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Rick Pitino wants Louisville to play son Richard, Minnesota in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Louisville athletics is in conference realignment limbo, spending this season in the brand-new American Athletic Conference, waiting to join the ACC as its newest member next July.

The year-long wait to join the ACC hasn’t stopped Rick Pitino, who is being enshrined this weekend at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, from envisioning future plans for his Cardinals in their new conference.

He already has his sights set on his desired opponent in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Minnesota, coached by his son Richard.

“I’m hoping, that the Big Ten/ACC Challenge … I’m hoping that we get matched up them because it terms of a home and home, I’m not playing him,” Pitino told reporters on Saturday at the Hall of Fame’s press conference.

A father-son battle wouldn’t be anything new to the Pitino household or college basketball. This past season, Rick’s Cards blew out Richard’s Florida International Golden Panthers 79-55 on Dec. 19. Now that the younger Pitino is in a power conference, Rick mentioned that a game between the Cardinals and Golden Gophers would put the family rivalry on a more level playing field.

“I think it would be fun,” the new Hall of Fame member said. “I played him at FIU and he was totally mismatched, and at least we can play on more equal terms.

“I think it’d be great. If we win I feel bad for him. If we lose I’ll feel great for him.”

If Rick Pitino does get his way, and ends up in an early-season tilt with Minnesota — either in 2014 or down the road — it could be a very competitive game. The two-time national champion coach sees big things on the horizon for the Golden Gophers athletic program.

“I think it’s a crown jewel in the Big Ten that just needs to have their facilities upgraded to be every bit as good as any school in the Big Ten, and I think with their new AD [Norwood Teague], I think that’s going to happen. And it is happening.”

Potentially beginning in the 2014-2015 season, the Cardinals may have a new non-conference foe in their new home.

Skal Labissiere has not been cleared by the NCAA

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Kelly Kline/Under Armor
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While the timeline surrounding Cheick Diallo’s eligibility has made headlines for months now, another elite recruit at a blue blood program is still awaiting word on whether or not he will be allowed to play college basketball this season.

Kentucky center Skal Labissiere, the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, has not yet been cleared to play this season. His guard, Gerald Hamilton, confirmed as much to ESPN earlier today.

“Not yet,” Hamilton said. “We’re just trying to get everything squared away. They are asking a few questions.

“They haven’t cleared him, but we’re sticking with our faith. There’s no real concern about anything from the Kentucky compliance people.”

Labissiere has more red flags than you can count, almost all of them pertaining to Hamilton. It was the worst kept secret in high school basketball that Hamilton more or less had Labissiere for sale. It’s why he played three different AAU programs and two different high schools in four years. Hamilton runs a non-profit called Reach Your Dream and, after a transfer rendered him ineligible for his senior high school season, Labissiere played for a team called ‘Reach Your Dream Prep’, which Hamilton founded simply to ensure Labissiere had a place to play.

Here’s how summarized things back in November:

Multiple coaches who have recruited Labissiere told Hamilton either directly indicated or strongly suggested pursuing Labissiere would mostly be a waste of time if they couldn’t offer assistance in helping fund his foundation. One coach from a prominent staff said: “We couldn’t even get in the door.” Another added: “We recognized what it was about early on and decided not to get involved.”

In other words, no one is surprised that the NCAA is looking into Labissiere’s situation, and it’s not hard to look at Kentucky bringing in Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard as a sign that they’re not completely certain that Labissiere will make it through this. The surprise is in how quiet that investigation has been over the course of the last few months.

The shame in all of this is that Labissiere is a sweet kid with an incredible back-story. He survived the devastating earthquake in Haiti despite having a house collapse on him. If he can get through this investigation, he’ll easily be one of the biggest and most likeable stars in the sport this season.

Xavier commit to enroll early, redshirt

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Xavier landed a commitment on Wednesday from four-star big man Eddie Ekiyor, a source confirmed to

Ekiyor, who picked the Musketeers over Miami and Florida, is a borderline top 100 recruit. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 post that shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the pace and physicality of the game, although he needs to continue to develop offensively to be more than a catch-and-dunk big man down the road.

In other words, on paper, Ekiyor isn’t much different from the majority of high major big men. But what’s different about this situation is that Ekiyor will be enrolling at Xavier for the start of the spring semester, technically making him a member of the Class of 2015. Xavier won’t be rushing him through the process — he’ll redshirt the second half of the 2015-16 season — but getting him on campus early will allow him an extra six months of learning the Xavier system, developing in collegiate practices and working out with the Xavier strength coaches.

That should help him limit the adjustment phase as he transitions from high school. That’s important for the Musketeers, because there’s a chance that they could lose their starting front line — James Farr (graduation) and Jalen Reynolds (early entry) — after this season.