Your defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks play their first exhibition game tonight. Seems like some hoop thoughts are in order.
KU and the NCAA
The saga continues its glacial slide towards a resolution.
Wednesday KU announced that it was imposing various penalties, ranging from Bill Self and Kurtis Townsend being suspended for four games (reflecting an NCAA mandate for being found guilty of a Level 1 violation), to recruiting limitations, to reducing scholarships. A lot of people found it strange that KU did this on a Wednesday, the day before the first exhibition game, when any final verdict from the NCAA’s IARP group isn’t expected until after this season ends.
I think we figured out some of the explanation for the timing on Thursday, when the IARP’s ruling in the Louisville case was released. The minor penalties that UL received make KU’s self-imposed consequences seem pretty solid. KU’s statement said that the self-imposed penalties were implemented in consultation with the NCAA and IARP. Throw in the IARP’s statement that they believed that the Adidas agents were acting indecently and looking to promote the Adidas brand rather than the Louisville brand, and KU fans have to be letting out a massive sigh of relief.
Maybe I’ll be proven to be super, duper wrong, but I would expect when the IARP finally releases its final report on the KU investigation, there won’t be any additional, major punishment. It seems, based on their comments in their rulings on North Carolina State, Memphis, and Louisville that they believe the FBI and federal jury more than their NCAA bosses, and aren’t going to punish schools for being a part of a mess the NCAA helped to create.
Expanding the Tournament
I think the way this is being framed for the public is very interesting. While coaches from Power 5 schools have tread rather lightly around the subject – it seems like they are cautiously interested but don’t want to go too far out on a limb – we are hearing more strongly from mid-major coaches. They often use the word “opportunity” in their arguments for expanding the NCAA tournament beyond its current 68 teams.
Don’t fall for it.
The whole reason for this expansion is to protect Power 5 schools as their home conferences get bigger and bigger. Coaches and athletic directors are realizing that if they are playing in leagues filled with 16, 18, eventually 20 teams, it’s going to be harder to get a team that goes 8–12 in conference play into the tournament. Expanding the tournament is all about making sure the Big 10 and SEC can still get three-quarters of their teams into the Big Dance after they expand.
Ironically I think expanding the Power 5 conferences will open up more spots in the current tournament for Mid Majors, as those schools that go 25–3 but lose in their conference tournament will look a lot better compared to a crappy Penn State team that went 15–15 and got blasted in the Big 10.
Oh and it’s about money. It’s always about money.
I think I promised an NIL-focused post all summer. I wrote drafts at least four times, but each time I would sit down to go through it again, there had been some huge NIL development that rendered some of my words pointless.
So rather than break down the entire system I’ll share my over-arching thought about how NIL has affected college athletics.
That thought is this is exactly what the NCAA deserves. The organization stuck to the immoral argument that colleges are free to profit directly off the name and image likenesses of their players without giving over any of that cash to the actual athletes for decades. Michigan could make a bundle selling Chris Webber jerseys, but he could never see a dime of that because college athletics are “amateur” sports. Never mind that anyone who has been to an AAU tournament in the past 30 years knows that the players who fill most Power 5 basketball rosters haven’t been amateurs for years. UCLA could get a healthy portion of the payout from EA Sports for its players appearing in EA games, but Ed O’Bannon could not be compensated for his picture being on the cover of the game.
O’Bannon’s argument in his lawsuit against the NCAA was purely about these issues: if a school sells a jersey with a player’s number on it, that player should see some of the profits. If NCAA athletes names are used in a video game, they should get some of the money the developers paid to the NCAA/institutions.
If the NCAA had just caved on this point, even slightly, it would have saved itself two decades of legal expenses, attention from Congress, and the intervention of state legislatures. Instead, they dug in their heels until the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against them and state legislatures began enacting their own protections for athletes’ NIL rights, rights that varied from state-to-state.
The result is a system with zero oversight and, basically, zero rules. At least initially. Most schools have set up some kind of collective that funnels money to its players. Billionaire donors are shoveling out money just to get kids to sign with their alma maters.
This is not what NIL was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about kids getting a portion of jersey sales, a slice of the money video game developers paid out, and the right to appear in ads and make some money.
I honestly think we would have avoided the Wild West system we have now had the NCAA not been so ridiculously intransigent. Instead they are busy trying to cram the toothpaste back into the tube as their power weakens.
The NCAA’s days are numbered; it is an outdate, out-of-touch organization that has no interest of changing with the times. They have no one but themselves to blame either for their demise, or for the mess that NIL has become.
Actual KU Hoops
We’ll get a proper Jayhawk Talk post after they play some real games. I’m excited to see them play tonight. I imagine it will be less stressful than the last time I watched them play.
As always there are a lot of questions about the team. Can Gradey Dick live up to the hype and become a big-time contributor from day one? Can one of the freshmen bigs, or Zach Clemence, be effective inside on either end of the court? Can Jalen Wilson take his game to the next level? Can Kevin McCullar rediscover the shooting stroke that he lost after getting injured last year? McCullar and DaJuan Harris will make for an awesome defensive pair. Can the rest of the team match their level of play? Will there be enough outside shooting? What players will transfer out after this year?
I think the Jayhawks may look uglier than normal for the first two months of the season as they try to answer these, and other questions. I expect a lot of games in the low 60’s. There is plenty of upside and the biggest question is can all those little questions be answered in a way that raises the ceiling for this squad?
KU has a chance to be very good this year. They could also struggle to score all year and end up going only 20–10 or something. I don’t know if National Champions good is on the table. But not many thought that was possible last year, either, so you never know.