh becomes the weakest ever resident of the Hall of Shame. Frankly they are not hard done by being left out of the top 25 after losing 4 of their last 6 and 7 of their last 13.

Dropped from Rankings: South Alabama (out of RPI top 25)

Average Conference (or State or Category) Bias:

Media Darlings: +11 (Butler, Gonzaga, Davidson)
Teams from Indiana: +5.1 (Butler, Purdue, Indiana, Notre Dame)
All Others: +3.1 (Memphis, Xavier, Butler, Drake, Gonzaga, Brigham Young, Davidson)
Big 10: +1.3 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana)
SEC: +.7 (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State)
Pac 10: -.1 (UCLA, Stanford, Washington State, Arizona)
Big 12: -.3 (Kansas, Texas)
Big East: -1.7 (Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pittsburgh)
ACC: -1.8 (North Carolina, Duke, Clemson)

The trend in the big conferences is once again towards less significant biases. The Big 10 nearly fell into line this week, with only Purdue now amongst the substantially over-rated. The Hoosier love-fest still continues, although is has been slightly muted by the decline of Indiana (the team). With Davidson joining the rankings this week, a new small conference ‘Media Darlings’ category is now warranted.

Teams with closest correlation between ranking and RPI:

1-T. Memphis, Connecticut, Washington State (-.5 )
4-T. Duke, Louisville, Indiana (-1.5)

Teams included in analysis:

[Any team in the top 25 of the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, or the RPI.]

North Carolina 27-2; ACC Memphis 28-1 CUSA; UCLA 26-3 P10; Tennessee 26-3 SEC; Kansas 26-3 B12; Duke 25-3 ACC; Stanford 24-4 P10; Wisconsin 24-4 B10; Texas 24-5 B12; Xavier 25-4 A10; Georgetown 24-4 BE; Louisville 24-6 BE; Butler 27-3 HORZ; Connecticut 23-6 BE; Purdue 23-6 B10; Vanderbilt 24-5 SEC; Michigan State 23-6 B10; Indiana 24-5 B10; Notre Dame 22-6 BE; Drake 25-4 MVC; Marquette 21-7 BE; Gonzaga 23-6 WCC; Washington State 22-7 P10; Clemson 21-7 ACC; Brigham Young 23-6 MWC; Mississippi State 20-8 SEC; Davidson 23-6 Southern; Pittsburgh 21-9 BE; Arizona 17-12 P10.