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Bubble Banter: Xavier, Wisconsin land massive wins for their bubble standing

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Best I can tell, there are 23 teams in action on Saturday sitting somewhere between the 10 seed line and within reach of getting into the NCAA tournament.

Let’s talk about them.

Bubble Banter!

Dave Ommen’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here. A full bubble breakdown is right here.

WINNERS

XAVIER (NET: 63, NBC: Next four out): It’s impossible to overstate just how important Saturday’s win at Seton Hall (14) is for Xavier. The Musketeers entered the day with a 13-8 record, but just a 1-7 mark against Quad 1 opponents. Their only Quad 1 win enter the day came at TCU (65). Their only top 50 win entering the day came against Georgetown (49) at home. They didn’t have anything close to resembling a marquee win, and now they do. With two games left against Butler (8) and a visit from Villanova (13) left on their schedule, the Musketeers still have a couple of more chances, too. They’ll probably want to win at least one of those, and they certainly aren’t a lock just yet, but this is precisely the kind of win that chances the calculus for their tournament chances.

WISCONSIN (NET: 31, NBC: 10): The Badgers had quite the eventful week. They lost at Iowa on Monday. They had one starter quit the team on Wednesday after skipping Monday’s game. They had another starter get suspended for punching an opponent below the belt in that Monday loss. Then they went out and knocked off Michigan State (7) in the Kohl Center on Saturday. The Badgers are 6-7 against Quad 1 opponents, and while they are 13-9 with a Quad 3 loss to their name, a lot has to happen for them to miss the tournament at this point.

STANFORD (NET: 28, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal snapped a three-game losing streak by landing their first Quad 1 win of the season, beating Oregon (15) at home. With a pair of Quad 3 losses on their resume and just a 4-3 record against the top two Quads, Stanford still has work to do to feel good about their place on the bubble, but with the mountain road trip coming up next week, this was close to a must-win. They got it done.

CINCINNATI (NET: 51, NBC: Off the bubble): Cincinnati has turned their season around. Entering Saturday, they have won three in a row and five of their last six. The problem is that they have dug themselves a pretty significant hole to get out of. They entered Saturday without so much as a top 60 win, let alone a Quad 1 win, and they have three Quad 3 losses to their name. They need to start building out a resume, and given that they play in the AAC — a league without a top 30 team in the NET — they cannot miss on chances like this. And they didn’t, coming back from 12 down in the second half to beat Houston (35) at home. That is still just a Quad 2 win, but it’s a start.

TULSA (NET: 69, NBC: Off the bubble): The Golden Hurricane are doing everything they can to put themselves in a position to get an at-large bid to the tournament. On Saturday, they got a buzzer-beating three from Elijah Joiner to knock off Wichita State (32) in Tulsa. They are now sitting in sole possession of first place in the American. They still are without a Quad 1 win, but sitting at 4-4 against the top two Quads helps offset a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss.

BYU (NET: 29, NBC: 10): The Cougars knocked off Saint Mary’s (33), 81-79, at home on Saturday, a win that should put them in really, really good position to get an at-large so long as they avoid any terrible losses. They are 5-7 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents, and while four of those five wins are against Quad 2 opponents, that’s misleading. Saint Mary’s is three spot away from being a Quad 1 win. Virginia Tech (53) and Utah State (54) on neutral courts will be Quad 1 wins if they end up being top 50 by the end of the season. BYU is legit, and they should probably get in the tournament.

MEMPHIS (NET: 50, NBC: 10): The Tigers won their second game in a row on Saturday, as they picked off UConn (88) at home. Beating the Huskies doesn’t do much for the Tigers’ resume, but given the way that this season has gone for the Tigers, every win counts. They still don’t have a top 50 win on the season and are just 1-3 against Quad 1 opponents.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 42, NBC: Play-in game): The Bulldogs have now won two games in a row and five of their last six after beating Tennessee in Starkville on Saturday. With a pair of Quad 3 losses on their resume, and Arkansas (38) dropping down to just a Quad 2 win after losing to South Carolina (76) at home last week, Ben Howland’s club can hardly afford another slip-up. Keep winning, keep moving up the seed list.

TEXAS (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Longhorns did what they needed to do this week by beating TCU (65) on the road and knocking off Iowa State (72) at home. They now head into the most important three-game stretch of their season — at Kansas (3), Texas Tech (30), Baylor (1) — with some confidence. They probably should win at least one, if not two of those to feel good about where they are heading into the stretch run.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 57, NBC: First four out): The Sun Devils ended up splitting the road trip to the Washington schools, which could have been worse considering the fact that U-Dub (48) is a Quad 1 win still. That’s the second Quad 1 win for the Sun Devils, who are now 6-8 against the top two Quads. They’ve put themselves in a good position to get a bid.

PURDUE (NET: 37, NBC: Off the bubble): The Boilermakers did what they needed to and won at Northwestern on Saturday. Purdue’s biggest issue at this point is how many losses they’ve stacked up. They’re 12-10 overall and 2-8 against Quad 1 opponents, and seven of their final nine games are Quad 1 games. That doesn’t include home games against Michigan (34) or Indiana (46). It’s just a brutal, brutal schedule.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, NBC: 10): The Gators did not lose to Vanderbilt on Saturday, which is a good thing. Florida’s computer numbers are strong, but after losing to Mississippi State (42) at home earlier this week, their overall resume is pretty bland. They have home wins over Auburn (26) and Alabama (40), but their only road win came at South Carolina (76) and their three neutral site wins are against teams that look unlikely to get to the tournament. It’s enough to get them a bid, but not a seed that you would expect from a team as good as the Gators were supposed to be.

LOSERS

NORTH CAROLINA (NET: 93, NBC: Off the bubble): Just when we thought that the Tar Heels were going to be able to rally with Cole Anthony back in the mix, they go out and lose at home to Boston College with Cole on the floor. That dream is over.

ALABAMA (NET: 40, NBC: Play-in game): The bad news for Alabama is that they lost at home to Arkansas (38), a game that would have been the kind of Quad 2 win they need to continue to bolster their resume. With just one Quad 1 win to their name, the Crimson Tide need all the help they can get right now. The good news? Penn (151) has played their way into being a Quad 3 loss.

N.C. STATE (NET: 56, NBC: Play-in game): The Wolfpack got smoked at home by Louisville (10) on Saturday, their third straight loss. They now head out on the road for their next three games before returning home to play Duke (6) and Florida State (16). For a team with a 13-8 record, two Quad 1 wins and two Quad 3 losses, that is not an ideal situation.

DEPAUL (NET: 59, NBC: First four out): The Blue Demons lost another heart-breaker, blowing yet another lead and falling at Marquette (22), 76-72. They are now just 1-8 in the Big East, and while the rest of their resume looks pretty good, we’ve reached the point where the losses are just piling up too much. They have to sweep Xavier (61) and at Georgetown (49) next week if they want a real shot at this.

SYRACUSE (NET: 60, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange fell to 13-9 on the season with a loss at home to Duke (9) on Saturday. That’s now back-to-back losses for Jim Boeheim’s team after they had won five games in a row. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but they have yet to beat a single top 50 team this season.

UTAH STATE (NET: 54, NBC: Off the bubble): The Aggies lost at San Diego State (1) on Saturday, which might seal their fate as an NIT team barring an automatic bid. Wins over LSU (19) and Florida (42) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-95 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses?

TENNESSEE (NET: 62, NBC: Next four out): The Vols are now 12-9 on the season with three Quad 2 losses and a Quad 3 loss on their resume after losing to Mississippi State (43) on the road on Saturday. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 30 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot, but that’s starting to look like a pretty big ‘if’.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 53, NBC: Next four out): Virginia Tech lost their third straight game and their fourth in five games on Saturday as they hosted Florida State (16) and lost 74-63. This was one of just three chances that Mike Young’s team had left on their schedule to land resume-changing wins, and the other two come on the road against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). The Hokies are in a tough spot.

TCU (NET: 65, NBC: Off the bubble): The Horned Frogs lost their third straight game and their first in the last six games on Saturday, but it’s understandable — they were playing at Baylor (1). They are still without a Quad 1 win and are now 3-7 against the top two Quads. They have quite a bit of work to do.

WASHINGTON (NET: 47, NBC: Off the bubble): Washington lost again on Saturday, this time at home against Arizona State (56). They’ve now lost five in a row, seven of eight and nine of 11. They’re 12-11 overall and 2-8 in the Pac-12 and play their next three games on the road. They’re off the bubble for now.

Zion’s attorneys: Court filing claiming $400K payment contains fraudulent information

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Attorneys representing Zion Williamson in a lawsuit filed by former his marketing agent Gina Ford have claimed that the allegations set forth in her latest court filing are “fraudulent” and “a desperate and irresponsible attempt to smear Mr. Williamson.”

Ford claimed to have obtain “newly-discovered evidence” regarding her lawsuit against Zion, specifically that the player and his stepfather accepted $400,000 from a marketing agent named Slavko Duric in October of 2018. Zion signed a contract with Ford and her company, Prime Sports Marketing, on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of the case hinges on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers are arguing that this made the contract itself invalid. Ford’s attorneys, on the other hand, are attempting to prove that Zion was actually ineligible at the time, meaning that he was not protected by UAAA, and this evidence is their latest attempt to do it.

Except, according to the attorneys representing Zion Williamson’s family, all of the evidence in the latest filing in this lawsuit is fake.

Included in the exhibits attached to the motion filed by Ford’s lawyers is a statement from a man named Donald Kreiss, who claims that he invested in a company owned by Duric called Maximum Management Group. MMG purportedly had an exclusive marketing agreement with Williamson, the proof being an agreement that was allegedly signed by Williamson, a letter of declaration to repay the $400,000 that was paid in 2018 and a copy of Zion’s driver’s license.

“The alleged ‘agreements’ and driver’s license attached to these papers are fraudulent,” read a statement from Jeffery Klein, Zion’s attorney and obtained by Daniel Wallach of The Athletic. “Neither Mr. Williamson nor his family know these individuals nor had any dealing with them. We had previously alerted Ms. Ford’s lawyers to both this fact and that we had previously reported the documents to law enforcement as forgeries, but they chose to go ahead with another frivolous filing anyway.”

Here is a photo, courtesy of Wallach’s twitter feed, of Zion’s license.

Via @WALLACHLegal

Speaking as someone that bartended on a college campus for a decade, I would not accept this ID. The ‘E’ at the end of LICENSE is not in bold. The last three digits of his zip code are a different font than the first two. There is no shadow behind his ears in the picture, which is the first thing I was taught to look for on an ID I thought was fake. Most conspicuous? His weight is listed as a height and his height is listed as a weight.

Furthermore, Zion’s attorneys claim that Duric is the same man that tried to run a similar scam on Luka Doncic.

“A simple Google search reveals that Slavko Duric, whose ostensible sports marketing entity has no online presence, purportedly attempted to defraud Luka Doncic … using a scheme in which he forged Doncic’s and his mother’s signatures on a contract,” read a letter, obtained by Wallach. that Williamson’s attorney sent to Ford’s attorney before the motion was filed.

The intrigue into Zion Williamson’s lawsuit is about smearing Duke basketball’s image

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This column was originally published on May 11th of 2020.

The public intrigue into Zion Williamson’s current lawsuit and legal battle has nothing to do with Zion Williamson himself and everything to do with smearing the glossy veneer of the Duke basketball program.

That’s the truth.

The numbers involved in this litigation — reportedly up to $200 million is at stake — will certainly raise some eyebrows, but contract disputes are rarely interesting for anyone that isn’t in law school. That’s what this is. Zion signed a contract with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing on April 20, 2019, five days after he declared for the NBA draft. Less than two months later, he backed out of that deal to sign with CAA, the most powerful agency in the business that will also be representing his basketball interests. Ford is suing Williamson for breach of contract.

The outcome of this civil case is going to hinge on a law in the state of North Carolina known as UAAA — the Uniform Athlete Agent Act — that requires a contract to make it clear to a student-athlete that by signing with an agent, they forfeit their remaining eligibility. This marketing contract did not have that language in it, and Williamson’s lawyers will argue that this made the contract itself invalid.

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(And no, I don’t, for a second, think that Zion was ever returning to Duke. Neither does Ford, or anyone with any common sense. It’s why I wrote this “column” last May, when the rumors of Zion returning to school started rolling through the basketball world. That said, if I was a cynic, I would take a close look at that timeline. Rumors of Zion returning to school just happened to start circulating right around the time that he was trying to find a way out of a marketing contract to sign with a bigger agency? Hmm. Interesting. But I’m not a cynic, so I certainly won’t suggest that it was nothing other than a well-orchestrated PR ploy knowing that this would inevitably end up in the court system one day. Wouldn’t dream of insinuating anything like it.)

Which brings us to Mother’s Day.

That’s when Daniel Wallach of The Athletic first published snippets of the latest Zion Williamson lawsuit that was filed by Ford and her attorneys. Among them were requests for admission that Zion and his family received all kinds of money, benefits and gifts to play at Duke and to induce him to wear Nike and Adidas at different points during his high school career. The legal ploy is simple, really: If Zion or his parents are forced, under oath, to admit that they accepted illegal benefits at any point during his recruitment or while on the roster at Duke, it would mean that he was retroactively ineligible. If he was actually ineligible during his one season in Durham, then the UAAA wouldn’t be relevant. The contract, which, according to Ford’s lawsuit, could only be terminated with cause, would stand and Zion would be on the hook for a lot of money.

At this point, it does not appear that there is much evidence proving that Zion accepted illegal benefits. When asked by Dana O’Neil of The Athletic if they have any proof of wrongdoing, Ford’s attorney said, “We have ideas, opinions and some leads of our own. We are looking for information to support our case. This is what we want to know.” Requests for admission are, essentially, fact-finding missions during discovery in civil cases. Put another way, at this point, these requests are nothing more than proof that Ford’s lawyers have heard the same rumors and read the same court docs that people in basketball circles and on college basketball message boards have.

But no one actually cares about the legalese here, because if they did, they’d realize that Zion is under no obligation to answer, and even if he is somehow forced to, nothing will come of this for a long, long time.

The people that care this case care about catching Coach K in a lie. They care about proving that the holier-than-thou way that Duke carries itself is fraudulent. They care about finding a way to get something — anything — to stick to the program that recruits better than anyone else in an era where recruiting is the Wild, Wild West.

Do you remember when Lance Thomas dropped $30,000 in cash as a down payment for $67,800 in jewelry a year before Thomas and Duke won the 2010 national title? Nothing came of it. Remember when Corey Maggette admitted to receiving payments from Myron Piggie before becoming a member of the team that made it to the 1999 national title game? Nothing came of that, either. Nothing happened when Wendell Carter’s name popped up on expense reports submitted by Christian Dawkins. Nothing happened when Michael Avenatti alleged that Nike paid Marvin Bagley’s family.

All told, there are 13 high-major programs that are dealing with the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into college basketball: Alabama, Arizona, Auburn, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, TCU and USC.

Duke, despite a cloud of smoke surrounding Zion that would make Seth Rogen envious, has been hit with … nada.

The public is looking for their pound of flesh, and nothing would satiate that bloodlust quite like an admission from Zion Williamson in this lawsuit that he was paid to go to Duke.

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.