The big-win hangover is becoming quite common

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In college football, BCS apologists contend that the system works because it makes the entire regular season serve as a quasi-playoff. It’s a terrible argument, but every year you see a few hovering preseason top 25 teams play their way into a sort of single elimination tournament for the fall.  Some rise to the top, like the 2010 Auburn Tigers, while others cool off and prove their success was not sustainable.

In college basketball, regular season games are by no means as vital, but those fringe type teams must take advantage of early season non-conference games to build their resume and earn credibility.

Every November and December there are upsets that make us gasp. I’ve learned not to make sweeping conclusions regarding them. These results are more about what can be gained instead of what was lost – momentum builders, if you will.

Naturally, teams get up for big games, they’re more amped to play No 1 than No 301. But I’m noticing a bit of a disturbing trend, this season at least, that is really putting a damper on all the fun that comes from upsets.

Last week, Temple downed then No 3 Duke in a game which the Owls controlled nearly from wire-to-wire. Students chanted “Overrated!” and then ran on the court. The victory was lauded as a moment that could put this team over the top as conference rival Xavier continued to free fall.

“We’re thrilled to be standing here as winners tonight,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after the game.

Three days later, the Owls were grounded, at home, by the Dayton Flyers.

“There may be some leftover residue from the [Duke] win the other night,” Dunphy said.

And there’s plenty more big game hangover offenders; average to slightly above average teams desperately looking to build momentum and a foundation for a successful season. They get the signature win that could thrust them between the top 15 and some favorable coverage from the blogosphere, only to diminish that win’s value by losing the following game.

Remember when Rutgers defeated Florida in double overtime?  It was a euphoric victory for the Garden State. RAC this, Mike Rice that. It could have been the perfect lead in to Big East play for the Scarlet Knights.

Then on New Year’s Day, Rutgers lost to South Florida and then to West Virginia, but recovered with wins over UConn and Pittsburgh. That’s a 2-2 start to conference play.  A great start by this program’s standards, but they could easily be undefeated in the Big East, receiving praise as one of the hottest teams in the country while sniffing their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991. Instead, they still have work to do.

I hope I’m not being too irrational here.

Serving as Example C, Davidson pulled off one of the most improbable true road victories when they beat Kansas in Kansas City, only to kick themselves repeatedly during a seven-day Christmas break as they followed up the big “W” with a bit “L” against UMass.

Davidson’s win served as the Jayhawks own momentum killer, as it came 48 hours after they defeated a Jared Sullinger-less Ohio State team.

Other casualties of the big win hangover bug include, in no particular order, Fordham, UNLV, Central Florida, Loyola Marymount, Bowling Green… and the entire Pac 12 conference.

So who’s doing it right? Easy. Two teams should come immediately to mind: the Indiana Hoosiers and Seton Hall Pirates.

IU converted any doubters into believers  the moment Christian Watford swished a game winner against Kentucky. Not only have the Hoosiers continued to roll (their only loss came on the road against Michigan State), the momentum built from the win over the Wildcats seemed to have restored the glory of Hoosier basketball.

“We’re trying to take these successes – stacking success – and build on them long term,” head coach Tom Crean told the Worldwide Leader before playing Kentucky, proving he is focused on building off big wins that can help his team ascend to the nation’s elite.

For Seton Hall, it may have been more about the margin of victory than the opponent but, after losing to Syracuse on December 28th, the Pirates are 4-0  beginning with a 19 point win over West Virginia.

Coming in to the season, Kevin Willard’s club was projected by nearly everyone to finish in the bottom third of the Big East. Now nearly halfway through January, Williard is building a case for conference coach of the year, and his team currently sits as a No. 4 seed in our latest NCAA Tournament projections. They’re not in that position based on name recognition. It’s been earned from their recent play.

The bottom line is that using tough opponents and signature victories need to serve as a springboard, and simply getting hyped for that one marquee opponent on the schedule may be the difference between a true overachieving team and a befuddling one.

The good times should begin after students storm the court.

So with their win over Ohio State now two days behind them, life must go on for the Illinois Fighting Illini. Will they remain focused for their next game  against Penn State, or take the night off and negate any gains made from knocking off the Buckeyes?

Here’s to hoping they buck the trend.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin.  Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

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

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.