Since Christmas the St. Mary’s has won 17 straight games when playing any who is not about to be the No. 1 team in the country (Gonzaga), but they may have received a late Christmas present from the NCAA by being allowed to play in this year’s tournament despite a stinging 4-year probation. The small Catholic school that plays in only the 282nd largest D1 area (3,500, McKeon Pavilion).
Andy Katz of ESPN reports that the NCAA cited “failure to monitor its men’s basketball program,” according to Katz, in handing down the probation or reduced scholarships. The team is no longer allowed to take foreign tours or play tournaments within the season that are not already under contract, but will be allowed to accept a bid. The Breitbart Sports Middle 20 places St. Mary’s barely within the tournament.
Most important, St. Mary’s will only be allowed to keep 11 scholarships instead of the typical 13. While 11 sounds like enough players to most fans, any time a player is redshirted or injured, he still counts as one of the 13 spots, and some D1 teams have played with only five or six scholarship players active on a 13-team roster and been forced to use walk-ons. Teams are often also getting three or four players that might be strong, knowing only one or two will likely make the grade, so teams with only 11 scholarships have almost no margin for error when they are filling a spot. St. Mary’s has three seniors on their roster, so they will likely only be able to sign one new recruit this year instead of three, unless other players leave.
Coach Randy Bennett will also miss the first five conference games. Head coaches are often suspended for one game due to a secondary infraction such as being aware of a booster or assistant coach giving a player a t-shirt and not reporting it. He also will not be allowed to recruit off campus, which is a penalty Tom Crean walked into at Indiana (due to infractions against the previous coach, not anything he did).
However, Crean was able to have assistants get players to come to him in Indiana and built a national title contender, and teams have overcome trimmed scholarships, so all-in-all St. Mary’s heard the most important thing any team under investigation wants to hear – they are allowed to play in the NCAA tournament if invited.