NCAA

Atlantic 10 Tournament preview: St. Joe's, La Salle have tough roads

Atlantic 10 Tournament preview: St. Joe's, La Salle have tough roads

Last year, for the second time in three seasons, Saint Joseph's went to Brooklyn and came home with an Atlantic 10 championship.

But as this year's Atlantic 10 Tournament is set to begin, the battered Hawks will be significant underdogs to win another one -- or even a game. And Big 5 rival La Salle will also have its work cut out to make a deep run.

Here's a closer look at both of the league's Big 5 teams heading into the tourney, which has shifted to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh after four years at the Barclays Center: 

Saint Joseph's

Record: 11-19 overall, 4-14 league

Seed: 13

Opener: 12th-seeded UMass (14-17, 4-4) in first round (Wednesday, 6 p.m., CSN)

Postseason hopes
The Hawks need to win five games in five days or their season is over. 

Looking at St. Joe's
It was always going to be tough sledding for the Hawks after the program lost two stars in DeAndre' Bembry and Isaiah Miles from last year's terrific team. But then things went almost comically awry when four players were lost to season-ending injuries, including the dynamic starting backcourt of Shavar Newkirk and Lamarr "Fresh" Kimble. Without their top guys, St. Joe's lost nine straight before snapping the skid with a 63-60 win over Duquesne in its regular-season finale, riding 19 points apiece from junior swingman James Demery and sophomore guard Chris Clover.

Looking at UMass
The Minutemen finished with the same record in league play as St. Joe's (both finishing a game ahead of last-place Duquesne) and have won just twice in their past 12 games. UMass is led by junior guard Donte Clark, who's averaging 13 points per game and has already eclipsed 1,000 points for his career.

Series
The Minutemen have beaten the Hawks in both matchups this season, winning by five in Amherst and by 11 in Hagan last month behind four threes from Clark in the first three minutes. Overall, the series has been very even with UMass holding a slight 36-34 edge.

Player to watch
Charlie Brown has been a bright spot for the Hawks and was just named to the 2017 Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team. The freshman forward from Philly is averaging 12.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game -- both second on the team. And he led the Hawks with 15 points and eight rebounds while shooting 4 for 8 from three-point range in their last game vs. UMass. 

Tourney facts
The 13-seed is the lowest the Hawks have ever had in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. ... This will be the first A-10 tourney meeting between St. Joe's and UMass since 2001. ... St. Joe's head coach Phil Martelli is 28-8 in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, including a 16-5 mark in the team's first game. 

Up next
The winner advances to face fifth-seeded Saint Bonaventure in the second round on Thursday (2:30 p.m.). 

La Salle

Record: 15-14 overall, 9-9 league

Seed: 8

Opener: 9th-seeded Davidson (15-4, 8-10) in second round on Thursday (noon, NBCSN)

Postseason hopes
The Explorers need to win their first-ever A-10 tourney title to get into the Big Dance, but a couple of wins may put them in the conversation for the CBI or the CIT.  

Looking at La Salle
The Explorers were in the picture for a top-four seeding and a coveted double-bye before losing five of their last seven games. La Salle heads into the tourney following a 66-54 win over Fordham behind 19 points from junior transfer B.J. Johnson.

Johnson (17.5 ppg), Jordan Price (15.1 ppg) and Pookie Powell (13.6 ppg) are all among the league's top 20 scorers, but the Explorers rank last in the A-10 in scoring defense, allowing 77.4 points per game.

Looking at Davidson
The Wildcats finished one game back of La Salle in the standings, losing three of their last four games. They feature two of the league's top three leading scorers in senior guard Jack Gibbs (22.0 ppg) and junior forward Peyton Aldridge (20.6 ppg), and they make over nine three-pointers per game -- a league-best. Gibbs and Aldridge are the second-highest scoring duo in the nation.

Series
La Salle beat Davidson in the only matchup this season with Price scoring 29 points in a 91-83 win. 

Player to watch
Davidson appears to be a good matchup for Price. On top of his season-high 29 points vs. Davidson this year, Price had 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a loss to the Wildcats last year and 23 against them the year before. What might the senior have in store for his final A-10 tourney?

Tourney facts
Davidson has knocked La Salle out of the last two A-10 tourneys, beating them in last year's second round and in the 2015 quarterfinals. ... Gibbs needs 33 points in the tournament to become the fourth player in Davidson history with 2,000 career points. ... La Salle hasn't been to the A-10 semifinals since 2002, and the Explorers have never been to a tourney final. 

Up next
The winner faces top-seeded Dayton in the quarterfinals on Friday (noon).

NCAA adopts college basketball reforms for NBA draft, agents, more

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AP Images

NCAA adopts college basketball reforms for NBA draft, agents, more

INDIANAPOLIS — College basketball players who participate in the NBA combine and go undrafted will be allowed to return to school and play as part of sweeping NCAA reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that its Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors have adopted numerous proposals, including changes to the enforcement process for rules violations and allowing NCAA-certified agents to work with college basketball players who test the waters in declaring for the NBA draft. 

Agents will have at least a limited place within the NCAA structure when it comes to college basketball.

The NCAA's rule changes include allowing players to work with an agent while declaring for the NBA draft. College players would have to request an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee on their draft prospects. The rules would also allow elite high school players to work with an agent if the NBA removes its one-and-done rule.

The agent would have to be certified by the NCAA no later than August 2020. Until then, agents certified by the NBA players' union would qualify.

Agents would be allowed to cover minimal expenses such as meals and transportation tied to meetings or workouts with pro teams. The agent's work would stop if the player enrolls in or returns to college.

The changes reflect the recommendations made in April by the Rice Commission.

The Rice Commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was formed in response to an FBI investigation into payments from shoe companies to coaches for steering players to certain schools.

The NCAA is also adopting changes it hopes will improve its enforcement process when handling cases of rules violations.

The policies adopted by the NCAA's Board of Governors and Division I Council include the appointment of independent groups to handle and resolve complex cases. That was one of the recommendations from the Rice Commission appointed in the wake of an FBI investigation into corruption within college basketball.

The changes also allow the NCAA to accept during investigations outside information that has been "established by another administrative body or a commission authorized by a school." The NCAA says that will save time since investigators would no longer have to independently confirm information outlined by other agencies or outside investigations.

In addition, school presidents and athletics staff will be required to commit "contractually" to cooperate fully with investigations.

The process to adopt recommendations for NCAA reforms from the Rice Commission was a swift one by the governing body's standards.

In a teleconference with reporters Wednesday, Georgia Tech president and Board of Governors chairman Bud Peterson said those changes would "normally take us about two years through the governance process."

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

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USA Today Images

Knicks will reportedly reach out to Jay Wright about coaching job

Fresh off a second national championship in three years, this was bound to happen. Jay Wright is a hot name. 

And according to the New York Daily News, the Knicks plan on reaching out to Wright about their vacant head coaching job. 

Just don’t expect Wright to be interested. 

The 56-year-old coach has been determined to build Villanova into a powerhouse since he took the head coaching gig way back in 2001 and he’s finally done that. On the surface, maybe some think that would be enough to make him want to take his coaching to the top league in the world. Not so fast. 

In a recent interview with The Athletic, Wright said pretty flatly that he’s staying at Villanova because he loves it there. 

“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright said. “That challenge is appealing but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”

In that interview, Wright talked about his time at Hofstra and quoted Jim Valvano, who once said, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That was true at Hofstra until the Villanova job came around, so maybe there’s a chance the Knicks could blow him away. It just doesn’t seem likely. 

The Knicks just fired head coach Jeff Hornacek after a 29-53 record in 2017. The Knicks haven’t had a winning record since 2012-13. 

The New York Daily News cites a source, who said the Knicks believe Wright would be a “perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.” The Knicks might be right, but don’t bet on them getting Wright.