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Mixed blessings (cont.)

Posted: Monday June 19, 2006 11:53AM; Updated: Monday June 19, 2006 12:43PM
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The Losers

Kelvin Sampson was responsible for both his old school,  Oklahoma, and his new school, Indiana, getting NCAA sanctions.
Kelvin Sampson was responsible for both his old school, Oklahoma, and his new school, Indiana, getting NCAA sanctions.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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1. Oklahoma
Kelvin Sampson
bolted for Indiana, and as a parting gift left OU on probation until May 24, 2008, due to the 577 impermissible phone calls he and his staff made to recruits. But for new coach Jeff Capel, the real blow was that three fifths of the blockbuster recruiting class Sampson had signed for 2006 -- which was ranked in the top five nationally -- also decided to jump ship. Five-star forward Damion James committed to rival Texas. Four-star point guard Scottie Reynolds headed to Villanova. Three-star power forward Jeremy Mayfield opted instead for UAB. Oklahoma did keep a couple of solid recruits, Keith Clark and Tony Crocker, and landed top-flight power forward Blake Griffin for '07, but there's no massaging this one -- the Sooners did not have a pleasant spring.

2. The Big East
Gray came back, but how far will this league fall in its second season as a super conference? It failed to capitalize on a big '05-06, when none of its powers -- UConn, Villanova and, to a lesser degree, West Virginia and Pitt -- made it past the Elite Eight. Now the Big East is cleared out, with 15 of its biggest stars having graduated or declared early into the draft. Its rep will get a boost when Rudy Gay, Randy Foye, Marcus Williams, Hilton Armstrong, Quincy Douby, Kyle Lowry and Josh Boone all go in the first round, but what's left now that they've departed? A duel between Pitt and Georgetown for the league title? Not nearly as scintillating as what transpired in Year 1.

3. Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights' dream scenario would have unfolded like this: 1) Talented East Coast recruiter Freddie Hill (the man who brought the star-guard quartet to 'Nova) is elevated to head coach. 2) Leading scorer Quincy Douby returns for another season of the "I Douby Lieve" campaign, becoming a first-team All-America who averages 28 points a game. 3) Stud New Jersey recruit Lance Thomas picks State U over Duke. 4) Douby and Thomas team up to lead the Knights to their first NCAA tournament since 1991.

Sadly, only No. 1 happened. Douby declared for -- and stayed in -- the draft, where he's looking like a solid first-rounder. With Douby gone, Thomas signed to play for Coach K. The Knights' revival, therefore, was put on hold.

4. N.C. State
The neighbors have plenty to look forward to: Duke kept Josh McRoberts and landed Thomas. North Carolina is bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. And the Wolfpack? They're hurting. They watched as a perfectly good coach, Herb Sendek, vacated an uncomfortable situation in Raleigh to take the Arizona State job. And then their exceptionally promising center, Cedric Simmons, hired an agent and is staying in the NBA draft. Class of '06 recruit Larry Harris, a New York City shooting guard, bailed for Seton Hall, while coveted New Jersey forward Dan Werner switched his commitment from the 'Pack to national champ Florida. And after an uncomfortably long search, the coach N.C. State did hire, Detroit Pistons assistant Sidney Lowe, was far from the school's first choice.

5. Indiana
The Hoosiers wanted Mike Davis out. Mission accomplished. What happened after that was problematic: IU brought in Oklahoma's Sampson and absorbed his sanctions when the NCAA brought down the hammer on the coach in May. Now Sampson is banned from recruiting -- via in-home visits and making phone calls -- for his crucial first year. Star forward D.J. White decided to remain in Bloomington and be Sampson's star in '06-07, but sharpshooter Robert Vaden, a big guard who could spread out (and shoot over) defenses, followed Davis to UAB.

Lesser losers: Texas (lost Daniel Gibson and P.J. Tucker but landed Damion James to play alongside Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin), UCLA (Jordan Farmar stayed in the draft, but the Bruins have a solid backup at the point in Darren Collison and will also return Arron Afflalo), Memphis (lost Shawne Williams, which was semi-expected, and Darius Washington, but that may not be a bad thing, with Andre Allen and Willie Kemp on the roster) and South Carolina (star-in-the-making Renaldo Balkman would have had a breakout senior season, but he blew up at the Pre-Draft Camp and turned pro).

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