What to make of BYU's honor code; gearing you up for Selection Sunday
College Basketball Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Mr. Starbucks and Mr. Trojan will not be opening shop in Provo, Utah anytime past never.
That's one takeaway from one of the most unusual disciplinary acts taken by a high-level Division 1 athletics program in some time. And I use the word "unusual" not to strike a sword through Brigham Young University's belief system, or the virtues held by Mormons in general, but rather to annunciate the lack of understanding behind the faith that guides each member of the Cougars basketball team, yes even Jimmer Fredette, who at times this season has been raised to a standard well above the gods of every religion.
Most fans' understanding of how the Mormon faith influenced BYU's basketball program involved multiple moms (which is a pre-dated, ill-conceived belief at that) and the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee's inability to place the Cougars in a region starting Thursday because they refuse to play on Sundays.
Now, after forward Brandon Davies was suspended for the rest of the season with the Cougars closing in on a top seed and a westward path to Houston, BYU's honor code has become a story for national discussion.
In its simplest form, the honor code states:
Be honest, live a chaste and virtuous life, obey the law and all campus policies, use clean language, respect others, abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse, participate regularly in church services, observe the Dress and Grooming Standards, and encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code.
In the right of full disclosure, some of the above declarations need further explanation. Men can't wear beards (good thing Jacob Pullen and his iconic Abe Lincoln decided to attend Kansas State). Women can't wear backless, strapless or form fitting clothing. Residential halls have opposite sex visiting hours, during which room doors must remain open.
This is not the forum to debate the code's merits. It isn't for everyone, certainly not me, I like coffee too much. Certainly not for the hundreds of hoops stars having, or planning, their next sexual experience as I type this. Certainly not for the coaches who "inadvertently" bend or break recruiting rules.
Many colleges indirectly promote themselves as party schools and ignore rather than denounce Playboy's party school rankings because sex, boos, foul language and nearly the complete opposite of the honor code draw admissions and athletes. Not many 19-year-olds with a first taste of freedom are willingly inclined to have every minute of their life planned and scrutinized, nor are they honorable enough, respectful enough, sober enough or chaste enough to live up to BYU's standards.
Yet we aren't talking about my college roommates. We are discussing a player who freely agreed to follow a system of rules and regulations he seemingly believed in, growing up in Provo, Utah and knowing full well the implications of any disingenuous actions.
So, while in 21st-century America, the punishment levied against Davies does not seem to fit the crime, in BYU's vacuum no one has batted an eye. The honor code warns against the transgression and clearly states the punishment, and in a rare case of institutional and moral standard taking precedence over athletic achievement, the outcome was nothing other than justice.
I may not agree with the code's principles, but I adamantly concur with BYU's decision to uphold the merits of them. The code was not seen as a flexible document up for interpretation to keep the double-digit scoring Davies in the lineup for the remainder of what was fast becoming a magical season for likely the best team in school history. Instead, the code was intrinsically viewed in the same light as the virtues it declares, most boldly, honor and respect.
Many other institutions would have hired PR firms to spin away negative press or brushed aside transgressions, whether they be criminal or academic, as youthful mistakes.
That's why I stand and applaud at the same time I wonder what might have been. BYU's Final Four hopes likely crashed with the loss of its lone low-post threat, but the university has never been more respected because it circumvented the chance at historical success on the court for the sanctity of all it represents off it.
Conference Tournament Primer
Below are some quick thoughts from several of the conference tournaments, which is the last chance to dance for underachievers (looking at you, Baylor) and an opportunity to vault a line or two in the seeding process come Selection Sunday. For The Sports Network's full preview of every conference tournament, punch this link into your web browser: http://bit.ly/gaxtoY.
Pittsburgh has likely looked up a No. 1 seed with Newark as its regional destination no matter its success in New York this week, so Notre Dame may have the most to gain. The Fighting Irish have 10 top-50 RPI victories and zero bad losses on a resume that is starting to look top-seed worthy. If the Irish make the tournament title, it may not even need a victory to push them to the top line. Elsewhere, eight other Big East teams are fighting for seeding with a particularly close eye on Georgetown, which has lost each of its three games in rather unimpressive fashion without Chris Wright, and word came down Saturday that the senior guard will not play in the conference tournament but will likely be ready for the beginning of the NCAA Tournament. That may just be posturing on the Hoyas part, but regardless they need to prove they can win a game without Wright or they will be penalized heavily when the seeding comes out this Sunday. Marquette went the way of St. John's and got blitzed at suddenly streaking Seton Hall, so the Golden Eagles would be wise to win at least one game in New York with Providence and scoring legend Marshon Brooks up first on Tuesday. A loss puts the Golden Eagles in a precarious at-large position.
All of the intrigue comes after the trio of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Purdue. The Buckeyes are locked into a No. 1 seed, and Purdue likely played its way out of consideration for the top line with this past weekend's loss at Iowa. So the excitement comes from the bubble trio of Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State. The Nittany Lions' victory at Minnesota on Sunday knocked the Golden Gophers from at-large possibility and pushed them to the sixth-seed in the Big Ten tournament, which means a first-round date on Thursday versus Indiana. Michigan is the fourth-seed and Michigan State the seventh in the four-team 9-9 log jam that also includes Illinois. Looking closely at each team's profile, the Wolverines have a borderline RPI of 56 and three top-50 RPI wins, but they swept both the Spartans and Nittany Lions, which puts them above both in the at-large pecking order. The Spartans will be relying heavily on an RPI of 48, the ninth-best strength of schedule and three top 50 wins. Penn State, which split with the Spartans, have the seventh-hardest strength of schedule and three top 50 wins. I think Michigan is safe, the Spartans need at least one tournament win (maybe two) and Penn State at least two to leap frog other bubble sitters and join the dance.
Clemson earned a first-round bye with its victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, and in the process improved its at-large chances while pushing the Hokies to its yearly location, squarely on the bubble. Both would be advised to win at least once in Greensboro. Boston College has the best RPI of the bunch and swept the Hokies so it seemingly has the advantage in the at-large hierarchy over the others. North Carolina can surge into top-seed discussion with a tournament title that includes a victory over Duke.
Good news for Alabama fans. No eligible SEC team with a conference record of 11-5 or better has been left out of the NCAA Tournament since the conference expanded to 12 schools and split into two divisions in 1992. The Crimson Tide finished with 12 conference victories, but still sport that ugly mid-80s RPI and a soft out-of-league schedule. They would to wise to win once, against a team they should beat, to sew up a bid. Georgia has three top-50 RPI wins with an RPI and SOS in line with historical at-large trends, yet the Bulldogs should win once to breathe easy this Sunday night. Florida and Kentucky are playing for protected seeds (top-4 seeds) in the NCAA Tournament.
Baylor needs two wins at a minimum. Colorado would be wise to follow suit. That is life on the bubble in the Big 12. Kansas has virtually secured itself of a No. 1 seed after winning at least a share of the regular-season crown for the seventh straight season. Texas has an outside shot if its tournament title includes a win over Kansas. Texas A&M and Missouri have outside chances at protected seeds if they can somehow take the tournament crown and knock off both Texas and Kansas along the way.
The bubble's five steps back has brought USC back into at-large discussion. The Trojans won their 10th conference game on Saturday at Washington, in turn making it a must for the Huskies to avoid a first-round exit this week in Los Angeles. USC has four top-50 RPI wins and lost to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse by just two points. The Trojans have won five of six and sport an RPI of 69. Those numbers are at-large worthy, but 13 total losses (the same number as Michigan State and Penn State) along with four losses to teams with an RPI of 100 or higher make two wins at the Staples Center a must. UCLA and Arizona are playing for seeding with the Wildcats needing at least a trip to the tournament final to lock up a protected seed.
Projecting the Protected Seeds
Seeing a cloudy future is always difficult, but with a week still to determine teams' ultimate seeding fates, I will project conference tournament results to determine my protected seeds, top-four seeds in each region. An explanation will follow my thought process.
No. 1 seeds: Ohio State (No. 1 overall seed), Kansas, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
No. 2 seeds: Duke, Purdue, Texas, North Carolina
No. 3 seeds: BYU, San Diego State, Wisconsin, Florida
No. 4 seeds: Syracuse, Arizona, St. John's, Kentucky
There is such a fine line between seed lines 3-5 that the teams above may be very different on Sunday night depending on conference tournament results. I think Notre Dame's strong finish to the regular season will carry over to New York, and the Fighting Irish will win the conference tournament. If they make the final, lose and Duke wins the ACC tournament title, those two teams could flip. North Carolina is a big riser to the second line because I see the Tar Heels continuing their ascension to the tournament title in Greensboro. Without that hardware, North Carolina likely sits on the third line with the Mountain West tournament winner, if it is BYU or San Diego State, moving into that vacated spot on the second line. Florida, in my estimation, will win the conference tournament title to move into the third line. Arizona, in this projection, will take the Pac-10 tournament title and St. John's will continue its mastery at the Garden in a run until the tournament semifinals, locking up a No. 4 seed.
Other teams in the mix for the third or fourth line include: Louisville, Xavier, and with deep conference tournament runs also West Virginia and Vanderbilt.
The Last Four In, Last Four Out
Again, this practice is difficult without seeing the conference tournaments through, but taking into account late-season trends and upcoming match-ups this is now I see the "First Four" shaping up in Dayton and final four teams left out of the expanded 68-team field.
Last Four In: Georgia, Michigan State, Alabama, Clemson
Last Four Out: Virginia Tech, USC, Colorado, Baylor
I think Michigan State gets to 18th victories with a win over Iowa in the first round and a quarterfinal victory, and that its strength of schedule drags it into tournament. I don't see how the committee can ignore Alabama's 12 conference victories with at least one tournament win, and Georgia's profile includes zero losses to teams outside the RPI top-100.
In fact, the Bulldogs loss at Alabama was its first against an opponent outside the RPI top 40. Finally, Clemson and Virginia Tech are sitting on the proverbial edge, and I believe whichever team goes further this week in Greensboro will make the tournament. The Hokies are limping in full of self- doubt, which is not a good recipe for success this time of year. USC's bad losses will keep it out despite a valiant late-season push, and the same goes for Colorado, which has three losses outside the RPI top-100. Without a victory over Texas or Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament, the Bears just don't have the quality wins save a season sweep of Texas A&M. Three bad conference losses to teams outside the RPI top-128 will prove costly.
Below is how I see other fence-sitters faring on Selection Sunday
Richmond: IN. The Spiders stockpiled wins down the stretch, and while they didn't come against heavyweights, W's are W's and they were hard to come by for the Spiders' bubble neighbors. The victory in November over Purdue is the signature win many middling bubble teams are yearning to put on their resume.
Butler: IN. The victory over Florida State, three wins over Cleveland State and victories in eight-of-nine to end the season should be enough. Butler is my first team just above the "Last Four In" category.
Penn State: OUT. Penn State only has one loss to a team with an RPI over 100 (Maine at the Bryce Jordan Center), and two conference tournament wins would make the committee think about its strength of schedule and three wins against the top 48 teams in the RPI. However, 14 total losses and a 3-8 true road record will push the Nittany Lions to the NIT.
Memphis: OUT. Where are the quality wins? Conference USA's manipulation of the RPI was discussed in this space last week, and Memphis also didn't help its cause with two losses to teams outside the RPI top-150 in its last five regular-season games.
Thoughts Before Filling Out Your Hoops Bracket
Below is an excerpt from my just-released book, "99 Things You Wish You Knew Before...Filling Out Your Hoops Bracket." You can purchase it at Amazon.com or in a variety of formats at www.99-series.com. I will publish a tip during each column to prepare you for bracket madness.
#10 Free Throws Don't Matter
Remember Derrick Rose and Memphis. Remember television "gurus" spouting off about the Tigers' free throw woes. Well, those Tigers still made the national championship game because of a six-letter word I call t-a-l-e-n-t. Three teams in the last five years have made the Final Four with a team free-throw percentage under the national average, which indicates that making your free throws is nice, but it's not deadly if you don't as long as you have the horses to carry you through.
The NCAA Tournament cultivates stars. The world is watching, and players have the opportunity to become collegiate legends as Gus Johnson screams at the top of his lungs. This season's final Fine 15 pinpoints one player to watch per team and one phrase to describe that player's importance on the road to Houston.
1. Ohio State (29-2): Jon Diebler. The assassin (and the player with the nation's top offensive rating according to KenPom.com).
2. Kansas (29-2): Thomas Robinson. The sentimental warrior with the heavy heart is a heavy load for opposing defenses to keep off the backboards.
3. Pittsburgh (27-4): Brad Wanamaker. The engine to Ashton Gibbs' locomotive.
4. Notre Dame (25-5): Ben Hansbrough. Psycho B in the moniker of his brother and former North Carolina standout Tyler.
5. Duke (27-4): Kyle Singler. The All-American needs to stop disappearing like that guy Waldo.
6. BYU (28-3): Noah Hartsock. BYU's lone remaining big needs to stay away from the ladies.
7. North Carolina (24-6): Harrison Barnes. Winning.
8. San Diego State (29-2): D.J. Gay. The team's smallest player's job is to feed its biggest (Kawhi Leonard).
9. Purdue (25-6): Lewis Jackson. A third wheel has never been so important.
10. Syracuse (25-6): Kris Joseph. His long arms will spearhead the zone's effectiveness.
11. Texas (25-6): Tristan Thompson. Owner of the interior to bring back Texas' top-ranked defensive efficiency.
12. Wisconsin (23-7): Jordan Taylor. The freelancer with the mind of mentalist can paint a portrait with his off hand.
13. Florida (24-6): Chandler Parsons. The healing big with the weight of the interior on his shoulders.
14. Kentucky (22-8): DeAndre Liggins. The wise old man leading Coach Cal's young 'Cats.
15. Louisville (23-8): Preston Knowles. Catch-and-fire mentality combined with textbook form can work March magic.
Trexler is the author of "99 Things You Wish You Knew Before...Filling Out
Your Hoops Bracket." Click
HERE to purchase the Kindle version...and stay tuned on
an updated hardcopy edition this winter! Trexler also wrote "Penn State
Football: An Interactive Guide To The World of Sports", a detailed look at the
Nittany Lions' storied football history. It can be purchased HERE.