NCAA investigating former Kentucky player Eric Bledsoe

Per the NY Times

Two years ago, Eric Bledsoe was a star point guard without the grades to meet the N.C.A.A.’s minimum standards and needing to find a new high school. He solved both problems by moving to A. H. Parker High School and now, after one season at the University of Kentucky, he is awaiting a lucrative payday in next month’s N.B.A. draft.

The changes in Bledsoe’s academic and athletic prospects have attracted the attention of the N.C.A.A., which has sent investigators to at least three places in Alabama to ask about him. The N.C.A.A. does not talk about its investigations, and the scope of this one is unknown.

The report goes on to discuss interviews with people in Bledsoe’s life that may reveal potential violations:

Brenda Axle, the landlord for the house where Bledsoe and his mother moved for his senior year of high school, said that Bledsoe’s high school coach [Maurice Ford] paid her at least three months’ rent, or $1,200.

A copy of Bledsoe’s high school transcript from his first three years reveals that it would have taken an improbable academic makeover — a jump from about a 1.9 grade point average in core courses to just under a 2.5 during his senior year — for Bledsoe to achieve minimum N.C.A.A. standards to qualify for a scholarship.

A college coach who recruited Bledsoe said that Ford explicitly told his coaching staff that he needed a specific amount of money to let Bledsoe sign with that university. The coach, who did not want to be named out of fear of repercussions when recruiting in Birmingham, said Ford told him and his staff that he was asking for money because he was helping pay rent for Bledsoe and his mother.

Uh-oh. If the coach’s assertions are true, and Ford did indeed demand money to “let Bledsoe sign with the university,” and Bledsoe eventually signed with John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats…well, then, you can connect the dots.

Trouble just follows Calipari around. I’m starting to think that it’s partly due to the kind of player he recruits. Calipari clearly doesn’t care about academics, so sometimes shady things go on to get his recruits eligible to play. In Bledsoe’s case, his GPA shot up after enrolling at A.H. Parker High School. Of course, this comes on the heels of the NCAA vacating Memphis’s trip to the 2008 Final Four because someone else actually took Derrick Rose’s SAT test during his senior year of high school.

This is party the NBA’s fault. The league’s age-limit rule forces kids that have no business going to college to enroll for a season, and that can lead to all sorts of shenanigans in trying to get a player eligible. We’re talking about a handful of players every year, but Rose and Bledsoe fall into that category. Both players would have been NBA draftees had they turned pro straight out of high school.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

College basketball rules that (don’t) need to change

Sparty & Friends listed five rules in college basketball that need to change. I don’t have a problem with #2 (6-fouls to disqualification) or #3 (no passing the ball in the half court on out of bounds plays), so let’s focus on the other three:

1. Change to 48 minute games, divided up in quarters, with a 24 second shot clock – At first I wasn’t sure about this one, as most will usually complain that most sporting events are already too long in the first place. However, I reconsidered based on what my second rule change should be. An additional 8 minutes will not significantly impact the length of the game, especially if they were to eliminate stoppage timeouts every 4 minutes of playing time. They will have the two extra tv timeouts at the end of the quarters, which would help alleviate the advertising concern. A need for a 24 second clock would be needed to force teams to not milk the clock anymore than they already do. The cons of this would put teams with lack of depth, especially smaller schools in the tournament, at a disadvantage. To that I say tough noogies.

I object more to the 24-second shot clock than the four quarters idea, but I’d rather not see any of this happen. First, going to a 24-shot clock would only serve to make teams depend even more on the good ol’ on-ball screen that is already so prevalent in college hoops. In the NBA, the short shot clock leads to a lot of bad attempts — can you imagine what would happen in college with players that aren’t nearly as good? No, the 35-second shot clock is just fine. It allows offenses and plays to develop and generally results in good attempts. Plus, it rewards the best defenses that are able to defend for that duration.

Read the rest of this entry »

Duke edges Butler, 61-59

It was a storybook finish for Brian Zoubek.

Something of a punch line for most of his four-year career at Duke, the light suddenly went on midway through his senior season. The game slowed down for the 7’1″ center and he quickly became a force defensively and on the glass.

And he needed every inch of that big frame tonight. With just seconds remaining and Duke nursing a one-point lead, Butler’s best player, Gordon Hayward, drove into the lane. Zoubek helped off his man and forced Hayward into a difficult fadeaway jumper along the baseline that was a few inches too long. Zoubek was in the right spot to collect the rebound, and after a quick Butler foul, he had to make the long walk to the other end of the court to shoot a pair of free throws.

Having shot just 55% on the season, Zoubek nailed his first attempt to give Duke a two-point lead. He was then told by his coach to intentionally miss the second* so that Butler would have to gather the rebound and drive the length of the floor to attempt a game-winning shot from half court. Hayward did just that, and once again missed by a few inches. The shot hit the backboard and clanged off the front of the rim.

Just like that, Brian Zoubek became a national champion.

Duke’s “Big Three” — Kyle Singler (19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks), Jon Scheyer (15 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) and Nolan Smith (13 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds) — certainly deserve much of the credit, but the Blue Devils would not have won the title tonight without the play of their big men, and Zoubek led the way. His eight points and 11 boards were huge; his play was especially noticeable in the second half when Duke only yielded two offensive rebounds. (Butler had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half.)

Butler’s man-to-man defense was outstanding. The Blue Devils committed 13 turnovers and shot just 29% from long range. But Duke’s defense was just as good, forcing the Bulldogs into 35% shooting.

It was a back-and-forth, white knuckle affair. Just when it looked like Duke might pull away, the Bulldogs would make a couple of plays to cut the lead back to one. It was just a great, great game.

* This is a decision that I don’t agree with when there is 3+ seconds remaining — I’d rather go up three and have the worst-case scenario be overtime.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

A Duke hater chats with The Scores Report

As we get ready for the Duke/Butler matchup tonight, I thought it would be interesting to get my buddy (and Duke hater) LaRusso on the line to bash the Blue Devils.

John Paulsen: You’re a proud Duke hater, correct?

LaRusso: I am.

JP: What’s the biggest reason you hate Duke?

LR: It seems like, I don’t know if they have a sense of entitlement, but columnists, I guess ESPN, Dick Vitale, just seem to put them up on a pedestal a lot. They’re on TV all the time. They’re a good program — a top of the line program — so they’re going to draw attention. Like me, people hate them or people love them. One way or another they’re going to move the needle. So I think it’s a perceived elitist mentality of how they are so much better than everybody. They seem to get calls, they get more publicity than other schools. So I think that’s the driving factor.

JP: So one article I read listed like five reasons why people hate Duke and a commenter added a few more, so want to list them off and see what you think. So you think that they’re media darlings?

LR: Yes.

JP: They’re often compared to the Yankees, Cowboys and Patriots, and I guess the Lakers in terms of how much attention they get. I don’t like the Yankees comparison because it’s not like Duke can go out and outspend everybody. If anything, Coach K is at a disadvantage when compared with, say, North Carolina, in terms of recruiting because of Duke’s high academic standards.

LR: They do have tougher standards for academics. Some schools make concessions for athletes, I don’t know if Duke does that, it doesn’t seem like it. They always have smart kids. I don’t know if they’re on the same level as the Yankees and Red Sox. That’s all the media talks about. And in football, I’d probably say it’s more Cowboys — I don’t think the Patriots get much love. They’re probably more hated now than loved like they were when Brady first came up and they started winning. It seems to have flipped 180 on them.

JP: Well, we don’t have a local football team in Southern California, and if the Chargers aren’t on. We’re going to get the Cowboys because people either love them or they hate them. But it’s funny to me, because those teams that Duke is compared to — I hate them all. I don’t like the Yankees, or the Patriots or the Cowboys, so the fact that I’ve been a Duke fan since the days of Johnny Dawkins strikes some people as funny. I just gravitated towards the way that Coach K gets his kids to play night in and night out. We’ve talked about this in the past — I really take offense to this whole Yankees argument —

LR: I guess a better way to put it is that Duke is force-fed to us a little too much.

Read the rest of this entry »

Duke/Butler Preview

Immediately after the games on Saturday, I wrote the following about tonight’s matchup between Duke and Butler:

Monday night’s matchup will be touted as a David versus Goliath affair, but Duke and Butler are pretty similar in the way they play. Both teams hang their hats on good man-to-man half court defense and efficient, ball-control offense. It should be a low-scoring, tight game. I expect that Duke will be favored by five or six, but Butler is fully capable of pulling the upset. I’m sure the crowd will be pulling for the Bulldogs.

The line started at Duke -7, but has grown to -7.5 with the news that Butler center Matt Howard is questionable to play after suffering the “mildest of mild concussions” (per the Butler trainer). The Bulldogs will need Howard to pull the upset, because Duke is very big down low. Luckily, it looks like Shelvin Mack will play despite missing a good part of the second half against Michigan State with pain in his legs.

Jeff Sagarin pegs Duke as an almost 9-point favorite, so there still is some value with taking the Blue Devils even with the sizable line. Ken Pomeroy gives Duke an 81% chance to win, which is the biggest advantage of any favorite in the tournament since the Wisconsin/Cornell game (and we all know how that turned out).

I’m reluctant to recommend laying the points because Butler has a way of keeping games close. Both teams play at a slow pace, but I have a feeling that Duke will look to push the ball and try to avoid facing the Bulldogs’ excellent man-to-man defense in the half-court. Against West Virginia, Duke won the rebounding battle (+3) and, more importantly, destroyed the Mountaineers from long range (13-25 from 3PT). In fact, they shot almost 53% from the field for the entire game.

To pull the upset, Butler needs to hold its own on the glass and force the Blue Devils to shoot a poor percentage from long range. This is going to be tough to do, especially if Howard is limited or doesn’t play.

These two teams pride themselves on tough defense and good execution on offense. Duke is just a little better at it. Butler should have the crowd on its side, but it’s tough to create much atmosphere at the Final Four and Duke has plenty of experience playing in front of hostile crowds. I see a close game where Duke’s lead oscillates between 3-5 points most of the way and then the Blue Devils may be able to stretch things out if Butler is forced to foul.

As usual, I’ll be tweeting during the game tonight, so be sure to check back at tip-off.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Related Posts