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The FBI’s decision to continue to enforce the NCAA’s bylaws for them is shameful

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The question that has hung over college basketball more than any other since the FBI first arrested 10 people in their investigation into corruption in the sport back on September 26th is this: When will Kansas get caught up in the mix?

Kansas, like Louisville, is one of the flagship programs sponsored by Adidas, so the reasoning stood that if Adidas was willing to pay players to play for Louisville, they would be doing the same for Kansas. On Tuesday evening, we got our answer, as the FBI added additional charges to Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code and a runner for an ex-NBA agent, Christian Dawkins, that looped the Jayhawks into this mess.

It started with a player that appears to be Billy Preston, a former McDonald’s All-American forward that never ended up playing for the Jayhawks this season. Preston’s mother, according to the documents released by the FBI on Tuesday evening, received roughly $90,000 from Adidas in exchange for her son’s commitment to Kansas.

But Preston never actually played for Kansas. The excuse that the Jayhawks used was a single-car accident that Preston was involved in prior to the start of the season, and an ensuing investigation into where the money came from to pay for the car that he was driving.

Preston is not what Kansas should be worried about.

Silvio De Sousa is.

A native of Angola, De Sousa was initially a member of the Class of 2018, but he graduated at the end of the first semester and enrolled at Kansas for the second semester to help bolster the front court depth of a team that desperately needed it. And while he averaged just 4.0 points and 3.7 boards, De Sousa did play a big role in Kansas winning the Big 12 tournament — starting center Udoka Azubuike did not play because of a knee injury and De Sousa averaged 10.0 points and 9.7 boards in the three wins — and grabbed 10 boards and played some critical minutes as the Jayhawks upset Duke in the Elite Eight.

He didn’t, however, play any role in Kansas winning their 14th straight Big 12 regular season title, and in the end, he may end up being the player that costs Bill Self his streak.

Because, according to the FBI, Adidas paid at least $20,000 to De Sousa’s guardian to earn what was a surprise commitment in late-August of 2017, money that was earmarked to pay back another shoe company who had already invested in De Sousa to ensure a commitment to a program that they sponsored. De Sousa played for an Under Armour sponsored AAU team and high school team and was long considered a lock for Maryland, Under Armour’s flagship basketball program.

And that is where Kansas could end up being in trouble.

As we’ve seen before, if the NCAA can determine that a player was actually ineligible at the time that he played in games, they can go back and vacate those wins. That’s what they did to Memphis in 2008, when Derrick Rose was ruled retroactively ineligible because of an issue with an SAT score; that’s why Self and Kansas, in the NCAA’s eyes, did not actually beat anyone when they won the 2008 national title. It happened with Louisville just last year, when the 2013 national title banner came down because players were ruled retroactively ineligible for receiving “impermissible benefits” in the form of strippers and sex workers from an assistant coach.

To be clear, Kansas is not the only school and Self is not the only coach that may be in trouble after this latest document was released. The FBI also determined that a player that appears to be Dennis Smith Jr. received at least one payment of $40,000 from Adidas, funneled through a member of the N.C. State coaching staff, to ensure that he would remain committed to the Wolfpack. Mark Gottfried, who is currently the head coach at CSUN, was the head coach of N.C. State at the time.

That’s not a good look for CSUN. It’s also CSUN and an N.C. State era that Wolfpack fans would be happy to see erased from the history books.

Which is why Kansas is who everyone is talking about.

This may be the end of the Kansas Big 12 title streak.

But that’s not really the story here.

Because my biggest takeaway from reading even more legal documents pertaining to this FBI investigation is this: What in the world is the FBI doing enforcing the NCAA’s arcane, made-up and exploitative rulebook for them?

(J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

Read this passage, taken from what was released yesterday:

The scheme described herein served to defraud the relevant universities in several ways. First, because the illicit payments to the families of student-athletes described herein rendered those student-athletes ineligible to participate in Division I athletics, scheme participants conspired to conceal these payments from the universities, thereby causing them to provide or agree to provide athletic-based scholarships and financial aid under false and fraudulent pretenses.

[…]

In doing so, the scheme participants interfered with the universities’ ability to control their assets and created a risk of tangible economic harm to the universities, including … the possible disgorgement of certain profit-sharing by the NCAA.

Put another way, the victims of these “crimes” were the universities because these players hid the fact that they were ineligible, received scholarships that NCAA rules stipulate they should not have received and put the universities at risk of not receiving their share of the $1 billion brought in by the NCAA tournament this season.

Think about that for a second.

The FBI is out here spending all this time and all these taxpayer dollars investigating NCAA violations.

Each of the universities here, each of the “victims” in these investigations, banked eight or nine figures off of the work and the likeness of these unpaid amateurs.

And they are victims because those unpaid amateurs got themselves a payday that amounts to a week or two of NCAA president Mark Emmert’s $1.9 million salary.

If the FBI really wanted to investigate a criminal issue that matters, they should look into the potential illegalities in the NCAA restricting the ability of these athletes to profit off of their own name and their own likeness.

Until then, they should get the hell out of college basketball and let the NCAA continue to try — and continue to fail — to enforce their own shameful bylaws.

Three Things To Know: Auburn’s rolling, Kentucky’s struggling, Mizzou is tough

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It was a relatively quiet night in college hoops, but there were still three things that were worth discussing.

1. IS AUBURN THE BEST TEAM IN THE SEC?

I’m trying to come up with a reason to argue otherwise, and it’s just not working.

Despite the fact that they lost their three best players from last season’s Final Four team, the Tigers look like they are going to once against have a shot of getting back to the final weekend of the college basketball season.

This year’s group is a little different than last season. They’re not forcing as many turnovers as they did last year, but they are running the floor and they are shooting up a ton of threes and, right now, they are playing with as much swagger and confidence as anyone in the country. Colgate is a solid, veteran mid-major team and they were absolutely mollywhopped by Auburn. The final score was 91-62, but don’t forget that Auburn led 53-21 at halftime. The spread of 16 points. Auburn was covering midway through the first half.

Now, if we’re going to talk about them in terms of being the best anything, it’s important to note that they haven’t really played anyone yet. Colgate and South Alabama are fine. Davidson was, apparently, entirely overrated. Hopefully Auburn will get a showdown with Wisconsin in the final of the Legends Classic, otherwise we may not see them face a tournament team until they host N.C. State.

In other words, expect a lot of wins from Auburn in the month of December.

2. KENTUCKY CERTAINLY ISN’T, NOT RIGHT NOW

We have already spent quite a bit of time on Kentucky in this space. The Wildcats struggled with a mid-major foe in Rupp Arena for the second straight game. They did not lose on Monday night, but they did leave us asking the question: Can Kentucky actually cure what is ailing them this season?

3. MISSOURI IS GOING TO BE A TOUGH OUT ALL SEASON LONG

I’m not sure there is a team that is flying further under the radar than Missouri right now. The Tigers improved to 3-1 on the season with a 75-56 win over Wofford on Monday night. They’ve also beaten Northern Kentucky and took No. 18 Xavier to overtime in Cincinnati.

As of today, they are a top ten team defensively, according to KenPom. They are ninth nationally in defensive effective field goal percentage. They have an assembly line of talented perimeter players that can all get out and pressure while Jeremiah Tilmon has embraced being the defensive anchor for this group while also becoming an efficient catch-and-dunk offensive weapon that can draw fouls.

I’m going to hold off on going all-in on Missouri until we see them in the Hall Of Fame Classic next week (they open with Butler, another sneaky-good team) but at this point, it looks like the Tigers should be a tournament team.

Cassius Winston addresses Michigan State crowd: ‘I lost a piece of my heart’

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Michigan State guard Cassius Winston spoke publicly for the first time since his younger brother died by suicide nine days ago.

He thanked the crowd at the Breslin Center:

Can Kentucky cure what is ailing them?

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For the second straight game against mid-major competition, the Kentucky Wildcats looked like everything but the team that beat No. 1 Michigan State in the season opener.

On Tuesday night, the Wildcats blew a 14-point second half lead and allowed Mark Madsen’s Utah Valley Wolverines to have a couple of shots to take the lead in the final three minutes of what eventually turned into an 82-74 win. This came just six days after the Wildcats, as the No. 1 team in the country, found a way to lose to Evansville, who turned around and lost to SMU at home Tuesday.

So things have been better in Lexington.

Much better.

But panicking over anything would be silly right now.

Because the thing that this Kentucky team needs more than anything else is the only thing that cannot be rushed: Time.


What’s wrong with Kentucky? We broke it down last week.

One of college basketball’s most annoying bits of coachspeak and cliche is the saying, “This will be a different team come March.”

Sometimes it’s accurate. Sometimes it’s a coach or a columnist trying to explain away the dumb mistakes that a team keeps making.

And sometimes, it’s said in regard to this iteration of the Kentucky Wildcats, who will be a completely different team in, what, two weeks? A month? Surely not much more than that. Right now, Kentucky more closely resembles a MASH unit than it does a college basketball. Look at this seemingly ever-growing list of injuries:

  • E.J. Montgomery has missed the last three games with an ankle injury he suffered in the opener against Michigan State.
  • Ashton Hagans has been dealing with some kind of leg injury that John Calipari hasn’t specified but that had limited him early on this season.
  • Nick Richards is still battling an ankle injury that has kept him out of practices.
  • Immanuel Quickley missed the Utah Valley game with what was termed a chest injury.
  • Dontaie Allen is still recovering from a torn ACL.
  • Kahlil Whitney appeared to dislocate a finger with three minutes left before popping it back in himself. He did not return to the game.

Do the math, and the Wildcats finished this game with six scholarship players, two of whom are not at 100 percent.

That’s rough for any team to deal with, especially when three of the opening night starters are on that injured list.

But the issue is magnified for Kentucky.

The Wildcats are not only incredibly young, but they also lack the kind of elite talents we typically associate Big Blue with. There is no surefire lottery pick on this roster. More importantly, there may not be a college All-American on this roster. Tyrese Maxey is the most dangerous scorer they have, but he’s shooting 28 percent from three, has eight assists and nine turnovers in four games and has looked far from the star guard he played like against Michigan State. Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards were terrific on Tuesday, but if they’re the two best players on this team that’s a far cry from Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns, or John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis.

Hell, there isn’t anyone on this roster that is as good as P.J. Washington or Tyler Herro were last season.

At least right now. That’s the important part here.

Because, if you remember, neither P.J. Washington or Tyler Herro were as good in November as they were in February and March. They got better as the season went on, just like the guys on this roster will get better (and healthier) as the season goes on.

So when you put it all together, what you have is a team that we knew was going to need time to gel dealing with injuries to half their roster that is keeping key pieces out of games and, perhaps more importantly, out of practice. Don’t gloss over that. If injuries are keeping these guys from practicing, it’s keeping them from getting better, from learning their roles, from growing into the player they will hopefully be once league play begins. That is in no way insignificant.

Frankly, Maxey going absolutely bonkers in Madison Square Garden while Michigan State paired foul trouble with 5-for-26 shooting from three papered over a lot of these cracks.

We knew Kentucky was going to take their lumps early on these season and we ranked them where we ranked them anyway.

They are taking their lumps.

And if you are patient, they’ll look like Kentucky again soon enough.

No. 9 Kentucky gets another scare, holds off Utah Valley

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Ashton Hagans scored a career-high 26 points, and No. 9 Kentucky survived another close game against what should have been a lesser opponent, beating Utah Valley 82-74 on Monday night.

The Wildcats (3-1) dropped out of the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press Top 25 after losing at home to Evansville last week, and they had to overcome a late surge to hold off the Wolverines.

Kentucky led by 16 points early in the second half, but Utah Valley steadily chipped away until T.J. Washington’s 3-pointer got the Wolverines (3-2) within one at 68-67 with 3:26 remaining. Nate Sestina responded with a three-point play that helped the Wildcats pull away.

Kentucky was without second-leading scorer Immanuel Quickley, who sat out because of a chest injury. Quickley has scored 16 points in each of the last two games.

The Wildcats also have been without forward EJ Montgomery, who has missed the past three games because of an ankle injury. Coupled with Quickley’s injury, Kentucky’s roster has dwindled to seven scholarship players, leaving the Wildcats short-handed in practice.

Nick Richards had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Tyrese Maxey added 14 points.

Washington led the Wolverines with 22 points, followed by Trey Woodbury with 17 and Jamison Overton with 10.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats are used to shooting free throws and averaged 29.7 attempts per game in their first three. Kentucky made 31 of 34 from the line against the Wolverines, including 14 of 15 in the first half. The Wildcats held a 46-27 edge in rebounding, including 34 on the defensive end.

Utah Valley: Just as Evansville did in its upset, the Wolverines spread the floor and forced the Wildcats to play defense in the open court. The Wolverines made 11 3-pointers to keep the game close.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wildcats play two more games this week and could move up a spot or two with three victories, although games like this will surely give voters pause. The Wildcats don’t play a ranked opponent again until they take on No. 10 Ohio State at Las Vegas on Dec. 21.

UP NEXT

Utah Valley hosts Lamar on Thursday.

Kentucky hosts Mount St. Mary’s on Friday

Villanova’s Antoine medically cleared for game action

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Freshman guard Bryan Antoine has been medically cleared for game action, Villanova announced on Monday.

Antoine is a former five-star prospect that has missed the first two weeks of the season. He underwent surgery on his shoulder on May 31st.

“Bryan has been fully cleared to play in games and we’re happy for him,” head coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “He’s worked extremely hard in his rehab with Jeff Pierce and John Shackleton to get to this point.

“Our plan is to bring Bryan along slowly. He’s only just returned to practice and the learning curve is steep for any freshman. Bryan’s working hard to catch up and we’re going to do all we can to help him in this transition.”