Week in Review: Kevin Jones and Seton Hall get love, but the Big East doesn’t

Leave a comment

The #BIAHRoadTrip will be cutting into our national coverage a bit, so the Week in Review’s will be limited over the next three weeks.

Player of the Week: Kevin Jones, West Virginia

All of a sudden, the Mountaineers look like a team that has to be considered a contender in a wide-open Big East. After winning at Rutgers (a place when both Florida and UConn have fallen in the past two weeks) by 21 and knocking off Georgetown by 12 in Morgantown, the ‘Eers are sitting at 12-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big East, just a game off the pace set by Syracuse. And Jones, as much as anyone, is the reason for that.

He finished the week with 36 points and 30 boards in the two games, moving his season averages to Big East highs of 19.8 ppg and 11.9 rpg. He also played 78 of 80 minutes in the two games, which isn’t exactly unusual for a guy that averages 37.1 mpg. As good as Herb Pope and Henry Sims have been, Jones is making a very strong case as the best big man in the Big East. The scary part? There is still room for him to improve. KJ has always been a good three-point shooter, but he’s hitting just 23.3% from beyond the arc this season. What happens when he regains that stroke?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Kevin Dillard, Dayton: The Flyers moved themselves right back into the conversation for the Atlantic 10’s top team as they knocked off both St. Louis and Temple. Dillard was instrumental in that performance, averaging 17 points and 9 assists in the two games.

G: Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall: Theodore led the Pirates to their first national ranking in over a decade thanks to wins over UConn and at Providence. Theordore averaged 16.5 ppg, 10.0 apg and 4.5 spg on the week.

G: Damien Lillard, Weber State: Doug McDermott gets all the mid-major love, but Lillard is having an incredible season out at Weber State. After scoring 68 points, grabbing 12 boards and handing out 10 assists while shooting 12-21 from three in two wins last week, he’s now averaging 26.3 ppg on the season.

F: Travis Releford, Kansas: Releford may strides towards becoming that second weapon for the Jayhawks offensively, going for 16 points and 11 boards in a big win over Kansas State and following that up with a career-high 28 points in a win over Oklahoma.

F: Royce White, Iowa State: The Cyclone’s point forward thrust ISU into the national picture by leading them to big wins over both Texas and Texas A&M. He averaged 12.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg and 6.0 apg in the two games, including a 10 point, 18 rebound and 10 assists performance against the Aggies. Imagine, now, if he shot better than 10-21 from the free throw line.

F: Dominique Morrison, Oral Roberts: No one in the country is playing better than Dominique Morrison is right now. In the last seven games, he is scoring 26.0 ppg while shooting 61.8% from the field, 63.6% (28/44) from three and 89.9% (44/49) from the line. ORU is 7-0 in that stretch, including wins against Texas Tech, at Xavier and, in the last week, at Oakland and at home against North Dakota State and South Dakota State. In the win over SDSU on Saturday, Morrison scored 38 points as the Golden Eagles moved a game in front of the Jackrabbits for first place in the Summit.

Team of the Week: Seton Hall

The Pirates earned their first national ranking in more than a decade on Monday, and they have a legitimate gripe that they are still being underrated. The AP put the Pirates at 24th and the Coaches left the unranked. Frankly, the Pirates have a legitimate case to be considered for the top 15. Just take a look at who they’ve beaten: VCU, Dayton, UConn, St. Joe’s, West Virginia. There are not many teams in the country that can boast that kind of resume right now.

This week, the Pirates looked at their best. They ran the Huskies out of the gym on Tuesday, getting 19 points and 11 assists out of point guard Jordan Theodore, and followed that up with a tough win on the road against a better than you think Providence team. As good as Theodore has played and as impressive as Herb Pope has been this year, don’t forget about Fuquan Edwin, who went for 24 points, nine boards and five steals against Providence after notching a double-double against UConn.

Five more teams that impressed:

Dayton Flyers: The Flyers are making a strong case to be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season. They started off league play with wins over St. Louis at home and followed that up with a win at Temple just three days after the Owls knocked off Duke in the same building.

Colorado Buffaloes: So guess who the only undefeated team left in the Pac-12 is? Granted, all three of Colorado’s wins have come at home and two of them were against Washington State and Utah (Washington the third). We’ll learn a lot more about this group as they head to the Bay Area to take on Cal and Stanford the week. Could a team that lost Alex Burks and Cory Higgins really be the Pac-12’s best this season?

George Mason Patriots: The Patriots got off to a slow start this season, but it looks like Paul Hewitt’s club is finally starting to hit their stride. This week, they won at Old Dominion and snapped Georgia State’s 11 game winning streak to move to 4-0 in the CAA.

Arkansas Razorbacks: Arkansas got a nice start to conference play as they knocked off visiting Mississippi State 98-88 despite not having Marshon Powell, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Julysses Noble and BJ Young both went for 24 points to lead five players in double figures.

La Salle Explorers: La Salle was picked to finish 11th in the Atlantic 10, but they have been quietly surging, winning 10 of their last 11 games. They put together a dominating performance in a win over Xavier on Wednesday and followed that up by knocking off another sneakily successful team in UMass.

Five Thoughts:

Todd O’Brien needs to put up or shut up: The latest in the Todd O’Brien hostage crisis is that his most recent appeal to the NCAA has been denied. He has come out and said that he is willing to waive the privacy laws if St. Joe’s wants to tell the world why he is not being allowed to play at UAB this season. Well, Todd, if you don’t care if the information comes out, than why don’t you just tell everyone the truth? I know that college coaches can be vindictive SOB’s, but I refuse to believe that Phil Martelli and St. Joe’s would take this kind of PR hit without having what they believed was a valid justification for ending this young man’s collegiate career.

I think it is incredibly unfair that coaches and schools are able to wield this kind of power. I think that it is one of the first rules that needs to be changed in college athletics. And I think that Martelli is being unreasonable. This decision needs to get reversed. But to paint Todd O’Brien as an angel that is being tortured by Martelli for the fun of it is incorrect. There is more to this than you think.

The Big East is way, way down: Syracuse is ranked No. 1 in the country, and deservedly so. They are undefeated, they are drilling good teams (ask Seton Hall) and they have the roster make up that puts them up with the UNCs and UKs of the world as legitimate national title contenders. But after that? Pitt has lost to Notre Dame and DePaul and is currently winless in league play. Villanova is 1-3 in the conference with a 17 point loss to South Florida at home and their only win coming against DePaul. UConn got smacked around by Seton Hall on Tuesday and then lost at Rutgers on Saturday. Louisville has proven themselves to be more overrated than we initially thought, losing to Notre Dame in double-overtime at home. Hell, even Marquette has tumbled after a strong start to the year.

With all due respect to Cincinnati, West Virginia and Seton Hall, when they all can legitimately be considered top five teams in the Big East, you know the league is down.

Be worried about Missouri: There is valid reason to be alarmed by Missouri’s loss at Kansas State on Saturday. They were manhandled. There are two concerns about this Tiger team: 1) Can they beat teams with a powerful front line by playing four guards?; and 2) Are they going to be able to win on the road this year? They did against Old Dominion last Saturday. They didn’t this Saturday. On Wednesday they are at Iowa State and on January 21st they are at Baylor. It will be interesting to see what happens in those two games.

The Pac-12 and ACC are going to get more bids than you think: Why? Its simple math. There have to be 37 at-large teams, and once you get towards the bottom of the pool, there really isn’t all that much to work with. The bubble is going to be very weak once again this year, which means that a team from the Pac-12 or the ACC that didn’t little to nothing in non-conference play is going to sneak in because they put together a solid season in their league. I’d say that the Pac-12 gets three and the ACC gets five.

Who those teams are, however, is anyone’s guess at this point.

Royce White can play: I gotta admit, I’m rooting for Royce White. He’s brought most of his issues on himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been through an incredible amount in the first two years of his collegiate experience. I got a chance to see him play on Wednesday against Texas, and he was out there playing great basketball with a big smile on his face. Good for him.

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.