Villanova's Wright really loves Big East tourney

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Villanova's Wright really loves Big East tourney

NEW YORK – Jay Wright loves the Big East tournament. Really loves it. You won’t believe how much he loves it.

Really, you won’t.

“Winning this to me … we’ve never won, but winning this to me, because this is where I’m from, the East, is almost as important as going to the Final 4,” Wright said.

Umm … Jay?

“I know I’ll get in trouble for that, but it’s the truth,” Wright said. “I just love what it stands for. Everybody from the Northeast being in New York for this tournament. …

“The Big East tournament is one of the greatest basketball tournaments in the country.”

Seems like crazy talk. But Wright is trying to get across the point that he sees the Big East tournament as an important, fun, exciting few days in New York, not just a meaningless exercise that does little except cement a team’s seeding in the NCAA tournament.

Villanova opens play in the Big East tournament at noon Thursday at Madison Square Garden against Seton Hall, a 51-50 winner over Butler Wednesday night. Villanova beat Seton Hall by 16 and 17 points this year.

“This time of year is always fun, because you get a new start,” Wright said. “When you’re having a bad year and you get to this tournament, it’s not about your season, it’s about, ‘We’re going to go play in a three-day tournament and that’s fun.’ And when you have a good team it’s even more fun.”

Wright has one of his best teams ever this year. Villanova, 28-3 and ranked No. 3 in the country, is the top seed in the Big East tournament for the first time since 1997.

The conference has undergone monumental changes, losing Syracuse, UConn, Pitt and several other big-time programs and adding Creighton -- which handed the Wildcats their only two conference losses -- along with Xavier and Butler.

Villanova last won the Big East tourney in 1995. The Wildcats haven’t even made the championship game since 2004. They’re 2-5 in their last seven conference tourney games.

Although conventional wisdom has Villanova meeting No. 14 Creighton Saturday night in the title game, there are several other formidable teams in the 10-team tournament.

Providence, Xavier and St. John’s have 20 wins each and are NCAA bubble teams. They need wins in New York more than Villanova and Creighton.

“I think this tournament is going to be pretty wide open,” Wright said. “The chance of us getting to the final is going to be tough, the chance of Creighton getting to the final is tough.

“I’ve heard people talking about that, but there’s a lot of really good teams in between.”

Clearly, the new Big East conference isn’t as powerful as the old Big East, but Wright said the new conference is strong in its own way, presenting different kinds of challenges for Villanova.

Wright points to the conference’s No. 4 composite RPI, even without Pitt, UConn, Syracuse, etc.

“This was just as difficult a league in a different way,” Wright said. “Going to Creighton … Creighton was just a style we’ve never really played against. Going at Butler and at Xavier were really different environments that we hadn’t seen and different styles of play.

“It was a challenging year, it was just different. Like when we would go at Louisville or at Connecticut, we were used to that kind of play. We were built to play against that. We struggled with Butler at Butler, we won at overtime.

“It’s just a different basketball philosophy, and they play a different style. They play very cerebral, close-to-the-vest, they keep you in a close game. It was challenging in a different way.

“Playing everybody twice was really cool, but there’s a new challenge to that. By the end of the year, we all knew each other really well. I think the fans knew the teams really well.”

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

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AP

Prosecutor says he doesn't believe Jerry Sandusky accuser's claim

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A former Pennsylvania prosecutor testified Tuesday he does not believe a man who reached a settlement with Penn State over a molestation claim is the same person seen by a witness being abused by Jerry Sandusky in a university football team shower.

Joe McGettigan, a former prosecutor who is now a lawyer in private practice, took the stand as the final witness during three days of testimony in Sandusky's bid for dismissal of charges or a new trial.

McGettigan said his opinion about the man who claims to be the person described as Victim 2 in court records is based on changes in the man's story, that he appears too old to be the boy in the shower and that he did not provide certain details to investigators until after the man who witnessed the attack had given his own story in open court.

Sandusky's grounds for appeal include a claim that McGettigan lied when he said during closing argument that Victim 2 was known "to God but not to us."

McGettigan said he did not believe the man's claim to be Victim 2 at the time of Sandusky's 2012 trial.

"I did not then and I do not now," McGettigan said.

Graduate assistant Mike McQueary has testified he saw Sandusky abusing a boy inside a team shower late on a Friday night in early 2001, and reported the matter to then-head coach Joe Paterno and other top administrators.

Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of abuse of 10 boys after eight of them testified against him -- but not Victim 2.

McGettigan said the man who settled with Penn State was born in 1987, so he would have been about 14 at the time, but McQueary described Victim 2 as being about 10. McGettigan said the man was unable to properly describe the location of the attack and drew a map of a locker room that was not accurate.

The man denied to police in September 2011 that any abuse occurred and gave the same statement to an investigator working for Sandusky's lawyers. But after McQueary testified in a related preliminary hearing, he hired a lawyer and changed his story, claiming to have been sexually abused. Neither the man nor Penn State has disclosed the precise nature of his claim against the university or said how much he was paid to settle it.

McGettigan said Sandusky, who attended all three days of the Post-Conviction Relief Act hearing, "could at any time have told any number of persons" the identity of Victim 2. "He declined to say so."

Another former state prosecutor, Jonelle Eshbach, testified that her office set up a sting after a March 2011 story in The Patriot-News of Harrisburg disclosed details of the grand jury investigation that led to Sandusky's arrest about seven months later.

She and her supervisor, Frank Fina, placed a fake notice within the prosecution agency's file about someone who had been subpoenaed and then watched to see if it would produce a story that would indicate a leak within the attorney general's office. She said no one took the bait.

Fina, the third person to testify Tuesday, said his doubts about the man's claim to be Victim 2 were based in part on early questions about when the McQueary incident occurred. At first, it was publicly reported to be 2002, which the man confirmed. Later it was determined to have been 2001.

"There was a possibility that (he) had conformed his testimony to Mr. McQueary's recollection of the date," Fina said.

Sandusky previously lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts. The current process, presided over by the trial judge, is under the Post-Conviction Relief Act and therefore limited to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.

The judge did not say when he would rule but indicated there may be additional proceedings.

Jerry Sandusky's appeal focuses on Victim 2's conflicting statements

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AP

Jerry Sandusky's appeal focuses on Victim 2's conflicting statements

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- A man who says he was the boy observed being sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky in a Penn State shower more than 15 years ago gave conflicting statements to authorities and was considered to lack credibility, investigators said during an appeal hearing Monday.

The man has settled with Penn State based on a claim that he is Victim 2 and was seen by graduate assistant Mike McQueary being attacked by Sandusky, then an assistant football coach, in 2001. The man gave differing statements to Sandusky's lawyers and to police investigators, according to testimony, and neither side called him to the stand during the 2012 trial.

The identity of Victim 2, and the man's claim to be Victim 2, figures into Sandusky's bid for a new trial or to have charges dismissed because of a reference during lead prosecutor Joe McGettigan's closing argument before a jury convicted Sandusky of 45 counts of abuse involving 10 victims.

McGettigan told jurors there were "others unknown to us, to others presently known to God but not to us." The appeals hearing is Sandusky's chance to prove his claim that McGettigan was referring to Victim 2 and so he knew that statement was false.

The man who claims to be Victim 2 contacted Sandusky's then-lawyer, Joe Amendola, soon after Sandusky was first charged in November 2011 and gave a statement saying he was in the shower that night but had not been abused. He had also made a similar denial of abuse to investigators in September 2011, testified Cpl. Joseph Leiter, a retired state police investigator.

But he subsequently hired attorney Andrew Shubin, who testified Monday on the second day of the hearing that he believes his client is Victim 2 and was raped by Sandusky, who was in court. He is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence.

Asked if he had any doubts, Shubin said he was not sure how to answer that. But he said the man is his client and he would not represent anyone he did not believe.

Shubin declined to answer when asked whether he ever tried to hide the man's whereabouts from police and prosecutors, citing attorney-client privilege.

"I have never spoken about that issue and never waived that privilege," Shubin testified.

Anthony Sassano, an agent with the attorney general's office, testified that he heard from someone -- he said he wasn't sure whom -- that the man was "hidden at hunting camp somewhere so we couldn't find him to interview him."

Sassano said that the man contradicted himself to agents when asked if he ever told anyone of abuse and that his drawing of the locker room where he claims to have been seen by McQueary did not fit the actual Lasch Building locker room.

That "led me to believe he was never in that particular locker room," Sassano testified.

Prosecutors did not find the man credible, Sassano said.

"I don't know if they formed their opinion off my opinion or they had their own separate opinion," Sassano said. "We all arrived at the same conclusion."

Testimony on Monday also delved into claims of improper leaks of material from the grand jury that investigated Sandusky before he was charged. The hearing is expected to conclude Tuesday.

Sandusky testified during the first day of the hearing and strongly denied his guilt. He has already lost direct appeals to the state's Supreme and Superior courts and is now seeking relief under the Post-Conviction Relief Act that is confined to newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations and ineffective lawyering.

Penn State basketball to host Michigan State at Palestra on Jan. 7

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USA Today Images

Penn State basketball to host Michigan State at Palestra on Jan. 7

The Penn State men's basketball team will play Big 10 and national powerhouse Michigan State in a home game at the Palestra this season on Jan. 7, 2017.

The announcement comes after the program announced its non-conference schedule Monday. The Nittany Lions are 22-36 all time at the famous Philadelphia arena, which houses Penn's home court. But Penn State is 12-8 there against teams other than Penn.

The program has strong ties to Philadelphia as the Nittany Lions' roster features six players from the Philadelphia area and four alone who went to Center City's Roman Catholic High School, a local power. Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers is from Newtown Square, Delaware County.

Three of the four Roman Catholic grads are freshmen — Nazeer Bostick, Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens. Jan. 7's game will be their first college game at the Palestra, but they all have played there before as the Philadelphia Catholic League has held numerous playoff games at the Palestra in recent years. Shep Garner, the other Roman grad, is a junior. The other Philadelphia-area natives on the team are junior Julian Moore (Germantown Academy) and redshirt freshman Mike Watkins (Phelps School).

Penn State played at the Palestra last year and came away with a 63-57 win over Drexel. However, Penn State was not the home team in that game.

“We cannot wait to take the Big Ten into Philadelphia this season,” Chambers said in a press release. “It is always an incredible experience to play in the Palestra and we are honored to do it this time as the home team. We have so many ties to the city as a program and we look forward to connecting with the alumni and fans in the area."