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10 college players to watch across the Mid-Atlantic area in 2017-18

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USA Today Sports

10 college players to watch across the Mid-Atlantic area in 2017-18

Throughout the area, ranging from Delaware to southern Virginia, numerous teams have to deal with the loss of a star player this season. Of course this happens every year in college basketball and fortunately for teams like Maryland, VCU, George Mason other players are ready to fill in the void.

Other squads like Mount St. Mary’s, Morgan State, and Georgetown have players that are already the face of the program and ready to will their team to the NCAA Tournament in their final respective seasons.

Here are some of the best that are primed for incedible seasons in 2017-18.

SEE ALSO: PRESEASON DMV COLLEGE HOOPS POWER RANKINGS

Justin Jackson – Maryland Terrapins

Already there has been a load of expectations put on the 6-7 forward. Earlier this week Justin Jackson was placed on the Naismith Trophy watch list along with being recognized on the Julius Erving Small Forward watch list and the Big Ten preseason watch list. However, last season Jackson did not even make the Big Ten All-Rookie Team although it was not because he did not deserve it.

Last season he had Melo Trimble out in the back court, able to both effectively distribute the ball and draw attention away from his teammates. There will still be star players to help ease the load, like Anthony Cowan Jr. and Kevin Huerter, but Jackson is clearly the best player on the Terps roster heading into the year.

A year ago he created his own shot, was able to move in and out of the post with ease. He returns as the Terrapins top scorer (10.5 ppg) and rebounder (6.0 rpg). Maryland is hoping that will continue and that without Trimble he is able to get even more touches on the ball and build on his game one step further.

Justin Tillman – VCU

Replacing on of the most iconic VCU Rams in the history of the program is never an easy task. Forward Justin Tillman is going to have to fill for the absence of Mo Allie-Cox in the paint and continue to be the dominant player he was a year ago. The Rams will be competitive this season but losing three of your starters will likely set them back in the opening half of the season.

Tillman at 6-7 will be one to steer the ship early on, but for VCU fans none of this is new. In certain aspects, Tillman was actually better in the post than Allie-Cox in the smaller, more guard-oriented Atlantic 10. His rebounding numbers were double of Allie-Cox’s last season and he was more effective shooting the ball with a wider range.

Already selected as a Preseason Atlantic 10 First Teamer, Tillman will be a favorite for player of the year in a position he will likely dominate all season long.

Otis Livingston II – George Mason

Like many of the other players on this list, they will have to figure out how to play without one of their program’s best ahead of them. For Otis Livingston II at George Mason, that is no different having to follow up what Marquise Moore did last year for the Patriots.

Being the focal point is nothing new though for Livingston. As a freshman two years ago he was the starting point guard, he led the team in points, shots, and assists. With Moore’s break-out season, it appeared that Livingston had to adjust his game differently and didn’t quite succeed as he did the year prior.

Now a junior there is going to be a ton of weight on the 5-11 guard. With a depleted bench (only eight scholarship players), Livingston likely will have to be in for 35 min a night. The Patriots will ride or die with Livingston’s leadership. Mason cannot succeed when Livingston has an off-night, but that never seems to happen.

Anthony Cowan Jr. – Maryland

There are big shoes to fill for Cowan heading into his second year with the squad. With the absence of Trimble, Cowan’s play may be affected the most. In the backcourt the 6-0 Cowan was a great accent guard alongside Trimble averaging 10.3 points on 42 percent shooting. Cowan never had to be the go-to play maker or scorer to get his team going offensively. This season though both of those roles will fall squarely on him with some help from Jackson. On top of that he will now be guarded by the opposing team’s best guard defender.

None of this is to say that he cannot do it. The local guard is familiar with this role after playing for St. John’s College High School in the WCAC. He does have the ability to take over games; just this has not been seen at the college level yet.

Yuta Watanabe – George Washington

One of the wackiest looking guards you will ever see, the Colonials now have Yuta Watanabe as the face of their team. Standing at 6-9 but a mere 205 pounds, there is not much muscle mass for George Washington’s top returning scorer, rebounder, and defender. Always with a height advantage over his smaller opponents, he lead the team in blocks and steals, enough to put him on the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team last year.

While he lives in the midrange and outside the arc, inside the paint Watanabe is easily able to pick up contact. The lighter body gives him the benefit of the doubt whenever he is contested down low. Still he is able to finish and get the and-ones.

Without Tyler Cavanaugh who is now playing with the Atlanta Hawks, Watanabe is the tallest player for the Colonials.

Junior Robinson – Mount St. Mary’s

There is never enough to say about Junior Robinson. Last season Robinson led the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament after a 1-11 start to the season. First, he is only 5-5 and it is near impossible not to love a player that can ball out under six-foot. Additionally no matter who teams match-up against him, he cannot be stopped. He is quick, he is agile, and better yet he can shoot.

In the three seasons leading up to his senior year, he was been recognized by the Northeast Conference every year. Two Second Team selections and a Rookie Team selection has made him one of the best players in the Mount’s program history.  

Twelve freshmen on the Mountaineer’s roster means he will be the focal point yet again and it has already been noted that he cannot be stopped.

Jessie Govan – Georgetown

If there is one category that Georgetown would be good at in Patrick Ewing’s first year at the helm, one would assume it would be under the basket. Losing Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak will give Jessie Govan the thumbs up to command down low. A majority of the offense will likely go through him at 6-10 to just get points, especially against some of their non-conference opponents.

As a big-man, he is not a stranger to sending the ball back outside when he is doubled. For the Hoyas, that will likely be how they will move the ball. The team is definitely going to need more rebounds from him (only 4.9 per game last year) and for him to stay out of foul trouble. If he can do both, Georgetown’s season may not be a dud after all.

Phillip Carr – Morgan State

A year ago, Phillip Carr was a rebound away from averaging a double-double. He was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and made the First Team All-MEAC. Now he has another season under his belt and if he improved this off-season like he did last year, there is no question who the best player in the MEAC will be.

Traditionally the 6-9 Carr likes to play down low, but he does not limit his game. Last season he was 45 percent from behind the arc and led the regulars in every shooting category. For the Bears there should be one task for them this season, give Carr the ball. They play a decent non-conference schedule that will hopefully get him more regional attention. Even if he wasn’t playing in the MEAC, he would still be putting up these numbers.

Mike Morsell – Towson

The Towson Tigers believe that they can contend for the CAA Championship this year. If they do, they are going to rely on senior guard Mike Morsell to lead the charge. Throughout his time with the Tigers, Morsell has been a pass-first type of guard or take a pull-up three. As a coach that is typically what you want but in Morsell’s case sometimes he just needs to take over.

As a back-to-back All-CAA third-team selection, this should be the year that Morsell breaks out. A majority of his supporting cast from last year graduated and he accounts for over a fourth of the team’s returning offense. With the development of Deshaun Morman, he will be key if Morsell is able to take control this season. Morman has no issue playing in a secondary role and if he does it could be a big year for Towson.

Jarius Lyles – UMBC

Another local player from DeMatha is suiting up for his graduate season with the Golden Retrievers. Guard Jarius Lyles scored just under 19 points a game last season. This earned him America East Second-Team honors for the first time in his career. He accounts for over 14 shots a game and loves to play with or without the ball in his hand.

His quickness makes him nearly un-guardable and he is not afraid to crash the boards. Last season his shooting numbers ticked down slightly but with three fellow starters returning he should be in good shape.

This could be a banner year, not only for UMBC but for their conference as well. NCAA Tournament is not out of reach for his squad.

What you need to know about the unprecedented NCAA basketball rules changes

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USA TODAY Sports

What you need to know about the unprecedented NCAA basketball rules changes

On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA made a major announcement some twenty years in the making.

The NCAA announced plans to take major action to clean up and reorganize the college basketball recruiting and draft structure, on the platform of promoting integrity and strengthening accountability.

The unveiling of the action plan is in response to the suggestions made by the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on Basketball, a governing body of 14 educators, government officials and former administrators whose goal was to address and find solutions to the major fundamental issues plaguing college basketball. 

The recommendations the NCAA will implement is as follows (You can read the entire plan right here):

Recruiting and Draft Changes:

— College basketball players will be able to participate in the NBA Draft and return to school if undrafted, pending further action from the NBA and NBPA.

— Division I programs will be required to pay for tuition, fees, and books for men's and women's college basketball player who leave school and return to the same school to earn their degree.

— High school basketball recruits and college players tabbed as "Elite" by USA Basketball will be allowed agent representation if the agent is NCAA-certified.

— High school basketball recruits will be allowed to make more frequent campus visits paid for by the school. The visits will be allowed to take place at the start of the summer before their junior year.

— Four open days in April will be added to the Spring recruiting calendar.

— College coaches will be allowed to attend recruiting events during the last two weekends in June, pending approval from the National High School Federations.

— College coaches will also be allowed to attend an additional weekend event in July as well as the NBPA Top 100 camp in June. 

What does it mean?

Well for starters, the NCAA is only allowing high school seniors what have been deemed "elite" by USA Basketball will be allowed to hire agents. What about someone like R.J. Barrett, Duke-bound No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2018? Barrett is a native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and despite playing high school basketball for Montverde Academy in Florida, is not part of the USA Basketball program. Therefore, under the new NCAA rule, the top high school recruit would not be able to sign an agent because he does not participate with USA Basketball. 

The NCAA's implementations are a step in the right direction but still are yet to lack real substance. 

The high school players deemed "elite" enough to hire agents are unlikely to ever play in college, and the college players deemed "elite" enough to hire agents are historically unlikely to return to school. What this means is that the news of players being able to hire agents is more noise than signal.

Allowing undrafted players to return to school is an incredible change that is both pro-athlete and pro-education. But in only allowing that to players who attend the NBA Combine undercuts the rule change in totality. In most cases, players who attend the NBA Combine but go undrafted get an opportunity to participate in the NBA Summer League. 

In fact, if the rules were in place for the 2018 NBA Draft, only six of the players who went undrafted would be able to return to school: Arizona's Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, Duke's Trevon Duval, Kansas' Malik Newman, UNLV's Brandon McCoy, and former Louisville commit Brian Bowen. 

More window-dressing, less real change.

NCAA Enforcement Changes:

— Administrators charged with investigating and resolving NCAA cases can accept established information from courts of law, government agency, an accrediting body or university-authorized commissions. 

— Schools and the NCAA will be allowed to work together toward a resolution on matters, reducing legal fees and minimizing drawn-out disputes.

— The NCAA intends to impose stronger penalties, including longer postseason bans, longer head coach suspension and increased recruiting restrictions. 

— The NCAA will appoint two independent groups to oversee the investigation and resolution of cases defined as "complex." Multiple parties will be able to request that a case is deemed "complex."

— Athletic administrators, as well as school presidents and chancellor, will be contractually obligated to comply with any investigation into their program or athletic department.

What does it mean?

This biggest revelation is that the NCAA is opening itself up to working with outside agencies to establish information. In short, the NCAA will be able to use information gathered by an entity like the FBI for a case without having to do the investigating itself.

This is a major step in the right direction for the NCAA but also provides the governing body with great power.

In addition, the NCAA will force the school administrators to "commit contractually to full cooperation in the investigations and infractions process."

What this means is that the NCAA is attempting to implement the power of subpoena, by proxy. That is a major step toward the NCAA wielding great power in investigations and enforcement.

The Wednesday news has the potential to be an industry-changer, but there is a cadre of unresolved issues and questions that went unanswered.

If you were hoping the NCAA rectified its past mistakes and turned the model of amateur athletics on its head, you will have to keep the faith. 

Yes, the changes being implemented are good for the sport. But nothing the NCAA announced will eliminate the widespread college basketball issues exposed by the FBI investigation. 

Ohio State's Meyer put on leave, investigation opened

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Ohio State's Meyer put on leave, investigation opened

Urban Meyer's job appears to be in jeopardy.

Ohio State placed Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in college football history, on paid administrative leave Wednesday while it investigates claims that his wife knew about allegations of domestic violence against an assistant coach years before the staff member was fired last week.

Courtney Smith gave an interview to Stadium and provided text messages to former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy between her and Shelley Meyer in 2015 and with the wives of other Buckeyes coaches. Courtney Smith also provided threatening texts she said came from her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith.

"Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban," Courtney Smith told Stadium. "I said: `That's fine, you should tell Urban.'"

Zach Smith was fired last week after an Ohio court granted a domestic violence protective order to Courtney Smith.

Meyer is heading into his seventh season at Ohio State, where he is 73-8 with a national title in 2014 and two Big Ten Conference championships. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and is employed as an instructor at Ohio State. Both Meyer and his wife could be in violation of Ohio State's Title IX sexual misconduct policy on reporting allegations of domestic violence against university employees.

Violation of university's policy could result in Meyer being fired with cause by the university, according to provisions placed in his contract when it was extended by two years in April. The new deal runs through 2022 and increases Meyer's salary to $7.6 million in 2018, with annual six percent raises for the bulk of his compensation.

Hours after Courtney Smith's interview was posted online Wednesday, Ohio State announced in a short news release it was conducting an investigation into the allegations and Meyer was being placed on leave.

Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach for the Buckeyes, expected to be one of the top teams in the nation again this season. Ohio State's first preseason practice is scheduled for Friday. The season starts Sept. 1 with a game against Oregon State in Columbus, Ohio.

Meyer said in a statement he and athletic director Gene Smith agreed that his being on leave was best for the investigation.

"This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter." Meyer said.

Zach Smith was charged in May with misdemeanor criminal trespass. At the time of the charge, Zach Smith's attorney said Courtney Smith had accused him of driving to her apartment after she told him they would meet elsewhere so he could drop off their son. Zach Smith pleaded not guilty last month. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

Zach Smith was also accused of aggravated battery on his then-pregnant wife in 2009 while he was a graduate assistant on Meyer's staff at Florida. The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence. Urban Meyer brought Smith, the grandson of late Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, to Ohio State in 2012. Meyer worked for Bruce and considers him a mentor.

Two police reports filed in 2015 in Ohio's Powell County, after the Smiths separated in June of that year, accused Zach Smith of abuse. Charges were never filed.

At Big Ten media days, Meyer said he knew of the incident in 2009 and that he and Shelley Meyer addressed it with the Smiths. He was also asked about the 2015 incident alleged by Courtney Smith.

"I can't say it didn't happen because I wasn't there," he replied. "I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I've never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night. No, and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened and they came back and said they know nothing about it."

The Smiths divorced in 2016.

Meyer is on the short list of most accomplished coaches in college football history, with three national championships and an .851 winning percentage in 16 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State, the team he grew up rooting for in Northeast Ohio.

Meyer won national championships with Florida in 2006 and '08, but his teams also had more than two dozen players get into trouble with the law. He resigned twice at Florida, citing health reasons. First in 2009 season after the Gators lost the Southeastern Conference championship game while trying to repeat as national champs. He changed his mind soon after and coached another season. The Gators went 8-5 and this time he stepped down for good.

Meyer was out of coaching for a season, but was hired by Ohio State in November 2011 to replace Jim Tressel, who was fired before that season for lying to the NCAA and University of about rules violation committed by some of his players.

Since returning to coaching, Meyer's program has been one of the most dominant in college football and his players and coaches have mostly stayed out of major trouble.

Meyer did face some criticism in 2013 for allowing running back Carlos Hyde to return to the team after he was charged with striking a woman in a bar. The case was dropped by police when the woman chose not to pursue charges, but Hyde was suspended three games by Ohio State.