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NCAA investigators are going back to school

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NCAA enforcement seems arbitrary and out-of-touch with reality at times.

Apparently, interim NCAA enforcement chief Jonathan Duncan has noticed the same thing, and he has a pretty straightforward way of addressing the problem. He’s sending his staff back to campus. Not piecemeal as part of emerging investigations, but in a more collaborative, immersive way designed to promote some understanding of the challenges colleges and athletes face on the ground.

“One of the things I hear is that our staff sometimes lacks an understanding of what campus life is really like,” Duncan told the Associated Press. “So we are piloting a program where our staff will work on campus with athletic directors, compliance staff members and coaches and walk in their shoes so that we have a true understanding of what goes on.”

The relationship between athletic departments and the NCAA has often been distant and combative. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney recently declared that the NCAA needs to undergo a major restructuring, as the challenges of realignment and a re-examining of amateur principles as a whole are making headlines on a near-daily basis.
At Big Ten football media day last month, Delany listed four commitments that must be made to the scholarship student-athlete: giving them a “lifetime opportunity” to graduate in the event they leave school early; making sure that time demands for athletics don’t exceed the 20 hours per week allowed under the rules; helping the “at-risk” athlete; and paying athletes.
With all of that on the table, and the ever-present threat that mega-conferences might break away and form an exclusive elite division, it might be a good idea for the NCAA to do everything they can to understand what’s at play. Spending more time on campus with coaches, athletes and administrators seems like a good place to start.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: