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The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 27, 2018

January 27, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

Friday was a light day of action, as is usually the case at this time of the year. That probably made it a little easier for off-court news to lead the way, but frankly, that should be the case even if it was a Saturday.

Friday was not a good day in college basketball. There’s no way around it.

First, news broke that UConn is under investigation by the NCAA once again. The NCAA found violations that went back to 2008, which led Jim Calhoun to have to sit out a few games in 2011-12. The school later got a postseason ban, but that was due to their APR score.

The program is already becoming less relevant every year, as they have gone from being an annual Big East contender to no better than the fourth or fifth-best team in the American Athletic Conference. NCAA violations, if found, would just pile on.

The bigger story of the day comes in the Midwest, as a lot was going on in East Lansing. Michigan State was already in the news quite a bit because of lowlife Larry Nassar, who is headed to jail for the rest of his life after sexually abusing many young girls. As an Outside the Lines investigation was ready to go public, athletic director Mark Hollis resigned on Friday, which sent shockwaves through the world of college sports.

Hollis has long been regarded as an elite athletic director, one who has come up with many new and different ideas to grow the program there and give the athletes unique and different experiences. As athletic directors go, he was understandably held in high regard. He’s also a close friend of legendary coach Tom Izzo, whose program is not spared in the report; Izzo was the best man at Hollis’ wedding and they were roommates when they were starting their careers there.

And with the Spartans hosting Wisconsin on Friday, a game they won 76-61, a perfect opportunity for Izzo to be asked about presented itself. Izzo didn’t give any earth-shattering statements during the post-game press conference, which is not surprising. He isn’t retiring, and given that he’s not especially young, if he were to do so that wouldn’t shock anyone even without this cloud over the school. In a sense, though, the school needs him now more than ever to be a bright light – although as noted, his program had some incidents noted in the report.

While investigations into NCAA violations or even the FBI investigation into corruption are a big deal, those can fade a bit into the background for a time. College basketball can overcome some of that, although serious FBI findings could be game-changers. The story at Michigan State, however, is much bigger than any sport, and won’t go away so easily. It has already claimed two people in high places at the school.

We’ve had numerous stories along this line over the years; just a few years ago there was one at another Big Ten school and with another highly-regarded athletic director, former Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague. Before that, we had the well-known scandal at Penn State. (This is not an attempt to tar the Big Ten as if it is the exclusive, or even primary, home to such scandal. It just means we don’t have to look far from one place to the next for such incidents, and that’s a real problem – just how widespread this problem appears to be.) We hear about players charged with sexual assault from time to time – and even one instance of this occurring is one too many.

The sport can manage if the only real news is UConn being under investigation, even if that is bad news. But add in the story at Michigan State, and it’s not good. If you love the sport, let’s hope there are better things ahead, while we keep the victims of Nassar’s awful deeds – as well as victims of other scumbags like him – in our thoughts and prayers.


Side Dishes

In other noteworthy game action on the night, Buffalo improved to 8-0 in MAC play with a 73-66 win at Ohio, while Harvard got a big road win by holding off Yale 54-52 in New Haven to go to 3-0 in early Ivy League play and knock the Bulldogs down to a 1-2 mark. Also, Wright State is alone atop the Horizon League after blowing out Detroit Mercy 87-55 and Oakland won at Northern Kentucky 83-70. Two games separate Wright State, Northern Kentucky and Oakland.

It’s one thing for players to tear an ACL in a knee, an injury that is all too common. But when it happens to a coach, it’s a little different, and it happened to Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard. Last Saturday at Iowa State, Beard reacted to something during a play, and his knee apparently buckled right in front of the scorer’s table. He didn’t miss a game, as he was back on the bench on Tuesday, and he’ll be there on Saturday as they go to South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Mike Anderson will get more time to stay at Arkansas, as the school signed him to a two-year extension that will take him through the 2021-22 season. It’s been a home for him for a long time, as he once spent 17 seasons there as an assistant under Nolan Richardson before he became a head coach, so this is certainly a welcome development for him.


Tonight’s Menu

We’ve got a big day of action, highlighted by a slate of non-conference games that are mixed in with the continuation of conference play.

  • The Big 12/SEC Challenge is the main event of the day. It starts with Texas Tech at South Carolina and Baylor at Florida (noon), then Ole Miss goes to Texas and Georgia visits Kansas State (2 p.m.), a trio of star freshmen will be on the court as Oklahoma goes to Alabama (2:15 p.m.), Tennessee visits Iowa State and Vanderbilt hosts TCU (4 p.m.), then Texas A&M visits Kansas (4:30 p.m.), Oklahoma State goes to Arkansas (6 p.m.) and Kentucky goes to West Virginia (7 p.m.)
  • ACC action begins with local rivals meeting as North Carolina hosts NC State (noon), then Duke hosts Virginia in a showdown game (2 p.m.) Another in-state rivalry game comes later as Florida State hosts Miami (4 p.m.), while Notre Dame hosts Virginia Tech (8 p.m.)
  • A big game in the Atlantic Sun is Jacksonville visiting Florida Gulf Coast (7 p.m.)
  • Big East play starts with St. John’s once again seeking their first conference win as they go to Butler (2:30 p.m.)
  • The MEAC has a showdown on tap among in-state rivals as North Carolina Central travels to North Carolina A&T (4 p.m.)
  • Pac-12 action has Utah visiting Arizona (5:30 p.m.), as well as Arizona State hosting Colorado and arch-rivals meeting as Oregon hosts Oregon State (8 p.m.) and UCLA hosts Stanford (10:30 p.m.)
  • Regular SEC action on tap includes Auburn hosting LSU (6 p.m.) and Mississippi State hosting Missouri (8:30 p.m.)
  • There’s a showdown in the Southern Conference, where Wofford hosts East Tennessee State (7 p.m.)
  • The Southland also has a big game on tap as Nicholls hosts Southeast Louisiana (7:30 p.m.)
  • In the Sun Belt, there’s a key matchup as Texas State visits Georgia State (2:15 p.m.)

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