Wednesday’s slate and what to watch

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Raise your hand if you saw Southern Mississippi’s 15-2 start coming. The Golden Eagles have reeled 11 wins in a row and haven’t lost since a double overtime loss to Murray State on Nov. 26. (The Racers have done pretty well since then as well.)

Now raise your hand if you think the Golden Eagles will keep it up.

Well, now’s when we’ll find out. Tonight’s game at Memphis opens an eight-game stretch where Southern Miss could lose five or six games. Larry Eustachy’s team takes care of the ball, hits the offensive glass and makes free throws, so they’ll be in many of those games and probably have a chance at winning Conference USA.

The Tigers and Marshall will have something to say about that, but I’m curious to see how Eustachy’s group plays this out. We’ve been waiting for his team to finally have that breakthrough year.

(All times ET; TV info from

Southern Miss at Memphis, 7 p.m. (CSS)
The Tigers (10-5) have won four straight and have seemingly overcome any personal issues affecting its players. They also won their first C-USA game at UAB. Has Memphis finally gotten over the hump? This is a game it needs to win to prove it.

William & Mary at Towson, 7 p.m.
Just keep an eye for the score. This is the Tigers’ best chance at ending their woes (an NCAA record 35 consecutive losses) for a while. Like maybe next season.

Missouri at Iowa State, 8 p.m.  (Big 12 HD)
Normally the Tigers (14-1) might come out strong and throttle the first team they faced after a loss. But Hilton Coliseum is one of the nation’s toughest places to play, yet never gets any recognition as such. Also, the Cyclones (12-3) have already beaten Texas and Texas A&M, giving them a healthy dose of confidence for the Tigers. This is a game Royce White can control, simply by grabbing every rebound against the undersized Tigers.

Duquesne at Xavier, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
The Musketeers (10-5) may be off the schneid. They’d lost five of their last six games since the Cincinnati brawl before beating Fordham on Saturday. It’s promising because Tu Holloway didn’t have to score for it to happen. He’ll almost certainly get on track during one of the next three home games, which may finally get Xavier back on track to being a darkhorse title contender.

Dayton at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m. (FS Ohio)
Here for two reasons: The Flyers (12-4) are one of the nation’s best teams that don’t get mentioned very often. But this one’s got upset potential written all over it. The Bonnies have an elite player in Andrew Nicholson and seem due for a big win.

Buffalo at Ohio, 7 p.m.
I blame the Flyers and Bonnies for stealing a FS Ohio timeslot. We could’ve seen two of the MAC’s top two teams in action. (Or maybe the Bobcats dropping two in a row was the reason.)

New Hampshire at Albany (NY), 7 p.m.
Longwood at Brown, 7 p.m.
Colgate at Bucknell, 7 p.m.
Old Dominion at Delaware, 7 p.m.
Rhode Island at George Washington, 7 p.m.
Northeastern at Hofstra, 7 p.m.
Navy at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.
Army at Lafayette, 7 p.m.
American U. at Lehigh, 7 p.m.
Boston U. at Maine, 7 p.m.
Rutgers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Fordham at Saint Joseph’s, 7 p.m.
Dayton at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m.
William & Mary at Towson, 7 p.m.
Stony Brook at UMBC, 7 p.m.
Charlotte at UMass, 7 p.m.
Syracuse at Villanova, 7 p.m.

Wake Forest at Maryland, 7 p.m.
Southern Miss. at Memphis, 7 p.m.
Houston at UCF, 7 p.m.
Northwestern St. at Nicholls St., 7:30 p.m.
Kentucky at Auburn, 8 p.m.
Lamar at McNeese St., 8 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi, 8 p.m.
Morehead St. at Tennessee St., 8 p.m.
Marshall at UAB, 8 p.m.
LSU at Alabama, 9 p.m.
Georgia Tech at NC State, 9 p.m.

Northwestern at Michigan, 6:30 p.m.
Akron at Bowling Green, 7 p.m.
Cent. Michigan at E. Michigan, 7 p.m.
Miami (Ohio) at Kent St., 7 p.m.
St. John’s at Marquette, 7 p.m.
Buffalo at Ohio, 7 p.m.
N. Illinois at W. Michigan, 7 p.m.
Duquesne at Xavier, 7 p.m.
Minnesota at Indiana, 8 p.m.
Missouri at Iowa St., 8 p.m.
Penn St. at Nebraska, 8:30 p.m.
Temple at Saint Louis, 9 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin at Cent. Arkansas, 8 p.m.
Rice at SMU, 8 p.m.
Texas-Pan American at TCU, 8 p.m.
Sam Houston St. at Texas-Arlington, 8 p.m.
UTEP at Tulsa, 8 p.m.
Texas A&M-CC at UTSA, 8 p.m.
Texas A&M at Texas, 9 p.m.
Kansas at Texas Tech, 9 p.m.

Denver at Colorado St., 9 p.m.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
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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

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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.