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Georgetown’s pathetic schedule is a symptom of larger, systemic issues in college basketball

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On Tuesday, Georgetown released the worst non-conference schedule that I’ve seen in 10 years of covering college basketball.

It’s atrocious. By one metric, it’s the second-worst non-conference schedule in the KenPom era, which dates all the way back to 2002. They play seven teams that ranked 320th or lower in KenPom last season. That’s hard to do.

But, as I wrote yesterday, it’s happening for a reason: the Hoyas are trying to stack up wins in a year where new head coach Patrick Ewing knows they aren’t going to be very good. It’s better to finish around .500 in a year where you go 3-15 in the Big East than it is to play a tough schedule and win just eight games. In three years, when it comes time to decide whether or not the Hoya legend should be on the hot seat, no one is going to be thinking about how tough the schedule was. They’re going to be referencing his win-loss record.

Gary Parrish over at CBS Sports wrote a similar column, but he made a salient point that needs to be addressed: This kind of scheduling is at the core of what’s ailing college basketball.

Considering just how many Division I basketball teams there are, the number of relevant college basketball games during November and December are miniscule. There are a few exempt events around Thanksgiving, events that are played at neutral sites in exotic locales with almost no one in the crowd, and maybe two dozen marquee games played between top 25 teams, but the overwhelming majority of games that are played prior to the start of the conference season by the best teams in the country are completely non-competitive.

Part of it is so that these coaches can point to their streak of winning 20 games in a season to try and earn an extension. But the more relevant part of it is because the university needs to sell season ticket packages; generally speaking, athletic directors require college basketball coaches to schedule seven or eight home games, and the only way to get that many home games when every high major program in the country is dealing with this same issue is to load up on buy games.

In other words, pay a team that has no chance of winning a game in your building somewhere between $50,000-$100,000 to fly into town, taking a beating and then head home, check in hand.

Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville each did that six times last season. Kansas four times. Michigan State seven times. We can go on and on.

That’s the way that the system works, and it’s where the idea of “exploitation” within college athletics really comes into play.

I don’t love using that word in regards to some of the unfair rules and operating procedures of the NCAA. I believe many college athletes on scholarship are getting a pretty good deal. I also believe that many, maybe even a majority, are getting less than they deserve. I can say that I believe a full cost-of-attendance scholarship, a sizable stipend and the removal of amateurism rules is what would actually be fair while saying that there’s enough value in getting a college education paid for to make “exploitation” too strong in most cases.

But when it comes to buy games?

It’s uncomfortable on both sides of the aisle.

On the one hand, the players on the power conference rosters are playing relatively value-less games because their school needs to be able to provide a supply for season ticket holders to spend their money on, which means there’s enough of a budget to pay a visiting team $75,000 but not enough of a budget to pay the players wearing the home team’s uniform for their play?

On the other hand, the low- and mid-major programs across the country turn their fall into a barnstorming tour designed to generate funding for the athletic department throughout the year. Many of the teams that have the wildest non-conference schedules come from notoriously under-funded HBCU programs. Take a look at the non-conference schedule Texas Southern will be playing this season:

Nov. 11 @ Gonzaga
Nov. 13 @ Washington State
Nov. 16 @ Ohio State
Nov. 18 @ Syracuse
Nov. 21 @ Kansas
Nov. 24 @ Clemson
Nov. 30 @ Oakland
Dec. 2 @ Toledo
Dec. 11 @ Oregon
Dec. 14 @ Baylor
Dec. 16 @ Wyoming
Dec. 18 @ TCU
Dec. 23 @ BYU

If the checks for those 13 games average $77,000, an entirely plausible number, then Mike Davis will have generated $1 million for his university in 42 days.

And if you think that’s bad, how about this: Long Beach State head coach Dan Monson, who routinely plays one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, has a clause in his contract that says he gets a cut of all of those game checks.

Yikes.

Now look, this isn’t all bad for the players. Playing at Gonzaga or at Syracuse is probably much better than playing home games in front of, what, a couple thousand people? It’s an opportunity to prove themselves in front of pro scouts — and college coaches they may be able to transfer up and play for — and given the rise of online classes, they may not actually be missing all that much school at the end of the day. There is also an issue for programs in the midwest and mountain regions, as there simply aren’t all that many potential opponents locally. As one former HBCU assistant told NBC Sports, “as long as they aren’t cutting corners on travel they probably eat better on the road than they do at home.”

But the larger point remains the same.

Davis and his team just spent six weeks on the road, generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the players got … a chance to prove themselves on a bigger and better food than they eat at home while their head coach gets to pocket some of that money?

That’s exploitation.

And it’s bad for the game of college basketball.

The question is whether or not it is fixable, and I just don’t know if it is.

Should Division I cut the bottom 16-20 conferences? Does it make sense for Abilene Christian to be competing at the same level as Duke? But if the NCAA does eliminate those leagues and create a Division I-AA, would it ruin the charm of the NCAA tournament?

What if the power conferences instead opted to expand their conference schedules to, say, 24 or 26 games? That would certainly increase the number of relevant games early in the season, and in the leagues with more than 12 teams — which is every high major conference not named the Big 12 or the Big East — it would create more balanced schedules, but then you run into the issue of playing home conference games during December, when these schools are in the middle of finals and the students are not on campus. What is conference play in college basketball without a rowdy student section?

There is no easy answer.

But that doesn’t mean that the way the current system is set up makes sense.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.