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Atlantic Sun Conference Preview: Can FGCU reach their third straight NCAA tournament?

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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 Atlantic Sun conference.

The ASUN features a potentially dangerous Cinderella that America is already familiar with and a few more teams that could be tough for any opponent during the 2017-18 season.

League regular-season favorite Florida Gulf Coast returns three really good perimeter scorers in Brandon Goodwin, Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell from an NCAA tournament team that only lost by six points to No. 3 seed Florida State. While the backcourt headlines Dunk City, the Eagles are also talented in the frontcourt with Michigan transfer Ricky Doyle expected to help on the interior along with returners like Antravious Simmons.

With back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, and experienced players talented enough to take over a game, don’t be surprised to see another Florida Gulf Coast upset this March if they stay healthy.

Also not to be taken lightly is Lipscomb.  Coming off of a 20-win season and featuring a prolific offense with five returning starters the Bison feature junior guard Garrison Mathews as he averaged over 20 points per game and is a serious Player of the Year threat in the A-Sun. Senior guard Nathan Moran and junior forward Rob Marberry are also returning double-figure scorers for Lipscomb as last year’s team averaged 85 points per game.

Prolific scoring guard Dallas Moore is gone from North Florida but the Ospreys return three starters as the program has gone to back-to-back conference tourney title games. Sophomore guard Garrett Sams and sophomore forward Wajid Aminu will be expected to score more after solid freshmen seasons.

Stetson returns three starters, including productive senior guard Divine Myles, but the Hatters need more help from its bench. USC Upstate is coming off of a 17-win season as senior guard Mike Cunningham and junior forward Malik Moore are both all-league candidates. Kennesaw State has two starters back and a promising young core as senior guard Nick Masterson is one of the league’s better players.

Replacing seven seniors and four starters will be tough for Jacksonville, as they’re coming off a .500 season and CollegeInsider.com tournament appearance. NJIT didn’t look good without senior guard Damon Lynn down the stretch but sophomore forward Anthony Tarke looks promising.

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

PRESEASON ASUN PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brandon Goodwin, Florida Gulf Coast

The league’s Newcomer of the Year and Conference Tournament MVP, the 6-foot-2 Goodwin returns for his senior season after a strong initial campaign for Florida Gulf Coast. Surrounded by a plethora of big men and two other talented perimeter options in Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell, Goodwin has a chance to put up numbers that are even better than last season when he averaged 18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ASUN TEAM:

  • Garrison Mathews, Lipscomb: A unanimous first-team all-league selection last season, the 6-foot-5 junior put up 20.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
  • Mike Cunningham, USC Upstate: A solid sophomore campaign saw the 6-foot-1 Cunningham put up 13.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range.
  • Divine Myles, Stetson: The senior guard puts up numbers across the board as he averaged 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a junior.
  • Christian Terrell, Florida Gulf Coast: More efficient of Dunk City’s two other double-figure scoring guards, the 6-foot-5 senior has shot 35 percent from three-point range the past two seasons.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @ASunSports

PREDICTED FINISH

  1. Florida Gulf Coast
  2. Lipscomb
  3. North Florida
  4. Stetson
  5. USC Upstate
  6. Kennesaw State
  7. Jacksonville
  8. NJIT

Iowa’s McCaffery says, “I’ve turned programs in” for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.

Kansas’ Self: Adidas case a “dark cloud on our profession’

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas coach Bill Self had come to know James Gatto well over the years, along with just about everyone else involved with the college basketball side of the athletic apparel giant Adidas.

It comes with the territory as one of the company’s flagship schools.

But when Self first heard that Gatto had been swept up in a wide-ranging FBI investigation, centered on Louisville but uncovering corruption elsewhere in college basketball, the Jayhawks’ coach admitted being “very disappointed and disheartened” and likened it to a “dark cloud for our profession.”

Prosecutors have accused the 47-year-old Gatto of conspiring with coaches and others to funnel payments to top prospects and their families to win commitments to play at schools sponsored by Adidas. The idea was that their relationship with Adidas would continue whenever they reached the professional level.

The family of one prospect was allegedly paid $100,000 to commit, according to court documents, and the school was later revealed to be Louisville. The school has since placed coach Rick Pitino on administrative leave while the federal investigation is being resolved. Nine others, including former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, have been charged in the case.

Self said during a lengthy interview Friday that the cash payments from Adidas surprised him, but “what is not surprising is third parties’ involvement in recruiting. Everyone should know that.”

“That’s prevalent everywhere,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about agents talking to kids and their families in ninth and 10th grade. There’s nothing illegal about shoe companies funding AAU programs. That is what’s been encouraged and done, so it shouldn’t be a surprise you could have influence from third parties.”

Kansas officials insist they have not been contacted by the FBI, and the school is not under any sort of investigation. It

Kansas recently reached a 12-year contract extension with Adidas that will ultimately provide the school with $191 million in sponsorship money and apparel. Self suggested the affiliation is being used by rivals on the recruiting trail.

“Whenever in recruiting there is something out there that has been reported, whether it’s reliable or unreliable, total myth, whatever, there’s usually competitors that make sure that information gets to people. Unfortunately, that’s how it works,” Self said. “You can say that’s negative recruiting … but a lot of times the things that are reported are so inaccurate it puts you on the defense.”

The Jayhawks already have commitments from two top-100 prospects in 6-foot-9 forward Silvio de Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy and 6-10 center David McCormack from Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy.

They are also in the mix for several more top-50 prospects in what could be a crucial class for them.

“I’d be lying,” Self said, “if I told you we hadn’t discussed these issues with kids. And has it hurt us to date? I don’t think it has. But it’s not signing day, either.”

Attorney makes case for Louisville to retain Pitino as coach

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Rick Pitino’s attorney has told the Louisville Athletic Association that it should not fire the coach of the men’s basketball program because his client “could not have known” about activities alleged in a national federal investigation of the sport.

Steve Pence made his case Monday while the ULAA was meeting to discuss whether to fire Pitino nearly three weeks after the school acknowledged the program’s involvement in the investigation. The association board is still meeting and has not announced its decision.

Association, a separate body that oversees Louisville’s sports programs and comprised of trustees, faculty, students and administrators, on Oct. 2 authorized university interim President Greg Postel to begin the process of firing Pitino for cause after Postel placed him on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27.

Pitino, 65, is not named in court complaints in the federal probe but Postel said in a disciplinary letter that the allegations violated his contract.

Pence has contended that Louisville rushed to judgment and made his case before the board for 45 minutes on Monday.

He said Pitino should be retained and noted, “The coach did not engage in any of this activity, he didn’t know about the activity. I think we made a very compelling case to the board, I think they listened attentively and we’ll just have to wait and see what they say.”

Pitino has coached 16 years with the program, a run that included winning the 2013 NCAA championship but was tarnished by several embarrassing off-court incidents.