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Tuesday’s Things To Know: Kansas loses again, Nebraska losing luster and Kentucky ramping up

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It was a great night of hoops with a bunch of ranked teams on the road and plenty of important games for conference races and high-level NCAA tournament seeding. Here are the highlights from Tuesday’s action:

IS THE BIG 12 UP FOR GRABS?

We’ve been here before.

You tend to get repeats after 14 years, after all. That’s a lot of time to go without new material. There’s been mid-season cliffhangers before, only for the finale to finish the same. With Kansas winning the Big 12.

After the 11th-ranked Jayhawks lost their second-straight and third of four games in a 73-63 setback at Texas on Tuesday, maybe – just maybe – that teaser may actually foreshadow a different ending. Or death still waits for us all, taxes stay due April 15th and the sun will come up tomorrow to better illuminate Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

But maybe not.

The evidence is starting to pile up that these Jayhawks may not have what it takes to extend the program’s run of Big 12 championships to 15 in a row. It starts with personnel.

Dedric Lawson is awesome. The Memphis transfer has absolutely lived up to the sky-high expectations that followed him from his hometown to Lawrence. He’s putting up 19.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor. He is exactly the caliber of player that Jayhawks so often have rode to a Big 12 championship – and more.

The problem seems to be everybody else.

There’s no Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, Joel Embiid, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Svi Mykhailiuk or any of the multitudes of players that Kansas has had either as co-stars or members of a highly-capable supporting cast. Udoka Azubuike probably would have been that alongside Lawson in what would have been a monster of a frontcourt, but he’s on the bench with a season-ending wrist injury. Maybe Silivio De Sousa could have been that guy, but he’s in NCAA eligibility limbo.

Lagerald Vick has shown glimpses of being the type of player that can help lead Kansas, but he’s also prone to clunker performances and doesn’t have the take-over-the-game mentality of guys like Mason or Graham of recent years. Cal transfer Charlie Moore hasn’t provided the boost many expected while five-star freshmen Quinton Grimes and Devon Dotson have had their moments, but no one is going to be mistaking them for Duke’s freshmen foursome as the no-doubt, one-and-done, All-American freshmen they’d need to be to truly elevate the Jayhawks. Marcus Garrett, KJ Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot are hardly the answer for major production, either.

The pieces are there, though. Even considering Azubuike, we all looked at this roster in November and were enamored with the talent and experience. It could all still click into place. Would it really be all that surprising to see Grimes or Dotson mature into their five-star hype? Or Vick embracing his final months of college with improved consistency? The answer to that is not totally, but it doesn’t become more likely the longer Kansas languishes in this area between good and really good. Especially in the Big 12, where really good – and maybe great – is what it’s going to take to win the conference. Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State and maybe even Baylor look capable of pushing this thing to the brink.

Maybe Bill Self will solve the personnel shortcomings with scheme, finding a way to squeeze enough offense out of a team that isn’t particularly strong shooting 3s, taking care of the ball or hitting the offensive glass while making the defense truly elite. He’s done some remarkable work in his tenure at Kansas. Just look at last year’s Final Four team. Plus, all the Jayhawks’ losses have come on the road, so it’s possible the schedule is simply as big a part of this as anything.

Kansas’ streak has been in peril before. There have been true threats to their crown – they’ve even shared a couple during this run. The Jayhawks still have Allen Fieldhouse in their corner and the Big 12 always seems to cannibalize itself in just the perfect way to clear the path for Kansas. That’s probably what will happen again this season.

Right?

NEBRASKA IS FADING

It wasn’t too long ago that Nebraska was basking in some well-deserved spotlight. Tim Miles’ team started the season 11-2 with wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, Creighton, Illinois and Oklahoma State with its only setbacks coming on a neutral to Texas Tech and at Minnesota. Things looked to be good in Lincoln after a nice season a year ago was derailed by a Big Ten that wasn’t good enough to deliver enough quality opponents to help the Huskers’ NCAA tournament resume after a non-conference schedule that was highlighted – which feels like a generous designation – by a home win against Boston College.

It’s now starting to all fall apart.

The Huskers dropped their fourth straight and sixth of eight in a 62-51 loss to Wisconsin on their home floor to fall to 13-8 overall and 3-7 in the B1G.

The calendar hasn’t yet flipped to February, but it’s hard to view Nebraska at anything other than a critical juncture of their season. They’ve got the Illini in Champaign on Saturday followed by No. 21 Maryland at home and then No. 17 Purdue in West Lafayette. The schedule then eases up some with Minnesota and Northwestern at home before a trip to Penn State, but the homestretch looks daunting with Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa the final four games.

There’s opportunity there, but a much smaller margin for error than Nebraska would have liked given how strong its non-conference work was. If they can’t pull out of this nosedive, they’re looking at a fifth-straight year and sixth in seven without an NCAA tournament under Miles.

KENTUCKY IS A BUZZSAW RIGHT NOW

That embarrassing loss to Duke in the Champion’s Classic seems like a million years ago. At least all the takes about Kentucky taking a step back seem like they were about a different team.

The Wildcats won their seventh-straight game Tuesday, following up Saturday’s win over Kansas with an absolute beatdown of an 87-52 defeat of Vanderbilt. They shot 55.6 percent from the floor and connected on 10 of 17 (58.8 percent) from 3-point range. P.J. Washington had 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Kentucky has it absolutely rolling right now, beating good teams like Auburn, Kansas and Mississippi State while dominating inferior ones like Vandy. John Calipari’s teams have often had a knack for figuring things out around this time of the season, and suddenly the Wildcats are starting to look like they might be a part of that club.

Ivy League calls off fall sports due to outbreak

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The Ivy League on Wednesday became the first Division I conference to say it will not play sports this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press. The league left open the possibility of moving some seasons to the spring if the outbreak is better controlled by then.

The decision was described to the AP by a person speaking on the condition of anonymity in advance of the official announcement.

Although the coalition of eight academically elite schools does not grant athletic scholarships or compete for an NCAA football championship, the move could have ripple effects throughout the big business of college sports. Football players in the Power Five conferences have already begun workouts for a season that starts on Aug. 29, even as their schools weigh whether to open their campuses to students or continue classes remotely.

The Ivy decision affects not just football but everything before Jan. 1, including soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country, as well as the nonconference portion of the basketball season.

Power Five conferences told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they were still considering their options. But it was the Ivy League’s March 10 decision to scuttle its postseason basketball tournament that preceded a cascade of cancellations that eventually enveloped all major college and professional sports.

“What’s happening in other conferences is clearly a reflection of what’s happening nationally and any decisions are made within that context,” said Dr. Chris Kratochvil, the chair of the Big Ten’s infectious disease task force, adding that there is no “hard deadline” for a decision.

“Clearly, regardless of what happens in the fall, sports are coming back eventually,” he said. “So we want to make sure that whenever that time (is) right to return to competition, that we have the infrastructure and the recommendations in place to be able to do so safely for the student-athletes, staff, coaches, fans, students.”

Ivy League schools are spread across seven Northeastern states that, as of mid-July, have seen some success at controlling the COVID-19 outbreak. But most of those states still ban large gatherings; under the Massachusetts reopening plan, Harvard would not be allowed to have fans in the stands until a vaccine is developed.

Harvard has already announced that all classes for both semesters will be held virtually; dorms will be open only to freshmen and seniors. Yale said it would limit its dorms to 60% capacity and said most classes would be conducted remotely. Princeton will also do most of its teaching online, with dorms at half capacity.

Coaches 4 Change: Siena’s Carmen Maciariello spearheads social justice initiative

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Carmen Maciariello found himself in the same place so many of us did in the days after George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis.

Devastated by what he was seeing. Motivated to find a way to use his platform as the head coach at Siena College to enact change. Struggling with how, as he puts it, “a white head coach from privilege at a school in New York,” can have real, honest, open dialogue with his majority-Black roster.

So he picked up the phone. He called Louis Orr, his former college coach and now an assistant coach at Georgetown. He called his closest friends in the coaching business. He called his advisor, Brad Konerman, an entrepreneur who connected him with a couple of talented website designers. By early June, 25 like-minded people from all walks of life were on a zoom call.

“I’ve never been pulled over and feared for my life for not using my blinker,” Maciariello, who is white, told me. “We had those conversations. How are we talking to our teams about that? What are we doing with the police? How can we help our young people navigate through these tough times?”

That’s how Coaches 4 Change was born.

Maciariello has grand plans for the organization. On a zoom call with nearly all of the 43 coaches that have committed to the group to date, he said he wants “to try to change the world. Let’s not think small, we’ve gotta think big with this.” He is not lacking for ambition.

But Maciariello also understands that something like this has to start small and it has to start locally. It’s why he limited the first group of invitees to coaches that are “doing this for the right reasons.”

“I didn’t want to have a donate link and bring in coaches that felt like, ‘I donated money, I did my part supporting it,” he said. “It was about the time commitment and the vision. We have to focus on one thing first.”

That first thing?

Voting.

C4C developed a sleek, interactive website to help educate young people about social injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement, things as basic as the difference between systemic and systematic racism and Jackie Robinson’s impact on sports. But the site also provides users with all of the information necessary to vote in this year’s elections, information on what makes voting so important in a democracy and — most importantly — a tutorial for how a person in every state can register to vote, where their polling stations are and whether or not they are eligible for mail-in voting. Their website also has a ‘Keep Learning‘ page that links to all documentaries, podcasts, audiobooks and literary resources available on all streaming platforms, including content for children.

C4C has partnered with Vote.org with a goal of “100 percent voter registration for all college athletes” regardless of the sport they play, Maciariello said.

Currently, the only coaches involved with C4C are men’s college basketball coaches, but that will change. They are in the process of reaching out to counterparts on the women’s side, and will eventually invite staff members from other sports as well. One of the barriers to entry to become a member will be ensuring that every player on a coach’s team is registered to vote.

Eventually, Maciariello envisions C4C developing community outreach initiatives. He wants the members of C4C to connect with their campus communities and put together voter registration drives for students. He wants to eventually connect with lawmakers and work on changing legislation that helps systemic racism continue to exist.

No one ever said he wasn’t ambitious.

But he knows he has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is this platform.

“I want to engage people in issues,” he said. “Educate them, empower them to change, encourage them to grow and evolve.”

CBT Podcast: Pat Chambers, moving the season up, Running Back Buddy Hield’s 46 points at Kansas

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In the latest edition of the Run It Back podcast, Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan recap Buddy Hield’s memorable 46-point outburst in a three-overtime loss to Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 1 back in 2016. The game was unbelievable. Before they dive into the game itself, the boys talk through Pat Chambers’ noose comments to Rasir Bolton and the potential for the college basketball season to get moved up.

Michael Jordan, Roy Williams among UNC greats to condemn systemic racism

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Roy Williams and Michael Jordan joined numerous North Carolina luminaries in condemning systemic racism and voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement in a video that was released by the school on Monday.

“Systematic racism has to stop now,” Jordan said in the video. “We must take the time to listen and educate our family, our friends, our children on social injustice and racial inequality. Black Lives Matter more now than ever before. We have to get this right, so please take time to educate yourself and improve the lives of many people, many Black people. Thank you.”

James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Maye and Sean May were among the former players that appeared in the video.

Williams led by discussing Charlie Scott, who was the first Black scholarship athlete in UNC’s history.

“Some of the greatest to play our game have been Black players, but here we are more than 50 years later and our country is still fighting systemic racism and police brutality against Black men and women,” Williams said. “The North Carolina basketball program, our family, our current and former players believe Black lives matter, and it’s critically important that we don’t just believe it. We must stand together and loudly and clearly demand that we as a country and the world embrace the fundamental human right that Black lives matter.”

Former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton left program after coach Pat Chambers made noose comment

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Former Penn State point guard Rasir Bolton has accused of Pat Chambers of making racially insensitive remarks, including a reference to a noose.

According to Bolton, who tweeted about the incident on Monday morning, midway through his freshman season in 2018-19 with the Nittany Lions, Chambers made a reference to a “noose” about Bolton’s neck.  Bolton described the encounter in an interview with the Undefeated, and said that the phrase was a result of Chambers talking about easing the pressure on his freshman’s shoulders. “I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck,” Bolton recalled.

Bolton also alleged that after his parents went to the Athletic Director with their concerns about this statement, Chambers told him during an exit interview that he was impressed by how “well-spoken” and “organized” his parents are. Remarks like this are considered racially-insensitive because they are based on the underlying assumption that Black people are not expected to be either organized or articulate.

Chambers, to his credit, admitted his wrong in making the noose comment.

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“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir and the Bolton family for what I said,” Chambers’ statement read. “I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I make was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”

Bolton left Penn State after his freshman season and transferred to Iowa State. He was given immediately eligibility with the Cyclones after mentioning the noose comment when applying for a waiver. He averaged 14.7 points this past season with Iowa State. He also alleged that after he came to the Penn State athletic department with this claim, they offered him a meeting with a sports psychologist who told him how to “deal with Coach Chambers’ personality type.”