Tag Archives: 2012-13 college basketball season

Heisman Talk; College Hoops Rising Stars

Credit: National Football Foundation
Hard at work for you, dear reader. (Credit: National Football Foundation)

Why is the Heisman Trophy essentially reserved for quarterbacks and running backs? My latest college football column attempts to answer that. I attended the press conference for the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame class, which included 1996 Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel, Orlando Pace, and Tedy Bruschi (pictured above), among others, and I spoke to them about the Heisman’s skill position bias.

I’ve been doing a lot of college basketball reporting as well, covering several games at Madison Square Garden for Newsday. I’ve also started a weekly column for CBS Local in which I profile a “Rising Star” in the sport (I’ve written the two from this season). Remember, this blog is home to most all of my freelance work. If you have any suggestions for my next “Rising Star,” or any other story ideas, send them my way. Even if it’s a local story that received little attention, I’d love to give it a bigger audience. Thanks for reading. Happy holidays.

NBA Draft All-Access: Trey Burke

2013 nba draft

The first people I recognized on the day of the NBA draft were the Zeller parents on the ninth floor of the Westin hotel in Times Square. This couldn’t have been more fitting. If you’ve watched any college basketball the last five years, you’ve seen them. As the parents of three sons who played college ball, Mr. and Mrs. Zeller have gotten as much airtime on ESPN as Dick Vitale.* Cody, the Indiana center, was this year’s draftee, so when he showed up to meet his parents for breakfast, followed by his oldest brother and his family, I felt right at home.

*In the Zeller family, each son is better than his older brother, as opposed to the Kahn family where the middle son is by far the most talented.

I was at the hotel by 9 a.m. to shadow Trey Burke throughout the most important day of his life. I chronicled Burke’s experience for Michigan Today. Due to a word count and the fact that the piece focused on Burke, many of my observations went unreported. Here is what didn’t make it into the story, starting with what I saw at breakfast:
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Trey Burke: What Is His NBA Ceiling?

Trey Burke (Credit: Adam Glanzman)

When kids start high school, adults of all kinds can’t wait to tell them how this is not middle school anymore. It is time to get serious. The dedicated students rise to the challenge. The same thing happens in college. This is not high school, the professors say. No more coasting. Again, the committed students do well.

Trey Burke was a dominant high school player but was told he was too small for the big, bad Big Ten. He was the National Player of the Year last season and led Michigan to the national championship game. Now there are doubts about how his game will translate to the pros. Yes, he will be a lottery pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft; in fact, it’s hard to imagine him falling past the Pistons at No. 8. While hardly any expert thinks Burke will do poorly at the next level, opinions run the gamut as to his ceiling.
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Louisville Beats Michigan, Wins NCAA Tournament

Carlos Beltran watched an Adam Wainwright curveball go past him and the Cardinals celebrated their pennant. The 2006 New York Mets would not be going to the World Series, which was sad for Mets fans, but they’d be back. This was just the beginning of a dynasty, or at least a string of playoff appearances. Except it wasn’t. The Mets haven’t been back to the playoffs since.

I keep reminding myself that all but one team goes home unhappy every season. Keep telling myself that the Michigan basketball program—with its great coach, modern facilities, and incoming talent—has a bright future. But chances like Monday night don’t come around too often. Louisville, a basketball blueblood, was playing in its first title game since 1986. Indiana has been once since 1987. Kentucky won in ’98 and didn’t get back until last year. UCLA went to the final in 1980 and has made it back just once since, despite four Final Four appearances. The list goes on.
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Michigan-Louisville: NCAA Championship Game Preview

The ladders were in place. There were scissors, too, I imagine. But there would be no photograph of Rick Pitino or any of the Louisville players with a piece of the net, not from Madison Square Garden or Lucas Oil Stadium.

Pitino decided after winning the Big East Tournament his team would wait a few weeks to get their nylon souvenir. And so the cutting supplies went unused in Indianapolis after Louisville dispatched Duke to reach the Final Four.

A bold move, but the Cards are one win from it looking like a genius motivational ploy.

Standing in their way are the young Wolverines. Remember Kentucky last year, and how everyone made such a big deal about all those freshmen winning the national title? Michigan is younger than those Wildcats, according to KenPom.com’s measure, which uses eligibility class weighted by minutes played (a freshman has no years of experience, a sophomore has one, etc.). Michigan’s weighted experience is just .73 years; Kentucky’s was .77. Both were the sixth youngest teams in the country and the youngest, by far, in the NCAA Tournament.
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Mike Rice Must Be Fired

Mike Rice is shouting at his star player, Eli Carter, and Carter is shouting back. There are 30 seconds left in the game and Carter, seeing an opening, took the ball to the hoop with Rutgers up two points. With the shot clock turned off, it’s a shot that’s only advisable if it’s wide open; it wasn’t, and Carter’s lay-up in traffic rimmed out. A Rutgers player grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled, bailing out Carter.

While Carter’s teammate was shooting free throws, Rice and Carter screamed at each other, the coach asking how he could take that shot, the player not realizing it was a rhetorical question. Someone unfamiliar with Rice would side with him—how can you talk back to the coach? Those who know Rice’s history, however, might ask a different question: Why do players put up with this?

In December, the public learned about Rice’s behavior at practice—belittling players with offensive language and throwing basketballs at them. It was shocking but not surprising. A (moving) picture’s worth a thousand words, and yesterday ESPN released video of these practices. To see Rice in action—whipping a ball at a player’s head, shoving a player, kicking another, all while showering them with profanity, much of it anti-gay—is stunning. It was the same video Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti viewed last summer before deciding to suspend Rice for three games last December, fine him $50,000, and order him to attend anger management classes—a slap on the wrist. It’s fair to ask if Pernetti, who has been at Rutgers since 2009, should be fired for not taking a tougher stance. It’s not even a question whether Rice should be fired now.
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Final Four Preview: WuShock, Beilein vs Boeheim, More

Hide ya kids, hide ya wife: WuShock is going to the Final Four. I’m talking about the Wichita State Shockers’ mascot. Created in 1904 when Wichita was known as Fairmount College, a student came up with Wheatshockers as the football mascot. Not only were the football games played on a wheat field, but many of the Fairmount players paid for college by harvesting (“shocking”) wheat. (I’m sure you already knew all of this.) Wheatshockers was shortened to Shockers and the mascot itself was named WuShock in 1948.


“The school needed a mascot who gave a tough impression, with a serious, no-nonsense scowl,” according to the school’s website. There is nothing about haunting childrens’ dreams. WuShock was redesigned in 1998, which gave it a “pumped-up physique and revved-up attitude.” Oh, great, a stronger, more aggressive killing machine. In 2006, “Wu” got a facelift, which reduced the weight of its head from 12 pounds to about five, making it lighter and faster as well. How the Nebraska Cornhuskers mascot can be so friendly-looking and Wichita’s be so terrifying is beyond me.
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