Harvard University's Corbin Miller walks back to the bench in the second half against Vanderbilt University during their men's NCAA basketball game in Albuquerque

What does Harvard hoops’ involvement in scandal mean for future?

4 Comments

Before we get into any kind of analysis, let’s first update you on the latest in the academic scandal at Harvard.

Over the summer, news broke of an academic scandal brewing on Harvard’s campus. As many as 125 students were implicated in cheating on a take-home final exam, that may have been as serious as plagiarized answers or as commonplace as simply collaborating on the test.

Early on Tuesday morning, Sports Illustrated broke the news that senior forward Kyle Casey was one of the students being investigated and would likely be withdrawing from school in an effort to preserve his final year of collegiate eligibility. CBSSports.com followed up with the scoop that senior point guard Brandyn Curry was also implicated but, as of now, has yet to make the final decision to leave school. There may also be a third player involved.

If Casey and Curry do end up leaving school, it will be a massive blow to the Crimson. With Keith Wright and Oliver McNally graduating, Harvard will be without 80% of their starting lineup from a year ago. Tommy Amaker and his staff have put together a number of incredibly impressive recruiting classes in a row, consistently beating out high-major programs for recruits that are ranked in or around the top 100 or 150.

But the issue isn’t the talent level on Harvard; it’s the experience level. Everyone is young, which is bad news for a league where every other team has experience. As Andy Katz put it earlier today, “the players are intelligent and eat up the scouting report. The gyms are small and everyone is extremely familiar with each team, making it even harder for any team to coast.” Think about it like this: despite having more talent on their roster, Harvard didn’t make the NCAA tournament in 2011 and had to scrap their way through the conference in 2012. No Curry means a freshman starts at the point. No Casey means a pair of seldom-used sophomores will patrol the paint. That could easily spell trouble for Harvard during the 2012-2013 season, even if it means they have a chance to be scary-good if Casey and Curry return for 2013-2014.

The more intriguing question, however, is what this means for the future of the Crimson.

Last summer, I wrote an lengthy feature on Harvard’s recruiting tactics and how they have been able to thrust themselves into the mix with some of the biggest of the big boys. The long and short of it: Harvard targets the most talented hoopers in the country that have grades good enough to get them into school and goes after them hard, selling them on what a Harvard degree will mean for their future. As assistant coach Yanni Hufnagel told me at the time, “Harvard’s not a four year decision, it’s a 40 year decision.”

It has become a bit of a point of contention in the Ivy, however, as most believe that Harvard has lowered their standards for admitting basketball players. The Ivy League has a rule, an Academic Index in which an athlete must earn a qualifying value to be eligible. If they don’t have a high enough score — a combination of their grades, their class rank and their standardized test scores — they aren’t going to an Ivy League school. Harvard can’t get around that.

But as a source told me at the time, it used to be that Harvard, Yale and Princeton held themselves to a higher standard, and that the Crimson are no longer doing that.

Will the administration continue to allow students closer to the cut line into the University when there is this kind of negative press associated with it?

Because keep in mind, this scandal is different from the one involving UNC. This isn’t an institutional issue or a case of athletes being shuffled off to a “friendly” professor and major. This is two, possibly three, basketball players finding themselves embroiled in a cheating scandal. How hard would it be for a stuffy department head to make the argument that this is proof the players allowed in with a lower academic standard cannot cut it at Harvard?

Taking it a step further, if Amaker is no longer allowed to get in the more-talented-but-academically-borderline recruits, does he stay at Harvard or does he jump to a higher-paying job in a better league at a bigger program?

I don’t think it is crazy to say that at the rate things are currently going, Harvard has a chance to become the Gonzaga of the east coast. But given the amount of bad press this scandal is going to receive and the fact that it will be tied back into the basketball program, will things really continue to develop at this rate?

It will be one of the most intriguing story lines to follow over the course of the next year.

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

Michigan’s Spike Albrecht to finish his career at rival Big Ten program

Michigan guard Spike Albrecht (2) makes a layup between Northern Michigan forward Brett Branstrom, top left, and center Vejas Grazulis (52) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Michigan won 70-44. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Leave a comment

Spike Albrecht’s career isn’t over, as the former Michigan point guard and graduate transfer has committed to play his final season for Big Ten rival Purdue.

“I’ll be playing my 5th year for Purdue University,” Albrecht tweeted on Tuesday morning. “Boiler Up.”

Albrecht’s career has been fascinating to follow. A very lightly recruited high schooler, Albrecht picked Michigan over Appalachian State, playing very limited minutes behind National Player of the Year Trey Burke before popping off for 17 points in the first half of the national title game that season (and launching the greatest heat check in the history of heat checks). He would play a bigger role as a sophomore before averaging 7.5 points and 3.9 assists in 32 minutes as a junior in 2014-15.

But as a senior, Albrecht cut his season short after just a couple of games due to a degenerative issue in his hips. He had surgery on both hips prior to last season and initially announced that his career was over. That changed, but Michigan’s scholarship situation didn’t: They had already recruited someone to take his scholarship after his graduation, so Albrecht was forced to transfer.

Purdue is a good fit for him. He’ll provide veteran leadership on a team with just one other senior on the roster — redshirt junior Basil Smotherman — and he’ll help anchor the point guard spot currently held by junior P.J. Thompson.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
Leave a comment

With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
Leave a comment

After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
Leave a comment

With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.