No. 20 Duke overcomes injuries, foul trouble to upset No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill


Grayson Allen scored 23 points, including a pair of free throws to give No. 20 Duke the lead for good with 1:09 left, and Brandon Ingram added 20 points and 10 boards as the Blue Devils overcame a ridiculous amount of adversity to beat No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 74-73.

Already limited to a six-man rotation due to a broken foot suffered by Amile Jefferson, Duke lost starting guard Matt Jones to sprained ankle late in the first half. If that wasn’t bad enough, playing against a North Carolina team that was absolutely pummeling them in the lane, Duke’s starting center Marshall Plumlee picked up his third and fourth foul seconds apart with 14 minutes left.

And they were still able to knock off the Tar Heels on the road. You have to give Duke all the credit in the world for that. They got critical stops — more specifically, critical defensive rebounds — down the stretch and made just enough plays on the offensive end to get the win.

Give credit to Mike Krzyzewski, because he did what he’s done all season long: he gave the rock to his studs and let them loose. The knock on Duke, at least on the offensive end of the floor, is that they don’t have a point guard. To combat that, Coach K more or less dares defenses to try and slow down Allen (who’s averaging 20.6 points and 3.7 assists) and Ingram (17.2 points). Combined, those two took 39 points and got to the foul line 14 times on Wednesday.

That’s in stark contrast to North Carolina.

Brice Johnson was, once again, putting on a show. He had 18 points and 11 boards in the first half. With just under 11 minutes left in the game, when Plumlee reentered with his four fouls, Johnson had 27 points and 17 boards. In the final 11 minutes of the game, he got just one shot — a dunk off of a drop-off pass from Jackson — while UNC’s guards shot 1-for-14 from the floor.

“Brice really was something for a huge portion of the game tonight,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game.

But he was nothing during the most important stretch.

Now there’s two ways to look at this. On the one hand, Johnson was going off and when you have a guy that’s playing like that, you want to get him as many touches as possible, right? The problem is that Johnson isn’t really a guy that creates offense for himself. He goes and gets offensive rebounds. He finishes off pick-and-rolls. He throws down massive dunks when his teammates drive and find him at the rim.

In other words, the issue isn’t that plays weren’t called for Johnson, it’s that UNC’s guards opted to settle for jumpshots rather than drive the ball into the lane and find the guy that Duke quite literally did not have the personnel to stop.

Marcus Paige and Joel Berry II were 4-for-22 from the floor. As a team, UNC shot 1-for-13 from three.

We know what we’re going to get with Duke moving forward: Are they going to get Jones and Jefferson healthy, and when/if they do, are they going to be able to defend.

The question marks with UNC are a bit different. On paper, this team looks like they should be playing for a national title, but what have they done this season that should make us trust them in big moments and big games?

I’ve called the Tar Heels soft before.

And I wasn’t just talking about their physicality.

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

Leave a comment

Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”