Ohio St. better hope Jared Sullinger’s injury isn’t serious

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Jared Sullinger’s back failed us all.

This was supposed to be one of the most interesting matchups of the young season, and not solely because of the names on the front of the jerseys. While having two programs with as much prestige as No. 2 Ohio State and No. 13 Kansas share the court for 40 minutes in a storied Phog Allen Fieldhouse is terrific television viewing in and or itself, the fact that it featured two of the most intriguing big man prospects in the country only increased the intrigue.

But Sullinger couldn’t get his back loosened up, and as a result, Ohio State had to take the floor without their star center and a first-team all-american.

The Jayhawks took advantage. Thomas Robinson finished with 21 points and seven boards while Kevin Young had his best game in a Kansas uniform, scoring 14 points off the bench, as the Jayhawks rolled to a 78-67 win.

The question is how we judge this win. How do we look at it when the rankings are released on Monday? How do we interpret it come Selection Sunday? How can we, with any realistic accuracy, determine what would have happened in this game had Jared Sullinger played?

Because right now this win has an asterisk, and it goes beyond the fact that Kansas was playing the game at home. Ohio State is a different team without Sullinger in the lineup. Losing a guy that averages 19.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg is a massive blow no matter how you look at it. When Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams are the players that see time as replacements, the impact of that loss gets maginifed.

But there is more to it than that.

Sullinger forces a defense to do so many things differently when he is on the floor. He’s such a threat on the block when he catches the ball that defensive game-plans have to be built completely around how to help down on or double the post and rotate to shooters if the ball gets kicked out. Even when Sullinger doesn’t touch the ball, his presence in the paint and his ability to seal his defender forces the opponent’s defense to loosen up and slough to the paint a little bit more.

With Ohio State’s ability to swing the ball around the perimeter, those couple of extra steps makes a world of difference in getting open looks for shooters and creating 1-on-1 isolation opportunities on the perimeter. Given the fact that this season, Thad Matta has guys like Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert as secondary offensive options instead of David Lighty and Jon Diebler, and creating those open looks through ball movement becomes all-the-more important; the Buckeyes simply don’t have the same kind of talent and shot creation on the perimeter.

This is still a fairly impressive win for Kansas as Ohio State never really threatened the lead despite the fact that both DeShaun Thomas and William Buford managed to get into a pretty good rhythm for a half. The Jayhawks, frankly, didn’t play their best game, either. Robinson’s 21 points and seven boards were quiet, meaning he did a lot of his damage late in the game — with about 10 minutes left, he had just 11 points and two boards. Even without Sullinger on the court, Robinson did not dominate the Buckeye front line.

Tyshawn Taylor wasn’t particularly great either. He did dish out 13 assists, which is a very impressive total for anyone, but he turned the ball over seven times in the process and shot just 3-9 from the floor.

Sullinger’s injury — which, hopefully, is not something that will plague him all season long; they said on the broadcasy that his back is so inflamed that it is difficult for him to bend down and touch his toes — took away from a matchup that a lot of people were looking forward to.

But it also made it very difficult to get any kind of read on what this performance means for both teams.
What We Learned

Kansas:

– The Jayhakws are not going to be at their best until they can learn to protect the ball better. They had 18 assists but also 18 turnovers against Ohio State. Tyshawn Taylor is the biggest culprit. He has 32 turnovers in his last five games and has an assist-to-turnover ratio that was below one heading into today. You cannot have your primary ball-handler be that careless.

– Kevin Young is going to be an important piece for the Jayhawks if he can develop into an inside-outside threat. Young had 14 points, grabbed a couple of offensive boards and knocked down a pair of threes. If Young can provide Self with a steady face-up option to play alongside Robinson, it gives Kansas that much more versatility.

– It was nice to see Elijah Johnson bust out of his shooting slump with a 5-7 day from beyond the arc.

Ohio State:

– The Buckeyes better hope that Sullinger’s injury isn’t very serious. Without him in the lineup, they are a very different team.

– The biggest issue offensively for Ohio State is that they just don’t have the kind of weapons on their perimeter that are going to consistently be able to create points and shots. William Buford is not exactly a go-to scorer; he’s more of a complimentary player. DeShaun Thomas can get buckets, but I am concerned that telling him he has free reign to shoot whenever he pleases can be like opening up Pandora’s Box. Aaron Craft is more of a steadying influence and a facilitator at the point than he is a dynamic creator. Sullinger’s presence nullifies that.

– I think that the offensive end is where Ohio State will be hurt the most without Sullinger, but defensively they should still be fine. Sullinger takes up a lot of space, but he’s not a shot-blocker and he’s not a guy that is going to go out of his area to grab rebounds. Ravenel and Williams aren’t quite as strong and don’t hold position as well, but they really aren’t that big of a drop-off.

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.