Saint Mary’s placed on four years probation for NCAA rules violations

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The NCAA rendered its decision in regards to rules violations committed by the Saint Mary’s basketball program and it wasn’t pretty, as the school was placed on probation for four years (March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2017).

The sanctions stem from illegal recruiting practices, with head coach Randy Bennett being cited for both failure to monitor and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Bennett will serve a five-game suspension next season and is prohibited from recruiting off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year but he avoids the show-cause penalty that can essentially torpedo a coaching career.

The full list of sanctions levied against the program are as follows:

  • Public reprimand and censure.
  • Four years probation from March 1, 2013 through February 28, 2017.
  • The head coach must serve a five-game suspension during the 2013-14 season.
  • The head coach may not recruit off-campus during the 2013-14 academic year.
  • A two-year show-cause order for the former assistant coach. The public report contains further details.
  • Reduction of men’s basketball scholarships from 13 to 11 for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
  • Elimination of foreign tours by the men’s basketball team until the start of the 2017-18 season.
  • The men’s basketball team may not participate in a multiple-team event until the 2015-16 season.
  • The men’s basketball team may not receive skill instruction during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

According to the report a former assistant coach knowingly committed multiple violations in the recruitment of three prospects, one of which being an international prospect. That assistant (the NCAA does not name provide names in the public report) received a two-year show-cause penalty, meaning that if any NCAA program wanted to hire him within that period it would have to meet with the Committee on Infractions to determine if the school should be subject to the show-cause penalties.

According to the committee, the former assistant coach acted unethically when he knowingly committed recruiting violations for three prospects. The majority of the recruiting activity by the former assistant coach centered on an international prospect and included impermissible travel, local transportation and the arrangement of host family accommodations. He also attempted to assist a second international prospect by providing personal financial information as part of the prospect’s efforts in obtaining a student visa. The impermissible activity occurred both while the former assistant coach was employed by the college and as an athletics representative after he was no longer employed with the college.

The two-year ban on skill instruction stems from the school failing to monitor workouts with basketball trainers and conditioning coaches from outside of the program, and Saint Mary’s is also prohibited from taking part in any in-season tournaments for the next two seasons.

That sanction makes their non-conference schedule even more important. Saint Mary’s non-conference schedule is currently ranked 143rd nationally according to warrennolan.com, and without the ability to play in such events the Gaels will need to schedule more ambitiously in those two seasons.

Saint Mary’s wasn’t hit with a postseason ban and Bennett wasn’t given a show-cause penalty, but with the scholarship reductions and recruiting restraints the Gaels weren’t let off the hook.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: