Beneath shame comes college basketball
November 07, 2017 3:08 AM
by Ramon Scott
Welcome to the dark, seedy underworld that is the 2017 college basketball season.
We’re not here to put a “shame on us” spin on the opening of the season, which begins on Friday, but there’s no doubt any preview has to start with the ongoing FBI investigation into the corruption that permeates the game.
With the rush to develop professional talent that can change the life and wealth of almost any family, a huge burden has been placed on major college programs trying to cash in on the fast-churning NCAA money machine.
The NBA’s age requirement rule has been a major factor in helping develop a pipeline industry that earns amateur coaches and scouts many thousands of dollars for producing and procuring mostly one-and-done talent, which often helps those schools reach deep into the more lucrative NCAA Tournament.
Some coaches have and are turning a blind eye to the proceedings around them, just thankful when a guy ticketed for NBA millions stops by to build his brand for a year while waiting to become age-eligible.
Already teams such as Louisville, Miami, USC, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Auburn are among those already with a black cloud in their arena after having either been implicated or had assistants charged, citing corruption, bribery and wire fraud.
Fortunately for us, we turn our own blind eye, especially once the first numbers are posted and the ball hits the floor, much less when the public joins in come March.
Fans in general already believe big universities put money ahead of student-athletes and that big schools are part of the problem.
Meanwhile, when we finally take the floor this week, know that the Duke Blue Devils and everybody’s favorite bad boy Grayson Allen are the favorites to win the national championship at an industry consensus 5-to-1.
The nearest contenders are Michigan State (6-to-1) with leading Player of the Year candidate Miles Bridges, the Arizona Wildcats (8-1) with star Alonzo Trier, and Kentucky (10-1).
The next tier of challengers includes Kansas (15-1), North Carolina (16-1) and rising teams Missouri and Wichita State, both of which could provide some long-term equity at around 20-to-1.
Preseason media polls appear to rate Villanova and Florida higher than oddsmakers.
No. 25 Texas A&M (+6, 144) vs. No. 11 West Virginia at Ramstein AFB, Germany, Fri., 3 p.m., ESPN: Two strong defensive teams, but expect Aggies to be without SEC co-Preseason Player of the Year Robert Williams and point guard JJ Caldwell while serving team-imposed suspensions to start the season. The Mountaineers are getting a little bit of attention from oddsmakers, showing up as low as 25-to-1 to win the national title.
Georgia Tech (+5, 157) at No. 21 UCLA at Shanghai, China, Fri., 8:30 p.m., ESPN: The Bruins and Yellow Jackets will scrounge up enough money to make 30-plus a round-trip in order to play a two-hour basketball game on Saturday in China. The Bruins have the No. 5 freshman class with prep All-Americans Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes, not to mention middle Ball brother, LiAngelo, joining veterans Thomas Welch, Aaron Holiday and Isaac Hamilton. Yellow Jackets second-year no-nonsense man Josh Pastner has suspended starters Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie for the trip following NCAA rules violations.
Florida A&M (+15, 145) at UNLV at Thomas & Mack, Sat., 7, unlvrebels.com: Freshman Brandon McCoy didn’t play in the Rebels’ exhibition win over Division II Alaska-Fairbanks here eight days ago, but he should be ready for the opener against the Rattlers. Point guard Jordan Johnson, a transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, looked smooth in his first college game action in over a year, while Shakur Justin led UNLV with 24 points. A&M had a bunch of turnover for new coach Robert McCullum, a veteran D1 assistant, and are led by all-MEAC preseason second teamers Marcus Barnham and Desmond Williams.
Bucknell (+7.5, 160) at Arkansas Sun., 3, SECN: Arkansas has two players suspended for this opener in seniors Arlando Cook and Dustin Thomas, but the Hogs and coach Mike Anderson are particularly excited about the freshman class, including three from in-state, joining senior guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Bacon. Defending Patriot champ Bucknell, led by Preseason Player of the Year Nana Foulland, is the preseason favorite in their media poll and returns all five starters from last year.
Yale (+10.5, 139) at Wisconsin Sun., 3, BTN: Freshman Kobe King made a splash in the Badgers preseason, leading the team in scoring in two exhibitions and the team scrimmage. UW junior Ethan Happ is one of the top returning players in the nation. Yale sophomore guard Miye Oni is an Ivy Leaguer with a possible NBA future after being one of just 21 college players invited to the Nike Skills Academy in Los Angeles over the summer.
Pacific (+18.5, 143) at Stanford Sun., 7, P12N: Cardinal senior Reid Travis, the top returning scorer and rebounder in the Pac-12, leads the nation’s fifth most-experienced team coming into 2017, although NCAA Tournament-starved Stanford was picked just fifth in the preseason media poll. Damon Stoudamire is in his second year with the Tigers, who have six juniors, including three newcomers, but won just 11 games last season.
Minnesota (+5, 149) at Providence Mon, 3:30, FS1: Providence and UConn finally played each other last week, but before we try to renew another old Big East rivalry, note that it was just an exhibition in the hurricane relief series of preseason games. Still, the Friars won, 90-76. PC frosh Makai Ashton-Langford, who spurned Storrs after an early commit, scored 10 points amid boos from the Huskies fans in Uncasville. Gopher sophomore Amir Coffey scored 26 points in the 23 minutes in an exhibition win over Wisconsin-Green Bay eight days ago, while top recruit Isaiah Washington added 24 points.
Wyoming (+6, 150) at Oregon State Mon, 8, P12N: Stevie Thompson Jr. and Tres Tinkle lead the Beavers’ small-ball lineup as OSU tries to clean up last year’s 5-27 record, which includes just one conference win. This should improve in 2017, at least in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Cowboys are coming off a 23-15 season, which includes winning the CBI postseason tournament. Wyoming has preseason all-MWC junior Justin James, last year’s conference Sixth Man of the Year and one of the top mid-major sleepers in the country.
Rhode Island (+2, 148) at Nevada Mon., 8:30, ESPNU: The scary part for the Wolf Pack in the Mountain West’s one-bid status. Nevada is a guard-oriented team that went from nine wins three years ago to 52-21 under Coach Eric Musselman and made the NCAA tourney last year after winning the conference regular season championship. The Rams have a more likely chance to make the dance after winning 25 games last year and the A-10 championship.