The NCAA came down hard on one of this year’s national title favorites and it probably isn’t the one that you expected. Yesterday, the NCAA announced that it was suspending two of Indiana‘s top incoming freshmen — Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin – for nine games each because they received benefits in high school from a man the NCAA deemed an Indiana booster. Pretty simple case, right? Not exactly, since the booster obtained his status by giving Indiana $185 over 20 years ago. As you can imagine, quite a few people are up in arms over this including at least one notable Kentucky fan who has been known to use the #iulol Twitter hashtag on more than one occasion, but who now is willing to wield a pitchfork alongside his Indiana brothers. For what it is worth, Indiana will appeal the ruling and perhaps the suspensions could be reduced but there’s no telling what to expect with such a strange case.
According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, UCLA may be getting a special opening night surprise on Friday with the possible return of Shabazz Muhammad from a right shoulder strain and a temporary reprieve from the NCAA’s investigation into his family’s financial dealings. The recovery from the right shoulder strain should not need any explanation (when he is healthy, he is ready to come back), but the NCAA issue is a little more tricky as the rules allow a player to practice and play with a team for 45 days while the NCAA goes through its investigation. Muhammad started working out with the Bruins approximately a month ago so he would have about two more weeks to play with the team before his window runs out. While this is a possibility we don’t think it would be wise for the UCLA coaching staff to introduce a player who they know may not be eligible for some early season games given the chance that he may not be playing with them again for quite a while.
Apparently the weather in San Diego isn’t perfect all the time as a chance of rain has led the the promoters of the Battle of Midway to postpone the game between Syracuse and San Diego State from Friday night to Sunday. While the decision to move the event back two days was made to keep the event outdoors rather than forcing it into a more mundane indoor environment, it will likely create a variety of issues for individuals who were travelling to the game and for the networks intending to broadcast the game. Early reports indicate that a variety of cable networks will still show the game, but likely to a much smaller audience (competing against the NFL). Given the events of the past few weeks we have become accustomed to sporting events getting postponed due to inclement weather, just usually not a basketball game to the risk of a shower.
We usually don’t comment on injuries to players who averaged 1.6 points and 0.8 rebounds per game last year, but most players are not named Shawn Kemp Jr. either (passing on the easy paternity jokes). The Washington sophomore forward was expected to have a greatly expanded role this season, but a torn right patella tendon is expected to keep him out for the next six to eight weeks. That timetable should allow him to return for most of Pac-12 play, but until then the Huskies will have to rely on several other players whom Kemp was expected to split minutes with this season. If Kemp returns and becomes an offensive force down low for the Huskies it could be a big boost for a team that lacks much of a consistent inside offensive presence.
George Mason suspended a pair of sophomores — Erik Copes and Vaughn Gray – for three games each because of “student-athlete conduct violations.” Losing a pair of players who averaged a combined 7.1 points per game last season for a few games is not a significant setback, but it could cost the Patriots later in the season from an RPI perspective as the duo will miss games against Virginia, Bucknell, and Mercer. The latter two games should be relatively comfortable wins even without the extra depth that Copes and Gray provide, but the season opener against in-state rival Virginia is another story, and if the Patriots lose the game and wind up on the bubble on Selection Sunday it may be a game that their fans look back on ruefully.
Strange League Makeup: Perennial contender VCU left for the Atlantic 10, leaving 11 teams in the CAA, but only seven of those squads will participate in this year’s league tournament held in Richmond. Outgoing Old Dominion and Georgia State are ineligible under CAA bylaws, while UNC-Wilmington and Towson are ineligible for any postseason play because of low APR scores. College of Charleston recently approved a move from the Southern Conference and will likely join next season.
Can Bruiser Take The Dragons Dancing? Drexel’s 12th-year coach has won 199 games with the Dragons, but Bruiser Flint has never brought the team to the NCAA Tournament (his last Tourney appearance was in 1998 with UMass). The Dragons, champions of the regular season last year, are the favorites to repeat and this time also win the conference tourney now that VCU isn’t around to boast what was essentially home-court advantage at the Richmond Coliseum. Flint has had his share of headaches in the Virginia state capital, but a lot of them would go away if he could just snip that Coliseum net.
Frantz Massenat Leads The Dragons As Preseason Favorites. (AP)
Multiple Bids? That seems to be the question every year in the CAA, a conference that sent multiple teams to the tournament in 2011, 2007 and 2006. Without VCU – a fringe Top 25 team – that appears unlikely. But a team like Drexel could theoretically build itself a strong enough at-large résumé and then get upset in the CAA Tournament. It would take a big season from a George Mason or Delaware to have the Colonial flag waved at multiple NCAA sites, though. Old Dominion, ineligible for the league title, created a rugged enough non-conference schedule for itself to be an at-large consideration, but the Monarchs probably aren’t talented enough this year to breeze through that slate.