NCAA Men's Championship Game - Kansas v Kentucky

Changes to NCAA enforcement model, recruiting go into effect

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For many who follow college basketball, the big news coming from the NCAA on Thursday was the adjustment made to how the NCAA tournament selection committee goes about its job of filling the 68-team bracket every March.

But August 1 also marks the day in which the NCAA’s new enforcement model goes into effect. The Committee on Infractions has grown from 10 to 24 members, and more importantly head coach accountability has been enhanced.

Essentially, if an assistant coach is out committing NCAA rules violations the Committee on Infractions will (in theory) hand out harsher penalties to head coaches who in the past may have been able to get away with the “I didn’t know” excuse. With the NCAA saying that it’s their job to know everything that goes on with a program, head coaches will need to be more observant (if they haven’t been already).

“I agree that if an assistant does something wrong, it should be on the head coach,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo last month. “I agree with that 100%. I’m fine with that. It’s our job, and we should be held accountable. … But I think absolutes are hard. There are some circumstances I struggle with.”

The possible penalties for a head coach who fails to do so ranges from ten percent of their team’s games (usually works out to three games) to an entire season.

“We heard members across Division I declare that we need clear, consistent and credible accountability,” Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State president and Executive Committee chair, said in the release. “These membership-driven changes are a great first step in our ongoing effort to improve enforcement.  The changes provide tough, fair consequences that communicate to universities, coaches, student-athletes and others that rule-breaking will not be tolerated.”

This wasn’t the only change that college basketball programs will have to deal with however, as August 1 also marks the first day in which all four coaches on staff (head coach and three assistants) are allowed to be on the road recruiting at the same time. Prior to this move three of the four could be out during evaluation periods.

Don’t expect this rule to have much of an impact during the season, as programs will still have just 130 total days to use (as a staff, not per coach) in order to evaluate prospective student-athletes. Where it will come into play are during the May and July evaluation periods (April’s evaluation weekend is counted in the 130 in-season days, per NCAA rules).

Given the number of events on the grassroots circuit jammed into those four evaluation periods (the 2013-14 NCAA recruiting calendar can be viewed here), allowing all four coaches to be on the road could help alleviate some of the issues that arise due to traveling from one location to another in order to make an appearance at games involving their recruiting targets.

But on the flip side, how will programs properly balance this change with the need to work with the players currently on the roster? In July programs have two days in between evaluation periods, with a lot of that time being used for updating the status of their recruits, holding individual workouts with current players and spending time with their own families.

Already a delicate situation to maintain, it will be interesting to see how coaching staffs adjust their summer strategies when it comes to properly balancing the need to find future players with the need to develop the players already in the program.

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.