Thursday’s Shootaround: Two undefeateds lose, Creighton upset

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No. 12 Georgetown 71, No. 4 Louisville 68: See here

No. 17 Michigan State 80, No. 15 Indiana 65: See here

Missouri State 77, No. 19 Creighton 65: See here

No. 7 Baylor 54, No. 14 Mississippi State 52: I’m torn about how I should interpret this game. The talent level on both teams was evident. Baylor is certainly good enough to make it all the way to New Orleans, especially if Scott Drew can ever figure out how to bring out the mean side of Perry Jones III. The amount of size and athleticism Drew has at his disposal is simply staggering. But Mississippi State has quite a bit of talent themselves, enough that I think they can end up being the second best team in the SEC.

But this game also highlighted why there is so much to be concerned about on each team. I’ll start with Baylor. PJ3 is infuriating to watch at times. He has such an immense amount of talent — I think his worst-case scenario as an NBA player is some cross between Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani — but he is such a passive basketball player. He doesn’t demand the ball the way he should on that team, and when he finally does get it, he’s taking deep jumpers or fading away from contact in the post. If I’m Scott Drew, I pay someone to punch him in the face before every game just to get him pissed off. With PJ3 struggling with his assertiveness on the offensive end of the floor, Pierre Jackson is the guy that has become to go-to player in the Bear’s offense. That’s not a terrible thing — Jackson can create and he’s hit some big, big shots down the stretch of the past few games, including the game-winner Wednesday — but Jackson has a tendency to play a bit out of control. Once he learns to control his absurd athleticism, he’ll be better. But right now, when he is forced to score early, he becomes a gunner. That’s not what Baylor needs.

For Mississippi State, the question isn’t simply their late-game execution. I’m not even going to touch the disaster of a final possession in this space (see here and here for explanation). What I will talk about is Renardo Sidney. With Mississippi State up 52-50 in the final minutes, Sidney was called for his fifth foul when he failed to block out against Quincy Acy. He argued with the official and ended up getting called for a technical foul as well. While the tech didn’t directly cost Mississippi State the game — Baylor ended up missing two of the four free throws they shot — that may not be true next time. And its a shame because Sidney actually played well. We’ve been over this: he is never going to be the superstar he has the potential to be. But he doesn’t need to be for Mississippi State to be a good basketball team. All they need from Sidney is to be a low-post presence, block a shot or two, grab a couple of rebounds and avoid to immature blow-ups. For most of the season, he’s done well. The technical was a slip-up, but its up to Sidney to determine whether this was simply a misstep or a full-blown relapse.

No. 1 Syracuse 75, Seton Hall 49: The Pirates just never had a chance against the Orange. They struggled all game long trying to figure out the 2-3 zone, turning the ball over 23 times (Syracuse had 17 steals) and shooting just 31.4% from the floor. Fab Melo turned in his best performance of his career, finishing with 12 points, seven boards and 10 blocks. So much for that 11-1 start for the Pirates.

No. 2 Ohio State 87, Northwestern 54: Since we’re on the subject, remember how people were saying this could be Northwestern’s year? Not if they continue to put up duds like they did against the Buckeyes. Ohio State used a 14-0 run midway through the first half to take a commanding lead, and the Wildcats were never able to make it interesting. William Buford had 28 points while John Shurna and Drew Crawford combined to go 9-30 from the floor.

No. 9 UConn 60, South Florida 57: The Huskies always seem to struggle with South Florida. On Wednesday, UConn never got into a rhythm offensively. Jeremy Lamb had 23 points, but he was the only Husky in double figures. While Lamb shot 8-11 from the field, the rest of the UConn team was 13-37. As much as Husky fans would like to blame this on not having Jim Calhoun (they got a technical foul before tipoff for not turning their lineup card in on time), UConn’s struggles against inferior competition is starting to get a bit worrisome.

West Virginia 83, Villanova 69: Truck Bryant had a career-high 34 points and combined with freshman Gary Browne to score all 20 points in a game-ending, 20-6 run. Kevin Jones had 13 points and seven boards, but he took a solid elbow from a teammate that opened up a cut over his right eye that required stitches. Jones was a non-factor in the second half, but Bryant put on a show. The duo of Bryant and Jones is as good as any 1-2 punch in the Big East.

Maryland 83, Albany 72: Keep in mind that it came against Maryland, but in his collegiate debut, Alex Len — who missed the first 10 games of the season due to a suspension — had 14 points, eight boards and three blocks. Throw in the 11 points, eight assists and six boards Pe’Shon Howard added, and just maybe the Terps have a shot at sneaking up on some people in the ACC this season.

The rest of the top 25:

No. 3 Kentucky 86, Lamar 64: Terrence Jones returned to the Kentucky lineup for what seems like the first time in a month. He had seven points and six boards in 27 minutes off the bench.

No. 20 UNLV 124, Central Arkansas 75: Two insane stats from this game: the last time UNLV scored this many points, their head coach Dave Rice was wearing a Rebels uniform (1990-91), and UNLV finished with more assists (40) than rebounds (36).

Other notable scores:

– Temple 87, Buffalo 85 OT
– Loyola MD 72, Bucknell 67
– St. Joe’s 81, Morgan State 50
– Drexel 77, Fairfield 69
– Wichita State 90, Bradley 51
– Arkansas 80, Charlotte 67
– North Dakota State 96, Oakland 69
– Gonzaga 90, Portland 51
– New Mexico 89, New Mexico State 69

Top performers:

Cameron Moore, UAB: What’s more impressive than the 19 points and 24 rebounds that Moore had against GW? The fact that GW had 22 rebounds as a team. Moore outrebounds an entire team!

Drew Gordon, New Mexico: The Lobos are a different team now than they were back in November when they lost to New Mexico State at home. Gordon was a perfect example, finishing with 23 points and 19 boards in the 89-69 win

Wendell McKines, New Mexico State: The 25 points and 15 boards he had against Gordon was noteworthy as well.

Mike James, Lamar: Give James credit — he’s fearless. How else would you be able to score 29 points on Kentucky in Rupp?

BJ Monteiro, Duquesne: Monteiro had 28 points and eight boards as the Dukes knocked off a solid Bowling Green team.

Keiton Page, Oklahoma State: The diminutive Paige had 27 points as the Pokes won a much-needed game in double-overtime against SMU in Dallas.

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.