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Weekend Preview: Four story lines to follow

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1. The rest of the N.C. State season will be awkward?: Mark Gottfried was fired by the university on Thursday, which didn’t come as a surprise. Smoke was rising, and the Wolfpack were sinking. They were 14-13 and 3-11 in the ACC following a 24-point home loss to North Carolina, which followed a 30-point loss to Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are 13th in a 14 team ACC and have lost six straight since their upset win at Duke.

And all of that came after a 16-17 season in 2015-17.

So no, it wasn’t a surprise that Gottfried was let go by the university. What was mildly surprising, however, was that he and athletic director Debbie Yow agreed that he would be able to coach out the rest of the season, four regular season games and N.C. State’s trip to the NCAA tournament, which means that I now am rooting for one thing and one thing only: N.C. State to make the NCAA tournament.

Seriously.

Think about how awesome that would be.

The lame-duck head coach, the one that’s been to four NCAA tournaments in five-plus years in Raleigh, rallies a group that has the talent to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament after he already received his pink slip. I feel pretty confident saying that has never happened before in the history of the sport, and I also feel pretty confident saying that it will be make things in Raleigh even more awkward.

Some sportswriters root for the best story. Me? I root for chaos, and how could anything be more chaotic than what would happen at N.C. State if Gottfried gets them back into the NCAA tournament?

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2. The Big Ten title race will see some movement: The way things currently stand, Wisconsin, Maryland and Purdue are all tied for first place in the Big Ten with five games remaining. On Sunday, Wisconsin and Maryland square off, meaning that there will be, at most, two teams in the league of the conference come Monday morning. Purdue gets Michigan State at home in a game that the Spartans badly need if they’re going to get into the NCAA tournament.

The x-factor here? Bronson Koening is not healthy. He played just 15 minutes in the loss at home against Northwestern. He didn’t play in Thursday’s loss at Michigan. Maryland, on the other hand, got 30 points out of Melo Trimble in Wednesday night’s win at Northwestern.

Is it possible that Wisconsin, who led the Big Ten by two full games last Sunday, will be out of first place just one week later?

3. Kansas vs. Baylor: A top five battle between the two teams at the top of the Big 12 standings? Yes, please.

There is a lot to go over with this matchup – we do that here – but there are two specific story lines that need to be tracked in this game. First and foremost is the streak. Kansas, obviously, has won 12 straight Big 12 regular season titles, and they’re currently up two games on Baylor in the Big 12 standings. A win on Saturday would give them the outright Big 12 title barring the kind of collapse we only see out of Iowa.

The other side of it, however, is that Baylor is still fighting for a No. 1 seed, but the Bears have lost three of their last five games – including games against Kansas State and Texas Tech – and are no longer a lock for that top seed line, not with the top of the ACC surging. Beating the Jayhawks would be a nice way to keep themselves as a No. 1 seed while also making the Big 12 race relevant down the stretch of the season.

4. Is Kentucky back in their groove?: Two weeks ago, Kentucky bounced back from a stretch where they lost three out of four games by beating a terrible LSU team at home by seven points, a game where they hemorrhaged 58 points second half points.

That convinced Coach Cal to run through a three-hour practice that focused entirely on the defensive side of the ball, and the response has been two wins in a row, at Alabama and at home over Tennessee. On Saturday, the Wildcats pay a visit to Georgia, who was the only team that Kentucky was able to beat in that four-game stretch. That win came at home, in overtime and as a direct result of Malik Monk going absolutely bonkers in the second half.

The Bulldogs are a better team than their record might indicate. Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier may be the best 1-2 punch in the conference. This game will be the test that lets us know if the Wildcats are back to being the team we saw earlier in the season.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.

2017 NBA Mock Draft: Post Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline

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Last week, the fearless leaders of Pro Basketball Talk and College Basketball Talk joined forces to put together a comprehensive mock of the first round of the NBA Draft.

That podcast was recorded prior to the NBA Draft Lottery, which took place last week, and the NCAA’s deadline for underclassmen to return to school, which was Wednesday night at midnight. At a later date, we’ll roll through the updated draft order more in depth, but for now, here is a new mock draft based on the order the teams will actually be picking in.

At the bottom of this post you can find the original podcast, with all of our prospect analysis and thought processes for each team’s draft needs:

1. BOSTON (via Brooklyn) – Markelle Fultz, PG, Washington
2. LAKERS – Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
3. PHILADELPHIA – Josh Jackson, SF, Kansas
4. PHOENIX – De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
5. SACRAMENTO – Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
6. ORLANDO – Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
7. MINNESOTA – Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona
8. NEW YORK – Frank Ntilikina, PG, France
9. DALLAS – Jonathan Isaac, PF, Florida State
10. SACRAMENTO (via New Orleans) – Dennis Smith Jr., PG, N.C. State
11. CHARLOTTE – Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga
12. DETROIT –  Donovan Mitchell, CG, Louisville
13. DENVER – O.G. Anunoby, SF, Indiana
14. MIAMI – Justin Jackson, SG, North Carolina
15. PORTLAND – Jarrett Allen, C, Texas
16. CHICAGO – Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
17. MILWAUKEE – Justin Patton, C, Creighton
18. INDIANA – John Collins, C, Wake Forest
19. ATLANTA – Terrence Ferguson, SG, Austrailia
20. PORTLAND (via Memphis) – Ike Anigbogu, C, UCLA
21. OKLAHOMA CITY – Semi Ojeleye, PF, SMU
22. BROOKLYN (via Washington) – Isaiah Hartenstein, C, Lithuania
23. TORONTO (via Clippers) – Harry Giles III, C, Duke
24. UTAH – T.J. Leaf, PF, UCLA
25. ORLANDO (via Toronto) – Tyler Lydon, PF, Syracuse
26. PORTLAND (via Cleveland) – Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal
27. BROOKLYN (via Boston) – Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky
28. LAKERS (via Houston) – Rodions Kurucs, SF, Barcelona
29. SAN ANTONIO – Jonathan Jeanne, C, France
30. UTAH (via Golden State) – D.J. Wilson, PF, Michigan

 

AP: University of New Mexico spending under review

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The state Auditor’s Office is reviewing the spending of public money by the University of New Mexico’s athletic department on a 2015 golf trip to Scotland that included the athletic director, other employees and boosters, the agency confirmed Wednesday.

The review comes as the state’s universities and colleges are being forced to consider tuition increases and other cuts as New Mexico grapples with a budget crisis.

Athletic director Paul Krebs is drawing criticism as more details about the international junket emerge following a series of public records requests filed by journalists, some of which netted documents with large swaths of information that had been blacked out.

Krebs has said the $65,000 trip was meant to strengthen relationships with donors, but critics argue that it should have been paid for by the university’s independent fundraising arm, not with athletic department money.

Albuquerque television station KRQE reported this week that Krebs revealed to the university’s acting president that public money was used to pay for the trips of at least three boosters.

The university told the Albuquerque Journal () that possible discipline against Krebs was being considered.

President Chaouki Abdallah said Wednesday he’s looking forward to a timely process and that UNM will cooperate fully with the auditor’s review.

Athletics spokesman Frank Mercogliano said the department and Krebs, who was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday, would cooperate with the review.

University officials were focused Wednesday on a budget summit as the Legislature began a special session aimed at restoring funding for all higher education in the state.

The spending on the golf trip by UNM has raised questions about possible violations of the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits state entities from making gifts to private citizens.

Justine Freeman, a spokeswoman with Auditor Tim Keller’s office, said the findings of the review will be made public once the investigators’ work is complete.

It was not immediately clear how long the review will take. The auditor’s office has been looking into the matter for at least three weeks.

Records show the golf trip cost about $39,000 for Krebs, former men’s basketball coach Craig Neal and Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey, but the university did not reveal what it paid for the private donors to attend the trip and initially recorded the trip as a basketball tournament in Ireland.

Abdallah told the television station that Krebs came to him and acknowledged that UNM picked up the tab for the boosters. He described it as a serious omission.

“This is not where university funds should be spent,” he said. “I want the public to know that in the future we will not be using university funds for such activities.”

Krebs said in a statement that UNM had not planned to pay for the donors’ trips in 2015 and that the situation “has to be corrected.” He acknowledged that the original plan was to be reimbursed for the travel costs but that a review of documents showed that never happened.

“The public and our fans put their trust in us, and the only way to keep that trust is to admit when an error is made, to rectify it, and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

No Kentucky vs. Kansas as SEC/Big 12 Challenge matchups released

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The matchups for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge were released on Thursday morning. All the games will be played on Saturday, January 27th, and there are some pretty enticing matchups involved here.

It’s worth noting: Kentucky and Kansas will not be playing each other in the Challenge this year. That’s because they are playing in the Champions Classic this season, which means that we’ll get Kentucky and John Calipari making the trip up to Morgantown to take on Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers, a game that will have an overabundance of defense, physicality, athleticism, turnovers and missed shots.

It will be ugly, but it will be fun.

Kansas will host former Big 12 member Texas A&M, a team that is going to sneak up on some people with Robert Williams back in the fold and, finally, with a point guard on the roster.

Other notables:

– Florida is a top ten team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 while Baylor sits at No. 25.

– Alabama is a preseason top 25 team while Oklahoma, who struggled last season to replace Buddy Hield, will show off why Lon Kruger is one of the most underrated coaches in the business.

– Missouri was not selected. They finished at the bottom of the SEC last season but they added Michael Porter Jr., a preseason first team NBC Sports all-american.

Here are all the matchups:

  • Baylor at Florida
  • Tennessee at Iowa State
  • Texas A&M at Kansas
  • Georgia at Kansas State
  • Oklahoma at Alabama
  • Oklahoma State at Arkansas
  • TCU at Vanderbilt
  • Mississippi at Texas
  • Texas Tech at South Carolina
  • Kentucky at West Virginia