Previewing your college hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 2:00 pm: Cleveland State @ West Virginia: If every college basketball team in Division I was to be ranked strictly according to record, Cleveland State would be the No. 1 team in the country. The Vikings are currently the only team in the country sitting at 12-0. Granted, that 12-0 hasn’t come against high-major programs — hell, if we discounted non D-I wins, CSU would be a measly 10-0 — but they have beaten some pretty good teams, like Iona and Robert Morris.

West Virginia hasn’t really been themselves this season. Bob Huggins has had issues getting the guys on his team to play his way. Casey Mitchell, who was so good early in the season, has seen the bench more than he has the court the last two games has he continues to work through issues doing what Huggins’ asks. Truck Bryant was benched for a game. Kevin Jones hasn’t really improved as much as people had hoped. Deniz Kilicli is a quality post presence, but he hasn’t quite figured out how to play in Huggins system. The result has been some lackluster performances the past week.

Cleveland State is led by the high-scoring Norris Cole, who comes into this one averaging 21.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.4 apg and 2.3 spg. If WVU lets him get going and continues their struggles, the Vikings may get their first big win of the season.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 12:00 pm: Oakland @ Michigan: Do I really need to explain this one? Oakland is coming off of close losses to Illinois and Michigan State and a road win against Tennessee. Michigan just isn’t very good. Would this really be considered an upset?

Sat. 1:00 pm: UCF @ Miami FL: The Golden Knights are looking to stake a claim as the best basketball team in the state of Florida. They already own a win over the Gators, and on Saturday they take their shot at the Hurricanes. Miami has a couple of talented guards in Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant as well as a beast in the paint in Reggie Johnson. But there is a reason UCF is still undefeated. Donnie Jones has a good basketball team, led by Marcus Jordan, the elder son of Michael Jordan.

Sat. 2:00 pm: South Carolina @ No. 2 Ohio State: The Buckeyes are clearly the more talented team. Jared Sullinger is a monster on the block, and when his teammates are getting him the ball in good spots, he will be unstoppable for the Gamecocks. David Lighty is the ultimate senior leader and glue guy, capable of going for 20 on a given night. Jon Diebler, who hit nine straight threes in a game this week, and William Buford are also capable of carrying this team. But each member of the Buckeyes have had a habit of not showing up some nights. If that happens, USC has a shot. They are a plucky team led by the underrated Bruce Ellington, a talented freshman point guard.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Iona @ No. 10 Syracuse: The Orange have been playing as well as anyone in the country the past two weeks. Rick Jackson has become a monster on the block, Scoop Jardine is playing well, and this team is really locking down defensively. But Iona has a kid named Optimus Prime. Mike Glover, a JuCo transfer and the younger brother of former St. John’s star Anthony Glover, is currently averaging 22.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg. He had double-doubles where he scored 39 points and 30 points in the Gael’s last two games, and Iona, after starting the season 0-3, has reeled off seven straight wins.

Sat. 10:00 pm: UC Santa Barbara @ No. 10 San Diego State: On Wednesday, we saw these Gauchos knock off UNLV by playing a zone and enticing the Rebels to force threes against them. Against San Diego State, the issue won’t be whether or not the Aztecs can hit those threes, it will be whether or not UCSB can box out the big and athletic front line of SDSU. The Gauchos have two studs in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally, while two SDSU starters — Kawhi Leonard and Chase Tapley — missed their last game with the flu.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 3:30 pm: No. 6 Kansas State @ No. 24 Florida: Both of these teams really need this win. Kansas State has just one loss on the season — to No. 1 Duke — but the Wildcats have been a hot mess. (That’s how the cool kids say it these days, right?) Jacob Pullen isn’t hitting his threes and isn’t getting to the line, seeing his scoring average drop three points this season. Outside of Pullen the Wildcats haven’t found a consistent second option, and with guys like Wally Judge (currently sitting out) and Curtis Kelly missing time, K-State hasn’t put it all together yet. Florida, on the other hand, is still waiting for Kenny Boynton to find his stroke and are trying to establish an identity for themselves. Is Chandler Parsons going to grow into his potential? Is Erving Walker a point guard? How good are their bigs? The two keys to this game — can Florida’s guard slow down Pullen, and can Kansas State’s bigs outplay an improved Florida front line?

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 25 Texas @ UNC: There will be a ton of talent on the floor when Texas takes on UNC, but both have these teams have struggled to put together any kind of consistency the past two seasons. Texas beat Illinois then lost by 17 to USC. The Tar Heels have not looked impressive at all this season, but they own a win over Kentucky. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller will be a fun matchup to watch inside, as will Jordan Hamilton and Harrison Barnes on the perimeter. The real issue here, however, is that both teams could really use this win to get back on track with conference play approaching.

Sat. 4:30 pm: Gonzaga @ No. 9 Baylor: The Zags are still looking to land a marquee win this season. They’ve struggled against seemingly everyone of their quality opponents. Baylor, on the other hand, still hasn’t played anyone, but this team looks like they are actually living up to the hype. LaceDarius Dunn is arguably the best all-around shooter in the country, AJ Walton is developing nicely as a point guard, and that front line is as long and athletic as ever. The key for Gonzaga is going to be whether or not they can penetrate and attack the Baylor zone. The Zags are not good enough shooters to launch threes and beat the Bears. As a bonus, seeing Elias Harris go up against Quincy Acy and Perry Jones will be a good gauge for NBA scouts to see what he can do at the next level.

Sat. 5:30 pm: No. 18 BYU @ UCLA: I’m not ready to totally sandbag UCLA just yet. I like the pieces they have on their team, especially Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith. Nelson is athletic and active at the four, and Smith is a big body and a load on the block for smaller opponents. BYU has Jimmer Fredette, but their front line will have trouble with the Bruin’s if the UCLA kids come ready to play, especially with Noah Hartsock coming off of a concussion.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Virginia Tech vs. Mississippi State in Puerto Rico: The Bulldogs finally will be able to suit up Renardo Sidney, and I know I’m not the only person that is curious to see what this kid can do and how good Mississippi State can be. That said, Virginia Tech — and Malcolm Delaney — has been playing a bit better of late. Both teams desperately need this win for their resume.

BEST STORYLINES

Friday

  • 7:00 pm: No. 7 Tennessee @ Charlotte: Tennessee looks to bounce back from their first loss of the season against a Charlotte that may or may not be revitalized by the dismissal of their leading scorer Shamari Spears.
  • 9:00 pm: Boise State @ Utah: Great matchup of two teams from outside the BCS … err, wait, that’s football. How about two of the teams that were integral in the downfall of the WAC?
  • 9:00 pm: Arizona State @ Nevada: Can Olek Czyz, the Duke transfer that debuts tonight, turn around Nevada’s 2-7 season?

Saturday

  • 12:00 pm: USC @ No. 3 Kansas: Not only is this Josh Selby’s debut as a Kansas Jayhawk, its Jio Fontan’s debut as a Trojan.
  • 12:00 pm: Loyola MD @ No. 13 Georgetown: Jimmy Patsos famously went triangle and two with the “two” both on Stephen Curry a few years back. What will he do against the back court of Georgetown?
  • 2:00 pm: No. 14 Illinois vs. Illinois-Chicago: Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Paul Carter plays for UIC, transferring for his senior season to be closer to his sister, who has cancer.
  • 2:00 pm: Northern Illinois @ Temple: The NCAA’s leading scorer Xavier Silas goes up against arguably the best defensive team in the country.
  • 2:00 pm: Arkansas @ Texas A&M: The Aggies have been playing very well this season, but Arkansas has some talent on this team with Marshon Powell and Rotnei Clarke. Sooner or later, the SEC West has to win a game, right?
  • 4:05 pm: Indiana State vs. No. 17 Purdue: This game will be played in Conseco Fieldhouse. … Yeah, that’s all I got.
  • 5:00 pm: Richmond @ Georgia Tech: The Spiders have been arguably the best team in the Atlantic 10 thus far this season, with wins over Purdue and Arizona State. Can they continue that run?
  • 6:30 pm: Prairie View A&M @ No. 15 Michigan State: Still waiting for a dominating performance from the Spartans…
  • 7:00 pm: Maryland-Eastern Shore @ No. 8 Pitt: The Panthers look to bounce back from an ugly loss against Tennessee.
  • 7:30 pm: Delaware @ No. 11 Villanova: Will the Wildcat’s talented back court of Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher ever find a groove?
  • 8:00 pm: Central Arkansas @ No. 12 Missouri: Ever wonder what happened to Corliss Williamson? He’s the head coach at Central Arkansas now. Its also Scottie Pippen’s alma mater. They made need those two to suit up against the Tigers.
  • 8:00 pm: Mississippi Valley State @ No. 16 Kentucky: Kenpom has named Terrence Jones the early leader for kPOY.
  • 8:00 pm: Wake Forest @ Xavier: This is the Skip Prosser Classic.
  • 11:00 pm: Florida State @ Loyola Marymount: I picked the Lions as a sleeper in the WCC. So far, that looks foolish, but LMU has won three straight.

Sunday

  • 4:00 pm: Arizona @ NC State: Interesting matchup for both teams, as this could be a game that gets mentioned a lot in bubble conversations in February. But the story here is whether or not Tracy Smith, who is out with a knee injury will actually be suiting up.
  • 4:30 pm: Stony Brook @ No. 23 Notre Dame: The Irish are ranked, so I have to put them here, right?

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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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
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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
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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
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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

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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.