Should School Be Allowed to Win Title on Probation? Louisville Could

Matthew Jordan

Sunday, June 18, 2017 11:39 PM UTC

Sunday, Jun. 18, 2017 11:39 PM UTC

How much of a black eye would it be for the NCAA should the Louisville basketball team win the national title this coming season while on probation for a sex scandal at the school? The Cards are talented enough to do it.

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Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino could have one of his most-talented squads ever at Louisville this coming NCAA basketball season, and the Cards are +1600 on 5Dimes odds to cut down the nets next April at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Frankly, that would be the worst possible scenario for the NCAA.

The NCAA suspended Pitino for the first five ACC games in 2017-18 for failing to monitor his program during an alleged sex-for-pay scandal. In addition, the school could lose its 2013 national championship after the infractions committee issued "a vacation of basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible from December 2010 and July 2014." Louisville also was placed on four years' probation and will lose four scholarships over those four years.

No team has ever been forced to vacate a national championship in men’s basketball. Final Four appearances have been stripped -- 11 in all. The most recent was Memphis being stripped of its 2008 Final Four berth. Those Tigers were coached by John Calipari, who is now of course at Louisville arch-rival Kentucky. Calipari is the only coach to have led two separate programs ordered to vacate a Final Four appearance, also UMass’ appearance in 1996.

Louisville is appealing the sanctions, but it frankly got off lucky that it will be allowed to even play in the NCAA Tournament. This team looks loaded for 2017-18. Yes, leading scorer Donovan Mitchell declared for the NFL draft. But Deng Adel decided to take his name out of the draft. Adel was the Cardinals' primary starter at small forward last season as the Cardinals finished 25-9, tied for second in the ACC and a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. He averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 assists. Pitino plans to use Adel more in the two-guard spot.

Adel joins a returning core of guard Quentin Snider, swingman V.J. King and big men Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding. Former North Carolina-Asheville standout Dwayne Sutton is now eligible to play for Louisville after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Pitino welcomes a terrific recruiting class that ESPN ranks as the sixth-best in the country. Small forward Brian Bowen and power forward Malik Williams are both five stars, while guard Darius Perry and forwards Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora are four stars.

"We should be an outstanding defensive team," Pitino said recently. "(And a) great fast-break team with terrific length. We should cause a lot of problems defensively for people. ... We have a lot of terrific returning players coming back who are highly motivated."

Louisville’s schedule hasn’t been officially been released yet, but out of conference it will play Kentucky as usual, this year on Dec. 29 at Rupp Arena. The Cards also face Purdue for the straight year in the 2017 Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Louisville takes on Memphis in the 2017 Gotham Classic. The Tigers are coached by Tubby Smith, who is one of 31 former assistants or players under Pitino who have risen to an NCAA head coaching position. Louisville also hosts Seton Hall on Dec. 3 and Indiana on Dec. 9.

In the ACC, Louisville has home-and-home series against Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Cards have home conference games against Boston College, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Syracuse and Wake Forest. Their league road games include Clemson, Duke, Miami, NC State and Notre Dame.

Duke will be the ACC favorite and is +1100 to win the national title, but the Cards will surely be No. 2 when the preseason media poll is released for the ACC. Both will be Top 10 teams nationally.

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