NCAA Pro Athletes

Ivy League Schools Losing Top Athletes Because of Eligibility Rules

By Scott Mandel

When the Ivy League was officially founded in 1954, one of the conference’s guiding principles was that intercollegiate athletics were a pursuit for undergraduates only.

But it’s safe to say those tenets failed to anticipate the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, which has altered the landscape of college basketball over the past decade. It’s even safer to say the Ivy League of 66 years ago never anticipated a talent like Columbia guard Mike Smith.ADVERTISEMENT

Smith, who leads the Ivy League in scoring with 21 points per game, missed most of what would have been his junior year in 2018-19 with a torn meniscus.

In every other Division I league, Smith would have been granted a medical redshirt, allowing the fifth-year athlete to play a fourth season of basketball as a graduate student at the school where he enrolled as a freshman in 2016.

Those options, however, do not exist in the Ivy League, which neither grants redshirts nor permits graduate students to play athletics. Combine that with the talent of Smith and his importance to Columbia’s roster, and you have a perfect storm of questions — primarily, should this decades-old rule be revisited and revised?

“It’s very strange. It’s different,” said Columbia coach Jim Engles, who has spent most of his season fielding calls from other programs who are openly recruiting Smith because of the player’s guaranteed ineligibility in the Ivy League next season.

“You’re focused on your season and you’ve got guys calling, ‘What’s going on with this kid?’ You’re trying to get your team to focus on the moment and the season. But it’s the way things are now.”

More than a dozen Ivy League basketball players have graduated and transferred to another school since 2015, including several who have played at the high-major level. This spring, however, the trend will hit a new peak. At least seven players — including four who are actively playing this season — will be compelled by Ivy rules to head elsewhere for their final seasons.

Smith joins teammate Jake Killingsworth, Penn’s Ryan Betley and Yale’s Jordan Bruner (who is also expected to pursue professional options) in the group of players who, because of the rule, are actively auditioning for free-agent suitors at this moment. Two others who are sitting out this season because of injury — Harvard’s Seth Towns (the 2018 Ivy Player of the Year) and Dartmouth’s Brendan Barry — will have to leave, too. Another, Columbia’s Patrick Tape, has left the team but will graduate from Columbia and transfer in the spring.

The four Ivy League basketball coaches ESPN spoke with for this story were in favor of examining a rule that seems to show little sympathy for Ivy League players who suffer serious injuries, and little regard for the academic ambitions of the conference’s players. Sure, some Ivy League players might want to transfer and play in the ACC or Big Ten if they have that opportunity, but others might have a desire to finish out their college basketball careers while attending grad school at the only college they’ve known — the same way their peers at Duke, Stanford or Vanderbilt can.Get the best of ESPN sent to your inboxThe ESPN Daily delivers the biggest sports news and moments every weekday.Sign me up!Privacy PolicyRead the Latest

“When someone who clearly values their academics, scheduled to graduate on time or early — they should be able to do what they want,” Brown coach Mike Martin said. “A lot of these guys want to see what it’s like at the highest level. But for someone who wants to stay and play at the school he’s been at for four years, I think [compelling them to leave is] unfortunate.”

Martin has experience with the issue, which arose when former Brown player Rafael Maia was attempting to remain in the program for his final season of eligibility in 2015-16. Maia had been forced by the NCAA to sit out his freshman year at Brown because of a graduation-calendar issue related to his arrival from his native Brazil, but he graduated in four years and had another year of basketball eligibility to use in 2015-16 — just not at Brown. Martin said Maia wanted to stay with the Bears but was forced to leave because of the rule, going on to average 2.0 PPG in 33 games with Pittsburgh in 2015-16.

“I think it’s unfortunate because Maia wanted to stay here, play for us,” Martin said. “He wasn’t looking to go elsewhere until he exhausted every possible situation.”

“I would love it if the kid qualifies for it,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said of the ability to stay for a fifth year in the Ivy, noting Betley would have preferred to stay. “I don’t know why that’s a bad thing. If anything, it would really show the kid’s dedication to both sides of his life. I’d be very much in favor of supporting kids that can get into these grad schools. I think it would really help. It’s the right thing to do for a lot of reasons.”

Coaches like Martin and Donahue have an uphill battle in getting the rule examined, however. First, the change needs to be proposed by a coach or administrator and put into the legislation system. The coaches in the league then vote, with a majority (at least five votes) needed to advance to the next step. It then goes on to a vote among athletic directors before moving to the Policy Committee, a group that includes school vice presidents and deans, faculty and athletic administrators. The final step would be a vote among school presidents, and both the Policy Committee and presidents need to approve the change by a supermajority (six votes).

Despite the bureaucratic red tape, Yale coach James Jones is among those who think it’s fair to ask whether the Ivy should revisit the issue.

“I think that all things are up for review that can help a student-athlete,” said Jones. “If it helps a student-athlete, I think we should look at it and see if it fits for us. It hasn’t been a blip on the radar — it’s more and more prevalent. It may be something our coaches’ group takes a look at. It may be something that gets on the table down the road. It is an issue for a lot of our teams.”

Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said she is unmoved by a call to examine the ethics of the rule, and disputes how it might impact quality of play.

“What’s the problem with it?” she said. “We’re still continuing to thrive as a league. … I think we have to have an issue to fix.

“It’s a philosophical approach that we do what’s right for college athletics and what’s right for student-athletes, as well,” Harris added. “We have other rules that maybe put us at a disadvantage competitively, and yet we continue to have about 100 ranked teams a year, continue to do well in NCAA tournaments, win national championships. … We haven’t really talked about it, because it’s one of the philosophical underpinnings of the league.”

But could it at least be argued that the rule has turned the Ivy League into a developing free-agent market, given the circumstance of players like Smith and Bruner being openly recruited as free agents?

“It’s a testament to what our coaches are doing,” Harris countered. “[The players] are able to transfer and play at some of the bluebloods. … I really think that it showcases the student-athletes.”

The rule does have a silver lining for players confronted with the situation: Because they will not have future Ivy eligibility, players such as Smith and Tape can submit their profiles directly into the transfer portal at any time during the academic year. Smith entered the portal in October and immediately became one of the most sought-after transfers on the market. (Smith declined to be interviewed for this story, with a Columbia spokesman telling ESPN he is not focusing on his recruitment until after the season.) But the fact that he is in the portal means he has likely been on the receiving end of dozens of phone calls from college coaches.

For the people on the other end of those phone calls, it’s an advantage. It’s unusual for a college coach to be able to actively recruit, without tampering, a player currently playing Division I college basketball. Coaches could have watched Smith play high-major competition during nonconference play (Columbia faced Wake Forest, Virginia and St. John’s in November) to get an immediate sense for how his game would translate to a higher level.

Midway through last season, USC coach Andy Enfield thought the Trojans needed backcourt depth and shooting for the 2019-20 season. A name from the transfer portal came up in discussion: Columbia guard Quinton Adlesh. A California native, he was a natural fit. The Trojans’ coaching staff was able to watch film and monitor his development as the season progressed, then they decided to bring him in for an official visit before landing his commitment on April 1, just a few weeks after the season ended.

“It was extremely beneficial to know that a particular player is transferring,” Enfield said. “We were able to evaluate him during the season and get to know him when we were allowed to call. The relationship was already developed, somewhat.”

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Adlesh, who missed most of his freshman season (2015-16) at Columbia with an ankle injury, estimated that 15 or 20 schools reached out to him before he settled on USC and said there was a benefit to making his intentions known early.

“I figured I’d just put it out there, so coaches knew, in case they wanted to target me or had a potential spot they wanted to fill,” Adlesh said. “I didn’t engage in any talks with coaches until the season wrapped up. I wanted to get a sense of who’s available. … I was up front. If I had any contact with a coach, I said I would love to get back in touch when the season wrapped up.”

Could we get to the point where college coaches are conducting campus visits with active Ivy League players in the middle of the season? That has been the case for Tape, who is sitting out this season while finishing up his undergraduate degree at Columbia. He tore a ligament in his toe over the summer and then aggravated the injury before the season began. Tape realized he could probably try to return after a few games, but he preferred to play a full season — even if it wasn’t in the Ivy League. Instead, Tape left the team.

It seems to be working out so far: The 6-foot-10 big man has already toured Syracuse and has visits set up with Maryland, Ohio State and USC.

“I think a lot of Ivy League players are looking to get the best of both worlds,” Tape said.

As players like Smith and Tape ponder their next moves, it will be up to Ivy League coaches to decide whether to push for reform, or risk having their talented rosters be potentially undermined by the rule.

“The league certainly loses a lot of talent from it,” Towns said. “It’s more of an ethical thing for the Ivy League; I’m not really sure how I feel about it. But the league objectively loses talent.”

Who Are the Players of the Year in Every NCAA D-1 Conference?

From espn services

you think the race for the 2020 Wooden Award is a toss-up, wait until you see the competition for conference Player of the Year honors in each league.

It’s early February, so all of this could change, but we made an attempt to handicap the Player of the Year races in all 32 Division I conferences.

Here’s the criteria we tried to emphasize:

  • With at least a month of data to evaluate in most cases, we thought emphasizing individual impact in league play made sense.
  • In most cases, good players on good teams are the top candidates for these awards. So please save the tweets about our exclusion of the volume shooter from the bottom-feeder in your favorite conference.
  • In most cases, there were more than two top candidates for the award. But we picked two because … that’s what we decided to do.
  • Some leagues lack an obvious front-runner and top contender, but we did our best. Sorry, SEC. Things are weird right now. (And yes, we think Kansas has the top two candidates for Big 12 Player of the Year. Deal with it.)

Without further ado:

American Athletic Conference

Front-runner: Jarron CumberlandCincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati’s veteran has averaged 20.0 PPG during his team’s current four-game win streak. He has also made 44 percent of his 3-point attempts, hit 52 percent of his shots inside the arc and anchored the No. 2 defense in the American.

Top competition: Precious AchiuwaMemphis Tigers

Memphis has gone from top-10 program to potentially sliding off the bubble and missing the NCAA tournament. But the only reason the Tigers — who benefited from the contributions of projected lottery pick James Wiseman for just three games — remain in contention for a postseason slot is because Achiuwa (16.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG in AAC play) has been a dominant athlete.


Atlantic Coast Conference

Front-runner: Vernon Carey Jr.Duke Blue Devils

At one point in Duke’s 97-88 win at Syracuse on Saturday night, Jim Boeheim smirked at Mike Krzyzewski after Carey finished an easy bucket, as if to say, “How the hell are we supposed to stop this?” Carey’s performance (26 points and 17 rebounds) extended the streak of dominance we’ve witnessed all year from the freshman (Duke has averaged 109 points per 100 possessions with Carey on the floor this season, according to hooplens.com).

Top competition: Jordan NworaLouisville Cardinals

The Louisville standout certainly has a strong case for ACC top honors after making 49 percent of his 3-point attempts and 85 percent of his free throw attempts in league play. But he’s a step behind Carey based on his inconsistency since the start of league play (3-for-12 in a Jan. 18 win at Duke; 3-for-13 in Saturday’s win over NC State; 3-for-11 in a Jan. 22 win over Georgia Tech), even though Nwora has the slight edge with 18.5 PPG versus Carey’s 16.2 PPG in ACC action.Get the best of ESPN sent to your inboxThe ESPN Daily delivers the biggest sports news and moments every weekday.Sign me up!Privacy PolicyRead the Latest


America East Conference

Front-runner: Anthony LambVermont Catamounts

The reigning America East Player of the Year isn’t competing with the same efficiency he enjoyed a year ago. But he has made 45 percent of his 3-point attempts in league play and 87 percent of his free throw attempts while also averaging 17.3 PPG for a Vermont team that entered the week atop the league at 7-1.

Top competition: Elijah OlaniyiStony Brook Seawolves

Stony Brook’s star led the program to a 6-2 start in league play by averaging 19.6 PPG and connecting on 55 percent of his shots inside the arc. He has earned three America East player of the week honors.


Atlantic 10 Conference

Front-runner: Obi ToppinDayton Flyers

Toppin, a projected first-round pick in the NBA draft who commands the most efficient offense in America, is not only the favorite in this Player of the Year race, he might be the front-runner in the Wooden Award chase, too. He has put together eye-popping numbers for a Dayton team that’s undefeated in the Atlantic 10, but his 71 percent clip inside the 3-point line in A-10 play, along with 19.7 PPG and 8.0 RPG, top the list.

Top competition: Fatts RussellRhode Island Rams

He has steered Rhode Island’s eight-game winning streak (its last loss was Jan. 5). Russell entered the week averaging 20.0 PPG, an assist every five possessions and a 42 percent success rate from the 3-point line in A-10 action.


Atlantic Sun Conference

Front-runner: Garrett SamsNorth Florida Ospreys

In the nonconference season, Sams scored 20 points in North Florida’s loss to Florida State. The 6-foot-7 wing has put together impressive efforts (17.3 PPG, 53 percent clip from beyond the arc) comparable to that outing against Leonard Hamilton’s program for a North Florida team that boasts the best offense in the league and shares a slice of the top spot in the standings.

Top competition: Rob PerryStetson Hatters

Stetson’s 6-3 star is a talented guard who is listed as a “very good” offensive player in half-court sets and defensive player in man-to-man schemes, per Synergy Sports data. His 17.2 PPG and 47 percent clip from beyond the arc have helped Stetson remain in the hunt for the conference crown.


Big East Conference

Front-runner: Markus HowardMarquette Golden Eagles

The Marquette star is somewhat a victim of his own success from a year ago. He hasn’t enjoyed the same national buzz, yet he’s averaging 29.7 PPG in Big East play, although his 33 percent clip from the 3-point line is a drop from his 2018-19 numbers.

Top competition: Myles PowellSeton Hall Pirates

His 3-for-14 outing in his team’s 74-62 home loss to Xavier on Saturday was a surprising and rare stumble for a stellar competitor and national Player of the Year contender. He has scored 23 points or more in six of his nine Big East games and registered a top-10 steals percentage in league play.


Big Sky Conference

Front-runner: Jonah RadebaughNorthern Colorado Bears

The league leader in assists (7.1 APG) is also averaging 16.2 PPG. The 6-3 guard has made 39 percent of his 3-pointers in Big Sky play while leading a Northern Colorado squad that’s 7-2 since New Year’s Day.

Top competition: Sayeed PridgettMontana Grizzlies

Montana’s star is top 10 in the Big Sky in scoring (18.9 PPG), rebounding (6.7 RPG), field goal percentage (45.3) and assists (4.0 APG). The 6-5 combo forward has also made 71 percent of his free throws.


Big South Conference

Front-runner: Phlandrous Fleming Jr.Charleston Southern Buccaneers

The 6-4 standout has recorded 10 games with 20 points or more since Dec. 21. Fleming’s Big South stat line — 22.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 BPG — is nothing short of impressive.

Top competition: Ben StanleyHampton Pirates

Hampton’s star is an efficient performer who is ranked fifth in Ken Pomeroy’s conference Player of the Year rankings in the Big South. Stanley deserves that nod after averaging 23.9 PPG (55 percent clip overall), 8.0 RPG and 2.6 BPG through his first eight games in Big South games.


Big 12 Conference

Front-runner: Devon DotsonKansas Jayhawks

The dynamic Kansas guard entered the weekend as the Big 12’s leader in scoring (16.6 PPG) and steals (2.1 SPG), just part of the case for a sophomore guard who has played with poise in some of the biggest moments in college basketball this season. Then he finished with 21 points (9-for-16) in 40 minutes in KU’s 78-75 win over Texas Tech on Saturday.

Top competition: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas Jayhawks

No disrespect to Freddie GillespieJared ButlerJahmi’us Ramsey or the other standouts in the league, but Dotson’s teammate is clearly his greatest threat in the Big 12 player of the year race. With the league leader in rebounding (10.1 RPG) and blocks (3.4 BPG) on the floor, opposing Big 12 teams have made fewer than 40 percent of their shots inside the arc, according to hooplen


Big Ten Conference

Front-runner: Luka GarzaIowa Hawkeyes

Iowa’s big man might be the favorite to win the Wooden Award right now after anchoring his team’s 7-4 start in the Big Ten and extending his campaign for postseason accolades with averages of 26.5 PPG and 10.5 PPG through his first 11 Big Ten games. He has made 55 percent of his attempts in post-up situations, according to Synergy Sports data.

Top competition: Cassius WinstonMichigan State Spartans

Michigan State’s veteran leader (19.6 PPG in league play) is carrying the Spartans, who entered the week tied with Illinois for first place in the conference. With Winston on the floor, Michigan State is a different team in league play: 38.1 percent from the 3-point line versus 31.3 percent with Winston on the bench; 0.83 PPP allowed versus 1.06 PPP allowed with Winston on the bench.

1:54

Winston records career high in win vs. Michigan

Cassius Winston scores a career-high 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting as he leads the Spartans to an 87-69 win over the Wolverines.


Big West Conference

Front-runner: Lamine DianeCal State Northridge

CSUN’s star has made more than 50 percent of his shots inside the arc for a program that leads the conference with a 40.4 percent mark from beyond the arc. He’s also the conference leader in scoring (26.0 PPG) and rebounding (9.5 RPG) to go along with 1.5 BPG and 1.6 SPG.

Top competition: Collin WelpUC Irvine Anteaters

The UC Irvine standout is a rare 6-9 athlete who has been a threat everywhere on the floor in Big West play. Welp (13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG) is 18-for-20 from the free throw line while also committing turnovers on just 9.5 percent of his possessions.


Colonial Athletic Association

Front-runner: Grant RillerCharleston Cougars

With his strong performances, the Charleston star continues to support the idea that he has a future at the next level. He’s averaging 23.6 PPG and a ridiculous 49 percent clip from the 3-point line in CAA play, while also adding 4.5 APG.

Top competition: Nathan KnightWilliam & Mary Tribe

Opposing teams can’t use the Hack-a-Shaq strategy against William & Mary’s 6-10 star, who has made 57 percent of his shots inside the arc and 89 percent of his free throw attempts. He’s also averaging 20.8 PPG and 11.5 RPG.


Conference USA

Front-runner: Jhivvan JacksonUTSA Roadrunners

The UTSA star has won three of C-USA’s player of the week awards while averaging 26.4 PPG and 39 percent of his 3-point attempts in league play. His team’s 4-6 start in C-USA action could hurt his cause, but his numbers are definitively accolade-worthy.

Top competition: Bryson WilliamsUTEP Miners

Another star for a sub-.500 team in league play. Williams’ numbers (19.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 56 percent clip inside the arc) are solid and he’s ranked second behind Jackson in KenPom’s C-USA Player of the Year rankings.


Horizon League

Front-runner: Antoine DavisDetroit Mercy Titans

Davis, the son of Detroit head coach Mike Davis, entered the week ranked third in the country in scoring (23.4 PPG) and is trying to pull his team to the top half of the league standings. He’s also averaging 1.6 SPG and connecting on 90 percent of his free throw attempts.

Top competition: Loudon LoveWright State Raiders

The 6-8 forward has fueled Wright State’s ascent to the top of the Horizon League’s standings after averaging 15.5 PPG, 10.1 RPG and 1.4 BPG (2.0 BPG in Horizon League play). He also leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage.


Ivy League

Front-runner: Paul AtkinsonYale Bulldogs

Yale is off to an undefeated start in league play and a top-50 spot in the NCAA’s NET rankings with Atkinson leading the way. The conference’s No. 1 scorer (18.5 PPG) is also averaging 10.0 RPG and connecting on 62 percent of his field goal attempts in league play.

Top competition: Mike SmithColumbia Lions

Columbia’s standout guard is not only making an impact on offense (17.5 PPG, an Ivy League-high of 5.5 APG), but also on defense, where he leads the conference with 2.8 SPG. In conference play, opposing teams have made just 32 percent of their 3-point attempts with Smith on the floor for Columbia.


MAAC

Front-runner: Rich KellyQuinnipiac Bobcats

Quinnipiac’s lead guard has made 39 percent of his 3-pointers for a team that has taken a higher percentage of its shots from beyond the arc (50.4) than any team in America not named North Florida. He has also made a wild 96 percent of his free throw attempts in MAAC play, while averaging 17.1 PPG amid a 6-4 start in the league.

Top competition: Jalen PickettSiena Saints

The Siena sophomore is listed as an “excellent” performer in half-court sets with a 45.2 percent clip in those situations, per Synergy Sports data. He’s also averaging 6.2 APG in league play.


MAC

Front-runner: Loren Cristian JacksonAkron Zips

Akron’s top player is the maestro of a team that’s ranked in the top 40 in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom. He has averaged 23.5 PPG and 4.9 APG, while also connecting on 59 percent of his 58 attempts from beyond the arc in MAC play.

Top competition: Tahjai TeagueBall State Cardinals

The Ball State standout is averaging 15.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 1.6 BPG. The success runs in the family for the 6-8 forward who is the cousin of NBA guard Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks) and former Kentucky star Marquis Teague, who won a title with Anthony Davis and the Wildcats in 2012.


MEAC

Front-runner: Jibri BlountNorth Carolina Central Eagles

Last week, Blount — the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Mel Blount — collected his fourth MEAC player of the week award. The 6-7 forward, who says he might make a run at a football career after basketball, led the conference with a 26.8 PPG average in league play entering the week.

Top competition: Ronald JacksonNorth Carolina A&T Aggies

The 6-7 center has recorded six double-doubles in MEAC games. His averages of 17.2 PPG and 12.2 RPG are unrivaled in league play for North Carolina A&T, which entered the week atop the MEAC standings.


Missouri Valley Conference

Front-runner: AJ GreenNorthern Iowa Panthers

As the catalyst of the top offense in the Missouri Valley Conference, Northern Iowa’s star has led the league in scoring (22.7 PPG) and connected on 49 percent of his 3-point attempts. Northern Iowa has made 54.4 percent of its shots inside the arc with the 6-4 guard on the floor.

Top competition: Cameron KrutwigLoyola Chicago Ramblers

Two years ago, the Loyola Chicago star was a freshman who helped the program reach the Final Four. This season, he’s one of the best players in the Missouri Valley Conference, proven by marks of 14.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 1.7 SPG in league play.


Mountain West Conference

Front-runner: Malachi FlynnSan Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State, the last undefeated team in college basketball at 23-0, is led by the Wooden Award candidate who has 21 assists and two turnovers in his team’s past four games. He has made 48.2 percent of his shots as a pick-and-roll ball handler, per Synergy Sports data.

Top competition: Sam MerrillUtah State Aggies

At this pace, the reigning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year will have a strong case to repeat. He’s averaging 18.1 PPG and 3.8 APG for a Utah State squad that has won three of its past four.


Northeast Conference

Front-runner: Isaiah BlackmonSt. Francis (PA) Red Flash

With Blackmon (21.6 PPG in NEC games, the top mark in the league) on the floor this season, St. Francis has connected on 51.1 percent of its shots inside the arc and 37.4 percent of its 3-pointers, according to hooplens.com. Blackmon has made 46 percent of his 3-point attempts in league play and he boasts the NEC’s top offensive rating, per KenPom.

Top competition: Raiquan ClarkLong Island Sharks

The Northeast Conference leader in minutes per game (38.5) is also second in scoring through the first stages of the conference season at 20.7 PPG. Long Island’s forward has also made 57 percent of his shots inside the arc and averaged 23.6 PPG over his past three outings.


Ohio Valley Conference

Front-runner: Terry TaylorAustin Peay Governors

The 6-5 forward is averaging 20.9 PPG and 10.8 RPG while connecting on 80 percent of his free throw attempts for an Austin Peay squad that has won its first 10 games in the OVC. Per OVC media relations, he’s one of six active Division I players who’ve registered at least 1,700 career points and 800 career rebounds.

Top competition: Tevin BrownMurray State Racers

A year ago, the Murray State star was Ja Morant‘s sidekick and he scored 19 points in the program’s 83-64 victory over Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This year, Brown has emerged as a leader for the undefeated Racers (10-0 in OVC play) by averaging 20.9 PPG in MVC games.


Pac-12 Conference

Front-runner: Payton PritchardOregon Ducks

If anyone has sealed a conference Player of the Year award after the first month of his league’s slate, it’s Pritchard, who has made 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. He has also averaged one assist for every three possessions and made 86 percent of his free throw attempts for an Oregon team that entered the week in first place at 7-3.

Top competition: Oscar da SilvaStanford Cardinal

In Stanford’s 70-60 win over Oregon on Saturday, the Cardinal star collected 27 points, 15 rebounds and three assists, enhancing his shot at securing multiple postseason accolades for a program that’s chasing its first NCAA tournament berth since 2014. The 6-9 junior has made 67 percent of his shots inside the arc since the start of Pac-12 play.


Patriot League

Front-runner: Tommy FunkArmy Black Knights

The player with the best name in the Patriot League is also one of its top players, signaled by the 22.1 PPG average he has amassed during Army’s current six-game winning streak. He’s also the Patriot League leader in assists (7.2 APG).

Top competition: Max MahoneyBoston University Terriers

Mahoney is the ace for a Boston University squad that has made 53.8 percent of its shots inside the arc, a top-30 mark nationally. In the Patriot League, he’s top 10 in scoring (15.4 PPG), rebounding (8.1 RPG), assists (3.7 APG), field goal percentage (64 percent) and steals (1.4 SPG).


SEC

Front-runner: Anthony EdwardsGeorgia Bulldogs

Yes, Georgia has been one of the worst teams in the SEC, which goes against the norm for creating candidates for postseason accolades, but the conference doesn’t exactly have its typical amount of elite players. That should elevate the candidacy of Edwards, a projected top-five pick in June’s NBA draft. He’s averaging 20.8 PPG in league play, which includes a 19.0 PPG clip in three losses to Kentucky (two games) and Auburn.

0:26

Edwards throws down big windmill jam

Anthony Edwards steals and breaks away to throw down a thunderous windmill dunk.

Top competition: Mason JonesArkansas Razorbacks

He has averaged 25.7 PPG in the Razorbacks’ last four contests. He has also recorded assists on more than one-quarter of his team’s possessions, which is why it’s about time folks start talking about Jones, the reigning SEC Player of the Week, as an SEC Player of the Year candidate.


Southern Conference

Front-runner: Isaiah MillerUNC Greensboro Spartans

The UNC Greensboro star made noise in November when he registered 19 points in 24 minutes in a 74-62 loss at Kansas. He has averaged 22.4 PPG and 3.7 SPG, both top marks in the SoCon.

Top competition: Mason FaulknerWestern Carolina Catamounts

The Western Carolina junior has scored 18 points or more in seven SoCon games. The Northern Kentucky transfer also is averaging 18.9 PPG and 6.0 APG, the top mark in the conference.


Southland Conference

Front-runner: Kevon HarrisStephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

In an upset win at Duke, Harris finished with 26 points and four assists. He has taken that momentum into the Southland, where he’s averaging 18.5 PPG and connecting on 45 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Top competition: Sha’markus KennedyMcNeese State Cowboys

McNeese State has surged into contention in the Southland with Kennedy as its leader. The 6-8 forward is averaging 18.6 PPG and 11.3 RPG in conference play, while connecting on 69 percent of his attempts inside the arc.


Summit League

Front-runner: Tyler HagedornSouth Dakota Coyotes

The 6-10 force is set to replace Mike Daum, the former South Dakota State star who won three Summit League player of the year awards, as the biggest star in the conference. Hagedorn is the nation’s best 3-point shooter (57 percent on 101 attempts) and one of its top free throw shooters (91 percent), and he’s averaging 19.4 PPG for a team chasing a Summit League title.

Top competition: Douglas WilsonSouth Dakota State Jackrabbits

The best player for the top team in the Summit League has connected on 61 percent of his field goal attempts while averaging 19.1 PPG in conference play. South Dakota State’s standout has added 1.2 BPG for the conference’s No. 2 defense.


Sun Belt Conference

Front-runner: Nijal PearsonTexas State Bobcats

After an 0-3 start in league play, Texas State has won seven of nine. Pearson (20.0 PPG, 38 percent from the 3-point line, 84 percent from the free throw line) has carried this team to the top tier of Sun Belt Conference.

Top competition: Markquis NowellLittle Rock Trojans

He’s No. 1 in assists (5.6 APG) in league play as Little Rock continues to separate from the pack in the Sun Belt Conference race (it entered the week 11-2 in league play). He has also made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts since the start of conference action.


SWAC

Front-runner: Maurice HowardAlcorn State Braves

The Alcorn State standout is averaging 15.9 PPG and 4.6 APG, the top mark in the SWAC. Per Synergy Sports data, he has also been an “excellent” defender whose opponents have made just 30.8 percent of their shot attempts in isolation situations.

Top competition: Roland GriffinJackson State Tigers

Jackson State’s top performer finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in a loss to Baylor in December. The 6-6 forward has averaged 15.8 PPG and 7.3 RPG in SWAC play.


WAC

Front-runner: Terrell BrownSeattle Redhawks

Seattle University’s top player leads the WAC in scoring at 18.1 PPG. In league play, opponents have registered a subpar 93 points per 100 possessions with Brown on the floor.

Top competition: Jabari RiceNew Mexico State Aggies

With teammate Trevelin Queen set to miss up to six weeks with a knee injury, the standout guard has helped his team preserve its unblemished record (8-0) in league play. Rice (46 percent from the 3-point line in league play) has averaged 19.0 PPG over the last two contests.


West Coast Conference

Front-runner: Filip PetrusevGonzaga Bulldogs

With Petrusev acting as one of the most efficient players in the country, Gonzaga has defeated WCC opponents by an average of 23.6 points per game. He’s averaging 16.9 PPG and 7.6 RPG while finishing 68 percent of his shots at the rim, per hoop-math.com.

Top competition: Jordan FordSaint Mary’s Gaels

The spark for a team that’s ranked top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency, Ford is leading the West Coast Conference with a 21.2 PPG average. He has also made 42 percent of his 3-point attempts in WCC play.

Penn State Did Not Lose to a Better Ohio State Team, Their Coach, James Franklin Lost to Better Coach

By Scott Mandel

James Franklin, the head coach of Penn State, is terrible.

Letting Ohio State’s #2, defensive end Chase Young, the best football player in the country, rush his quarterback without a double team, or even a strong-side chip from a tight end or running back, is pathetic coaching at any level.

Leaving his helpless offensive lineman, #71, out there on an island by himself to block Mr. Young in obvious passing situations was truly the stupidest coaching I have ever seen in my life.

Chase Young , Ohio State’s pass-rushing machine, today set the all-time record for the storied university’s football program for most sacks in a season today with 16.5 sacks. There are still more games to be played to the 2019 season yet James Franklin could not figure out how to help his overmatched right offensive tackle.

Hell, most of the offensive tackles in the NFL will be overmatched against Young, who is profiling as the next Lawrence Taylor in the league where they play for pay.

There are rumors James Franklin is going to interviewed for the head coaching job with the University of Southern California. My strong advice for Penn State backers is to help Franklin pack his bags and send him on his way.

Today, in Columbus, Ohio, Penn State was not beaten by a better team. They were beaten by a better coach.

St. John’s Would Make Huge Mistake By Choosing Cluess Over Rick Pitino as Head Coach

Reports are spreading that St. John’s is leaning towards choosing Tim Cluess, the 60-year old Iona coach, to be its next head basketball coach, replacing Chris Mullin. But, not Rick Pitino.


Nice.


Cluess, 60, could tell recruits he’ll be there at least until their sophomore season or until his first social security check arrives, whichever comes first.


Cluess is a nice guy. He’s been a good coach for mid-major basketball programs who probably deserved his shot at major league college basketball (defined as lots of tv games in a power conference, like the Big East USED TO BE) many years ago. One wonders why that opportunity didn’t present itself then, or, why he didn’t pursue it.


In any event, Cluess is a bad choice for any long term goals St. John’s may have for its basketball program.


If winning is your thing, and the coach’s age doesn’t matter, you pick the very best and most available college coach in America, Rick Pitino.

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Tim Cluess appears to be leading candidate for St. John’s coaching job

Pitino, with New York roots, is a youthful 66-year old from Long Island who never lost his New York accent. His name and his track record of National Championships at Louisville and Kentucky would bring 5-star players to do their one-and-dones or two-and-dones on the biggest stage, in New York City and Madison Square Garden.

There are growing numbers of college head coaching jobs opening up as we speak. Pitino will get one of those jobs because he owns a .740 win percentage (770-271), ranks fifth all-time in NCAA Tournament history with 54 wins, sixth among coaches with seven Final Four appearances and has won two National Championships. He is also the only coach in college basketball history to take three teams to the Final Four (Providence, Kentucky, Louisville) and win championships with two different Division I schools (Kentucky and Louisville) But, for St. John’s and any other school considering him, he will change the basketball culture of those schools, change the financial structure, and will raise the national profile of a struggling program, as well as immediately bring in 5-star athletes.


Under Pitino, it is easy to imagine St. John’s getting to the Sweet 16 by year two, after he has had a few months to recruit the best high schoolers in the country. And, appearing in the Elite 8 by year three, all the while putting fannies in the seats at a packed Madison Square Garden for every game, making money. They’d be getting the back pages of the tabloids in town (if that’s still a thing), and re-generating interest in the struggling brand known as The Big East Conference, a conference which used to be known for its legendary coaches.


What about the future, scream the Pitino nay-sayers, if they hire an old coach like Rick Pitino, 66, who isn’t that much older than Tim Cluess? Why not bring in Richard Pitino, Rick’s son, currently the very successful head coach of the Univ. of Minnesota. St. John’s always priding itself on its “family” within the athletic department, could put its money where its mouth is, by bringing in a great young coach who happens to be in Pitino’s family.


Pitino seems like a perfect fit. That’s if you want to win basketball games.

Tim Cluess, at 60, would have been a nice hire for St. John’s a decade ago, when he was 50. He’s been a successful mid-major coach with an excellent track record winning games with two-star players up in New Rochelle, New York.


Cluess can be a steady presence for a few years, too, if that’s what St. John’s truly believes it needs. A nice, solid, steady, sleepy presence in New York City, which ain’t New Rochelle.


Will five-star high school players come to St. John’s, located in Jamaica, Queens, just so they could play for Tim Cluess? Nope.


Would they come to play for Rick Pitino at St. John’s?


What do you think?

SportsReporters’ NBA 2019 Mock Draft – Smile Knicks Fans

2019 NBA 1st-Round Mock Draft

1. New York Knicks: Zion Williamson, PF, Duke

2. Phoenix Suns: Ja Morant, PG, Murray State

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: R.J. Barrett, SF, Duke

4. Chicago Bulls: Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech

5. Atlanta Hawks: Cam Reddish, SF, Duke

6. Atlanta Hawks (from Dallas): Rui Hachimura, SF/PF, Gonzaga

7. Memphis Grizzlies: Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt

8. New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas

9. Washington Wizards: De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia

10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Coby White, PG/SG, North Carolina

11. Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga

12. Charlotte Hornets: Keldon Johnson, SG/SF, Kentucky

13. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento): Sekou Doumbouya, SF/PF, France

14. Orlando Magic: Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana

15. Miami Heat: Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland

16. Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC

17. Detroit Pistons: P.J. Washington, PF, Kentucky

18. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech

19. San Antonio Spurs: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

20. Indiana Pacers: KZ Okpala, SF/PF, Stanford

21. Boston Celtics: Tyler Herro, SG, Kentucky

22. Boston Celtics (from Los Angeles Clippers): Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State

23. Utah Jazz: Tre Jones, PG, Duke

24. Portland Trailblazers: Daniel Gafford, PF/C, Arkansas

25. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Houston): Naz Reid, C, LSU 

26. Philadelphia 76ers: Ty Jerome, PG/SG, Virginia

27. Brooklyn Nets (from Denver): Jordan Nwora, SF, Louisville

28. Golden State Warriors: Matisse Thybulle, SF, Washington

29. San Antonio Spurs (from Toronto): Cameron Johnson, SF/PF, North Carolina

30. Milwaukee Bucks: Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont

Duke’s Krzyzewski, 73, Did Not Coach His Team Like a Hall of Famer

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 44-year career is legendary in every conceivable way. He took a moribund Duke program in 1980 and firmly entrenched it among the all-time elite basketball schools in the history of the sport.

But, this year, 2019, Coach K dropped the ball.

Despite five NCAA Championships, 12 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season titles, and 15 ACC Tournament championships, the questions about Duke’s icon are beginning to creep into the whispers among people who cover the sport and, take part in it.

It’s likely that no team Krzyzewski has had in his career contained the high-end talent of this edition of Duke, with three likely top-five picks and four projected first-rounders. Which is why No. 2 Michigan State outslugging No. 1 Duke, 68-67, in the Elite Eight on Saturday will haunt Krzyzewski.

In the one-and-done era, the best and biggest practitioners of the policy have been Krzyzewski and John Calipari, from Kentucky. These two have not run away from the concept of recruiting the very best players in America, most of whom have zero concern with academics or education.

Their sales pitch has essentially felt like, “come to our campus, to our program, to me, the shaper not of men but of NBA basketball players and leave nine months later. You’ll make more money in your first NBA contract at age 19 than 99% of the world earns in a lifetime.”

When asked about the missed opportunity this roster will come to represent, Krzyzewski didn’t flinch.

“To me it’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s not a [disappointing] year. Like, there’s a big difference. Like, this team put themselves in a position to go for it and had a chance for it. And, so, it’s disappointing that they didn’t get there. But I’m proud of them.”

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski pauses while answering questions at a news conference after losing to Michigan State in a NCAA men's East Regional final collage basketball game in Washington, Sunday, March 31, 2019. Michigan State won 68-67. (AP Mark Tenally}
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski pauses while answering questions at a news conference after losing to Michigan State on Sunday. (AP)

Williamson could well go down as the last truly transcendent college basketball star.

Williamson all but said he’s leaving for the NBA after the game, which is about as obvious as the color of the White House. The same is expected for Barrett and Reddish, who’ll both be gone in the NBA’s top five.

The caliber of Duke’s young talent failed to overcome the roster’s lack of depth and the inconsistency bred from injuries. And on Sunday, after 16 lead changes and seven ties, Duke couldn’t overcome a Herculean effort from Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston and a clutch 3-pointer from Kenny Goins to win the game with 34 seconds left.

Fittingly, it was Winston dribbling out the game’s final seconds as Duke failed to foul trailing by a point. Winston sprinted away from Williamson, the final snapshot of a day where they just couldn’t keep up with his 20 points, 10 assists, four steals and just one turnover.

Krzyzewski kept going back to Winston – the MSU star junior’s experience, his decisions, his resolve. Krzyzewski heaped infinite praise on Winston, calling him, “the best guard we’ve played against.” He doubled down on nearly a half-century of coaching to say Winston had “as good a performance as any player has had against us.”

When Duke won the national title in 2015, it highlighted Krzyzewski’s coaching paradigm shift. That team featured Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, all of whom skipped through Durham for a year before ending up being picked in the top 25 of the NBA draft.

At that Final Four, Krzyzewski bristled at the notion of Duke mimicking the blueprint of Kentucky’s program. But in reality, they stole Kentucky’s gameplan and got better at it, with this team’s 32 victories and No. 1 overall seed the supposed culmination of an evolution.

“This season has been a movie, honestly,” Williamson said amid the last cluster of cameras he’ll face in a college locker room. “Lights, camera, action, basically. Like ever since we arrived here on campus.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his teams 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans in the East Regional game of the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson (1) of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the locker room after his team’s 68-67 loss to the Michigan State Spartans on Sunday. (Getty)

The one-and-done era essentially began after the NBA stopped allowing high schoolers to enter the league following the 2005 draft. In that time, Villanova’s model of building through veterans, defense and a culture of player development has proven more successful.

To decree this season a failure would be too bold. But it was clearly a missed opportunity, and perhaps Coach K’s last chance to coach a juggernaut to the national title. There will never be another Duke team under Krzyzewski with as much high-end talent as this one, which will fill Krzyzewski with as much regret as any loss in his career.

Attorney Avenatti of Stormy Daniels “Fame” In Massive Hot Water With SDNY – Extortion of $20 Million from Nike

From the Associated Press and ESPN

Feds: Avenatti tried to extort $20M from Nike

Federal prosecutors in New York and California have charged celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti with extortion and bank and wire fraud.

In the New York case, Avenatti was charged with attempting to extort more than $20 million in payments from Nike by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.ADVERTISEMENT

Avenatti, 48, had previously represented adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Nicholas Biase, spokesman for the Southern District of New York, told ESPN in a statement Monday that “the defendant was arrested earlier today and is in custody. He is expected to be presented in Manhattan federal court [Monday] afternoon.” The Southern District tweeted that it would hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss the matter.

According to the New York complaint, Avenatti last week threatened to hold a news conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees.

“Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to a client of Avenatti’s in possession of information damaging to Nike … and agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and [an unidentified co-conspirator] to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ — an investigation that Nike did not request, for which Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] demanded to be paid, at a minimum, between $15 [million] and $25 million,” the complaint said.

Federal prosecutors identified the co-conspirator as “an attorney licensed to practice in the state of California, and similarly known for representation of celebrity and public figure clients.”

The complaint says Avenatti’s client is a “coach of an amateur athletic union (‘AAU’) men’s basketball program based in California.”

“For a number of years, the AAU program coached by Client-1 had a sponsorship agreement with Nike pursuant to which Nike paid the AAU program approximately $72,000 annually,” the complaint says.

In the California case, Avenatti was accused of embezzling a client’s money to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm. The U.S. attorney’s office also said he defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.

Federal prosecutors announced the charges against Avenatti on Monday less than an hour after he tweeted that he was holding a news conference on Tuesday morning.

Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.7,95012:16 PM – Mar 25, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy13.7K people are talking about this

According to the complaint, the co-conspirator contacted Nike and stated that he wished to speak to representatives of the company and that the discussion should occur in person, not over the phone, as it pertained to a sensitive matter. During a meeting with Nike’s lawyers in New York on March 19, Avenatti stated that the AAU coach, whose contract Nike had recently decided not to renew, had evidence that “one or more Nike employees had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal those payments, similar to conduct involving a rival company [Adidas] that had recently been the subject of a criminal prosecution in this District. Avenatti identified three former high school players in particular, and indicated that his client was aware of payments to others as well.”

According to prosecutors, Avenatti demanded that Nike pay his client $1.5 million for any claims the coach might have regarding Nike’s decision not to renew his team’s contract, and that Nike must hire Avenatti and the co-conspirator to conduct an internal investigation, with the stipulation that if the company hired another firm to conduct the inquiry, it would still have to pay Avenatti and the co-conspirator “at least twice the fees of any other firm hired.”

“At the end of the meeting, Avenatti and [the co-conspirator] indicated that Nike would have to agree to accept those demands immediately or Avenatti would hold his press conference,” the complaint says.

Later that day, Nike’s attorneys contacted the co-conspirator to tell him that the company needed more time. Avenatti and the co-conspirator agreed to give Nike two days to consider the offer. Nike’s attorneys contacted the Southern District of New York and made prosecutors aware of Avenatti’s threats and extortion demands.

On March 20, one of Nike’s attorneys sent the co-conspirator a text message to schedule a telephone call later that day. The call was recorded and monitored by law enforcement. During a three-way call later that day, Avenatti reiterated that he expected to “get a million five for our guy” and be “hired to handle the internal investigation.”

“If you don’t wanna do that, we’re done here,” Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys.

“I’m not f—— around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti said during the call, according to the complaint. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you. So if that’s what, if that’s what’s being contemplated, then let’s just say it was good to meet you, and we’re done. And I’ll proceed with my press conference tomorrow.

“I’m not f—— around with this thing anymore. So if you guys think that you know, we’re gonna negotiate a million five, and you’re gonna hire us to do an internal investigation, but it’s gonna be capped at 3 or 5 or 7 million dollars, like let’s just be done. … And I’ll go and I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—— around.”

During a meeting with Nike’s attorneys the next day, Avenatti said that he and his co-conspirator would require a $12 million retainer to be paid immediately and to be “deemed earned when paid,” with a minimum guarantee of $15 million in billing hours and a maximum of $25 million.

When one of Nike’s attorneys asked Avenatti if the sneaker company could pay one lump sum and not hire them to conduct the internal investigation, Avenatti said, “If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for twenty-two and a half million dollars and we’re done. … Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”

Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys: “I just wanna share with you what’s going to happen if we don’t reach a resolution. … As soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people. This is always what happens. And they are all going to say, ‘I’ve got an email or a text message.’ Now, 90 percent of that is going to be bullshit because it’s always bullshit 90 percent of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump. The list goes on and on. But 10 percent of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball. That’s going to be the Washington Post, the New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die — not die, but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public.

Image result for Michael Avenatti NIke

On March 21, Avenatti tweeted a link to a story about an Adidas employee being sentenced to nine months in prison for his role in a pay-for-play scheme to send high-profile recruits to Adidas-sponsored programs. Avenatti included the remark: “Something tells me that we have not reached the end of this scandal. It is likely far far broader than imagined …”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Boeheim, Mullin Job Security Being Openly Discussed After Tournament Losses – What Would You Do?

The Syracuse Orangemen and St. John’s Red Storm just suffered opening round losses in the NCAA tournament, so March Madness came into those two schools like a lion but disappeared in 40 minutes last night with nary a whimper, for the legendary basketball programs used to greater successes in the past.

The coaches of these programs, the guys who made the programs legendary in the first place, Jim Boeheim, the Hall of Famer for his coaching, and Chris Mullin, who was a Hall of Fame player at St. John’s but has yet to prove he has the same skills as a head coach, are now under fire, from alums and from the media who cover the schools.

Boeheim, 74, has spent his entire adult life at Syracuse University as a student, player, assistant coach or head coach for 58 consecutive years, beginning in 1962. He’s been leading the Orange for 46 years, guiding
them to ten Big East regular season championships, five Big East Tournament championships, and 33 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five Final Four appearances and three appearances in the national title game. In those games, the Orange lost to Indiana in 1987 on a last-second jump shot by Keith Smart, and to Kentucky in 1996, before defeating Kansas in 2003 with All-American Carmelo Anthony.

Mullin, one of the greatest players in NBA history and, the greatest player ever to play at St. John’s, has been leading the Red Storm since 2016, taking over a moribund program that had not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 and whose best years were in the 1980s, when Chris Mullin was playing for the legendary Lou Carnesecca.

With two years left on his contract, Mullin fully plans on fulfilling his deal to lead his alma mater.

Chris Mullin
Mullin led St. John’s to a 21-win season but only 8-10 in the Big East

“100 percent,” he said, when asked if he planned to return next year following his team’s disappointing 74-65 loss to Arizona State in the First Four at University of Dayton Arena on Wednesday night.

Mullin just led St. John’s to its first winning season in four years, leading the Red Storm (21-13) to its first NCAA Tournament in five years. But many (mostly in the local NYC media) believe more was expected this season than finishing 8-10 in the Big East and losing a play-in game in the tournament.

His top two players, Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron, could go pro after they both tested the NBA draft waters last spring. Marvin Clark II will graduate. Next year’s team may look very different.

So, the wolves are out for these two legends.

What would you do, if you were running these programs? Let us know, below.

Mandel’s Musings: Richard Pitino Beats School that Fired His Father, Rick Pitino

University of Minnesota head basketball coach, Richard Pitino, the 35-year old son of legendary coach, Rick Pitino, will never admit to getting a little more satisfaction than usual from today’s surprise win over the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinals, but you know he is dancing the two-step inside his head and his heart.

The satisfaction he is undoubtedly feeling comes from his 10th seeded underdog Gophers winning a huge opening round NCAA tournament game over the seventh-seed Cardinals, truly a landmark victory for Minnesota, never known as a basketball school, let alone a power in the sport.

But, the other reason Richard Pitino is doing his little dance is because of who he and his kids defeated this afternoon. The same school that fired young Pitino’s father two years ago after scandals in the athletic department and within the basketball program were, in part, blamed on his father’s malfeasance. To this day, senior Pitino denies any knowledge of what was transpiring around him but, school administrators had to blame somebody. Pitino, a Hall of Fame coach who has won two NCAA titles with Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013, along with head football coach, Bobby Petrino, were the scapegoats.

Younger Pitino’s Minnesota team defeated the Cardinals, 86-76, thereby busting everyone’s brackets on Day One. But the real storyline of this game remained the Pitino story, as much as the Minnesota coach tried to deflect interest in it.

And, now, Minnesota awaits the winner of the Michigan State-Bradley game, to decide which team will advance to the sweet 16. Nothing could be as sweet for the Pitino family than today’s victory over Louisville.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota head basketball coach, won’t admit extra satisfaction in beating Louisville, today

Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant Team Up for Broadway Opening?

There’s a strongly held insider’s theory Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who are good friends, intend to join up with the Knicks. After Kyrie finally publicly pledged to stay in Boston a few months ago, an NBA general manager said, with some skepticism, “We’ll see.”

Both players are mercurial, which is to say their flights of fancy often take off from the wrong airports and head to the wrong towns. For Durant, Oakland wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be. They didn’t need a savior as much as they needed another piece to fit in with Klay and Steph.

Despite Durant now fashioning not one, but two new rings as a member of the Dubs, his legacy still doesn’t make him the key player in bring a city an unexpected world championship.

Irving is in the same boat. He won in Cleveland, but, as great as he played there, particularly so during the championship series, most of the props (okay, all of the props) went to homeboy, LeBron. So, like KD, KI is searching for that legacy-building franchise.

Enter your poor, awful NY Knicks, who haven’t won a championship since 1973, only 46 years ago. The hometown is getting restless.

It’s a good setup for the two stars to join the ragtag Knicks, who will be getting one of the top five picks in the upcoming draft. Let’s face it. though, the only pick they want is Zion Williamson, of Duke. He is surely the best player in the NBA minor league, aka, the american university system. He may even be a top 10 player in the NBA, right now, his talent being so enormous at age 19.

So, hold tight. We shall see.

Image result for zion williamson