Baylor’s win was nice, but exposed their fatal flaw

Leave a comment

No. 7 Baylor finally got a test, and they passed with flying colors.

Playing on the road in one of the toughest venues in the country, the Bears overcame a 13 point first half deficit to knock off a better-than-you-think BYU team at the Marriott Center 86-83.

And believe me when I tell you that the Marriott Center is an extremely difficult place to get a win. They routinely pack that arena with 20,000-plus fans that are just as rowdy and boisterous as the students at Maryland or Kentucky or anywhere else in the country. And they do it without being liquored up.

At this point, we can pretty safely say that the Bears are legit, that the hype this group had heading into the season was warranted.

PJIII is going to be a superstar. Brady Heslip is the kind of shooter that can be a difference-maker for this team. Pierre Jackson is a dynamic play-maker at the point. Their size and athleticism is extremely difficult to matchup with.

But if this game did anything, it exposed what could end up being Baylor’s fatal flaw.

Simply put, this team gets beat up on the offensive glass.

Coming into the game, Baylor was 208th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, which is a stat that measures the number of available offensive rebounds Baylor allows their opponents to get. That came against the 341st toughest schedule played by any team in the country. Against BYU, Baylor was even worse. They allowed the Cougars to grab 19 offensive rebounds and notch an OR% of 47.5.

And while BYU’s front line is good, its hardly considered one of the best in the country.

The issue is that Baylor approaches the defensive glass the same way they do the offensive glass. The Bears play a zone, which is always a difficult defense to rebound out of. Since the Baylor players are assigned a man to defend, when a shot goes up, they simply head to the rim without laying a body on anyone. This opens up lanes for their opponents to get to attack the back boards.

Last season, Baylor’s achilles heel was their lack of perimeter shooting and the struggles they had at the point all season long.

This season, Baylor has Brady Heslip to help spread the floor and a trio of point guards in Gary Franklin, AJ Walton and Jackson.

But until Scott Drew can find a way to shore up how this team, which is as big and athletic as anyone, rebounds on the defensive end of the floor, Baylor is going to have issues any time they face a team with a big front line.

What We Learned:

Baylor:

– PJIII looks much-improved from last season, as he is starting to grow into the potential that has made scouts drool for the last half-decade. He was unstoppable in the post. He went 2-2 from three. He hit pull-up jumpers. He blocked a few shots. Obviously I want to see him rebound the ball on the defensive end of the floor better, but right now I’d say he’s one of the top five players in the America.

– Don’t let Brady Heslip get hot. Seriously. Don’t. He’s the only guy on this Baylor team that is capable of hitting three or four threes in a row. And while that was LaceDarius Dunn’s role last season, Heslip doesn’t need to take 15 threes to hit six in a game.

– Everyone was talking about Gary Franklin’s debut in this game, but I think that Pierre Jackson is going to be the guy that Baylor uses at the point. He’s a better playmaker offensively, he understands that he is a point guard and he is a pest defensively.

– Quincy Miller has essentially made Anthony Jones obsolete. Same size, same length, same ability to shoot, but Miller can do so much more offensively.

BYU:

– No. 7 Baylor has enough talent on their roster to be considered a favorite for the Final Four and a legitimate national title contender. Baylor’s star Perry Jones III was on fire, finishing with 28 points and making play after play down the stretch — including a tip-in with 15 seconds left that gave Baylor a three point lead late. The Bears also hit 13 threes and got 13 points seven assists out of point guard Pierre Jackson. And BYU still had two opportunities in the final 15 seconds to force overtime. That’s impressive.

– Matt Carlino is going to be a star for the Cougars. He came off the bench to score 18 points in his debut for BYU after transferring in from UCLA. He hit big shots late in the game, and while he missed the biggest — a good look at a three that would have tied the game in the final 30 seconds — his play will add a dimension to this BYU team that they lost when Jimmer graduated: a dynamic offensive threat at the guard spot.

– BYU’s big men are much better than they have been given credit for. Brandon Davies had 18 points and 13 boards. Noah Hartsock added 15 points and nine boards. Charles Abouo had 17 points and five boards. They combined to grab 14 offensive rebounds. With the way Elias Harris is struggling, the Cougars probably have the best big men in the WCC.

– Gonzaga’s beatdown of Arizona is impressive, but I think at this point I’d put my money on BYU as the favorite in the league. With Carlino, this team is more complete.

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

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.