Eastern Michigan v Syracuse

Jim Boeheim: Great coach, but at what cost?

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You are going to read plenty of words today deifying Jim Boeheim’s 900 wins and the job that he has done turning a private school buried in lake-effect snow in Upstate New York into one of the nation’s preeminent basketball programs.

And, frankly, the majority of those words are going to be well-deserved.

Boeheim’s consistency with the Orange has been unreal. He’s won more than 20 games in 34 of the 36 seasons he’s been at the helm. He’s made the NCAA tournament 29 times, reaching the title game thrice and winning it all once, on the back of Carmelo Anthony. His career at Syracuse will span the creation and the destruction of the Big East, a conference that he won 15 titles in, ten times finishing atop the regular season standing and five times hoisting the conference tournament trophy. His 900 wins but him behind only Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski on the all-time list, and he’ll pass Knight before the calendar turns to January.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he’s spent his entire career in the same spot. He enrolled at Syracuse as a walk-on in 1962, eventually becoming team captain on a roster that included Dave Bing. When he began his coaching career in 1969, it was as a grad assistant on the Syracuse bench. He stayed there until he was named head coach in 1976, and as never left. In a day and age where every job is a stepping stone, that’s an incredible feat.

But — there’s always a but — it will be interesting to see how many of the glowing columns you’ll read today mention the arrest record of Boeheim’s players. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, in a 661 word column on Boeheim’s 900th win, had all of this to say about it: “what has overshadowed Boeheim’s success recently are the off-court issues surrounding the program and the fact he’s only got one national title to his credit.” And in a way, that’s actually a perfect representation of Boeheim’s attitude towards his players off the court. I’ll let Mike Rosenberg of SI.com explain:

He doesn’t worry too much about what his players do with their free time, how they dress or what they say to the media. He expects them to produce on the basketball court and be good teammates. The rest is not really his problem.

The next time he talks about his players being role models for anybody will be the first time. The Syracuse Post-Standard recently reported that his star point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, admitted shoplifting from a store and paid a $500 fine. Boeheim’s response: “Syracuse police have found nothing to investigate.The mall, the store, is happy and satisfied with the result. Michael is satisfied with the result.” In other words: So what? If players get in trouble, he says: Hey, players get in trouble. When is the next game?

Carter-Williams was caught shop-lifting — reportedly a pair of gloves and a bathrobe — last Sunday. He started and played 38 minutes on Saturday against Canisius, the Orange’s next game. Last season, Fab Melo was arrested for fourth-degree criminal mischief after an ugly incident involving his then-girlfriend. Melo didn’t miss a game until he was suspended during the season for an academic issue.

There’s more as well. The Georgetown blog Casual Hoya compiled all of the legal issues involving Syracuse players (some of the incidents on that list occurred when their time at Syracuse was over, but what do you expect from a rival?), which includes names like Derrick Coleman, Jonathon Wallace, Todd Burgan and Jonny Flynn.

In a way, Boeheim’s attitude towards his player’s off the court troubles is almost, in a sense, refreshing in its honesty. He’s not there to shape the lives of these young men. He’s not trying to claim that he’s the Mother Theresa of the hardwood. He’s there to do his job. He’s there to win basketball games and, hopefully, shuffle these players off to a long and thriving career as professional basketball players. And, quite frankly, he’s damn good at doing that.

He’s done to the 2-3 zone what Bobby Knight did to motion offense. He’s one of the best ‘ball coaches’ to ever grace our presence. He gives one heckuva press conference, whether he’s ripping the local beat reporters, defending one of his stars or giving his opinion on the availability of automatic weapons in out country.

But if you’re going to paint Jim Boeheim as the Patron Saint of Upstate New York, be sure to spend a couple of brushstrokes highlighting just what he allows to go on in and around his program.

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

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson

 

Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior season

Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes celebrates with fans after an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Wisconsin won 67-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Wisconsin has cemented itself as one of the teams to beat in the Big Ten for the 2016-17 season.

Forward Nigel Hayes, the Badgers’ leading scorer and assist man, is withdrawing his name from NBA Draft consideration to return to Madison for his senior season, he told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday evening.

Hayes declared for the draft last month, but did not hire an agent, taking advantage of new NCAA legislation that allowed him to attend the NBA Draft combine and workout for pro franchises. He was largely regarded as a fringe first-round prospect by draft observers.

His decision is a major boon for Greg Gard, who may have the Big Ten’s best team in his first full season at the helm after taking over for Bo Ryan in the middle of last season. Wisconsin had a major turnaround under Gard, which ultimately resulted in him moving from interim to full time. The Badgers were 7-5 when Ryan stepped down, but recovered by going 13-4 to end the season and make the Sweet 16. 

Now, the entirety of that team, headlined by Hayes, is returning for another year and almost assuredly will be a top-15 (or better) preseason pick. Michigan State will welcome in a dynamite recruiting class that features five-stars Miles Bridges and Cassius Winston, and Indiana should remain strong, but the Badgers, with some players having the experience of  playing in two Final Fours, could very well have the best roster on paper with its blend of talent and experience. Whichever team is pegged as the favorite, the top of the Big Ten is shaping up to be a fantastic race.