After Texas Tech, what is the next program to go from off-the-map to powerhouse?

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Perhaps the most interesting part of the 2019 NCAA Tournament was the fact that the two teams that eventually played for the national title are not known as powerhouses in the sport, at least not traditionally.

Virginia has grown into arguably the healthiest and most sustainable program in the country given the way they identify recruits, develop players within their program and win at a high level year after year. Texas Tech, on the other hand, has grown into being a juggernaut in the Big 12 on the strength of their ability to get players to buy-in from the moment they set foot on campus.

The result is that today, as we enter the dog days of the 2019 summer, both the Cavaliers and the Red Raiders are sitting pretty as two of the top 10-15 programs in the sport.

So who’s next?

Which programs are on the verge of making a similar leap?

To put together a list, we eliminated every team that has either made a Final Four or won a regular season title in one of the top nine conferences in the last five years. Here is what we came up with.

Chris Mack (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

THE FLUKES

There are four teams that meet the criteria for eligibility on this list that really should not be in this discussion.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals are one of the top ten programs in the sport. They won the 2013 national title, their third national title in the last 40 years, and, I’d argue, the biggest reason they don’t currently have a regular season title of Final Four to their name in the last five years has as much to do with strippers, Adidas and a conference that includes Duke, UNC and Virginia as anything. Put another way, it only took Chris Mack one year to get the Cardinals to the point where they are entering the season as a top ten team.

FLORIDA: In 2014, Florida was the best team in college basketball, winning the SEC outright, the SEC tournament and getting to the Final Four. They won back-to-back titles less than 15 years ago and Mike White has them heading into this season as a preseason top ten team. Arbitrary cut-off dates are the only reason they qualify.

MEMPHIS: Near the end of John Calipari’s tenure with the Tigers, they were one of the most powerful programs in the sport. Remember, if he doesn’t leave for Kentucky before the 2009-10 season, then John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry and maybe even Eric Bledsoe would have suited up for the Tigers that year. That would have been arguably the greatest recruiting class of all-time to this day. We’re now ten years removed from that, however, and while Memphis hasn’t reached those heights since, they have put a man in charge that may be capable of getting them there. Penny Hardaway is already making waves on the recruiting trail and it shouldn’t be long before they are hanging banners again.

OHIO STATE: I’m not sure if people realize this, but during Thad Matta’s heydey, from 2005-06 through 2012-13, the Buckeyes were probably the best program in the Big Ten. In those eight years, they won five Big Ten regular season titles, four Big Ten tournament titles, reach seven NCAA tournament, got to the Sweet 16 five times, made it to a pair of Final Fours and came one Joakim Noah away from winning a national title with Greg Oden and Mike Conley on their roster. And it’s not like that success came out of nowhere. The Buckeyes won four Big Ten titles between 1991 and 2002 and reached the Final Four in 1999. The fact that they are eligible for this list has more to do with Thad Matta’s health than anything else. Chris Holtmann will get them to the promised land sooner rather than later.

Dan Hurley (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

CHASING PAST GREATNESS

UCONN: UConn has won four of the last 20 national titles. When Jim Calhoun retired, they were a top ten program in the sport. But then Kevin Ollie took over as the Big East split up and the Huskies were relegated to the American. Ollie drove the program into the ground as the fanbase got frustrated with a lack of relevant rivals, and as a result, new head coach Dan Hurley led UConn to their third straight season below .500 in his first season at the helm. He’s still a year or two away from really getting the program back on track, but with a return to the Big East coming in 2020-21, things are trending in the right direction.

MARYLAND: The Terps have yet to really get back to where they were during the height of the Gary Williams era, when they were going blow-for-blow with Duke in the ACC. Remember, won a national title in 2002. Since Mark Turgeon has taken over, he’s done a lot of the right things. He’s recruiting well, he’s winning games and he’s building rosters that look good on paper. The problem is that we haven’t quite seen the results on the floor. For example, in 2015-16, the Terps entered the season ranked No. 1 by a handful of projections only to finish the years 27-9 overall with a 12-6 mark in the Big Ten and a No. 5 seed. This year, Maryland once again looks to be a preseason top ten team with the likes of Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith and a loaded sophomore class. All Turgeon is missing at this point is the actual on-court production.

UCLA: The Mick Cronin era is going to be a fascinating one to follow. He’s spent the past 13 years running one of the most successful programs in Cincinnati, but he did so playing a style that was all about physicality, toughness and defense. If Cincinnati won the fight, so to speak, they were going to win the game. UCLA has not exactly been known as a program built on toughness, or defense, or physicality, or, in recent years, winning. There is talent on their roster right now. How will those players adjust to a new regime is yet to be seen, and it will be one of the most fascinating subplots for the next few years.

Scott Drew (John Weast/Getty Images)

SO WHO IS ACTUALLY PRIMED FOR A LEAP TO GREATNESS?

BAYLOR: The perception of Scott Drew has done a complete 180 in the last half-decade. For a while, the running joke was that he is a recruiter that cannot coach. In recent seasons, the exact opposite has been true. Drew has developed players within his program while at the same time managing to be one of the best in the business at identifying prospects that will fit into the way he wants to play. Last year was the perfect example. Baylor entered the season with exactly zero expectation, and despite dealing with a ton of injuries – including a season-ending injury to his best player, Tristan Clark – the Bears managed to win 20 games and get to the NCAA tournament. They will enter this season as a top 15 team.

USC: Andy Enfield has proven that he knows how to get it done on the recruiting trail. He has two five-stars enrolling at his program this season. He has the top player in the Class of 2020, Evan Mobley, enrolling next season. The issue with USC is that the Trojans have not been able to have the success on the floor match what their potential is on paper. We’ll see if that changes this season.

ALABAMA: Alabama’s decision to hire Nate Oats was a bit of a weird choice. Oats had a ton of success at Buffalo, but he is a guy that spent his entire basketball life in Wisconsin, Michigan and Upstate New York. Now he’s running a program in the deep south. He’s going to have to find a way to recruit the region to compete with the teams at the top of the league (Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn), but the early returns are promising. Oats managed to keep his most important pieces, Kira Lewis and John Petty, in town.

N.C. STATE: I’m a big Kevin Keatts fan and I fully believe that he is going to find a way to get that program somewhere near where N.C. State fans want it to be. The big question, however, is going to be what kind of hit is the program going to take as a result of the NCAA charging them based on violations that were committed by Mark Gottfriend and Orlando Early and that turned up as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball corruption.

Patrick Ewing (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

GEORGETOWN: I’m bullish on the Hoyas. I know they were a laughing stock in recent seasons because of their non-conference scheduling, but there was a method to the madness. Patrick Ewing was trying to get some talent into the program and build a base level of confidence with what he actually had on his roster. It has seemed to work, as Georgetown entered the 2019 Big East tournament with a real chance to play their way into an at-large bid. It didn’t work out that way, but with a promising pair of sophomore guards and some success recruiting local talent, I think Georgetown has a chance to reclaim past glory.

SETON HALL: If the Pirates are going to have that major breakthrough, this might be the year for it to happen. They return everyone from a 20-win team, including an All-American in Myles Powell and a trio of terrific role players in Quincy McKnight, Myles Cale and Sandro Mamukelashvili. Villanova is more talented, but Seton Hall has more experience and a very real chance to do what Xavier did in 2018 and win the Big East regular season title. My one concern is that this may be what the ceiling is for the Pirates, but if they live up to my expectations – as a top ten team – that’s a pretty high ceiling.

PROVIDENCE: Eventually, Ed Cooley is going to breakthrough. He is a terrific, well-respected coach – there’s a reason that he almost got the Michigan job despite having only one year in his coaching career with single-digit losses – that had been to five straight NCAA tournaments at a middling job. He also has an influx of young talent in his program, namely David Duke and AJ Reeves, and sooner or later the Friars are going to have a season that is reminiscent of Seton Hall this year, Marquette last year or Xavier two years ago.

THIS IS THE LIST OF TEAMS THAT WERE ELIMINATED FROM THIS DISCUSSION

Arizona, Auburn, Cincinnati, Davidson, Duke, Gonzaga, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Loyola IL, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Purdue, South Carolina, SMU, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Utah State, VCU, Villanova, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Xavier

Coach K downplays shoe company involvement as Duke mentioned at trial

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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski took the opportunity Monday to downplay the breadth of the illicit actions being alleged/revealed/confirmed in testimony over the last two weeks of Brian Bowen Sr. and T.J. Gassnola.

The father of an elite recruit and and adidas consultant, the pair have essentially narrated a roadmap to college basketball’s underground that includes payoffs, cars, deception, hustling and layers upon layers of NCAA violations.

“It’s a blip. It’s not what’s happening,” K said at the Blue Devils’ media day. “We haven’t lost guys because of someone’s shoe. I’m not aware of that.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, and we’ll get to it, but first it’s worth pointing something out. Something that came, ironically enough, to light Monday thanks to court proceedings in Manhattan as part of the Southern District of New York’s college basketball corruption case. Let’s go now to text messages between Gassnola and Kansas coach Bill Self.

Gassnola: “In my mind, it’s KU, Bill Self. Everyone else fall into line. Too (expletive) bad. That’s what’s right for Adidas basketball. And I know I’m right. The more you have lottery picks and you happy. That’s how it should work in my mind.”
Self: “That’s how ur (sic) works. At UNC and Duke.”

So despite K’s handwringing and outright dismissal of shoe companies’ involvement in high-profile recruitments, there is a Hall of Fame, national-championship winning coach at one of the most prominent and storied programs in the history of the sport that, apparently, thinks different.

That seems noteworthy.

Coach K’s whole premise, in fact, ignores the whole point of what, whether he admits it or not, is going on, seemingly, at a wide scale. The idea that Duke may or may not have lost guys because of their shoe affiliation is beside the point. The Blue Devils, you may have heard, are a Nike school. One of the preeminent Nike schools. Another thing you may have heard is that Nike is far and away the predominant player in basketball apparel. The pool of players that Duke could even conceivably miss out on because of shoe affiliation is tiny compared to the amount of high-level prospects that are “Nike guys.”

Let’s also not forget that Nike outfits another pretty influential group in the basketball world. USA Basketball. Which Coach K has essentially headed as the men’s national team coach for the last 10 years where he worked with some of Nike’s most high-profile athletes like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Oh, and Mason Plumlee, who got a spot on the 2014 World Cup team totally because he was one of the best players the United State had to offer and not at all because of his Duke connections.

But I digress.

What we learned today is that the perception nationally that shoe companies, to whatever degree, help their favored schools land top recruits is not one held simply by media blowhards and paranoid fanbases. It’s one a coach of one of those favored schools holds, too. The fact that there have been days of testimony in a federal courtroom that back up that sentiment should matter here, too.

Krzyzewski’s statements are self-serving. He’s not the first one to take this route. That’s fine. It’s his job to win basketball games and protect Duke basketball. Pretending like shoe companies are a non-factor in recruiting is in his best interest as he and his program continue to enroll the best players in the country while wearing a swoosh on every piece of clothing.

It’s not reality, though.

NC State’s Yow savors Top 25 goal, even amid FBI hoops probe

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State finally owns the Top 25 national status that athletics director Debbie Yow has sought during her eight-year tenure.

Yet amid the excitement there’s concern: The men’s basketball program is entangled in the federal investigation into corruption within the sport. That’s left Yow to balance the best overall season in school history with potential trouble ahead for one of the Wolfpack’s highest-profile programs.

“You tell the truth, always,” Yow said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We know what our culture is. My goodness, you’ve heard us talk about ‘ERA: Establish the culture, reinforce the culture, act with integrity when the culture is threatened.’ . If there has been an errant individual who’s acted outside of the stated and expected culture, so be it. We’ll deal with it.”

Federal prosecutors last fall charged 10 men — including assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, USC and Oklahoma State and a top Adidas executive — in the fraud and bribery scandal, though prosecutors later withdrew a criminal complaint against one defendant.

The case involves hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged bribes and kickbacks designed to influence recruits on choosing a school, agent or apparel company. It has touched schools such as Kansas, Louisville , Miami and Maryland , among others.

In N.C. State’s case, it received a grand jury subpoena in January for records tied to former one-and-done guard Dennis Smith Jr., former head coach Mark Gottfried and ex-assistant Orlando Early. And in April, a rewritten federal indictment alleged the former Adidas representative arranged $40,000 for the parent of an athlete committed to the school — and that an unnamed Wolfpack coach was involved in delivering the money.

The staff of current coach Kevin Keatts, who replaced Gottfried in March 2017, is not linked to the case. The school has said it is cooperating with investigators.

Asked if the case puts a damper on the overall season, Yow said: “I will always be disappointed if there’s an issue. Always. But that takes us back to who we really are and what our culture is. You have to go back to that.”

The rest of the news was better.

The Wolfpack finished 15th in the Directors’ Cup rankings of overall college programs, up from 89th when Yow arrived in summer 2010. The previous high was 27th in 2014-15.

“I think it gives us a different level of confidence in our ability to advance the program across the board,” Yow said, adding: “The next step is going to be consistency. It’s one thing to do it once, it’s another thing to make it a habit.”

The school had all-time highs of 12 teams with Top 25 rankings finishes and 12 individual national champions. The highest-profile programs did well, with football earning its second nine-win season in 15 years and reaching a five-year deal to keep Dave Doeren after he talked with Tennessee about its opening.

Keatts led men’s basketball to wins against Arizona, Duke and North Carolina before returning to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. Wes Moore led women’s basketball to its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 2007, while baseball was an NCAA regional host under Elliott Avent.

The school also said athletes posted a cumulative GPA of better than a 3.0 for the first time.

N.C. State is spending $6.6 million to create broadcast and production space at the football stadium for the 2019 arrival of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s TV channel, a requirement for all schools. A $2.5 million update to football’s sports medicine facility is planned, though the $15 million Case Commons project to build a centrally located dorm to house the basketball teams is shelved amid rising steel costs.

The 67-year-old Yow is entering the final year of a contract that ends next July. She’s sticking to that timeline, including when pressed on whether uncertainty from the FBI investigation could change her plans.

“I look at it and say I need for that to be settled before I retire,” she said. “I need to have closure on that for this place. Now, if I didn’t, the head of compliance is still here. The chancellor is still here. So it isn’t like I have to be here. It’s just a matter of personal comfort. I want things settled.”

2018 Final Four: The seven story lines you need to know this weekend

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1. WILL THE NATIONAL CHAMPION BE A ‘CLEAN’ PROGRAM?

The best part about the 2018 NCAA tournament has been that the insanity has allowed us to stop focusing on the fact that the 2017-18 season was one dominated by all the wrong headlines.

From the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball to the arrest of four assistant coaches in September to Rick Pitino’s firing days later to the players that were barred from competition this season to allegations that Michigan State and Tom Izzo covered up sexual assaults in the basketball to the reports from Yahoo and ESPN that the likes of Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges had been implicated in the FBI’s investigation, it has been bad headline after bad headline.

And I didn’t even mention that three UCLA players, including LiAngelo Ball, were arrested in China in November, an incident that led to Donald Trump and LaVar Ball having a war of words on twitter and network news.

It’s been such a relief talking about 16-seeds beating 1-seeds and Sister Jean’s appearance in the Final Four, I cannot even tell you, and if Karma is a thing, it probably played a role in the likes of Arizona, Auburn, USC, Louisville and every other program that was mixed up in the FBI’s investigation having their season end earlier that expected.

But that leads me to the next question: Are we sure that all of the teams in the Final Four are clean?

I’ll never say never — in this day and age, I’m not going to vouch for anyone, not in this climate — but I would be fairly surprised if shoe companies were funneling players to Loyola-Chicago. In the eyes of most coaches in the business, John Beilein is presumed to be clean, to run his program without skirting NCAA rules, and Jay Wright is right there as well; most kinds that are looking to get big payouts for playing in college aren’t the kind of kids that are willingly going to programs where they’ll redshirt and spend four or five years in college.

Kansas?

Well, that’s a bit of a different deal. as one coach said to NBC Sports after last month’s bombshell reports from Yahoo and ESPN, “Bill Self is bulletproof.” He’s recruited one-and-done kids for years. He’s one of the flagship programs for Adidas, who had two executives arrested in the FBI’s sweep in September. And remember, their top recruit this season — Billy Preston — never actually suited up. This is has been one of the biggest topics of discussion in coaching circles for the last six months.

And it begs the question: In five years, is the NCAA still going to recognize this run to the Final Four?

(Elsa/Getty Images)

2. IS VILLANOVA THE BEST PROGRAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL TODAY?

Since the Wildcats made the move to the new Big East prior to the 2013-14 season, this is what they’ve managed to accomplish:

Entering this weekend, they have a 163-21 record, meaning they’ve averaged 32.6 wins and 4.2 losses during that span. They have a 77-13 record in Big East play, which includes four Big East regular season titles and this year’s second-place finish. They’ve won three of the last five Big East tournament titles. They won the 2016 national title and are the favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio this season.

Who has been better than that?

Let’s start with the teams that have won a national title: UConn has been a train-wreck since winning in 2014, and even if you want to go back to 2013, Louisville would not be in that conversation, either. Duke won the 2015 national title but they have not won an ACC regular season title since 2010.

North Carolina is probably the only team that is in the conversation. They won the 2017 national title and reached the 2016 national title game, losing to Villanova. They’ve also won just two ACC regular season titles — Virginia actually has three of the last five to their name — and just one ACC tournament title. In three of the last five years, they’ve lost double-figure games and finished third-or-lower in the ACC.

The argument that the ACC is better than the Big East does have some merit, but it’s also worth pointing out that the Big East has been a top three league in the country the last four season, according to KenPom, and that they play a true round-robin conference schedule.

I say all that to say this: Win or lose, Villanova is college basketball’s best program.

Which means this may not even be a story line. Just a fact.

3. WHEN DOES CINDERELLA’S DANCE END?

Loyola-Chicago is just the fourth No. 11-seed to reach the Final Four, following in the footsteps of LSU in 1986, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011. None of those teams won a game in the Final Four. In fact, no team seeded lower than a No. 8-seed has ever won a game in the Final Four. Villanova won two in 1985, when they became the lowest-seed to win the national title, which UConn has been the beneficiary of the other two No. 8-seeds to win a game: Butler in 2011 and Kentucky in 2014.

The Ramblers have more than proven themselves at this point, and if they can find a way to beat a Michigan team that probably should have lost to No. 6-seed Houston in the second round, they’ll do something that’s never been done in the history of the sport.

This run still has some legs left in it.

4. AT WHAT POINT DO WE UNIRONICALLY CALL MICHIGAN A BASKETBALL SCHOOL?

The Michigan football program has not won a national title since 1997. They haven’t even won a Big Ten title since 2004.

Michigan basketball?

They won the Big Ten regular season title in 2012 and 2014. They won the Big Ten tournament title in 2017 and 2018. They’re back in the Final Four after getting to the national title game in 2013, and they made the Elite Eight in 2014 and the Sweet 16 in 2017.

I say all that to say this: Michigan is a basketball school now. Sorry, Jim Harbaugh.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

5. THE  POWER OF SMALL-BALL IS BACK

Villanova and Michigan have been at the forefront of the small-ball movement in college basketball. Jay Wright started it all the way back in 2005, when Curtis Sumpter tore his ACL prior to a Sweet 16 game against soon-to-be national champion North Carolina, and then re-tore the ACL before the 2006 season. Villanova spent the year playing with Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry on the floor together, and that’s before you consider that Sumpter was, himself, a mismatch four.

Michigan? John Beilein? He’s the guy that made runs in the tournament at West Virginia while playing Kevin Pittsnoggle, three-point bomber, at the five. He is small-ball personified. Even Bill Self, the man that was known for years as one of two legendary coaches that refused to make the change to small-ball, is playing with four guards again this season.

6. THE ONE-AND-DONE FACTORIES AREN’T IN THE FINAL FOUR … AGAIN

Duke didn’t make the Final Four. Arizona didn’t make the Final Four. Kentucky didn’t make the Final Four. UCLA didn’t make the Final Four. None of the teams known for getting one-and-done players in every year advanced this far in the tournament, and there probably aren’t any one-and-done players in this year’s final weekend of college hoops.

We’ve been over that, though. It’s the nature of the beast that is the NCAA tournament. Let’s move on.

7. IS SATURDAY THE NATIONAL TITLE GAME?

Probably.

I’m sorry, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago fans, but Villanova and Kansas are the two-best teams left. That doesn’t mean that the winner of Saturday’s Villanova-Kansas nightcap doesn’t have a chance of losing to whoever they will face on Monday night, but it does mean that they will be the heavy-favorite.

Put another way, no matter how this thing plays out and no matter who plays in the national title game, I will be picking the team on the right side of the bracket to beat the team on the left side of the bracket.

Sorry.

Louisville’s NCAA appeal denied, 2013 title banner to come down

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The NCAA announced on Tuesday morning that Louisvile’s appeal of NCAA rules violations has been denied.

The penalties are the results of an NCAA investigation into a former assistant coach and member of the basketball team, Andre McGee, providing players and recruits with strippers and sex workers at on-campus parties in Billy Minardi Hall, the Louisville basketball dorm. Louisville, in their appeal, referred to the penalties as “draconian”.

The NCAA did not agree.

“Louisville must vacate men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 academic years,” the NCAA’s statement on Tuesday read.

The most significant and relevant piece of information here is that Louisville’s 2013 National Title will be vacated along with their 2012 trip to the Final Four. In total, Louisville will have to vacate 123 wins, which includes 15 NCAA tournament wins from 2011-2015, the seasons in which players that have retroactively been ruled ineligible played in games.

For the first time in college basketball history, a national title will be wiped from the record books. Michigan, who lost the 2013 national title game, will not be named the national champion.

“From here, we will officially remove the formal recognitions from our facilities,” interim AD Vince Tyra said, “but not from our minds.”

The Cardinals were placed on probation for four years when the initial penalties were handed down in June of 2017. They have also been hit with scholarship reductions and restrictions on their recruiting while being forced to pay back the money they received from conference revenue sharing as a result of the NCAA tournament wins. That number will be around $600,000, the school said in a press conference on Tuesday.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” interim president Greg Postel said.

These penalties were announced before the NCAA did any investigation into allegations that were made against the program during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. That investigation, which determined that an agreement was made between an Adidas executive and a member of the Louisville staff to funnel $100,000 to the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen, eventually cost Rick Pitino his job.

Pitino has repeatedly denied knowledge of the parties that took place in the dorms. Before this title was vacated, he was the only Division I head coach to lead two different programs to a national title; he won the 1996 title with Kentucky.

Pitino was charged by the NCAA with failure to monitor an employee, one of the four Level I violations that the NCAA found in their initial investigation. Louisville contested the NCAA’s finding that Pitino had “violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation”. Plausible deniability is no longer a defense for head coaches in the eyes of the NCAA. In an effort to prevent the punishment for violations from being dumped on low-level staff members, the NCAA changed their rules to state that head coaches were at fault for anything that happened in their program under their watch whether the NCAA can prove they knew about it or not.

“By his own admission, the head coach and his assistants did not interact with prospects from 10 p.m. until the next morning,” the NCAA said in their findings. “The panel noted that the head coach essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects, and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dorm.”

“This arrangement played a role in creating a location where the former operations director’s activities went undetected.”

Coaches on the Hot Seat

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You know the deal this time of the year.

Every outlet digs through the college coaches that haven’t won enough games over the course of the last four or five seasons and churns out their ‘Coaches On The Hot’ list. It’s never a fun process to predict that people with families and mortgages, people who we’ve developed professional relationships – some better than others – with, are going to lose their jobs, but it is what it is.

Most years, every one of the men that show up on a list like this are aware that they are going to show up on lists like this. If you’ve gone four years without a trip to the NCAA tournament at a high major program, you’re probably in some trouble.

This year is different, however.

Because this year, with the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball, the ‘hot seat’ is anyone who has cheated to get a player. Any coach that facilitated a payment from a shoe company to a kid’s family; anyone who took money from an agent or a financial advisor to shuttle a player to that individual; anyone who did business with Jim Gatto or Merl Code or Christian Dawkins; hell, anyone who has an assistant on their staff who did any one of those things, they’re in the line of fire this year.

We know who some of those coaches are – Sean Miller, Andy Enfield, Jim Larrañaga, Brad Underwood, Bruce Pearl, Mike Boynton – but we don’t know all of them.

Not even close.

It’s impossible to know where the FBI’s investigation is turning to next. I can make some educated guesses, but that’s all based on speculation and connecting dots. The FBI spent more than two years on the investigation and we didn’t get a whiff of it until that Tuesday morning in late-September when the college hoops world was flipped upside-down.

Which is to say it’s hard to know which coaches are actually going to end up losing their job, and who is truly worried about it.

THE FBI IS MAKING THEM SWEAT

BRUCE PEARL, Auburn: I think that it is fair to make the argument that Sean Miller, Andy Enfield and Jim Larrañaga all deserve a spot on a list like this. Miller’s program is as connected to this investigation as any, with assistant coach Book Richardson getting fired; two current, unnamed players being linked to money changing hands; and a recruit, Jahvon Quinerly, being forced to decommit after as much as $20,000 earmarked for Quinerly was allegedly given to Richardson. That’s before you get into the discussion of Arizona and Nike outbidding Miami and Adidas for a player that eventually committed to North Carolina.

Larrañaga has copped to being the ‘Coach 3’ that is mentioned in the complaint filed by the FBI, the one that is discussing getting $150,000 from Adidas to land current UNC-commit Nassir Little, while Enfield had an assistant, Tony Bland, get fired as well. He, like Richardson, was caught taking bribes, and some of that money was meant for players currently on the roster.

But Pearl, more than any of those three men, is the one in the most trouble because he’s already had a run-in with the NCAA. In 2010, he lied to investigators about recruiting violations that he committed – bringing a player to a barbecue, of all things – and was actually still waiting out his show-cause penalty when he was hired by Auburn in 2014. He couldn’t recruit for the first couple of months that he was on the job. Now, he’s the coach of a program that had an assistant, Chuck Person, fired for taking more than $90,000 in bribes, with some of that money meant to be passed along to players on the Auburn roster. It has already cost Pearl a five-star recruit in the Class of 2018.

And to be frank, the pressure would be mounting on Pearl even if he didn’t have these off-the-court issues hanging over the program. This is his fourth year at the helm of the Tiger program. He’s never won more than seven SEC games in a season. He’s never finished better than 18-14 overall. The team he has this season is good enough to reach the NCAA tournament – it will be a disappointing year if they do not reach that level – but there are many paths to failure. Austin Wiley isn’t fully healthy yet. There’s the risk that some of Auburn’s best players have a fight on their hands with the NCAA when it comes to eligibility. (UPDATE: Wiley and Danjel Purifoy are being held out of games indefinitely.) There’s also a risk that the pieces just don’t come together; just because a team that missed out on the NIT looks like it should be better doesn’t mean that it will be better.

The window is closing for this group as well. It would not be shocking to see both Wiley and Mustapha Heron bolt for the pros this season. If that happens, Pearl’s tenure would look like this: Four seasons, no postseasons, involvement in another NCAA scandal and little positive momentum.

Would you feel your job was safe?

Brad Brownell (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

DON’T SIT DOWN WITHOUT POTHOLDERS IN YOUR DRAWERS

BRAD BROWNELL, Clemson and PAT CHAMBERS, Penn State: At this point, it makes too much sense for these two gentlemen to be lumped together.

For starters, they are the only two high-major head coaches that are currently employed despite missing the last six NCAA tournaments at their current job. The only other guy that could have been on this list is also employed, but Lorenzo Romar saw his salary drop by 70 percent because he’s now an assistant at Arizona instead of the head coach at Washington. He was fired despite holding a commitment from Michael Porter Jr.

That’s where we’re at with these two. Now, Brownell has actually reached an NCAA tournament during his tenure and Chambers finally has the Penn State program trending in the right direction – I don’t think a tournament berth is out of the question with the young talent he has – but I’m not sure that being the basketball coach at a football school can save you if you’ve missed seven straight NCAA tournaments.

It’s worth noting here: Chambers has not gotten a contract extension since 2015, and his current deal only runs through 2019. Brownell was extended in April; he’s under contract through 2021.

MARK FOX, Georgia: I feel for Mark Fox. He’s a good head coach at a football school in a football state. He’s been with the Bulldogs for nine seasons now, but has made just two NCAA tournaments, the most recent of which was in 2015. His teams are never terrible – he hasn’t finished below .500 in the SEC since 2013 – but they’re rarely all that great. Last year might have been the year that saved him, but star forward Yante Maten injured his knee down the stretch of the season.

JEFF LEBO, East Carolina: Now in his eighth season with ECU, Lebo has a record of 114-117. In three seasons in the American, he’s gone 41-57 overall with a 16-38 mark in league play. He’s never been to the NCAA tournament as a head coach despite coaching at four different programs. In 2013, he was given an extension that runs through 2021.

JIM CHRISTIAN, Boston College: It feels like Jim Christian actually has some positive momentum right now. A back court of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman is actually quite good, even by ACC standards, and the addition of grad transfer Deontae Hawkins should help bolster BC’s front court. That said, he’s just 29-67 in three seasons and coming off of a 2-16 year in the ACC. Those two wins were a two-win improvement on the 2015-16 season. He was given a contract extension in August by an athletic director that resigned in February. It’s time to win something.

Kevin Ollie (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE, OK?

KEVIN OLLIE, UConn: It sounds ridiculous to have a UConn coach on the hot seat less than three years removed from winning a national title, but that’s exactly where we are with Kevin Ollie right now. Ollie has missed two out of three NCAA tournaments since winning that title and has yet to finish better than a tie for third in the AAC, a league that just got tougher with the addition of Wichita State. Last year can be forgiven after injuries to Alterique Gilbert and Terry Larrier. There are no excuses this season, now with Jalen Adams back as well. Ollie signed a contract this year that runs through 2021.

TIM MILES, Nebraska: Miles is in a tough spot. Four players, including two starters, transferred out of his program during the offseason, and six week ago, his athletic director was fired because the sports teams at Nebraska weren’t winning enough. That’s bad news for Miles, who hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2014, his second year with the program. But the Huskers routinely sell out their arena – they’re annually top 15 in total attendance in all of college basketball – and Miles actually has something of a promising group this year. Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible to play, Louisville transfer Anton Gill is healthy, Glynn Watson is back for his junior season and the Huskers have been recruiting fairly well.

ERNIE KENT, Washington State: Kent is heading into his fourth season in Pullman, and he’s yet to win more than 13 games in a year or seven games in the Pac-12. This season, the Cougars lose their three best players and four starters off of last year’s roster. If Wazzu reverts back to the 2015-16 team, the one that won nine games and went 1-17 in league play, Kent, who got an extension through 2022 in May, will be in some trouble.

DAVE LEITAO, DePaul: This is only Leitao’s third season with the Blue Demons, but DePaul has not seen any improvement since his arrival. They’ve won 18 games in two years and are all of 5-31 in the Big East during that stretch. But Eli Cain is back, key transfers are eligible and a couple more are still sitting out. There should be some improvement. DePaul is going to need it to justify their new, $173 million arena.

BRUCE WEBER, Kansas State: Weber alleviated some of the pressure that he was under last season by getting to the NCAA tournament and winning a game, but he still went just 21-14 overall and won a First Four game. The Wildcats lost their best player during the offseason but Weber still signed an extension through 2021. No one in Manhattan is expecting a Final Four, but in a year where the Big 12 is wide open, Weber probably just needs to avoid finishing near the bottom of the league.

JOHN GIANNINI, La Salle: Giannini has been with La Salle since 2004, but he’s managed to get to just one NCAA tournament – a Sweet 16 run in 2013 – in that time frame. In the last four years, he’s finished no better than .500 in league play or 17-16 overall. That includes bottoming out with a 9-22 season in 2015-16.