College basketball needed a night like that

From ESPN - November 14, 2017

CHICAGO -- When the FBI busted down doors in September and arrested four Division I assistants in a corruption scandal that turned college basketball into an '80s mafia movie, the entire sport absorbed the mess.

Four coaches, 10 people in all, could face prison time after the FBI uncovered a scheme to pay and influence recruits with illegal cash funneled through financial advisors and an Adidas shoe executive.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino lost his job, and the scandal could cost other coaches their high-profile positions before the 2018-19 season begins.

Onlookers, both casual and connected, viewed the FBI's revelation as a sign of widespread corruption.

That's why college basketball needed Tuesday.

The Champions Classic matchups at the United Center -- Duke over Michigan State and Kansas over Kentucky -- featured the March-like atmosphere that presented college basketball at its best: a collection of diverse talent and styles capable of manufacturing captivating action on a big stage.

And nothing like the derelict sport the headlines suggest college basketball has become in recent months.

College basketball just needed a chance to step outside the shadow of the scandal, not that basketball can erase anything that has transpired or any additional scandal the FBI might uncover in the coming weeks or months.

But the game needed the chance to try.

"Obviously, it's a great event, and I think it's good to get the season started, without question," coach Bill Self said after his Kansas squad's 65-61 win over Kentucky.

College basketball needed controversial star Grayson Allen to turn into Christian Laettner and score 37 points, a career high, against Michigan State. Freshman prodigy Marvin Bagley III entered the locker room in the first half and did not return to the game after suffering an eye injury 10 minutes into the matchup. And Allen's young teammates, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval, shot like former high school stars who seemed stunned by the moment.

But Allen decided to play like a Wooden Award winner and carry his team.

"I just felt hot," he said after his 7-for-11 effort from beyond the arc in Duke's 88-81 win over Michigan State.


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