What the new Yahoo!!! college basketball report says about Michigan State

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Yahoo!, which somehow still staffs a sports department and definitely isn’t a Jeb!-like holdover from the Web 1.9 days, has a new college basketball report out today that is Very Important. I know it’s Very Important because “federal investigation,” “meticulous,” “prominent,” and “underbelly” all appear in the first sentence.

Cutting through the heady haze of college athletics journalism, this is an article based on expense reports from a sports agency called ASM Sports. Those reports apparently document “cash advances, as well as entertainment and travel expenses for high school and college prospects and their families.”

The only document– and please know that the tireless staff of Yahoo! Sports “viewed hundreds of pages of documents,” according to Yahoo! Sports– mentioned that references Michigan State’s men’s basketball program in any respect is an expense reimbursement request Christian Dawkins, a former ASM agent, filed with the agency. One of those requests was dated May 3, 2016: “Redwood Lodge. Lunch w/Miles Bridges Parents [sic]. $70.05.” Another was from the same date: “ATM Withdrawl [sic]: Miles Bridges mom [sic] advance. $400.” The article also states: “According to the documents, Dawkins has dinners listed with plenty of boldface names in the sport – Tom Izzo . . . .” That’s everything on the Spartans.

As one possible starting point, we can acknowledge that the NCAA prohibits student-athletes from receiving money from agents. Whatever the wisdom behind or efficacy of that policy, I’m not sure we even have evidence of a payment to Bridges, the Spartans’ premier player, here.

First, despite that exhaustive (well maybe not quite that exhaustive: “Yahoo[!] did not view all of the documents in the three criminal cases tied to the investigation, but . . . .”) doc review, Yahoo! declined to publish the records referencing Bridges. They published multiple pages of reports mentioning other players but, for some undisclosed reason, decided not to publish those that mention Bridges (or Izzo). That means we have to take the authors’ word that the records they saw but did not include with their article said what they say they do.

Second, assuming those records exist and are as described, I don’t think they actually evidence payments to Bridges himself. A– and perhaps the only– reasonable reading of the two entries are for a lunch with Bridges’ parents and a payment to Bridges’ mother. The negative implication is that Bridges himself did not attend the lunch and did not receive the payment. This distinction is significant in light of the NCAA’s prior case against Cam Newton. There, the NCAA suspended Newton on multiple occasions arising out of allegations that Newton’s father, Cecil, tried to secure a pay-for-play agreement on Newton’s behalf with Mississippi State but ultimately reinstated him based on Auburn’s successful argument that Newton was unaware of his father’s efforts. If Dawkins, in treating Bridges’ parents to lunch and giving Bridges’ mother cash, acted without Bridges’ knowledge, there would appear to be no basis for the NCAA to punish Bridges.

Third, a technical but not legally insignificant point is that these records are, at most, indirect evidence of payments to Bridges’ family. They’re good evidence, but they aren’t direct evidence that the payments actually were made. Even if Dawkins had a receipt of the ATM withdrawal, for example, we don’t have direct evidence that he provided that cash to Bridges’ mother.

Finally on the direct issues, the passing reference to Tom Izzo obviously is meaningless, but it’s good for SEO. There is no indication or allegation that any MSU official had any knowledge of or involvement with these payments. Continue reading

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Bill Simmons launches new site with help from Tom Izzo

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Bill Simmons is back. The Sports Guy’s post-Grantland project, The Ringer, launched today. Although the site has had a social media presence for a few weeks (and Simmons’ now-eponymous podcast returned before that), action really got underway this morning, when Simmons publicly announced a number of the new website’s hires, and continued this afternoon, when he released the site’s first email newsletter.

The newsletter is The Ringer’s first substantive textual offering. It begins with a Simmons monologue on the name-selecting process for the new project, followed by a timely NCAA tournament article that leads with a nice picture of Tom Izzo and Denzel Valentine. (Bold prediction contained therein: “Sparty is going to be a tough out.”)

After that comes a Game of Thrones season preview, because this is the internet, after all, and the newsletter closes with a list of the three best-dressed people on Billions, which I just used Google to learn is another television show.

If The Ringer is reminding you of Grantland, that could be because of the substantial overlap in the two sites’ subject areas– basketball and premium-network television– and staff– including Katie Baker, Jason Concepcion (@netw3rk), and Brian Curtis. Tracking the similarities between The Ringer and Grantland will be both easy and less interesting than noting the differences, which are what could show us what, if anything, Simmons learned from his last venture.

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We’ll check back in once things have been up and running for a little while. In the meantime, here’s hoping BS can bring the following Grantland alums back into the fold: Brian Phillips, Rembert Browne, Mark Titus, Louisa Thomas, Charles Pierce, Chuck Klosterman, and Norm Macdonald.

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If he could do it again, Chris Webber would have gone to Michigan State?

The strong implication of Chris Webber’s comments on this morning’s Dan Patrick Show is that, if he could begin his basketball career again, he would have accepted Tom Izzo’s offer to become a Michigan State Spartan:

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Michigan State Final Four Preview

Michigan State’s back in the Final Four, and they take on Duke tonight at 6:09 on TBS. In the spirit of the Final Four, here are four good reads on the 2015 Spartans to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Go Green!

Tom Izzo Is The Best Coach In Modern NCAA Tournament History — By Far (via FiveThirtyEight)

A No. 7 seed unseats a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament’s second round about twice every three years, but there was something about Michigan State’s upset of Virginia on Sunday that felt more routine than that. Perhaps it was the fact that the Spartans had toppled the Cavaliers just last season, but beyond that, no second-week tournament run from Michigan State qualifies as surprising at this point. As you might have heard, Izzo’s Spartans are now 13-1 all-time in the round of 32, and they’ve visited the Final Four more often (six times) than they’ve lost in the tournament’s opening weekend (five times).

Digging deeper into the numbers only solidifies Izzo’s reputation as Mr. March. A few years ago, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver wrote about how unlikely Izzo’s teams were to have consistently advanced as far as they did from the seeds at which they started — and that was at the very beginning of the five-season stretch (from 2010-present) where the Spartans advanced to four regional semifinals and one regional final. By any standard, Izzo’s teams tend to wildly exceed their expectations once the NCAA tournament commences. … Read More

(via FiveThirtyEight)

#2 Michigan State beats #1 Kentucky in the Champions Classic

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In their second game of the season, the Michigan State Spartans jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and never trailed the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats en route to a four-point win, 78-74. For the most part, MSU looked like a typical experienced Tom Izzo team. They were physical, they caused and capitalized on turnovers, they were as effective as ever on scoring on inbound plays, and the team’s designated leaders led. Point guard Keith Appling showed that, from a positional standpoint, this is his team. Adreian Payne showed that he can control a game from any position on the floor. Sophomore and former Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gary Harris showed that he can be an even more complete player than he was last year. (Marcus thinks he can be the National Player of the Year this season.) Branden Dawson is back as a reliable gap-filler.

In listening to and watching tonight’s game, I noticed two things that were slightly different, at least in comparison with last year’s team. One is these Spartans’ ability and willingness to push the ball. Izzo’s Michigan State teams never have been strictly half-court operations, but the frequency with which they ran tonight, and the speed at which they did so, were notable. The second thing is that, as good as Payne is, he’s not going to be able to run the gauntlet of this season alone. Basically no big man can, and the absence of Derrick Nix clearly hurts the Spartans’ depth in the paint. (Nix, for his part, made his presence known online shortly after the final buzzer with the most Michigan State tweet ever.)

On the other side, Kentucky is a good team that will get even better, perhaps much better, before too long, and games like this, whatever, the outcome only serve to benefit John Calipari’s current project. Julius Randle, in particular, seemed to be everywhere for the Wildcats, especially in the second half, when he scored twenty-three of his twenty-seven points. Randle led all players in scoring and in rebounds, with thirteen. One aspect that Kentucky must improve is its free-throw shooting. They managed to bring their average above 50% thanks in part to plenty of opportunities (thirty-six overall, versus seventeen for Michigan State) to shoot from the line in the second half.

Looking forward, the sky may be the limit for young Kentucky, while Michigan State fans have to hope their very good, veteran team hasn’t peaked.

For anyone questioning the mix of coverage on this site: An authoritative, photographic edict of affirmation

For some reason, some people thought that a mere geolocational shift away from the siting of most of my favorite teams would lead to a sudden abandonment of lifelong allegiances. While that idea plainly is ludacris, I’ve always been interested in what’s happening within my immediate locality, so it’s only natural that I would want to xzibit that sort of content in addition to continued addressing of my non-spatially bound interests. These are concepts that can coexist in my mind and on this site, but you don’t have to take my word for it, because there’s photographic evidence of this unity after the jump.

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