Nasir Little’s Commitment Proves Change Coming in College Recruiting


Last evening, Nasir Little, a Top 15 recruit in the Class of 2018, committed to the University of North Carolina. A top recruit committing to a college basketball blue blood is nothing new. However, Little’s commitment holds a little more significance given the cloud hanging over the college basketball world. Little chose North Carolina over numerous schools. Included in this group was Miami and Arizona, two programs who recently grabbed headlines for roles in a NCAA corruption scandal.

By now most everyone knows that former Arizona assistant “Book” Richardson was one of 10 people arrested in the NCAA bribery scandal. Shortly after, Miami was informed they were under investigation for the same potential issues with a certain recruit. The recruit in question was said to be Nasir Little. A report filed stating that a “University-7,” was trying to give $150,000 to an unknown player in the Class of 2018. University-7 was described as a private research university in Florida with approximately 16,000 students and over 2,600 faculty members, The same report also mentioned that a “University-4, was already promising the recruit money. Little was the only player being recruited by both schools.

Nasir Little is not the first, nor the last to be involved in this scandal

Days after the reports surfaced, Little removed both Miami and Arizona from consideration, opening the door for the Tar Heels. While Little is not the only player to be brought up in these allegations, his swing in recruitment symbolizes a trend that is sure to happen in college hoops. Miami and Arizona were the favorites to land Little’s services, in part for the reason above. Amid controversy however, Little removed himself from the picture, hoping to avoid the same mess Brian Bowen finds himself in currently.

The question in recruiting has changed. Views on coaches and programs are going to change based on the reports that surface from this investigation. As more schools step into the limelight, the recruiting landscape broadens. Schools that once competed for the top recruits will now be in the mix for less and less. While Miami expects full exoneration, they already saw multiple recruits withdraw consideration just for association. Louisville has also lost their top recruits in 2018 because of the scandal. This opens the door for those schools dubbed “clean” to bring in top classes.

College basketball recruiting is going to be different. That’s the purpose of this investigation. The programs that lost out on McDonald’s All-Americans for playing by the rules now look like prestige institutions. And while every “dirty” program may not get caught, they will come off cleaner than those that get exposed. Thus far, Miami, Louisville and Arizona have been reported. Assistants from Oklahoma State, Auburn and USC were also arrested initially. Those schools have a little bit more to worry about at the moment than recrutiing, but last night’s commitment marked a change in tide.

Let’s root for basketball season to come sooner.

Rick Pitino Firing is Just The Beginning of College Basketball Change

March 19th, 2017. That is the last time anyone will have seen Rick Pitino on the sidelines coaching at Lousiville. I hate the use the cliche, but unless you have been living under a rock the past two days, you know college basketball is about to change. That first change came today when Pitino was fired by the University of Louisville. School Athletic Director Tom Jurich was also relieved of his duties. The firing comes a day after the FBI dropped an atomic bomb on the basketball world. The Bureau handed out 10 arrests, and announced they had been undergoing a two year undercover investigation of corruption within college basketball. Coaches from Arizona, USC, Oklahoma State and Auburn were arrested yesterday. Later on in the day, news regarding Louisville broke.

The news surrounding the Cardinals consisted of an assistant coach, a representative from Adidas, and $100,000. The money was for a recruit, as a way to influence him to committing to Louisville. The FBI has recordings and text messages of the exchange, making it a very clear cut case. The announcement of corruption in college basketball is sadly not shocking news. The involvement of the FBI, and their desire to keep the NCAA in the dark, is the surprising bit. Yesterday, the FBI said the investigation is still ongoing and they are conducting interviews “as we speak.”

While Tuesday’s news was enough to talk about for two weeks, this news is probably just the beginning. Earlier this morning forward EJ Montgomery withdrew his commitment to Auburn, following yesterday’s news. You can count on the recruiting world to take a complete 180 in the coming days. While the firing of a Hall of Fame coach on the tails of corruption is groundbreaking, it appears to be one of the early dominos to fall in what could be a very long game.

Update: Wednesday 2:00 pm – 2018 recruits Anfernee Simons and Courtney Ramey have withdrawn their commitment to Louisville amid scandal.

The NCAA is Developing a Free Agent Market… Potentially

Transfers May Not Have to be Sidelined Much Longer

Earlier this week, it was announced that the NCAA was making serious strides towards allowing transfers to be eligible to play for their new programs immediately. This is obviously still a rough idea that comes with many stipulations, but I, for  one, still love it. Let’s be honest, we are not exactly at a point in professional sports where team loyalty is at an all time high, especially for basketball. The move perfectly coincides with the nature of the game today, and whether you like it or not, it will give us more headlines and more stories to talk about.

This is a move that makes coaches across the country cringe, but the reality is that every player’s goal is to play at the highest level possible. For some it’s the NBA. Others are just trying to compete at the highest collegiate level they can before attempting an overseas career or leaving the game behind. In order to do so, transfers must happen sometimes.

NCAA athletes transferring is not necessarily a common practice for big time players, however a development like this may make it so. Let’s look at someone like Michael Porter for a second. Everyone knows Michael Porter deserves to play for a team far better than a below average SEC team. However, what if at the end of the season, Porter is faced with the option of choosing between the NBA, or another solid NCAA program like Duke or Kentucky?  This would allow the number one recruit to actually compete for something meaningful at the collegiate level instead of just counting down the days until he can hear the Brooklyn Nets or some other abysmal pro team call his name on draft day.

Porter is an NBA ready talent right now. He will not pass up the NBA to play another year in college, but that doesn’t apply to all five-star recruits. Malik Newman is another example of this. Only time will tell if Newman’s decision to transfer to Kansas, over going pro, benefited his career or not. If a professional athlete can rejuvenate his career with a new team, why can’t the same theory apply to a collegiate player?

This is the closest thing that the NCAA will ever develop to free agency, and where there are free agents, there is drama. With drama comes attention and attention brings interest. The transfer rate in the NCAA is out of control, but some players truly do need a change of scenery to help them reach their highest playing potential. This new development would undoubtedly create more buzz around college hoops, so if you’re a fan of the NCAA, you should be a fan of this idea.

Cuonzo Martin Creating Excitement In Missouri

In March, Cuonzo Martin stepped down from his coaching duties at the University of California. That same day he took the vacant position at the University of Missouri. From there all Martin has done is get the Mizzou faithful excited for the upcoming basketball season. First he hired Michael Porter Sr. to his staff, which all but insured his son, Michael Porter Jr., would choose Missouri after decommitting from Washington. With Porter on board for one year, Missouri fans could dream of a Michael Beasley scenario – a seemingly bona fide star destined for the NBA dominating the college level and leading his team to the NCAA tournament.

Martin followed up by inking another Top 100 recruit in Jeremiah Tillmon, who decommitted from Illinois after head coach John Groce was fired. Now Martin had two Top 50 recruits in hand. Fans could envision a Greg Oden & Michael Conley situation. A pair of young, one-and-done players leading their team to a National Championship Game.

Now, news broke that Jontay Porter, ESPN’s #11 Player in the Class of 2018, and younger brother of Michael, will reclassify and play with his brother this year in Columbia. This gives Mizzou a three-headed monster they could not have even imagined five months ago. In a weaker SEC conference, the trio alone can keep Missouri towards the bottom of the Top 25, and have them fighting with South Carolina for third place in the conference, behind Kentucky and Florida.

The Missouri ship has done a complete 180 degree turn and is sailing full steam into the college basketball season. Expectations and excitement have no doubt risen, but only time will tell how special this group can be. They do return their top three scorers from last season. But on a team that only managed eight wins last season, there is room for change all around. Only time will tell, but Cuonzo Martin has a special concoction brewing in Columbia right now.

NBA vs. NCAA: The Debate

ncaa nba

Basketball is the best sport. This is an indisputable fact that all reasonable people can agree on. But which is better, NBA basketball or NCAA basketball? Let’s look at some of the factors that make the NBA and college hoops unique from one another.

NCAA March Madness vs NBA Playoffs

Quality vs. Quantity

The most obvious difference is the quality of play. In addition to the cream of the crop from college basketball, the NBA features the best international players. NBA players are either in their prime or their career or close to it, while college players aren’t close. Exacerbating this discrepancy is the fact that the most talented college players almost always leave after one year in school – gone are the days when a player like Patrick Ewing would stay in school and dominate college basketball for four years. There are about 4200 Division I basketball players versus about 360 NBA players. Clearly, the NBA is a better option if you’re strictly looking for great players and great basketball.

Quality of play and is far from the only thing that impacts how we enjoy the sport. There are a surprising amount of rule differences between the NBA and the college game. Most of the rule differences make the NBA a more exciting product. In the NBA, the shot clock is 24 seconds and the game lasts 48 minutes. This creates more possessions and a faster pace than in college, where the shot clock is 30 seconds and the game is 40 minutes. NBA teams can advance the ball well past half court after calling time out. This is critical in the last few seconds of a close game – instead of taking highly improbable half court heaves, NBA teams advance the ball and create better opportunities for buzzer beaters. Their counterparts in college are forced to inbound the ball from under their own basket. The college rule is more “pure”, but the NBA rule is more exciting.

Rules, Rules, Rules

A few other rule difference deserve acknowledgement. Six personal fouls get you tossed from an NBA game, compared to five in college. While the 8 extra minutes of game time and shorter shot clock in the NBA make the numbers virtually proportional (one foul per 8 minutes), it is still easier to get in ‘foul trouble’ in college. Put it this way: if basketball games were 8 minutes total and one foul got you ejected, everyone would be in foul trouble for the entire game. The game is best when the best players are playing, so the NBA gets the nod on this rule too. The rule difference that favors college most is the 1 and 1. It creates and exciting scenario where a team is punished heavily for missing the first free throw. In the NBA, teams get two shots when they are in the penalty and don’t risk losing the possession over one miss.

Atmosphere

While the rules and quality of play favor the NBA game, college basketball often has a better atmosphere. This is partially due to rivalries. With all of the player movement in the NBA, true rivalries are hard to come by and Lakers Celtics is the only true old school rivalry. But no matter who is on the court, you know that Carolina – Duke is going to be a bloodbath. Even in non rivalry games, college basketball crowds are usually more fired up than NBA crowds. It creates a more exciting atmosphere for regular season games than there is in most NBA arenas.

Crowning a Champion

The NBA and NCAA crown champions in very different ways. The NBA playoffs last two long months, and the best of seven format ensures that upsets are rare and the best team usually wins it all. It’s an extremely fair system and the amount of games ensures that the league creates significant revenue. But what is fair is not necessarily exciting, as we saw this year with Golden State going unchallenged. College basketball’s system needs no explanation – March Madness is simply the best yearly event in sports.

Style of Play

Another area where college basketball has an edge is the various styles of play. Fortunately, the NBA has gone away from the isolation basketball that made Jordan’s Bulls, Duncan’s late 90s / early 00s Spurs, and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers so successful. Offenses play a much more visually pleasing pick-and-roll and ball movement style, with the most successful offenses surrounding the pick-and-roll with accurate three point shooters. However, it is mostly one note. Winning comes down to who can execute this style better (or who can defend it). College still features many styles of play. When I turn on a UNC game, I know that they are running after every possession St that Roy Williams doesn’t know what a time out is. I know that Louisville is going to be pressing, Syracuse is going to be in their match-up zone, and that Duke players are taught to undercut opponents in an attempt to draw a charge. The fact that a myriad of styles are still used at the college level makes the game unique.

These styles of play are largely linked to coaches. Unfortunately for college basketball, coaches are the only thing that remains familiar to fans. All of the best college players are gone after one year. With NBA basketball, you can follow a player from when is is 19 years old to when he is 35, and sometimes beyond. When Dirk Nowitzki finally won his title after over a decade of playoff disappointment, the moment was bigger than when Carmelo Anthony won a title in his one year at Syracuse. The journeys and legacy factor make NBA accomplishments feel more significant than NCAA accomplishments, especially if we’ve been watching that player for years.

If you haven’t figured it out, I favor NBA basketball over NCAA ball. The quality of play, player storylines, and favorable rule differences are some of the factors that tip the scale in the NBA’s favor. Having said that, good luck prying me away from the Tournament in March.