From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- No. 1 Indiana will open its season Friday night without two key freshmen players.On Tuesday, the NCAA suspended 6-foot-8 forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and 7-foot center Peter Jurkin for the first nine games this season and will require them to repay a portion of the impermissible benefits they received to a charity of their choice.Enforcement officials at the governing body officials found the players' AAU coach Mark Adams provided them with 9,702 and 6,003 in plane tickets, meals, housing, a laptop computer, a cellphone and clothing. Mosquera-Perea must pay back approximately 1,590. Jurkin must repay 250 to be reinstated.The NCAA said in a statement Tuesday night both players were qualified to receive the benefits from the nonprofit organization Adams used to help international players obtain travel documents and cover travel costs to the U.S. The problem was that Adams also was considered an Indiana booster because he donated 185 to the Varsity Club from 1986-92, and boosters cannot provide benefits to players.Adams had been involved in a previous eligibility case that involved an additional 2,655 to former Indiana basketball player Tijan Jobe."Despite the minimal nature of Mr. Adams' donations, and the fact that the last donation he made was more than 15 years before he provided expenses to a prospective student-athlete who enrolled at the institution," the NCAA wrote in its letter to the school. "Mr. Adams must be considered a representative of the institution's athletics interests."The NCAA considers these secondary infractions and credited the university for taking "substantial and meaningful" corrective actions. Those actions included paying a 5,000 fine for failing to properly certify one player before he started competing, suspending communications with Adams and disassociating the program from Adams.Indiana plans to file appeal the length of the two suspensions later this week, though schools usually win those cases. The players cannot play while the appeal is heard, though they can continue to practice and participate in other team functions.University officials were informed of potential eligibility concerns for both players in April 2011, the NCAA said, and school officials have been trying to resolve the situation since then.Indiana officials, said in a statement, that it filed the original case June 22.The NCAA reinstatement staff made its decision Oct. 29. Indiana then provided additional information Nov. 1, which the NCAA said did not change the original facts that were agreed to by both sides.Mosquera-Perea is considered one of Indiana's top recruits and is expected to play a big part in this season's push for a national championship. Jurkin is also expected to provide depth on the front line.If the NCAA ruling stands, neither player could return until Indiana's game Dec. 15 against Butler in Indianapolis."This matter was discovered internally and promptly reported to the NCAA," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement released by the school. "At the NCAA's direction, we conducted an extensive and thorough review in cooperation and consultation with the NCAA Basketball Focus Group. While I am very disappointed with these circumstances, I am very pleased with the way we have responded and appreciative of the NCAA's professional guidance and assistance. I would also like to thank Mark Adams for his forthright candor and cooperation in this matter."
BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10-years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title.
Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has their backs against the wall for a possible playoff spot.
Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative.
“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”
Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him.
FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?
The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.
Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12.
Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated?
One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates.
When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important.
At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars.
The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles.
The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday.
Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.