Varez Ward

Former Auburn guard Varez Ward may avoid going to trial in point-shaving case

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Just over four months after being indicted on charges of bribery and conspiracy in connection with a point-shaving scandal, it looks as if there’s a chance that former Auburn guard Varez Ward could avoid being tried. According to the Associated Press, Ward’s attorneys have requested that Ward be entered into a pre-trial diversion program and the U.S. attorney’s office in Montgomery is recommending that this route be taken.

Whether or not Ward actually avoids trial will be determined by the United States Probation Office and a federal judge, but this should be seen as a positive development for Ward.

[Federal prosecutor Clark] Morris said the program usually involves a fine and community service under the supervision of a probation officer. The charges are dismissed, but the defendant can be charged again if he doesn’t complete the program, she said.

The game in question was a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on January 19, 2012, in which Ward came off the bench but fell to the ground 19 seconds later due to an apparent leg injury. Just over a month later Ward, who began his collegiate career at Texas, was suspended for the remainder of the season and ultimately did not play another game for the Tigers.

This is the second point-shaving case in college basketball that has gone to court this offseason, with former San Diego guard Brandon Johnson being sentenced to six months in prison back in March. Johnson, who is USD’s all-time leader in points and assists, participated in a point-shaving operation during the 2009-10 season. In total five men, including a former assistant coach at San Diego, were convicted in that case.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.