Weekend Preview: Saturday’s slate is thrilling from noon until midnight

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado, 11:30 p.m. Sat. (all times eastern)

A pair of former Big 12 rivals square off out in Las Vegas as Marcus Smart will lead his Cowboys into battle with Tad Boyle’s impressive Colorado squad. The Buffaloes have already split with the other two Big 12 favorites, beating Kansas at the buzzer at home and losing to Colorado on the season’s opening night. The key for them will be slowing down Marcus Smart, who will likely match up against Spencer Dinwiddie as the nation’s two biggest point guards will square off.

That’s not the only game of the night in Sin City, however. The undercard pits Marquette and New Mexico, two teams that have been a bit disappointing early on this season and that desperately need a win with league play right around the corner. The Lobos will reportedly be without starting guard Hugh Greenwood, and the Golden Eagles have the size up front with Chris Otule and Davante Gardner to matchup with Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: BYU at No. 13 Oregon, 10:30 p.m. Sat.

I’m not quite sure just how good either of these teams are yet. With BYU, I tend to lean towards the negative. They can’t defend well enough and Matt Carlino is not Jimmer Fredette no matter how badly he wants to be him. It’s the opposite with Oregon, who is undefeated on the season despite playing the first nine games without Dominic Artis and Ben Carter. They’re getting better.

So why is this a game of the weekend? Because there are going to be a ton of points scored as both teams love to get up and down the floor and shoot plenty of three-balls.

FIVE MORE TO KEEP AN EYE ON:

  • Georgetown at No. 18 Kansas, 12:00 p.m. Sat.: The Hoyas head to Lawrence where they will get a first-hand  look at Bill Self’s star duo of Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. It will be interesting to see how Embiid functions getting bodied by Georgetown’s Joshua Smith. The Hoyas have not yet played their best basketball this season.
  • Belmont at No. 19 Kentucky, 12:00 p.m. Sat.: When North Carolina was going through some things, Belmont was the team that made it cool for people to beat them. Right now Kentucky is going through some things. Will Belmont be the trend setters again?
  • Illinois vs. No. 23 Missouri, 5:30 p.m. Sat.: One of the best non-conference rivalries in the country, and it just so happens that both teams really, really need the win. Should I mention both teams have a strong perimeter attack? This should be fun.
  • Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. Sat.: Notre Dame’s got a really strong perimeter, even if they haven’t exactly played that way yet this season. But Ohio State’s perimeter is simply tenacious defensively. Not even the Irish are good enough to break that down.
  • Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m. Sat.:

WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?

  • No. 22 UMass vs. Florida State, 2:00 p.m. Sat.: Florida State, when they want to, can really defend. They’re playing at home. They’ve beaten VCU and Georgetown this season. The Seminoles aren’t bad, and this will be a road test (it’s a “neutral site” game in Florida) for UMass.
  • No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m. Sat.: I honestly don’t think Kansas State is all that good this season, but Gonzaga can be beaten by teams with tough defenders in the back court if Sam Dower and Przemerk Karnowski get into foul trouble.
  • No. 5 Michigan State at Texas, 4:00 p.m. Sat.: Is Texas for real? They are 10-1 on the season and coming off of a win at North Carolina this week. The real test, however, will be taking on this Michigan State team at home. The Spartans are banged up right now. These are the games that Big 12 contenders win.
  • Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 4:30 p.m. Sat.: North Carolina playing another unranked team? Gotta be a loss, right?
  • No. 10 UConn at Washington, 3:30 p.m. Sun.: Washington will actually matchup well with UConn. Washington doesn’t have any size up front, and neither does UConn. If they can stop Shabazz, UConn is very beatable.

FIVE MORE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) The Gorverner’s Cup, which features Hampton and James Madison in the opening game and Virginia Tech taking on VCU in the nightcap, will be aired on NBC Sports Network and the NBC Sports Live Extra App on Saturday. Festivities kick off at 3:00 p.m.

2) The Diamond Head Classic launches on Sunday night out in Hawaii. The most interesting first round matchup is the first game of the day: No. 17 Iowa State vs. George Mason at 5:30 p.m.

3) UAB heads to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Saturday afternoon. This will be a good gauge game for both teams, as the Blazers are looking to build on the North Carolina win while LSU is a sleeper in the SEC.

4) Cal heads to Omaha to take on Creighton at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Both teams really need the win.

5) Two good under-the-radar games: Utah State hosts UC-Santa Barbara at 10:30 Friday, while Buffalo heads to Manhattan for a 3:00 p.m. tip Saturday.

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.