Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Three

UNC athletes steered to a Navy Weapons class?


The North Carolina academic scandal took another twist late on Tuesday night as the Raleigh News & Observer published yet another article on the investigation.

Instead of focusing on the African and Afro-American Studies department, the N&O dug up some information on a Naval Weapons System class that attracted a high-concentration of athletes. 30 of the 38 students in the class were athletes, and of those 30, six were basketball players. Bobby Frasor spoke on record about the class to the paper, and while he declined to name which of his teammates also took the class, the paper did identify Tyler Hansbrough as one of the six.

According to the report, it was the only time in the past six years that the class had basketball players in it.

That fact, in and of itself, isn’t troubling.

This is:

The syllabus for the NAVS 302 class shows that it was a different type of course than in other years. It had no required exams or quizzes and no major research paper. Students received much of their grade from a two- to three-page double-spaced midterm paper and a group project that required a 20-minute oral presentation split among five students.

Frasor recalled the paper was on weaponry and the presentation was on battle scenarios.

The professor for the class, Lt. Brian Lubitz, taught it only once, UNC records show. […]

The current head of the Naval Science Department at UNC, Capt. Doug Wright, said the course work requirements in that particular class had troubled his predecessor, Capt. Stephen Matts, so much that Matts told subsequent instructors he wanted them changed. Later course outlines show quizzes, tests and papers or presentations. Matts could not be reached.

Wright said he would have made the same changes because the class as structured under Lubitz would make it difficult to determine whether the students were learning the material.

Now, there is an important distinction to make here.

No-show classes, like what was happening in UNC’s AFAM department, are a problem. Having courses adjusted to make them easier so athletes can enroll in them, which is what yesterday’s revelation appears to say, is a problem.

But athletes gossiping about, and clustering in, classes that are rumored to be easy?

That happens on every college campus and includes far more students whose only athletic achievement involves an x-box controller than students who are on athletic scholarships. I certainly did it. I took four years of spanish in high school and, as a senior in college, enrolled in an Intro Spanish class with a teacher that I had heard graded quite easily. I took a half-credit Geology course that I knew was only graded with online, multiple-choice tests, and the enrollment in that class might have been 75% athletes. I took multiple Anthropology courses with one professor that I knew to be quite easy and that also brought her dog to class.

And I was an economics major at Vassar.

It also should be noted that simply having a large number of athletes in one class or one major isn’t indicative of cheating, either. At a school like North Carolina, the coaches are more concerned about having their athletes in practice than whether or not they are getting into the classes they want to take. (I doubt the players complain about that.) The more players that are in a class that meets at Noon instead of 7 p.m., the easier it becomes to schedule practices with the majority of the roster able to attend.

Don’t take what I’ve written here as evidence that North Carolina hasn’t cheated. I’m not saying that. I don’t know anything more than what’s been reported.

My point is simply that there needs to be more than a high percentage of athletes and an easy syllabus for a class to constitute academic fraud.

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

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.