Tuesday, October 30, 2007

North Carolina Investigates Itself For Possible Recruiting Infraction ... Surprise! ... Clears Self of Wrong Doing

By Trashtalk Superstar

The University of North Carolina conducted an internal investigation over potential violations of NCAA basketball recruiting guidelines. UNC determined that no NCAA rules had been intentionally violated and that the basketball program is, therefore, totally clean.


What if North Carolina had decided that they were guilty? Would they have imposed sanctions upon themselves?

The act of conducting an internal investigation is a total charade. In the last two years, the Ohio State and Kansas basketball programs have conducted similar internal investigations. Like UNC, they also determined that while some violations may technically have occurred (unintentionally, of course), they all resulted from big misunderstandings. Honestly.

Not surprisingly, in the previous two cases, the NCAA determined that the self reporting was sufficient and that no NCAA sanctions were necessary. North Carolina will get the same response.

Look, the recruiting violation that UNC committed was minor and probably was actually unintentional. And for the record, the NCAA is a shockingly inefficient bureaucracy whose rules and bylaws are often vague at best. It's unbelievably easy to unintentionally violate some ridiculous NCAA bylaw. Anyone who has ever played or coached a college sport at an NCAA institution can attest to this.

North Carolina violated a ticky tacky NCAA rule. They almost certainly were unaware that they were committing a recruiting infraction. After all, the recruit merely talked to two former UNC basketball players at a UNC football game. That could have even occurred without anyone in the basketball program knowing about it. Logically, what's to stop a recruit from recognizing a former player and initiating a conversation with that former player? And accordingly, would a former player have to refuse to acknowledge a stranger who attempts to initiate a conversation with him? Even if he's unaware that the person attempting to initiate the conversation is a basketball recruit?

Many of the NCAA's bylaws are preposterous. North Carolina (which is generally regarded as a clean program) violated one such bylaw. But the rules are the rules. And North Carolina should be treated like any other basketball program which has committed a recruiting violation.

Unfortunately, the NCAA's method for distributing sanctions/punishment may be even more mysterious and questionable than any of the inane bylaws in their dauntingly volumnous rulebook. Marquee programs like Kansas, Ohio State and North Carolina are almost almost never held accountable for their infractions of NCAA bylaws. But programs of lesser stature usually get the book thrown at them. Kentucky basketball has long been notorious for not playing by the rules. At various times in their history, they haven't even pretended to follow the rules. Take for instance the fact that during one practice session, legendary Kentucky coach Adolf Rupp erupted at one of his players: "For what we're paying you, you damned well better play better than that." That was in the 1940's. Yet the NCAA left Kentucky alone until 1989 - when the FBI busted the Kentucky basketball program and coach Eddie Sutton for mailing thousands of dollars in cash to recruits. Only after the FBI became involved did the NCAA decide it was time to look into possible recruiting violations at Kentucky.

North Carolina's recruiting infraction was minor. They really don't deserve anything more than a slap on the wrist. Not that Tar Heels fans have anything to worry about: a slap on the wrist is the most that UNC will receive (truth be told, they probably won't even get slapped on the wrist - they're North Carolina after all). But the NCAA has dished out heavy penalties to other schools for committing similar minor violations. Our readers who are Illinois fans know this all too well.

For the purpose of clarity, it isn't Drive and Dish's intent to slam North Carolina. What we're slamming is the uneven treatment of member institutions by the NCAA.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Majerus Wants Out of Atlantic 10

By Trashtalk Superstar

In April, Rick Majerus was named the men's basketball coach at Saint Louis University. Now Majerus wants SLU to leave the Atlantic 10 conference.

And he's taking his case to the media. Majerus hasn't even coached a game at his new institution and he's already stirring controversy.

Drive and Dish has always respected and admired Majerus for his coaching ability. The guy is very good at what he does. But he's a loose cannon. You never know what he's going to say or do next. That - along with questions about his weight, health and lifestyle - is probably why he never landed a top tier coaching job. Yes, Majerus took the University of Utah to the Final Four, but it was with a once in a generation type Utah team. Utah was never going to be in danger of becoming an elite college basketball program. Word had it that Majerus always coveted a Big Ten coaching position. He was/is certainly good enough to coach in the Big Ten. But Big Ten institutions never seemed to be very interested in Majerus.

So now, after being USC's head coach for a few days (before abruptly resigning), Majerus is coaching the Saint Louis Billikens. And he's not thrilled about SLU's membership in the Atlantic 10.

Key lines:

"Majerus made it clear he isn't overjoyed by SLU being in the A-10; he doesn't like the 14-team configuration or the geography. SLU, unlike East-based conference members, can't take a bus to any conference road game.

'The thing I don't like about these large leagues is that there's an innate unfairness to it,' he said. 'Secondly, the demographics of it, particularly for St. Louis, are very perplexing, to say the least.'"

St. Louis is, indeed, in a strange position. Former members of the now defunct Metro and Great Midwest conferences, the Billikens were a charter member of Conference USA. They stayed in Conference USA until its recent split-up (remember- Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette and South Florida left C-USA for the Big East). Instead of maintaining their affiliation with the de-fanged Conference USA, St. Louis headed for the Atlantic 10. In doing so, the Billikens went from a high major conference to a glorified mid major conference.

St. Louis had struggled to make its mark (save for Charlie Spoonhour's 1998 team that featured Larry Hughes) in Conference USA. Moving to the A-10 appeared to make some sense because, while the A-10 is an outstanding basketball league, the level of competition is a step down from what the Billikens faced in Conference USA during its heyday.

Thus, it appeared that St. Louis was joining a good league in which it could finally make some headway. And the fact that the A-10 had several non football playing Catholic Universities as members probably didn't hurt either. So even though there would be no traditional or regional rivalries for St. Louis in the A-10, it looked like a good fit for the Billikens because they would be able to establish new rivalries with similar urban Catholic institutions.

But the fact is that the Atlantic 10 is primarily an Eastern seaboard league. That wouldn't be bad for St. Louis if they were merely looking to increase their national exposure, but it's a tough fit for them when it comes to travel considerations. And while it's true that Conference USA had member institutions spread throughout the country, they still had a core of schools that were in relative close proximity to St. Louis. Memphis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago and even Milwaukee were easy for the Billikens to travel to. However, in the Atlantic 10, the only schools near St. Louis are Dayton and Xavier (Cincinnati, OH). All the other member institutions are on the East Coast. And that's enough to make a season's worth of travel very taxing for the Billikens.

But the impetus for this post isn't to consider the merits of St. Louis' affiliation with the Atlantic 10 conference. This post is about Rick Majerus' behavior vis a vis his comments in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Rick Majerus was a good hire for St. Louis because he's a proven coach who has a high profile nationally. St. Louis wants to win and it wants to get some exposure. Rick Majerus won't ever shy away from a camera. But Majerus needs to be more careful when voicing his opinions. Rick Majerus might not be wrong to question SLU's conference affiliation, but he shouldn't do it publicly. Those conversations are best left behind closed athletic department and administrative doors. If Majerus wants to leave the Atlantic 10, he should talk to his Athletic Director and to the President of the university. But by taking his case to a St. Louis Post Dispatch sports writer, Rick Majerus makes his university, his athletic department and -ultimately- himself look bad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Miami Trades Walker to Minnesota For Ricky Davis

By Trashtalk Superstar

Just a year and a half removed from their 2006 NBA championship, the rapidly declining Miami Heat were looking to shake things up. Tonight, Miami traded fat, slow small forward Antoine Walker to Minnesota for team chemistry-killing knucklehead small forward Ricky Davis.

Miami also sent center Michael Doleac, seldom used forward Wayne Simien and a first round draft pick to Minnesota.

In addition to Davis, Miami will receive forward Mark Blount from Minnesota.

It comes as no surprise that Pat Riley would attempt to rid Miami of the dead weight that is Antoine Walker. Walker used to be a mobile and skilled small forward with a power forward's body. Now he's a slow fat guy who doesn't do much except chuck up threes. Antoine Walker has essentially become a three point specialist who is, strangely, not all that great at shooting three pointers. He's also a defensive liability - and Pat Riley stresses defense. Add to that the fact that Walker's attitude leaves much to be desired.

Getting rid of Antoine Walker makes all the sense in the world for Miami. They're ridding themselves of a player whom they consider a lazy, self centered headache. But by replacing him with Ricky Davis, Miami could just be trading one headache for another.

Ricky Davis is a ball hogging, attention fiending coach killer. And he loves to chuck up ill advised shots as much as Antione Walker does. True, Davis' replacing Walker gives Miami a vast upgrade in athleticism. But Ricky Davis' attitude is probably worse than Antoine Walker's.

On the surface, it seems like Miami just swapped their trash for Minnesota's trash. But Mark Blount is a quality player who will - undoubtedly - bolster Miami's already strong rotation of big men (remember, although they're still great players, Shaq and Alonzo Mourning are aging quickly - it makes sense to go out and get them some help).

As for Minnesota, it looks like they're trying to free up salary cap space by acquiring Doleac and Simien, whose contracts are set to expire at the end of this season.

For the post Kevin Garnett Minnesota Timberwolves, this trade appears to make sense. It's going to be pretty tough for Minnesota to rebuild. At least now they'll have an extra first round draft pick, salary cap space and will no longer have to put up with Ricky Davis. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they'll have to put up with Antoine Walker.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

O.J. Mayo's Fist Breaks Teammate's Jaw...But It Was an "Accident"

By Trashtalk Superstar

"All World" superstar USC Freshman point guard O.J. Mayo "accidentally" fractured a teammate's jaw in a pick up game last week. Coach Tim Floyd insists that it was an accident - even though he didn't actually witness the incident (coaches aren't allowed any involvement with "pre season" pick up games).

Since Floyd is known as such a stand up guy, there's absolutely no reason to doubt anything that he says.

And since O.J. Mayo is such a great kid, it's unimaginable that he'd punch a teammate.

Tim Floyd's team is probably like one big happy family and O.J. Mayo's arrival has, likely, done nothing but bring that family closer together. After all, he's just such a great kid, dontchaknow!


And those e-mails you get from guys in Nigeria who've just "come into" millions of dollars and are willing to share their windfall with you - if you'll just give them your bank account routing number - are totally legit.

And you really will get rich quick if you sign up for one of those "get rich quick in real estate" seminars.

Tim Floyd might as well try to sell people swampland in Florida. He's about as honest as the typical con artist.

Note the key lines in the story:

..."yeah he punched him," a player said. "They changed the story for the media."

Tim Floyd's attempt to spin this incident is pathetic and absurd.

O.J. Mayo's reputation preceded his arrival at USC. Tim Floyd knew exactly what he was getting when Mayo signed his letter of intent.

The label "thug" is often inappropriately applied to young black athletes who affect a hip hop influenced style. Too many guys are called thugs just because they rock braids and a headband, or because they have tattoos, or because they pop their jerseys, etc.

But O.J. Mayo is a punk and a thug. Not because of his style, but because of his actions. We've mentioned this before (scroll down - it's midway through the post). He's as talented a basketball player as there is in college basketball (when he actually tries), but he's a selfish player - and probably a selfish person - who has caused trouble every where he's been (and he's been around: he went to like five or six different high schools).

O.J. Mayo = trouble.


Mayo will only be in college for one season. And he'll probably put up some huge numbers and get lots of media love. But he'll ultimately cost USC some important games because of his selfish play and because of the internal dissension that he'll - no doubt - cause on his team. Then USC will flame out in the NCAA Tournament even though Mayo will probably drop thirty on some low seeded directional school.

In June, O.J. Mayo will be a top five pick in the NBA draft. He'll go on to be a cancer on his team, which will be built around him. Eventually, he'll be traded to another team. He'll be a cancer there too. And he'll get into trouble along the way.

He'll get coaches fired. Then he'll be traded again. And again. And again. Just like Isiah Rider, Stephon Marbury, Stephen Jackson, Steve Francis, etc.

At some point, Tim Floyd may end up being O.J. Mayo's coach in the NBA. Floyd gets into trouble (or, more accurately, gets college basketball programs into trouble) and bounces from team to team too. He usually stays in a coaching job for a maximum of three to four years. When his shady practices landed his Iowa State program on NCAA-imposed probation, he just picked up and left for the greener pastures of the NBA (thanks to his schmoozing skills: remember, it was Floyd's "close friendship" with then-Chicago Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause - Floyd allegedly befriended the practically friendless Krause in order to lobby for the Bulls' coaching position - that led the Bulls to run Phil Jackson off [which hastened the retirement of Michael Jordan and the breakup of a 6 time NBA Championship dynasty] so that they could hire Floyd, who at the time was a controversial and only relatively successful college head coach). When he bombed out with the Chicago Bulls, he picked up with the New Orleans Hornets (thanks to more alleged schmoozing). When he bombed out in New Orleans, he bounced to USC.

Ultimately, the controversial and oft-travelled O.J. Mayo may be a perfect fit for the controversial and oft-travelled Tim Floyd's upstart, renegade USC program.

In other words, these two asshats deserve each other.

By the way, is it me, or does it seem like trouble just finds current and former USC athletes named O.J.?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pictures From Midnight Madness

By Trashtalk Superstar

Sports Illustrated has pictures from several schools' Midnight Madness exhibitions. As much as Midnight Madness has become a big deal on campuses across America, there's still nobody who does it better than Kentucky.


Someone should have prevented Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan from embarrassing himself by doing the superman dance on camera. Once the white people start doing a dance, it's officially over.

Updated (10/19/07):

Bo Ryan is a great basketball coach. Wisconsin never gets the big time recruits and their style of play isn't exactly ballet on the hardwood, but Bo Ryan's teams consistently win. Drive and Dish's editorial staff has nothing but respect for Bo Ryan's coaching abilities. But Bo looks like a damn fool in that video.

Bo Ryan is a coach's coach. He spent much of his long career in total obscurity. First he was a high school coach. Then he went on to coach small college basketball at Wisconsin/Platteville, where his teams won several NCAA Division III national championships. He's paid his dues like few in his profession have. With his career accomplishments, and with the level of success he's brought to Wisconsin basketball, Bo Ryan commands respect.

That's why Bo Ryan should never have done that Soulja Boy superman dance. First, the song is terrible and represents everything that's wrong with the current state of commercial hip hop (and on a broader level, with the current state of the music industry in general). That song and its corresponding dance are the hot thing right now, but weren't hot six months ago and won't be hot six months from now. Hell, it probably won't even be hot two months from now because - as we noted above - once the white folks catch on to something, its days are numbered.

Bo Ryan is a man of stature who holds a position of authority. He's experienced. He's distinguished. He's the don of Wisconsin basketball. He should act the part. But he sure as hell shouldn't try to act young and cool. He's neither. And by attempting to latch on to the latest hot dance moves, Bo Ryan looks insecure, needy and desperate for approval.

Bo Ryan's best play is to project his authority. That's what big time college coaches do. After all, as far as all things UW basketball go, Bo Ryan is the man. Players and students should have to earn his approval. Not the other way around.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Midnight Madness Tonight

Midnight Madness is the official start of the college basketball season. The NCAA permits practice to begin on the second Saturday of October each year. Thus, teams hold their first official practice session at exactly 12:00am on Saturday. The session is open to the public, and at basketball crazed universities, usually attracts an energetic crowd. On college campuses across the nation, this phenomenon has come to be known as "Midnight Madness."

Due to the celebratory nature of the open practice, it is is, largely, ceremonial in nature. Very little that actually resembles quality basketball practice takes place at these events. Thus, Midnight Madness typically resembles a glorified pep rally - although a pep rally replete with dunk competitions and a quasi scrimmage - more than it does an actual basketball practice.

Despite the pomp and circumstance, Midnight Madness gives the hard core college basketball fan get his/her first glimpse of the new season's edition of his/her favorite team. While the fans may not be able to gain many insights into how their their teams will actually perform during the season, Midnight Madness is great for building an atmosphere of crazed excitement amongst said fans.

Midnight Madness is tonight.

From Chapel Hill to Bloomington, from Lexington to Tuscon, wild eyed college students and college basketball fans will pile into arenas on campuses across America in order to catch that first glimpse of the teams they love. The truth is: although Midnight Madness can probably be described as "much ado about nothing," it's a lot of fun for the fans.

College basketball season is officially on.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Midnight Madness is Approaching

Drive and Dish is a blog about basketball, but as we note in our header, we devote most of our attention to college basketball. That's why things have been pretty slow on this blog for the last several months. We did quite a bit on the NBA playoffs and Finals, but it's been "slim pickins" since the Finals. That's because there hasn't been much basketball to write about since the Finals concluded (actually, the Finals didn't really provide much to write about, now that I think about it).

Well, that's about to change. College basketball officially begins in less than two weeks. Next Friday, Midnight Madness will go down on college campuses across America.

If you, or your friends will be attending Midnight Madness at one of this nation's fine institutions of higher education, drop us a line at basketball.bloggers@gmail.com.
We'll post pictures if you e-mail them to us (if they're of high enough quality to publish).