Former Boise State forward Joey Nebeker disputes school statement regarding his departure

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Boise State’s announcement on Wednesday that seldom-used players Joey Nebeker and Edmunds Dukulis would be leaving the program had the look of more than a few departures that take place every spring. A player who didn’t see much playing time makes the decision to transfer, with an eye towards more playing time at another school.

It happens quite often, and the rising number of transfers in recent years has led some to use the word “epidemic” in describing the state of affairs.

However, according to BJ Rains of the Idaho Press-Tribune, Nebeker has argued that he did not want to leave and was forced out by the program.

Nebeker said Rice told him during a meeting earlier this week that his scholarship wouldn’t be renewed following the end of the current semester.

“He informed me that he’s going to cut me because he doesn’t think I’m good enough to play at this level,” Nebeker said during a phone conversation. “Basically, that’s the reason he gave me. I was shocked.

“I feel a little cheated. I didn’t get the opportunity I deserved and was promised.”

Situations like this are tough, primarily due to the fact that scholarships are one-year renewable. That means a program can decide to not renew an athlete’s scholarship for whatever reason, whether the reason is deemed “fair” or not. Nebeker was behind a group of players that included veterans such as Thomas Bropleh and Anthony Drmic, making it understandably difficult to earn playing time last season.

Unfortunately the lack of opportunity can happen at the college level, with the season being a “fluid situation” in which a coaching staff’s desires change based on how the year’s going and who’s next on the schedule. However, it’s possible that Boise State could have helped Nebeker and Dukulis earn the opportunity to play at another Division I school without penalty if Nebeker’s account is accurate.

Back in February John Infante wrote this story on the “run off waiver,” which was enacted back in 2012. Essentially, if a player released meets the following three conditions he can earn immediate eligibility without having to drop a level:

  1. Documentation demonstrating that the student-athlete would not have had the opportunity to return to the previous institution’s team for reasons outside the control of the student-athlete.

  2. A written statement from the applicant institution that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and meets all progress-toward-degree requirements at applicant institution.

  3. A written statement from the student-athlete’s previous institution indicating that the previous institution supports the request.

Based on the conditions above it may be difficult to get a school to go along with this, as it could have a negative impact on recruiting. But on the other side of the argument is the idea that helping an athlete who had little chance of earning significant playing time do so elsewhere would be a positive for the program.

What’s next for Nebeker and Dukulis? That remains to be seen. As for Boise State, junior college guard Montigo Alford accepted the program’s last available scholarship on Thursday.

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.