Posts Tagged ‘NCAA tournament’

They played college basketball’s national championship game on Monday night and it was a foul-fueled disaster.

Referees Mike Eades, Verne Harris and Michael Stephens apparently thought we tuned in to watch them blow their whistles.

The trio of officials prevented either team from developing a flow in the second half before North Carolina played better down the stretch to register a 71-65 victory over Gonzaga.

The championship is the sixth in Tar Heels’ history and the school will certainly cherish it after losing to Villanova in last season’s title game.

But nobody is going to remember this game as a classic, primarily with the referees calling 44 fouls.

Gonzaga’s chances of winning were diminished when freshman 7-footer Zach Collins was saddled with his fourth foul and eventually fouled out. Losing Collins was a blow with center Przemek Karnowski going 1-of-8 from the field and missing close-range shots like that tall awkward fourth grader in the elementary school league.

However, the Zags also sabotaged their own chances with 14 turnovers while North Carolina committed just four. Gonzaga simply didn’t do enough to win, shot just 33.9 percent from the field and unraveled in the final 90 seconds.

The Tar Heels also had trouble dropping the ball in the ocean as they shot just 35.6 percent from the field and went 4-of-27 from 3-point range.

North Carolina guard Joel Berry II scored 22 points and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He was just 9-of-33 shooting in the Final Four, which should give you a pretty good idea about the lack of quality performances in Monday’s title game.

Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson missed all nine of his 3-point attempts while scoring 16 points on Monday.

Gonzaga was in the NCAA Tournament title game for the first time ever and its season finale will prompt mixed memories down the line. But make no mistake, a 37-2 campaign is a terrific accomplishment.

Bulldogs coach Mark Few got the Final Four monkey off his back and recently passed 500 career wins. He’ll eventually make the Hall of Fame.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams is already in the Hall of Fame. Amazingly, he was won more national titles (three) at North Carolina than legendary Dean Smith (two).

Who knows — maybe the result would have been different if the refs had not taken over and gone whistle crazy.

Then again, probably not, the officials were just as poor for North Carolina.

The Tar Heels (33-7) finished the game better than the Zags and deserved their title. But none of us will remember the 2017 title game fondly.


Somehow it is already time for the NCAA Tournament championship game. Seems like the season just started.

Time flies way too quick these days but I won’t spend too much time dwelling about that as I do know why you are here.

You haven’t forgotten that it was me who nearly hit the final score of last year’s game on the head.

While the so-called experts were all falling over themselves to pick North Carolina, I not only selected Villanova as the winner but I almost nailed the final score on the head.

The final score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 74. My predicted score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 73.

Here is the proof:

Not easy to predict a college basketball score, let alone nearly hit both ends of the NCAA title game.

Perhaps it is those 16 years as an award-winning college basketball beat writer helping in a cause like that. Perhaps it is just nothing but blind luck.

That said, the big tilt between Gonzaga and North Carolina is just hours away. I wrote the national preview on Sunday and I came up with the winner and final score you have been waiting to see.

So did I pick the veteran North Carolina team that has several players back from the team that lost in last season’s title game? Or did I pick all the Gonzaga transfers who have their school in the national title game for the first time?

Either way, I think it will be a terrific game … I think it will be close down to the final minutes … may even come down to another dose of late-game heroics (don’t forget Kris Jenkins’ game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last season) … I can see the postgame scene in my head and I have decided upon the winner and the final score.

You can find it here …

Pretty sure I will hit it exactly this time.

Weekly links out of hibernation …


Has it really been 29 years ago since Danny Manning led Kansas to the 1988 national title?

The Jayhawks are usually a high-seeded team that underperforms in March Madness. Think of all that tradition and the high number of great players and then ponder that the school has won just three national championships.

But Kansas was a major overachiever the year “Danny and the Miracles” won the national title. The Jayhawks were a No. 6 seed and weren’t even ranked in the final regular-season Top 25 poll.

The team that was 20-10 entering the NCAA Tournament crashed the Final Four. While everybody else pondered whether Arizona, Duke or Oklahoma would win the title, Manning carried Kansas to the crown. First the Jayhawks beat Duke in the Final Four and then they outlasted Oklahoma in the national championship game.

This famous occurrence is on my mind after writing the Wake Forest-Kansas State preview for Tuesday’s First Four game in Dayton.

Manning is Wake Forest’s coach and he has a long history with Kansas State. And it wasn’t always so memorable. Especially when you close your eyes and imagine this visual:

“One of my first games at K-State, that’s a very heated rivalry, they were throwing live chickens at us,” Manning said on Sunday. “I remember going in there and ducking some live chickens, also some not-so-live ones out of a KFC bucket or whatever.”

Yikes … live chickens landing on the court? … how about people bringing their buckets of chicken and slinging thighs and wings at Manning and his teammates?

That sure doesn’t happen in today’s college basketball world. And you know, I kind of miss the 80s era of college basketball.

Here is the stellar preview —


One thing about March Madness is you learn some things you otherwise wouldn’t.

Like where the heck is Mount St. Mary’s? How would they match up with big-time schools?

Or the Pelicans aren’t the only basketball team from New Orleans? We got some Privateers crashing the big dance.

Mount St. Mary’s and New Orleans play each other in Tuesday’s First Four and there is no other time that any of us would even care if they played one another.

The winner gets to move on to Buffalo, where it gets to be trampled by defending-champion Villanova. But regardless, the winner gets to brag that it won an NCAA Tournament game. It will be the second in school history for the winner.

Mount St. Mary’s is located in Emmittsburg, Md. I’m not saying it is a town in the boonies (well, yeah I am) but it is closer to Gettysburg, Pa., than any town in Maryland you’ve heard of. Surely, they talk Civil War more than hoops.

As for the big boys, Mount St. Mary’s started 1-11 this season against a slate that included NCAA Tournament teams West Virginia, Iowa State, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas and Bucknell.

New Orleans recorded a road win at Washington State and the fact that the school is in the NCAA tourney is a stunner to the locals, who barely pay attention to the school’s team.

But that’s OK because both the city and university were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and both have recovered. There were no expectations of the Privateers being part of the NCAA field because they went 10-20 last season. So nice turnaround indeed.

Here is the stellar preview —

You can see why San Diego State looked so befuddled while being outplayed and outworked by America’s newest favorite college basketball team.

This is how Aztecs coach Steve Fisher began his postgame press conference after being throttled by Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.

“Florida State is a very, very good basketball team,” Fisher said.

If the head coach can’t get the name of the opponent right after being whipped soundly, then you can see why the other team looked a million times more prepared for the contest than his own group of kids.

Those dumbfounded expressions on Fisher’s face were probably due to the fact he was having trouble figuring out why Florida State was wearing blue.

None of us may have known anything about Florida Gulf Coast prior to the school’s rout of Georgetown on Friday but there was one thing very much clear on Sunday when the Eagles posted an 81-71 victory over the Aztecs.

Florida Gulf Coast is a better basketball team than San Diego State.

The Eagles are heading to the Sweet 16 to play in-state bully Florida and the Aztecs are headed back home to watch the most famous team in the nation play on television.

This was anybody’s game with 10 minutes to play – the time when an upstart group like Florida Gulf Coast is supposed to wilt against a team from a superior league.

It surely isn’t the time somebody named Andy Enfield outcoaches Steve Fisher. Or that a school from a one-bid league conducts a dunk-a-thon and exposes the Aztecs as pretenders.

But check that – where is the proof that the Mountain West is a superior league? Once again, the conference folded up like an accordion when March Madness arrived.

The league was the best it has ever been in its history and got five teams into the NCAA tournament. Not a single one is left. Again.

The conference regularly underachieves this time of year – no Mountain West team has ever advanced past the Sweet 16 – and this season’s atrocious postseason performance will certainly be remembered next season by the college basketball experts and pundits.

You may have heard about New Mexico’s Steve Alford throwing a tantrum over only one Mountain West team being nationally ranked in late February. Alford was right – one was an inaccurate number.

Should have been none based on his team’s postseason showing.

The third-seeded Lobos once again were a complete failure in the NCAA tournament. One-and-done and falling to Harvard, an Ivy League school that had never before won an NCAA tournament game.

Nevada-Las Vegas was also one-and-done as a fifth seed. No. 13 seed Boise State lost in the First Four. Eighth-seeded Colorado State won one game before being trampled by Louisville.

That left the Aztecs with the opportunity they would have begged for prior to the tournament – Georgetown losing to Florida Gulf Coast to make San Diego State’s path much, much easier.

But if you know your Aztecs’ sports history, you know not to be surprised.

This is the program in which Brandon Heath dribbled the ball off his own calf and turned the ball over to set up Indiana for its game-winning shot in the 2006 NCAA tournament.

The school’s football program once had a four-touchdown lead late in the third quarter against Brigham Young with a Holiday Bowl bid on the line – and the game ended in a tie, sending BYU to the bowl. This collapse came despite Marshall Faulk being on the roster.

Marshall Faulk!

The basketball team’s victory over Oklahoma in the round of 64 was just the third NCAA tournament win in school history so you can see why Sunday’s debacle is another missed opportunity.

A school like San Diego State only gets so many chances to make an impact on the national stage. And the Aztecs excel at missing them.

And here is what will happen next – San Diego State fans will now root for Florida Gulf Coast to be smashed, mauled and beaten to shreds by Florida.

Sadly, they won’t be able to enjoy what a terrific story the Eagles are. Or cheer for Sherwood Brown and company to record another huge upset. Nope, that’s just not the San Diego State way.

Meanwhile, we know what Steve Fisher will be doing – preparing for Florida State.

Or trying to figure out who those guys are in the blue uniforms playing against Florida.

There has been a lot of chatter and interest in Florida Gulf Coast over the last 24 hours since the school became the latest Cinderella story with its shocking NCAA tournament upset of Georgetown on Friday.

The curiosity questions make sense: What the heck is Florida Gulf Coast? Where did these guys come from? Where is the school located?

The second I learned the 15th-seeded squad was from Fort Myers, Florida on Friday night, my thoughts drifted to the irony it would be if San Diego State were to become the Eagles’ opponent in the round of 32.

A few hours later, the Aztecs had ousted Oklahoma to officially set up the Steve Fisher vs. Fort Myers showdown.

It surely will be a friendly showdown but not known to most of the country – until now – is that Fisher has had a residence in Fort Myers for 23 years.

There are probably people wondering why Fisher needs oceanfront property on the Florida coast when he has a home on the California coast off the shores of picturesque Del Mar.

I first learned about the Fort Myers property when I covered San Diego State’s basketball program and I once had to wait longer than usual to get a return phone call from Fisher one summer day. When he called back, he mentioned he was in Fort Myers because there had recently been a hurricane and he had traveled to Florida to check on his property.

Before Fisher took the San Diego State job in 1999, he had spent way too many years of his life living in the Midwest – you know, where it gets icy cold a lot and brutally humid at other times – and had purchased property in Fort Myers as a place to vacation and enjoy the better climate.

So kind of funny to see Florida Gulf Coast enjoying its well-deserved place in the spotlight and having Fisher be one of the few coaches well-versed in the growth of the program and the area.

“I probably knew more than any coach in America because I’ve got a condo that I’ve had from my days in the Midwest in Fort Myers Beach, a stone’s throw from Florida Gulf Coast,” Fisher said during Saturday’s press conference. “I read all about them starting sports. I went over to the campus. I’ve been on the campus. I’ve toured it.”

Fisher later shed light that he had a discussion with the school’s former athletic director between the time he was fired at Michigan and hired at San Diego State. He said it was just a conversation and that he wasn’t offered a job.

That was during the time period when Fisher’s reputation was curb-high after the scandal at Michigan and few schools would even consider hiring him. He said the program was transitioning to Division II at the time.

Now of course, the Eagles are finishing their second season at the Division I level and currently are the answer to this trivia question: Which school has the best winning percentage in NCAA tournament history?

At 1-0, Florida Gulf Coast is the answer.

The biggest question per Sunday’s game is what kind of effort the Eagles will bring. The victory over Georgetown will be permanently remembered as one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history and the players celebrated accordingly.

Meanwhile, we learned Florida Gulf Coast opened in 1997 and that coach Andy Enfield has a supermodel wife who used to appear on the cover of major magazines. We wondered how star guard Sherwood Brown could have ever landed at Florida Gulf Coast, reminding us once again that recruiting gurus are more dart throwers than experts. We marveled over the amazing alley-oop dunk heard around the world in which a driving Brett Comer somehow flicked the ball up in perfect position to Chase Fieler for the show-stopping dunk despite two Georgetown defenders shadowing him.

Sunday we learn whether the Eagles have a second terrific performance in them as they battle the Aztecs for a Sweet 16 berth. As I’m sure everyone knows, a 15 seed has never reached the Sweet 16.

The task of getting prepared for another NCAA tournament game in short order is tough for established programs that regularly participate in March Madness. It will be even tougher for Florida Gulf Coast as it deals with unprecedented national attention and the eventual realization there is another game to play.

But after that epic performance against the Hoyas, who is to say Florida Gulf Coast can’t pull off another shocking victory? There are absolutely zero expectations and zero pressure on the Eagles.

“Honestly I would prefer to be in the position we are,” forward Eddie Murray said at Saturday’s press conference. “The group of guys we have here, there’s really no pressure on us. Everything we do from here on out, nothing is really expected of us, but we expect it of ourselves.

“All the pressure is on the teams we’re going to be playing from here on out, so I really like the position we’re in.”

And why not? Nobody anywhere had ever previously heard of any these guys or the university known as Florida Gulf Coast.

Well, except for Steve Fisher.

The NCAA tournament kicks into high gear Thursday when the round of 64 begins and it’s clear the conference under the most pressure is the Mountain West.

The league nabbed the top ranking in the nation in terms of RPI – the longstanding metric that conferences and schools point to as the barometer of strength – and now needs to back it up with a stellar stretch during March Madness.

That’s where things get dicey – because the Mountain West doesn’t roar like a lion in March and has become known for going out like a lamb.

The conference has never had a team reach the Elite Eight since being formed in 1999. In an era where George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have reached the Final Four, the Sweet 16 is the ceiling for a conference that regularly whines about not getting the same level of respect as the major conferences.

Well, if you want that type of national respect, start winning games in March like the big boy leagues do. And advance deep like some of the aforementioned schools from lesser leagues.

This established pattern of underachieving and flopping on the national stage is why the Mountain West is looked down on nationally.

This time around, the conference put a league-record five teams into the tournament and league champion New Mexico landed a No. 3 seed. Three other schools – Nevada-Las Vegas with a 5, San Diego State with a 7 and Colorado State with an 8 – are higher seeds than their first-game opponents so excuses over the draw won’t fly.

Boise State also got in as a 13 seed and lost to hot-shooting La Salle in Wednesday’s First Four matchup. But the league’s success this March doesn’t hinge on anything involving the Broncos, who overachieved just by making the field after being picked to finish eighth in the nine-team league.

Most of the pressure falls on New Mexico – the best team in the conference – and it is past due for the Lobos to do something in March.

Anything short of the Sweet 16 this time around will rate as a huge disappointment for New Mexico, which would face Arizona in its second game if both teams win their openers.

UNLV has a favorable draw with California in its first game and perhaps a fragile Syracuse squad in its second. The Rebels made the Sweet 16 in 2007 but have lost their first game each of the past three tournaments. UNLV simply can’t afford to go one-and-done for a fourth straight year.

San Diego State has a lot of explaining to do if it can’t beat an Oklahoma squad that is still rebuilding in its first game. The Aztecs would have a possible second game against No. 2 Georgetown so winning two games might not be feasible.

On the other hand, San Diego State has won just two NCAA games in its history – both coming in 2011 when it advanced to the Sweet 16 – so it is past time for the Aztecs to step up and beat somebody better than them.

Colorado State has a senior-laden squad that should be primed to beat up-and-down Missouri in its opener. But the Rams could easily go one-and-done and haven’t won a single NCAA tournament game since 1989.

If Sunday night arrives with zero Mountain West teams left in the field, the critics who slight the league around the country will have a field day.

And you know what? It will be well-deserved.

Because the Mountain West era of being wilting willows in the Big Dance needs to end. Like now.

I don’t believe there should be any doubt that five of the nine Mountain West squads are headed to the NCAA tournament.

Boise State deserves to join New Mexico, Colorado State, Nevada-Las Vegas and San Diego State in “March Madness” after downing the Aztecs 69-65 on Saturday.

The Broncos – picked to finish eighth in the tough basketball conference – have the same overall record (21-9) and league mark (9-7) as San Diego State. The Aztecs were predicted to rule the league – or at least share ruler duties with UNLV – prior to the season.

Boise State having the same record as San Diego State in basketball is on par with the Aztecs beating the Broncos in football. Which, um, surprisingly also happened this past season.

Boise State never trailed while defeating the Aztecs and held off a late San Diego State charge. The Aztecs are a poor outside shooting team and a 3-of-16 performance from 3-point range helped San Diego State suffer its fifth straight road loss.

Remember all the hype about how this San Diego State squad would be on par with or better than the “Sweet 16” squad of two years ago?

That sure hasn’t happened and the road failures – the Aztecs went 2-6 away from home in a league filled with tough road venues – indicate a squad more likely to be one-and-done in the NCAA tournament than one about to go on a deep run.

The Mountain West tournament will be a crucial test to see if San Diego State can gain some momentum prior to the NCAA tournament. Funny, the Aztecs will open it with a rematch against Boise State on Wednesday.

The Aztecs have solid talent in Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and now-healthy point guard Xavier Thames but don’t seem to have the same type of chemistry and cohesiveness of recent San Diego State squads.

I notice the Aztecs fell to 2-4 in games decided by four or fewer points this season. They went 8-3 in such games last season. That’s not a good trend and is as good an indicator of any for why San Diego State isn’t listed among the nationally ranked teams.

It is time for coach Steve Fisher to find the right buttons to push as this season is set up to be recalled as an underachieving one unless the Aztecs quickly heat up.

That’s not a problem per Boise State, which is ahead of schedule with standout sophomores Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks leading the way. The Broncos have overachieved and could put a scare in their first-round NCAA tournament opponent, depending on the matchup.

Yes, I am counting Boise State as being part of the big dance. The Broncos went 2-1 in a three-game run to end the regular season, a stretch that included games against Colorado State (a home win) and UNLV (a road loss) prior to facing the Aztecs.

Boise State knew its postseason fate was on the line and the Broncos came through, which is why I believe they wrapped up an NCAA tournament bid with Saturday’s victory.

The biggest problem for Boise State might occur later this month and that would be keeping coach Leon Rice in the fold.

It’s possible that two Pac-12 teams located in the Pacific Northwest – Washington State and Oregon State – might be interested in Rice, a stellar coach with deep ties in the region.

That’s the type of thing that happens when a typically unsuccessful program finds itself as part of March Madness.

And that is exactly where Boise State is headed after Saturday’s victory over the Aztecs. Count on it.

Time for a few preliminary March Madness thoughts as the real first round of the NCAA tournament kicks off Thursday:

My bracket

It took me in an interesting direction. I asked it to “show me” the way but I didn’t expect that would lead me to Missouri as the national champion. I may regret that move big-time or I might look like a genius. Hopefully my old bracket magic will reappear this year.

Upset watch

In the West regional, don’t be surprised if Long Beach State and Davidson are meeting for a spot in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The 49ers are battle-tested and New Mexico has a baffling ability to take a step back right after it looks like world-beaters. Davidson beat Kansas earlier this season so it definitely can beat Rick Pitino and Louisville. Belmont over Georgetown and Harvard over Vanderbilt are other decent possibilities.

My alma mater

San Diego State never won any NCAA tournament games until winning two games and reaching the Sweet 16 last season. It looks like the Aztecs could be right back in one-and-done land. San Diego State is the higher seed (sixth) against North Carolina State (11th) but there are some mismatch issues. If you are familiar with San Diego State’s basketball history, you know it feels really odd that the Aztecs are the higher-seeded squad in a NCAA tournament matchup with an Atlantic Coast Conference team.

Jamaal Franklin’s finger

The Mountain West Conference Player of the Year needs to keep his middle finger in check if he doesn’t like the call of a referee. The spin control the following day once it was known that video captured the moment was silly, especially since courtside observers tell a much different tale than what Franklin was trying to sell. The San Diego State star needs to keep his composure – remember the Kemba Walker incident from last March? – and just play the game.

Where’s Butler?

Studied the bracket over and over and couldn’t find Butler anywhere. Hard to tell if there is another mid-major who can make a Final Four run. Last year there were two as Butler advanced to the title game for the second straight season and Virginia Commonwealth also reached the Final Four. Wichita State would appear to be a team that could make a deep run but the Shockers would likely have to get past Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Kentucky factor

Love all these analysts that make it sound like a done deal per Kentucky winning the national championship. These are college-aged kids with lots of pressure on them, not seasoned professionals that easily shut out all distractions. Remember, the Kentucky powerhouse team with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson of two years ago didn’t even reach the Final Four. I have these Wildcats reaching the Final Four and then succumbing to Missouri. (Oh yeah, that’s how this Missouri winning the national title thing came into play).


Hopefully “The Summomer” makes more appearances than “Wego” the Dog. Hearing commercials over and over all day can grate on the ears but any company that actually uses the word “summoner” in its top phone commercial beats hearing “Here We Go” all weekend long. As for the games on TruTV, it’s only a matter of time before somebody messes up the “Hardcare Pawn” promo.

Bracket history

Will keep you updated on the ups and downs of my bracket, especially if it becomes drowning in red ink. I’ve won too many March Madness pools to count but can easily recall winning five different newspaper pools – three at one newspaper and two at another. Actually, one of them was a co-shared title as a Maryland graduate was able to share the 2002 bracket winnings with me because, um, Maryland won the title and he was a homer. The other thing that I recall from that year is I bought the desk crew pizza with my winnings and the Maryland grad just pocketed his cash.

Idle thought

Do people really do CBI pools?

I kept hearing over recent weeks that Kawhi Leonard’s draft stock has been dropping.

Wasn’t a total surprise to hear such stuff. Despite all the positive attributes to his game, the San Diego State standout doesn’t have the outside shot that most 6-foot-7 NBA players have and he didn’t elevate his game to a higher level during the program’s rare visit to the NCAA tournament.

When Leonard declared for the draft, he was seen as a player who would be selected between the 15th to 20th picks and he was hoping to move into the Top 10 through his workout performances.

The NBA draft is about to commence and I spent the hour before it reading everything I can find about Leonard. I see stuff that he might go as high as the sixth overall pick and there are several mock drafts that have him in the Top 10.

So where is this stuff about his stock dropping coming from?

Going from a mid-first round projection to a Top 10 selection is not a downward spiral.

Regardless, Leonard will be San Diego State’s initial first-round pick since school legend Michael Cage in 1984 and the first Aztecs player to hear his name in the draft since Randy Holcomb went late in the second round in 2002.

His rebounding prowess alone – he had 23 double-doubles last season – will assure Leonard will be a solid NBA contributor. The guess is figuring out how much he can help a team early in his career and then seeing if his scoring abilities improve as he further develops his game.

In a perfect situation, Leonard would have remained in school one more season. He turns 20 early next week and he would have been a preseason All-American if he had returned for the 2011-12 campaign.

He helped the Aztecs to a school-best 34-3 record and the first two NCAA victories in program history so his place in school history is secure. Cage is easily the school’s best-ever player and Leonard is right there in the discussion for second-best despite only playing two seasons at the school.

But this is a weak draft so it made sense that Leonard waved good-bye to text books and hello to large paychecks.

The draft will start soon and it will be interesting to see which team selects Leonard, a player of great promise who works hard and should be a good citizen.

Some other draft thoughts:

–The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first and fourth overall picks in the draft and the scuttlebutt is that the franchise will pick point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke with the top pick. Irving played just 11 college games. If I were running the Cavs, I would take Arizona forward Derrick Williams with the first pick and then take Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight with the fourth pick.

–The biggest area of intrigue is whether the Utah Jazz will take BYU star Jimmer Fredette with the 12th overall selection. The franchise is under a lot of local pressure to do so and can you imagine the uproar if the Jazz pass on Fredette and he becomes a big star elsewhere? The other concern is what if you pick him and his defense isn’t up to par and he becomes a major bust?

–What is Butler star Shelvin Mack doing in this draft? He could have been one of the biggest and brightest stars in college basketball next season and he’s rated nothing better than a second-round pick. With a lockout rating as a possibility, there are several players like Mack that made major mistakes in entering the draft.

Mid-April is supposed to be a quiet time for basketball in San Diego. Focus is typically on the beginning of the San Diego Padres’ season and what the San Diego Chargers might do in the upcoming NFL draft.

Since there isn’t an NBA team in San Diego, there’s usually no reason to be talking hoops.

But this week has been different, particularly since the departure of San Diego State star Kawhi Leonard to the NBA draft is only the second biggest basketball story in town.

Leonard’s decision to apply for the draft after his sophomore season might cause some angst for die-hard Aztecs’ fans, but it’s nothing like the turmoil and tension permeating the University of San Diego campus after the FBI unearthed an alleged point-shaving scandal at the school.

There isn’t anything that rattles the core of an athletic department more than allegations of fixing games and USD is certainly one of the more unlikely places you would expect to be associated with such activity.

The Toreros are the secondary college basketball program in the county and typically draw crowds that don’t even fill half of 5,100-seat Jenny Craig Pavilion, a facility often referred to as “The Slim Gym” per the association with the well-known weight-loss entrepreneur.

Other than the week in March 2008 when the Toreros upset Connecticut for the first NCAA tournament victory in school history, there’s not a lot of discussion about USD basketball in San Diego County.

It certainly is different this week with one of the stars of the 2007-08 squad being among the 10 people identified by the FBI as part of the scandal. All-time leading scorer Brandon Johnson is one of two former USD players involved – the other is Justin Dowdy – and head coach Bill Grier expressed during a Friday news conference that he would be “deeply disappointed and feel betrayed” if the allegations are true.

Former assistant coach T.J. Brown also was allegedly involved in the scheme. He was on the staff of former coach Brad Holland in the 2006-07 season. Grier replaced Holland when that season concluded.

USD is a private university and usually cites the privacy act when there’s even a minor dose of controversy swirling. But this type of allegation requires some public comments, particularly when people nationwide will think of the bribery scandal first, second and third whenever the Toreros are mentioned in the near future.

University president Mary Lyons and athletic director Ky Snyder both expressed shock that something like that could happen at the cozy Catholic university.

Snyder hit the nail on the head with one of his remarks.

“Other than a tragedy happening to a student-athlete, there is nothing worse that can happen in collegiate athletics than point shaving,” Snyder said. “In sports, there is nothing worse than losing the integrity of the game. It calls into question all who are involved – was it real or was it not?”

It certainly is real that USD is dealing with something pretty serious. And the attention that comes along with the case will keep the Toreros in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Perhaps you saw the faces of Lyons and Snyder repeatedly on ESPN on Friday. Kind of stunning to see the USD president – few people in San Diego could have told you what color Lyons’ hair was prior to this week – and athletic director on the nation’s most influential sports channel.

The two got more air time nationally than Kawhi Leonard did Thursday when he decided to enter the NBA draft. That piece of news also was a bit more expected with Leonard drawing the interest of every NBA team while earning second-team All-American honors during San Diego State’s school-record 34-3 season.

Leonard will be the first Aztecs player to be drafted in the first round since Michael Cage in 1984 so it’s hard to question his decision. It would have been nice to see him return as the star attraction of next season’s team – the Aztecs also lose three senior starters – but that guaranteed multimillion dollars he’ll earn over the next two seasons trump another few semesters of carrying books around campus.

At least Leonard will be earning his money in a traditional manner. Unlike the 10 people charged in the USD scandal, a situation that will prompt many more headlines in coming months as more details about the scheme emerge and the case plays itself out in court.

Weird that questions like “How about those Padres?” or “Who do you think A.J. Smith is targeting in the first round?” are secondary questions in mid-April.

There’s now a more pressing question:

“What was Brandon Johnson thinking when he decided to be part of fixing a game in February of 2010?”