Michigan erases 'Fab Five' era with self-imposed sanctions

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Amaker, Michigan forced to face the music


It's time to shoot the breeze, time to talk about a few basketball topics...

The news from Ann Arbor on Thursday wasn't about football, where the Wolverines hope to stop the Ohio State juggernaut in a few weeks. The news was about basketball, and I don't like what I heard.

This penalty hurts innocent people who weren't at Michigan when the shenanigans took place.
It was good of Michigan to try to tell the NCAA that the school will take care of its basketball problems in-house. The Wolverines imposed their own penalties because of a scandal involving a onetime booster -- including the removal of two Final Four banners from 1992-93 as well as NCAA banners from three different trips later in the '90s. Also included in the penalty was the forfeiture of victories over a four-year span. I don't have a problem with those decisions.

But I do have a problem with the school's decision to be ineligible for postseason play for the upcoming season. I think it's wrong to penalize the current players and coaches who weren't part of that whole scenario of wrongdoing.

Coach Tommy Amaker and his gang are being punished for the mistakes of the past, and that's unfair. Think about every kid out there for 2002-03 who has busted his gut for Michigan, representing his school with pride.

Fine, write out a check and give back the cash earned during the era. I know AD Bill Martin is trying to do the right thing for the university, but this penalty hurts innocent people who weren't at Michigan when the shenanigans took place.

What about Rick Scruggs and Gardner-Webb? A lot of people might be wondering, who is Rick Scruggs? Last year, I talked about Colorado State having a Cupcake City schedule by playing the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs.

The fans in Boiling Springs, N.C., passed out cupcakes and made a big deal of my comments. And Gardner-Webb posted a big W against coach Dale Layer and Colorado State, scoring a Shock City victory!

So what does Scruggs do this season? The Bulldogs' coach has taken on the John Chaney approach to scheduling. Are you ready for this? Gardner-Webb is at Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Virginia and Colorado State for a rematch of last year's upset. The Bulldogs also travel to Las Vegas to face SMU and West Virginia in the Jim Thorpe Classic.

Are you kidding me? The beat goes on, and the bottom line is that Scruggs wants to get his program some visibility and exposure. Scruggs will also get some losses along the way, but you know what, give him some credit.

By the way, sophomore Otis Daniels is a player to watch for Gardner-Webb, baby!

This is how you set the table for the future. You don't become a great coach just by rolling into practice come October. It starts before that as you hit the recruiting trail year after year.

Does anyone recruit better than Arizona's Lute Olson, Kansas' Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski?

At Arizona, Wildcat fans are jumping for joy with the verbal commitments of two of the nation's premier recruits, point guard Mustafa Shakur of Wynnewood, Pa., and 6-foot-10 Ndudi Ebi of Houston, Texas, a do-it-all baseline performer.

Williams isn't going to be outdone at Kansas. The tenacious recruiter sells one of the best programs in America. He landed a big man, David Padgett of Reno, Nev., 6-5 J.R. Giddens of Oklahoma City and a gem from Los Angeles, Omar Wilkes (son of the silky smooth Jamaal Wilkes, a key member of the Lakers' Showtime squad).

Williams has always fared well in California and on the West Coast -- with guys like Paul Pierce, Jacque Vaughn, Scot Pollard and Adonis Jordan. Now he's scored again with Wilkes.

At Duke, Coach K doesn't sit back. After getting six diaper dandies for this season, he has two of the elite recruits for 2003-04: Luol Deng of Blairstown (N.J.) Academy (considered by many the second-best player in America behind LeBron James), and the top player from Minnesota, Kris Humphries.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan must be jumping for joy. He was able to keep the best player in Wisconsin home. Big man Brian Butch of Appleton, Wis., was considering the likes of North Carolina and Arizona. Many thought UNC coach Matt Doherty was the leading contender.

But when push came to shove, the pressure to stay home made a difference. The Badgers have to be thrilled -- this year's team has lots of talent. Adding Butch in the middle next season really gives a boost to the program.

I like Conference USA's decision to change to a 14-team, one-division format instead of the American and National divisions.

Why is this a positive? Look at a team like Memphis, a 27-game winner last year. The Tigers are in the National Division, the weaker of the two divisions. Memphis didn't get the opportunity to play the tougher teams in the other division as much, if at all. That affected strength of schedule, as the Tigers didn't have opportunities to face Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and Charlotte as often.

Now each team will play every other team in the conference once per season -- accounting for 13 games -- with the other three league games determined by geographic area and TV matchups.

This is important, because in the past five years nobody from C-USA's National division has made the NCAA Tournament. The lack of quality wins often hurt. This will give C-USA teams better opportunities for victories that help their RPIs.

During some preseason tournaments, a number of experimental rules will be utilized.

For one, the 3-point line is being moved back nine inches. Using the international rule, the experimental 3-point line will be 20 feet, six inches back. Also, the lane will be widened to 16 feet to unclog congestion inside.

I wish these rules were adopted on a permanent basis, because it would add excitement to the game. It would end some of the wrestling matches that take place in the lane, battling for position. And moving the 3-point line back would extend defenses. It would also probably reduce the number of trifectas attempted.

I hope the rules committee makes these changes.

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