Duncan Robinson, of D-III Williams College, considering transfer to Michigan, Davidson

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In March, Williams College (Massachusetts) reached the Division III national championship game behind 30 points and six rebounds from first-year forward Duncan Robinson in a 98-69 national semifinal win over rival Amherst College. The next night, Robinson scored 17, but the Ephs came up short, falling to Wisconsin-Whitewater, 75-73, in the final second.

Following a freshman season where he averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 45 percent from three, Robinson, the D-III National Rookie of the Year, made the decision to explore his options after Williams head coach Mike Maker accepted the job at Marist. Robinson was immediately contacted by schools in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, Atlantic 10, Ivy League, Patriot League and American East. Some called him just to check in, others called to offer him.

RELATED: How borderline Division I recruits fight for scholarships in July

While returning to Williams for a sophomore season is still very much a possibility, Robinson will take visits to Michigan and Davidson within the next week, he told NBCSports, making him the most interesting transfer in college basketball this season. Four months ago, Robinson was suiting up for a small liberal arts school tucked in the corner of northwestern Massachussetts. Now, he is being pursued by a D-I program two years removed from a national championship game appearance.

“I really made the decision that the only schools that were worth leaving Williams — because I value Williams so much — would be a school that competes at a really high level and one that is great academically,” Robinson said on Tuesday evening. “With that in mind, I weeded out a lot of those options and it came down to those two.”

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Duncan Robinson (AP)

Robinson will visit Davidson, the newest member of the Atlantic 10, from Aug. 1-2, followed by Michigan on Aug. 4-6. Worth noting here: from 2005-2007, Maker was an assistant to John Beilein at West Virginia.

“By no means is Williams out of the question. I loved my past year there,” Robinson added. “That’s why these visits are so important because it’s going to take a lot to pull me away from such a special place like Williams.”

Less than two years ago, Robinson had interest from multiple schools in the Ivy League and Patriot League, but none of those programs pulled the trigger and offered him. He did, however, have a scholarship waiting for him at Division II Merrimack College. In September of 2012, during the first month of his postgraduate year at Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire), he pledged his commitment — upon acceptance — to Williams while on a campus visit.

“Those (Division I) teams were there all July, following us play,” said Michael Crotty Jr., coach of the Middlesex Magic, Robinson’s AAU team. Robinson spent that summer playing alongside Stony Brook’s Chris Braley and Princeton’s Pete Miller.

“He played well,” Crotty added. “He battled one injury that limited him a little bit. He played well enough, in my opinion, to be recruited more heavily by those schools. But he was 6-foot-6, 175-pounds.”

Robinson, now a 6-foot-8, 195-pound wing, was recruited by Williams the hardest, according to Crotty. By the start of January 2013, some of those schools from the summer made more of a push, but by then it was too late.

“At that point, he was very, very happy with his decision,” Crotty added. “I don’t think there was a school that came after him that would have changed his mind.”

Williams College is ranked as the top liberal arts college in the country by the U.S. News and World Report. It’s a perennial Division III powerhouse with tremendous fan support. It’s also not uncommon for players from Williams, and other standouts from around the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), to find opportunities to play overseas once their college careers are over. Crotty, a two-time All-American and a member of Williams’ national championship team in 2003, went on to play one season in Germany. He was a 6-foot point guard. Robinson is a 6-foot-8 knockdown shooter.

On July 19, Kevin App, a former assistant at Cornell and Army, who also spent one season on the Williams coaching staff under Maker, was named the Ephs next head coach. It didn’t take long for him to travel to New Castle, New Hampshire for a dinner with Robinson and his mother.

“Coach App is a very nice guy, and knows a ton about basketball,” Robinson added. “He’s been great with me. First thing I did was explain to him my situation and he’s been very accepting of that.”

A decision will come shortly after Robinson returns home from Ann Arbor. It’s a close battle between the allure of Division I basketball and the environment he’s enjoyed so much at Williams College, playing for a competitive team that was one-second shy of a national championship.

“There’s definitely a big part of me that wants to chase after that national title,” he said. “That’s another key reason why Williams is still very much in the mix. At the same time, I kind of have to weigh my options and see if a school like Michigan or Davidson brings something to the table that outweighs that unfinished business that I might be leaving behind.”

Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

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