Duke Visits the White House

President Obama can't make it to the Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, but had plenty of time to meet with Coach K and the National Champion Duke Blue Devils:

"You know, when I woke up this morning and I saw a few hundred students camping out on my lawn, I remembered that today is Duke day."
...
"I know that all of you remember last year when I filled out my bracket, I picked North Carolina to win it all. It wasn't anything personal, just trying to win some money....I was right," Obama said in front of a laughing audience at the White House Rose Garden. "Coach K wasn't too happy. He basically told me to stick it....or stick to my day job.
And this year he went out with all these guys and he won so he could come to the White House and crow about it. Payback is sweet."
                                                                                  -from wralsportsfan.com

Good Recruiting News for NC State

According to the News & Observer's ACC Now blog, 2012 NC State recruit Joseph Uchebo is re-classifying into the class of 2011.  This is great news for the Wolfpack as they lose Tracy Smith to graduation (and possibly CJ Leslie, depending on how he does this season), and Uchebo is a 6'9 power forward.  Coach Lowe needs to follow up a strong recruiting class with another one, and by snagging Uchebo in 2011, he's well on his way to doing just that.  Lowe also needs to sign a guard or two for 2011, and he has plenty of scholarships to give at this point.

DeCourcy Chimes in on KU Scandal

Mike DeCourcy is my favorite sports columnist, but I think he is underestimating the meaning of the Kansas ticket scandal:
"How big of a black eye is the Kansas ticket scandal on that program, and college basketball as a whole?
DeCourcy: I honestly don't see it as an issue for either..."
There are too many connections to recruiting and to the athletics department to take this lightly.

More on the Kansas Ticket Scalping Scandal

The Kansas Jayhawks should be worried.  People within the athletics department were running an illegal ticket scalping business with a couple of guys that are involved with summer basketball teams.  Players from these teams have signed basketball scholarships to Kansas.  If this isn't a recruiting violation, I don't know what is.

To extrapolate this a little further- David and Dana Pump are involved with selling Kansas basketball tickets, making huge amounts of money, and then funneling recruits to Kansas.  The kicker is that Roy Williams was the coach when the ticket scalping began.  Interestingly, former UNC players David and Travis Wear played for Pump N Run, one of the Pumps' AAU squads.  The Wear twins left UNC this month, after perhaps Roy Williams' worst season ever, and transferrred to UCLA...

Scandals Abound in Big 12 Hoops

A couple of potential scandals are brewing in Big 12 country as both Kansas and Oklahoma are implicated in some shady dealings.

Yahoo! Sports broke an incredible story this morning involving ticket scalping by individuals tied to Kansas.  Substantial evidence, via testimony of one of the key actors (David Freeman) and an investigation by the FBI and IRS, implicate representatives of the Kansas athletics department and ticket office in not only ticket scalping, but "theft, tax evasion, money laundering and other crimes."  The article was written by Jason King, Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel.

There is no way out of this for Kansas in that there is virtually no possible scenario whereby the Jayhawks athletics department avoids major penalties.  In particular, the KU basketball program could be slapped with sanctions.  It should be noted that Roy Williams, the current coach at North Carolina, was the coach at Kansas at the time the events in question took place. 

According to the article, the scalping is not limited to Kansas:
"Freeman said [David and Dana Pump]– who advise schools on coaching hires and run traveling summer teams across the country – were conducting similar operations with colleges around the nation and often scalped tickets they received from college head coaches."
A very disturbing aspect of this story is that it ties into recruiting and the AAU circuit.  Based on the actions of the Pumps and the traceable connection to Jayhawk recruiting, it should be clear even to the casual observer that Kansas could face some recruiting violations to go along with the scalping issues:
"...summer traveling teams financed by the Pump brothers have featured at least nine players who went on to play for the Jayhawks. Among them were nationally recruited players Mario Chalmers, David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Tyrel Reed, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Brady Morningstar."
The Associated Press is reporting that Oklahoma is conducting an internal investigation of the Sooners' basketball program.  Only four years after Kelvin Sampson's program was busted for recruiting violations, OU, now coached by former Duke guard Jeff Capel, is again facing big trouble:   
"Oklahoma's athletic department has opened an investigation following reports that basketball player Tiny Gallon received money from a Florida financial adviser.
Spokesman Kenny Mossman confirmed in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday night that Oklahoma is 'investigating matters that the public may be aware of through recent reports in the media.' He did not provide specific information about the investigation.

TMZ.com reported earlier this month that Gallon received a $3,000 bank transfer from financial adviser Jeffrey Hausinger."
There is nothing to indicate that Jeff Capel had knowledge of the payment, but in the event the allegations turn out to be true, Capel, as the leader of the program, will be held responsible and will the suffer the consequences.  To make things worse, the alleged payment took place while Oklahoma was already on probation for Sampson's wrongdoings.  If a booster was involved, or if anyone on the Oklahoma staff was in any way involved, or knew about it and took no act to discourage it, then Oklahoma can expect to suffer major penalties.

Despite the fact that Kansas and Oklahoma have most likely committed some egregious violations, it remains to be seen how the NCAA will handle these situations.  As shown by the Reggie Bush scandal at USC the NCAA doesn't always hammer big-time programs for their indiscretions.  In light of these situations and some of the revelations that have come out regarding William "Worldwide" Wesley's impact on recruiting, the NCAA would do itself a favor by getting serious about working to protect the integrity of college basketball.

*For more insight on Worldwide Wes, check out StateFans Nation

Despite Transfers, State and Carolina Will Be Fine in 2010-2011

UNC and NC State have announced multiple transfers in the past week or so.  Let's take a look at how these departures affect the outlook for the 2010-2011 season.
UNC's David and Travis Wear surprised Roy Williams last week by announcing their intentions to transfer from UNC.  The Wear twins projected to be major contributors next season, after the Heels lost Ed Davis to the draft and Dion Thompson to graduation.  The departure of the twins leaves UNC dangerously thin in the frontcourt.  In fact, they've only got two post players- rail-thin John Henson and 7-footer Tyler Zeller.  The Heels are targeting Alabama transfer Justin Knox to fill the void.  Since Knox has already graduated, he can transfer and will be immediately eligible to play.  
If the Heels can't bring anyone else in for next season, they will go small, and may look similar to one of Villanova's guard oriented teams.  In order to play with four guards, or three guards and a small forward, the one post player needs to be strong, tough and aggressive on the boards.  UNC's problem is that Henson cannot fill that role (he is a finesse 4 at best) and Zeller has not proven to be durable thus far in his career.  I'm not certain that Zeller is a true workhorse type of player anyway.  The small lineup can work in UNC's favor, however, if they can play very good, aggressive defense and get out and run other teams ragged.  In addition, their smaller players will pose some matchup problems for teams that aren't quick and athletic.  If Zeller and Henson stay healthy, and out of foul trouble as much as possible, the Heels could be just fine.  
No matter how it plays out, it will be fun to see how Coach Williams adjusts to the personnel issues his squad faces.
Coach Lowe- and most everyone who follows NC State- knew weeks ago that Julius Mays would be transferring.  The decision made sense for him.  Mays wanted to be closer to home, and at a place he could get more playing time and a bigger role on the team.  Mays is by all accounts a good kid, a team player, and was a leader for the Wolfpack last season.  But with Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown coming in, Julius most likely realized that his opportunity to play would be severely diminished over the remainder of his college career.  He would have been 3rd on the depth chart at both point guard and shooting guard.  His leadership will be missed, but he would not have been a big on-court contributor next season. 
The big surprise was the announcement by Josh Davis that he is transferring.  Josh's signing last year was apparently a fulfillment of his life-long dream to play at NC State. He gave 100% effort every day in practice and when he got in the game.  Josh hustled and made positive things happen. In particular, he was instrumental in the Pack's upset victory at Marquette last season- his defense on Lazar Hayward energized State and keyed their decisive run in the second half.  Josh Davis would probably not have received much playing time in 2010-11, but as a Junior and Senior he would have had the opportunity for more substantial minutes.  In any event, his effort and hard work will be missed.  
Despite the turnover at State and Carolina this offseason, both teams will be expected to accomplish big things next season.  The attrition should be sufficiently offset by fantastic incoming recruiting classes, and both the Pack and the Heels should be NCAA Tournament teams.

Conference Expansion and the Future of ACC Basketball

As a college basketball traditionalist, conference expansion has been a sore subject for me.  I miss the days of a full round-robin ACC conference schedule and ACC basketball being something truly unique and special.  Over the past few months, expansion has become a big topic of discussion again, with the Big Ten and Pac 10 planning possible expansion in the near future.  The most likely scenario has the Big Ten moving to fourteen teams- a move that will cause a major ripple effect in the current college athletics landscape.  Some commentators believe that eventually there will be four or five super-conferences.  An intriguing possiblity was recently postulated by Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger (New Jersey).  Prunty predicted that the ACC and Big East could combine to form the Big Atlantic Conference, consisting of the following teams:

Boston College, Wake Forest, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, UConn, Cincinnati, West Virginia, South Florida, Memphis, Temple, UCF, Louisville, Villanova, Notre Dame, Georgetown, St. John's.
        (Note: FSU, Miami, Clemson and Georgia Tech joined the SEC in this scenario)

At first glance, I am opposed to additional expansion past the current twelve teams.  My ideal ACC would include nine or ten teams so that basketball could play a round-robin schedule.  I grew up watching an eight team league in the era of Cremins, Valvano, Smith, and K.  The conference was exclusive, arenas were small, and fans were able to become familiar with opposing players.  It was a special time for college basketball.  That said, things change and evolve.  To survive, the ACC must change with the times, or its members will be reduced to mid-major status.  The "Big Atlantic Conference" as proposed by Prunty is particularly appealing, and I would be in support of this alliance of teams.

The "Big Atlantic Conference" would be a respectable football conference and would provide sufficient opportunities for the member schools to compete at the highest level.  More importantly, it would remain true to the history and tradition of the basketball-centric ACC and Big East by creating perhaps the best college basketball conference imaginable.  In fact, twelve of the twenty schools that would play basketball in the conference are ranked in Triangle Hoops Journals' Top 30 programs of all time.  That means forty percent of the nation's best historical basketball programs would be in one conference.

The league could be split into two divisions.  The North would include Boston College, UConn, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Temple, Villanova, Notre Dame, Georgetown, St. John's and Maryland.  The South would include Wake, UNC, NC State, Duke, Louisville, UCF, South Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Memphis.

State, Duke, UNC and Wake would get to play each other twice each regular season.  Traditional rivalries in each league would be respected and promoted.  Basketball power Temple (currently in the Atlantic 10) would have the opportunity to be in a great conference, which would allow it to achieve its full potential as a great basketball school.  Imagine a conference tournament arranged as follows:  The South division plays two rounds in Greensboro, the North in Madison Square Garden.  The four semi-finalists from each division would then play out the tournament in Greensboro or the Garden, alternating each season.

Not only would our beloved Tobacco Road schools survive, they would be big winners in conference expansion.  The ACC would effectively be able to flourish in a world dominated by football by forming a tremendous basketball conference, while preserving its traditions and rivalries.