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

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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.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.