adidas run College basketball games can get here fast enough
Friday’s opening matchups are meh. Virginia UNC Greensboro; Virginia Tech Detroit Mercy; William and Mary High Point; Old Dominion Towson; Hampton Rider.
Regionally and nationally, the fare isn’t much better. Texas A Virginia and Georgia Tech UCLA, the latter in Shanghai no less, are exceptions.
Scandal is hardly new for the sport, which has endured point shaving, vacated Final Fours and hookers for recruits. During last season’s NCAA tournament, Showtime aired a documentary on the 2003 murder of a Baylor basketball player by a teammate.
And it’s scandal we have anew, thank goodness simply outrageous rather than tragic. Moreover, two Adidas employees are charged with paying prospects’ families in hopes of the prospects signing with Adidas affiliated universities.
Prosecutors continue to pursue other leads in college basketball’s recruiting underworld, and coaches such as ODU’s Jeff Jones, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey believe more unpleasantness awaits.
All of this absolutely merits attention, and the calls from the likes of ACC commissioner John Swofford and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas for sport specific NCAA legislation are spot on. But the athletes and coaches, a vast majority of whom have scruples, also deserve a look as the season approaches.
Thanks in large measure to VCU and Virginia, the commonwealth has sent multiple teams to the NCAA Division I tournament each of the last nine years. The Rams have earned a state record seven consecutive bids, while Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers have made the field five of the last six seasons.
Virginia Tech, Hampton, ODU, Norfolk State, Richmond, George Mason,
James Madison and Radford also have contributed, most notably Mason, which advanced to the 2006 Final Four, setting the table for VCU’s run five years later.
Surely some of those programs will grace the bracket in March, but none approaches what you would call a lock. Media/coaches polls picked Virginia and Virginia Tech sixth and seventh, respectively, in the ACC, Norfolk State and Hampton second and fourth in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference, VCU fourth in the Atlantic 10, ODU fourth in Conference USA.
Those are your best bets.
Check that. Expanding our horizons to include Division III reveals Christopher Newport, as usual, as a national contender.
Coaching transition is an annual sporting ritual, and the most notable in our orbit is VCU’s Mike Rhoades. He succeeds Will Wade, who left for LSU after two seasons leading the Rams.
A former VCU assistant under Shaka Smart, Rhoades brings 13 years of head coaching experience to Broad Street, 10 at Randolph Macon and the last three at Rice. Extending the Rams’ NCAA streak to eight seasons will be difficult, but he does have credentialed seniors in Justin Tillman and Jonathan Williams.
With only one scholarship upperclassman, Grayson Allen, Duke is No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press and Amway coaches polls, a testament to Mike Krzyzewski’s recruiting and the sport’s overall youth. Having seen Blue Devils freshmen Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr., and Gary Trent Jr., I understand the hype.
This is Krzyzewski’s 38th season at Duke, and suffice to say he’s accustomed to No. 1 status. Per a tweet from Bilas, a starter on the Blue Devils’ 1986 Final Four squad,
Duke has played more games at No. 1 under Krzyzewski (223) than it has when unranked (145).