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Dana Altman deserves to be fired for mess at Oregon

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Dana Altman needs to be fired.

I’ll explain why in a minute, but before I do, let me set the stage for you.

Altman, the Oregon head coach, finally spoke publicly about the rape accusations against three of his players on Friday evening, just a few hours after school President Michael Gottfredson made it official that Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin were kicked off of the basketball team.

Altman’s first public comments about investigation came four days after the police report detailing the alleged victim’s graphic accusations went public and almost two months after the incident occurred. More than anything, there were two questions the public was waiting for Altman and Oregon to answer:

  • Why was Brandon Austin, who had a sexual assault allegation at Providence hanging over his head, allowed to transfer into the school and the program?
  • When was Altman made aware of the latest allegations against his three players, and when did he discover the details of what the victim was claiming happened?

And quite frankly, neither answer was in anyway satisfactory.

Let’s start with the first question.

Austin was the only one of the three players that did not play in a game for the Ducks after the alleged incident occurred. That’s because he’s currently sitting out as a transfer. He left Providence after one semester because he had been suspended for the year. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that Austin’s suspension was centered on an accusation that he sexually assaulted a woman in the fall. But it was known in basketball circles well before that.

On Friday, during his press conference, Altman said that he was unaware that Austin’s issue was an alleged sexual assault.

I’m not buying it.

Austin announced his transfer to Oregon on Jan. 7. He was suspended by the college for the entire year in late-December. Austin’s issue at Providence was a sexual assault allegation known by a number of people weeks prior to the suspension. I had multiple conversations about it before Providence announced he was suspended for the year, enough so that, when the Wall Street Journal’s report came out in March, I was shocked that this wasn’t already public knowledge.

If that’s what I was hearing, if those were the conversations that I was having, then I am positive Altman was hearing the same. He had to have known that a sexual assault allegation was Austin’s trouble at Providence.

That brings me to the second question: when did Altman know about the incident at Oregon and when did he find out specifics of which his players were being accused?

Altman said that he was made aware “the day before we left to go to Milwaukee [for the NCAA tournament]” of an “incident” had happened with some of his players when he was told by AD Rob Mullens. That would have been March 17th. He said he wasn’t told details of the accusations and was not privy to the identity of the players involved.

Let’s rewind here.

Oregon released their timeline of the investigation on Tuesday evening. The incident occurred on March 8th. Oregon admitted in a statement last week that they were made aware of the sexual assault allegations when the father of the victim called the school on March 9th. The alleged victim went to the Eugene PD on March 13th.

But Dana Altman didn’t find out about the incident or the allegations until March 17, after Artis and Dotson played in the Pac-12 tournament? Until the day before they were going to take off and play in the NCAA tournament? I find it hard to believe that, in a college town like Eugene, three basketball players could be accused of sexual assault and two different police departments, including the UOPD, could find out while the head coach stays in the dark for eight days.

But I’m cynical. I know that. I can admit that it’s possible word never made it back to Altman.

So I’ll take it a step further: Altman said that he did not have the details of the allegations or the identities of the players confirmed before the start of the NCAA tournament on March 20, which I find problematic.

It’s inconceivable for a college basketball coach to be made aware that a player on his or her team has a legal issue and for that coach not to figure out which player it is. Whether it’s to help them, to guide them, to make sure they have legal representation, to suspend them if, you know, they’re accused of forcible rape with two other teammates, it doesn’t matter. These are still student-athletes, right? These are kids that are supposed to become adults with the help of the coaches they play for, aren’t they? Isn’t that the ideal we’re going for here?

Moreover, I simply do not believe that a coach like Altman — or any coach at any level in any sport — would proceed to go about his business like nothing was wrong after he was made aware of an “incident” being investigated by the police that involved players on his team that was severe enough that it made it all the way back to his athletic director. Because that’s the story Altman is pitching here. His AD told him about the police investigation — and their request that Oregon pause their internal investigation, a topic I’ll get to in a minute — and, instead of finding out who was involved and how serious this “incident” was, he … went back to watching film?

Shouldn’t a coach want to know? Shouldn’t he be wondering which players on the roster managed to get themselves into trouble at the most important time of the year for a college basketball team? That shouldn’t be ignored.

But hey, maybe this is the way it played out. Maybe Altman is telling the truth here. All I’m saying is that I find it hard to believe Altman when he says he did not know the nature of the investigation and the identities of the players involved before the start of the tournament, in part because it would be the second lie that he told during that press conference on Friday.

And even if he is telling the truth, if he and his staff continued to prepare for the NCAA tournament as if three members of his team weren’t involved in an investigation being conducted by the police that he was clueless about, than that means that Altman was not on top of things the way a high-major college basketball coach should be on top of things.

Here’s something else that doesn’t add up: Altman’s stance is that he and Oregon did not look into the incident at all because they were specifically asked not to do so by the Eugene PD. According to the university, they explicitly asked the Eugene PD whether or not they should keep any players from participating in the NCAA tournament, to which they were told “to do what they normally would do regarding who plays and who doesn’t.”

That sounds good, but Melinda McLaughlin, a Eugene PD spokesperson, told The Oregonian that “police are not going to be concerned about who participates in a sporting event” and that they gave the school no specific instruction regarding playing time for the kids being investigated. That report was confirmed by KEZI9, a television station in Eugene.

Oh.

At best, there was a miscommunication between Oregon and the Eugene PD, and when dealing with sexual assault allegations and postseason tournament games that net coaches — like Dana Altman — five figure bonuses, miscommunications cannot happen. When a best-case scenario could be a fireable offense, you don’t want to think about a worst-case scenario.

If Altman is willing to lie publicly, as I believe he is, about knowingly accepting a transfer that had been suspended after being accused of sexual assault, why should we believe anything else that he is saying?

And if we can’t believe him about when he knew about the accusation, when he knew about the identity of the players being accused, or what the Eugene PD told him to do, than he shouldn’t be the head coach at Oregon anymore.

Dana Altman needs to be fired.

No. 22 Butler ruins No. 2 Villanova’s seniors’ perfect Pavilion record

Butler center Nate Fowler and Villanova forward Eric Paschall, right, vie for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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All Villanova players have known since they joined the program is winning at The Pavilion. Late into Wednesday’s game against No. 22 Butler, it looked like that would continue to be their only frame of reference for a group of seniors that were 45-0 in the building.

Then another ‘0’ turned that zero into a ‘1.’

The Bulldogs ripped off an 18-0 run in a 5-minute span to ultimately claim a 74-66 victory over second-ranked and defending national champion Villanova.

Villanova looked like it was going to cruise to another home win when Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the Wildcats up 49-42.

They wouldn’t score again until nearly the 4-minute mark.

During that span, Butler made 7 of 11 shots, with three being 3-pointers, while the Wildcats went 0 of 6 from the field and turned the ball over twice.

A seven-point lead for Villanova became an 11-point advantage for Butler. Villanova would try to rally, but couldn’t pull it off as it saw its home winning run stopped, its seniors’ perfect Pavilion record blemished and its seven-game winning streak come to a halt.

Beyond it probably being immensely annoying to the senior class, the loss probably doesn’t hurt Villanova too much as it looks to hold on to a No. 1 seed, preferably in the East region. The Wildcats’ resume is still as strong as nearly anyone in the country and they are, after all, the defending champs. They’ll be fine.

For Butler, it’s a signature win for a team that’s had a number of really good victories, but a few confounding losses, like St. John’s on the road and to Creighton (without Maurice Watson) and Georgetown at home. Beating Villanova – at the Pavilion, no less – could be worth a seed line.

Kelan Martin was fantastic for Butler, going for 23 points and eight boards, while Kamar Baldwin went for 15 points off the bench.

Jalen Brunson led the way for Villanova with 24 points while Josh Hart had 18 points and six rebounds. Kris Jenkins struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor while scoring eight points.

The Wildcats get a chance to start a new streak at the Pavilion on Saturday with Creighton coming to town.

 

No. 8 North Carolina stakes their claim to the title of ‘nation’s best’ with beatdown of No. 7 Louisville

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 22:  Theo Pinson #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play against the Louisville Cardinals during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 22, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina may not have anyone on their roster that sends chills down the spine of opposing coaches, and they may not have anyone on their roster that is going to be targeted by NBA franchises as lottery pick, and they may not be dominating the headlines like undefeated Gonzaga, reigning champ Villanova, winner of 13 straight Big 12 titles Kansas or even Tobacco Road rival Duke.

They’re not a sexy pick, they’re not the favorite in Vegas and they may finally crack the No. 1 seed line in all bracket projections after beating No. 7 Louisville 74-63 on Wednesday night, but at this point, I’m not sure that the Tar Heels aren’t the best team in college basketball.

‘The Best Team In College Basketball’ is not an easy title to earn this season, not because there are too many candidates but more because everyone of those candidates have some kind of glaring flaw that makes you wonder have they’ve made it to late-February with a winning record. Think: UCLA’s defense. Or maybe: Kansas’ total lack of front court depth. How about: Kentucky can’t shoot. And then there’s: Duke doesn’t have a point guard, or: Gonzaga doesn’t play anyone.

We can play that game with every team in the country.

In fact, I did, just last week on a podcast.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

North Carolina didn’t escape our wrath. There are question marks about Joel Berry II’s consistency, as he had a nasty habit of laying an egg every once in a while. Is that defense going to hold up for six games in a single-elimination tournament? Do they have enough consistent three-point shooting? Can Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson stay healthy?

Here’s the thing: I think the answer to all those questions is ‘yes’.

Justin Jackson has developed into a bonafide all-american and quite possibly the ACC Player of the Year. He’s a versatile scorer that is shooting the grip off the ball and has proven the ability to be the guy to take and make big shots for the Tar Heels this season. That’s taken some of the pressure off of Berry, who can spend more time as a secondary offensive weapon, facilitator and a leader than having to worry about carrying the team offensively. Theo Pinson’s return has opened some things up offensively, while UNC’s four-headed front court monster — Kennedy Meeks, Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye — have shown that they can score in the post or off of a missed shot, where they lead the nation on offensive rebounding percentage.

And as far as the defense is concerned, they’re ranked 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency by KenPom.com. Yes, a lot of that has to do with the pistol-whipping that was Gameday on Saturday night against Virginia, but Louisville, who was the third-best offensive team in ACC play, managed just 63 points in 73 possessions on Wednesday.

My point?

That defense doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be good enough, and it probably is.

But here’s the most important number to know: Two.

That’s how big North Carolina’s lead in the ACC is as of today. Louisville, Duke, Florida State and Notre Dame have all lost five times this year. As long as the Tar Heels can go into Pittsburgh and get a win over the Panthers, they are going to clinch a share of the ACC regular season, and they can lock up the outright league title before the showdown with the Dukies on the season’s final night.

The margins are thin, yes, but after Wednesday, North Carolina has as much claim to the title of ‘Nation’s Best’ as anyone in college basketball.

VIDEO: UNC fan ejected after heated exchange with Rick Pitino

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A UNC fan sitting court side in the Dean Dome on Wednesday was ejected from No. 8 North Carolina’s win over No. 7 Louisville after getting in a heated verbal exchange with Rick Pitino.

Cell phone video posted by a reporter attending the game showed Pitino having to be held back by members of his staff. According to ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor, who said she heard what the fan said, the line that set Pitino off was, “Pitino you suck.”

Bubble Banter: California, TCU and Syracuse with critical games tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears stands on the court during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon State Beavers at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see listed below come from. 

This post will be updated throughout the night.

WINNERS

Syracuse (RPI: 84, KenPom: 48, first four out): Did the Orange just lock up their NCAA tournament bid? It’s going to be close, after John Gillon banked in a 23-foot three at the buzzer to send No. 10 Duke back to Durham with a loss. Here’s how it stands for the Orange: They’s 17-12 on the season and guaranteed to finish at least .500 in ACC play. They now have six top 50 wins and nine top 100 wins, but they also have three losses to sub-100 teams, 12 total losses and they play at Louisville on Saturday. The road hasn’t been kind to Syracuse, either; they’ve won just two roadies this season, at N.C. State and at Clemson.

Providence (RPI: 69, KenPom: 58, first four out): All of a sudden, Providence is one of the most interesting bubble teams in the country. Last week they beat Butler and Xavier at home, and on Wednesday night, they went into Creighton and picked off the Bluejays. The Friars are now 17-11 on the season with five top 50 wins, including three in the top 25. They are 8-8 against the top 100, but the problem is that they have one sub-100 loss and two more sub-200 losses, which is really, really bad. They won the games that they had to win to get themselves into this position, but I still would strongly recommend that they win out down the stretch.

Seton Hall (RPI: 47, KenPom: 59, play-in game): I think the Pirates may have just punched their ticket to the tournament as they beat Xavier at home on Wednesday. They have four top 50 wins — two away from home — and seven top 100 wins with just a single sub-100 loss. I won’t say they’re a lock because a loss to DePaul would not be good for them.

Wake Forest (RPI: 40, KenPom: 31, next four out): The Demon Deacons are still in the tournament picture after landing a comeback win over Pitt on Wednesday night, but they have some work left to do. They have no bad losses and seven top 100 wins, but that 1-9 record against the top 50 is an eyesore. They get Louisville at home next week. That’s a game they have to have.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 51, No. 9 seed): Arkansas kept themselves away from the danger of the cutline and just about locked up a bid with a win over Texas A&M on Wednesday. With three games left, and one of those three at Florida, it will be hard for the Razorbacks to miss the dance at this point. But this is also a team that lost to Missouri. They can pull anything off.

Michigan (RPI: 52, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed): The Wolverines avoided disaster on Wednesday night using a late rally to avoid what would’ve been a killer of a loss at Rutgers. They were already in the tournament with a little bit of room to spare entering today, and this win — however ugly it was — doesn’t hurt that.

VCU (RPI: 26, KenPom: 41, No. 9 seed): The Rams beat Saint Louis on Wednesday night, which means that they didn’t lose to the Billikens. They are close to a lock by now, because two of their last three games are at Rhode Island and at Dayton — neither of which is a bad loss — and they close with GW at home. Even if they lose out, I think it will be hard for roughly ten teams to jump them in the bubble standings.

TCU (RPI: 54, KenPom: 43, play-in game): There’s no shame in losing at Kansas, which TCU did on Wednesday night, but they did miss out on an opportunity to land a résumé-defining win. The Horned Frogs are just 2-8 against the top 50 with just five top 100 wins, which isn’t a bad profile but it is one that lacks enough depth to feel anywhere near comfortable.

Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 50, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds beat Southern Illinois, so they’re still in the mix. But with just one top 75 win and three sub-100 losses, it’s going to be hard to get in if they don’t get that MVC automatic bid.

LOSERS

Cal (RPI: 39, KenPom: 47, No. 10 seed): Cal is probably still safe after losing at home to No. 6 Oregon on Wednesday, but it sure isn’t going to feel good that they were up by 15 and blew a lead in a game that would have cemented their status as an at-large team. As it stands, Cuonzo Martin’s team is 18-9 on the season without a single bad loss, but they’re only 1-7 against the top 50, their only win over a tournament team is USC and they may not play another RPI top 100 team this season. Don’t lose anymore.

Kansas State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed): Bruce Weber really just cannot make this easy on himself. Kansas State lost for the seventh time in the last nine games on Wednesday, falling at home to Oklahoma State. The Wildcats have just four top 100 wins, but three of those are top 30 wins, two of them are on the road and one of those is at Baylor. That’s enough to keep them on the cut line for now, but with at Oklahoma, at TCU and Texas Tech left, I would urge them to find a way to turn this slump around.

Tennessee (RPI: 50, KenPom: 42, first four out): The Vols may have finally played themselves off the bubble — which is an exceedingly difficult thing to do this season — by losing at home to Vanderbilt. In fact, I think I would go as far as to say that the Commodores now have a better chance of getting an at-large bid than Tennessee.

Pitt (RPI: 59, KenPom: , next four out): Pitt was in the picture because the bubble is trash. They had a chance to land a nice win at a Wake Forest team that has really good computer numbers … and then blew a 19 point lead. I can’t see them getting an at-large bid at this point.

 

VIDEO: Brooks hits 3-pointer with 0.2 left to lift Oregon past Cal

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Dillon Brooks did it earlier against UCLA. Wednesday, he added Cal to his list.

The Oregon junior hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 left on the clock to give the sixth-ranked Ducks a 68-65 victory over the Bears after trailing by as many as 16 in the second half.

It’s the second time this season that Brooks, who finished with 22 points, has hit a game-winning three, and this one keeps the Ducks within a game of first-place Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.

The bigger story here may actually be Cal, as the Golden Bears gave away a 15-point lead in the final 10 minutes and a 10-point lead in the final five minutes in a game they desperately needed to win for their at-large résumé. Cal is just 1-7 against the RPI top 50 this season, and while they don’t have any bad losses to their name, this was their last chance to land a marquee win before the Pac-12 tournament.

I don’t think they’re in danger of missing the dance just yet, but I would not recommend tempting fate and losing down the stretch of the season.