The latest in the Ed O’Bannon case, and why the NCAA’s headed for change

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Back in 2009, Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA that has, in the years since then, become the single-biggest assault on the way that the NCAA does business.

If you haven’t been paying attention to the case, the basics are as follows: O’Bannon won a title and a few player of the year awards with UCLA back in the mid-90s, but when he saw his likeness in an EA Sports video game in 2009, he realized that everyone was still profiting off of him and his athletic accomplishments in college except O’Bannon himself. So he filed a lawsuit, and since then it has grown into a case that could change the entire business model of college athletics.

Back in January, a judge ruled that current athletes could be added to the case and that the plaintiffs could go after everyone profiting off of college athletics — the schools, the conferences, the television networks. The latest twist, as Jonathan Mahler of Bloomberg explains, is the potential for the case to become a class-action lawsuit.

And that’s what could end up being the difference-maker for those pushing for change. From Mahler:

In their latest filing, O’Bannon’s lawyers argue that the case deserves class-action status. If their request is granted, the NCAA would be liable for claims brought not just by the plaintiffs but also by all former athletes. Anyone who has ever played a Division I college sport would instantly be suing for damages for every instance in which his or her image was used in a video game, highlight reel, broadcast or rebroadcast.

That could get pretty expensive for the NCAA. But if the case were just about a few billion dollars, the association would have settled by now. It hasn’t because O’Bannon and his lawyers are also asking for something else: They want all current and future college athletes to be able to make licensing deals of their own. It’s short yardage from there to the NCAA’s doomsday scenario: schools bidding for the services of student- athletes.

Anyone that has read anything that I’ve written over the years knows that I’m staunchly pro-athletes. I think they should be getting paid. I think they should see a cut of the money that they help produce. Whether that comes from the school’s athletic department, independent boosters or through the Olympic model — allowing each athlete to sign sponsorship deals and profit off of his likeness — is something that can and will be debated.

But something has to change.

Because it’s silly to watch players have their names tarnished because the NCAA is fighting tooth and nail against the most simple and powerful principles of economics. In his terrific takedown of the NCAA from Monday, Patrick Hruby explains how the NCAA’s principles of amateurism are what creates the black market where runners like Rodney Blackstock toss AAU coaches like Darius Cobb thousands of dollars simply for the chance to get access to players like Ben McLemore.

McLemore, has a potential No. 1 pick in the draft, not only has a ton of current value, but his market potential value is through the roof. Agents, financial planners and marketing reps know this. They’re willing to spend money to get close to him. There is a demand for what McLemore offers as an athlete, and something as brittle as the NCAA rulebook isn’t going to stop businessmen from ‘investing’ in building those potentially lucrative relationships.

According to a study done by a Stanford economist, a Michigan basketball player in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 — when the Wolverines weren’t close to competing for national titles — would have made $250,000. A study by an economist from Cal. State-San Marcos said that Chris Webber was worth four times the $280,000 that he accepted from a booster.

NCAA rules aren’t going to stop money from changing hands when there is this much value being discussed.

The only thing it is going to do is keep it in the pockets of the third-parties — the agents, the AAU coaches, and, of course, the NCAA itself — and away from the players that are actually generating the revenue.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Young’s 27 help Oklahoma top Kansas State, end 6-game skid

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NORMAN, Okla. — Trae Young’s entertaining act wasn’t translating into wins for Oklahoma, and desperation had set in.

Finally, a more collective effort helped the Sooners snap their six-game losing skid. Young scored 28 points, his teammates chipped in, and Oklahoma topped Kansas State 86-77 on Saturday.

Young, the freshman point guard who leads the nation in scoring, was coming off a season-low 11 points in a loss to Kansas earlier in the week. He bounced back with a smart floor game — he made 7 of 10 shots from the field, including 6 of 9 3-pointers, and added seven assists.

Christian James scored 15 points and Brady Manek and Jamuni McNeace each added 10 for the Sooners (17-11, 7-9 Big 12), who shot 53 percent from the field.

“I talked to them and told them that I felt like our season was on the line,” James said. “We needed this. We came out and competed, and that showed tonight.”

Oklahoma hadn’t won since Jan. 30 and had dropped two straight at home.

“When you haven’t won in a while, it’s tough to stay plugged in and keep the right frame of mind,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Happy for the guys. Proud of the way they made shots and got some stops and did the things they needed to do to get one in the right column.”

Kansas State handled Young in the first meeting and forced him into 12 turnovers as the Wildcats rolled past the Sooners 87-69 on Jan. 16. In the rematch, Young had five turnovers, though two came well after the Sooners had the game in hand. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said Young’s efficiency was the difference.

“Normally, he’s got 21 shots or whatever it is,” Weber said. “He still turned it over a few times, but he made shots and then made plays for them.”

Barry Brown scored 28 points and Dean Wade added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Kansas State (20-9, 9-7). The Wildcats made just 4 of 21 3-pointers.

Young matched his 11-point total from the Kansas game in the first eight minutes against Kansas State. He hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to close out an 18-point first half and give the Sooners a 43-35 lead at the break.

James scored in close and was fouled, and he made the free throw to put the Sooners up 52-38 with 15:45 remaining. Young hit a deep 3-pointer to put the Sooners up 55-40, and it looked like Oklahoma might cruise.

Kansas State worked its way back into the game and cut its deficit to 63-56. A 3-pointer and a short floater by Manek helped put the Sooners up 10. Another three by Young made it 71-59 with just under six minutes left, and the Sooners remained in control from there.

Kruger said he could sense a different approach from the start.

“General focus and the sense of urgency,” he said. “The awareness that we are running out of games and you got to line up and play better. I thought we played with that focus and that awareness throughout the game.”

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma: The Sooners desperately needed this one to strengthen its NCAA Tournament resume. Though the Sooners have numerous quality wins, the losing streak was enough to raise questions.

Kansas State: The Wildcats were getting votes for the Top 25, but probably won’t get there with this loss. Overall, a road loss to a solid team likely won’t hurt the Wildcats’ NCAA hopes.

STAT LINES

Oklahoma shot 62 percent in the second half to maintain control of the game. The Sooners made 16 of 26 field goals and 4 of 10 3-pointers after the break.

QUOTABLE

Weber, on why Young shouldn’t be Big 12 Player of the Year: “To me, the Big 12 player of the year should be from the people who win the league. That’s just me. You know winning is what dictates who should be the Big 12 player of the year. But that is my opinion. Everyone has different opinions.”

No. 6 Gonzaga earns WCC title with 79-65 win over BYU

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PROVO, Utah — Johnathan Williams scored 16 points, and No. 6 Gonzaga clinched another West Coast Conference championship with a 79-65 victory over BYU on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs (27-4, 17-1) have won at least a share of 18 of the past 19 regular-season conference championships, including each of the past six seasons.

Zach Norvell Jr. had 15 points and five rebounds for Gonzaga, which got off to a fast start and also played well right after halftime.

Yoeli Childs led BYU (22-9, 11-7) with 19 points and eight rebounds. Elijah Bryant overcame a cold start to contribute 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

Gonzaga started the game with 10 straight field goals on its way to a 23-10 lead. BYU closed to 43-38 at the break, but the Bulldogs outscored the Cougars 32-18 over the first 16:30 of the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Leads 13-6 in the all-time series against BYU, including four straight wins in Provo.

BYU: Is set for the No. 3 seed for the WCC tournament.

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs earn some time off before playing the winner of the Loyola Marymount-Portland game in the WCC tourney.

BYU: The Cougars also are off before beginning play in the conference tournament.

Kentucky uses balanced scoring to blow out Missouri 88-66

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kevin Knox had 21 points, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 15 and Kentucky made 10 3-pointers and shot 55 percent to blow out Missouri 88-66 on Saturday night.

The Wildcats (20-9, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) outscored the Tigers 16-6 over the final 4½ minutes before halftime for a 44-32 lead. Several more spurts stretched the advantage to as many as 25 as they avenged a 69-60 loss three weeks ago.

Knox, a freshman forward who was mentioned Friday in a Yahoo! Sports story as having had a meal with an agent, started after an internal review determined there were no eligibility issues. He made 6 of 13 from the field, all eight free throws and one of Kentucky’s 3s in a game that initially seemed destined to be decided from outside.

Quade Green and PJ Washington each added 12 points, Jarred Vanderbilt had a career-high 15 rebounds and 11 points, while Hamidou Diallo made three 3s for 11 points as six Wildcats scored in double figures. Kentucky was 10 of 16 from long range and shot above 50 percent for the first time since Jan. 13 at Vanderbilt.

Kassius Robertson had 26 points including six 3s, and Jordan Barnett had 11 points for Missouri (18-11, 8-8), which made 10 of 31 from long but shot 36 percent in losing its third in a row.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers started with promise offensively, especially from outside, before cooling off. Failing to contain Kentucky as well from the perimeter hurt the most, not to mention getting beat 36-31 on the glass.

Kentucky: The Wildcats followed up their impressive victory at Arkansas by doing many things right, especially with 27 defensive rebounds. Long-range shots got them going offensively and led to frequent chances at the foul line, where they made 22 of 29 free throws. They also shared the ball well with 17 assists, while their bench dominated 38-15.

Allen bounces back, Florida beats No. 12 Auburn 72-66

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — KeVaughn Allen bounced back from his first scoreless game in more than three years with 24 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the closing minutes as Florida beat No. 12 Auburn 72-66 on Saturday night.

Jalen Hudson added 19 points for the Gators, including a pivotal three-point play with 26.8 seconds remaining. Chris Chiozza hit Hudson with a bounce pass on a back-door cut. He got fouled making the layup and then sank the free throw to put Florida up 69-66.

Auburn’s Jared Harper and Bryce Brown missed off-balance 3-pointers in the final minute, and the Gators closed it out from the charity stripe.

It was Florida’s 11th consecutive win in the series and a huge boost to the team’s NCAA Tournament resume.

The Gators (18-11, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) had dropped three straight and six of eight in league play. Coach Mike White’s team had been free-falling since early January, and a fourth loss in a row probably would have left the Gators needing help down the stretch to make the NCAAs.

The win over the Tigers (24-5, 12-4) could be enough to put Florida in the 68-team field for the second straight season.

Gators freshman Dontay Bassett added a career-high 12 points and six rebounds.

Auburn’s loss came just a few hours after photos surfaced on social media sites of coach Bruce Pearl lounging by a hotel pool in Gainesville. It’s common for coaches and players to relax on game day, especially with a late tip, but surely wasn’t the best look when the Tigers started the game flat.

Florida led 10-2 in the opening minutes and was up 33-24 at the break after Allen beat the halftime buzzer with a shot from about 60 feet.

Allen shot 8 of 15, including 6 for 10 from behind the arc. Hudson went 7 of 14, including 4 for 6 from 3-point range.

Mustapha Heron, who missed Auburn’s previous game because of a stomach virus, led the Tigers with 22 points.

BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers had scored at least 75 points in 10 straight games, but fell well short at Florida. They shot the ball well enough, but all those turnovers proved problematic.

Florida: White had a long conversation with Allen earlier in the week and even asked teammates Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes to reinforce the need for the junior guard to be more aggressive. Whatever was said seemingly worked. Allen scored Florida’s final nine points of the first half, including a 3-pointer from about 60 feet, and reached double figures for the second time in six games.

WELCOME BACK

Florida great Mike Miller was in the O’Connell Center for the first time in years and was recognized during a timeout in the first half. The 36-year-old Miller retired last year after 17 seasons in the NBA.

Bubble Banter: There will be some NCAA tournament bids determined today

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

FLORIDA (RPI: 63, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: 9): Florida landed a massive win on Saturday night, picking off Auburn at home. They now have eight Quadrant 1 wins, including Gonzaga and Cincinnati on neutral courts, Texas A&M and Kentucky on the road and, now, Auburn at home. With two Quadrant 1 games left, I think the Gators are just about a lock.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: Next four out): The Cardinals landed a big, big win on Saturday afternoon as they went into Virginia Tech and picked up a win. It’s their third Quadrant 1 win and the 19-10 Cards now have a 5-10 record against the top two Quadrants. I still think Louisville needs to win at least two more games. Next week, they play Virginia at home and at N.C. State before the ACC tournament commences.

TEXAS (RPI: 51, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: Play-in game): Texas landed a massive win on Saturday at home against Oklahoma State for one, simple reason: Losing to the Pokes would have been a disaster. Texas is 5-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents and they have eight wins against the top two quadrants with no bad losses. But they are 17-12 on the season and 7-9 in the Big 12 with games left at Kansas and at home against West Virginia. They could not afford to add a Quadrant 3 loss to their profile. As it stands, I think they are in if they beat West Virginia and win their first game in the Big 12 tournament.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 26, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: 12): The Bonnies added another Quadrant 2 win to their résumé on Saturday as they went into Richmond and knocked off VCU. They are now 4-2 against Quadrant 1 — with a win over Rhode Island — also a season-opening loss to Niagara is weighing their chances down. I’ve said all along, they need to win out in the regular season and, ideally, lose to URI in the Atlantic 10 tournament if they want an at-large.

SAINT MARY’S  (RPI: 37, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 11): I don’t think that the Gaels will be in real danger of missing the NCAA tournament unless they take a truly terrible loss in the WCC tournament, but I think it is pointing out just how flimsy their profile is. They’ve played just one Quadrant 1 game this season, their win at Gonzaga, and are just 3-2 against the top two Quadrants with two Quadrant 3 losses.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: 10): The Friars avoided what could have been a disastrous loss by handing on to beat Georgetown in Washington D.C. on Saturday. The Friars had lost two in a row — at Butler and Seton Hall at home — and play at Xavier on Wednesday, meaning that they would be staring a four-game losing streak in the face had they lost at Georgetown. As it stands, Providence is 3-7 against Quadrant 1, which includes home wins over Xavier and Villanova, but they’ve also lost two Quadrant 3 and one Quadrant 4 games.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: , KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 11): Middle Tennessee has had some good things happen to them in recent days. Belmont and Murray State have both climbed into the top 75 of the RPI, meaning that the Blue Raiders have gone from having one Quadrant 1 win to three Quadrant 1 wins. At the same time, Belmont is now 76th in the RPI. If they climb into the top 75, they will no longer be a Quadrant 3 loss for MTSU. These are the dangers of grouping. Regardless, the way I see it, MTSU has to win out and lose to either Western Kentucky or Old Dominion in the CUSA tournament if they want an at-large bid.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs continue to creep closer to the bubble, but their biggest issue at this point is that they only have one win that can truly be looked at as a good win: at Texas A&M. MSU has a second Quadrant 1 win, but it is at South Carolina, who is 73rd in the RPI. They really need to beat Tennessee at home on Tuesday.

SETON HALL (RPI: 21, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 8): Seton Hall stumbled their way onto the bubble by losing four straight to start February, but they’re rebounded with three straight wins. Surviving a postponed game at Providence might have been what put the Pirates in the Dance. I think they are a lock with one more win.

OKLAHOMA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 10): The losing streak is over. The Sooners snapped a six-game skid by beating Kansas State at home. They are now 6-8 against Quadrant 1 and 9-11 against the top two Quadrants. I still think their margin for error is slim given that they still play Iowa State in the regular season, but for my money, they’re in with two more wins, including the Big 12 tournament, and right on the cut-line in with one more win.

TEXAS A&M (RPI: 25, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 9): The Aggies snapped a three-game losing streak by going into Vanderbilt and getting a win. The biggest issue for the Aggies right now is that it is hard to project how the committee is going to value their roster. They’ve had more suspensions and injuries than anyone I can remember. I think it would behoove them to win out in the regular season. That would get them to 20-11 overall and 9-9 in the SEC.

USC (RPI: 29, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: First four out): USC has now won four straight games after sweeping the mountain schools this week. The loss to Princeton could be a killer for them — there are not many bubble teams with a Quadrant 4 loss to their name — but the Trojans were without two rotation players in that game. They are now 7-8 against the top two Quadrants. The biggest issue for USC at this point is that they just don’t have much in the way of quality wins. Beating Utah is just their second Quadrant 1 win because New Mexico State, who USC beat in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic, fell out of the top 50. A win over Middle Tennessee State on a neutral is their only other Quadrant 1 win.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 51, KenPom: 96, NBC seed: Last four in): Washington avoided disaster by beating Cal on Saturday. They’ll need to do the same next week against Oregon State and Oregon. If they can do that, the Huskies will have a shot. They are 3-3 against Quadrant 1 opponents but they also have two Quadrant 3 losses to their name. That win over Kansas in Kansas City looks better and better.

MIAMI (RPI: 28, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 8): The Hurricanes overcame a late deficit to knock off Boston College at home, which is big considering that Miami had been sliding of slide. Before this week, they had lost three straight games and are now 20-8 on the season. They are 4-4 against Quadrant 1 with a Quadrant 3 loss, and it is worth noting that they don’t really have any great wins: Middle Tennessee on a neutral, at N.C. State, at Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame. I think they’re closer to the bubble than you might think.

TCU (RPI: 20, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): The Horned Frogs have just about punched their ticket. A win over Baylor today was yet another good win. They now have four Quadrant 1 and four Quadrant 2 wins without a single loss outside the top two Quadrants. If they lose out it will be interesting, so I would say they need one more win to lock up a bid.

LOSERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 56, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): Virginia Tech is still in a pretty good spot, but they certainly didn’t help themselves by losing at home against Louisville. The good thing for the Hokies is that they are 4-6 against Quadrant 1 with the single-best win in college basketball this season — a win at Virginia. But a non-conference SOS in the 320s and a Quadrant 3 loss puts them in a more difficult position than you would think. If they beat Duke at home or win at Miami next week, they’ll be fine no matter what happens in the ACC tournament. If they lose both, then it gets interesting.

LSU (RPI: 75, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Tigers had their two-game winning streak snapped at Georgia on Saturday. On the one hand, that’s a Quadrant 1 loss. It doesn’t exactly hurt them. On the other hand, for a team that is already on the margins — they are 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the SEC with a Quadrant 3 loss — any quality win they can add is important. I think they need to win at least three more games to really feel comfortable.

BAYLOR (RPI: 58, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling to 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12. They are in a tough spot now. They have four Quadrant 1 wins but they are just 4-10 in those Quadrant 1 games. All 12 of their losses, however, are “good” losses, and they still play Oklahoma at home and Kansas State on the road before the Big 12 tournament. I don’t think they can get a big with 14 losses, so I think they need to win two more during the regular season and maybe another one in the Big 12 tournament.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: 10): Losing at Oklahoma isn’t a killer for Kansas State by any stretch. They are now 20-9 on the season, with a 3-8 mark against Quadrant 1 and six Quadrant 2 wins. The big issue they have is that there is that home loss to Tulsa — that’s a Quadrant 3 loss, but Tulsa is 79th in the RPI and if they make it into the top 75 it will be Quadrant 2 — as well as a non-conference SOS that’s in the 310s. Throw in an RPI in the 50s, and the Wildcats need to at least split down the stretch to really feel confident.

UTAH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: First four out): Utah had a chance to play their way into the conversation if they had won out during the regular season and maybe won a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament. I guess there is still a chance, but for my money, the Utes should plan on winning the automatic bid for the Pac-12 if they want to go dancing.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 64, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette took their worst loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, going into Chicago and losing at DePaul, the first Quadrant 3 loss for the Golden Eagles. They are now 16-12 on the season and 7-9 in the Big East with just four Quadrant 1 wins. I don’t think the dream is dead yet, but the biggest issue Marquette currently faces is that they cannot help themselves without winning a game or two in the Big East tournament.

SMU (RPI: 94, KenPom: 75, NBC seed: Out): I’m only mentioning SMU here because I think it’s worth nothing that they’ve lost six of their last seven while Shake Milton has been out with a broken hand. At 16-13 overall and 6-10 in the American, it may not matter. But they did win by 23 points at Wichita State with him healthy. It’s at least worth being aware of.