It’s been a crazy season of college hoops, perhaps the craziest in a long time. Number one teams are dropping like flies, underdogs are winning contests like its no big deal, and following Friday’s press conference, two ranked teams will not be dancing.
SMU, as part of NCAA sanctions against the program, was already not allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament, and the Louisville Cardinals have joined them. In a press conference on Friday afternoon, a teary-eyed Rick Pitino accompanied by the administration of the university announced the self-ban.
Louisville took a page out of SU’s book, hoping that self-banning will lessen the final punishment. As a Syracuse basketball follower, here’s what I have to say: good luck. Syracuse’s penalties were fairly significant over “lack of institutional control,” yet it mainly references between 3-5 incidents that occurred over a nine-year period. With the Cardinals, we’re talking about soliciting prostitution as part of recruiting. Impermissible benefits? You could say that again.
While I don’t want to get into the facts of what happened until an actual NCAA investigation is completed, what I will say is that the stark difference in coverage is astounding. Louisville is being heralded as martyrs for this noble move of a postseason ban. It seems like all the media can talk about is how unfortunate it is that UL’s two fifth-year grad student transfers Trey Lewis and Damion Lee have to miss the tournament…wait what?
Yes, it’s very unfortunate that these two players who have carried their team to this point will not make the NCAA tournament, but then again, where was all of this sympathy for Rakeem Christmas last season? Lee and Lewis are playing fantastically in their first and only season in the program, but Christmas was a four-year player in the system who literally single-handedly carried the Orange towards being a bubble team. The way in which the media is spinning the two situations is pretty shocking, considering the fact that one violation was over YMCA jobs and a tutor, while the other is about prostitution, escorts, and providing alcohol to high school kids.
As a conference foe, the ban helps SU in more ways than one. First, it opens up an extra bubble spot for the NCAA tournament, and although the Orange is clear of the bubble right now, any bad loss would put them right back on it. This extends to the ACC tournament as well. The top nine teams in the conference get a first-round bye, while the top four teams get a double-bye. Louisville is currently tied for the conference lead with an 8-2 record, while SU sits tenth. So, technically, if the ACC tournament started today, SU would get a bye solely because of Lousiville’s self-ban. The Orange travels to Louisville to take on the Cardinals in ten days.