Is the ACC worse than the Pac-10 this season?

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Perhaps the most shocking development of this college basketball season — more surprising than Tennessee’s roller coaster ride of a season, Kansas State’s inability to win a game, or UConn’s rise into the top ten — has been the train wreck that is the ACC.

Duke is a legitimate national title contender at the top of the conference, but there hasn’t been another ACC team ranked since North Carolina was 25th in both polls back on November 22nd.

Then you go and look at the league standings. Three teams sit atop the conference at 3-1. One of those teams is Duke. The other three? North Carolina, who is coming off of a 20 point loss to Georgia Tech; Boston College, who has lost to Yale and Harvard already this season; and Florida State, who has beaten Duke but also lost to Auburn.

How bad are things in the ACC?

Many folks seem to think that 11-6 Maryland is the second best team in the conference because they have kept it close against a number of good teams.

It got me to thinking — which isn’t always a good thing — is the ACC worse than the Pac-10 this year?

Its a legitimate question to ask at this point, as the Pac-10 can boast two teams ranked in the top 25 of the Coaches Poll. Arizona snuck in at 25th this week after moving to 15-3 on the season with a win over Arizona State.

According to RealTimeRPI, the ACC is the fifth best conference while the Pac-10 checks in at sixth. But the RPI doesn’t tell the whole story, and as anyone that follows college hoops will tell you, Kenpom’s rankings tend to be a better gauge of a team’s true standing.

And some of the differences between the RPI and Kenpom’s rankings are startling.

For starters, Washington is 20th in the RPI, which is about where they are slotted in both major polls. But Kenpom has the Huskies as the fifth best team in the country.

That’s far from the craziest jump a team makes. Maryland is 91st in the RPI, largely because they haven’t been able to close out games. According to Kenpom, the Terps are 14th in the country, 77 spots higher. Virginia Tech (76th in the RPI, 27th in Kenpom), Clemson (90th in the RPI, 46th in Kenpom), and Florida State (66th in the RPI, 43rd in Kenpom) also make big jumps. In fact, Boston College and Miami are the only ACC teams that Kenpom tabs as “overrated”.

The Pac-10 is not quite as skewed as the ACC. The only team whose Kenpom rank has a noteworthy difference between the RPI and Kenpom’s rankings is Oregon State, who checks in at 222nd in the RPI but 128th in Kenpom. The rest of the league? Its fairly accurate. USC (87th in the RPI, 54th in Kenpom), Washington State (59th in the RPI, 38th in Kenpom), Arizona (28th in the RPI, 20th in Kenpom), and Stanford (96th in the RPI, 73rd in Kenpom) are all underrated while Cal (52nd in the RPI, 74th in Kenpom) is overvalued while UCLA is actually dead on, 63rd in both rankings.

In this completely unscientific study, its tough to argue the Pac-10 is better. The ACC is ranked higher in the RPI, and the conference’s second and third best teams are significantly underrated according to Kenpom’s data.

Think about it like this — the Pac-10 has just ten team in the conference. Two teams may be ranked, but two teams — Oregon and Arizona State — are borderline atrocious this year. Oregon State, who has lost to Utah Valley State, Texas Southern, and Seattle — has three league wins. Stanford, who was a favorite to be the league’s cellar dweller coming into the season, also has three league wins.

Teams like Arizona or UCLA or Washington State may be able to compete with the group of teams fighting for second in the ACC. But the depth and quality of teams fighting for second in the ACC is better than that of the Pac-10.

The ACC is not good by any standard this season, particularly the ACC’s standards, but they have not yet dropped to the Pac-10’s level.

Yet.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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

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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

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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

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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.