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NCAA penalizes Oregon for hoops, track and field violations

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The NCAA has imposed two years of probation on Oregon after finding the school violated rules related to the men’s and women’s basketball teams and the track and field program.

The decision issued Wednesday said women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves failed to “monitor and promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.” He must serve a two-game suspension this season. The team is 7-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country.

That infraction stemmed from an assistant strength coach’s participation in on-court activities during and after practices, which caused the team to exceed the number of allowable coaches.

The NCAA found men’s coach Dana Altman failed to properly monitor his director of basketball operations, who took part in or observed at least 64 individual voluntary workouts in violation of NCAA rules.

Also, the NCAA said an adjunct instructor changed a grade for a track and field athlete, allowing the competitor to remain eligible.

The decision said the football program improperly used an electronic reader board in the team’s facilities for recruiting purposes. The team immediately stopped after being told it may be out of compliance.

In a statement, the school said it disagreed with some of the findings.

“The University of Oregon’s athletic program is committed to integrity, the highest ethical standards and compliance with NCAA bylaws,” athletic director Rob Mullens said. “In all of these cases, our compliance monitoring program identified the issues and they were self-reported to the NCAA. As we noted several months ago, we have addressed the matters with the responsible employees and enhanced compliance training within the department. These cases do not merit the level of charges or sanctions issued by the NCAA.”

Oregon received notice of the allegations last December. At that time, the university said it self-reported the infractions and acknowledged that they occurred, but disagreed with the level that the NCAA assigned to some of them, including the charges involving the head coaches. Oregon said it had already taken steps to address the issues.

“I regret that some members of my staff made errors of judgment, and I have taken actions to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Graves said in a statement when the university received notice. “I am steadfastly committed to building a winning program at the UO that operates in full compliance with NCAA bylaws and is committed to the highest levels of integrity.”

The director of basketball operations, Josh Jameison, was suspended by Altman for one month. He must also attend NCAA rules seminars for the next two years.

The school said the faculty member changed the grade of the track athlete from failing to passing contingent on the athlete completing the work. The university removed the athlete from competition and reported the violation to the NCAA, which determined it was an impermissible academic benefit.

The name of the athlete was not made public by the NCAA. All records in which the athlete participated in while ineligible must be vacated.

The university said it believes there was no misconduct within in the track and field program in regard to that violation and that the NCAA’s ruling was inconsistent with conclusion reached in similar situations. The school has 15 days to appeal.

While Oregon acknowledged the rule violations surrounding the basketball teams, it said it doesn’t think the coaches failed to promote an “atmosphere of compliance” and is also weighing an appeal in that matter.

In addition to the probation and Graves’ suspension, the NCAA said the men’s team must reduce the number of coaches at a regular practice by five hours this season, which the women’s team much do the same for 10 hours this season. The school was also fined $5,000 plus 1 percent of the men’s and women’s basketball budgets.

Texas Southern shocks No. 18 Oregon, 89-84

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EUGENE, Ore. — Trayvon Reed picked the right night to be perfect.

Reed scored 23 points and John Jones added 20 to help Texas Southern shock No. 18 Oregon with an 89-84 victory Monday night.

Reed, a 7-foot-2 senior, made all nine of his shots and also was 5-for-5 from the foul line for the Tigers (2-4), who were 24-point underdogs.

“Trayvon did an excellent job,” Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones said. “It was his best game by far all year long. I thought he performed at a really good pace on both ends of the floor.

“Offensively, he was very effective and he played with a lot of energy on the defensive end. I thought he had them uncomfortable at both.”

All nine of Reed’s field goals came on dunks as the Ducks couldn’t keep him away from the rim.

“We never got physical with him,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “He kind of did whatever he wanted.”

It was just the fourth nonconference loss at home for the Ducks since Matthew Knight Arena opened in 2011.

Jalyn Patterson had a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists, and Derrick Bruce added 13 points for Texas Southern, which scored 57 points in the second half.

Oregon led by 13 points early in the second half before the Tigers rallied. Reed’s dunk with 9:59 left in the game capped a 23-8 run and gave the Tigers a 61-59 advantage.

Bol Bol, the Ducks’ 7-2 freshman center, had 32 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double. He hit two free throws with 3:20 left to tie the game at 75.

Reed then scored four straight points to give the Tigers a 79-75 advantage with 2:18 left. Will Richardson hit two free throws 12 seconds later to get Oregon back within two.

Bruce had eight points in the final 1:11 to seal the win, including making all six of his free throws in the final 43 seconds.

Payton Pritchard had 14 points, and Will Richardson and Victor Bailey Jr. added 13 each for Oregon (4-2).

“We weren’t a team on defense. We were all individuals,” Pritchard said. “This is a terrible loss. If we’re going to turn around our season right here, we either get better from this or we don’t.”

Bol scored Oregon’s first 10 points, including two 3-pointers, and had 16 by halftime with seven rebounds as the Ducks led 39-32.

Oregon received a scare with seven minutes left in the first half when forward Kenny Wooten crashed into the basket stanchion on a block attempt. The 6-foot-9 sophomore didn’t return and spent the second half on the bench with ice and a protective sleeve on his left knee.

The Tigers dominated the boards 41-32 with Reed, Patterson and Jeremy Combs grabbing seven each. Texas Southern shot 57.6 percent in the second half and hit 6 of 11 from 3-point range.

“Stops and rebounds don’t mean a lot to us and in the college game they’ve got to mean a lot more,” Altman said. “We’ve got to change our whole mindset and focus in on the defensive end and the rebounding.

BIG PICTURE

Former LSU coach Johnny Jones, in his first season at Texas Southern, has his Tigers playing 14 of their first 16 games away from Houston. They opened with a 72-69 win at Baylor before losing 104-67 to new-No. 1 Gonzaga.

Oregon’s strength of schedule takes more hits next month as only one of its seven opponents during December was among the others receiving votes in this week’s Top 25 poll. That’s Houston, with one point.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Oregon bumped up three spots to No. 18 in this week’s poll, but the Pac-12’s preseason favorite is now in serious danger of exiting the Top 25.

STAT OF THE NIGHT

After making 33 of 42 free throws in their last game, an 83-72 win against Green Bay, the Ducks were 7 of 8 against Texas Southern.

ROLE PLAYER

John Jones, the son of Tigers coach Johnny Jones, was a walk-on last year at Nevada where his father was an assistant coach. The 6-0 sophomore reserve hit all three of his 3-pointers in the second half against the Ducks. “He played like he was playing in high school,” Johnny Jones said. “He knocked down shots and I thought he had a gutsy performance for us.”

NBC Sports Top 25: Is Duke, Kansas or Gonzaga the No. 1 team?

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The way that I see it, there are three teams that have a legitimate case to be made to be the No. 1 team in the country: Gonzaga, Kansas and Duke.

Let’s walk through the argument in support of each, starting with the Blue Devils.

Duke was the consensus No. 1 team in the country last week. We were talking about whether or not this team had the goods to go undefeated, and while that conversation was happening far too early in the calendar to make any rational sense, it was happening. Duke may have the two best players in the country on their roster and, with Tre Jones and Cam Reddish available, are the single-most difficult team to matchup with in the game.

This isn’t all theoretical, either. Duke beat Kentucky — a top ten team that entered the season ranked No. 2 nationally — by 34 points. They beat Auburn in a game where the Tigers never really challenged them. Their only loss on the season came against one of the three teams that we have in contention for the top spot in a two-point game where Duke had four shots in the final 30 seconds that could have forced overtime.

Are you telling me that Barrett’s inability to score (or make the right read) on the final possession is what definitively tells us that Gonzaga, and potentially Kansas, are better basketball teams?

Put another way, Duke would be favored by at least five points, give or take a few, on a neutral court against team in college basketball. That’s not the No. 1 team in the country?

The argument for Kansas is similarly strong. This was the preseason No. 1 team in the country, a team that everyone had ranked above both Gonzaga and Duke almost without question, and they have done absolutely nothing since the season started to convince us otherwise. They beat Michigan State, a top 10 team, in their season-opener. They followed that up with a couple of games where they struggled and still managed to put up double-digit wins over Vermont and Louisiana, both of whom could end up in the NCAA tournament. They played horribly for a half in the semifinals of the preseason NIT and beat Marquette by nine. They never looked right against Tennessee, a top five team, and still managed to beat the Volunteers in overtime.

The Jayhawks have the best resume of any of the three teams in contention for the top spot. As the preseason No. 1 team. That’s worth something.

But it’s not worth as much as what Gonzaga did last week, when they went into Maui and made a statement by knocking off Duke in the title game of the Maui Invitational.

The Zags don’t have a bad resume, per se. In addition to beating the team that Jay Williams seriously thought could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gonzaga has wins over Texas A&M, Illinois and Arizona. The names make those wins sound more impressive than they probably are, but a win is a win is a win.

This goes beyond simply looking at a resume, however.

We knew the Zags would be good this season. What we didn’t know was whether or not they would be able to beat the best teams with Josh Perkins starting at the point, or what kind of impact Brandon Clarke would have, or if Killian Tillie’s absence would be a killer, or if Rui Hachimura actually made the leap like we all expected him to.

Well, we know the answer to those questions now.

And when you combine that with the fact that they just beat Duke, you get the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Power Rankings.

1. Gonzaga (6-0, Last Week: 3)
2. Kansas (5-0, 2)
3. Duke (5-1, 1)
4. Virginia (6-0, 6)
5. Tennessee (4-1, 5)
6. Michigan (6-0, 9)
7. Nevada (6-0, 7)
8. North Carolina (6-1, 4)
9. Auburn (5-1, 8)
10. Kansas State (6-0, 10)
11. Virginia Tech (5-0, 11)
12. Michigan State (5-1, 13)
13. Florida State (5-1, 12)
14. Kentucky (5-1, 16)
15. Oregon (4-1, 17)
16. Ohio State (6-0, 22)
17. N.C. State (6-0, 21)
18. Purdue (5-1, 25)
19. Texas Tech (6-0, UR)
20. Wisconsin (5-1, UR)
21. Iowa (5-0, 23)
22. Buffalo (5-0, 24)
23. Clemson (5-1, 20)
24. Arizona State (5-0, UR)
25. Mississippi State (4-1, 19)

New Additions: 19. Texas Tech, 20. Wisconsin, 24. Arizona State
Dropped Out: 15. UCLA, 18. LSU

Friday’s Three Things To Know: Iowa wins, Cuse struggles

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Friday featured a full day of college hoops action, as tip-off in Charleston happened before noon ET while the final games didn’t end until well after midnight. 

The most important results, however, happened in New York City:

1. IOWA WINS THE 2K CLASSIC

The Hawkeyes look like they are going to be legit this season. A day after they put together an impressive win over No. 13 Oregon, Fran McCaffery’s club easily handled a UConn team that themselves had impressed with a win over a ranked team on Thursday night.

Part of this clearly had to do with matchup. Iowa is big. UConn is not. Luka Garza absolutely torched the Huskies in the first half, scoring 18 of his 22 points before halftime, while Tyler Cook took over down the stretch; he finished with 26 points and eight boards. UConn always plays three, and often four, guards, and the size was very clearly a problem for the smaller Huskies.

But that size is going to be an issue for a lot of teams. Garza is not overly skilled but he plays harder than just about anyone in the sport. Cook is skilled — far more skilled that I realized — and he matches Garza’s intensity. Throw in a good crop of guards, headlined by McCaffery’s, and this looks like an Iowa team that will make some noise in a very, very good Big Ten.

2. SYRACUSE HAS SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS OFFENSIVELY

All the talk from the most high-profile matchup from the 2K Classic on Friday night will be about Bol Bol, Oregon’s dominant 7-foot-2 center who looked as good as I have ever seen him against the Orange.

The real story, however, is that Syracuse is a total mess offensively. The Orange are currently 204th nationally is points-per-possession, according to KenPom, and 342nd in the country in three-point shooting. They’re making just 20.5 percent of their threes, a problem when more than a third of their field goal attempts are from beyond the arc.

“After looking at [the stat sheet],” Boeheim said, of Oshae Brissett, his star forward that has looked anything-but a star this year, “if I could go back in time I’d say ‘Don’t take any 3s tonight.’ But I can’t do that. He’s been shooting it good in practice. He is a good shooter. He shot 32 percent last year, but he’s noticeably better in drills and practice this year than he was last year.”

“He’s just not there,” Boeheim said. “He’s not playing at the level we need him to be playing. We need him and Tyus [Battle] to play at a very high level and they’re not.”

The question is whether or not these struggles are the result of Syracuse being bad offensively — remember, they were 135th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric last season — or if the answer is that there isn’t a point guard on the floor. Battle is not a point guard. Elijah Hughes isn’t, either. Jalen Carey can score but, again, he’s not a point guard.

Franklin Howard is, and he could be back as soon as the next game.

We’ll see if that makes a difference.

3. WEST VIRGINIA, GEORGETOWN TAKE UPSETS

The Mountaineers just don’t appear to be all that good this season, and while that is a stark contrast to what the program has been in recent years, it shouldn’t be all that unexpected. Remember, this group lost Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, the two senior guards that set the tone for the entirety of the Press Virginia era to date.

So hearing that WVU lost to Western Kentucky after losing to Buffalo — both of who could end up being NCAA tournament teams — shouldn’t be that surprising.

Georgetown’s loss, however, is more worrisome.

The Hoyas, fresh off of a win at Illinois that got quite a few people excited about the program, loss their opener in head coach Patrick Ewing’s return to his native Jamaica. They lost by 13. To Loyola Marymount.

Not good for the Hoyas, and certainly not good for the Big East, which has struggled mightily through the first two weeks of the season.

Bol Bol scores 26 as No. 13 Oregon cruises past struggling No. 13 Syracuse

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NEW YORK — Oregon fans in Madison Square Garden for the last two nights were witness to the full Bol Bol experience.

A night after he finished with 14 points, nine boards and five blocks in an uneven performance that was not as impressive as the highlight videos floating around twitter made it seem, Oregon’s top five prospect and a potential top five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was as active and engaged as he could be for 40 minutes, finishing with 26 points, nine boards and four blocks as No. 13 Oregon beat No. 15 Syracuse, 80-65, to get out of the 2K Classic with a win.

“At times we played hard but we didn’t really compete,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of his team’s performance in a loss to Iowa on Thursday night. “There’s a difference.”

“We were really disappointed in them,” he added, “and our coaching staff expressed that. The way they turned that around, a young team, I was really pleased with them. Freshmen you gotta be patient with. I was more disappointed with the older guys than the younger guys. The freshmen, it was their first time on the road, and it looked like it. We’ll keep pushing them and moving them along and see how well they respond.

“I didn’t know what to expect today, and I’m really pleased with how they responded.”

Bol was the star of the show.

A 7-foot-2 center, Bol has a skill set that is unique in the world of basketball, regardless of level. He has all the size and length you can ask for, but he’s mobile on the perimeter and skilled enough to be able to handle the ball. He has range out to the three-point line, but as he showed on Friday night, he can be an impact presence in the high-post as well. He made three or four little floaters from about eight feet, and while he was only credited with one assists, he made some nice passes to Kenny Wooten on the baseline.

And then, of course, there is the impact that he can have defensively. He is a world-class rim protector, but his mobility and athleticism allows him to have an impact on the perimeter as well. He can run people off the three-point line by taking two steps out of the paint.

“We have to take advantage of his uniqueness,” Altman said, adding that the key centers around Bol’s ability to handle the physicality of the college level as well as battling through the fatigue that comes with playing 30-plus minutes at this level.

It helped that Syracuse, as big as they are, just doesn’t have the strength inside to create problems for Bol. That’s the way to get him off his game — get up under him, push him around — and, as Jim Boeheim put it with his trademark, sarcastic grin, “it doesn’t appear that we can do that right now.”

Boeheim was not happy after this loss.

He knows his team is struggling offensively, and he knows that it puts a level of stress and pressure on his defense that they are not ready to handle.

Specifically, he called out Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle. Brissett was 2-for-12 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three on Friday. Battle finished just 4-for-10 from the floor and missed all four of his threes. As a team, Syracuse was 5-for-28 from beyond the arc after entering the night shooting just 21.8 percent from three.

“I’d say he’s missing shots,” Boeheim said of Brissett’s struggles. “Hes been shooting them good in practice. He’s a good shooter. He’s just not there. He’s not playing at the level we need him to play.

“We need him and Tyus to play at a high level, and they’re not.”

Thursday’s Things To Know: UConn impresses, 3-point record falls and Oregon falters

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We’re closing in on one of the more entertaining stretches of the college basketball season with Thanksgiving tournaments giving us all-day hoops and really interesting non-conference matchups. It’s still early, and the best is yet to come, but Thursday night provided some quality hoops. Oh, and one guy shooting a ton of 3s. Literally more 3s than anyone has ever shot before. Here’s what you need to know:

1. UConn asserts itself against Syracuse.

It’s been a tough few years at UConn. It’s been two really bad years, but it’s mostly been not-great for the Huskies since that 2014 national title. It’s Dan Hurley’s job to change that. His first Big East throwback game certainly looked like it’s one he’ll be up for.

UConn’s quest to change the outlook of its locker room and the culture of its program was evident in the Huskies’ 83-76 win against Syracuse at Madison Square Garden.

Changing the culture has become The Thing New Coaches Simply Have To Talk About, but there’s no doubting it needed to happen in Storrs as a program that’s used to winning national titles began to languish in a league that’s simply second tier. UConn in the AAC is a different challenge for a coach than UConn in the Big East. It’s tougher. Hurley has a long way to go, but getting a team to buy in from the outset is a positive signal.

2. Jordan Lyons goes berserk

On Wednesday night, Josh Williams of Robert Morris tied a 23-year-old NCAA record by making 15 3-pointers. It took about 24 hours for that number to be matched again.

Jordan Lyons matched Williams’ 15 makes from distance, but broke an NCAA record with 34 attempts from 3-point range in the Paladins’ win against a Division II opponent on Thursday.

As teams continue to hoist shots from 3-point range at an ever-increasing rate, these types of nights are going to become more typical, but to see two guys tie a record that’s stood for more than two decades on back-to-back nights? I mean, c’mon, that’s a little crazy.

3. Oregon goes down

Give Iowa credit. The Hawkeyes shot just 35.7 percent from the floor, but got to the line 33 times, making 29 of their attempts (87.9 percent) and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to keep the offense afloat. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a 77-69 neutral site win against a ranked opponent, which will certainly come in handy for a team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after a two-year drought.

Also, the Big Ten looks like it might be pretty good. Michigan stomped all over Villanova, Indiana blasted Marquette, Wisconsin handled Xavier and now the Hawkeyes bested Oregon. That’s a pretty good week for a league that has been stuck in something of a malaise the last few seasons.

The overwhelming feeling from watching the nightcap at Madison Square Garden, though, was just how underwhelming Oregon looked. There just wasn’t a lot of there there for the Ducks. That’s problematic for a top-15 team that is the heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 this season. They just lost a game to what many would pick to be a middle-of-the-pac B1G while holding them to under 40 percent shooting while only committing eight turnovers themselves. Getting 25 points from Ehab Amin is nice, but otherwise an all around uninspiring performance from Dana Altman’s group.