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.

Minnesota center to miss a month

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 7: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Illinois State Redbirds and Fred VanVleet #23 of the Wichita State Shockers fight for control of a loose ball during the MVC Basketball Tournament Semifinals at the Scottrade Center on March 7, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Minnesota’s projected starting center is sidelined, but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

Reggie Lynch, the Illinois State transfer, had surgery on his left knee, the program announced on Friday night. According to Marcus R. Fuller of the Star-Tribune, the Golden Gophers are anticipating that Lynch is available for the season opener on Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The 6-foot-10 Lynch has been in the news this offseason prior to his impending debut with Minnesota. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. On August 1, the Hennepin County attorney’s office was announced he would not face charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Lynch spent two seasons at Illinois State, averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for the Redbirds as a sophomore. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Minnesota is coming off a second-to-last place finish in the Big Ten with an 8-23 (2-16 Big Ten) record.

Women’s hoops coaches boycotting recruiting events

DENVER, CO - MARCH 31:  Head coach Muffet McGraw of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish directs her team during practice prior to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Pepsi Center on March 31, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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For some high-major women’s basketball programs, the final evaluation period of 2016 is being used as a vacation from the recruiting trail.

According to a report from Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated, are not attending events during this weekend’s recruiting period for a host of reasons.

First, many are fed up with the price of tournament packets, booklets of rosters that college coaches receive upon paying their entry fee. Packets are supposed to be chock-full of contact information for the prospects, but sometimes aren’t accurate or up-to-date. (This has become a well-documented issue on the men’s side of college hoops. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish wrote on it this summer.) Furthermore, there are so many events now that college coaches are often forced to pay obscene amounts of money to watch just one player at a single event, and play recruiting hopscotch around the country, criss-crossing the nation to see so many events and spend thousands of dollars. One Power Five coach said her staff crunched the numbers, and found that in just two years, they’ve spent more than $4,000 more than they did in 2014 on packets alone. Another coach told a story of sending an assistant across the country for one day, to one event, to watch one team. When the assistant arrived, the team had left early for its next event. No refund was available for the college that had paid what turned out to be a useless entry fee. The head coach called it “exasperating.”

Jeff Borzello of ESPN, who spoke to Notre Dame head coach and eventual Hall of Famer Muffet McGraw for his report, estimated that the cost for one of the coaches packets — the ones that include player contact information, rosters, etc. — can cost each school an average of $600 per event.

This era of grassroots basketball has taken off in recent years with Nike, Under Armour and adidas all creating their own sponsored leagues. All three run exceptional events from the staff to the facilities, all the way to the three, free meals a day for coaches. Organizers of these events will argue that there’s a cost to running such high-end events. These packets, some of which are so in-depth they include players’ GPAs, help fund these tournaments (events, paying a staff, etc.).

Coaches, mostly mid to low-major coaches, will argue that these packets aren’t worth the cost, considering that every coach (head and assistant) must purchase them in order to gain entrance. And you will find packets where the information inside is either inaccurate, or missing or both. For elite programs, this isn’t an issue. You show up, you’re seen, you leave, you go to the next event, repeat. For mid to low-major coaches, this really puts a dent in their budget, especially when they have to travel to multiple events (buying packets at each one) because you have to land that “steal,” you have to find that player who is overlooked.

This protest, or boycott (or whatever you want to call it) will hurt those these events are intended to help the most: the players. If coaches continue to avoid these tournaments, that late-bloomer may miss out on a scholarship, or that player with mid-major offers won’t get the chance to play in front of high-major coaches.

According to Schnell, there is a proposal, voted on in April, to eliminate a live recruiting period in April and September. But many coaches in women’s basketball have made it clear this weekend how they feel about the issue.

USC lands commitment from three-star center

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USC added to its 2017 recruiting class with a commitment from a 7-foot big man.

Andy Enfield and the Trojans beat out Florida, Vanderbilt and Tennessee for the services of Calvary Christian Academy (Florida) center Victor Uyaelunmo. He announced his college decision on Friday afternoon.

“It was the best fit for me academically and athletically,” Uyaelunmo said according to David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. “The basketball coaches really wanted me to come, and I thought it was the best place for me.

“They told me how they were going to use me, and they have a couple of guys leaving this year, so I just fit in right.”

Uyaelunmo is regarded as a three-star prospect by Rivals, however, ESPN rates him a four-star recruit. He joins a two-man class which includes four-star forward Jordan Usher.

The departure of Nikola Jovanovic, the Trojans’ leading rebounder during the 2015-16, was a surprising one, and one that left USC with a hole in the middle. While Uyaelunmo still has one more year before arriving on the Los Angeles campus, the Trojans have a promising piece in the paint for the future; a long, athletic big man who has the potential, in time, to become one of the nation’s top shot blockers.

Uyaelunmo played for Nike South Beach in the EYBL this spring and summer. In 12 appearances, he averaged 5.0 points. 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 block in 17.6 minutes per game.

VIDEO: Rupp Arena’s new video board arrives

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Rupp Arena is getting a makeover. Take a peak as the new video board arrives and is put together:

Five-star freshman ruled ineligible to play for Villanova this season

Jay Wright
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Omari Spellman will not be eligible to play for Villanova this season, the school announced on Friday morning.

“We are extremely disappointed for Omari,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “While we don’t agree with the NCAA’s decision, we are members of the association and respect it. We understand why the NCAA felt it had to rule this way.”

“We will make a positive out of this for Omari. He will concentrate on his academics and individual development this season. In the long run Omari will be a better student and player for this experience.”

Spellman is a top 20 recruit that played for St. Thomas More this past season. At 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, Spellman was going to be counted on to play a major role in replacing Daniel Ochefu, the 6-foot-11 center that graduated this past spring. Without Spellman, Villanova will have to rely on inconsistent senior Darryl Reynolds to man their front line.

It is worth noting, however, that Reynolds did average 9.0 points and 10.6 boards in three games Ochefu missed last year. That was the first time in his career that he was given consistent minutes.

Spellman will be allowed to continue to practice with Villanova as he takes an academic redshirt.