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If security footage refutes FBI evidence, it’s time for USC’s Melton to be allowed to play

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There appears to be some discrepancies between the FBI complaint and security camera footage viewed by the Los Angeles Times in key details regarding the investigation of former USC assistant coach Tony Bland, a runner named Christian Dawkins and a relative of De’Anthony Melton, a USC player that has been forced to sit out the first five games of USC’s season.

An LA Times reporter was able to view a copy of the security footage that clearly illustrates a departure from the account detailed in the FBI complaint. According to the FBI’s version of events, an undercover agent posing as a financial advisor provided, prior to their meeting, Dawkins with $5,000 that was earmarked for a family friend of Melton’s, identified by the Times as Dave Elliot, and that Elliot received the money. That meeting and that payment was allegedly facilitated by Bland.

But according to the security camera footage of the hotel where the meeting took place, that is not what happened. Based on the Times’ summary of the video — they were allowed to view it but not allowed to make a copy — the money is provided to Dawkins at the meeting, and, more importantly, Dawkins is the one that left the hotel with the envelope of cash in his pocket before getting into an SUV driven by another defendant and putting the envelope in-between the seats.

From a legal perspective, I’m not quite sure what to make of this. It certainly is not proof that the money never made it to Elliot, but the burden is on the government to prove that Elliot did, not vice versa. This video does not necessarily support that timeline. And if there are questions about the accuracy of the story the FBI is putting forward in this part of the complaint, should that raise concerns about the accuracy of the other parts of the complaint as well?

The larger issue at play here — at least for a website dedicated to the coverage of college hoops — is that Melton should be allowed to return to the floor.

This is documented evidence that contradicts what the FBI is saying happened. Melton is forced to sit out because USC is uncertain of current eligibility status. If, as alleged in the FBI complaint, Elliott was given $5,000 to ensure that Melton wound up investing with Dawkins, that breaks the NCAA’s amateurism by-laws. But this new evidence contradicts that theory.

And that’s before you consider the fact that Melton may not have known or endorsed what Elliott was trying to do. Melton has reportedly met with the federal prosecutors. His mother and Elliott have as well. The LA Times reported last week that Melton turned over bank records and phone data to the university in an effort to clear his name.

Meeting with potential financial advisors is not an NCAA violation. Discussing the plan for a player entering the NBA Draft is not an NCAA violation. The NCAA violation would be if the player, or someone close to him, accepted a bribe — a retainer — to ensure that player would invest with that financial advisor when he does turn pro.

If the video viewed by the LA Times truly does refute the claims made by the FBI in their complaint, then it is time to stop punishing Melton. He’s missed five games and two scrimmages already.

Let him play.

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.