Monday’s Muse

The 2018 Big Ten Tournament is being played a week early this year in order to take place at MSG in NYC. The action starts Wednesday with a pair of first-round matchups.

Published on Monday, 2/26/18, at 10:55 a.m. Eastern.
Updated on Monday, 2/26/18, at 2:08 p.m. Eastern.

Let’s just hit on some news and notes from the hoops world…

–Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel appeared on Clay Travis’s Outkick the Show this morning. When asked by Travis what his ‘over/under’ on how many men’s basketball coaches from the five power conferences are going to be fired, Wetzel said, “20.” Hello!

–Sean Miller will soon join Rick Pitino as the first coaches to taste pink slips in the explosive college basketball scandal. Miller hasn’t been fired yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

–Speaking of Pitino, this dude needs to go away. Does he really think that anyone wants to hear his opinion these days? Who the hell gives this clown advice these days? That presser last week was simply the ultimate display of narcissism. What a d-bag! Get lost, scrub, you’re a disgrace.

–How about Dickie V, alone on an island, coming to Pitino’s defense last week? What the hell does Pitino have on Vitale to make the latter such a ride-or-die buddy?

–Did you see the details about Sean Miller’s contract at Arizona? His agent is a genius or the people at UA that handle contracts are utterly incompetent. Somehow Miller’s contract calls for him to be paid $10.3 million if he’s fired “with cause.” If he’s fired for no reason at all, he’s due to be paid $5.15 million. I mean, really? After the report Friday from that Miller is on FBI wiretaps discussing a $100,000 payment for 5-star recruit and current freshman star DeAndre Ayton with Christian Dawkins, a rep for sports agent Andy Miller, he was not allowed to coach the Wildcats in Saturday’s game at Oregon. Ayton was allowed to play, though. Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Michigan St.’s Miles Bridges were also cleared to play by their schools’ compliance offices after they were mentioned in a Yahoo report as players who were set to be paid (or someone involved with those players was going to be given cash) by Miller’s agency (ASM Sports).

–If you’ve listened to me on the Power Hours on VI radio (2005-2012) or my Games Galore podcast in the last year, you know I’ve been calling Mike Krzyzewski the Bobby Bowden of college hoops for decades. Like Bowden, Coach K has had 98 percent of America fooled into thinking he’s of impeccable character and clean as a whistle in terms of how he runs his program. Please! Coach K is one of the bigger assholes in an occupation full of them. And he always has been, so don’t be surprised that Duke’s name has come up in the current federal investigation.

–Georgia has never signed a five-star recruit during Mark Fox’s nine-year tenure. Fox had a commitment from 5-star guard Ashton Hagans out of Newton High School in Covington, GA. However, the overall sixth-ranked player in the 2019 class per de-committed earlier today. Hagans has re-opened his recruitment, but his high school coach told 247Sports that UGA is still in the mix for his services. The Bulldogs still have a 4-star commit in the 2019 class from Elias King.

–Fox has always been known to run a clean program, which is perhaps why his recruiting hasn’t been among the elite during his time in Athens. As we’ve touched on this space many times, Fox’s job security is on shaky ground and is likely based on whether UGA sneaks in the Tournament or not on Selection Sunday. Whatever the case, you have to like how he’s been given this forum to speak out — whether he ends up retaining his job or not — against dirty coaches in the midst of this ongoing scandal. Fox made the most of it after Saturday’s win over LSU. He said, “I’m disgusted. I’m disgusted with how people have treated our game. It’s absolutely disgusting. You know, there’s always going to be unethical behavior. Let’s say we give each team $1 million to pay your players. You know, someone’s not going to like the salary cap and they’re going to find a way around it. 

“But whatever the rules are, and I’m all in favor of trying to find ways to help these kids more and more, if it’s a way to get the kids compensated more, I’m 100 percent behind that. But whatever regulations we have in place, we’re supposed to follow them.”

–If you didn’t know already, the Big Ten Tournament is making its debut at Madison Square Garden in New York City starting on Wednesday. This is obviously a week early since the Big East has MSG booked for next weekend. This is going to give Big Ten schools heading to the NCAA Tournament two weeks to get healthy and prepare.

–Here are the matchups that are set so far: Illinois vs. Iowa on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network and Rutgers-Minnesota at 8:00. As for Thursday, Wisconsin vs. Maryland will be at noon in the 8/9 game with the winner facing top-seed Michigan St. at noon on Friday. Michigan, the five seed, will face the Illinois-Iowa winner Thursday at 2:30, while sixth-seeded Indiana takes on the survivor of RU-Minnesota at 9:00 on Thursday. The 7/10 game Thursday will be Northwestern vs. Penn St. at 6:30. If form holds, the red-hot Wolverines will get a shot at 4-seed Nebraska on Friday at 2:30. The Cornhuskers, who are on a sick 18-2 ATS run, have won eight of their past nine games, including Sunday’s blowout win over the Nittany Lions. Nebraska trashed Michigan in Lincoln earlier this year by a 72-52 count.

–Northwestern has two starters listed as ‘questionable’ vs. PSU: Bryant McIntosh (shoulder) and Vic Law (foot). Law is averaging 12.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game, while McIntosh averages 12.0 points and 5.1 assists per game. As for PSU, Mike Watkins is ‘questionable’ with a knee injury that kept him out of Sunday’s lopsided loss at Nebraska. Watkins averages 12.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocked shots and 1.0 steals per game.

–All of the Big Ten tourney games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be televised by the Big Ten Network. The semifinal games at 2:00 and 4:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday will be on CBS, as will the finals at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday.

–Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ was released on earlier today. Here are his…

Last Four Byes (‘in’ and doesn’t have to play in the First Four in Dayton): Va. Tech, Kansas St., St. Bonaventure and Providence.

Last Four In: Louisville, USC, Baylor and Texas.

First Four Out: Syracuse (last team left out of the field), UCLA, Nebraska and Mississippi St.

Next Four Out: Washington, Boise St., Utah and Notre Dame.

–Quick Thoughts on Lunardi’s latest:

1-I’m not saying that bids shouldn’t be given out based on entire resumes. In other words, Nebraska lacks quality wins and Mississippi St. played a dogshit non-conference schedule, so their resumes aren’t without blemishes. But c’mon, who would make any of the last eight teams ‘in’ favored over the Cornhuskers and Bulldogs on a neutral court tonight? Nebraska and Mississippi St. sure as hell look the part of Tourney teams from what I’ve seen out of both squads in February.

2-Louisville?! Seriously, folks. Have you looked at U of L’s profile lately? The Cardinals are winless in seven games against the RPI Top 25, 1-10 versus the Top 50 and 7-10 against the Top 100. Louisville’s best win is a 73-69 win at FSU (RPI #47) when it rallied from a double-digit halftime deficit.

3-I was extremely surprised that Lunardi didn’t at least have Ben Howland’s team in his Next Four out in this past Thursday’s ‘Bracketology’ installment. He actually had Georgia in his Next Four Out ahead of MSU. What changed since Thursday? Well, Georgia trounced LSU from start to finish in Athens and the final score was misleading to the type of pimpslap Will Wade’s team took at Stegeman Coliseum. Meanwhile, Mississippi St. saw its 8-0 ATS surge halted in a non-covering home win over South Carolina in overtime. Nevertheless, the Bulldogs jumped  into the First Four Out, while UGA is not even a part of the Next Four Out anymore. Instead, Mark Fox’s team was replaced by the Fighting Irish.

4-My Gators were a 7-seed by Lunardi this past Thursday after losing a third straight game Wednesday at Tennessee. UF ended that three-game slump by beating Auburn 72-66 on Saturday night as a 2.5-point home ‘chalk.’ Mike White’s team is now a sixth seed and would face Middle Tennessee. The winner would advance to face the Cincinnati-Charleston winner in the Midwest Region’s Round of 32 in Dallas. If form held with the higher seeds advancing, there would be a UF-UC rematch from the Gators’ 66-60 December win over the Bearcats in Newark.

Tonight’s TV games (with spreads):

Duke (-5.5) at Va. Tech (7:00 p.m. Eastern, ESPN)
Marquette (-1.5) at Georgetown (Fox Sports 1, 7:00)
Norfolk St at Howard (ESPNU, 7:00)
Texas at Kansas (-10.5 on ESPN, 9:00)
Texas Tech at West Virginia (-6.5 on ESPN2, 9:00)

–During Texas Tech’s seven-game winning streak (5-2 ATS), star Keenan Evans averaged 24.5 PPG. However, the Red Raiders’ winning streak was halted in a narrow loss at Baylor when Evans left the game with a toe injury after logging merely 18 minutes and scoring just four points. He was held to two points in 25 minutes of playing time in a loss at Oklahoma St. Then on Saturday in 31 minutes of PT vs. Kansas, Evans scored only six points. Chris Beard’s team will try to snap its three-game slide both SU and ATS tonight in Morgantown.

–Air Force is a six-point home underdog tonight vs. Fresno St. The Falcons are 8-2 ATS at home this year, while the Bulldogs are 7-4 both SU and ATS in 11 road assignments.

–Texas star center Mohamed Bamba is ‘doubtful’ tonight at Kansas due to a toe injury. Bama is averaging 13.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 blocked shots per game. The Longhorns won’t have Eric Davis Jr., who was suspended indefinitely several days ago. Davis, a junior guard out of Saginaw, Mich., is averaging 8.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

–Kansas clinched its 14th straight Big 12 regular-season title with Saturday’s comeback win in Lubbock. That’s one helluva streak.

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