Day 2 recap: Mason thrills, Illinois thrives, Vols stink

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Game of the Day: George Mason 61, Villanova 57

Villanova looked to be in control of this game. Corey Fisher was playing well, Corey Stokes was shooting well, and Mouph Yarou was a monster in the paint. On the other hand, George Mason was getting nothing out of their stars, as Cam Long and Ryan Pearson were both struggling to score. The Patriots were able to chip into Nova’s lead, getting it to within one point on a couple of different occasions, but each run that George Mason made was answered by the Wildcats.

But down six with two minutes left, the Patriots made a run. Isaiah Tate hit a long three from the corner followed by a and-one in the paint from Pearson. After another stop, Mike Morrison threw down a huge tip-dunk with 55 seconds left. Fisher was fouled shooting a three and hit all three free throws, but Luke Hancock drilled a step-back three with 30 seconds left for a 59-57 lead. Villanova missed two shots at the other end, and Mike Morrison had a dunk at the buzzer to give us the final margin. Gus Johnson was perfect for this one.

Player of the Day: Derrick Williams, Arizona

In a game full of storylines, the outcome probably exceeded the hype. Williams originally committed to USC, but with the drama surrounding the O.J. Mayo scandal, Williams re-opened his recruitment. He nearly went to Memphis, but opted on staying closer to his Southern California home and head to Arizona. That choice would haunt Memphis and Josh Pastner, a former Arizona assistant.

Williams scored 22 points and added 10 rebounds for the Wildcats, including a late 3-pointer that gave Arizona a 68-65 lead late in the second half. Memphis would scrap their way back into the game, getting the lead down to 75-74 on a layup after a steal on an in-bounds pass. After two Momo Jones free throws put Arizona up by three, Arizona fouled Joe Jackson with 4.6 seconds left. Jackson missed first and hit the second. The rebound came to Wesley Witherspoon who looked to have an open layup until Williams came out of no where to block the shot and seal the win.

Team of the Day: Illinois Fighting Illini

UNLV was the overwhelming favorite to win this game. It was a combination of reasons, but the biggest was that the Illini had struggled down the stretch of the season. It wasn’t for a lack of talent — quite the opposite, actually, as the Illini have the talent to be a top 15 team. The issue was execution. Illinois, and specifically star Demetri McCamey, was playing selfish basketball. There was no aggressiveness, they were settling for tough threes, and it looked like, for the most part this team had lost their confidence.

Well, the Illini apparently solved that problem. Illinois jumped out to a 39-16 lead, took a 46-24 at half, and cruised to a 73-62 win. McCamey finished with 17 points and seven assists, making seemingly every play early in the game, while Mike Davis added 22 points, nine boards, and five assists. It sets up and intriguing situation on Sunday. The Illini will face Kansas, and if they are once again playing this well, they have a shot at knocking off the Jayhawks.

Anti-Team of the Day: Tennessee Volunteers

Well, the Vols quit on their season. Down 33-29 at the half, Michigan absolutely dominated the second half, outscoring Tennessee 42-16 and winning 75-45 despite not making a single free throw. And as much credit as the Wolverines deserve for the win, the blame has to fall square at the feet of the Vols, who rolled over and died with about 18 minutes left in the game. It’s tough to rip the kids, who have been through a tough, drama-filled season rife with scandal and rumor-mongering. The question now becomes whether Bruce Pearl will still be Tennessee’s coach next season.

Texas 85, Oakland 81: Tristan Thompson won the battle of the bigs, finishing with 17 points, 10 boards, and seven blocks while holding Keith Benson to 15 points, 11 boards, and 6-15 shooting. More importantly, however, the Longhorns rolled past the Golden Grizzlies. Don’t let the final score fool you, Texas was in control for most of this game, opening up a lead as big as 17 in the second half. Reggie Hamilton led a surge at the end to make the score respectable, but the 40 points that Texas got from Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown was just too much.

Marquette 66, Xavier 55: The Golden Eagles made a statement against Xavier. The Musketeers, who were considered the best team in the Atlantic 10, lost to the only bubble team in the Big East conference. And that 11 point final margin doesn’t do this game justice. The Golden Eagles were up by as much as 18 points in the second half, and Xavier never was closer than eight. Tu Holloway finished with five points on 1-9 shooting. Darius Johnson-Odom had 19 points to lead Marquette, while Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder combined for 25 points on 9-14 shooting.

Washington 68, Georgia 65: This was an impressive win for the Huskies. They had no answer for Trey Thompkins inside — he finished with 26 points and 11 boards — and they shot just 4-18 from three, but they still managed to hold a pretty solid lead for much of the second half. Washington used a 17-7 push at the start of the second half and was bouyed by 19 points and seven assists from Isaiah Thomas.

Florida State 57, Texas A&M 50: In one of the uglier defensive battles we’ve seen in this tournament, the Seminoles pulled away down the stretch on the strength of Derwin Kitchen (15 points, seven boards, three assists), Bernard James (10 points, three blocks), and a big jumper from Michael Snaer. More importantly, however, Chris Singleton was back in action. He played just 16 minutes, and had nearly as many fouls (four) as points (five). He’s definitely not 100 percent yet.

VCU 74, Georgetown 56: VCU jumped all over the Hoyas, taking a 35-24 into halftime and pushing the lead to as much as 25 in the second half. VCU hit 12 threes and got 26 points out of Brandon Rozzell in the win. Joey Rodriguez added 17 points and seven assists. Surprisingly, it wasn’t Jamie Skeen that made the difference tonight. Georgetown never seemed comfortable against the Ram’s press and Chris Wright was clearly not at 100 percent. How about this — Wright and Austin Freeman combined for 16 points, no assists, five turnovers, and 6-27 shooting, including 0-14 on threes.

Syracuse 77, Indiana State 60: The Sycamores hung around for about 30 minutes, but the Syracuse frontline ended up being too much. Rick Jackson had 23 points and seven boards, CJ Fair added 14 points and seven boards, and Kris Joseph had 10 points and 10 boards in the win.

UNC 102, Long Island 87: The Blackbirds never seriously threatened the Tar Heels, but this was still one of the day’s most entertaining games. Both teams like to get up and down the floor, and the result was 189 combined points. John Henson was the star, finishing with 28 points, 11 boards, and six blocks, but Tyler Zeller (32 points, nine boards, three blocks) and Harrison Barnes (24 points, 16 boards) also played great. I think it is safe to say that UNC’s front line was too much for LIU.

Notre Dame 69, Akron 56: The Zips gave the Irish a fight, trailing by just four points at the half and remaining within striking distance for much of the second half. Carleton Scott was too much inside — 14 boards, three blocks, three steals — while all six of the Irish rotational players finished with between eight and 15 points.

Purdue 65, St. Peter’s 43: The Peacocks proved to be tough defensively, but they just didn’t have enough firepower offensively to knock off the Boilermakers. JaJuan Johnson finished with 16 points (on 6-16 shooting) and 16 boards while E’Twaun Moore scored 19 points in the win.

Duke 87, Hampton 45: There usually isn’t much to report for a game like this. But since Kyrie Irving played for the first time in three months, there is. Irving led the team with 14 points, but most of them came in garbage time. He looked rusty and out of shape, but that is sure to wear off in the next week. Watch out.

Ohio State 75, Texas-San Antonio 46: This was a game for all of about seven minutes. Then Ohio State took over. William Buford led four scorers in double figures with 18 points, and the Buckeyes assists on 26 of their 29 field goals.

Kansas 72, Boston 53: Kansas won by 19 points, but it was a dog fight in the first half. BU’s John Holland, playing on a bum ankle, scored 19 points and kept the Terriers within four points at the half. In the end, however, the Jayhawks were just too talented. The five Jayhawks starters finished with between eight and 16 points.

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.