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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 SI.com 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 SI.com, 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.

Bubble Banter: Make-or-break games for Rhode Island, Clemson, TCU and Pitt

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Jaron Blossomgame #5 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates a basket against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first half in the second round of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 9, 2016 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see listed below come from. This post will be updated throughout the day. 

STILL TO PLAY

No. 19 Florida State at Clemson (RPI: 61, KenPom: 37, next four out), 12:00 p.m.

No. 8 North Carolina at Pitt (RPI: 63, KenPom: 66, next four out), 12:00 p.m.

No. 25 Wichita State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 12, No. 10 seed) at Missouri State, 12:00 p.m.

No. 12 West Virginia at TCU (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, first four out), 2:00 p.m.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 54, No. 12 seed) at Northern Iowa, 2:00 p.m.

VCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 42, No. 9 seed) at Rhode Island (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, next four out), 2:00 p.m.

Seton Hall (RPI: 48, KenPom: 57, play-in game) at DePaul, 2:00 p.m.

Mississippi State at Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, next four out), 4:00 p.m.

No. 14 Purdue at Michigan (RPI: 51, KenPom: 27, No. 9 seed), 4:00 p.m.

Marquette (RPI: 68, KenPom: 31, No. 10 seed) at Providence (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, play-in game), 4:00 p.m.

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 30, play-in game) at Oklahoma, 6:00 p.m.

Northwestern at Indiana (RPI: 100, KenPom: 46, bubble), 8:00 p.m.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed) at Auburn, 8:30 p.m.

USF leaves two sleeping players behind at airport

HARTFORD, CT - JANUARY 25:  Troy Holston Jr. #25 of the South Florida Bulls reacts following a three-point shot in the first half against the Connecticut Huskies during the game at the XL Center on January 25, 2015 in Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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The University of South Florida’s men’s basketball season reached a new low late this week after the Bulls suffered a conference road loss at Tulsa.

USF fell to 7-20 overall and 1-15 in AAC conference play after Thursday’s loss. Somehow, the program made matters worse by leaving two players behind who fell asleep in the airport as the team waited for a connecting flight home.

According to a report from Collin Sherwin of the Daily Stampede, USF leading scorer Geno Thorpe and third-leading scorer Troy Holston were sleeping as the Bulls waited for a connecting flight at a Houston airport to help get them home to Tampa.

While the rest of the USF team and support staff boarded the connecting flight home, nobody woke up Thorpe and Holston until it was too late and they missed the flight. The school later made sure to get a new flight for the duo so they could make it back to campus.

USF is already facing an NCAA investigation for academic violations and head coach Orlando Antigua was fired from the program on Jan. 3.

Interim head coach Murry Bartow released a statement on USF leaving two players behind.

“Yesterday, as our team traveled back from Tulsa, two of our players were separated from the rest of our team when we boarded a connecting flight in Houston. This unfortunate circumstance, for which I apologize, was recognized by our staff as the plane was leaving the gate and not in time to get the players on the commercial flight. We immediately began to make arrangements to get the players on the very next flight to Tampa, and were in communication with them as soon as was possible. Both players arrived safely home in Tampa later that afternoon, at approximately 4:25 p.m., where a staff member met them at the airport. They are joining the rest of the team in a charity activity today.”

The mother of Troy Holston, Monique Holston-Greene, was not happy about USF leaving her son behind at the airport and made sure to express that on Twitter.

It’s hard to say what the fallout from this might be but don’t be surprised to see a massive amount of transfers from USF this offseason.

USF also might want to consider changing the headline and team photo from its game story from the Tulsa loss. The tweet of the story from the USF men’s basketball account shows a picture of Troy Holston inbounding to Geno Thorpe as the headline mentions that USF is “short-handed” during the loss.

VIDEO: Fairfield knocks off Canisius on Tyler Nelson buzzer-beating three

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Fairfield captured a buzzer-beating win over Canisius on Friday night as junior guard Tyler Nelson hit a pull-up three-pointer for the win.

With the game tied at 55 with under a minute left, Canisius worked the clock to try and get a shot close to the final horn. After a Jermaine Crumpton missed jumper, Fairfield’s Matija Milin corralled the rebound and got the outlet pass to Nelson, who pulled up and made the game-winning three.

Nelson led the Stags with 17 points as Fairfield improved to 15-13 (10-9 in the MAAC) with the road win.

 

VIDEO: Half-court buzzer-beater lifts DIII Ramapo College to conference title

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The Division III ranks had one of the best buzzer-beaters of the season on Friday night as Ramapo College clinched a conference championship in memorable fashion.

Ramapo College was facing New Jersey City University in the title game of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament on Friday night when the game became tied at 64 after a NJCU free throw with 3.1 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Ramapo had to go the full length of the floor. Josh Ford caught the Ramapo inbounds pass near mid-court and found a trailing Thomas Bonacum, who launched a half-court shot and nailed it for the win.

Bonacum finished with 20 points and nine rebounds on the night as he was mobbed by fans for helping the Roadrunners clinch its sixth automatic NCAA tournament berth under head coach Chuck McBreen.

Here’s another angle of Bonacum’s ridiculous shot

 

De’Aaron Fox a ‘game-time decision’ for Saturday showdown

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the game against the Cleveland State Vikings at Rupp Arena on November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Kentucky star guard De’Aaron Fox is a game-time decision when the No. 11 Wildcats take on No. 13 Florida on Saturday afternoon.

He didn’t practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday due to a knee contusion he suffered on Wednesday night against Missouri.

“He hit his knee,” head coach John Calipari said, according to SEC Country. “It’s not sprained or anything like that. It’s a bruise.”

Fox is averaging 15.5 points and 5.3 assists on the season. He missed one game earlier in the year due to an illness.

Kentucky’s game against the Gators in Rupp Arema will be for first place in the SEC and, in all likelihood, the SEC regular season title.