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No. 18 Texas Tech picks off No. 10 Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse

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It feels like we go through this every year.

At some point during the season, maybe after an unexpected loss in non-conference play or an ugly start to the Big 12 schedule, we ask whether or not this is the year where the streak will end, where the Kansas run of 13 straight conference regular season titles will cease.

That point is tonight.

No. 10 Kansas trailed for 40 minutes on Tuesday night, falling behind No. 18 Texas Tech 23-7 within the first ten minutes and never getting closer than six points the rest of the way.

Keenan Evans, who is Texas Tech’s best player, led the way with 15 points and three assists, although he shot just 4-for-16 from the floor. As a team, the Red Raiders were 6-for-24 from three. This wasn’t a case of a team walking into Allen Fieldhouse and shooting the lights out. Texas Tech was the tougher team. They got to the glass, they executed their game-plan better and they were the first to every loose ball. Chris Beard’s club was, quite simply, better, and it wasn’t all that close.

“They have good players and they’re experienced so I would say that helped but I look out there and I see two freshmen wearing us out just as much as the seniors were,” Bill Self said Tuesday night. “Age is irrelevant when it comes to competing and trying.”

Texas Tech is the real deal.

The Red Raiders aren’t a basketball powerhouse so it might take awhile for this to catch on, but they could very well be the best team in the conference. Beard has amassed a roster that has some ridiculous athletes, size all over the roster, a killer at the point in Evans and a team that is just as hungry to prove themselves as Beard is. There are some vagabonds on this roster. There are some underrecruited freshmen on this roster. There are holdovers from the Tubby Smith era that have fully bought into what Beard is selling.

The truth is this: Beard’s club is just good enough offensively that they are going to be able to win a lot of games with their defense. They force turnovers as well as just about anyone. They run opponents off the three-point line as well as just about anyone. They have enough big bodies in the paint – and they rotate well enough defensively – that open looks at the rim are not going to be easy to come by when those opponents do get run off the three-point line.

And that just so happened to matchup perfectly with a Kansas team that wants to spend 40 minutes zipping the ball around the perimeter and hoisting up threes.

I’m not sure I am quite ready to dub Texas Tech the best team in the Big 12, not when Trae Young exists, not when West Virginia is just now hitting their stride and getting Esa Ahmad back in two weeks. Hell, I’m not going to completely write off a Kansas team that added Sam Cunliffe, is still adding Silvio De Dousa and could also end up getting Billy Preston eligible.

That trio, combined with Devonte’ Graham and the Phog, would put the Jayhawks right back in the mix.

But as of today, it is officially time to say that the Jayhawks are no longer the favorite to win the Big 12, and there are a couple of reasons to say that.

For starters, the Phog is not the fortress that it has been in the past. Arizona State walked in and whipped up on Kansas in that building. Texas Tech did the same. Part of the reason that the Jayhawks have been able to keep this streak going as long as they have is that they are damn near unbeatable in their building. When you are locked into nine wins in an 18 game league schedule because the Phog is the Phog, it’s hard for anyone to keep pace.

In a conference where the margins are going to be fine, Texas Tech landing a road win in Lawrence immediately gives them an edge.

Because the league is ridiculous this season.

TCU was undefeated and ranked No. 10 in the country last week and they may be the fifth-best team in the league at this point.

Road wins, particularly those against the top of the league, are not going to be easy to come by.

But the bigger issue is that Kansas just is not all that good.

We’ve talked about the lack of talent on the roster. We’ve talked about their issues on the defensive end of the floor. We’ve talked about the fact that there really is only one player that can create a shot that isn’t a three – Devonte’ Graham – and that he isn’t a guy that loves creating off the dribble.

Everything that I wrote in this ‘What’s Wrong With Kansas?’ story from three weeks ago still holds true today.

But the biggest issue is No. 2 on that list: There is not enough toughness of leadership on this roster.

Frank Mason and Josh Jackson were alphas. They were pitbulls. Competitors. Whatever the cliché du jour is, they were.

“Let’s just call it like it is,” Self said last month. “You’re replacing Frank with somebody who’s not near as competitive as Frank. You’re replacing Josh with somebody who’s not near as competitive as Josh. And you’re replacing Landen with somebody that doesn’t know how to be competitive yet. Those aren’t negatives. Those are just facts. I mean, we had two-and-a-half dogs last year, and Landen was close to being a full one.”

With those two gone, Kansas doesn’t have that guy, and it showed in the body language of the guys on the roster in the second half. By the 10 minute mark, it was clear Kansas was never going to seriously mount a comeback attempt, and the bad news for Jayhawk fans is that none of Preston, De Sousa or Cunliffe are the answer to that problem.

What that means is that whoever the actual favorite to win the Big 12 is, it is not Kansas.

Not this year.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.”