How the college hoops season went off the rails and likely will stay there

From ESPN - January 12, 2018

We have already enjoyed an eventful season in college basketball.

We have had scandals, the emergence of superstars and the up-and-down performances of powerhouses.

And it's not even mid-January.

Here is a snippet of the craziness we have already witnessed and the chaos we will see in the coming months:

What happened?

The FBI threatens to shut the sport down
In late September, Joon Kim, former acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stood at a dais and announced breathtaking charges that affected some of America's top programs. The FBI had uncovered a bribery scheme that led to the arrests of four Division I assistants from USC, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Auburn and the eventual dismissal of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino after his alleged role in a pay-for-play scheme. Multiple squads were named in the documents attached to the FBI investigation.

And key players, like USC's De'Anthony Melton, have not played this season while their respective schools sort through their eligibility concerns. Former five-star Arizona commit Jahvon Quinerly recently decommitted and hired a lawyer because of reports tying him to the investigation.

But that, per Kim, was just the beginning.

"We have your playbook," Kim said about the sport then. "The investigation is ongoing."

No additional arrests have been made since that initial news conference, but this is the imposing cloud that's lingered above the game all season.

Thad Matta's stunning resignation creates a significant domino effect
In early June, former Ohio State coach Thad Matta stood next to athletic director Gene Smith and announced his resignation. Matta had led his team to a string of runs in the NCAA tournament, but health problems had contributed to the decline of the program's recruiting pool in recent years.

The rare June coaching change put the Buckeyes in a difficult spot. But credit Smith for stealing Chris Holtmann months after his Sweet 16 run with Butler. Then, LaVall Jordan, a former Butler standout, left UW-Milwaukee to replace Holtmann.

Both have exceeded expectations thus far. Jordan has led Butler -- struggling through a three-game losing streak right now -- to wins over Villanova and Ohio State. Under Holtmann, the Buckeyes continue to improve. They started 4-0 in Big Ten play and beat former No. 1 Michigan State by double digits on Sunday.

Trae Young announces his arrival at the PK80
During the PK80 tournament in Portland, Oregon, over Thanksgiving weekend -- a tournament designed to celebrate Nike founder Phil Knight's 80th birthday -- Oklahoma's Trae Young faced Oregon at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the fifth-place game of the Victory bracket.

It was a 10 a.m. game, and Oregon fans had just enjoyed the Civil War against Oregon State the previous night, so the stands were not packed.

But Young recorded 43 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals in a 90-80 win over the Ducks. Anyone who witnessed his performance realized the five-star product of Norman, Oklahoma, could become a superstar. After that performance, reporters and NBA scouts gathered in the media room and gushed about the freshman who would evolve into the face of the sport in 2017-18.

Deandre Ayton's homecoming spoiled at the Battle 4 Atlantis
By all accounts, Arizona freshman Deandre Ayton could lead Arizona to coach Sean Miller's first Final Four appearance. He's a 7-foot-1 athlete unlike any player we have seen at this level.

He entered the week with 11 double-doubles, just one shy of tying a record for Arizona freshmen. But the program's trip to the Bahamas, his birthplace, for the Battle 4 Atlantis in November did not go well.

The Wildcats lost three consecutive games in the tournament and fell from the polls, after starting the season ranked No. 2.

Many pounced on Arizona, reeling from the arrest of former assistant Book Richardson in the FBI investigation, and anticipated a collapse. But the Wildcats bounced back and entered conference play as a strong contender in the Pac-12.

Arizona State beats Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, seizes a top-five ranking
Arizona's fall was as unexpected as Arizona State's rise to the top five after the Sun Devils' win at Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse.

Before ASU's win at Kansas on Dec. 10, Jayhawks coach Bill Self had suffered just 10 losses at the Phog during his tenure. But Bobby Hurley's Sun Devils finished 14-for-28 from the 3-point line in a double-digit win that signaled the rebirth of ASU basketball and the start of a potentially special season for the program. It also magnified concerns about Kansas and its ability to maintain its streak of Big 12 titles (13 in a row).

What's next?


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