The news could not have been much better for Kansas on Wednesday-on the court and off.
Call it two wins in one day. On the court, the Jayhawks overcame Vanderbilt for a 70-63 victory in the Maui Invitational final. KU shot 62.5% in the second half and won the battle of two excellent frontlines. Wayne Selden scored 25 points to carry Kansas, which overcame an early deficit to win its second Maui title.
Off the court, and earlier in the day before the tourney final, KU finally found out Cheick Diallo’s fate. The freshman was ruled by the NCAA to be suspended for the first five games of this season, meaning he missed last night’s Maui final yet but can return for the Jayhawks’ next game Dec. 1 against Loyola (Md.). His return will obviously add another tool to a team that already was a national title contender even with him out, and Kansas now may be on the short list of favorites.
The resolution should make all happy. There was some teeth-gnashing about this case in the media, as there often is anytime the NCAA is involved with anything, and even from Kansas. The NCAA certainly could more forthcoming with information about the progress of eligibility cases like this. It must be remembered, though: the NCAA is one organization, with a number people-including many making far, far less than Mark Emmert-handling initial eligibility for thousands of athletes, and there is no understanding what the workload may be for those folks.
There is a case to be made for changes here, but that case would be for the NCAA adding more staff to take care of this. This is an organization that has money to spend on new, NCAA-branded floors for every single NCAA Tournament site; pretty sure there are sufficient funds to add a couple more staff to take care of eligibility, which should rank as infinitely more important than making sure everyone has generic, dingy black & blue courts for every tourney game.
The answer is certainly not granting initial eligibility to the schools. Whatever persuasion the schools held for that was forfeited with events like the current North Carolina academic scandal. People are more than a little naïve if they don’t think similar will happen with admissions and keeping players eligible if schools are solely in charge of determining who can be admitted. There are and always have been very good reasons for the NCAA to handle this, and not schools, the same way schools shouldn’t be trusted to sanction themselves.
Certainly there also was a good reason why the NCAA dug so deep into Diallo’s past-it determined there were enough relatively light-but still there-extra benefits he had received to dock him five games to start the season. It was enough reason to justify the NCAA’s concern, but it also wasn’t so bad that he missed anything more than a couple early games. For that Kansas, Diallo and all others should be thankful.
- The third- and fifth-place games at Maui were almost as notable as the championship game. Wake Forest pulled its second upset of the tourney, defeating UCLA 80-77 for third place, while UNLV sent Indiana to its second loss in three days with a 72-69 win. Call it a very, very good three days for the Demon Deacons and Runnin’ Rebels, something of a disappointment for the Bruins and a major disappointment for the Hoosiers.
- It’s incredible (but a sign of today’s hot-take, overreaction media climate) that some were already wondering if something is wrong with Maryland, because the Terrapins merely defeated and didn’t destroy good teams like Georgetown and Illinois State this year. Other than struggling to put away Rider, the Terps have been exactly what most should’ve reasonably expected so far, and Wednesday they were even better. Maryland won the Cancun Challenge with a dominant 86-63 victory over Rhode Island. The Rams will struggle to score without E.C. Matthews, but the Terps made mincemeat of URI’s usually stout defense, shooting 58.3% and finishing with five in double figures.
- A salute to Weber State, which traveled a long way to win the Gulf Coast Showcase. The Wildcats pulled away to defeat Murray State 75-59 in the final, as Jeremy Senglin tallied 23 points.
- The Battle 4 Atlantis tipped off in that strangely dark arena (or so it looks on TV) in the Bahamas, and the first day did not provide the drama many would’ve anticipated. Gonzaga (80-64 over Washington), Syracuse (83-70 over UNC Charlotte), Texas A&M (84-73 over Texas) and Connecticut (74-60 winners against Michigan) all won comfortably, though we can hope for far more in the semifinals when the Zags and Aggies square off and former Big East rivals meet when Syracuse faces UConn in the second semi.
- Duke got a challenge from Yale for a half, but a late first-half switch to a 1-3-1 defense sparked the Blue Devils, who came back from nine down in the first half for an 80-61 win. Ditto for Virginia, which got a fight from Lehigh for a while before rolling, 80-54.
- Massachusetts was off to a 4-0 start and had just hammered Clemson, while Creighton struggled to defeat lowly Rutgers, but the Bluejays were far better in the final game of the MGM Grand Main Event, defeating the Minutemen 97-76.
- The good ole Great Alaska Shootout is underway once again with the first two quarterfinals from Anchorage in the books. Toledo defeated San Jose State 89-74 and Loyola (Ill.) came back to top San Diego 67-57 led by Devon Turk’s 25 points.
- South Dakota State continues to roll-the Jackrabbits are now 6-0 after a 77-66 win over Cleveland State.
- Keep an eye on Pennsylvania. The Quakers under Steve Donahue are off to a 4-1 start after an 80-64 win over La Salle in a Big 5 game. Darien Nelson-Henry was thoroughly dominant for Penn: career-high 31 points, 14 rebounds.
- Tuesday also had its share of off-the-court news. Syracuse received some relief from its sanctions from the NCAA, as the Orange now will be penalized “only” eight scholarships over a four-year period instead of 12. The toothless penalty of vacating wins remains, while the suspension for coach Jim Boeheim is still pending.
- Utah State is in the news after it was reported by Yahoo! Sports that coach Tim Duryea and the school have not given former player David Collette his release after Collette announced his transfer just before the start of this season. This is quickly becoming a he-said, he-said situation, and don’t be surprised if we receive a volley back from the Aggies soon.
Collette’s timing just before the season was undoubtedly bad, but the bigger issue here is (or at least should be) tampering in the sport. It’s a problem. A big problem, and also one that few seem to want to address. Including Utah State apparently, which gave a statement to Yahoo! stating the reason for the transfer restrictions was the timing of the departure, and not poaching, as Duryea candidly noted he felt was at play here when he initially found out about Collette leaving. If there was tampering-and if one looks into the scuttle even a bit, it sure sounds that way-then Utah State has every right to call out the schools who were involved, and there’s nothing wrong with the Aggies being a little bucky about wanting to reward it. But USU should do just that-call out the guilty parties.
Today’s menu: Turkey, pumpkin pie, football and…
- As mentioned above, the Battle 4 Atlantis continues with two sterling semifinals.
- The Great Alaska Shootout continues with the third and fourth quarterfinal games. Middle Tennessee State has a tough assignment with host school Alaska-Anchorage (9:30 p.m., CBSSN), while the second game has UNC-Asheville against Drexel (Midnight, CBSSN).
- The Disney/ESPN Thanksgiving weekend tourneys begin. The AdvoCare Invitational (formerly Orlando Classic, formerly Old Spice Classic) is highlighted by a nightcap with Dayton against Iowa (9 p.m., ESPN2) , plus Wichita State has a tricky game against USC (2 p.m. EST, ESPN2) with Fred VanVleet likely out because of a hamstring injury.
- The Wooden Legacy in Fullerton/Anaheim has an intriguing field, where several teams will get chances for some high-profile upsets. Undoubtedly, the preferred title game will feature Arizona and Michigan State, but a number of teams could crash the party. In particular, UC Irvine vs. Boise State (4 p.m., ESPNU) is a fascinating matchup of contrasting styles, while Evansville and Providence (9 p.m., ESPNU) will have several sensational matchups, in the backcourt-Kris Dunn and the Purple Aces’ D.J. Balentine, one of the country’s top scorers-and frontcourt, with PC’s Ben Bentil and UE’s Egidijus Mockevicius.
- The NIT Season Tipoff semifinals are now on Thanksgiving and feature Villanova meeting Stanford and Arkansas against Georgia Tech.
- The Las Vegas Invitational has two excellent games, with West Virginia against Richmond (5 p.m., FS1) and California taking on San Diego State (Midnight, FS1).
Wishing a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to all.