General Sports: January 20

So I really have nothing to write about here. Like, actually nothing. No big moves, no big stories, no personal stories that come to mind. Nothing. So I’m going to try out a new kind of segment where I briefly talk about things that catch my eye in the sporting world, things that probably aren’t worthy of their own blog by themselves but something that I have some short thoughts on. So with that, let’s try this out.

I mentioned when Marcell Ozuna was traded to the Cardinals that St. Louis suddenly had a VERY overstocked outfield. Shortly after Ozuna was traded, the Cardinals sent Stephen Piscotty to the A’s. Well the outfield just got a lot cleaner as they traded Randall Grichuk to the Blue Jays for reliever Dominic Leone and minor leaguer Connor Greene. Grichuk has shown some flashes for the Cardinals but he hasn’t been able to take that next step to becoming the stud I think he can be. A trade to the Blue Jays could be the change of scenery he needs, especially considering he’s basically a lock to start in that outfield, as outside of Kevin Pillar there is basically no depth. Hell, they just signed Curtis Granderson off the streets, whom the Dodgers had traded for midseason then didn’t even bother putting him on the World Series roster. As for the Cardinals’ return for him, Dominic Leone is a solid reliever who I think has the potential to be an 8th inning guy for them. He has shown in the past that he is a very capable right-handed arm out of the ‘pen and I think this was a good exchange for a Cardinals team that sorely lacks bullpen strength. And I have no idea who Connor Greene is.

Mel Kiper Jr. released his first Mock Draft and there’s one major gripe I have with it, which if you read it, you know exactly what it is. He put Josh Allen as his number 1 overall pick to the Browns. It’s such a bad decision that I honestly think the Browns could end up doing it. I noted when I scouted the quarterbacks that I wouldn’t take Allen in the first round unless I had a support system around him that would allow him to develop in the time that he might require. The Browns are the exact opposite of that. They are about as dysfunctional an organization as you’ll find in all of sports and Allen will probably be thrown into the fire from day one, which given his need for growth as a quarterback is the worst possible situation for him. But I’ve seen stranger things happen and I’ve been wrong about this type of thing before. I figured Carson Wentz would need a couple years before he’d be ready to be the Eagles’ starter. Turns out he was the starter from Day 1 and an MVP candidate by Year 2. But still, at surface value, this looks like a really bad decision for the #1 overall pick.

Joel Embiid was named an All Star starter, which if you’ve heard the story by now, you know that means Rhianna has to date him. Well Embiid shut that down the only way he knows how, by being himself.

Good for you, man. Aim higher. You could probably land Beyonce if you wanted to. What’s Jay-Z going to do about it? I mean Embiid is the one guy on the planet who can not only get away with wearing his own jersey to the club, but have a video of him saying “Fuck LaVar Ball” go viral and nobody cares. He’s simply the best and I only want good things to happen to him.

The rest of the NBA All Star starters didn’t surprise me so I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. Except that I kind of feel bad for Damian Lillard. Here’s a guy who is amongst the best point guards in the game and he clearly wants to be an All Star so badly, he’s made that abundantly clear, but it’s kind of a logjam right now and everyone seemingly has their guys locked in from the very start of the season. He’ll get his nod someday.

I’m doing my best to be interested in college basketball right now, I really am. This Trae Young kid from Oklahoma looks like one of the biggest beasts I’ve ever seen at that level. But I’m so out of touch with it now that I feel like I wouldn’t be able to write anything that would do justice to anyone involved and I’d be rambling in ways that make me come off as some uninformed asshole trying to sound smart. Plus Purdue is really good this year and I hate that, especially considering Indiana’s rebuild is going a little slower than I had hoped. There have been some sparks, sure, like when they beat Notre Dame and Minnesota. But there have also been the duds like losing to both Indiana State and IPFW at home by at least 20 points each. There’s quite a ways to go.

JD Martinez has said he’s willing to wait until Spring Training to get the deal that he wants. Reportedly the Red Sox have the best offer at 5 years $100M. Allegedly the holdup is Martinez wants a 6th year. I get that Dave Dombrowski doesn’t want to bend to a player’s will, but the Red Sox were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball last season after being one of the best in 2016. They need Martinez and he knows it. I’d be fine with giving him that extra year. Besides, $20M a year for a guy that hit over .300 with 45 home runs seems like a major bargain. Plus, I feel that once Martinez signs, the rest of baseball will be getting their act together, as I feel the ex-Royals and the stud pitchers will start filing in once they see what he gets. So finally the offseason will have a pulse because we’re more than halfway through January and pretty much everybody is still available.

Those underdog masks Eagles players are wearing are terrifying.

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It’s like looking into the eyes of Satan. Apparently Amazon can’t keep enough of them in stock because Eagles fans keep buying them out. Lincoln Financial Field is going to look pretty weird on Sunday night.

Last but not least, I saw that the Mets have invited Tim Tebow to their Major League Spring Training Camp. That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard from a personnel standpoint, but a genius financial move. Tebow has about as big a drawing power as any person in sports at any level so you know that more fans are going to pile in to see what Tebow can do. Which on a baseball diamond really isn’t much, but regardless, the Mets are going to make a little more profit out of Spring Training.

That’s it for this blog. Let me know what you think of these types of segments in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

My Problem With the NCAA

So first of all, congratulations to Baker Mayfield for winning the Heisman Trophy. Easily the most deserving player and he did it as a former walk-on. Truly a feat for the ages. That being said, San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny finished fifth in voting after a fantastic season, rushing for over 2000 yards and 19 scores. Penny may have done this for free, but his coach Rocky Long received a $10,000 bonus because Penny made first team All American. So the schools can’t pay their players for their performance, but they can pay their coaches for that player’s performance. Explain to me why that’s fair. Now to set the record straight, Long is a Hell of a coach. San Diego State is perennially among the best non-Power 5 teams in the country and it’s amazing some high-profile school hasn’t tried to sign him away yet (or maybe they have and he’s just turned them down, I don’t know. Wouldn’t surprise me, San Diego is one of my favorite cities and he’s probably in a really good situation there). He’s not the only coach with contract stipulations like this. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury would receive a quarter of a million dollars if a Red Raider won the Heisman. Those are the only ones I’m aware of but I guarantee you those aren’t the only coaching bonuses in the NCAA for individual player performances.

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The problems start at the top with NCAA head Mark Emmert. This guy makes Roger Goodell look like Yoda in how incompetent he can be at times. This is an unedited quote from Emmert after Lavar Ball pulled LiAngelo from UCLA to “better prepare” him for the NBA:

Is this a part of someone being part of your university as a student-athlete or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro? If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be there in the first place

So what he’s trying to say is if a player uses college athletics as a stepping stone to go pro, then he shouldn’t be in college in the first place.

This is possibly the worst thing he could have said regarding the whole LiAngelo Ball situation. For a lot of athletes, it’s go pro or bust and they kind of have to prepare that way because they can be cut and lose their scholarship at any time. Being a student, as many of us probably know, is a full-time job. Being a Division 1 collegiate athlete is also a full-time job. So as a student-athlete, these kids are basically balancing two full-time jobs and they can’t receive any compensation for either unless they do make it in the pros, which for most sports isn’t really an option. Hell, NCAA has a tagline that reads “there are over X-number of student athletes and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports.” By saying what Emmert said, you’re basically devaluing the work a lot of athletes deliver for their schools.

The fact that schools can make millions off of these kids’ performances and get away with not allowing the kids to make any sort of money off their own play is criminal. But the NCAA has put themselves in basically the perfect situation with their defense: “we don’t pay them because they’re amateurs, they’re amateurs because we don’t pay them.” It’s so simple yet it pretty much makes any athlete trying to make money shit out of luck.

Now to be fair to the universities, there will be a huge problem if it becomes mandated that the schools have to pay the athletes: they would have to pay ALL of the athletes. Not just the revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball. I mean gymnastics, swimming, water polo, you name it, all have to get paid, otherwise you’re going to create huge problems within your school. Let’s look at Title IX for a moment. Now yes, Title IX was a great innovation that gave women equal opportunities to receive an education and be treated like their male counterparts. But the problem with Title IX was that for every collegiate sport men had, women had to get as well (it’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s the dumbed down version I’m going with). Well whenever a school wants to install a new sport, they need money to pay for uniforms, equipment, a field, coaches, etc. The schools already had lots of money poured into the revenue generators and would need to come up with even more money to accommodate the women. One thing they could have done was try and more evenly distribute the funds dedicated to each sport. But how can a school like Alabama cut down their funding for football when it is probably the biggest attraction the school has to offer? How do you tell a guy like Nick Saban you have to pay him less than what his contract says so that the girls can play volleyball (don’t worry, I’ll get into coach salaries soon)? So what did the schools do? They started cutting male sports and using the funds that had been dedicated to them and repurposing them for the new women’s sports. Wrestling got hit particularly hard by this because let’s face it, outside of staged wrestling, how many women do you really see get into the sport? You can probably count them on one hand, if at all. So many schools cut different male programs and put thousands of students out of a scholarship, possibly killing their chances at a degree and potential career after sports. If the NCAA mandated that the schools had to pay the athletes, I guarantee a similar thing would happen.

One argument I keep hearing in favor of not paying players is that they¬†are paid: with a full ride to college. That’s not 100% accurate. Really only the best of the best get a full ride, the Marvin Bagley’s and Saquon Barkley’s of the world. I’ve talked with several athletes around campus at Indiana who are only on partial scholarship. And don’t even get me started on the walk-ons who have to pay in full, which Baker Mayfield was. Plus, as I mentioned before, players can get cut and in many cases, lose their scholarship, which for many athletes was their one real ticket into college in the first place. Hell, I’ve been paid for my broadcasts with the Big Ten Network’s Student U program and I had about as much to do with the game I’m calling as the guy scalping tickets in the parking lot. If I were to do play-by-play with a current student athlete and they were to get paid to do the same job I just did, that would be an NCAA violation and they could get the school in big trouble even though it’s the Big Ten Network that handles the salary (I think, I’m not 100% sure on that, I kind of just blindly filled out some paperwork to get on payroll).

Another thing I keep seeing is people saying sarcastically “there’s no money to pay the players” when a coach gets signed to a lucrative contract. It kind of goes back to the line about amateurism I referenced before. There isn’t the money for athletes because they pay the coaches so much, they pay coaches so much because there isn’t money for athletes. Not quite the same, but it now puts them in a bind because there is as much as $9 million before incentives (Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh) dedicated towards a single head coach. Now I’m sure there are plenty of coaches who would gladly cut their salaries so that their guys can make money, but that’s just not fair to ask of them. Because you’re paying them so much, they’re now accustomed to a certain life style. Granted, a college football coach probably doesn’t get to bask in that money a whole lot because they’re always on the road either recruiting or coming up with gameplans, but the schools have created this roadblock in coaching salaries that makes it nearly impossible to pay players what they’re worth, which is a ton considering how much money sports can rake in for a university.

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Which brings me to my next point, how much money a university actually profits. It turns out, most schools actually don’t turn a profit from college athletics and are actually operating at a deficit. It’s the major schools such as Texas that actually turn profits. While a school like Texas could probably afford to pay their players (their athletic department rakes in over $180 million a year as of 2016, according to Business Insider), a smaller school such as Ball State can’t. So that creates another conundrum, especially considering players can’t just become free agents and seek larger markets to get a bigger salary for their performance like they can in the pros. Once you pick your school, you’re basically stuck there for three to four years. The only form of leaving is transferring and by NCAA rules you have to sit out an entire season if you do. It also becomes tricky as to how much you should pay each player and whether or not athletes in one sport make more than athletes in another. There are a whole lot of logistical problems surrounding all of this that there’s really only one viable solution that I can come up with in which everybody wins.

Allow players to sign with agents and make money off their own name on their own time. No money has to come out of the pockets of the athletic departments, they can keep paying their coaches their ridiculous sums (Harbaugh makes more than all NFL head coaches) and the players can use their performance to make some money. Now yes, football players and basketball players will likely receive more phone calls than water polo players. But I guarantee you there will be some money to be made from local businesses, such as sporting goods stores, that would love to feature a softball player in their ads and whatnot. The only real concern would be potentially shady agents taking advantage of kids who might not know any better. My response to that is that if the NCAA cares as much about the student athlete as they claim to, then monitor these actions. Have all contracts go through the NCAA offices and be approved by an NCAA official before allowing it to go through so that an athlete isn’t being taken advantage of. I haven’t really heard any horror stories about agents taking advantage of their professional clients, so I doubt this really would become a problem. The shadiest thing I’ve heard is Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Broncos while his agent agreed to a deal with the Chiefs a few years back, which sounds more like a miscommunication than anything. But otherwise I never hear about any real issues regarding agents and their clients. I see no reason why these players can’t make money off their name and likeness. Plus if that happens, then I’ll get my NCAA video games back, which I’ve missed terribly since they were discontinued following the 2013 season. Which really is the important thing here.

Should players be paid by the universities? Should players be allowed to sign with agents and do endorsement deals? Is the current system fine with you? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon. Also, sorry for not posting yesterday. It’s Finals Week at IU and I’ve been pretty busy. I’m going to try and continue my normal posting routine this week, but if I break off of it, it’s because I’ve got exams to worry about.

 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

College basketball is always one of the tougher sports to predict typically because it is ALWAYS experiencing turnover, with all the one-and-dones that enter and leave the league before we really get a chance to see what they can do. It’s hard to blame them, with how messy the NCAA can get it’s no wonder these players jump to the NBA first chance they get. So that being said, I’m anticipating a fun year of college basketball. In this preview, I will try and project who will win each of the Power 5 conferences as well as putting in my own Top 25 and my preseason All Americans. I will not be predicting who I think will be the champs, as March Madness is so insane every year that I feel like trying to predict how it’s going to go in November doesn’t give the tournament its full due. I will, however, give who I think will be the number 1 overall seed, if that helps. Let’s get to the conference champs.

ACC: Duke Blue Devils

Duke Countdown To Craziness

photo credit: Sports Illustrated

The ACC is probably the best conference in college hoops right now. You’ve got the blue bloods such as Duke and reigning champs North Carolina, but the second tier of this conference is typically super competitive as well, such as Notre Dame, Miami (FL), and Louisville (though with the whole Rick Pitino situation, Louisville may be removing themselves from this discussion). I’m going with Duke to win the ACC this year for two main reasons: Coach K and the recruiting class. Mike Krzyzewski is arguably the best college basketball coach on the planet right now and he always turns out a plethora of NBA talent, whether that be from one-and-dones or guys who stay all four years. This year he has a particularly talented group to go with Grayson Allen. Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Gary Trent Jr are all in the TOP EIGHT of ESPN’s Top 100 Recruits for the class of 2021 (whether these guys are here that long is another story). Bagley is the highlight here as he is a big time recruit who was able to reclassify in order to be a part of this Duke roster. He’s 6’11 with all the tools you can look for in a player: athleticism, shooting, and post moves being major positives with this kid. The one thing that may hold this team back is Grayson Allen. Yes he is a supremely talented point guard, but his emotional outbursts are more renowned than his game is and that can become a distraction. He’s got to be the leader of this young team, being a senior this year, and if he’s having hissy fits on the bench then it could do a lot of damage to this team.

SEC: Kentucky Wildcats

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photo credit: A Sea of Blue

Was there really any other choice here? While the SEC may be a dominant conference in football, they are essentially a one-man race in basketball, with Kentucky having won the conference each of the last 3 years (feels like it should be more than that). John Calipari rivals Coach K as the best coach in the game but the main challenge Kentucky deals with every year is the one-and-done. Kentucky goes through these types of players more often than seemingly any team in the country, but Cal also encourages it. He feels that his guys should take the opportunity to go to the NBA as soon as they feel they’re ready, but has all his guys declare for the NBA Draft anyway so they can all get a sense of their draft stock before deciding whether they want to go forward or return to school. And with his coaching prowess and skills as a recruiter, he has no problem finding replacements for the guys he lost the year prior. This season, Kentucky’s top players are Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Nick Richardson, Hamidou Diallo, and Jarred Vanderbilt, joining a roster that returns very little from last year’s SEC champs. Kentucky’s only real competition this season will likely come from Florida, Texas A&M, or Alabama, but I think the gap between these schools are big enough that everyone else is playing for second place in the SEC.

Big Ten: Michigan State Spartans

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad has never been one that typically deals with the one-and-dones, as Deyonta Davis is the only player in recent memory to leave for the NBA after one season in East Lansing. That bodes well for Michigan State because they’ve got a lot of good returning talent, particularly Miles Bridges (who may be my favorite player in all of college basketball) and Lourawls “Tumtum” Nairn. Michigan State also landed Jaren Jackson, ESPN’s #9 recruit, who looks to be a major contributor for this season. In the Big Ten, Michigan State’s main competition will likely come from Wisconsin, Purdue or even¬† quietly good Minnesota and Northwestern teams. Indiana’s potentially a wild card because it’ll be interesting to see how Archie Miller transitions to major college basketball after great success at the University of Dayton. But Michigan State is so loaded and have a Hall of Fame head coach, making it awfully difficult to pick against them.

Big 12: Kansas Jayhawks

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photo credit: KUSports.com

Do I really even need to do this one? The Big 12 has been OWNED by Kansas of late, as the Jayhawks have won the Big 12 every year since 2005. That’s THIRTEEN STRAIGHT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS! Despite this, Kansas only has one national championship victory to show for it (2008) but they will be looking for another run this year. They lose Player of the Year Frank Mason to the NBA, but they do have Devonte Graham returning, which was huge for Bill Self’s squad, as Kansas’ recruiting class was a little light this season. Billy Preston was their only recruit in ESPN’s Top 50. But having another season of Devonte Graham will likely be good enough for the Jayhawks to hold off such competition as West Virginia, Baylor, and possibly Iowa State for a fourteenth straight conference title.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats

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photo credit: Arizona Daily Star

Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins are back for Arizona and they’ll be running this offense with one new toy to play with: DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot 250-pounder out of Phoenix. Ayton is the #3 overall recruit according to ESPN, trailing only Bagley and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr (both guys are in the discussion for number 1 pick in the NBA Draft). Ayton is arguably as good as either of these guys and will be key to replacing Lauri Markkanen. Head Coach Sean Miller (older brother of Indiana coach Archie Miller) has had Arizona playing some really good basketball these last few years and it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys unseat UCLA as best in a weak conference, as only the Bruins and USC are expected to be competitive in this conference.

Preseason Top 25:

1.Duke Blue Devils

2.Michigan State Spartans

3.Kentucky Wildcats

4.Kansas Jayhawks

5.Arizona Wildcats

6.Villanova Wildcats

7.North Carolina Tar Heels

8.Florida Gators

9.Wichita State Shockers

10.West Virginia Mountaineers

11.Miami (FL) Hurricanes

12.USC Trojans

13.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.Cincinnati Bearcats

15.Minnesota Golden Gophers

16.Louisville Cardinals

17.Purdue Boilermakers

18.Gonzaga Bulldogs

19.Xavier Musketeers

20.Wisconsin Badgers

21.Northwestern Wildcats

22.UCLA Bruins

23.Baylor Bears

24.St. Mary’s Gaels

25.Seton Hall Pirates

Preseason All Americans

First Team:

G-Collin Sexton-Alabama

G-Devonte Graham-Kansas

F-Miles Bridges-Michigan State

F-Marvin Bagley-Duke

C-DeAndre Ayton-Arizona

Second Team:

G-Joel Berry-North Carolina

G-Trevon Bluiett-Xavier

F-Michael Porter Jr-Missouri

F-Johnathan Williams-Gonzaga

C-Mohamed Bamba-Texas

Projected Player of the Year: Miles Bridges-F-Michigan State

Mississippi Valley State v Michigan State

photo credit: CBS Detroit

Bridges is one of the most exciting players in the game and as a freshman last year, he scored 16.9 points per game with 8.3 rebounds while shooting almost 50% from the field and 39% from 3. He’s got another year under his belt and I think given his abilities, we are in for a tremendous season from the sophomore forward from Flint, Michigan.

Projected #1 Seed: Duke Blue Devils

Duke is just too stacked on paper for it to be anyone else at this point in the year. As I mentioned, in a sport typically dominated by freshman, Duke has 4 of the 8 best, including the number 1 overall player as well as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. However, we often see these super teams fall apart under the weight of media expectations, as teams with this much hype rarely ever live up to it, so while I am super high on Duke, it also wouldn’t shock me to see them underwhelm.

Those are my predictions for this college basketball season. Probably going to look WAY different when I do the postseason edition. Do you agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Rick Pitino, from legend to unemployment line

Yesterday, it was revealed that several people affiliated with NCAA schools and athletic apparel companies were facing federal charges of bribery to push student athletes towards certain agents and clothing companies. Among the arrested were assistant coaches at Auburn (Chuck Person), Oklahoma State (Lamont Evans), Arizona (Emanuel “Book” Richardson), and USC (Tony Bland). James Gatto, director of global sports marketing at Adidas, Christian Dawkins, a former NBA agent, and many more were also arrested. But what seems to be the biggest story coming out of this is “University-6,” as this “mysterious” school is referred to in the document, which, based on the descriptions about the school that are given, is pretty clearly Louisville. Louisville apparently funneled around $100K to the family of 5-star basketball recruit Brian Bowen, who signed with the team in June.

The results of this investigation have, as of a couple of hours ago, led to the firing of legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino and Louisville AD Tom Jurich. Pitino is a 2-time national championship-winning head coach (Kentucky in 1996, Louisville in 2013) and is widely considered to be one of the top coaches in college basketball today. Under Pitino, Kentucky returned to its former glory until he signed a deal to become the head coach of the Boston Celtics, a tenure that was a complete and utter failure, one that was hard to envision him coming back from until he returned to prominence at Louisville. But Pitino’s career was loaded with scandal and, quite frankly, I am absolutely shocked he has lasted this long. From the incident with Karen Sypher, to the hookers for recruits, and now this, Pitino has had a history of questionable decisions. Yet he still remained on at Louisville. After the incident with the prostitute parties for recruits, I figured Pitino had to be done for at Louisville. But he was only suspended for 5 games and Louisville was put on probation. It is this probation, however, that has caused some people to ask the dreaded question: is Louisville basketball headed for the death penalty?

My quick answer to that? No. While you can’t receive the death penalty unless you already are on probation, which Louisville was, there is a reason that only SMU football in the late 80’s has received the death penalty from the NCAA: there’s too much money at stake for there to be an entire season of no Louisville basketball. And that’s really what it all comes down to: money. Despite the fact that the NCAA is a “non-profit” organization, money is going to be what keeps Louisville playing, however the program will be set back YEARS when the NCAA finally hands out a punishment. You can already bank on Louisville being ineligible for the postseason for multiple years and losing several scholarships.

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Rick Pitino gets angry during a Louisville basketball game. (photo credit: Kentucky Sports Radio)

So what do you do if you’re Louisville? Well, you won’t be a basketball blue-blood for the foreseeable future, that’s for damn sure. But the fact of the matter is Louisville needs a new head coach. There’s one name that immediately comes to mind: Tom Crean. Crean has done this before, he brought Indiana out of the depths of hell in the aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson era and quite frankly, he didn’t get the respect he deserved while at the helm for the Hoosiers. Indiana was in a similar situation back in the mid-2000’s that Louisville finds itself in now. Sampson had provided improper benefits to Eric Gordon and the program got put on probation for several years. Would Crean take the job? I’m not so sure. He’s a stand-up guy, but I doubt he’d want to get back in the rebuilding entire programs business after the lack of respect he got from a lot of IU fans. If I’m Crean, I would wait for something a little more stable. But no doubt Louisville will come calling.

We may have seen the last of Rick Pitino, however. If you are someone who can’t live in a world where he isn’t patrolling the hardwood, fear not. His son, Rich, is head coach at Minnesota.