Rob Dauster

Louisville coach Rick Pitino shouts instructions to his team during the first half of its NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Louisville self-imposes more sanctions on basketball team

4 Comments

Louisville has self-imposed more penalties stemming from the investigation into the allegations made by Katina Powell in her book.

The school announced that they will be forfeiting two scholarships — one each in 2017-18 and 2018-19 — as well as implementing a number of recruiting restrictions. The staff will lose 30 recruiting days this spring and summer and will be docked an official visit in 2016-17 and 2017-18.

“After much deliberation, the University believes that self-imposing these penalties is appropriate,” outside counsel Steve Thompson said in a release sent out by Louisville. “While the University could elect to wait until the infractions process is complete, those consulted agree that these penalties are consistent with NCAA legislation, and imposing these penalties now is the right thing to do and may advance the University’s goal of expediting resolution of this matter.”

These sanctions are not the result of any new information coming to light from the investigation. This is Louisville trying to get out in front of this thing in order to avoid the NCAA coming down on them with a sledgehammer.

And these sanctions, frankly, don’t mean all that much. The real question that needs to be answered is whether or not the NCAA is going to hand out another postseason ban.

Louisville self-imposed a ban for the 2016 postseason back in February.

Grayson Allen is returning to Duke for his junior season

Teammates congratulate Duke's Grayson Allen (3) during the first half of a second round game against Yale in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Providence, R.I., Saturday, March 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
6 Comments

Duke should be the consensus preseason No. 1 team in college basketball next season, as the Blue Devils announced on Wednesday that all-american Grayson Allen will be returning for his junior season with the program.

“I talked with my parents and prayed about this decision, and I had the feeling that it was right,” Allen said. “I love Duke and I’ve made relationships with my teammates that will last forever. Coming back next season to play with them is important to me. Earning a Duke degree has always been a dream of mine, so I’ll also be working to get closer to that goal.”

Allen averaged 21.6 points, 4.5 boards and 3.5 assists for the Blue Devils this past season, playing on a team that didn’t have much depth or balance on the roster. He’ll return to a roster that adds five-star recruits Harry Giles, Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum in addition to potentially returning senior forward Amile Jefferson.

The Blue Devils will be absolutely loaded.

“We are thrilled that Grayson will be back with us next season,” said Krzyzewski. “Following the season, he put a lot of thought into an important decision that will impact the rest of his life. In the end, he chose to remain at Duke, where he will pursue an undergraduate degree and develop even more as a man and basketball player. Grayson’s passion and commitment to our school and his teammates have been very apparent in our discussions with him.

“On the court, Grayson is a warrior, as I’ve said many times,” Krzyzewski continued. “He has untapped potential, both on and off the basketball court. I have loved coaching Grayson and I’m going to love coaching him next season.”

Florida State’s Rathan-Mayes to enter NBA draft

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
(AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
1 Comment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes will enter the NBA draft but not hire an agent.

The 6-foot-4 guard is taking advantage of a rule where he can attend team workouts and the pre-draft combine to assess his prospects without losing eligibility. The deadline to withdraw and return to school is May 25.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists this past season as the Seminoles finished 20-14 and advanced to the second round of the NIT. As a freshman, Rathan-Mayes became the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to have three games of 30 points or more.

Rathan-Mayes is the third Florida State player who has declared for the draft. Freshmen Malik Beasley and Dwayne Bacon also entered, but Bacon withdrew his name last week after more conversations with coaches and family.

Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis to enter NBA Draft, per report

Gonzaga forward Domantas Sabonis, front, drives past Utah forward Jakob Poeltl during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game Saturday, March 19, 2016, in the NCAA Tournament in Denver. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
2 Comments

Domantas Sabonis is headed off to the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, according to a report this morning from ESPN.com.

There isn’t much surprise here. Sabonis is projected as a mid-to-late first round pick and, considering that his father is Arvydas Sabonis, Domas likely has a great feel for where his stock stands at this moment in time.

The 6-foot-10 center had a terrific sophomore season for Gonzaga, averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 boards for a team that played their way into the Sweet 16. There are some questions about what his upside will end up being — he’s limited athletically, he has short arms and he does almost all of his damage in the post going over his right shoulder — but the two things that he does does are the two things that translate well from level-to-level: he rebounds the ball and he plays exceptionally hard.

Losing Sabonis will hurt Gonzaga, clearly, but with Zach Collins entering the program and, hopefully, Przemek Karnowski returning, Mark Few’s club will be just fine. That’s why we have them ranked 14th in our preseason top 25.

Skal Labissiere is headed to the NBA Draft

Kentucky's Skal Labissiere reacts after dunking the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. Kentucky won 80-66. (AP Photo/Samantha Baker)
(AP Photo/Samantha Baker)
8 Comments

Skal Labissiere is signing with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, Kentucky announced on Tuesday afternoon.

“I want to thank my family, my coaches, teammates and most importantly I want to thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to represent and play for the University of Kentucky,” Labissiere said. “I also want to thank the fans for their support through everything this season. I am excited to announce that I am entering the 2016 NBA Draft.”

This is unequivocally the right decision, and understanding why is quite simple: Skal had a pretty bad year all things considered, and he’s still projected in many spots as a lottery pick. That means that he’s guaranteed to making many millions of dollars while he works out with coaches and trainers and professional teammates to get better at the things that he needs to improve on.

The other option?

Return to school, pretend to care about whatever English 101 class he’s taking, work to get better with coaches that aren’t quite as good, trainers that aren’t quite as good and teammates that aren’t quite as good all while having limits on the amount of time you can get with those coaches. Oh, and he’s doing it for free in a situation where, if he struggles again, he could see all those guaranteed millions evaporate.

Here’s the other thing: Labissiere is from Haiti. His parents spent years living in a school after the earthquake in 2010 destroyed their house. His family needs the money he’s about to make.

So if your critique is that he isn’t “ready” for the NBA, you’re missing the entire point. No prospect is, and no person — basketball player or otherwise — is turning down millions of dollars so an employer can train you for a job that you’re totally unqualified for.

So please.

Just stop before you start.

You’ll save yourself the embarrassment.

Villanova’s legacy will be determined where the program grows from here

2 Comments

HOUSTON — Kris Jenkins will never have to pay for another cheesesteak in Philly ever again, not after he hit the game-winning three to beat North Carolina in the national title game on Monday night. But did you know that his recruitment to Villanova didn’t ramp up until after he tagged along on his brother — and current North Carolina point guard — Nate Britt’s visit?

Josh Hart, Villanova’s best player all season long, grew up in DC as a Georgetown fan. But the Hoyas never extended him a scholarship offer, which is a major reason why he wound up on the Main Line. Another reason? Villanova hired Doug Martin as an assistant coach. Martin had coached Hart with Team Takeover, but he was fired for lying on his résumé two months before Hart committed to Jay Wright.

Jalen Brunson wound up at Villanova after a sexual assault allegation against his father kept Temple from being able to hire him and cost the Brunsons a shot at being a package deal to the Owls. Ryan Arcidiacono is a lifelong Villanova fan. Phil Booth’s dad is from Philly and was partying in the street after the 1985 title.

That’s kind of who this Villanova team is, an amalgam of dudes from cities all along the I-95 corridor in the Northeast that somehow ended up on Jay Wright’s roster. They weren’t so much overlooked — no one in Villanova’s top seven was ranked outside the top 75 — as they were underwhelming additions. None of those commitments moved the needle, not even Brunson’s. He’s the McDonald’s All-American freshman on this roster, but the hype was somewhat minimized because Brunson doesn’t have the physical tools to ever be considered a good professional prospect and his addition for this season meant that he’d have at least a year playing as Arch’s apprentice.

The perfect summation is this: In the national title game, the Wildcats were led by a career-high 20 points from Booth, who had averaged a total of 5.0 points in Villanova’s eight prior postseason games. The game was won when Archidiacono, the face of the program and a lifelong Villanova fan, made a pass on a play that was more or less designed for him to get a shot at the rim.

“We don’t care about who gets the credit, we don’t care about who the leading scorer is, we don’t care anything about that,” Hart said after the game. “We care about this team. We care about each other. We care about this program.”

“I think this is a great team,” Hart continued, making a point to detail to reporters after the game just how tough their road to the title was. They beat an Iowa team that was top five for much of the year. They beat a Miami team who was top 15. They beat Kansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina, three teams that were ranked No. 1 this season and exactly half of the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s impressive. “I’m trying to be as humble as I can.”

It’s that mindset that allowed Villanova to become arguably the least-talented national title winner in modern college basketball history.

And I mean that as a compliment.

Barring Mikal Bridges making a significant step forward next season, Hart improving his jumper at a Kawhi Leonard-esque pace or Brunson getting markedly better measureables, we’re looking at a team that just cut down the nets in Houston without the benefit of a first round pick on their roster. That hasn’t happened since 1987, when Keith Smart carried two-time all-american and second round NBA Draft pick Steve Alford to a national title game win over Syracuse. The only other team that could be in that conversation is UConn in 2014, and they had Shabazz Napier, Deandre Daniels and Ryan Boatright on the roster. Even Villanova’s 1985 title team had a top ten pick on the roster in Ed Pinckney.

So yes, I think it’s a fair argument to make.

And it makes me wonder what the legacy of this group is going to end up being.

This was a college basketball season devoid of elite talent and great teams. Are we going to remember this group as the team that finally broke the spell on Jay Wright in big games in March? Are we going to remember them as one of the most connected and mentally tough teams to come through the college ranks in year? Or are we going to remember them as the random Villanova team that ran through a tournament that was devoid of star power? The team that annually mows down a mediocre Big East and mowed down a mediocre tournament field?

The answer, to me, lies in what happens next season.

The Wildcats lose Arch and they lose Ochefu, both of which will be major blows; particularly Ochefu, who was the only low-post scoring threat on the roster. But they bring back Brunson, Booth, Hart, Bridges, Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds and Fordham transfer Eric Paschall while adding a pair of talented freshmen. There’s a reason we have them ranked No. 3 in the country in our Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25.

We believe.

But that puts even more pressure on the Wildcats to perform well.

If they win the Big East again next season and, like they did the last two years, flame out early in the tournament, the questions are going to return. This was a great team that capped an amazing run with a thrilling game that was won on a once-in-a-lifetime shot.

But if Villanova wants to be in the same breath as the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world, if they want to prove their program can consistently win at the highest level, they have to do it in a year where the Blue Devils and the Wildcats loaded.

They’re the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 team, respectively, in our top 25.

“It’s not over yet,” Hart said. “We’re going to be a strong team next year.”

“But I’m going to celebrate this one first.”