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Subpoenas, college basketball commissions prove NCAA is further than ever from the end of amateurism

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I thought that this would finally be the breaking point, the moment that changed everything.

The allegations detailed in the FBI complaints that were unveiled on September 26th were indisputable proof that college basketball players had massive value on the open market. If building a business relationship with an athlete that had the potential to sell millions of sneakers and generate a fortune in agent fees wasn’t enough for you to believe it, direct evidence of an apparel company funneling six figure payouts to players that were anything-but a lock to be one-and-dones in an effort to protect their biggest brands – and biggest investments – at the collegiate level should have been.

I thought that this would be the tipping point, the watershed moment that eliminated the term ‘amateurism’ from the NCAA’s rulebook.

This would be what led college athletics to adopt the Olympic model, I thought.

The truth is that we couldn’t be further away from seeing that change happen.

On Wednesday, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced that he would be forming a Commission on College Basketball, chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, to look into the corruption this FBI investigation exposed. The goal of the commission is to examine the relationship that shoes companies, agents/advisors and AAU programs have with college programs, coaching staffs and players; the status of the relationship between the NCAA and the NBA; and to evaluate whether the rules as written, which are so routinely broken and borderline unenforceable by the NCAA, need to be changed.

That might be good news if the release announcing the commission, which includes, at most, two former coaches that could have an actual understanding of how cheating in college basketball happens, didn’t include language like, “The culture of silence in college basketball enables bad actors, and we need them out of the game;” or, “We must take decisive action. This is not a time for half-measures or incremental change;” or, “ensure exploitation and corruption cannot hide in college sports.”

This commission isn’t being formed because the NCAA truly wants to evaluate whether or not going to the Olympic Model is something that would actually work. This commission is precisely the kind of committee that gets formed by multi-billion dollar corporations when they want to pretend like they’re taking a problem seriously.

Emmert’s statement might as well have read, “we take this issue so seriously that we’re forming a committee with a bunch of out-of-touch administrators that won’t issue any findings for six months, enough time to, hopefully, allow the speed of the 2017 news cycle will to erase this story from your memory FaceBook and Twitter feeds because your faux-trage will be focused somewhere else by then.”

The NCAA has absolutely no incentive to consider anything other than enforcing the status quo in regards to amateurism.

The way the current rules are written, they are the ones that make all the profits when it comes to advertising and sponsorships. Under Armour just invested $280 million into an apparel deal with UCLA. Louisville and Adidas have an $160 million deal. If Under Armour could pay, say, Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball 1 percent of that figure to wear and promote their brand, isn’t that something that would be more appealing than spending roughly $19 million a year to outfit an entire athletic department?

Would Adidas – who was caught by the FBI investing $100,000 into what amounted to an under-the-table sponsorship of Brian Bowen and attempting to invest another $150,000 into a 2018 prospect assumed to be Nassir Little to get him to go to an Adidas school – rather spend a couple of million on reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson or send 98 percent of their money straight to Rick Pitino?

It works on a smaller scale as well. Would a car dealership rather spend their advertising dollars promoting their product with in-stadium advertisements or by paying the all-american running back or point guard directly to be on billboards, sign autographs in the lobby and drive around town in a new Dodge Challenger, telling anyone that will listen they got a great deal on it from Bob’s Discount Motors?

I don’t know the answer to that. The schools probably do, but if they don’t I’m guessing they don’t want to find out. They don’t want to risk that revenue stream drying up.

And if the schools don’t want to make those changes, the NCAA is never going to make those changes. Because the NCAA is made up of those universities and colleges.

They’re not going to implement a rule that hurts themselves.

And they’re certainly not going to change that rule when the FBI has become their enforcement arm.

On Wednesday, The Oklahoman reported that Oklahoma State had received a subpoena from a grand jury in New York requesting any documents or communications from the last three years that show “actual or potential NCAA rules violations.” An attorney that has worked for a prosecutor and as a defender in the state of New York told NBC Sports that it is “unlikely” Oklahoma State was the only school to receive a subpoena of this nature.

Couple that nugget with this: One of the charges levied at the four assistant coaches arrested last month was conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Those charges were leveled because the coaches, in “concealing bribe payments to prospective and current student-athletes” caused their schools to “provide athletic scholarship to student-athletes who, in truth and in fact, were ineligible to compete as a result of the bribe payments.”

Think about that for a second.

Knowingly making a college athlete ineligible is now a federal crime.

I repeat: The U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York and the FBI went and made breaking NCAA rules a federal crime.

The reason cheating was so rampant and so open in college basketball was because the NCAA’s enforcement arm was toothless. They can’t file subpoenas. They can’t wiretap phones. They don’t go undercover or have the ability to turn criminal financial advisors into snitches with the threat of SEC violations. Hell, NCAA officials lost their jobs over the investigation into Miami and Nevin Shapiro in part because they sat in on a bankruptcy proceeding they were not allowed to have access to.

The only threat the NCAA really has in a case like this is to say, “If you lie to us and we catch you, you’re banned.”

That threat might hold some weight if the NCAA could actually catch people.

They can’t.

But the FBI, quite clearly, can.

And now that they’re involved, the NCAA has no reason to change their stance on amateurism.

By making it a federal crime to break NCAA rules, the most powerful prosecutor in the United States of America guaranteed that college athletes will never get paid their worth.

Bubble Banter: Kansas State, Virginia Tech add crucial wins to help overcome poor schedules

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Monday night.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: Play-in): The Wildcats went and added two — potentially three — Quadrant 1 wins in their last three games, beating Oklahoma and TCU at home last week before picking off Baylor (currently 76th in the RPI, but I’d guess they’re top 75 to end the year) on Monday night. A home loss to Tulsa (RPI 112) is going to stick out, as will a non-conference SOS that ranks 344th. Those two things means that the Wildcats have a very small margin for error, but with the way they are playing, I think that they’ll do enough to get in with a seed that seems too low for them.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: , KenPom: 54, NBC seed: Out): The Hokies did quite a bit to change their NCAA tournament chances on Monday by knocking off North Carolina at home. It’s easily the best win on their résumé, and given that their only other Quadrant 1 win came on a neutral against a Washington team ranked 50th in the RPI, it is easily their most important win. A Nov. 16th loss to Saint Louis (RPI 147) looks really bad, but VT still has Miami twice, Duke twice, Virginia, Louisville and Clemson left on their schedule. Those are all potential top 20 wins. They’ll need them to overcome a non-conference schedule that ranked 319th.

TEXAS (RPI: 42, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns did what they needed to do against Iowa State at home, picking up a win to help shake off the whooping they took at West Virginia on Saturday. Believe it or not, but Texas currently has four Quadrant 1 wins to their name without anything worse than a high Quadrant 2 loss — at Baylor, at Oklahoma State, Gonzaga on a neutral, Michigan at home.

LOSERS

MARYLAND (RPI: 47, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Next four out): The Terps picked up their worst loss of the season, falling at Indiana. In a year where Mark Turgeon’s club has already lost Justin Jackson and where it seems like they suffer a new injury just about every week, a tournament berth seems increasingly unlikely. Their next two games are at home against Michigan State and at Purdue. They might beed to win both.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 64, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: Out): The Cornhuskers missed out on a golden opportunity to add a marquee win to their résumé as they lost by five at Ohio State, a top 15 team in the RPI. The Cornhuskers currently do not have a Quadrant 1 win to their name — their best win comes at home against Michigan — and the only chance they’ll have to add one the rest of the regular season comes at Minnesota, who could very well drop off that level. There are only two teams left on Nebraska’s schedule that are in the top 100 of the RPI.

BAYLOR (RPI: 76, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: First four out): Baylor lost at home to Kansas State on Monday night. They’re now lost six of eight to start Big 12 play and their next two games are at Florida and at Oklahoma, both of which would be marquee wins the Bears currently lack.

VIDEO: Kenrich Williams posterizes West Virginia

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I am not sure what was more impressive tonight, Kenrich Williams going for 14 boards and six assists against No. 7 West Virginia, the fact that he played the point for them against that press … or this dunk:

It was the dunk.

Definitely.

Alex Robinson leads TCU past No. 7 West Virginia

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You’d be forgiven if you thought that TCU’s season was done and dusted when starting point guard Jaylen Fisher went down with a knee injury that will cost him the rest of the season.

Fisher was the team’s third-leading scorer at 12.3 points and ranked second in assists. He was shooting 43.9 percent from the floor. More importantly, he was backcourt defensive presence that doesn’t exist elsewhere on the TCU roster.

When the Horned Frogs lost Fisher, they were coming off of their second loss to Oklahoma in the span of two weeks and their fourth loss in the first five games of league play. With two games against both West Virginia and Texas Tech, and a trip to Allen Fieldhouse, left on their schedule, this had all the warning signs of a season in danger of sliding into oblivion.

On Monday night, in TCU’s third game without Fisher, Jame Dixon’s club put together their best performance of the season. They held No. 7 West Virginia to 33.3 percent shooting from the floor and led by as many as 20 points in an 82-73 win in Fort Worth, a win that puts an entirely knew feel on where this season can and will go.

The biggest reason for that may be Alex Robinson.

A 6-foot-1 hometown kid and a redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Texas A&M, Robinson has seemingly always been overlooked in this TCU program. Part of that is because he’s not a great scorer or shooter. Part of that is because he isn’t really a defender. And part of is, frankly, is because he never quite got his chance.

And now, with Fisher out, Robinson is not only getting his chance, but he is making the most of it.

TCU is 2-1 in their three games without Fisher, and Robinson has been the star, averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 boards and 10.7 assists. Against West Virginia, one of the nation’s most difficult defenses to deal with, Robinson finished with 17 points, nine assists and seven boards despite barely stepping foot off of the court. He got some help from Kenrich Williams, TCU’s best player, a 6-foot-7 forward that was a high school point guard and did the heavy-lifting when it came to breaking that press.

But that shouldn’t put a damper on how Robinson played on Monday.

And it shouldn’t take away from what he has been able to do with Fisher out.

Suddenly, TCU looks like a team that found themselves on the wrong side of lucky through the first seven games of Big 12 play. They lost five games during that stretch by an average of 3.3 points. Two of those losses came when the Horned Frogs missed game-winning shots at the buzzer.

They were and have been a top 25 team that found out the hard way how tough it is to win close games in this league.

And at this point it is probably fair to say that hasn’t changed despite having a new player running the point.

Monday’s Three Things to Know: TCU, Virginia Tech and Kansas State earn big wins

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1. VIRGINIA TECH EARNED ITS BIGGEST WIN OF THE SEASON

Virginia Tech has been considered by many to be a disappointment this season. The Hokies haven’t beaten anybody notable in the ACC and the non-conference schedule didn’t deliver any signature victories.

Which is why Virginia Tech’s win Monday night over No. 10 North Carolina is so critical.

The Hokies finally have a great win to hang their hat on for the committee. Where has this version of Virginia Tech been all season?

2. TCU ALSO EARNS A SIGNATURE WIN

Entering Monday night, TCU could have rolled over and called it quits on this season.

The Horned Frogs had dropped four of five games by a total of 15 points. Talented sophomore guard Jaylen Fisher was diagnosed with a season-ending injury for TCU.

But TCU stayed strong through some adversity as they pulled off a huge 82-73 Big 12 home win over No. 7 West Virginia. Leading for nearly the entire game, TCU did a great job of slowing down Mountaineer offense as West Virginia struggled to score in the half court.

3. KANSAS STATE PICKED UP THE NIGHT’S BIGGEST BUBBLE WIN

It’s time to start keeping track of the bubble.

With March Madness creeping closer, every night will feature games with big bubble implications. Besides for TCU and Virginia Tech beating top-1o teams, Kansas State beating Baylor for a Big 12 road win was the most important bubble win of the night.

The Wildcats have suddenly won four of their last five — including wins over Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor in their last three games. Not many people are talking about Kansas State in a loaded Big 12 but they’re playing as well as any team in the league right now.

A few more wins like this and the Wildcats could play their way into the Field of 68.

Bates-Diop scores 20 as No. 13 Buckeyes slip past Nebraska

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Keita Bates-Diop scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and No. 13 Ohio State beat Nebraska 64-59 on Monday night, the fourth victory for the surging Buckeyes in the last eight days.

The back-and-forth game had seven lead changes in the second half. A pair of foul shots by Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. cut Ohio State’s lead to four with 2:19 remaining, but the Cornhuskers couldn’t pull any closer.

Jae’Sean Tate put the Buckeyes (18-4, 9-0 Big Ten) up by six with a layup with 1:02 left, and a pair of foul shots by Kaleb Wesson stretched it to eight. Palmer hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, but Nebraska ran out of time.

Palmer had a career-high 34 points. Nebraska (14-8, 5-4) was fresh off a 20-point upset of then-No. 23 Michigan on Thursday.

Ohio State surpassed its win total for all of last season. Earlier in the day, it moved from No. 22 to No. 13 in the AP Top 25, its highest position since 2014.

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: The surprising Cornhuskers knocked off a ranked team last week and are a better squad than last season with Palmer carrying the load, but couldn’t outlast the steady Buckeyes.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes may have been fatigued after a rugged traveling schedule and three straight games on the road. But they found a rhythm in the second half and picked up another critical Big Ten win over a good team.

NEXT UP

Nebraska: At Rutgers on Wednesday.

Ohio State: Hosts Penn State on Thursday.