New Mexico may have flamed out of the NCAA tournament in impressive fashion back in March, getting knocked off by No. 14 seed Harvard in the opening round of the big dance, but one loss doesn’t change the fact that the Lobos bring back the majority of a roster that put together as impressive of a resume as you could find last season.
It was enough that it got their head coach, Steve Alford, hired by UCLA.
His replacement? Longtime Lobo assistant Craig Neal, who managed to convince his son, a borderline top 100 recruit, to back out on his commitment to St. Mary’s and sign with New Mexico.
One of the most exciting parts of New Mexico’s trip to Australia this summer was that it would be a chance for the team to figure out how they would be able to integrate the dynamic Cullen Neal into their perimeter attack. With Tony Snell off to the NBA, Demetrius Walker transferring to Grand Canyon and Bryce Alford following pops to Westwood, Neal should slide right into the Lobo perimeter attack.
But we won’t be able to see how well that will work for a couple of months, as Cullen spent the entirety of his trip to Australia in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy.
The younger Neal first began experiencing some pain in his abdominal region on the team’s 14-hour flight to Sydney, but he didn’t think too much of it. Only after the pain increased Monday did Neal finally visit a doctor and discover his appendix was inflamed and needed to be removed.
Tom Izzo knows just how fortunate he is that Miles Bridges was born in Michigan State’s backyard.
He knows all too well that it’s unusual for Michigan State to beat out programs like Kentucky for a recruit. He knows how fortuitous it is for his program that the future lottery pick they were able to beat Kentucky for just so happens to be a remnant of the past, a relic of a foregone era that values friendship and loyalty and the life lessons that he’ll learn by spending another year in East Lansing over getting rich quick.
Izzo knows all of that.
“You writers got fancy terms,” he said, chuckling, after he was told that his star pupil will be named the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year. “My term: he’s a ******* weirdo.”
“I know this, one way or another, he’s an unbelievable kid,” Izzo added. “He’s a quiet kid. I don’t know if he’s a great interview, because he hates talking about himself. It’s one of his goals, but if you were sitting in front of him he would tell you about three teammates that were better than him.”
In fact, that is precisely what Bridges did. He told me that Josh Langford, who doubles as Bridges’ roommate and one of his best friends in the world, is “the best shooting guard in the nation”; that Cassius Winston was “one of the top guards”; that Kyle Ahrens is an incredible teammate that was happier Bridges was returning than anyone despite the fact that he and Bridges play the same position. When Bridges told his teammates that he would be returning to school for his sophomore season, they celebrated – Ahrens included – like they had just won a title despite the fact that Bridges’ presence on the roster cost everyone shots and many of them minutes.
That’s why Bridges loves Michigan State and the Spartan family. Everything about it. His coach, his teammates, his friends, his fans, his chance to be a kid. He also knows the history of the program. He’s friends with Draymond Green and Denzel Valentine and Gary Harris. He talks to them regularly. He knows how they’re viewed in the annals of Breslin Center lore.
And he knows that none of them will ever be up to par with Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves, the two Spartans that brought national titles back to East Lansing.
That’s the legacy he wants to leave.
“The only way I’m going to leave a stamp on the program is winning a national championship,” Bridges said. “The two guys that did it, Magic and Mateen, they’re never forgotten here. When we talk about winning, we talk about them two.”
That has been the goal since the first day he arrived on campus.
It’s why all the talk about his decision frustrates him.
“I never really had one and done in my mind. My whole focus was on wining a national championship,” Bridges said. “I never really made a decision to leave or to stay because staying was always in my head if we didn’t win the national championship.”
Miles Bridges is not a trailblazer. It’s uncommon for a one-and-done lottery pick to return to school, but it’s hardly unheard of. Marcus Smart did it. Harrison Barnes did it. Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, Ivan Rabb. He isn’t even the only player to make that decision this year; Texas A&M’s Robert Williams skipped out on the chance to be a lottery pick as well.
What sets Bridges apart from the rest of that group is there is more inherent risk in his decision.
Part of it has to due with his athleticism. His explosiveness and his quickness for someone his size is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. He’s more than capable offensively, but being ‘more than capable offensively’ while having the springs to protect the rim and the versatility to play and defend multiple positions is why he’s a commodity. He was built to play in today’s NBA, but if – God forbid – he were to pop his Achilles’ or blow out his knee, the impact that losing a step or a few inches off his vertical would have is much greater than if it were to happen to, say, Jayson Tatum or Lonzo Ball.
He’s putting a lot of guaranteed money at risk by delaying the NBA for a year. Bridges has reportedly taken out an insurance policy to protect himself in case of a catastrophic injury – the maximum the NCAA allows for is $10 million – but for a guy who looks to have a 12-to-15 year career waiting for him, that may not be 10 percent of his career earnings.
Injury is not the only risk Bridges faces.
To be frank, returning to school has almost always proven not to work out for a player whose draft stock is measured in potential. An extra year on campus means an extra season to poke holes in his game. Instead of picturing a world where that player reaches his ceiling, scouts have 12 months to break down what he can’t do and where he has yet to improve. You’re far more likely to be Melo Trimble than you are Blake Griffin if you return to school.
This is what Izzo wanted Bridges to understand.
This is why he kept trying to convince Bridges to listen to what people in the business had to say. Declare for the draft. Test the waters. Talk to NBA teams. Educate yourself before you decide.
“I told him no over and over again,” Bridges said. After Michigan State’s season ended, a loss to Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Izzo spent the better part of three weeks in Bridges’ ear. “It was probably after our third meeting, him asking me if I really wanted to stay. I just told him, ‘Coach, I don’t want to leave. I said, ‘I actually wrote down my goals and what I want to do at Michigan State and I’m not leaving until I accomplish those goals.'”
“And really, it’s the first time that I actually got mad at coach, and he realized it.”
The dynamic doesn’t make sense.
A Hall of Fame head coach trying to convince one of, if not the best player in college basketball that he shouldn’t play for him, that returning to school would be the wrong step to take.
Part of it is self-preservation. Izzo – and Bridges – know what the former’s reputation is at the college level. Michigan State is not Kentucky. It’s not Arizona or Duke or Kansas. That’s not the school to go to if you’re goal is to jump to the NBA as quickly as possible. Fair or not, that’s the way that the way that the Spartans are viewed.
“Our program isn’t going to force anyone out,” assistant coach Dane Fife said. “Izzo gives families and kids and people that he’s close to the best information that’s available. Experts, college guys, former players. Get them the best unbiased opinions possible and let them make that choice.”
With Deyonta Davis, Michigan State lost a piece that could have changed the course of the 2016-17 season after he was taken with the first pick in the second round of the 2016 NBA Draft. With Gary Harris, it meant that the Spartans got a player back that put them in a position to make a run at the 2014 national title. Harris dropped to 19th in the 2014 NBA Draft, but he not only was the youngest sophomore to get selected – he didn’t turn 19 until November of his sophomore season, making him younger than many of the freshmen that were picked that year – that extra time on campus helped him mature and get ready to be a professional; is it a coincidence that Harris, who has earned just under $5 million in his three years in the NBA, is getting ready to sign an extension that could top $20 million annually?
“Where you get picked is your ego, not where you’re going to end up,” Izzo said, and he wanted to make sure that Bridges understood this point. The real money is made when you sign that second contract. “You’re better off being picked 7th and going to the right team than being picked first and going to the wrong one.”
“I did a three week study on him to say, ‘Are you sure?'” Izzo continued. “There’s no question in my mind, there’s no remorse. No seller’s or buyer’s remorse. He did what he wanted to do. He did it for the right reasons. It wasn’t just to win a national championship. It wasn’t just to be player of the year. To get to a Final Four. It wasn’t just to try and up his draft status. He enjoyed college, he wasn’t ready, he didn’t want to be a G League player, he wanted to be as prepared as he could be when they took him, and I feel so comfortable about that.”
The other issue that Bridges is facing is that he will be changing positions this season.
This is a topic that isn’t going to be discussed much, but part of what made Bridges just so good last season is that he is the perfect small-ball four at the college level. He’s a perimeter player with perimeter skills offensively, but he played his freshman season at 240 pounds. Combined with his athleticism, he was built for playing in the paint defensively. It created mismatches everywhere on the floor, and instead of having to go up against a team’s best perimeter defender, he was being guarded by college four men.
It was perfect.
But it won’t be the way that it works this season.
Bridges is going to be playing the three for much of the year. There will be times where matchups or foul trouble or poor play dictates that Bridges ends up playing at the four, but Michigan State’s best lineup this season will feature Bridges at the three with Cassius Winston and Josh Langford in the back court while Jaren Jackson and Nick Ward man the paint.
Offensively, it should not be that big of an issue. Bridges is going to be getting the same shots that he got last season, only they’ll be coming from different spots on the floor. Instead of, say, shooting threes as a trailer in transition or as a floor-spacing four, he’ll be coming off of down-screens and getting isolations on the wing. Instead of being the screener in ball-screen actions, he’ll be handling the ball. He also had a knack for making tough, contested shots. They’re not worried about him offensively.
Nor are they worried about Bridges in transition. Running a wing will give him more opportunity to make a play in transition, while the added depth of Michigan State’s front court means that Izzo will unleash Bridges on the offensive glass. Expect to be wowed by his athleticism at least once a week this season.
The defensive end of the floor is a different story.
Bridges has never really defended on the perimeter before. There are different reads to make, different instincts to have, different muscles to use. Bridges is going to have to be quicker, less-inclined to use his size on smaller defenders, more willing to chase a shooter around a pin-down or over the top of a ball-screen than he has been in the past. He’ll be moving a lot more than he has in the past, which is why this offseason’s no-sugar and conditioning-heavy training regimen is so important. Bridges is now a streamlined 225 pounds.
“There will be some new adjustments. The fours in most of these programs, including ours, he didn’t post up very much, he was on the perimeter the whole time, so it’s not like it’s going to be a foreign subject,” Izzo said. “Miles has the athletic ability and the brains to do it.”
“It’s my job in practice. Better passer? Work on your passing. Better ball handler? Work on your ball handling. Better shooter? Work on your shot. Stronger guy? Work in the weight room. Better defender? He ain’t going to be working on his slides down in the gym in the summer. That’s going to be done with us [in practice], and I owe him to just pound the **** out of him and get him to be a better and better defender.”
“So I don’t see that as an issue at all.”
Looking back on it, people around the Michigan State program will tell you that it makes sense that Bridges opted against the one-and-done route.
Throughout the year, he would drop hints, making off-hand remarks about his sophomore season or skipping the draft that no one really took seriously. “It was subtle stuff,” Fife said. “We thought he was joking, that he didn’t want to talk about it.” The jokes, they believed, were his way of avoiding a conversation that he wasn’t ready to have.
Here’s an example Izzo gives: There is a tradition at Michigan State where the freshmen carry the bags for the upperclassmen. One day midway through the season, Izzo looks at his crop of blue-chippers, saying, “Boy, this is going to be nice next year. You guys aren’t going to have to be carrying bags, there will be some other freshman carrying your bag. Well Miles, you’ll probably be carrying bags in the NBA.”
“Why are you trying to get rid of me?”
Leaving was never a part of his plan. Listen to Bridges tell it, and he never even realized that he had a shot to be a one-and-done player until the first game of the season, when he put up 21 points on Arizona. I know, I’m incredulous as well, but Bridges is different. He’s not into worrying about himself. He also wasn’t considered a can’t-miss, one-and-done prospect until later in his high school career. He wasn’t a Golden Boy gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as an eighth-grader.
He still views himself that way.
When I told him he was being named the NBC Sports Preseason Player of the Year, he was polite. He was gracious. And, frankly, I don’t think he cared.
“National Championship. Big Ten championship. Big Ten outright.” Those are the three goals Bridges wrote down for this season. Those are the three things he wants to accomplish in his final season in East Lansing.
“I don’t have individual goals,” he said, “because I know that individual goals will come with team accomplishment.”
And there isn’t a better way to sum up the enigma that is Miles Bridges than that.
2017-2018 NBC Sports College Basketball Preseason All-American Teams
Today, we are rolling out the NBC Sports Preseason All-American teams.
Here is how the teams were picked: Each of the four writers for College Basketball Talk submitted their all-american teams.
The votes were then tallied, players were slotted into their spot and the teams were made.
One thing that is worth noting here: We did not build these teams based on the positions that the players play.
It worked out that we did not end up with any teams that had five point guards or four centers and a power forward – we wanted them to at least look like something you could talk yourself being into a starting five – but there was no effort to make sure we had a point guard, a shooting guard, a center, etc.
Anyway, I’m sure there are plenty of you that are going to disagree with who was named or where they were placed.
So without further ado, here is the NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team.
FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA
DEVONTÉ GRAHAM, Kansas, Sr.: Graham spent the first three years of his Kansas career playing off the ball as Frank Mason III went from forgotten recruit in a class that included Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins to the NBC Sports. National Player of the Year as a senior last season. Those are the shoes that Graham is going to be asked to fill this year, and it’s not going to be easy.
But the 6-foot-1 senior has been a playmaker during college, even if he wasn’t the primary ball-handler for Kansas. He was recruited as a point guard and ranked as a four-star prospect as a point guard. I’ve always believed that being a point guard was as much a mindset as it was a skill-set, and I don’t think that mind-set goes away playing a different position for a few years. If anything, Graham’s ability to thrive in what was almost a 3-and-D role alongside Mason should make you more impressed with him as a player, not concerned about what he’ll be as a point guard.
GRAYSON ALLEN, Duke, Sr.: Go ahead. Scoff away. I know you want to. But these are the facts: As a sophomore, Allen was a second-team NBC Sports all-american, and we were far from the only ones to view him that way. As a junior, Allen was the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year – again, we were far from the only ones that picked him – before he spent the season battling ankle issues and dealing with the fallout from his inability to stop tripping people. He had offseason surgery on the ankle, and he’s now healthy, according to Mike Krzyzewski.
If Allen didn’t have all the baggage – a big if, I know – there would be nothing controversial about this take. As it stands, I’m sure we will hear more about putting Allen on the first team than we do about all of the other players on this list, combined.
ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona, Jr.: Despite missing the first 19 games of the 2016-17 season, Trier ended up last season as Arizona’s most dangerous scorer and go-to guy down the stretch of the year. He’ll almost assuredly end up being the focal point of the Arizona attack this year if, for no other reason than the simple fact that he may end up being the best scorer in college hoops next season. When you have a guy that could end up averaging 20 points for a team that is arguably the best team in the country, he gets named first-team all-american.
MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State, So.: Bridges is the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season. He’s a sensational talent, one of college basketball’s most thrilling athletes and a guy that surprised many with his decision to forego the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season. His presence is one of the biggest reasons that the Spartans are my pick to win the national title.
MICHAEL PORTER JR., Missouri, Fr.: Porter is probably the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft at this point. A 6-foot-10 wing that can play on the perimeter offensively and can guard fours, he is, quite literally, the personification of the evolution of basketball. Playing on a Missouri team that does not have a great supporting cast for him, there are a couple of factors that could end up impacting just how good his season is. The obvious question is going to be what position he plays. Porter is probably built to be a small-ball four or five at the college level, but he will likely end up playing the three this season.
The other question is going to be whether or not the Tigers are relevant nationally. I could see them being good enough to get a No. 7 seed in the NCAA tournament, but I don’t think it would be crazy to predict them to be a bottom-half of the SEC team, one that misses the NCAA tournament the same way that Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz missed the NCAA tournament. If Missouri is an NIT team, Porter likely won’t end up being a first-team all-american in March.
JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova, Jr.: This is Brunson’s year to become the star of a Villanova team that may never stop winning Big East titles. For stretches of last season, he was the best player for the Wildcats despite sharing the floor with first-team all-american Josh Hart. Brunson is everything a coach looks for in a point guard, and his impact on a game goes far beyond what shows up in the box score … and he averaged 15 points and four assists last season.
TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier, Sr.: For the first two weekends of the 2017 NCAA tournament, Bluiett was arguably the best player in the country. Hell, when he wasn’t dealing with an ankle injury, he might have been the best player in the Big East last year. A 6-foot-7 scoring machine, this will be Bluiett’s team, and with a roster that has quite a bit of young, unproven talent, Bluiett will be the one tasked carrying them for long stretches of the year. If Xavier pushes Villanova for a Big East title, he will be why.
BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame, Sr.: Bonzie Colson is a walking bucket. Standing 6-foot-5 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Colson could not be a more perfect fit for Mike Brey’s small-ball offense. He’s borderline impossible to stop one-on-one, he’s unselfish and his length allows him to play as a five despite standing just 6-foot-5. After averaging 18 points and 10 boards as a junior, Colson should no longer be a secret.
ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin, Jr.: Happ has developed into one of the nation’s best big men, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, his ability to score in the paint and pass the ball out of the post allows Wisconsin to run their offense through him. The big question with Happ is going to be his jump shot. He’s been more or less a non-shooter throughout his college career, but he’s spent the summer doing what he can to extend the range on his jumper. If he is making threes – and, frankly, free throws – this season, he may end up being the best all-around big man in college basketball.
ANGEL DELGADO, Seton Hall, Sr.: This may be the first name that college basketball fans don’t recognize, but you should. Delgado is the anchor for a Seton Hall team that should start the season ranked in the top 20 and could end up pushing Villanova and Xavier for the Big East title. A 6-foot-9 native of the Domincan Republic, Delgado was one of the toughest and most productive big men in the country last season, averaging 16 points and 14 boards in Big East play as a junior.
THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA
JOEL BERRY II, North Carolina, Sr.: The reigning Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Berry is the star leftover after Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley headed off to the NBA. We judge point guards on wins, and Berry’s led the Tar Heels to a 66-14 record the last two seasons which included a national title, a final-second loss in the national title game, two outright ACC regular season titles and an ACC tournament title. He’ll be asked to carry much more of the load this season.
BRUCE BROWN, Miami, So.: Brown is one of the nation’s best-kept secrets. He’s a powerfully-athletic, 6-foot-3 combo-guard that has added consistency to his jump shot throughout his time in Coral Gables. He should be one of the best two-way guards in college basketball for a Miami team that will give Duke and Louisville a fight for the ACC regular season title this year. Remember the name. It’s a pretty safe bet to come up again during June’s NBA Draft.
ROBERT WILLIAMS, Texas A&M, So.: The man known as Big Bob Williams – at least around these parts – shocked many when he opted to return to college for his sophomore season. Williams was something of an unknown, at least compared to the stars of the 2016 recruiting class, coming out of high school, but he quickly caught the attention of NBA folks that saw the 6-foot-10 athletic freak play. He told NBC Sports this summer that the hope of adding perimeter skill to his offensive repertoire drove his decision to return.
DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona, Fr.: Ayton is going to be a fascinating player to watch this season. On the one hand, he has all the physical tools to make him the perfect prospect for the new era of basketball. He’s 7-foot with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, he has perimeter skills and a low post game, he makes threes, he protects the rim and he’s athletic and mobile enough to handle his own defending on the perimeter. He’s a perfect small-ball five. He also has major question marks about his motor. He looked somewhere between bored and lazy for large parts of his high school tenure, but when he turned it on, he was near-unstoppable. Which one shows up for Arizona this year may determine who the No. 1 pick is in the 2018 NBA Draft, and it also could end up being who is the 2018 college basketball national champion.
MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke, Fr.: Bagley, like Ayton, is going to be another fascinating test-case. As a 6-foot-11 left-hander, Bagley is a sensational prospect with the tools to be a new-age big man. He’s very much in the mix for the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. But he also played in the high school and AAU ranks this past winter and summer, only deciding in April to make a run at getting eligible for the 2017-18 season. (He did.) He also put together a very disappointing 5-16 run through the EYBL season, which is not exactly awe-inspiring for a guy that was a year older than his competition. His fit within this Duke roster is, on paper, excellent, but this is a very young Duke team with a lot of guys accustomed to being superstars.
FOURTH TEAM ALL-AMERICA
COLLIN SEXTON, Alabama, Fr.: Sexton is going to be one of the more intriguing players to watch this season. At 6-foot-1, he was one of the best scorers in the high school ranks last year. His addition to an Alabama team that is elite defensively and struggles to score is a match made in heaven … assuming that Sexton’s ability to score translates.
JEVON CARTER, West Virginia, Sr.: You may only remember him for the hero-ball he played at the end of a loss to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, but Carter might very well end up being the Big 12 Player of the Year this season. Not only is he the best perimeter defender on this Press Virginia team, but he’s also the leading scorer for a group that can, at times struggle to get things together offensively.
CHIMEZIE METU, USC, Jr.: Metu is probably the best NBA prospect on a USC roster that is one of the most talented in the country. He doubled his production as a sophomore, but the next step this season will be to add a consistent perimeter shot to his arsenal.
JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s, Sr.: How about this for a sentence: Jock Landale does not only project as the favorite to win the WCC Player of the Year award, it looks like he might end up doing that for the WCC champs. He doesn’t play for Gonzaga. Randy Bennett has done an incredible job with big, skilled land warriors, with Landale following in the footsteps of Omar Samhan and Brad Waldow.
MO BAMBA, Texas, Fr.: Bamba is going to be one of those guys whose impact goes well beyond what you see in the box score. One of the best front court defensive prospects we’ve seen come through college hoops in years, Bamba will provide a level of rim protection that will allow Shaka Smart’s team to gamble on the perimeter more than they have in the past.
KEVAUGHN ALLEN, Florida, Jr.: Allen is something of a boom-or-bust talent. Take the NCAA tournament last season, for example: he had 11 points on 3-for-21 shooting in the first weekend combined, then popped off for 35 points against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.
MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State, Jr.: The leading returning scorer in college basketball, Daum is the rare future NBA Draft pick residing in the Summit League. How many 6-foot-9 guys do you know that average 25 points and shoot 42 percent from three?
TYLER DAVIS, Texas A&M, Jr.: There are defensive question marks with Davis, but I’m not sure there is a stronger player in college basketball. He and Big Bob Williams make up arguably the best front court in college basketball.
KEVIN KNOX, Kentucky, Fr.: Kentucky has a roster loaded with talented role players, but I’m not sure there is a star anywhere on this roster. Knox might be the closest we see to one this season.
YANTE MATEN, Georgia, Sr.: Maten is one of college basketball’s hidden gems. He might be one of the five best post players in the country, yet his presence on the Georgia roster keeps him out of view from the masses.
JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN, USC, Sr.: USC has a half-dozen players on their roster that will likely find a way to make an NBA roster at some point. I’m not sure McLaughlin is one of them, but he is arguably the most important player on the Trojan roster, one of the biggest reason they’re a preseason top ten team.
LANDRY SHAMET, Wichita State, So.: Shamet would have been a third- or fourth-team all-american this year if there was more clarity about the foot injury he’s currently dealing with.
REID TRAVIS, Stanford, Jr.: When he’s been healthy, Travis has been one of the most productive big men in college basketball the last three years. He’s also missed 35 games in a three-year career that already includes one medical redshirt.
Arizona’s Book Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland, Auburn’s Chuck Person and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans were the four coaches charged with fraud and corruption.
Managers, financial advisers and representatives of a major international sportswear company are also involved in the investigation. Jim Gatto, an executive with Adidas, was arrested, as was Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent who was fired from ASM Sports after he used a player’s credit card to run up $42,000 of charges on Uber. Munish Sood, a financial advisor, was also among the people caught up in the charges.
Since 2015, the FBI has been investigating the criminal influence of money on coaches and student-athletes who participate in intercollegiate basketball governed by the NCAA, federal authorities said.
They said the probe has revealed numerous instances in which bribes were paid by athlete advisers, including financial advisers and associate basketball coaches, to assistant and associate basketball coaches to exert influence over student-athletes so the athletes would retain the services of those paying the bribes.
In criminal complaints, investigators said basketball coaches have the ability to provide access to the student-athletes to sports agents, financial advisers, business managers and others. Person was accused of accepting money from an agent who was trying to develop a relationship with Austin Wiley in order to sign him, a sophomore on the Tigers that was a four-star prospect coming out of high school. Richardson, Bland and Evans were accused of similar crimes.
“In exchange for bribes, Evans, Richardson and Bland agreed to direct certain student-athletes under their supervision to retain the business management and financial advisory services of Dawkins, Sood and/or [cooperating witness 1],” the documents read.
Gatto, who is the director of global sports marketing for Adidas, is alleged to have funneled $100,000 to a player that can be assumed is Brian Bowen, a freshman at Louisville. He is referred to in the documents as “an all-american high school basketball player” that committed to an Adidas-sponsored school in June. Bowen committed to Louisville, an Adidas school, in June.
“Today, we became aware that federal investigators arrested an Adidas employee. We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more,” a statement from Adidas said.
“Many such coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA,” the complaints said. “The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so.”
Person was arrested in Alabama; Bland in Tampa, Florida; Evans in Oklahoma; and Richardson in Arizona.
Person, the associate head coach at Auburn University, was the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft in 1986 and was selected by the Indiana Pacers. He played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Report: Wichita State’s McDuffie out with stress fracture
Wichita State has already suffered its first loss of the season.
Markis McDuffie, the team’s leading scorer in 2017-18, is expected to be sidelined until mid-December due to a stress fracture in his foot, KWCH-TV reports.
The 6-foot-8 junior averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last year for the Shockers. The injury will likely keep McDuffie out of Wichita State’s earliest non-conference games and the Maui Invitational, but the question will be if he can be back in time to face the likes of Baylor (Dec. 2), Oklahoma State (Dec. 9) and Oklahoma (Dec. 16) before starting play in the program’s first year in the AAC.
Certainly, losing McDuffie is a blow for the Shockers, but given they return everyone from last year’s 31-win team, they should be well positioned to absorb the hit for at least the short-term. The issue, though, is the fate that met Wichita State last year has to be looming in the back of their minds. Despite winning all those games and being a top-10 KenPom squad, the Shockers garnered just a 10-seed in the NCAA tournament due to its light non-conference schedule and a Missouri Valley Conference that didn’t provide anything in the way of an RPI bump.
Wichita State should earn enough clout playing in the American this year, but a bolstered non-conference record could go a long way in solidifying the top seed they’ll be gunning for this year, which could see them as a preseason top-10 team. In the end, though, getting McDuffie healthy has to be the priority for Gregg Marshall’s group.
Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
While much of the nation doesn’t start paying attention to college basketball until after the Super Bowl, there are plenty of must-see matchups that happen starting in November, when some of the country’s best programs square off in non-conference matchups. From holiday tournaments to neutral-site spectacles to on-campus clashes, the 2017-18 season has some great non-league offerings.
1. Duke vs. Michigan State – Champions Classic (Chicago) – Nov. 14 (7 p.m.): The Champions Classic never fails to deliver, and this season it’s giving the country the top-two teams in NBC Sports’ preseason Top 25 squaring off in the first week of the season. This game has it all, from national title contenders to a National Player of the Year favorite (Miles Bridges) to a potential No. 1 2018 NBA Draft pick (Marvin Bagley III) to everyone’s favorite villain (Grayson Allen). This is as can’t miss as can’t miss gets.
2. Kentucky vs. Kansas – Champions Classic (Chicago) – Nov. 14 (9:30 p.m.): Another pair of top-five teams will clash in the nightcap at the United Center when the Wildcats and Jayhawks tangle. It’ll also be the country’s first chance to evaluate what figure to be immensely talented but somewhat mysterious rosters. Kentucky surely has the players, though the fit, once again mostly who shoots it, questionable. Kansas is just downright weird. There will be a whole season to play after this game, but it should provide a hint to how good – or flawed – both of these Final Four hopefuls are.
3. PK80 (Portland) – Nov. 23-26: The 80th birthday present Nike founder Phil Knight is throwing himself might be the most anticipated tournament (non-Big Dance division) in the sport’s history. It features 13 of the sport’s biggest brands. Plus Portland and Portland State. And DePaul, courtesy of Georgetown’s ducking real competition in Patrick Ewing’s debut season. The field may not be as strong as hoped when it was announced last year, but it’s still going to provide awesome matchups that are so rare in non-conference hoops. Spend your Thanksgiving in Portland. You won’t be disappointed.
4. UCLA vs. Kentucky (New Orleans) – Dec. 23 (4 p.m.): Christmas comes early in New Orleans with a replay of two of the more anticipated/enjoyed games of 2016-17. Both teams have overturned their rosters since the Ball vs. Fox Family War of Words, but both will probably be ranked in the top-15 come late December and two of college basketball’s most storied programs squaring off is always appointment television. The only downside here is that with the storied gyms of Pauley Pavilion and Rupp Arena at their disposal, the two powerhouse programs instead are playing at Smoothie King Center. Remember, this is all about the student-athlete.
5. Kentucky at West Virginia – SEC/Big 12 Challenge – Jan. 27 (4:30 or 7 p.m.): The schedule of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge is kind of silly, plopping it right in the middle of the conference season (though less so than the Big Ten’s schedule gymnastics), but getting John Calipari vs. Bob Huggins is fantastic, no matter when it happens. Given that it’s happening on-campus in Morgantown between two teams that could be ranked in the top-10 at the time, it’s reason to celebrate.
6.. Louisville at Kentucky – Dec. 29 (1 p.m.): Two top-10 teams, two bitter in-state rivals and one on-campus game. Good on these two programs, and lucky for us.
7. Seton Hall at Louisville – Billy Minardi Classic – Dec. 3 (4 p.m.): Everyone will know going into the season how strong the Cardinals are, but Seton Hall may be a bit overlooked, even if they open the year as a top-20 team. The Pirates have a really fun group that includes Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez. They’re going to make some noise in the Big East, and they’ll have a chance to announce their intentions in early December.
8. Cincinnati vs. Florida – Never Forget Tribute Classic (Newark, N.J.) – Dec. 9 : The Bearcats return a ton from a 30-win team and the Gators’ roster is mainly unchanged after last year’s Elite 8 run. Two veteran teams with major aspirations will be taking the floor with their eyes on maybe moving a seed-line with a resume-boosting win.
9. Villanova vs. Gonzaga (New York) – Dec. 5 (7 p.m.): Some of the biggest names from last season’s rosters are gone from both of these teams, but the programs remain two of the best in the country and this year’s teams will be no slouches. The Josh Perkins/Jalen Brunson matchup is worth tuning into all by itself.
10. Miami at Minnesota – Big Ten/ACC Challenge – Nov. 29 (9 p.m.): This may not look like a top-10 game at first blush, but both the Hurricanes and Gophers are going to have serious teams this year. Jim Larranaga’s squad is going to have guards galore while Richard Pitino brings back nearly everyone from last year’s squad, by far the best he’s had in Minneapolis. This easily could be a matchup of top-10 teams.
11. Cincinnati at UCLA – Dec. 16 (3:30 p.m.): Both the Bearcats and Bruins have solid non-conference schedules this season, and this matchup will be among the best for both.
12. Cincinnati at Xavier – Dec. 2 (Noon): The Crosstown Shootout is a must-see every year, and with the Bearcats and Musketeers set to be top-20 teams, this year’s no different.
13. Alabama at Arizona – Dec. 9 : There will be a ton of talent on display in Tucson with DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier and Rawle Atkins on the Wildcats’ side and freshman Collin Sexton for the Crimson Tide.
14. Notre Dame at Michigan State – ACC/Big Ten Challenge – Nov. 30 (7 p.m.): Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is one of the sport’s highest-flyers while Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson gets his while barely ever leaving the floor. Having them on the same court at the same time offers great contrast – and probably a lot of buckets.
15. Virginia Tech at Kentucky – Dec. 16 (2 p.m.): Zach LeDay and Seth Allen are gone, but Buzz Williams’ team should still have enough to give Kentucky trouble in Rupp Arena.
16. Texas at VCU – Dec. 5 (6 p.m.): Shaka Smart returns to Richmond just over two years after leaving the Rams for the Longhorns in what is sure to be an emotional trip. Plus, it’s a chance to watch Mo Bamba, who very well could be a top-five draft pick come June.
17. Indiana at Louisville – Dec. 9 (2 p.m.): The Hoosiers may not be a national contender this year, but it’s Archie Miller’s first foray into the Indiana/Kentucky hoops battles, even if it’s not with his program’s traditional southern rival.
18. Texas A&M vs. West Virginia – Armed Forces Classic (Ramstein-Miesenbach, German) – Nov. 10 (6 p.m.): The Mountaineers and Aggies tip off the hoops season overseas at the Ramstein Air Base with Robert Williams leading the way for the Aggies.
19. Wichita State at Baylor – Dec. 2 (2 p.m.): Gregg Marshall might have his best team ever with the Shockers with everyone back from last year’s squad that finished in the KenPom top-10 despite just getting a 10-seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bears lost Johnathan Motley, but with Manu Lecomte and Jo Lual-Acuil back, Scott Drew should have Baylor in the top-25
20. Missouri vs. Illinois (St. Louis) – Dec. 23: This is one of probably two high-profile non-conference games for Michael Porter, Jr. to showcase his potential top-pick talent, plus it pits Mizzou’s Jeremiah Tilmon against the program he initially committed to before defecting to the Tigers ahead of Brad Underwood’s first year in Champaign.
21. Butler at Maryland – Gavitt Games – Nov. 15 (8:30 p.m.): Another first-week gem that has the Bulldogs heading to College Park to face Justin Jackson and the Terps.
22. Duke at Indiana – ACC/Big Ten Challenge – Nov. 29 (9:30 p.m.): The Blue Devils visit Assembly Hall for just the second time ever and the first since the 2005-06 season.
23. Arizona vs. Texas A&M (Phoenix) – Dec. 5 (10 p.m.): DeAndre Ayton vs. Robert Williams. That should be fun.
24. Baylor at Florida – SEC/Big 12 Challenge – Jan. 27 : The SEC/BIg 12 Challenge is stocked with awesome matchups, but this one has a chance to be a good one.
25. South Dakota State at Kansas – Nov. 17 (8 p.m.): The Jackrabbits’ Mike Daum is a potential All-American. He’s got a chance to build some November hype at Allen Fieldhouse.