Thursday Morning Shootaround: Did St. Mary’s suffer the upset of the year?

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No. 11 Purdue 70, Wisconsin 62: See here and here.

No. 12 UConn 78, No. 9 Georgetown 70: See here.

Cincy 63, No. 16 Louisville 54: See here.

No. 18 Vandy 64, Georgia 56: See here.

San Diego 74, No. 23 St. Mary’s 66: You might not realize just how shocking this upset is. San Diego had five wins on the season before Wednesday night. Two non-DI’s, Utah in the 7th place game in the Diamond Head Classic, Cal St. Bakersfield, and Loyola Marymount. The Toreros were a whopping 317th in the RPI going into last night. St. Mary’s could have clinched at least a share of the WCC regular season title with a win.

But they lost, putting themselves into a incredibly tough spot. The Gaels Bracket Buster’s showdown with Utah State on Saturday has essentially become a must-win for both teams if they want to have a shot at making the tournament as an at-large bid. Then next week, the Gaels have to play both Gonzaga and Portland. A win against the Zags clinches the conference title, but a loss means the two teams are tied. Portland has already beaten St. Mary’s once this season.

The Gaels still control their own destiny, but its a destiny with much less — if any — margin for error.

Conference USA: Memphis 62, UAB 58; Southern Miss 64, UTEP 51

Memphis continues to survive in close games, last night blocking a game-tying three to prevent blowing a six point lead in the final 40 seconds of the game. Will Barton continued his development, scoring 17 points for this Tigers, who move into sole possession of first place in the league with the win and UTEP’s loss. The Miners are a half-game back while UAB and Southern Miss both trail by a game in the loss column (along with SMU and Tulsa).

RL Horton had 20 points and DJ Newbill added 15 points and 16 boards as Southern Miss forced 11-39 second half shooting from UTEP and overcame a double digit deficit in the second half.

Vermont 73, Maine 57: The kind of ‘stache, Evan Fjeld, scored 19 points and Brandon Bald added 17 as the Catamounts shot 59.6% from the floor and became the first team in 2011 to secure a postseason berth. They locked up, at worst, a trip to the NIT by clinching the America East regular season title.

Fairfield 61, Marist 54: If Vermont was the first team to clinch their outright conference title, the Stags were a very close second, as they got 14 points from Yorel Hawkins in clinching the MAAC’s regular season championship.

Horizon League: What a mess this conference is at the top. League leader Valparaiso lost to Milwaukee 79-76 last night which, combined with Cleveland State’s win over Wright State, gave the Vikings a half game lead in the league standings. Milwaukee is a game back in the loss column, tied with Butler for third place. Those first two spots are extremely important in the Horizon League; the top two seeds get byes into the semifinals of the conference tournament.

No. 2 Texas 73, Oklahoma State 55: Texas continues to completely shut down their opponents defensively. Last night, Oklahoma State managed to score just 0.80 PPP, a number that was bolstered by a couple of buckets when the game was already decided. How long can this defense hold up?

No. 4 Pitt 67, South Florida 55: The Bulls were in this game for far too long, as Pitt needed to use a 14-2 run with eight minutes left in the game to put the game away. The run was sparked when Travon Woodall sprinted back on defense to break up a layup that would have tied the game at 46.

No. 5 Duke 56, Virginia 41: Duke gave up just 15 points in the second half, locking down the Cavs defensively, something they had to do with Kyle Singler continuing to struggle. Singler had just two points, but Nolan Smith picked him up, once again playing hero and scoring 22 points with four assists.

No. 6 San Diego State 68, New Mexico 62: Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas both scored 22 points and the Aztecs hit eight of ten free throws down the stretch as SDSU held on to beat the Lobos. New Mexico may have just run out of chances to earn an at-large bid to the tournament.

No. 17 Texas A&M 71, Iowa State 66: Nathan Walkup scored 19 points to lead the Aggies in a game that was far too close for comfort.

Tennessee 73, South Carolina 67: Scotty Hopson scored 23 points and had three massive dunks. When he plays the way he did tonight, he’s a top ten pick come June.

Illinois 54, Michigan 52: It wasn’t pretty, but the Illini are still alive for an at-large berth.

Nebraska 59, Oklahoma 58: Oklahoma’s Cade Davis hit what appeared to be a step-back three with three seconds left in the game. The refs signaled a two, but no one saw the call. Nebraska dribbled to ball up and missed a prayer at the buzzer. Everyone thought the game was headed to overtime, but after checking the monitor, the refs confirmed that it was just a two pointer.

Miami OH 86, Kent State 80 OT: Nick Winbush scored 26 points and added 12 rebounds while Julian Mavunga had 17 and 17 as the Redhawks used a 9-0 run in the overtime to take control and move into a half game lead in the MAC standings. Rodriguez Sherman hit a three with eight seconds left in regulation to force the overtime.

Other Notable Scores

  • Duquesne 81, UMass 63
  • Xavier 74, St. Joe’s 54
  • Bucknell 74, Lafayette 69 OT
  • Morehead State 76, Eastern Kentucky 68 OT
  • Southeast Missouri State 64, Murray State 57
  • Colorado State 69, TCU 55

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

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

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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.