Seton Hall cannot rest on their win over UConn

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Andre Drummond didn’t know who Herb Pope was prior to No. 8 UConn’s trip to Seton Hall, but the name he most likely learned during the Pirate’s 75-63 win on Tuesday was that of Jordan Theodore.

The Pirate point guard was sensational as Seton Hall won their first game against UConn in 3,958 days, finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, three steals and a number of big buckets in the second half to prevent the Huskies from building any kind of momentum.

The statement “big buckets” in the second half is kind of ironic, I know, as the Pirates flat out drilled UConn on this night. Think about this: UConn was hot early, hitting three threes in the first four minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 11-2 lead. Over the next 16 minutes? Seton Hall outscored the Huskies 31-11, which included a 16-3 run to close the first half. UConn was able to trim a 35-22 halftime deficit to 10, but they never made things interesting after the break.

The one, very basic, question that we are now forced to ask: is this Seton Hall team is ‘for real’?

Personally, I hate asking whether a team is ‘for real’, if for no other reason that the term is incredibly vague and has different connotations for different teams. After Indiana knocked off Ohio State on New Year’s Eve, folks were asking whether or not Indiana was ‘for real’. Not even the most delusional Seton Hall fan would dare think that the Pirates are currently on the same level as the Hoosiers.

What we can say is this: Seton Hall has put themselves into incredible position to make a run at an at-large bid. Why? Because this win over the Huskies is far from the only impressive thing they have done this season. Just five days ago, the Pirates knocked off a better-than-we-thought West Virginia team by 19 points in the Prudential Center. They also own a win at Dayton, victories over Wake Forest and Auburn and knocked off both St. Joseph’s and VCU in Charleston.

On Tuesday afternoon, Andy Glockner’s bubble watch was released at SI.com, and he said that Seton Hall would “obviously would be in today” while emphasizing that we needed to have “some continued restraint given the lack of a true marquee win.” I think a dominating victory over a top ten team would qualify as a marquee victory.

Seton Hall’s next five games are fairly unimpressive as well, as they host DePaul and Notre Dame while traveling to Providence, South Florida and Villanova. Assuming they go 4-1 in that stretch, Seton Hall will head into the most important stretch of their season — home for Louisville, at Marquette, at UConn in the span of eight days — with a record of 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Big East.

The Pirates are going to be garnering plenty of attention over the next month.

But is that attention warranted?

Is Seton Hall the team that has blown out West Virginia and UConn at home, or are they the group that was completely and thoroughly abused at Syracuse six days ago? Don’t forget about that performance, Seton Hall fans. You lost 75-49 to a team that didn’t get a single point out of their leading scorer.

The answer, frankly, lies somewhere in the middle — Kevin Willard’s team is not as bad as they played against Syracuse and they aren’t as good as they looked on Tuesday night against UConn. I know that’s a cop out, but its true. You cannot simply overlook a no-show performance and write it off as a “one of those nights”. What happens if Seton Hall has “one of those nights” against Providence on Saturday? Or in the first round of the Big East Tournament?

And, frankly, what’s to stop us from saying UConn lost tonight because they had “one of those nights”? Outside of Jeremy Lamb, only two players from UConn came to play Tuesday — Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander — and they aren’t exactly who we talk about when we say UConn has a roster stocked with potential NBA draft picks.

Jordan Theodore (who was once considered a better prospect than his AAU teammate Kemba Walker) and Herb Pope (who was once thought to be one of the best big man recruits in the country) are both showing why they had the hype they did at the amateur level. Fuquan Edwin is a much-improved offensive weapon and a playmaker on the defensive end. Patrick Auda and Aaron Cosby have been reliable role players. Brandon Mobley showed why had some hype when he joined the Seton Hall team five games ago.

No one is questioning whether or not the Pirates are a good basketball team this season.

But there is no need to place unwarranted expectations on this group. They are winning because they are playing every game like their season depends on it. Making this group think they are good enough to win just by showing up — kind of like what UConn did tonight — will result in more tallies showing up in the loss column.

If beating UConn at home ends up being the highlight of their season, than this won’t have been a very productive year for the Pirates.

What We Learned

Seton Hall:

– This isn’t exactly a secret, as he is currently leading the country in steals, but you cannot be lazy with the ball around Fuquan Edwin. He notched two more steals against the Huskies. That said, Edwin’s production was more than just his defense on this night. He finished with a double-double (12 points, 11 boards), scored in transition and flourished in the role of the glue-guy. Edwin is to Seton Hall as Pepco is to BIAH HQ: he’s the one that brings the energy, and tonight you saw why.

– Herb Pope is not the best big man in the Big East. He’s good — you have to be good when you are still averaging a double-double two months into the season — but his physical limitations get exposed when he plays against bigger, more athletic front lines. Pope is a combined 9-29 in the two games against UConn and Syracuse. That said, he’s a physical presence in the paint and a guy that can get rebounds and score on putbacks. Most importantly, however, Pope didn’t quit tonight despite a slow start to the game. We couldn’t say as much against Syracuse.

– Now do you see why Seton Hall fans were excited about Brandon Mobley? The freshman who is five games into his career after battling a shoulder injury had eight points and seven boards in the first half to help lead Seton Hall back.

– Who saw Peter Dill at the end of the Seton Hall bench?

UConn:

– UConn isn’t going to miss Kemba Walker’s ability as a basketball player nearly as much as they are going to miss his ability to be a leader. UConn has no emotional spark. They have no vocal presence on the floor. They have no one that is willing to say “enough of this BS, y’all gonna play tonight?” There isn’t a presence in their huddle holding them accountable for mistakes and lazy play. And there isn’t anyone with that killer instinct capable of hitting the step-on-your-throat shots down the stretch.

– That issue is only exacerbated without Jim Calhoun’s presence on the bench.

– UConn’s body language was horrible in this game. After Theodore hit a pair of threes midway through the second half to push the lead to 15, UConn looked like they had given up. That’s not something you want to see out of a team that is expected to compete for the Big East title and contend for a Final Four.

– I’ll make this prediction: this is the worst game that we will see UConn play all season long. Shabazz Napier was 2-12 from the field. Andre Drummond and Alex Oriakhi combined for six points and seven boards. You’d be quickly forgiven if you didn’t realize Deandre Daniels and Roscoe Smith played. Much of that can be credited to the play of Seton Hall, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was an all-around atrocious performance from the Huskies.

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.