The Tip-Off Marathon Awards

Leave a comment

So ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon happened yesterday, and like I’m sure many of you did, I stayed up for over 40 hours straight to watch the entire thing.

Yes, I’m tired today.

And yes, it was totally worth it.

Basketball at 4 am is, generally speaking, completely unnecessary. But the event is worth it for two reasons. For starters, ESPN completely dedicates their programming to college hoops at a time when the sport is not in the forefront of the national consciousness. Secondly, we got a look, in one night, at many of the teams that will be at or near the top of the national rankings.

Now, before I lose your attention (we all have fantasy football waiver wires to take a look at), we at Beyond the Arc present to you the Tip-Off Marathon Awards!

The Award for Best Game goes to: San Diego State and Gonzaga

It doesn’t get much better than two good teams going back and forth. Billy White (30 points, 9 boards) and Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 12 boards) led the Aztecs to a 79-76 win over the Zags. SDSU was in control for much of the first half, but Gonzaga used a 7-0 spurt to start the second half to take a 44-42 lead on an Elias Harris three-point play. SDSU threw a counter punch, however, as they took control of the offensive back boards. If the Aztecs missed, White and Leonard where there to clean up the mess as they built up a 66-59 lead. Steven Gray, who had 35 points, did his best to keep Gonzaga’s hopes alive, twice scoring to cut the Aztec lead to one point. The latter instance came with 23 seconds left, and after Leonard hit two free throws to make the lead 79-76, Gray lost the ball out of bounds with four seconds left. Chase Tapley missed the front end, but Gray’s half court heave was off the mark.

This was a huge win for San Diego State. The Aztecs have been a trendy pick by many to win the MWC, but picking up a win at The Kennel has thrust them into the conversation as the best team on the west coast.

The Award for Most Important Win goes to: Louisville

The Cardinals welcomed the reigning runners-up to the unveiling of their new arena, the KFC Yum! Center. They weren’t all that gracious as hosts, however, as they spent 40 minutes wiping the floor with the Bulldogs. Butler was simply not ready for the press that Louisville threw at them, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting a dismal 35% from the floor. The final score — 88-73 — doesn’t do justice to the whipping Butler took, as they were down by as much as 24 in the second and were able to maintain a level of respectability by fouling for the last 2:13.

Louisville looks like a team that was underrated coming into the season. They have a lineup that is deep and full of athletes and a back court that is chock full of lengthy defenders and knock-down shooters. Making the win all the more impressive is that Jared Swopshire missed the game as he is still recovering from a sports hernia and Peyton Siva played jut 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Raheem Buckles (17 points 11 boards) looks like a star waiting in the wings.

The Award for the Biggest Statement goes to: Ohio State

Florida was considered a potential title contender coming into the season, and Ohio State went into the O-Dome and universally changed that opinion. Down 41-38 at the half — thanks to the tremendous interior play of Vernon Macklin and the rest of the Gator front line — the Buckeyes dissected the Florida defense for the final 20 minutes, scoring 57 points and shooting 71% from the floor. Jared Sullinger had a coming out party, going for 26 points and 10 boards, while the combination of David Lighty, Jon Deibler, and William Buford completely outclassed Florida’s talented perimeter players. Perhaps the most important performance came from freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who had 7 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench, proving capable of breaking a press and handling a raucous road arena.

The Award for the Biggest Loss goes to: Elias Harris

Losing to San Diego State is a loss Gonzaga can overcome. The Aztecs are criminally underrated (well, maybe not anymore) and got a career game out of one of their best players. The Zags still have plenty of opportunities to pick up enough quality wins to earn an at-large big. A loss they cannot overcome would be Elias Harris. Harris injured his shoulder a few weeks ago, so when he wasn’t on the floor at the end of the game, that was the reason that some suspected. It turns out that he suffered a potentially serious foot injury: “I think it’s my Achilles’ (tendon),” said Harris told The Spokesman Review. “I heard something pop. I couldn’t get up in the air and I couldn’t run any more.”

If that’s the case, then Harris will miss the rest of the season. He’s getting an MRI today. It would be a huge blow to the Zags, as he was the favorite to win the WCC Player of the Year award in the preseason. You can’t replace a talent like Harris — he’s going to be a lottery pick whenever he turns pro — but Gonzaga does have some pieces to make up for the loss. Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower have been good early in the season, and Steven Gray is playing the best basketball of his career right now. This team is still good enough to win the WCC. But with the injury to Harris, their Final Four aspirations may be headed out the window.

UPDATE: Good thing we just did a post on this…

According the Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, Elias Harris did NOT tear his achilles. He’ll miss about a week. Now, the question is whether or not he will be available for the CBE Classic. Gonzaga gets Kansas State on Monday, and could face Duke or Marquette on Tuesday depending Monday’s results.

The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Virginia Tech

Kansas State played essentially played the first half without Jacob Pullen due to foul trouble and played the entire game without Curtis Kelly, who was suspended by Frank Martin. The Hokies still trailed at the break, 30-29. In the second half, K-State’s supporting cast woke up, as the Wildcats slowly built their lead. Malcolm Delaney, Tech’s star guard, tried over and over again to answer, but with every ill-advised shot and turnover (he had 22 points on 6-18 shooting with 9 turnovers) he dug his team into a bigger hole.

Delaney seemed to lose confidence in his teammates, and he wasn’t necessarily wrong to do so. They weren’t finishing the sots he created for them, and second leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson was off throughout the game. This was a game called extremely tight by the referees, and it looked like the Hokies got frustrated. I’ll chalk the loss up to that, because there is no way this team is as bad as they played yesterday.

The Coming Out Party Award goes to: Quincy Acy

The Baylor forward has always been known as a dunker. Acy is just 6’6″, but his awesome athleticism and his wingspan that rivals taller teammates Perry and Anthony Jones has made him reknowned for his ability to rebound the ball and finish above the rim. But against La Salle, Acy had 25 points. He got those 25 points not on dunks and free throws, but with a variety of mid-range jumpers and even a post move or two. As Draft Express says:

Real story here is Quincy Acy. What a game for him. Seems to have improved significantly. Quincy Acy’s energy, toughness, athleticism is all where you want it to be, but now he’s scoring, making mid-range jumpers. Very interesting.

The Chris Webber Award for Boneheadedness goes to: Southern Illinois

Apparently they are too young to have learned a lesson from C-Webb, as they lost on a free throw from a technical foul that was assessed for using too many timeouts. Actually, I put this on head coach Chris Lowery. Its a a coach’s responsibility to make sure his players are aware of how many timeouts they have.

The Tip-Off Marathon MVP goes to: Scoop Jardine

Syracuse looked bad yesterday, like they have all season long. For a team that was predicted to be in the top ten and a potential Final Four contender, the Orange have been a conundrum thus far. They aren’t getting the perimeter shooting they need, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo have fallen well short of expectations, and they’ve come out of the gates sluggish in all three game. Last night was no exception, as they were down for the majority of the first half to Detroit, and if it wasn’t for Scoop Jardine’s performance, the Orange would have lost. Scoop had 27 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals. He was 11-18 from the floor. The rest of the team was 13-46. And he assisted on eight of those field goals.

The All-Tip-Off-Marathon Team:

* G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga: 35 points, 5 assists
* G: Clint Steindl, St. Mary’s: 22 points, 7-10 3’s
* F: Justin Greene, Kent State: 20 points, 12 boards
* F: Quincy Acy, Baylor: 25 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks
* F: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: 26 points, 10 boards
* Honorable Mention: David Lighty, Ohio State (26 points), Draymond Green, Michigan State (18 points, 12 boards, 6 steals, 4 blocks), Billy White, San Diego State (30 points, 9 boards)

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images
4 Comments

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.