Category Archives: Pac-12

SDSU_AZ_Maui

After the Turkey Team by Team on Cyber Monday

And on this side of the break I hope you find yourselves thankful, that you had a better homecoming than Chasson Randle (like seriously, Stanford, you promise the kid two homecoming games and manage a 1-1 record and yield 1.19 per possession to DePaul who was wearing a home loss to Lehigh) and that your team won the Pac-12 South because – let me tell you – that’s fun. See you in Santa Clara.

Which of course means that football is winding down, heading into its long winter before reemerging at the turn of the year to give it their best, and first, shot at a March. Basketball will soon becomes our primary collegiate focus; when familiar foes travel to familiar venues and the grind. Eighteen conference games of unpredictability. Vegas. Selection Sunday. The weekends. A football stadium. Continue reading

cuonzo

And We’re Back: A Run Through Weekend Pac-12 Hoops

Nice to be back. I’m not about to walk us through my Friday night. I already exposed you to too much of my life in last week’s essay. So rather than tell you I absorbed pizza and beer and two screens worth of Pac-12 hoops, let’s just run through some astute observations and leap to gross conclusions about the season based off of one weekend. Rational? I just watched Interstellar so it’s all relative.

NorMAN Powell

I only watched the first half of UCLA’s Friday game because they won by 1000 and the opening minutes of Sunday’s because of 2 hours and 45 minutes of hoping Matthew McConaughey would run into Cyrus the big bull in Space. But when I was tuned in I saw Norman Powell – he who we know needs to be an Alpha Bruin – swallow a rebound, run coast-to-coast, absorb contact and finish with utter authority. He’s Cyrus the bull, taking 15 FTs en route to 25 points on Friday. He perhaps cooled off on Sunday but not much, still collecting 13 points. Continue reading

Chasson Randle Mugging

2015 Pre-Season All-Conference Ballot

Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.

Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]

Predicted standings

Continue reading

BKC-UCLA-FLORIDA

Desperate Times: Tempo Variance and Job Security

In 2012, Ben Howland landed the best recruiting class in the nation. His program had been floundering but that year he amassed what appeared to be his most talented Westwood team in awhile. One of the concerns, however, was that this team wouldn’t have the  traditional Howland characteristics of toughness and defense. These traits have been both quantified and qualified but as a reminder, up until 2012, Howland teams were averaging a 65.8 adjusted tempo (this includes two Pitt seasons) and relentless defense. Until 2012 – and excluding the 2005 anomaly of a 70 AdjT – Howland rarely wavered off of that pace. The variance across tempos, again excluding the 2007 anomaly, was just 1.43. Variance, as a reminder, is a calculation of how far a set of numbers is spread out. It allows us to recognize how fickle a quantified act can be. A smaller number suggests a pretty consistent set of data. A bigger number, conversely, alerts us to a dataset with a great amount of fluctuation.

Howland’s 2012 Bruins would play to a 69.2 adjusted tempo, 5% greater than his average career tempo (including 2005). He significantly deviated from how he’d previously been successful. Three days after the season ended, Ben Howland was fired.

Why Look at This?

I understand that there are a lot of factors that come into a firing. The 2012 Bruins actually won the conference title. They earned a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. Howland was fired nevertheless. While that maybe isn’t directly correlated to adjusted tempo, it would seem that a consistent pace might be a good indicator of prolonged success. A coach presumably gets his job (particularly in the Pac-12) because he has amassed success. He’s probably good at coaching a style he’s become an expert in and gets his players to buy into that style, that system.

Howland’s career tempo variance (including 2005) is 3.9. Need context? Me too. So I found the career variance for every active coach in the Pac-12:

Coach Variance Average Tempo
Dawkins 1.14 67.37
Martin 1.3 64.11
Miller 2.4 66.13
Boyle 2.61 67.38
Enfield 2.67 69.55
Alford 3.51 67.57
Altman 4.24 66.97
Tinkle 5.24 64.24
Kent 6.45 68.5
Romar 7.58 70.9
Sendek 8.02 65.03
Krystkowiak 8.42 65.63

This suggests that Howland was about the median amongst current Pac-12 coaches. Of course none of these men have been fired, so it seems there isn’t a great deal to take away from this regarding the understanding of whether varying from one’s career tempo foretells anything about job security.

The above data will come into play as we monitor the 2014-15 season. Will Krystokowiak begin to normalize as his plan comes into effect? He’s had so little talent at times in Utah that he probably hasn’t been able to dictate tempo. The rest of the Pac dictated Utah’s pace. I predict this season will look a lot more like what a K team wants to be. Will Sendek continue to push the gas pedal? He’s notably played both sides of the continuum. Thus high variance. What’s Ernie’s plan? More to come.

Our Hypothesis

The hypothesis is that greatly deviating from one’s established norm is indicative of a hot seat (if not an already fired man). A desperate times call for desperate measures type theory. So I developed a list of fired Pac-12 coaches and some other notable leads who were relieved of their duties. Here’s what I found:

Coach Variance % dev. In fired year
Ken Bone 11.4 6.2
Ben Howland 3.9 5
Ernie Kent 6.5 1.9
Kevin O’Neill 5.2 5.3
Seth Greenberg 8.3 6.6
Sydney Lowe 1.9 2.5
Ben Braun 4.5 5.1* / 3.3**
Mike Davis 4.5 3.8^ / 4.9^^
Average 5.775 4.46
  • Average Variance: 5.8
  • Average % Change in final season vs. average season: 4.5%
  • *Fired at Cal, **Fired at Rice
  • ^Fired at IU, ^^Fired at UAB

The major variance culprits were Ken Bone and Seth Greenberg. Each of their last teams played greater than 6% differently (based on AdjT) than their respective career averages. In both cases it was the coach’s slowest team.

Ben Braun significantly deviated from his average tempo, 66, prior to being fired, too. But what I found interesting here was that in each of his final seasons, he tried both extremes: 69.5 in his last season at Cal was the fastest team he’s ever coached, 63.9 at Rice was the second slowest. Mike Davis tried the same extremes in his final campaigns in Bloomington and Birmingham, respectively. Desperate times, desperate measures.

ben braun

Ben Braun was fired by Cal in 2008

I’d like to reiterate that this is far from an exact science. I’ve already cited Ben Howland’s fastest season, 2005. It was his first dance with UCLA before reverting to his norm and rattling off three straight Final Fours. Clearly, he was not fired after losing to Texas Tech in the 2005 tournament.

The Big-ish Takeaway

But this is an interesting exercise in understanding what makes a given coach good at what he does. So often we’re thrown coach speak about ‘staying the course’ and ‘respecting the process,’ practices I don’t disagree with. It’s therefore interesting to me the times these guys do deviate from what seems to be their course; the paths that made them successful to this point. So while I’m not necessarily saying that a change of pace is indicative of a coach’s impending fall from grace, I do think it can be a telling sign.

Which might draw our attention to the warmer seats in this year’s conference, namely Lorenzo Romar. For the record, I think his job is relatively secure. He’s garnered enough good juju to weather the storm he’s in. But three straight seasons of decreasing win totals isn’t exactly deserving a vote of confidence. He’s had one of the higher degrees of tempo variance amongst current Pac-12 coaches (7.58) and had never coached a Washington team to a sub-70 tempo until…the last three seasons when we’ve seen the bottom begin to fall out. Two seasons ago was the slowest UW team he’s ever coached (65.7). He survived that turn and KenPom actually projects the Huskies at a 70.5 AdjT this season. Further, he’s got the forthcoming recruiting classes and so I reiterate, Romar has banked some good merit in the Athletic Department. He’s coached an NCAA one-seed. But if he’d never had that success, it’s easy to imagine his slowest team and their 17-15 record earning him a pink slip.

BoneReax

Ken Bone was let go my WSU after a slow season.

We could ask Ken Bone about it. He’s now an assistant at Montana after coaching Washington State to a 10-21 record at the second slowest pace he’s ever coached. They were 6.2% slower than the average Ken Bone team. It’s also worth noting here (with reverence to Romar’s 2014 Huskies) that last season was a historically fast paced season. Examine this KPI spreadsheet for more. Scoring was up at to a four-year high. Rules changes behooved the fast and I looked into it, too. Which is all to say that Bone likely was playing at an even slower pace than what was calculated. Rules changes helped his offense. Just as it did Romar and any other coach flirting with a style change last year. Of course, these trends suggest that speeding up your offense, forcing the defense to make a play and thus more likely to commit a foul (FTA/game was up 13% vs. 2013). Alas, that’s not the strategic changes these men chose to make. It may have cost Ken Bone his job.

Of course Bone also had the highest variance of any coach studied, perhaps giving merit to the idea that it’s really tough to get talent to Pullman. And which also begs the question of whether or not there is a correlation between winning and tempo variance (we’ll examine that next and take into consideration the rules changes with their affect on tempo).

It can’t go overstated that this is not an exact science. A slowing or accelerated tempo doesn’t necessarily mean the axe is coming. But it just might be the Blue Mountains on a Coors Light: an indicator that a shitty beer is trying just a little harder to be less bad.

(I still enjoy a tailgating with a CL).

photo 4

Pac-12 Basketball Media: Vini, Vidi, Vici

First off a big thanks to Rush The Court for the opportunity, again, to attend Pac-12 Media Day. Appreciate getting to go and their trust in me to cover the event.

MY RTC THOUGHTS ON LAST YEAR’S BOTTOM HALF OF THE CONFERENCE.

MY RTC THOUGHTS ON LAST YEAR’S TOP HALF OF THE CONFERENCE.

For me, Media Day is about the experience. Larry Scott noted as much in his opening remarks, that it’s an opportunity for the student-athletes to do something they don’t necessarily always get to do. For Brandon Ashley, it was the chance to come home and answer to his mom. She asked the last question of the Power Forward, confirming that he was taking his vitamins and that he was ready for the season. You should’ve seen how Brandon beamed, smiled, and got embarrassed all at the same time. I call it 2015’s first shining moment. Continue reading

Microphones At Press Conference

Platitudes Revisited for Pac-12 Basketball Media Day

Tomorrow, for the third straight year, I will be attending the Pac-12’s Basketball Media Day. Can’t wait. In all honesty, it’s a little boring. I love the opportunity to go but there are platitudes abound. More gets said by the Guilty Remnant.

The fun part is reading between the lines. Like knowing Andy Enfield ripped UCLA and hearing him have to then praise UCLA. Or listening to Bob Dibler discuss Ed Rush and trips to Cancun. Basically, nothing will be said tomorrow that shocks us.

But what if it didn’t play out that way?

I’ve scripted the questions I’d like to ask and provided what I think coaches will respond with and what I wish they’d respond with. Continue reading

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Just in Case: The Leftovers and Your Role

If you didn’t watch HBO’s The Leftovers, it’s hard to say if you really missed out on anything. It’s a show about I-don’t-know-what, during which everything and nothing happens. It’s dark, captivating and confusing. I kinda hated it. I watched every episode.

The show centers on the aftermath of the disappearance, immediate and sudden, of 2% of the world’s population. In one moment, theygone. Husbands, wives, sons, and daughters disappeared and everyone else was left to cope with the “Sudden Departure.”

This Sudden Departure happened on October 14th.

Tomorrow is October 14th.

Tomorrow is my birthday.

So if I disappear, if the Sudden Departure consumes me and you’re left to fend for your Pac-selves this season, here’s everything I need you to do this season. Naturally, there are twelve of them.

  1. Creatively and non-sophomorically discover a way to hilariously reference Wayne Tinkle – We can be better than the obvious. And don’t do something weird on Photoshop. That would be uncomfortable for everyone.
  2. Discover a player who’s changed his game and his torching the universe – Jordan Adams was a mid-range god as a freshmen and then took it to a new level – and location – as a sophomore. You’re well versed on how I appreciate getting to the rim and Jordan did exactly that. My excitement got ESPN linkage.
  3. The teams. The teams are going to different things than they used to. Watch that – This is a really, really vague point so I’ll just go ahead and note a few key things y’all should monitor: UCLA’s offense and how it operates without Kyle Anderson feeding Wear family jumpers and Jordan Adams layups or perhaps pivots to a more traditional Alford style; Andy Enfield’s offense and if it can actually become a dunk city; Arizona’s defense and rebounding which carried them at times last season might not project to be as good this season; is Cuonzo Martin that good of a defensive coach; presumably Johnny Dawkins has developed Stefan Nastic, Chasson Randle, and Anthony Brown as far as he can (seniors) how will the undeveloped assets (projected to be good) fill into a system of inconsistency?
  4. Feed whomever is running the Pac-12’s social channels the best questions for Media Day – Because then famous people will love you:

  5. Think of me in Indy – You can’t look at me on the eve of my possible-if-not-impending-Sudden-Departure and tell me my ‘Cats aren’t going. Not only would that be heartless, it’d be silly.
  6. Don’t lurk on Andy Enfield’s beholden – After a while it gets weird.
  7. Love Askia Booker (and other senior guards) – Last year I wrote about it here, here, and here. Oh, here as well. Four articles, one player. And now he’s a senior guard on a team with moderate-to-high expectations that almost entirely rest on what kind of season he’s going to have. A senior guard. I don’t make the stories, I just tell them. Trust me when I say Askia Booker is a story. And I’m not crazy enough to think you’ll love him just because I ask you to. I’ve met enough strangers on Tinder to know you can’t request love. So maybe there’s a senior guard on your squad to adore. Cherish that. Whether it’s DaVonte, Chasson, TJ, or even – hell – Jonathan Gilling, love your seniors.
  8. Go to HecEd, in Red, for me – As of now I’m going to Seattle for that February 13th tilt. Anyone need a Valentines? Of course this is all for naught should I disappear tomorrow. Nevertheless, the plan is for me to make my inaugural appearance and perhaps – if allowed – an inaugural address to the audience. I highly doubt the latter becomes reality, but if it did, that would be awesome. A whole slew of Wildcats will be coming so it’ll be fun. Let’s have fun. And if I’m not there, you guys have fun. And if it’s not HecEd and it’s not Red that you’re willing to do, travel to one opposing arena. Make a weekend of it. We’re lucky to have teams in some of the best cities this country has to offer.
  9. Unabashedly share your excitement for a yet-to-be-determined moment in the season with a completely unassuming person - Preferably this would be a co-worker. I’ve subjected countless co-workers who don’t know Sean Miller from Dennis Miller but you know what? They love my enthusiasm and that unsuspecting co-worker will no doubt love yours. And if I may recommend an execution method, I suggest you say it as swiftly as you can. Catch them off guard and go for the massive knowledge drop. They won’t know what hit them and you’ll probably come out of it looking either insane, passionate, or some combination thereof.
  10. Don’t push the Daddy Ball agenda - In a general theme of fandom, you’re better than this. We’re all better than this. Not only did LaVine’s numbers significantly decline throughout the season, Bryce is legit and the Bruins went to the Sweet Sixteen which was pretty much their ceiling anyways. Does Steve have some biases for his own kid? Probably. Did it cost him in PG recruiting? Another maybe. But he has an All-Freshman point guard returning and the most familial thing about that is talent.
  11. Recognize the shining moments – It’s a great big long season that culminates in a heart ripping and beautiful dance. But get wrapped up in the hope. Notice the process from November to March. The nuance of mid-range jumper, the progress of a sophomore, the stones of a senior. They’re moments, brief and shining, but when you look hard enough, there can be so many of them.
  12. By the way, full credit to UCLA -
2011 NBA Draft

Recruitment to Draft Efficiencies: A Study Studied

With the NBA draft on Thursday, and a smattering of Pac alumni (well sort of alumni, they’re seemingly all early entries presumably taking ongoing coursework to ensure no APR hits), I thought it’d be worth posting a wordy piece I’d researched and wrote a year ago.

Per data collected by the Emory Sports Marketing group, amongst Pac-12 schools, Washington and USC were the most efficient at fulfilling living room promises of NBA paydays. Hoop dreams, as it were, are best suited for downtown Los Angeles and Seattle. Who knew?

Seattle

I mean, look at it…

I certainly didn’t, though I’ve long been aware of the conference’s ability to produce NBA talent. Since 1980, the Pac-12 has produced the second most draftees amongst the Big 6 conferences (Big-12 is not listed on that link as they really only began their existence in 1996-97. Since their inception, however, they’ve produced just 4.6 draft picks per season as compared to 6.4 or greater in each of the other five. Thus, it’s safe to assume they wouldn’t have flirted with second place. Just not enough Jayhawks and Longhorns.

From such bulk data we can make broad, surface conclusions that the Pac-12 has indeed produced talent. That’s clearly a lot of NBA players and tells us something about the quality of players the conference recruits, develops, and gets placed into NBA jobs. I suppose that’s what college is all about – job placement – right?

Of course the number itself doesn’t really say much. Wouldn’t it make sense for the late-Big East with its umpteen constituents to have produced the most NBA players by the simple fact that they have more players? That would seem to make the most sense but it’s not the case as they’ve produced the fifth most draftees (a reason I think the BE was overrated on the whole as a basketball conference but that’s a totally different conversation).

And so we’re presented with Emory’s study; a snapshot into how well a school (we begin to diverge from specific conferences) operates as a job placement service. They used the Rivals recruiting rankings beginning with the 2002 class and attributed weights to a given star rating observe efficiencies. The algorithm:

(# of NBA Picks) /(Weighted Recruiting Talent**)

**Weighted Recruiting Talent = Sum of draft probability
5-star = 0.51, 4-star = 0.13, 3-star=0.03, 2-star=0.008, unranked=0.004

Plug and chug to find that Washington and USC have done the best job (aka most efficient job) at transforming high school talent into NBA draft picks. While Arizona and UCLA have produced 40% of the conference’s draft picks since 1980, they evidently haven’t been as efficient at it (at least since 2002).

There are, of course, some innate issues to this study which they directly address. They essentially make no bones about the fact that the summarized data limits our ability to “draw deeper thoughts.” From a data standpoint we’re dealing with just a very small sample size. Having examined recruiting classes since 2002, we’re really only exposed to 7 classes that have completed their four years and become draft eligible; or at least had their hand forced into eligibility after receiving the maximum four years of instruction and coaching. The 2010 class and beyond could still be selected in June of ‘14 (though good luck cracking that draft class) and have an effect on these efficiencies.

Additionally, one could argue that Arizona and UCLA – two schools with renowned recruiting prowess – are at a statistical disadvantage considering their success at recruiting higher rated recruits. What’s more, their historical success can often skew recruiting rankings. A fringe three-star with a UCLA offer can suddenly find himself a four-star recruit with three-star talent and thus a lower probability (0.03 Weighted Recruiting Talent) of ever being drafted. While it is the responsibility of those respective coaching staffs to improve players, it is not their role to assign recruiting rankings. They’re just supposed to win with the players who signed “yes.” Nevertheless, it was Washington and USC who turned out the most efficient.

How?

Statistically speaking, I’ll struggle to find the answer. As the Emor-ites stated, this is summarized data that won’t quite allow us to dive deeper. Recruiting rankings are no exact science, but they also don’t often lead us wildly astray. No doubt the success of three-stars Derrick Williams and Russell Westbrook hold significant weight in this efficiency rating; but so too might the disappointing careers (otherwise read: undrafted) of former five-stars Mustafa Shakur, JP Prince, Jawann McClellan, and Josiah Turner. And it’s also worth noting the number of efficiency draining four-stars from the conference’s power schools who have gone undrafted: UCLA has seen nine four-star prospects go undrafted since 2002 while Arizona has four such draftless wonders (and five undrafted five-stars).

SilverDraft

His predecessor called a lot of Wildcats

As the “bluebloods” have managed to allure more highly rated talent (or seen the inflation of their recruits’ star rating) they’ve also managed to have 21 kids drafted since 2002 (18 per the study which does not include the 2013 draft). And I recognize that Washington has had more draft picks over this time period than Arizona but within the overall context of NBA products, Arizona’s had the most draft picks (OK tied for the most) of any college program since 1988. Finding that the Wildcats are the 11th most effective at getting kids drafted is surprising. For a brief comparison, within the scope of Emory’s project, Arizona has recruited the second most four- and five-star players (23). UCLA took the top spot (26) while the Huskies were third (20).

Equipped with that, two things become evident:

  1. It makes sense that the schools bringing in the most highly rated prospects have produced the most NBA picks
  2. Arizona must suck at developing talent and/or evaluating it (along with Rivals).

The first point here is sort of a numbers game, similar to the aforementioned Big East thought. Each of UCLA, Washington, and Arizona indeed had the most players drafted since 2002. USC, our second most efficient school, had the fourth most draftees. Bring in better players and they’re likely to get drafted. Sweet.

The second point, however, allows us to see more clearly how Arizona rated at the tail end of this study. They gathered up a ton of talent but it didn’t seem to go anywhere (except perhaps Europe). In fact, from 2002-2013, Arizona failed to make even one Final Four. A feat they’d accomplished four times in the 14 years prior. UCLA attended three. Worth noting, in Arizona’s defense, is the fact that over a critical four-year span (2006-2010) overlapping this study’s data range, Arizona had four different head coaches. They subsequently had little continuity to player development and recruiting.

Nevertheless, Arizona didn’t get many of its kids into the league.

So what did the Husky and Trojan staffs recognize that perhaps others didn’t? How’d they effectively place their players in NBA jobs? These aren’t the first two schools that come to mind when thinking about the Pac-12 and the NBA but that’s how it shook out. Something has made them unique within the context of this evaluation. What?

Recruiting is a natural starting point to understand their success. And seeing as how Washington “won” I began in Seattle.

In the first 30 years of the McDonald’s All-American game, only three Seattle prep stars were burger all-stars. Since 2004, however, there have been nine such heralded players. The area, despite losing their Sonics, has produced oodles of basketball talent. In examining the number of NBA players from Seattle (and we’ll use the greater Seattle area here) there are 28 such players. We again find ourselves staring at summarized data but for the sake of context, those 28 NBA players are more than the total number of NBA players produced by the States of Arizona and Colorado…combined.

Indeed the Emerald City has produced and that would seem convenient for the local college, wouldn’t it? As mentioned, there have been nine McDonald’s All-Americans from the Seattle area since 2004. Four of them stayed to play at HecEd. And if you bothered to read the previously linked Sports Illustrated article (linked again for your convenience) you’d have learned that there is a supportive culture surrounding prep basketball in Seattle. Those who make it return to help those trying to make it. Such nurturing could get a kid to stick around.

And so they have.

Of the nine players drafted out of Washington since 2002, six of them were from Seattle. Additionally, one of the picks was from Portland a convenient two-ish hours away and a city devoid a college team. So if you’re counting, 77% of the players drafted out of the University of Washington have been local kids. You think that proximity has something to do with talent evaluation? Or how about relationship building, trust, familiarity, comfort, ease-of-transition, and everything else that pertains to the success of a young man?

As for USC, half of the group drafted out of the Galen Center (and the Sports Arena until 2006) were LA locals. To drop more summarized data on you, there are 92 NBA players from Los Angeles; which doesn’t include the greater LA areas of Long Beach (13), Inglewood (9), Compton (8), or Hollywood (5).

CaliforniaLove

California Love.

And perhaps adding fodder to this localization fire would be USC’s coaching turnover during the 2002-13 time period. There have been three different men in charge; which doesn’t include the two interims who led for brief spells during the 2004-05 and 2012-13 seasons. They’ve also endured NCAA sanctions. Little surrounding the Trojan program would suggest developmental success. Remember when we blamed some of Arizona’s efficiency struggles on their coaching gaffes? USC suffered/incurred similar yet still managed to efficiently get kids selected. Local ones at that.

Which of course begs intrigue into Westwood. The other school in Los Angeles of basketball note – UCLA – finished fifth in the efficiency rankings. They too had access to LA’s finest and managed to get eleven of them snatched up by NBA teams. During the greatest stretch of UCLA basketball since the Wooden era (Howland’s three straight Final Fours) he was rolling out rosters packed with Angelinos: Afflalo, Shipp, Collison, Farmar, Roll, Mata-Real, Westbrook, Bozeman, Hollins. These were kids who grew up on UCLA. And then nine of them went League. The Bruins had nine locals drafted amongst their eleven draftees, 82%. A number that parallels that of Washington’s local draft rate (77%).

(Fun fact break: UW and UCLA have also combined to win six conference titles since 2002)

Returning to the draft, over the same stretch, Cal developed four recruits into NBA-level talents; three of whom were from the Bay Area. Cal was the third most efficient per Emory. Need more? Here is a list of Arizona natives who became Wildcats since 1984: Sean Elliot, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Jerryd Bayless. All lottery picks. As it were, All-American, Nick Johnson, will likely be the first Arizona raised Arizona Wildcat to not be a lottery pick. Nevertheless, Johnson received a call from Sean Miller in April of 2009 expressing his interest in his talents. It was Sean Miller’s first day on the Arizona job.

This is not to say that collecting local talent is a one-way pass to collegiate success and subsequent NBA paychecks. Certainly not as recruiting becomes increasingly national and international. Both Oregon State and Washington State have found success recruiting in Australia (Gary Bennett and Saint Mary’s, too). Of course both WSU and OSU just fired their coaches in the past two months so there’s that. Though also worth noting is that Ben Howland’s burning of LA recruiting bridges ultimately cost him his LA job.

The ultimate takeaway from this study might boil down to the basic Real Estate tenant of location, location, location. After all, home is where the heart is. And if your heart is set on the NBA, it would seem your best (most efficient) means of getting there would be staying right in your own backyard.

Paper_Letter

Don’t Ignore This Letter (The one from the Pac-12 Presidents)

Don’t ignore this letter. I did for a little while, but only because I went to a Mexican all-inclusive (recommended) to celebrate my brother’s graduation from medical school. But I implore you, do not ignore this letter.

The Pac-12 Presidents’ May 22 note to the rest of everyone is written in equal parts legalese, charm, altruism, and self-righteousness. They laud themselves as bold acting and seeking the autonomy not yet afforded them by the NCAA. And now their deadline is approaching (Hi, June) and this letter should not be ignored.

Because maybe these “pioneers of the west” are onto something? The NCAA has demonstrated a general inability to govern its institutions with any semblance of consistency or rationale. It is neither feared nor loved as Machiavelli would suggest leaving themselves susceptible to a coups, loosely what the Pac-12 Presidents have suggested (also, if you think Larry Scott isn’t all over this letter, you’re nuts).

Consider the Pac-12’s chest puffed. Bravado. They want a response from their “peer conferences” (presumably the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, and SEC) by June 4th before everyone meets on June 16th.

And before diving into the outlined objectives of this letter/initiative/revolution/coups, I’d like to note that the group rather swiftly denounces the resolution of athletes unionizing. Immediately prior to mentioning that this is “not the answer” the presidents refer to themselves and their peer leaders as CEOs. I find this language contradictory on many levels in such that unionization implies student-athletes are employees which the schools do not want. Meanwhile, proclaiming oneself a “CEO” suggests you hold chief office over employees. While there is not a concrete parallel between CEO and employment, the vernacular suggests as much. It is the only time CEO is referenced in the entire letter.

But this is less a matter of employment than a recognition that student-athletes (referenced 8x in the letter) deserve more. If they’ll go so far as to threaten unionization – autonomy! – there must be a gap between their needs and what they’re getting. The Pac-12 is recognizing this in a “bold” manner and trying to stay a step ahead. If they can deliver better benefits to their “non-employees,” they’ll pipe down and play the games, or rather get their educations or healthcare benefits. Is this the most fair means to a justified end? I dunno. But the important part is that the dialogue is happening. From Northwestern’s football team to the Ed O’Bannon and his lawsuit, the conversation is being had – for better and worse – which will result in change. Change is can be good.

On to the meat of this. The prezzies have outlined for us ten principle objectives for reform. Here they are with recognition of whether each principle is good or bad, what it is, and why it’d even be included (the third of which is also where I’ll take my blogging liberties). Also worth noting, certainly as we examine what each principle is, none of this has been spelled out for execution. As principles I think that can be excused but also highlights the complexities of institutional change. The good stuff:

  1. Permit institutions to make scholarship awards up to the full cost of attendance.
    • Good /Bad Principle: Good
    • What is it? From snacks to meals to housing and other comforts not currently afforded within an athletic scholarship, the University would have athletes’ backs.
    • What’s the point? Money talks and the NCAA and everything it’s associated with aren’t above this axiom. With the schools promising to spend more on their athletes, they will be demonstrating their commitments and taking care of their “student-athletes.” Further, by taking care of the entire cost of attendance, institutions can sidestep the conversation of paying student-athletes by noting that they’re already going above and beyond covering tuition.
  2. Provide reasonable on-going medical or insurance assistance for student-athletes who suffer an incapacitating injury in competition  or practice.  Continue efforts to reduce the incidence  of disabling injury.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Get hurt at school, school’s got your broken back. They’ve also noted the CYA clause that they’ll reduce the incidence of disabling injury. Football is on high alert at all levels.
    • What’s the point? This seems to be a pretty obvious point and a friend of mine is producing a documentary noting that schools most certainly do not cover these athletes beyond their time on campus. Similar to principle #1, the Prezzies are recognizing where they could perhaps improve care of their non-employees. Presumably, as a union and/or employees, student-athletes would be eligible for benefits they are entitled to. If on-going care becomes a part of scholarships, the schools control the care and the amount of it. Not the union or the government.
  3. Guarantee scholarships for enough time to complete a bachelor’s degree, provided that the student remains in good academic standing.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Fulfilling a promise. These are student-athletes but just because the latter half falls off, doesn’t mean the school is off the hook for the former.
    • What’s the point? This is something like the Friday Night Lights principle. If you’ve ever read the book or are familiar with the story, these kids are adored and taken care of right up until they’re no longer playing. Remember Boobie Miles? Knee gone, love gone. Alas, this is not specifically referencing injury. Sometimes degrees take longer than athletic eligibility to complete. Allowing kids to complete their degree on the school’s dime is a good thing. Chalk this one up as a win for the engineers.
  4. Decrease the time demands placed on the student-athlete in-season, and correspondingly enlarge the time available for studies and full engagement in campus life, by doing the following: 1) Prevent the abuse of organized “voluntary” practices to circumvent the limit of 20 hours per week. 2) More realistically assess the time away from campus and other commitments during the season, including travel time.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Whatever.
    • What is it? The RichRod rule. He got wrist slapped for such abuses at Michigan and in discussing this letter I was passed this glorious rant.
    • What’s the point? It’s weak but I get it. There’s such aggrandized speech surrounding “college life” and “student-athlete” that if principles like this weren’t included we could scream bloody hypocrisy. But perhaps we can anyways. Larry Scott and the presidents’ ability to uphold this one will be fascinating. For example, Pac-12 basketball used to be pretty strictly Thursdays and Saturdays. It was simple, predictable, and allowed for the least amount of time away from campus. Now, with the addition of the Pac-12 Networks, most road trips include a Wednesday or Sunday game. Extended travel, time away from campus. Additionally, there were a handful of weekends that included a Wednesday and a Sunday game. Couple that with a dramatic increase in Thursday night football games and one has to consider why the second of the two sub-principles is suggested. It’s the right thing to do on paper, but would these guys really push for something that didn’t directly benefit them? Spreading the schedule thin benefits the networks. Tightening it up benefits the students (supposedly).
  5. Similarly decrease time demands out of season by reducing out-of-season competition and practices, and by considering shorter seasons in specific sports.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Meh
    • What is it? I’m not terribly familiar with gratuitous amounts of out-of-season competition or where it occurs. I played in summer ball leagues in college but they weren’t school sponsored. Similarly there are Pro-Am leagues all over the country that give college kids opportunities to compete over the summer. Again, I’m not familiar with much beyond that (enlighten me?). That said, shortening season and minimizing competition correlates directly with principle #2 in which we’re trying to reduce injuries.
    • What’s the point? File this principle under “Consistency.” If we’re not going to let players get injured they sure as hell aren’t going to get injured while it’s not broadcast or not counting towards awards.
  6. Further strengthen the Academic Progress Rate requirements for post-season play.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Ask Kevin Ollie?
    • What is it? Schools will have to graduate a higher percentage of their athletes in order to be allowed to play for titles.
    • What’s the point? Teaching to the test. Therein lies the flaw to No Child Left Behind (amongst others) and the APR. The point of upping the standards would obviously be to ensure that more students graduate to ensure more athletes can win! But such a standard directs coaches and players to simply fulfill a score. They can begin to “teach to the test” and the crux of an education is lost: To learn. Simply upping the standards just puts more student-athletes in situations to graduate for the sake of it. Like NCLB, the APR’s heart is in the right place, I’m just not sure it’s the most effective means to upholding the S-A mantra.
  7. Address the “one and done” phenomenon in men’s basketball. If the National Basketball Association and its Players Association are unable to agree on raising the age limit for players, consider restoring the freshman ineligibility rule in men’s basketball.
    • Good/Bad Principle: WHAT???
    • What is it? A threat.
    • What’s the point? College coaches and administrators are powerful people and the NBA laughs at that power. The one-and-done rule was a hot topic during the 2012 lockout in college hoops circles. But it’s so un-tied to revenue that the Players Association and owners just tossed it aside. Ignored it. And that stings for these powerful coaches and administrators. It’s screwing with their altruism (student-athlete) and their brand. College basketball is becoming a minor league. The purity of the sport is diluted. A loss of innocence. New GS Warriors head coach, 5-time NBA champion, and Tucson demigod, Steve Kerr, thinks the age limit should be increased, too (that’s one insightful read, btw). But there’s a big gap between the wants and the haves. As it was brushed aside previously, Article X doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So the Presidents here are taking a little brother move and saying, “If we can’t play, then no one can!!” Threatening to keep freshmen from playing (a move institutions would no doubt frame as in the best interest of student-athletes) means NBA scouts and teams can’t evaluate their next generation of talent and forces them into making less educated decisions with their money. While this all boils down to $, NBA teams would likely not be willing to take gambles on assets their unfamiliar with. Schools would be taking a major risk in executing this plan – there are other options like Europe, Junior Colleges, lawsuits, etc. – but the mere threat could be enough to move the NBA needle.
  8. Provide student-athletes a meaningful role in governance at the conference and
    NCAA levels.

    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? An invite to the party…
    • What’s the point? And a seat at the kids’ table.
  9. Adjust existing restrictions so that student-athletes preparing for the next stage in their careers are not unnecessarily deprived of the advice and counsel of agents and other competent professionals, but without professionalizing intercollegiate athletics.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Great.
    • What is it? While most everyone is going pro in something other than sports, those going on to play pro sports would have improved access to the people evaluating them as possible employees at that level.
    • What’s the point? As it is today, the (pointless) mid-April NCAA draft declaration rule comes well before the early May draft camps. Not even the NBA’s deadline to declare (late April) allows athletes to participate. Pro Days would seem to be a good idea. Surrounding this principle you hear a lot of discussion about Agents. Certainly they have a beat on draft statuses and interest. They could provide some sound advice, too. The overarching fear here (as evidence by the principles’ final sentence) is “professionalization;” otherwise read, “money exchanging hands.” Ironically enough, this one’s all about making and educated decision.
  10. Liberalize the current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.
    • Good/Bad Principle: Good.
    • What is it? Player’s have to sit out a year if they transfer, receive a release from their school (we see you, Leticia), can be limited in the schools the transfer to, etc. They wanna make it easier to move.
    • What’s the point? Transfers, certainly of late, are being considered an epidemic. Transfer rates are soaring and this is a bad thing (supposedly). I’m not sold, one way or the other, but believe that if someone wants to leave, they should be allowed to leave. We can preach all we want about commitment and follow-through. Words coaches use as a lifetime defending something. Transfers use them as a punchline (reference). But everyone else is doing it. Administrators and coaches jump ship for greener pastures, so why can’t the players? Hell, this whole thing is boiling down to what everyone else is doing so why not give the players a little bit of what everyone else is getting? Just so long as it’s not money.

Don’t ignore this letter. The B1G hasn’t and, as June 4th approaches, I imagine others won’t as well. I don’t think these principles are the answer to college sports’ inequalities, inadequacies, or inefficiencies, but it is a start. A conversation starter.

Let’s talk.