Jay Wright on Omari Spellman ruling: 'I'm argued out'

Jay Wright on Omari Spellman ruling: 'I'm argued out'

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Five-star freshman forward Omari Spellman was declared ineligible by the NCAA for the 2016-17 season, hurting Villanova men's basketball's hopes of repeating as national champions.

Spellman will be an academic redshirt, meaning he will be able to attend Villanova this year on scholarship and retain all four years of eligibility. He will be in a similar process to most transfer or redshirt athletes and will be able to be around the team.

“When they came down with the final decision, the final appeal, we don’t agree with it,” coach Jay Wright said Friday afternoon. “We accept it and respect that the NCAA put a lot of time on this, looking at every little issue.”

The ruling by the NCAA came after months of appeals and an opportunity for reconsideration. Wright seemed visibly pained in explaining the significant time spent on the process. 

“I think I’m argued out,” he said. “I’m at the point now where I know they considered everything we gave them. We gave them every possible thought on this.”

Friday's announcement by Villanova was after the final reconsideration. Spellman said he "broke down in tears" when the ruling originally came down, but was more composed this time around.

“Life goes on,” Spellman said. “I just have to keep working every day. I may not be able to play in games, but I’m allowed to practice. I’m allowed to work out. I’m allowed to improve myself as a person, so that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Spellman was declared ineligible because he did not graduate with his original high school class. He originally began 9th grade at a public school (Middletown High School in New York) but had the opportunity to attend the Hoosac School, a private school. He transferred there after two to three months, but had to start in 8th grade at the Hoosac School.

After 8th grade, he went to three different schools during high school over the next four years and academically qualified at each one. However, he had technically started high school a year early and graduated a year after his original class.

Villanova realized that could be an issue and alerted the NCAA. The process went through Villanova’s compliance and general council, the NCAA’s Eligibility Center and, ultimately, the highest levels of the NCAA before Spellman was deemed an academic redshirt. Villanova even hired a law firm to talk to each school Spellman attended in order to clarify the issue. 

Spellman's absence for the season is a definite blow to the Wildcats. The 6-foot-9 big man was a top-25 recruit for Villanova and was expected to contribute right away. While the Wildcats retained some of the core that won the second national title in program history, starting center Daniel Ochefu graduated, leaving a hole in the middle. Senior Darryl Reynolds is expected to play a big role in the frontcourt, although losing Spellman means the Wildcats have less depth down low.

Wright admitted that it hurts the team, particularly with Spellman’s talent.

“It’s a loss. It is a loss," Wright said. "He’s talented. He’s picked up things quickly. He’s gotten in shape. He’d gotten a little overweight coming out of high school, but he’s gotten in shape quickly. He’s fit in academically … he’s just fit in really well, so I wasn’t concerned that he was going to struggle this year.”

While he won’t be able to play, Spellman can attend home games. He cannot travel with the team, just like any player who takes a redshirt year. Both Wright and Spellman talked about turning the year away from the court into a positive, something the Wildcats have some experience with recent redshirts.

“We’ve got a good process in place," Wright said. "It worked well for Mikal Bridges. It worked well for Dante DiVincenzo this past year. Eric Paschall, I think everyone will see it. Again, we didn’t want to do it, but we do have a good process and Omari knows [because] the guys have told him that.

Perhaps most important for the freshman is that he still gets to be around the team while preparing for the future. After going through the grueling NCAA appeals process, his teammates were quick to pick him up after the ruling against him, including Paschall reiterating to him that the redshirt process would go quickly.

“I just think it’s amazing how close you become with people in a short period of time,” Spellman said. “Eric, I didn’t know him before I got here and me and him are so close [now]. I’m so close with Mikal, Josh [Hart], Kris [Jenkins], the other guys. They have just helped me so much to come to peace with it."

No. 14 Penn State's defense dominates Rutgers

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No. 14 Penn State's defense dominates Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Trace McSorley threw two touchdown passes to tight end Pat Freiermuth and No. 14 Penn State's defense set up two touchdowns with turnovers in a 20-7 victory over Rutgers on Saturday, sending the Scarlet Knights to their 10th straight loss.

McSorley's touchdown passes covered 6 yards in the second quarter and 18 in the fourth as the Nittany Lions (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten, No. 14 CFP) beat Rutgers (1-10, 0-7) for the 12th straight time. Jake Pinegar added field goals of 22 and 19 yards.

The win was No. 30 for McSorley as a starter, making him the winningest quarterback in school history. The senior had been tied with Todd Blackledge (1980-82) and Tony Sacca (1988-91). The two touchdowns increased his total - running and passing - to 101.

Raheem Blacksheer scored on a 2-yard fourth-quarter run for Rutgers to deny Penn State its first shutout in more than a season.

The dominant group for Penn State was its defense, which forced three turnovers, had four sacks and 11 tackles for losses and held Rutgers to 46 yards passing.

Safety Garrett Taylor intercepted a horrible pass by freshman Art Sitkowski late in the second quarter to give the Nittany Lions the ball at the Rutgers 28. Four plays later, McSorley (17 of 37 for 183 yards) found Freiermuth for a 10-3 lead with 2:04 left in the half.

Senior Gio Rescigno replaced Sitkowski (3 of 7 for 18 yards and two interceptions) after the bad decision on the screen pass Penn State read from the start.

A Daniel Joseph recovery of an Isaih Pacheco fumble at the Rutgers 46 late in the third quarter set up the second TD pass early in the fourth for a 20-0 lead.

The Scarlet Knights should have scored in the third quarter. After moving 82 yards on 14 running plays, they ran a fourth-down flea flicker from the 2-yard line and a wide-open Rescigno dropped a soft pass from Trey Sneed, who had lined up outside and took a toss from Blackshear.

The takeaway

This was not an impressive performance by the Nittany Lions, who were hoping to move into a position for a possible New Year's Day bowl game. The offense never got going and the only reason it was no contest was the Penn State defense.

The Scarlet Knights are now facing the prospect of their first one-win season since going 1-11 in Greg Schiano's second season, in 2002. Rutgers was 0-11 in 1997, so this isn't rock bottom. The 10-game losing streak is the longest since losing 11 in a row over the end of the 1998-99 season.

Up next

Penn State: Plays host to Maryland next Saturday and then waits for a bowl bid.

Rutgers: Finishes season at Michigan State next Saturday.

Villanova routed by Michigan in national championship rematch

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Villanova routed by Michigan in national championship rematch

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Charles Matthews set the tone with a slam and celebrated by flexing to the crowd.

Quickly, the rematch turned into a rout.

Matthews scored 19 points, Ignas Brazdeikis had 18 and No. 18 Michigan beat No. 8 Villanova 73-46 Wednesday night in their first meeting since last season's national championship game.

Villanova captured its second title in three years with a 79-62 victory over Michigan in April but was completely overmatched in the second game at its newly renovated Pavilion.

"I don't think when I'm out there," Matthews said, explaining his emotional reaction to a basket less than 90 seconds into the game. "It was a fun, exciting game. I got the dunk and I screamed."

Eric Paschall scored 10 points and Phil Booth had nine for the Wildcats (2-1).

The Wolverines (3-0) jumped ahead early and never let up. They led 10-2 less than five minutes in and expanded the lead to 22-8 on Matthews' jumper midway through the opening half. A 17-3 run followed, giving Michigan a 39-13 lead. Matthews' dunk and consecutive 3-pointers from Isaiah Livers and Jordan Poole highlighted the run.

Matthews capped the impressive first half with a steal and layup to send Michigan to the locker room with a 44-17 lead.

"I'm very impressed with Michigan," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Really like their team, great togetherness, great execution. It's my fault I'm running a lot of guys out there. We're not as organized as we want to be. We're trying to figure out a lineup early in the season. We didn't have the cohesiveness to play a good team like that."

Villanova's frustration was evident after Michigan's Zavier Simpson's flagrant foul led to a brief scuffle with Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree near midcourt with 13 minutes remaining and Michigan leading 52-24.

The Wildcats couldn't make any push in the second half, and fans hit the road early.

"They executed way better than we were prepared to play defense," Booth said.

Neither team looked like the two squads who met in San Antonio seven months ago.

Villanova lost four players who were drafted in the first 33 picks of the NBA draft. AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Omari Spellman is with the Atlanta Hawks. Mikal Bridges landed in Phoenix after a draft-night trade with the 76ers, and Donte DiVincenzo — who scored 31 points in the title game — is with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Michigan lost three of its top four scorers. Moe Wagner, the star big man, was drafted by the Lakers in the first round and is playing in Germany. Duncan Robinson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman graduated.

"They're a young team and they lost a lot of people," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "This is a November win. That's all it is. We have to learn from it, forget it and get ready for our next game."

Impressive freshman
Brazdeikis' teammates love his attitude and confidence on the floor.

"Iggy is like a mean pit bull," Simpson said.

The Finn
Bill Finneran, the Villanova alum who was the lead donor for the school's on-campus court that underwent a $65 million face-lift, was honored at halftime.

"The worst game you're going to see here," Finneran told the crowd.

Big picture
Michigan: Brazdeikis showed he can score against tough competition, performing well against top defender Paschall. Brazdeikis and Matthews give the Wolverines a formidable wing duo going forward.

Villanova: Showed its youth, giving Wright plenty of teaching points. The Wildcats relied on 3s the first two games, taking more shot attempts from beyond the arc than inside. They couldn't get them to fall from long range, going 3 for 15.

Up next
Michigan hosts George Washington on Saturday.

Villanova hosts Furman on Saturday.