Thursday, July 29, 2010

Off Season Roundtable #2 at the east coast bias

If you have not gotten over to the east coast bias Blog to check out Pico Dulce's second Roundtable of the 2010 off season, you should. Pico received responses from 11 bloggers from around the conference (not an even distribution though, with two and three bloggers respectively, DePaul and Villanova were heavily represented) to questions about the state of the blogger's team, incoming players, team recruiting and expectations for the conference in the coming year. The team news posts answered a number of questions I had about DePaul and Seton Hall -- I only wish these roundtables could draw responses from blogs from every team in the conference. Pico divided his survey into four separate posts:
Part 1 -- covered the state of the blogger's team (players coming and going).
Part 2 -- a preview of incoming players.
Part 3 -- recruiting news, targets, expectations.
Part 4 -- the Big East, better or worse next season?

Recruits, Incoming & Prospective
Reviewing the lists incoming players for the other teams (especially St. John's, Pittsburgh and Connecticut), I was surprised to see little overlap on the recruiting targets. Pitt-bound pg Isaiah Epps excepted, I did not see a "Villanova target" listed as going to another conference school. Epps by the way is the latest in a line of New Jersey/metro New York City/Philly guards off to play for the Panthers. Coach Dixon has done a terrific job drawing these guys to Pittsburgh. I believe Jayvaughn Pinkston was on St. John's radar for a while, but Bell, born in Plainfield, NJ, but raised for the most part in Florida, verballed early to the Wildcats, which probably kept him off of Big East lists. The massive coaching make-over in this recruiting seedbed may make getting metro NYC and New Jersey players more difficult in the coming years. Coaches Lavin, Rice and Willard (listed in an alphabetically neutral order...) will find job recruiting out of their backyards easier if they can build winning programs at St. John's, Rutgers and Seton Hall respectively.

The State of Recruiting
Pico also included a number of links to AAU sponsored travel team tournaments in Las Vegas (the summer recruiting circuit hits a high point in the late July evaluation period with a series of showcase-type tournaments in Las Vegas). Of special interest, Pico also included a link to ESPN's Dana O'Neil's own Roundtable of 20 (anonymous) college head coaches who candidly discussed the state of recruiting and it's impact on the college game. The pressure seems to be building for the NCAA to "do something", and O'Neil highlights several ideas straight from the coaches who travel in some very gray areas. Also worth your time if you follow recruiting and some of the more questionable practices. O'Neil's article probably triggered as large a response over at ecb than the conference-oriented post itself.

While a few of the suggestions were no doubt self-serving (after all, most of the NCAA's compliance rules govern the behavior of the coach and his/her staff), the general tenor makes sense. If the approach suggested by one coach to "throw it all out..." and start over is impractical, stepping away to survey the current recruiting landscape in which college, and the recruiting process that governs access to D1 programs, is one phase in the larger process that identifies and develops talent for the NBA and a host of international teams. Limiting/governing coaching contact with recruits through evaluation windows and counting phone calls (and text messages!) has been the historical approach; maybe it is time to limit coaching contacts with street agents and shoe company marketeers.

Pico's Part 3 post coincided with the NCAA announcement about new rules governing how coaches can associate with folks like the Pump brothers. The Pump brothers run AAU travel teams, sponsor summer tournaments & camps, advise college prospects, run a search/advising firm for coaching jobs...and a charitable foundation which attracts contributions from coaches (and colleges). The NCAA, as Eamon Brennan from the College Basketball Nation blog reported last week, has now prohibited coaches and colleges from contributing to the Pump Foundation. Coaches will not be allowed to use the Pump's search "services" either. Since the Pumps advise college-bound basketball players, this is a conflict of interest. It has been a bad off season for the brothers, as they were also implicated in Kansas ticket scandal back in May. And the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) has also severed ties to the Pump Foundation and advised their members to do the same.

The Big East, Better or Worse?
The question as phrased begs the response "better (or worse) than what?". External comparisons -- to the ACC, SEC Big Ten, etc. -- suggest any step back after the 2009 season was very small. Quantitative metrics (using either RPI, KenPom, etc.) have consistently ranked the conference in the top 5, and in the top 2-3 after the conference crashed in 2007. Given the high percentage of returning players and winning programs (I will probably post the returning minutes vs Pythagorean Winning Percentage chart within the next two weeks), the 2011 edition of conference should be better than the 2010 edition.

Many Thanks to Pico for organizing these roundtables, keeping us all on task, compiling and publishing the responses.

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