Weekly Awards: Marquette’s new addition, a shakeup in Pac-12’s power structure ?

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Luke Fischer (AP Photo)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Luke Fischer, Marquette

Marquette may have found their season’s savior. Through the first eight games of the year, the Golden Eagles were 4-4, having lost to Nebraska-Omaha at home, barely hung on to beat NJIT and got pushed around by Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. That was before Deonte Burton transferred out of the program. It looked pretty safe to say that Steve Wojciechowski’s first season in Milwaukee would be full-on rebuilding mode. It was bad enough that I had started just ignoring Marquette games when they popped up on the channel guide.

And then Luke Fischer got eligible.

The 6-foot-11 transfer from Indiana played his first game of the season against Arizona State last week, and he put on a show, finishing with 19 points, nine boards and five blocks. To follow that up, Fischer posted 22 points against Alabama A&M. In his two games this season, Fischer is shooting 17-for-19 from the floor, which, if you can’t tell, is pretty good. Will this turn the Golden Eagles into an NCAA tournament team? It’s probably too early to tell. But Fischer fills a gaping hope in Wojo’s lineup, which makes Marquette markedly better.

THE ALL-THEY-WERE-GOOD-TOO TEAM

  • Terry Rozier, Louisville: Rozier scored 26 of his game-high 32 points after Montrezl Harrell was ejected on Saturday, ensuring that the Cardinals would not have their unbeaten season ended by Western Kentucky.
  • Troy Williams, Indiana: Williams played his best game as a Hoosier on Saturday, going for 22 points, 11 boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks in a win over Butler.
  • JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova: Pinkston had 25 points and 10 boards, making a number of huge plays down the stretch as Villanova erased a 14-point second half deficit in an overtime win over Syracuse.
  • Rayvonte Rice, Illinois: Rice made sure Braggin’ Rights remained in Illinois, hitting this game-winning three to beat Missouri. He finished with 19 points.
  • Snoop White, Ole Miss: White scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half as Ole Miss came from 17 down to beat a good Coastal Carolina team. The win keep Ole Miss from playing for an NIT bid in the SEC.
  • Juwan Staten, West Virginia: A preseason all-american, Staten had his best game of the young season on Saturday, going for 24 points (on 10-for-17 shooting), six assists and two steals as WVU beat N.C. State in NYC.
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Washington Huskies

If anyone thought that struggling against Eastern Washington somehow proved that the Huskies weren’t “for real”, they squashed that theory on Saturday when they knocked off Oklahoma in Las Vegas, 69-67. Washington was up by as much as 20 in the first half, surviving late with a couple of critical defensive stops.

I don’t know if I’m ready to say that Washington is the second-best team in the Pac-12, not as long as Utah is still playing like a top 15 team. But the Huskies aren’t all that far behind. It starts with Robert Upshaw, a seven-footer that comes off the bench yet averages 4.5 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game. He changes to tone of what Washington can do on the defensive side of the ball. Throw in Nigel Williams-Goss, one of the nation’s most underrated point guard, and Andrew Andrews, and you have what may be Lorenzo Romar’s best team since the 2009 that featured Isaiah Thomas, Quincy Pondexter and Jon Brockman.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Virginia: The Cavs took care of a pretty good Cleveland State team during the week before absolutely embarrassing Harvard on Sunday, beating them 76-27 and setting an NCAA record by allowing just one field goal in the first half.
  • Kentucky: The Wildcats had a better first half against UCLA than Virginia did against Harvard, jumping out to a 24-0 lead and heading into the break up 41-7 en route to an 83-44 win.
  • North Carolina: Marcus Paige still hasn’t busted out of his funk, but Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are playing well, and Joel Berry is getting better, too. The Tar Heels won at UNC-Greensboro and knocked off Ohio State this week.
  • SMU: The Mustangs got two huge results this week: they won at Michigan, and they got Markus Kennedy back from his suspension.
  • Notre Dame: The Irish made a statement on Saturday. They beat Purdue 94-63, and they did it despite the fact that Jerian Grant was 3-for-13 from the floor.

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 5 Wisconsin at Cal, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
  • Stanford at No. 9 Texas, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown vs. Indiana, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (NYC)
  • No. 1 Kentucky at No. 4 Louisville, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • No. 8 Gonzaga at BYU, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

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The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to say it will not play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The league left open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the outbreak is better controlled by then.

The decision was described to the AP by a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Although the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports. Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely.

The Ivy decision affects not just football but everything before Jan. 1, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the nonconference portion of the basketball season.

Power Five conferences told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were still considering their options. But it was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations that eventually enveloped all major college and professional sports.

“What’s happening in other conferences is clearly a reflection of what’s happening nationally and any decisions are made within that context,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, adding that there is no “hard deadline” for a decision.

“Clearly, regardless of what happens in the fall, sports are coming back eventually,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whenever that time (is) right to return to competition, that we have the infrastructure and the recommendations in place to be able to do so safely for the student-athletes, staff, coaches, fans, students.”

Ivy League schools are spread across seven Northeastern states that, as of mid-July, have seen some success at controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. But most of those states still ban large gatherings; under the Massachusetts reopening plan, Harvard would not be allowed to have fans in the stands until a vaccine is developed.

Harvard has already announced that all classes for both semesters will be held virtually; dorms will be open only to freshmen and seniors. Yale said it would limit its dorms to 60% capacity and said most classes would be conducted remotely. Princeton will also do most of its teaching online, with dorms at half capacity.

Coaches 4 Change: Siena’s Carmen Maciariello spearheads social justice initiative

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Carmen Maciariello found himself in the same place so many of us did in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Devastated by what he was seeing. Motivated to find a way to use his platform as the head coach at Siena College to enact change. Struggling with how, as he puts it, “a white head coach from privilege at a school in New York,” can have real, honest, open dialogue with his majority-Black roster.

So he picked up the phone. He called Louis Orr, his former college coach and now an assistant coach at Georgetown. He called his closest friends in the coaching business. He called his advisor, Brad Konerman, an entrepreneur who connected him with a couple of talented website designers. By early June, 25 like-minded people from all walks of life were on a zoom call.

“I’ve never been pulled over and feared for my life for not using my blinker,” Maciariello, who is white, told me. “We had those conversations. How are we talking to our teams about that? What are we doing with the police? How can we help our young people navigate through these tough times?”

That’s how Coaches 4 Change was born.

Maciariello has grand plans for the organization. On a zoom call with nearly all of the 43 coaches that have committed to the group to date, he said he wants “to try to change the world. Let’s not think small, we’ve gotta think big with this.” He is not lacking for ambition.

But Maciariello also understands that something like this has to start small and it has to start locally. It’s why he limited the first group of invitees to coaches that are “doing this for the right reasons.”

“I didn’t want to have a donate link and bring in coaches that felt like, ‘I donated money, I did my part supporting it,” he said. “It was about the time commitment and the vision. We have to focus on one thing first.”

That first thing?

Voting.

C4C developed a sleek, interactive website to help educate young people about social injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, things as basic as the difference between systemic and systematic racism and Jackie Robinson’s impact on sports. But the site also provides users with all of the information necessary to vote in this year’s elections, information on what makes voting so important in a democracy and — most importantly — a tutorial for how a person in every state can register to vote, where their polling stations are and whether or not they are eligible for mail-in voting. Their website also has a ‘Keep Learning‘ page that links to all documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks and literary resources available on all streaming platforms, including content for children.

C4C has partnered with Vote.org with a goal of “100 percent voter registration for all college athletes” regardless of the sport they play, Maciariello said.

Currently, the only coaches involved with C4C are men’s college basketball coaches, but that will change. They are in the process of reaching out to counterparts on the women’s side, and will eventually invite staff members from other sports as well. One of the barriers to entry to become a member will be ensuring that every player on a coach’s team is registered to vote.

Eventually, Maciariello envisions C4C developing community outreach initiatives. He wants the members of C4C to connect with their campus communities and put together voter registration drives for students. He wants to eventually connect with lawmakers and work on changing legislation that helps systemic racism continue to exist.

No one ever said he wasn’t ambitious.

But he knows he has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is this platform.

“I want to engage people in issues,” he said. “Educate them, empower them to change, encourage them to grow and evolve.”

CBT Podcast: Pat Chambers, moving the season up, Running Back Buddy Hield’s 46 points at Kansas

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In the latest edition of the Run It Back podcast, Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan recap Buddy Hield’s memorable 46-point outburst in a three-overtime loss to Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 1 back in 2016. The game was unbelievable. Before they dive into the game itself, the boys talk through Pat Chambers’ noose comments to Rasir Bolton and the potential for the college basketball season to get moved up.

Michael Jordan, Roy Williams among UNC greats to condemn systemic racism

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Roy Williams and Michael Jordan joined numerous North Carolina luminaries in condemning systemic racism and voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a video that was released by the school on Monday.

“Systematic racism has to stop now,” Jordan said in the video. “We must take the time to listen and educate our family, our friends, our children on social injustice and racial inequality. Black Lives Matter more now than ever before. We have to get this right, so please take time to educate yourself and improve the lives of many people, many Black people. Thank you.”

James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Maye and Sean May were among the former players that appeared in the video.

Williams led by discussing Charlie Scott, who was the first Black scholarship athlete in UNC’s history.

“Some of the greatest to play our game have been Black players, but here we are more than 50 years later and our country is still fighting systemic racism and police brutality against Black men and women,” Williams said. “The North Carolina basketball program, our family, our current and former players believe Black lives matter, and it’s critically important that we don’t just believe it. We must stand together and loudly and clearly demand that we as a country and the world embrace the fundamental human right that Black lives matter.”

Former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton left program after coach Pat Chambers made noose comment

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Former Penn State point guard Rasir Bolton has accused of Pat Chambers of making racially insensitive remarks, including a reference to a noose.

According to Bolton, who tweeted about the incident on Monday morning, midway through his freshman season in 2018-19 with the Nittany Lions, Chambers made a reference to a “noose” about Bolton’s neck.  Bolton described the encounter in an interview with the Undefeated, and said that the phrase was a result of Chambers talking about easing the pressure on his freshman’s shoulders. “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck,” Bolton recalled.

Bolton also alleged that after his parents went to the Athletic Director with their concerns about this statement, Chambers told him during an exit interview that he was impressed by how “well-spoken” and “organized” his parents are. Remarks like this are considered racially-insensitive because they are based on the underlying assumption that Black people are not expected to be either organized or articulate.

Chambers, to his credit, admitted his wrong in making the noose comment.

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“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir and the Bolton family for what I said,” Chambers’ statement read. “I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I make was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”

Bolton left Penn State after his freshman season and transferred to Iowa State. He was given immediately eligibility with the Cyclones after mentioning the noose comment when applying for a waiver. He averaged 14.7 points this past season with Iowa State. He also alleged that after he came to the Penn State athletic department with this claim, they offered him a meeting with a sports psychologist who told him how to “deal with Coach Chambers’ personality type.”