3-point shot: Talking with Georgia coach Mark Fox

October, 24, 2014
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Andy Katz catches up with Georgia coach Mark Fox at SEC media day.
Syracuse University's men's basketball and football programs are under NCAA investigation for allegations, including providing extra benefits and academic issues, that date back at least 10 years, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy.

Syracuse will go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Oct. 30-31, sources said.

The majority of the allegations -- and the most serious -- involve the men's basketball program. Among the allegations facing the men's basketball team are receiving extra benefits and academic issues, a source said. Those allegations go back about 10 years and are as current as the 2013 season, a source said.

"There were things going on consistently (with the men's basketball program) for a long time," a source said.

Jim Boeheim has been Syracuse's head basketball coach since 1976.

The football team is also facing allegations involving extra benefits, but only for a two-or-three-year stretch around 2004 or 2005, a source said. From 1991-2004, Paul Pasqualoni was Syracuse's football coach, followed by Greg Robinson from 2005-08. Pasqualoni is now a defensive line coach with the Chicago Bears, while Robinson is defensive coordinator at San Jose State.

To read the rest of Brett McMurphy's report click here.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Sometimes a piece of information is so hard to believe that no matter how many times you go back to it, it never gets any more digestible. Greg Maddux's 1995 season, for example. No matter how many times you open Maddux's Baseball Reference Page, no matter how often you shove your iPhone into your friend's face and scream at them -- Ten complete games! A .811 WHIP! 181 strikeouts to 38 walks! *Look at this!* -- it never gets any less insane.

The Pac-12's 2011-12 season is like this. You remember: Arizona's young players struggled in Sean Miller's third season. UCLA was mired in its protracted Ben Howland purge. The rest of the conference was either mediocre (no Pac-12 team finished with fewer than 10 losses) or just plain awful (USC and Utah combined for four conference wins). In overall average efficiency, the league ranked below not only the rest of its power six brethren, but the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West, too. The league was so devoid of nonconference wins and marquee teams that its regular-season champ, Washington, failed to earn an at-large NCAA tournament bid -- an unprecedented brush-off made all the more surreal by the realization that nobody outside the Pac-12 offices really disagreed with it.

Three years later, the Pac-12 has arrived at a vastly stronger place. Arizona is a perennial national title threat. UCLA got back to the Sweet 16 last season and is recruiting top West Coast talent again. Utah has gone from "abhorrent" to "conference title contender" in record time. Colorado, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, and even Washington are all realistic tournament hopefuls with either intriguing talent, loads of experience, or both. USC, which finished 2-16 in league play last season, is rapidly trending upward.

The result is a league with one obvious national title contender and maybe seven or eight good outfits.

"I could see where Arizona would be the unanimous pick," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. "I think that's clear cut. As for the rest of the league, you could probably put everybody in a hat, shake it up, and have just as good a chance at predicting the order of finish as we are able to do sitting here today."

The current setup might make the Pac-12 hard to predict, but it should also make it very interesting -- not only during conference play but in November and December, too. At the very least, 2011-12 now feels even more removed from the current reality. As the Pac-12 improves, that wild outlier becomes harder and harder to believe.

Four other observations from Pac-12 media day:

2. The arrival of a new season hasn't done anything to quell misgivings about Oregon's tumultuous offseason. In May, three players were dismissed following sexual assault allegations, and coach Dana Altman and the university were criticized for allowing players to play in the NCAA tournament despite an ongoing investigation into those allegations. One of those players, Brandon Austin, had been suspended by his previous school, Providence, for an alleged sexual assault.

[+] EnlargeOregon
AP PhotoDana Altman's Oregon program had a tough offseason.
Since then, two players (Ben Carter and A.J. Lapray) have transferred, top recruit JaQuan Lyle was unable to enroll at the school, and Elgin Cook was cited for shoplifting. Local media in Eugene soon discovered that Cook, as a teenager in Wisconsin, had been found guilty of assault and battery, disorderly conduct and vandalism.

Altman's summer hasn't just left his roster gutted. It's also left many wondering whether a coach whose squeaky-clean reputation that preceded his hiring deserved to be fired.

On Thursday, the questions continued. Altman reiterated that he did not know the extent of the charges against the three players in March. He stood by his and the university's decision, and pointed to his entire career as an indicator of his judgement.

"Six months have not been good, but the other 25 years have been pretty solid," Altman said.

The Ducks have made one noticeable change off the floor: Altman has now moved all of his players into the same apartment complex, where they live alongside graduate assistants.

"We have our graduate assistants living with them to try to help them with some of the day-to-day decisions they make," Altman said. "Other than that, we haven't made many changes."

3. These days, nothing sinks a bubble team's NCAA tournament hopes more than a weak nonconference schedule. You could hardly blame Utah for its RPI-crushing 2013-14 slate, though: Even coach Larry Krystkowiak didn't expect his team to be as good as it was. The Utes were ahead of schedule.

"Oftentimes a schedule is done a year or two in advance," Krystkowiak said. "We were probably ahead of the curve last year."

There will be no such surprises in 2014-15. The preseason poll slotted Utah at No. 2 in the league projections; star small forward Delon Wright is a returning All-Pac-12 performer. This time, Krystkowiak has scheduled accordingly. The Utes have road games against Kansas, San Diego State, UNLV and BYU. That slate will certainly help assuage the NCAA's road-obsessed concerns, but it also presents major challenges.

"On paper I don't know how intelligent I am to bite off some of that," Krystkowiak said. "I just felt like our team was ready for it."

4. Steve Alford's teams were never known for playing fast, but his arrival at UCLA last season was accompanied by a massive tempo boost relative to Alford's work at New Mexico and Iowa. With the strength of that attack -- an excellent backcourt -- almost entirely gone, will the Bruins maintain that pace? Alford hopes so.

"We want to be able to continue to do the things we've done, with the speed with which we want to play," Alford said. "We want to play fast. ... But there's a fine line. You can only run as hard as you can to where you're also valuing the ball."

5. New coaches are a minor subplot of the 2014-15 Pac-12. The conference has three new men in charge of programs this season: Cuonzo Martin at California, Wayne Tinkle at Oregon State and Ernie Kent at Washington State. Oregon State and Washington State are probably due for extended rebuilding periods. But Mike Montgomery's retirement didn't leave the Bears quite as bereft of personnel, which makes them slightly more intriguing. At the very least, forward David Kravish drew raves from Martin as the two sat at the podium together.

"The guy is just battle-tested," Martin said. "He understands what it means to win. He's probably one of the better leaders I've ever been around."

Chris Collins shows recruiting prowess at Northwestern 

October, 23, 2014
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When Chris Collins was named as the new head coach at Northwestern in March of 2013, one of his first priorities was Victor Law, a four-star prospect from St. Rita (Ill.). At the time, Law was leaning elsewhere, but Collins knew he had to sit down with Law and make a final pitch.

He met with Law and Law's father, and the two sides immediately connected. The Wildcats were squarely back in the mix.

"Vic's biggest question the day he spoke to Chris was, 'Coach, do you believe in Chris Collins?'" said Gary DeCesare, Law's former coach at St. Rita. "I said, 'Absolutely. I believe he will get it done.'"

3-point shot: Talking with Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
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Andy Katz sits down with Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy and discusses the Rebels chances in the SEC this season.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bruce Pearl is ready for his return to college basketball with Auburn. And he's ready for his return to the SEC, a league that he believes doesn't get enough praise.

Pearl
That will change this season because the SEC will send multiple programs to the NCAA tournament, he said.

The former Tennessee coach guaranteed that five or more SEC squads will be dancing in March.

Three teams -- Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee -- represented the conference in last year's NCAA tourney.

"We're going to have five, at least five teams in the tournament this year," Pearl told ESPN.com Wednesday. "At least five. ... So I'm just telling you. Jump on the bandwagon now."

His colleagues in the league supported that notion.

Asked to respond to Pearl's guarantee, Kentucky's John Calipari said, "It should be [a five-bid league]. It should be."

Florida coach Billy Donovan said that the SEC should send five teams or more to the NCAA tournament each season.

"I think the same thing could have been said last year," Donovan said. "I think if you look at the fact that Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky are in, but you know what? Arkansas is right there on the bubble. Missouri is right there on the bubble. Georgia is hovering. They close well. That would have made it five or six teams right there. I don't think there's any reason why this league can't be anywhere from five to seven teams year in and year out."

Four other observations from SEC Media Day:
  • Calipari's platoon substitution system will allow him to use his unrivaled depth and talent this season. However, he told ESPN.com that he's not afraid to switch from the five-in, five-out concept when necessary. He's confident that the strategy will work because Tyler Ulis will lead the second unit. "If you don't have that confident guy running that other group ... problems," Calipari said. "It'll be interesting. I'm committed to it."

  • Chris Walker didn't play much last season after dealing with academic issues and an NCAA reprimand stemming from impermissible benefits he received in high school. But he'll play a larger role this season for Florida now that Patric Young has graduated. But Donovan cautioned that Walker is still raw. "He was crawling when he got there," Donovan said. "Now he's up, walking. He's walking around now. We need him running and moving. ... I don't want to add added expectations on a kid that's not prepared to handle that." Donovan said two areas that need work are Walker's all-around offensive game and his pick-and-roll defense.

  • Arkansas' Bobby Portis, a potential lottery pick in next summer's NBA draft who grew nearly two inches this summer, said he doesn't feel any pressure over his future. And coach Mike Anderson said Portis hasn't allowed the buzz to bother him. He said he's still leading with his work ethic and commitment. He appears to be a humble young man who's not putting his goals above his team's.

  • Kentucky has Drake. Memphis has Rick Ross. LSU coach Johnny Jones can turn to Shaq, the legendary center who also dropped a few rap albums, whenever he wants to promote his program. Then again, MC Johnny Jones doesn't really need the help, he said. "Well, unfortunately those guys have to call people but I can do a little [rapping] myself," Jones joked. "Any time Shaq and those guys can come around, I think it's always a positive. We feel like we have a lot to sell but that's good for those other programs."
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NEW YORK -- Here are five observations from Big East basketball media day:

1. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman began media day here making her position on the shifts in college athletics -- and that of her league presidents -- abundantly clear.

"I think it's important from a national level to acknowledge that college sports programs are just that -- college programs," said the former WNBA and USA Basketball president. "The difference between the professional level and the college level is night and day. … College athletes are not employees."

That said, Ackerman and the Big East know that in order to survive, they have to keep up with the big boys. Absent football money and some of the traditional programs that have made the league's brand in the past, conference members recognize that playing ostrich to the changes will only hurt their teams.

As the Power 5 wins autonomy and heads toward cost of attendance, the Big East schools have no intention of falling behind. The presidents have all agreed that, going forward, their response will be simple.

As Providence coach Ed Cooley said simply, "Whatever the football five do, the Big East will be right there with them."

2. A year after the Big East counted arguably the best college basketball player in the country among its players, the league is lacking star power.

Now to be fair, Doug McDermott doesn't come along every year and no one was gong to match the Creighton's star appeal.

Still it's interesting that there is no real face of this league -- not a player's anyway -- at least not yet.

[+] EnlargeD'Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesGeorgetown's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera was tabbed as the preseason Big East player of the year.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera was chosen as the preseason player of the year but he is hardly an obvious pick. The Georgetown guard, a second-team selection last year, averaged 17.6 points per game for a team that finished a pedestrian 18-15 last season.

Truth be told, any of the first-team selections -- Butler's Kellen Dunham, St. John's D'Angelo Harrison, Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston, and Xavier's Matt Stainbrook -- could have been tabbed the favorite.

Is that a problem for the Big East? Maybe, maybe not.

"If you look at last year, were we a better conference just because we had Doug McDermott in the league?” Georgetown's John Thompson III said. "Having good players is important, but having good teams is more important."

3. Looney Tunes might be a little before his time, but Kris Dunn knows who the Tasmanian Devil is.

He is the Tasmanian Devil.

That's what his coach calls him.

And that's how he's playing.

"Yeah, I probably get going a little too fast sometimes because I just want to go," the Providence sophomore said.

Hard to blame him. Only a sophomore, Dunn has been snakebit by injury, missing the better part of his freshman season with a torn labrum and then all but three games last year with a recurrence of the same injury.

Heralded as the recruit that would guide the Friars back to the tourney, he instead sat on the sidelines as Providence earned its way to March without him.

Dunn was finally cleared last month and now is just biding his time, waiting for a game.

[+] EnlargeSteve Wojciechowski
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsSteve Wojciechowski said the appeal of coaching at Marquette and in the Big East is that basketball is No. 1, just as it was at Duke.
"One thing you won't hear from me -- I won't complain," Dunn said. "Not once. I'm so happy to be playing again, you won't hear me complain once."

4. Growing up in Baltimore, Steve Wojciechowski was caught on the bubble between Maryland-loving ACC fans and D.C.-favoring Big East aficionados.

His allegiances were always clear.

"My favorite player growing up was Len Bias," he said. "I had a poster of him on my wall, so I was always more of an ACC guy."

Now after spending both his playing and coaching lifetime in that league, Wojciechowski makes the jump to the Big East, as the new head coach at Marquette.

No doubt there are differences between the two leagues -- especially as the ACC expands by swallowing up Big East members Louisville, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse -- but Wojciechowski said that his new league is a lot like his former employer, if not his former conference.

The appeal of Marquette -- along with the obvious history of success -- was to work at a place and in a league where basketball was at the top of the pecking order, just as it is at Duke.

"We are in the driver's seat," he said. "We're a priority. Even the really good programs that have football are still riding shotgun."

5. Some dribbles: Villanova was one vote shy of the unanimous selection to win the Big East. Georgetown received the lone outlier vote. … Chris Mack's daughter, Lainee, made her second Big East media day appearance, sitting next to her dad at the Xavier table. Of his 9-year-old daughter, Mack quipped, ‘This is old hat to her. She's been to more media days than Matt here,' motioning to senior center Matt Stainbrook, sitting to Mack's left. ... DePaul was picked last in the league, continuing a trend of ignominy. In the last six years, the Blue Demons have only been picked higher than last just once. In 2012, DePaul started the preseason picked to finish 13th. The Blue Demons ended up finishing last. DePaul has had one winning league record since joining the league in 2005 and has won just 30 Big East games in that time. ... St. John's coach Steve Lavin turned media day into casual Wednesday, sporting a warm-up suit to the festivities. Perhaps he jogged over from his Manthattan home?
Bruce Pearl is not a shy man. Whether it was painting his bare chest orange, singing "Rocky Top" in the cafeteria or firing up players, students and fans in any way possible, the former Boston College mascot never shied away from the spotlight at Tennessee and never missed a chance to promote and market his program.

Well, he's now at Auburn and is picking up right where he left off.

Take what happened recently during a marketing class on campus. In front of dozens of unsuspecting students, the Tiger cheerleaders, mascot and marching band -- along with top player KT Harrell and Pearl himself -- marched right into the classroom and formed their own little pep rally.

And amidst it all, the one-and-only Bruce Pearl is yelling, waving his arms and just doing assorted Bruce Pearl things. Take a look...

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Kentucky coach John Calipari assembled a can't-miss roster with enough can't-miss talent to hold his own practice for NBA scouts on campus. Some early mock drafts have as many as seven Wildcats being taken in the 2015 NBA draft, including at least three potential first-rounders.

With that roster, surely Kentucky can't miss raising its ninth national title banner come April, right?

Not exactly.

Stacking talent doesn't guarantee stacking titles. Over the past 20 seasons, only 12 teams have had rosters that included at least three first-round picks in the same draft class. Only five (Kentucky 1996 and 2012; North Carolina 2005 and 2009; Florida 2007) got a title to match their considerable talent.

If Kentucky is to become the sixth, it has to navigate potential pitfalls that doomed these can't-miss teams:

1998-99 Duke
The first-rounders: Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon, Corey Maggette, William Avery
The downfall: The Blue Devils were the epitome of a can't-miss team. They lost only once in the regular season and were a 9.5-point favorite in the title game against Connecticut. If Duke went into the game a bit overconfident, it had good reason to be based on the regular season. The Huskies were quite confident, too, riding Richard Hamilton's 27 points to the upset in the championship game.

2005-06 UConn
The first-rounders: Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams, Josh Boone
The downfall: The Huskies were ranked in the top four all season, but fell apart in the postseason. UConn's loss to No. 9 seed Syracuse in the Big East tournament should have been a premonition. The Orange, at the time, became the lowest seed to win the league tournament. The Huskies were on the wrong side of Cinderella again, falling to No. 11 seed George Mason in the Elite Eight.

2006-07 Ohio State
The first-rounders: Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook
The downfall: Before all the injuries, Greg Oden was being billed as a once-in-a-generation-type center. He lifted the Buckeyes to the Final Four, but they had the misfortune of running up against another can't-miss team in the Final Four. Florida beat the Buckeyes en route to capturing its second of back-to-back titles.

2009-10 Kentucky
The first-rounders: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton
The downfall: John Calipari's first year ushered in the class that re-established Kentucky on the national scene. The Wildcats got hit with a perfect storm of surprises against West Virginia, starting with backup point guard Joe Mazzulla, he of a 2.2 point average, scoring a career-high 17 points. The Wildcats also didn't expect to be stumped by the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone and they were eliminated in the Elite Eight.

2011-12 UNC
The first-rounders: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall
The downfall: The Tar Heels, the preseason No. 1 ranked team, seemed destined for a showdown with Kentucky -- the other can't-miss team of 2012 -- who edged the Heels in a 73-72 classic in Rupp Arena. The rematch never materialized. Point guard was the one position that Carolina couldn't afford an injury and Marshall suffered a wrist injury the second game of the tournament.

3-point shot: Continuing the Big East tour

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
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Andy Katz continues his Big East look and discusses Xavier, Creighton, and Providence.

3-point shot: Georgetown, John Thompson III confident

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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Andy Katz talks about John Thompson III and Georgetown's prospects this season.

3-point shot: Villanova coach Jay Wright

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
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Andy Katz talks to Villanova coach Jay Wright about early impressions at practice.
Green Bay point guard Keifer Sykes has no respect for gravity or feelings. And he can fly.

That’s not a good thing for 6-foot-9 forward Kerem Kanter, the younger brother of Utah Jazz standout Enes Kanter. In Tuesday’s practice, Sykes – 6 feet tall on a great day – dunked on Kanter via an alley-oop on the in-bounds pass from teammate Jordan Fouse.

You can see Sykes yelling after the dunk and his teammates walking away from the scene to collect their thoughts.

Warn your friends.

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3-point shot: Wisconsin's conference play

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
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Andy Katz discusses Wisconsin, Florida and UConn.
When you've got 13 players per team in a 351-team sport, it isn't easy to establish superlatives. Who has the most style? Whose jump shot is prettiest? With so many players out there, how can we be sure we aren't overlooking some hidden aesthetic gem?

Utah State forwards Sean Harris and Jalen Moore are determined to prevent that outcome. This week, they staged a minor social media campaign to ensure their mutual love of hair received the proper amount of attention.


So: Best hair in hoops? That's a strong contender, but we need to process a few other prospective applicants before we go handing out any awards. (In other words, submit via Twitter.)

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