With football in full swing, that means only one thing — basketball season is almost here.
Head coaches and standout players from each Big Ten team will converge in Rosemont, Ill., for the conference’s media day on Thursday. And compared to a year ago, it will take place with a familiar topic creeping back up: corruption in college hoops.
Last year, the annual event was held shortly after bombshell news dropped about the FBI’s investigation into college basketball recruiting. While the dust still hasn’t settled from the probe, more and more information continues to be uncovered in federal court each day.
With that said, here are five story lines we’ll be monitoring at Big Ten media day.
A different court
The first federal trial for corrupt recruiting practices in college basketball got underway last week and three Big Ten schools' names have popped up so far: Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan.
Casey Donnelly, the attorney for former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, claimed Under Armour paid recruit Silvio De Sousa $20,000 to pick Maryland. Donnelly acknowledged Gatto provided a $20,000 payment to De Sousa to attend Adidas-sponsored school Kansas, which he did, only after Under Armour had paid the prized forward.
Michigan State, on the other hand, was mentioned in a better light. The Spartans were among five finalists for Saginaw native Brian Bowen, whose recruitment is at the center of the case. But Steve Haney, attorney for agent runner Christian Dawkins, said Michigan State was one of the only schools that wasn’t going to pay Bowen to secure his commitment.
Michigan's name surprisingly surfaced when Bowen's father testified Tuesday that former UM and NFL receiver Tai Streets gave him a $5,000 payment. Streets is the founder of Meanstreets, a successful AAU basketball program, and Brian Bowen Sr. alleged he was only paid for his son to play on Streets' amateur team. However, Streets could be considered a "representative of (Michigan's) athletics interests" based on the NCAA's broad definition of boosters. The primary problem is whether Streets is considered a booster to the athletic department and whether he was recruiting Bowen to attend Michigan, which Bowen Sr. indicated wasn't the case.
While more of college basketball’s dirty laundry continues to be aired out, it remains to be seen how this will impact Maryland, Michigan State and Michigan — if at all — and if any other Big Ten teams will get swept up in the mess.
Speaking of the FBI’s investigation, the NCAA made sweeping changes in August to college basketball’s bylaws, legislation and recruiting calendar in wake of the probe.
Among the biggest changes are permitting undrafted college players to return to school only if they were invited to the NBA Combine; allowing “elite” high school players and any college player to be represented by an agent; introducing more rigorous certification requirements for summer amateur basketball events; and the NCAA no longer has to do its own investigations into cases of rule breaking.
How much of an impact any of the new rules will make, though, is still up for debate. There is skepticism the alterations won’t do much to clean up the sport and the new recruiting rules will do nothing but hurt smaller schools and less-heralded prospects.
The NCAA adopted a new transfer procedure that gives student-athletes more flexibility and doesn’t require permission from the school or coach to transfer. The new policy, which goes into effect on Oct. 15, also prevents colleges from blocking which schools a student-athlete can have contact with.
Under the guidelines, once a student-athlete informs his or her coach of their desire to transfer, the school has two business days to enter the student-athlete’s name into a national database managed by the NCAA. Once the name in the transfer database, other programs and coaches are free to contact the student-athlete.
For some programs, the new rule won’t make much of a difference. But for those who are wary of losing players to other Big Ten teams, that door is wide open and out of their control.
The NCAA is using a new ranking system this season, replacing the rating percentage index — better known as RPI — with the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET for short.
NET will use more team performance data and rely on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capped at 10 points per game), net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses to be “as accurate as possible while also evaluating team performance fairly.”
While the exact formula for NET hasn’t been made public, the metric is likely to be a welcomed change from RPI, the primary sorting tool used since 1981 to determine the NCAA Tournament field — despite widespread criticism for being flawed and antiquated.
Redshirting in college basketball always has been a tricky proposition since a decision must be made before the season and can change in a moment’s notice, especially if there’s a rash of injuries.
College football overhauled its redshirt eligibility guidelines this season and the change has been lauded. Instead of a player losing a season of competition the second he steps on the field for a single play, he is allowed to participate in up to four games a season without him losing redshirt status.
Michigan coach John Beilein said he’d be in favor of adopting a similar model in basketball, whether that’s setting a limit on games played or setting a cutoff date where players can play until. And Beilein likely isn’t the only basketball coach who feels that way.