Wednesday’s Shootaround: Belmont’s loss, Jordan Taylor’s big shot

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Middle Tennessee State 65, Belmont 62: For the second time this season, the Blue Raiders and the Bruins played a thriller in Murfreesboro, but this time MTSU got revenge on Belmont for a 87-84 double overtime loss. MTSU blew a 43-30 second half lead, allowing Belmont to use a 29-11 surge to take a 59-54 lead. But MTSU rallied, taking a 63-62 lead with just 1:34 left on the clock and locking up defensively down the stretch. The Blue Raiders would go just 2-6 from the foul line down the stretch (they were 11-24 on the game), but they blocked a three-point attempt on consecutive possessions to hold on to the lead.

The loss may have ended any hope that Belmont has of earning themselves an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Atlantic Sun is always a solid conference, but there isn’t anyone in this league that can really be considered a quality win. In fact, the only “good” wins that Belmont has left on their schedule is a home-and-home with Marshall. Convincing the NCAA Tournament committee that two wins over Marshall and a close loss to Duke in the first game of the season is worthy of an at-large bid will be a tough task. Personally, I still think that if they win out and make the final of the A-Sun Tournament, they will have a shot.

MTSU may actually have a better shot at earning an at-large bid if they can put together a couple more wins. In addition to the wins they already have at LMU, UCLA and now Belmont, the Blue Raiders still have to travel to Ole Miss, Denver and Vanderbilt. Win those three games and who knows, it just might be enough.

No. 15 Wiscosin 60, Milwaukee 54: Jordan Taylor still isn’t right offensively, but the all-american came through in the clutch again. He finished just 5-14 from the field for 14 points, but with the Badgers up by three with under a minute left and the Panthers surging back into the game, Taylor buried a deep three from the top of the key to all-but lock up the win. Ben Brust — who was 7-7 from three against Wisconsin — finished just 1-9 from the floor, but Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans went for 17 and 16 points, respectively.

No. 18 Mississippi State 75, Florida Atlantic 68: A depleted Bulldogs almost got beaten by Florida Atlantic for the second straight season. Playing without Arnett Moultrie (knee tendonitis) and Brian Bryant (suspension), MSU blew a ten point halftime lead, allowing the Owls to take the lead for a stretch in the second half. But Dee Bost and Rodney Hood took over. Bost had 22 points while Hood added 19 and 10 boards.

Wyoming 58, UC-Irvine 48: I think its safe to say that Larry Shyatt’s tenure at Wyoming has started off well. After riding a career-high 18 points from JayDee Luster to a win over UC-Irvine, the Cowboys have improved to 10-1, matching their win total from a season ago. While the competition has been, frankly, uninspiring, Wyoming does own a win at Colorado. And at this point, a win is a win for this program.

Oregon State 95, UIC 53: UIC was in trouble from the get-go. Roberto Nelson scored 21 points and Jared Cunningham bounced back from an 0-9 performance in a loss to Idaho with 16 points and five steals as the Beavers rolled.

No. 18 Michigan 63, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 50: Michigan used a 19-0 run in the first half to open up a 32-8 lead and head into the break up 37-17. They pushed that lead to 25 during the second half, but with 13 of their 19 turnovers coming after the break, the Wolverines allowed UAPB to make the final respectable.

Other notable games:

– Drexel 71, Niagara 58
– Minnesota 76, Central Michigan 56
– Texas 93, Nicholls State 40
– South Carolina 66, Presbyterian 58
– UCF 77, NC A&T 65
– Villanova 68, Boston U. 43

Top performers:

Jaylen Bond, Texas: The freshman big man with fro 18 points and 12 boards (eight offensive) as the Longhorns blew out Nicholls State by 53 points.

Chris Fouch, Drexel: Fouch had 24 points and knocked down six threes as the Dragons knocked off Niagara.

Marcus Jordan, UCF: Jordan went for 28 points on 8-17 shooting as the Golden Knights knocked off NC A&T.

Laval Lucas-Perry and Drew Valentine, Oakland: Lucas-Perry went for 23 points, eight boards and five assists and Valentine added 20 points and 15 boards as the Grizzlies knocked off Rochester.

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.