Kyle O'Quinn celebrates after Norfolk State upset No. 2 seed Missouri in 2012, AP Photo

How new Division I power structure affects college hoops

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source: AP
Kyle O’Quinn celebrates after Norfolk State upset No. 2 seed Missouri in 2012, AP Photo

The NCAA’s Board of Directors on Thursday voted to change the way that Division I legislation is structured. Put simply, the Power 5 conferences — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC — now have autonomy; they can make and change rules that will apply to them as they see fit.

The biggest reason for this change is to allow the schools that can afford to provide their student athletes with more compensation, things like a stipend that will provide these players with a full cost-of-attendance scholarship, loosening the rules regarding contact between athletes and agents, and allowing for the schools to pay for travel for athletes’ families to attend games.

At a time when the movement regarding the rights of student-athletes and the wrongs of the NCAA’s antiquated concept of amateurism has never been stronger, this is a step in the right direction. It will allow the schools that can give their players more the ability to do so.

It means the rich will get richer, so to speak. If schools outside the Power 5 conferences didn’t already have enough trouble recruiting against the best programs in the country, some of the changes that will come as a result of this change will make it even harder. All else equal, if a recruit is picking between two schools he likes equally and one of them can (legally) give him a couple of thousand dollars extra to cover expenses, will fly his parents to and from games, and will let him get advice from an agent while he’s still in college, where do you think he’s going to go?

Will this end up changing college basketball all that much?

Frankly, no. I don’t think it will for a few reasons:

  • 1. The best programs in the country are already going to be landing the best players in the country. Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas and Duke are annually hauling in the nation’s best recruiting classes. McDonalds All-Americans are almost always going to end up at a power conference school because, frankly, that’s where the best basketball gets played.
  • 2. There are a limited number of spots at programs in the Power 5 conferences. Arizona can only have 13 scholarship players, and only five of them can be on the court at once. Not many kids are going to want to sit on the bench just so they have their books paid for.
  • 3. Along those same lines, how many recruits will choose to go to, say, Rutgers over UConn or Mississippi State over Memphis because of a full cost-of-attendance scholarship or some advice from an agent? You don’t think those power programs outside the power conferences have ways of making sure their athletes can get the money they need? You don’t think there are already agents working with a lot of those kids? The real difference is that these rule changes allows them to do those things without having to cover their tracks.
  • 4. How many programs outside the Power 5 conferences legitimately compete with the Power 5 conferences for recruits? How many can consistently land top 50 and top 100 caliber talent? The top half of the American, the top half of the Big East, the top half of the Mountain West, for starters. Toss in VCU, Wichita State, Gonzaga, and BYU as well. That’s, what, 20 schools, max? In other words, Davidson is still going to be getting the same kids. Saint Mary’s is still going to be getting the same kids. Saint Louis, George Washington, Central Florida, Colorado State. Those programs are still going to be looking for the right fit that falls throughs the cracks.
  • 5. If those 20 or so schools that compete for top 100 kids really feel they’re at a disadvantage, they can adopt the rules that the Power 5 conferences put into place. The only thing that San Diego State or UNLV is excluded from is the voting process. They don’t have a say in the matter, but they can pay those stipends if they feel they need to in order to compete.

But here is the most important point: What makes college basketball so popular and so special is the NCAA tournament, the way that a cinderella can appear out of nowhere. Butler and VCU became elite programs because of their tournament success. Florida-Gulf Coast, and to a lesser extent schools like Lehigh and Mercer, were put on the map nationally because they went out and won games as low seeds in the tournament despite the fact that they don’t have a roster stocked with top 100 players.

There’s nothing that we love more than seeing a group of kids destined to be doctors and lawyers and teachers, kids that are too slow or too small or not athletic enough to shoot their way past a handful of first-round picks. And as long as the NCAA tournament remains a single-elimination tournament, those upsets are still going to happen. A stipend wasn’t going to stop George Mason back in 2006. A full cost-of-attendance scholarship wouldn’t have saved Missouri from Norfolk State.

The Magic of March isn’t going anywhere, and as long as it doesn’t, college basketball is going to be just as entertaining and popular as ever.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.

Duke’s Azura Stevens transfers to UConn

Duke's Azura Stevens (11) steals the ball from North Carolina A&T's Kenya Hailey, right, as Duke's Ka'lia Johnson watches during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 2, 2015, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
(AP Photo/Ellen Ozier)
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) Azura Stevens, the leading scorer and rebounder for Duke, has decided to transfer to UConn.

The 6-foot-6 sophomore center from Raleigh, North Carolina will sit out next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining when the 2017-18 season begins the school announced Saturday.

Stevens averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and was named to the ACC’s all-conference first team.

She was second in the league both scoring and rebounding.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Saturday that he normally doesn’t get involved in transfer situations, but Stevens convinced him that Storrs would be the right place for her going forward.

Beachem says he’ll be back at Notre Dame for senior season

Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem reacts during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin in the regional semifinals of the men's NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 25, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Forward V.J. Beachem has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

Beachem made the announcement Sunday night on Twitter, writing that he was thankful for the opportunity to experience the NBA draft process and invitations to work out for teams, “but now I’m ready to lead [Notre Dame]. #IMBACK.”

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 12.0 points and 3.9 rebounds as the Irish finished 24-12. He was at his best in the NCAA Tournament, when he averaged 17.5 points as the Irish advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight year.

Coach Mike Brey sent a Tweet saying he was thrilled Beachem will return.