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Louisville’s self-imposed ban is despicable, but the NCAA is to blame for letting it happen

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In roughly 48 hours, the final football game of the season will kick off, meaning we are just one weekend away from basketball becoming the focus of every sports fan in the country.

We are just 37 days from Selection Sunday. In less than six weeks, the NCAA tournament will kick off.

And it was today that Louisville decided to tell their players that they will not be allowed to participate in the postseason.

No ACC tournament for you, Damion Lee. No NCAA tournament for you, Trey Lewis.

Lee and Lewis are the two grad transfers that the Cardinals added during the offseason, the two fifth-year seniors that made the decision to enroll at Louisville because they wanted an opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament, an opportunity that they were never guaranteed to get at Drexel and Cleveland State, respectively.

And because of allegations and evidence that a former Louisville staffer named Andre McGee solicited prostitutes for recruits, beginning before Lee and Lewis were even college students, that opportunity is being ripped away from them.

After Louisville fans packed the Yum! Center for the last two and a half months to support a fun, likeable and top 20 basketball team. A team that, at 18-4, is currently sitting in second place in the ACC and, until this morning, was eyeing a deep run into March.

It’s despicable, just like it was despicable for SMU to be banned from the postseason three days before the season started and just like it was despicable for Syracuse to implement a self-imposed postseason ban exactly one year ago today.

But I’m not sure the full weight of the blame can be put on Louisville here, either.

Tom Jurich is in charge of the Louisville basketball program. James Ramsey is in charge of the entire university, and the decision that Ramsey made to withdraw from this year’s postseason is unequivocally in the best interest of the Louisville basketball program and, as a result, the school as a whole. Their job isn’t to care about the feelings of a couple of redshirt seniors. Their job is to make sure that he minimizes the financial hit that the program takes. Their job is to limit how sullied the Louisville brand will be.

They are, quite literally, doing their job.

The issue is that the NCAA allows this to happen. Hell, they impose the bans themselves. That postseason ban that SMU got? It came from the NCAA.

That’s what needs to change here.

The NCAA has to put an end to enforcing postseason bans if the ruling comes at a time where the players — the ones who get hit the hardest for, quite often, something they had nothing to do with — are not able to leave without consequence. When UConn was banned from the 2012 postseason, the players on the team were made aware well in advance. Alex Oriakhi was able to transfer to Missouri without sitting out a season. Roscoe Smith took off for UNLV. The guys that stayed behind, the recruits that joined the program, did so knowing that they would not be playing in the postseason.

SMU got their ruling when it was too late for the players on that roster to transfer, for the freshman that joined the program to do so knowing they would not be tourney-bound their first season.

The entire point of the NCAA handing down sanctions is to punish the program for allowing these violations to be committed. But by accepting a self-imposed postseason ban in February, by imposing a postseason ban as late as the end of September, they are unquestionably minimizing the impact that the programs feel.

And I don’t care about the accusations that have been levied against the Cardinals, at least not in the context of this conversation. So please, don’t try and tell me why what Louisville did was wrong.

I agree.

Want me to say it?

Here: What Louisville did was wrong. What McGee did was wrong. Pitino may not have had any direct association with what was happening in Billy Minardi Hall, but by the letter of the NCAA rulebook, ignorance is not an excuse. Pitino was in the wrong.

But the issue isn’t what Louisville was doing. The issue is whether it should be allowed for them to force a group of players that had nothing to do with the violations to bear the brunt of the punishment so that the university can minimize the damage themselves.

Louisville will never have to recruit a player that knows he will be sitting out at least one postseason. When you’re good enough to get a scholarship to Louisville, you’re good enough to get a scholarship at another top 25 program that won’t force you to watch your first March Madness from the couch. That’s an indisputable benefit to imposing the ban this season.

So is the NCAA is letting Louisville protect their brand, next season’s ticket sales and the athletic department’s bottom-line, and doing so at the expense of the unpaid laborers that the 22,090 people that fill the Yum! Center on a nightly basis pay to watch.

Pitino, Jurich and Ramsey reportedly make nearly $10 million combined.

Damion Lee? Trey Lewis?

Their reimbursement for this season is a year of grad school paid in full and one opportunity for glory in March, one chance to play in the NCAA tournament, one shot at seeing themselves on One Shining Moment.

And Louisville just took that away from them.

Less than six weeks before the tournament is scheduled to start.

Because they’ve got to make sure that they sell enough tickets to turn a profit next November when they pay six figures to beat down a bunch of low-major programs trading blowouts for a way to fund their athletic department.

It’s time for a change.

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

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Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

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Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

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Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”