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No. 21 Kentucky beats Texas A&M thanks to controversial no-call

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Hamidou Diallo led No. 21 Kentucky with 18 points and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, in the absence of starting point guard Quade Green, finished with 16 points, seven boards, five assists and two blocks as the Wildcats knocked off Texas A&M, 74-73, in controversial fashion on Tuesday night.

In a game with a sloppy finish featuring a handful of missed free throws by both teams, a missed front-end from Kentucky’s P.J. Washington with 3.9 seconds left led to what could have been a game-winning bucket for the Aggies.

The play was simple. Without any timeouts, as soon as Texas A&M grabbed the defensive rebound the ball was heaved the length of the court towards center Tyler Davis, who had Wenyen Gabriel sealed up the lane. Gabriel appeared to foul Davis – if this was football he would have been flagged for pass interference – but no whistle was blown:

And with that, the Aggies fell to 0-4 in the SEC.

In a vacuum, losing to Kentucky by a point in Rupp Arena is hardly a bad loss, even in a year where the Wildcats aren’t as good as they usually are; it’s almost like home court advantage exists and often manifests itself in the way referees officiate games. (If you can’t that’s sarcasm … it is.)

What makes this result troubling is the fact that the Aggies have yet to play with a full roster in an SEC game this season. First, Admon Gilder hurt his knee. Then D.J. Hogg was suspended. Then Robert Williams got sick and, finally, Duane Wilson got himself hurt as well. That’s three starters and, arguably, A&M’s most talented player.

And suddenly, Texas A&M looks like they could be in danger of squandering a team that may be more talented than any that Billy Kennedy coaches again.

When healthy, the Aggies are Final Four good. They’re the best team in the SEC when everyone is available, but their chances of winning an SEC regular season title are all but gone, and with their next game coming at No. 24 Tennessee, an 0-5 start to conference play is a very real possibility.

The good news is that missing all of those players will be factored in when the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee looks at their résumé, and given how weak leagues like the Pac-12, Big Ten, Atlantic 10 and Mountain West are, there should be plenty of bids available. The SEC is a bear this year, and while that means that A&M’s schedule is not going to be easy the rest of the way, the other side of it is that they are good enough to win the games they need to win and there should be enough quality wins available on their schedule than an NCAA tournament berth isn’t a pipe dream.

Simply getting into the tournament is probably all that A&M needs to be worried about right now.

At the end of the day, if Tremont Waters doesn’t make two ridiculous threes in the final 12 seconds and the foul on Gabriel actually gets called, the Aggies are 2-2 in the SEC and coming off of a win in Rupp Arena.

They really aren’t that far away.

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.”