Maybe you caught the Atlantic Sun final Sunday night. Maybe you thought, “This is neat. Stetson finished next-to-last in the league but is playing Florida Gulf Coast to the wire. Cinderella to the Big Dance?
Maybe then you read the fine print: Stetson was ineligible for the NCAA tournament due to substandard academic progress rates. The Hatters couldn’t have gone had they won, which they nearly did. The A-Sun’s semi-automatic bid would have reverted to North Florida, which finished first over the regular season, but lost to Florida Gulf Coast by 33 points in the tournament semis.
Not to stretch a point, but that’s college basketball: When you look close, even the happy stories go sour.
The regular season began with Hall of Fame coaches Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown about to serve NCAA suspensions. It ended with Louisville, which is coached by the Hall of Famer Rick Pitino, joining Brown's SMU in sitting out the postseason. Louisville withdrew its team because of the ongoing strippers-in-the-dorm investigation. Syracuse's best chance of making the field of 68 is for the selection committee to cut it some slack for going 4-5 during Boeheim's enforced absence.
College basketball — where embarrassment serves as a selling point.
The Yale Bulldogs won the Ivy League and are bound for the NCAA tournament for the first time in 54 years. Happy story, right? Not exactly. The men's basketball team has become a flashpoint on the New Haven campus.
Team captain Jack Montague hasn't played since Feb. 6 and has left school. Before Yale's home game with Harvard, the Bulldogs wore warmup shirts with "E-L-A-Y" (Yale spelled backwards) on the front and Montague's number and nickname — "Gucci" — on the back. The next day, posters bearing photos of the team in those shirts were displayed on campus with the legend: "Stop supporting the rapist." Some posters were torn down by the players pictured therein.
On Thursday, CNN reported that a school investigation into a sexual-misconduct allegation led to his departure. Yale hasn't confirmed that he was expelled, saying only that he won't return to the team. New Haven police have said there are no charges pending or investigations ongoing. The Yale team apologized Wednesday for its T-shirted support of Montague and expressed its desire for "a healthy, safe and respectful campus climate where all students can flourish."
Montague's father has told reporters his son's expulsion was "ridiculous" but could comment no further. CNN reported that, according to a source, Jack Montague had "a consensual sexual relationship with another student in 2014."
Yale will play in this year’s NCAA tournament. Last year’s event ended with Wisconsin, which upset unbeaten Kentucky in the Final Four, losing narrowly to Duke in the title game. The Badgers’ coach was Bo Ryan. He announced in June that this would be his final season. Later he said he was reconsidering. On Dec. 15, after a victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, he told the world he’d just coached his last game.
Last week Wisconsin admitted it had investigated Ryan for possible misuse of funds during the course of a six-year affair he'd conducted with massage therapist Robin Van Ert. She emailed the university in February 2015 accusing Ryan of using school money when she accompanied him on recruiting trips. She called Ryan, who's 68 and a grandfather, "a predator" and wrote: "A man who is manipulative, a liar, (a) cheater and deceptive, should not be coaching and mentoring or be a role model to the young men on the basketball team."
Wisconsin has cleared Ryan of any monetary wrongdoing. He claims the affair had no bearing on his start-and-stop retirement. (He’d denied the affair after his resignation.) He said his grand design was to position assistant Greg Gard to be given the head-coaching job, which has indeed happened. Which might qualify as “manipulative,” don’t you think?
But enough. The NCAA tournament is at hand, and not a minute too soon. Once again, it’s up to March Madness to save us from college basketball. Sometimes it actually does.
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