NCAA

What they're saying about George Mason

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What they're saying about George Mason

In this space over the coming days weeks and months ahead you can expect to find all kinds of George Mason men's basketball features, blog posts and analysis from yours truly and others in the CSNwashington world. I'm personally looking forward to chatting up head coach Paul Hewitt at next week's Colonial Athletic Association media day (fingers crossed for some good grub and SWAG while we're at it), getting his take on subjects including:

The new season and Mason's challenging non-conference schedule.

The state of the CAA in light of various defections and potential additions.

Replacing frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison.

What we can expect from rising stars Sherrod Wright and Erik Copes along with new players added to the roster.

Until then, thought I'd give you a little flavor of what others from the college basketball world are saying about the Patriots...

Predicted order of finish in the CAA, Part 1...from Brian Mull of the Wilmington (N.C.) Star News, beat writer covering UNC-Wilmington and one of the most plugged in CAA beat writers around. After preseason favorite Drexel come the Patriots...
"2. George Mason Most forecasters will put Delaware on this line. And on paper, the Blue Hens have fewer questions and more answers. But I envision a breakout season for Sherrod Wright in the backcourt and either Jon Arledge or Erik Copes (perhaps both) in the lane."
Predicted order of finish in the CAA, Part 2...from the in-depth college basketball blog Rush the Court, which places Mason behind Drexel and Delaware...
"Development is the key word for Paul Hewitt. Eric Copes proved to be a defensive force on the backline, displaying athleticism and strength uncommon in CAA freshmen. He swatted 51 shots in just 405 minutes. However, Copes was a liability on offensenot uncommon. Jon Arledge showed he belongs on the offensive end, but allowed himself to be pushed around with regularity. If Copes is able to master a couple basic offensive moves or Arledge beefs up the toughness, George Mason becomes a very dangerous team. Whats more, Hewitts backcourt showed promise, but was also very sloppy at times. While Bryon Allen (123 assists, 89 turnovers) and Vaughan Gray played well, they were overwhelmed and committed too many turnovers. They will need to settle down. Hewitt does have the luxury of two gunnersVertrail Vaughans and Sherrod Wright can take over games offensively, but both disappeared at times last season. It seems like Mason has all the chess pieces, so developing the mode of play is critical."
Erik Copes, potential difference-maker...so says SI.com's D.C. based college basketball writer Rob Dauster, who included the defensive presence among his favorite players that could not only star, but fill holes for their respective teams this season...
"Erik Copes, George Mason: The Patriots are coming off of a 24-9 season that saw them finish third in the Colonial while riding the coattails of Player of the Year Ryan Pearson. But with Pearson, and his frontcourt counterpart Mike Morrison, graduating, Mason's strength will shift to the backcourt, where a handful of young and talented players return. The frontcourt will now feature seldom-used reserves Jonathan Arledge, Johnny Williams and Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji, but the guy that Paul Hewitt will be counting on to anchor his lineup will be sophomore Erik Copes. Copes was a top 75 recruit who followed his uncle, Roland Houston, to Mason. And while he had a decent freshman season -- he averaged 3.3 points, 3.7 boards and an astounding 1.9 blocks in just 15 minutes -- Copes was banged up for much of the year. If he's healthy next season, the Patriots will be looking to him not only to protect the paint at the defensive end of the floor, but to become an offensive weapon on the interior to help keep defenses honest."
How will George Mason replace their frontcourt...is a question posed and answered by national college basketball writer Jon Rothstein.
"By committee. Ryan Pearson was an easy guy to throw the ball to when you needed a basket and Paul Hewitt regularly said that Mike Morrison was an exceptionally intelligent player, but the Patriots have the pieces to replace their departed front court. Both Erik Copes and Jonathan Arledge appear primed for breakout seasons and Johnny Williams, who red shirted last season is down 27 pounds and ready to make a contribution. The real sleeper for George Mason is Marko Gujanicic, a 6-9 skilled face up forward who could play a big role as a freshman thanks to his versatility."
Paradise Jam 411...from SI.com's Andy Glockner, one of my favorite college basketball writers around and a must follow on Twitter. Glockner previewed the pre-Thanksgiving event among the early tournaments on the college hoops calendar to watch.
"Overview: Huh? Another seemingly lopsided bracket that has the event's two best teams -- George Mason and New Mexico -- in the same side, meaning a potential semifinal matchup. Whoever wins that matchup, should it occur, should be favored to handle anyone coming out of the bottom."
"Matchup to watch: Mercer-George Mason. With Mason maybe having one eye on the Lobos, could the Bears spring an opening-round surprise? They bring back most of the talent from last season's squad that won the postseason CIT tournament, winning at Old Dominion, Fairfield and Utah State to do so. This is a dangerous game for Mason to overlook."

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.