Report: Friend of Noel, Ledo questioned by the NCAA

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Last week, Big Blue Nation got whipped up into a frenzy when Pete Thamel of reported on the latest in the NCAA’s investigation into Nerlens Noel.

On Monday, it was Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal who provided another glimpse into the background checks being done on Kentucky’s latest star center.

According to McNamara, the NCAA was looking into the relationship between a 21 year old named Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney is a high school graduate and a student at Florida Atlantic that still lives with his parents, but he happens to be friends with a number of the best players to come out of the New England area in recent years, including Noel.

From McNamara:

Two weeks ago, representatives from the NCAA and the University of Kentucky visited Sweeney’s home to discuss his relationship with Noel, a 6-foot-10 center who enrolled last week as a freshman at UK. The officials met with Ryan Sweeney for nearly an hour, according to his father, Providence attorney Michael Sweeney. He would not comment when asked what was discussed but, the website for Sports Illustrated, reported earlier this last week that the NCAA also stopped at the Tilton (N.H.) School to further investigate potential eligibility issues regarding Noel.

“Nerlens has been at our house many times. He is Ryan’s friend,” said Michael Sweeney. “I’m not sure why the NCAA wanted to speak with Ryan but we cooperated, and I got the sense that everything was fine when the meeting was over.”

Asked if he’s ever provided money to Noel, Sweeney said: “Nerlens came to Florida with us once on vacation and he visited Ryan once at college (Florida Atlantic University) and we paid for his ticket. I will say we are not boosters of Kentucky.”

It doesn’t sound like there’s all that much there to implicate Noel.

But what about Ledo? The NCAA is currently looking into him as well, although his issues appear to be more of the academic variety than the amateur variety. Ryan has had a longstanding friendship with Ledo, who will play for Providence whenever he is cleared.

And while Michael Sweeney isn’t a booster for Kentucky, he is a booster for Providence. The NCAA has a rule in place that allows for “pre-existing relationships”, focusing on whether there was a change in “benefits” once the kid became a star athlete.

That will be the more intriguing storyline to follow over the coming weeks.

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

VIDEOS: Villanova team bus stuck on icy roads trying to leave campus

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Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.

Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.

A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.

Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.