Al Bello/Getty Images

Seven pressing questions for the Selection Committee

Leave a comment

1. Where is Duke going to get seeded?: The Blue Devils have the look of a No. 1 seed. They just steam-rolled through the ACC tournament, picking up wins over Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in the span on three days. That brings their tally of top 50 wins this season to 13, the most in the country. Eight of those 13 wins came away from Cameron Indoor. They have eight top 25 wins, six of which came away from home. They have four top ten wins, three of which came away from home.

The concern for Duke is their overall record. No No. 1 seed has ever had eight losses to their name before, but it is worth noting that Duke has dealt with as many injuries as anyone in college hoops this season. Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Harry Giles III, Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have all missed time. Considering that Duke is now fully healthy and rolling, will that factor into the committee’s decision-making process? Will that be enough to close the gap between the Blue Devils and North Carolina? Will it be enough to slot Duke over Gonzaga or Arizona?

My guess?

It will not. Duke ends up as the No. 2 seed in the East, setting up a thrilling potential showdown with No. 1 overall seed Villanova.

2. This would mean that Gonzaga has to be the No. 1 seed out west, right?: It should. For all the talk about how weak the conference is that Gonzaga plays in, they’re sitting here on Selection Sunday with six top 25 wins. Arizona, who won the Pac-12 tournament and a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, has just three top 25 wins and five top 50 wins. Five of Gonzaga’s six top 25 wins came away from home, and one of them came against Arizona on a neutral floor, albeit without Allonzo Trier. I just don’t see anyway that you can look at Arizona’s profile and Gonzaga’s profile and think that the Wildcats are more deserving of a No. 1 seed than the Bulldogs.

3. So who, then, is the top-seeded Pac-12 team?: This is still an under-discussed story line as we careen towards the Selection Show. Only one of the three Pac-12 teams is going to end up being slotted in the West Region. The favorite probably has to be Arizona, as the Wildcats won the Pac-12 tournament, a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and a pair of games against UCLA this season, but the Bruins have more — and better — top 10 and top 50 wins, including a win at Kentucky. I would lean towards Arizona getting the No. 2 seed out west because of their wins over UCLA, the fact that the Bruins played a poor non-conference schedule and the way Arizona has looked since Trier returned from his suspension.

The x-factor in that conversation is Oregon, who will be fascinating in their own right. The Ducks won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and, since Dillon Brooks got healthy, have looked like the best team in the league for long stretches of the season. But Oregon just lost Chris Boucher for the tournament to a torn ACL. Boucher was averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 boards and 2.5 blocks, but Oregon looked fine in their loss to Arizona on Saturday night.

Sean Miller (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. How does the committee value the Big East teams?: Villanova should probably end up being the No. 1 overall seed. Butler, who swept Villanova this season, will probably be a top four seed. But beyond that, every other Big East tournament team is fascinating. Creighton made the finals of the Big East tournament despite playing without Mo Watson, who tore his ACL, but the Bluejays are just 7-8 since Watson’s injury. Xavier won two games in the Big East tournament, including a win over Butler in the quarterfinals, but that was their first win over a team not named DePaul since Feb. 4th. They are just 6-7 since they lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL.

But here’s the kicker: the three Big East bubble teams — Seton Hall, Providence and Marquette — all bolstered their résumé with wins over Creighton and Xavier after those injuries. Marquette has four wins over those two teams in the last seven weeks. I don’t think that will be enough to keep those teams out of the tournament, but I do think that it could end up affecting where they get seeded.

5. Where does Wichita State get seeded?: The Shockers are currently, as of this exact moment, ranked eighth on KenPom. Eighth. As in No. 8. In the country. KenPom is widely considered the most accurate metric for ranking teams in college hoops circles, which should tell you just how good this team is. But they haven’t actually done anything during the season to back those numbers up. They only have two top 65 wins on the season, and both of those came against Illinois State, who may not get to the NCAA tournament. How about this for a thought: If Wichita State ends up as a No. 10 seed, they could end up being favored in both the first round and second round game against the No. 2 seed. The current No. 2 seeds in our latest bracket are Kentucky, Arizona, Duke and Oregon. Kentucky is the only one rated above Wichita State on KenPom.

6. Will Syracuse get a bid?: The Orange have quickly turned into one of the most polarizing bubble teams in the country. On the one hand, they have six top 50 wins to their name, including wins over Duke, Florida State and Virginia. On the other hand, all six of their top 50 wins came at home, and they are just 2-11 away from the Carrier Dome this season. The Orange also have lost to Boston College, Georgetown, UConn and St. John’s, the latter of which came at home by 33 points. Their best road win is Clemson, who finished 6-12 in the ACC, or N.C. State, who finished 13th. They lost at Boston College, who finished at the bottom of the conference. Will that be enough?

7. Where will Purdue get seeded?: The Big Ten is going to get seven teams into the tournament and actually rates higher in the metrics than the league did last year, but the reason the league feels down this season is that there just isn’t anyone in the conference that feels like a true title contender. That includes Purdue, the regular season champ who bowed out of the Big Ten tournament in the quarterfinal. The committee showed us during the bracket reveal in February that they didn’t have much respect for the Big Ten, so it will be interesting to see where they decide to slot the Boilermakers.

Arizona State lands four-star guard Luguentz Dort

Leave a comment

Arizona State landed a huge commitment on Wednesday night as four-star guard Lugentz Dort pledged to the Sun Devils.

The second commitment for Arizona State in the Class of 2018 in less than a week, the 6-foot-3 Dort is a big-time athlete on the perimeter as he selected the Sun Devils over his other finalists of Baylor and Oregon. Dort took official visits to all three schools during the process.

One of the better shooting guards in the 2018 class, Dort is a physically-imposing guard who should be ready to immediately contribute in the Pac-12.

Dort joins Finnish shooting guard Elias Valtonen in the Arizona State Class of 2018 recruiting haul.

Oregon sued by former recruit who tore ACL during official visit

(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The University of Oregon and members of the men’s basketball staff, including head coach Dana Altman, are being sued by a former recruit who tore his ACL during an official visit to campus.

Crisshawn Clark, a junior guard at Portland, suffered his injury during an official visit to the Ducks which began on Oct. 16, 2015. At the time, Clark was a junior college recruit at Canada College and he suffered the injury as Oregon assistant coach Mike Mennenga ran him through a basketball workout during the visit. Clark was treated by an Oregon trainer, and after the injury was believed to be serious, an MRI confirmed a torn ACL.

Clark eventually committed to Pitt and sat out last season rehabbing his knee before ending up at Portland.

Even though Clark had a bad knee injury that required surgery, he is not seeking money for medical expenses. Clark’s lawsuit said that his medical expenses were paid for by Oregon. But Clark is suing for compensation for pain and suffering along with damages for the loss of future income. Clark estimates it will be over $100,000. And he might have a case.

That’s because the lawsuit alleges that Oregon violated an NCAA rule that prohibits on-campus evaluations of prospective student-athletes who are playing at a junior college. Oregon self-reported this violation in Oct. 2015, according to a report from Jack Pitcher of the Daily Emerald, citing athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton. The NCAA classified this as a level 3 violation.

If Clark was put through an illegal workout by Oregon — who admitted to violating a rule by self-reporting — then he might have a case. Along with Altman and Mennenga, Oregon assistant coaches Kevin Mckenna and Tony Stubblefield are also named in the lawsuit along with Oregon director of basketball operations Josh Jamieson.

Clark is sitting out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules as he is hoping for two years of eligibility after. Due to his torn ACL, Clark and Portland can apply for an extra year of eligibility for the 2019-20 season.

(H/t: Jack Pitcher, Daily Emerald)

Rick Pitino received subpoena in FBI’s college basketball probe

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1 Comment

Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has received a subpoena in the FBI’s college basketball bribery scandal, his lawyer told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Wednesday.

Pitino’s lawyer, Steve Pence, confirmed the subpoena as Pitino joins Miami head coach Jim Larranaga as coaches to receive a subpoena this week in the FBI’s probe. Those two head coaches join Auburn, Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC as the six known subpoenas, so far, in the case.

“We’ve already acknowledged that the coach has a subpoena and he’s gathering documents for the … U.S. attorney,” Pence said of Pitino to the Courier-Journal.

While it was known that Pitino had voluntarily spoken with the FBI thanks to an affidavit submitted to the University of Louisville Athletic Association in a packet from Pitino’s lawyers earlier this week, the subpoena was not mentioned, according to the Courier-Journal. The packet also included results of a lie detector test and copies of text messages.

The subpoena for Pitino doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but coupled with the report of Larranaga’s subpoena, it sounds like the FBI is taking the next steps in its case.

Report: Miami coach Jim Larranaga receives grand jury subpoena for FBI’s college basketball investigation

(AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
Leave a comment

Miami head coach Jim Larranaga has received a grand jury subpoena as the FBI continues its investigation into corruption in college basketball. According to Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Larranaga received a subpoena for texts, emails and other items.

Larranaga’s attorneys told Fenno that the veteran head coach has done nothing wrong. “There’s nothing there,” Larranaga’s attorney said to Fenno. “We’re trying to get them to admit they made a mistake and move on.”

While Larranaga and Miami have previously cooperated with the FBI in turning over phone records and documents in a report from Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel on Oct. 3, the news of a subpoena makes things far more serious.

FBI documents about the scandal don’t specifically mention Larranaga or Miami by name but the school was identified as one of the universities referenced with Adidas allegedly paying players. Miami confirmed the FBI investigation on Sept. 27, stating, “We have confirmed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that, at this time, it is investigating a potential tie to one member of our coaching staff and a student recruit.”

One wiretapped conversation, according to the FBI’s investigation, included a discussion into how much money it would take for a top recruit — believed to be North Carolina 2018 commit Nassir Little — to play at Miami as part of a bidding war.

Patriot League Preview: Can anyone challenge Bucknell?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Patriot League.

The 2016-17 season in the Patriot League was one dominated by the Bucknell Bison, with Nathan Davis’ team winning the regular season title for the sixth time in the last seven years. Led by Patriot League Player and Defensive Player of the Year Nana Foulland, the Bison were the best team in the league with regards to both offensive and defensive efficiency and won the regular season title by three games. After winning 26 games and reaching the NCAA tournament as a 13-seed, the question for Bucknell entering the 2017-18 season is what can this group do for an encore.

The good news for Bucknell is that all four double-digit scorers from last season, led by Foulland and forward Zach Thomas, are back on campus. Foulland averaged 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game last season, with the versatile Thomas leading the Bison in scoring with an average of 15.9 points per contest. Add in guards Stephen Brown and Kimbal Mackenzie, and Bucknell has a rotation that won’t lack for talent or experience.

Given Bucknell’s recent track record and their returning contributors, there’s a simple question for the rest of the Patriot League: which team is best equipped to make a run at the Bison? One could argue that up to four teams are in the conversation, with there not being much to separate them on paper.

Despite losing an outstanding front court presence in Tim Kempton and another productive senior on guard Austin Price, Lehigh is one of those teams. Head coach Dr. Brett Reed will call upon an experienced backcourt to lead the way, with junior Kyle Leufroy averaging nearly 12 points per game last season and senior Kahron Ross leading the league in assists last season. The Mountain Hawks also add one of the Patriot League’s top newcomers in guard Lance Tejada, who sat out last season as a transfer after playing the first two seasons of his college career at East Carolina. With regard to the front court, the progression of sophomore forward Pat Andree will be key if Lehigh is to threaten Bucknell.

Also in the mix is Colgate, with head coach Matt Langel welcoming back six players who made at least 14 starts a season ago. At the top of that list are sophomore forward Will Rayman and senior guard Sean O’Brien, with Rayman being the Patriot League’s top freshman last season. In Rayman, O’Brien and Jordan Swopshire the Raiders return three double-digit scorers, and if Colgate can become a more efficient team on both ends of the floor look out.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

Navy and Boston University should also be heard from in the Patriot League conversation, with the Midshipmen being led by senior guard Shawn Anderson. Ed DeChellis’ team won’t lack for depth, with the team’s top five scorers from a season ago back in Annapolis. As for the Terriers, Boston University has to account for the loss of two of the Patriot League’s best players in Eric Fanning and Justin Alston but the cupboard isn’t bare. Guards Cedric Hankerson and Cheddi Mosely return, as does all-rookie team forward Tyler Scanlon, which should make for a good foundation on which to build a possible contender.

Loyola (MD), Lafayette and Army West Point will look to fight their way into the upper half of the Patriot League standings, with the Greyhounds returning one of the Patriot League’s best guards in senior Andre Walker. Lafayette returns three of its top four scorers, led by the Patriot League’s top returning scorer in senior forward Matt Klinewski. And in his second season as the head coach at Army West Point, Jimmy Allen will look to make strides with a team that won 13 games in 2016-17. Guard Jordan Fox is back for his junior season, and in total five of Army’s top six scorers are back.

American, which won just eight games last season, returns its top two scorers in sophomores Sa’eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini. However, the Eagles do have to account for the loss of one of the top defenders in the Patriot League in wing Charlie Jones. Holy Cross, which won 15 games last season, will have to account for the loss of its top two scorers in Robert Champion and Malachi Alexander. Head coach Bill Carmody will look to juniors Karl Charles and Pat Benzan to step forward, but with no seniors on this season’s roster it will take the Crusaders some time to develop into a Patriot League contender.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nana Foulland, Bucknell

Not only was Foulland the Patriot League’s best player in 2016-17, but he was also its best defender. Foulland averaged 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a junior, shooting 63.0 percent from the field.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM

  • Kahron Ross, Lehigh: Ross led the Patriot League in assists (5.3 apg) last season while also scoring nearly ten points per game. With Tim Kempton gone, Ross will have more opportunities to score within the Lehigh offense.
  • Andre Walker, Loyola (MD): Walker averaged 14.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per night for the Greyhounds last season, and he also shot 38.0 percent from three.
  • Shawn Anderson, Navy: The 6-foot-4 senior guard saw his field goal percentage dip as a junior (41.8 percent after shooting nearly 50 percent as a sophomore), but he still averaged 12.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per night.
  • Zach Thomas, Bucknell: Thomas led the Bison in scoring (15.9 ppg) last season, while also averaging 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per night. His ability to score both inside and out will be key for Bucknell.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @PL_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Bucknell
2. Lehigh
3. Colgate
4. Navy
5. Boston University
6. Loyola (MD)
7. Lafayette
8. Army West Point
9. American
10. Holy Cross