Weekend Preview: Should Syracuse be on upset alert?

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Who’s getting upset?: Sat. No. 2 Syracuse @ UConn, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

I’m probably going to end up regretting this decision, but I think that the Huskies nip Syracuse on Saturday. Starting with the Syracuse loss to Notre Dame back in mid-January, the Orange have been less-than-impress offensively. In six of those nine games, the Orange have posted an efficiency of 1.032 PPP or lower, which is a long way from being the ninth best offensive team in the nation. The first UConn game isn’t included in that group, but the 85 points they scored is a bit deceiving; that game was much closer than the final score indicated.

Throw in the massive struggles that the Orange have had on the defensive glass, and all of a sudden Cuse looks like they may end up being beatable. Where the Orange have kept themselves afloat is in their ability to turn teams over in a live-ball setting — they are third in the country in steal percentage and fifth in turnover percentage — and they are absolutely devastating in the open court. So if you get a team that can attack the gaps in their zone without turning the ball over while having enough size to take advantage of second chances, Syracuse could be in trouble.

UConn certainly has the size, but do they have the pieces to avoid turnovers? That, I’m not so sure of. Who is going to play the high-post in their zone offense? Can Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright be trusted to protect the ball and take good shots? Will Jeremy Lamb continue to be as aggressive as he has been the last two weeks? For UConn to have chance, that is precisely what needs to happen. And having Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi show up and get Fab Melo in foul trouble wouldn’t hurt, either.

Who else is on upset alert?

Fri. No. 10 Marquette @ West Virginia, 9 p.m. (ESPN2): This is less about Marquette than it is about West Virginia. Frankly, I think Marquette is one of the most dangerous teams in the country. They are versatile, they can defend in the full court and they are currently playing as well as they have in Buzz Williams’ tenure. That said, West Virginia is better than they have showed of late and they are currently playing with their backs up against the wall. After the loss they suffered to Notre Dame, you can bet practice this week was equivalent to hopping in a cage with a rabid pitbull. In front of their home crowd, I expect the ‘Eers to play with some fire.

Sat. No. 12 Florida @ Georgia, 4 p.m. (ESPN3/SEC Network): Will Yeguete is done for the season, which is a massive blow to the Florida roster. He was their glue guy, the piece that did the dirty work on the glass and ran the point on their pressure defense. The last time he was injured, Florida lost their first game without him to Tennessee in the O-Dome. Tennessee is better than Georgia and the Gators have had some experience playing without him at this point, but I just don’t trust Florida on the road even after the win at Arkansas.

Sat. No. 20 Notre Dame @ St. John’s, 7 p.m. ESPN: This St. John’s roster is and always has intrigued me. They are quite athletic and a couple of those freshmen — Moe Harkless and D’angelo Harrison — have been quite thrilling to watch at times. No team in the country is playing as well as Notre Dame right now, but with the athleticism that the Johnnies have at their disposal, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at the Irish. These freshmen may be too naive to realize that they aren’t supposed to win this game.

Sat. No. 18 New Mexico @ TCU, 7 p.m. (MTN): I don’t think that the Lobos are going to come out as flat as they did against Colorado State on Wednesday. That loss was understandable. When, all of a sudden, you become the talk of the country while soundly beating the other two contenders in your conference and moving into a two-game lead in first place, its easy to become complacent. UNM became complacent. Hopefully, they learned their lesson. That said, TCU is not terrible this season, they’ve upset UNLV at home after coming back from 18 down in the second half and they have a kid named Hank Thorns that is one of the nation’s best kept secrets. The Lobos have to show up to win this one.

Sun. No. 15 Florida State @ Miami (FL), 6 p.m. (ESPNU): Miami will be playing for their tournament lives. They have the size to matchup with the Seminoles on the interior and a matchup nightmare in Kenny Kadji at the four. The issue is going to be their back court. You cannot beat Florida State’s perimeter defense going one-on-one, and that is what Miami’s back court tends to do.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.