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Urban Meyer more interested in Michigan State than potential larger problems for Buckeyes

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer speaks at Media Day on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
David Jablonski
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer speaks at Media Day on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff(David Jablonski)

Urban Meyer’s general response after his team was blown out by Iowa on Saturday was, “I don’t know.” 

He had a few more answers Monday as his team began preparations for Michigan State, but plenty of questions remain. 

RELATED: 6 takeaways from Ohio State’s loss

The most pointed inquiry was about the direction of the program after a third surprising Big Ten loss in as many seasons. 

After re-stating the question — “Where’s the program headed?” — he paused, grinned and chose to focus on this week’s opponent. 

“We’ve just go to beat — we’re playing Michigan State this week,” Meyer said of the 13th-ranked Spartans, who upset Penn State on Saturday. “We’ve got to really practice well. Fix the turnover issue on offense. Play a little better on defense. The kicking was much better.”

Two years ago, Michigan State traveled to Ohio Stadium and beat the defending national champion-Buckeyes despite not having star quarterback Connor Cook. 

Last season, a trip to then-unranked Penn State stunned Buckeye Nation in Happy Valley, although the Nittany Lions ended up finishing the season in the top 10. 

Both of those results kept Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game, but the Buckeyes can avoid that this time around if they win their last three games. 

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USC releases statement on FBI investigation documents

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:07 AM

USC released a statement in response to a Yahoo report that included allegations of illegal payments to Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu or their family members.

Boatwright, Metu, Alabama guard Collin Sexton, Duke forward Wendell Carter, Kentucky forward Kevin Knox and former college players are named in documents and bank records related to a federal bribery investigation, according to a report by  Yahoo Sports’ Pat Forde and Pete Thamel.

DieHards will have more on this story as information becomes available.

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Latest college basketball scandal shows sport is broken — and can’t be fixed

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

The events of Friday morning in the college basketball world had been building for some time. Yet when the report by Yahoo’s Pat Forde and Pete Thamel named players — past and current — who allegedly received benefits from agent Andy Miller, his associate Christian Dawkins, and ASM Sports, there wasn’t much outrage.

The news was met with more of a “meh.”

A number of elite college basketball players — from Bam Adebayo and Markelle Fultz to current players such as Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton — were named in the report. Some allegedly received tens of thousands of dollars while others simply met with the agency, which isn’t technically an NCAA violation.

What’s clear about all this is that many major programs have players involved in this investigation.

EXCLUSIVE: Father of Kentucky star Kevin Knox denies meeting with agent

Some have joked that there might not be an NCAA Tournament this year, given all the connections in the story. As of lunch time, the NCAA has not yet cancelled the sport, but it did put out a statement on the matter via NCAA President Mark Emmert.

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America. Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules. Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity. We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”

Predictably, the quotes provided by Emmert were picked apart and ridiculed, with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla asking Emmert to stay away from the investigation.

It’s obvious that the NCAA model of college basketball is broken. But that doesn’t mean that the NCAA or the NBA, or whoever, shouldn’t try to fix it.

As for the NCAA Tournament, you’ll see sportswriters throw out stories on how to “fix” college basketball. They’ll suggest getting shoe companies out of the AAU level. And to do away with the one-and-done rule. And, of course, any coach caught cheating should be thrown out of the game.

But as the Yahoo report shows, this isn’t all about the shoe companies. As long as the shoe companies continue to dole out $100 million contracts, players are going to be drawn into the idea of teaming up with them early. And, sure, a number of the biggest payments allegedly handed out went to one-and-done players. But Kyle Kuzma allegedly received $9,500 while at Utah and he spent three seasons in college. PJ Dozier of South Carolina allegedly received money, and he wasn’t a one-and-done player.

And even if you do throw out every coach tied to the scandal, even if it’s Tom Izzo, John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski, who all had players named in the report, there’s going to come along a new coach who will be willing to take on players who have taken money from agents or whoever.

In the television show The Wire, after Avon Barksdale was arrested and locked up, drugs didn’t stop getting dealt on Baltimore street corners. A new player, Marlo Stanfield, filled the void as the city’s drug kingpin. And the drug game continued even after he and his crew had been dismantled. The cycle continues.

There isn’t a magic bullet to fix college basketball as we know it. Even if we have schools start paying players above the table — beyond the monthly stipend they’re provided in addition to their scholarships — schools and coaches are still going to do whatever it takes to make it more enticing for players to come to their schools. And that likely comes by under-the-table money.

The NCAA Tournament is set to start in three weeks. Selection Sunday is March 11. Plenty of people will bring up the players who allegedly took money and the coaches who may or may not have known about it. But come March 11, most of the general public won’t care about that, but rather which teams are going to the Final Four. And that’s fine.

Because even if college basketball is broken — and if the report is accurate the sport clearly is — college basketball is still just a game. And the game of college basketball, no matter how dirty or corrupt, will be enjoyed by millions for those four weeks in March and early April. It’s all just a part of the game.

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Bracketologists still have Alabama as a solid NCAA Tournament selection

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s like watching a bouncing basketball.

The young University of Alabama basketball team is up, and then just as quickly it’s down.

Coming off two road losses at tough environments, at Kentucky and Auburn, the Crimson Tide didn’t take too much of a hit in the latest bracketology projections.

That’s the good news.

Alabama only has three regular-season games, including Arkansas at home on Saturday (6 p.m. ET, SEC Network), to try and work out what went wrong this past week, especially at Auburn. Despite being shorthanded, the No. 12 Tigers never trailed and won going away, 90-71.

“In the second half, I felt like we weren’t hustling,” freshman guard Collin Sexton said in the postgame press conference. “They were just driving. When we did help, we didn’t rotate one more time. That’s why they got open 3s, and we weren’t boxing out. They were coming over our backs and getting rebounds and ‘and-ones.’

“I felt like we were too careless with the ball. I know in the beginning, I turned the ball over, and that just got them going. I would say that the turnovers started with me, and we had a few bad turnovers that led to transitions 3s. We just have to correct that next game.”

Rebounds were also a big issue in both games. The Wildcats held a commanding 44-27 edge and grabbed 20 offensive boards, resulting in 20 second-chance points, while the Tigers had just a 41-35 rebounding edge, but with 14 offensively.

“This is another game where we gave up too many offensive rebounds,” Coach Avery Johnson said. “When you don’t shoot it as well as you shoot it offensively, we aren’t getting enough of our misses back. That is why we are not one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country. We are 266th coming into this game for a reason, and that is something we have to try to solve before the end of the year.”

Here are the latest listings from numerous bracketology experts:

ESPN (Joe Lunardi): As of Thursday had Alabama as a No. 8 seed in the South, playing Seton Hall in Charlotte. The Crimson Tide were a No. 7 seed last week, and bumped up to a No. 6 seed in the Midwest before the Kentucky game. : Lists Alabama as having an 80 percent chance of landing a bid (down from 92 percent a week ago), and projects the Crimson Tide as a No. 8 seed.

Yahoo Sports (Brad Evans) : As of Wednesday, Alabama was listed as the bottom No. 9 seed, with the designation of “sliding.” Last week it was the top No. 8 seed. (Michael Beller) : As of Thursday, Alabama was a No. 7 seed in the South, paired against North Carolina State. No site location included.

CBS (Jerry Palm): On Friday, Alabama was listed as a No. 10 seed in the East, playing Houston in Charlotte. : As of Friday morning rates Alabama as a No. 7 seed in the Midwest, facing St. Mary’s in Nashville.

USA Today : As of Thursday, Alabama was the No. 6 seed in the South, paired against the winner of a play-in game, Washington vs. Syracuse, in Dallas.

Selection Sunday is set for March 11.

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Alabama commit King Mwikuta plays in memory of his mother

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 8:00 AM

LAGRANGE, Ga. — King Mwikuta was at a family friend’s home in 2007 when he heard the news that his 38-year old mother, Carolyn Johnson, had died. King was just 7 years old.

Johnson had a range of issues contributing to her death. She had a failing heart, failing kidneys and lupus. King didn’t know that his mother was sick. His older brother, Titus, and his older sister, Sparkelle, knew of their mother’s sickness, but they didn’t tell King because they weren’t sure how he would process it. So when he heard the news that his mother was gone, he was distraught.

“I just couldn’t believe it at all,” Mwikuta told SEC Country.

Johnson’s dying wish was for King’s grandmother, Yvonne, to take care of her children. And that’s what she did. Those first couple of years were tough on King. Yvonne said King would cry sometimes asking for his mother. She would take him to the cemetery where his mother was buried and remind him how great of a person she was.

The main thing Yvonne would provide King during his early development years was a constant reminder that she would always be there to support him no matter what.

“It was hard for me to look at my grandma as that mother figure right away,” Mwikuta said. “She’s done a great job. I love her. We have our arguments and differences, but she has shown me what a true mother is.”

King Mwikuta lives with his grandma, Yvonne (right), who took in her grandson when he was 7 years old. Mwikuta thinks of Yvonne as both a grandma and mother. (Chris Kirschner/SEC Country)

Yvonne has raised King to be a quality young man. Take for instance when King was around 11 or 12 years old. He witnessed a boy younger than him steal a bike. He tried running after the boy, but he couldn’t catch him. So, what did he do when the cops asked who took the bike? King took the blame for it because he didn’t want the kid to get in trouble for making a mistake.

King said he didn’t want the parents of the boy to be disappointed in their son.

“I had to go down to the jail and tell them that King would never tell on the little boy who took the bike, but he took the blame for it,” Yvonne said. “The [police] dismissed it. That’s King.”

King doesn’t remember much about his mother, but he said he remembers her being an outgoing woman. That would make sense because King is one of the most outgoing kids you’ll meet.

Yvonne said King has always been like that, and she believes it’s because of his mother’s personality. In a lot of ways, King is just like his mother in how she lived her life — happy.

“Life is too short to not be happy,” King said. “You can’t hold any grudges against anyone or be unhappy. Nobody wants to walk around unhappy.”

Humble, kind and sweet were the adjectives used by Yvonne to describe her grandson. King never gave his grandma any trouble growing up. Even when she said she would try to make him a little upset just to see how he would react, King wouldn’t fall for it. He does whatever his grandma says.

It’s just King and Yvonne in the house right now. Yvonne has come to realize that this is going to be the last year she has her grandson around the house. That’s why she wanted him to choose either Auburn or Georgia when he made his commitment.

Auburn is less than an hour away in the car from home and Georgia is the school Yvonne grew up rooting for.

“It’s going to be lonesome for me,” Yvonne said with tears in her eyes. “It’s just King and me in the house. I’m going to cry. He means everything to me. He’s my baby.”

Said King: “I’m going to miss my grandma. I can’t wait for the day when I come back home and say, ‘Come on, grandma, you don’t have to live here anymore.'”

These past few years have been difficult for Yvonne. Her youngest son, Morgan, died in 2015 of a massive heart attack. Who was there for her? King.

“He always supports me,” Yvonne said. “He’s just a wonderful man. I love him dearly.”

When King, a Class of 2019 4-star linebacker from Troup County High School, committed to Alabama back on Dec. 15, 2017, his birthday, he ended his ceremony by giving his grandmother a shout out and dedicating the biggest decision of his life to his mother.

“I know she would have been up there sitting next to me,” King said. “I couldn’t imagine what that would have been like. I have been through a lot, but I can’t make that be an excuse. Everybody goes through trials and tribulations in life. This just happens to be mine. She would have been the happiest person in this room.

“I know I’m going to see her again one day. I hope it’s a long time down the road, but I’m going to see my mom again.”

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