Wednesday’s Shootaround: Big wins for bubble teams

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Illinois 42, No. 10 Michigan State 41: We went fairly in depth on this game last night, but there was one stat that I forgot to get to in that post. This game was the Illini’s second biggest win on the season. The biggest was their upset of Ohio State in Assembly Hall. In that game, Brandon Paul scored 43 points. Against Michigan State, the entire Illinois team scored 42. Think about that.

Iowa State 72, Kansas State 70: The Cyclones picked up another huge win at home as they rallied from 14 points down in the second half to complete their sweep of the Kansas schools. White led all scorers with 22 points while also added eight boards, four assists, three blocks and two steals. More importantly, however, White hit the game-winning shot with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock:


Now, there were a number of issues down the stretch for the Wildcats, but the biggest problem, for me, is that Frank Martin allowed White the time and space to put the ball on the floor and get a good look at the rim. You know what he wants to do, and you know that he is a mismatch for any big man that tries to guard him on the perimeter. Martin HAS to get the ball out of White’s hands on that final possession.

While the Wildcats will undoubtedly be upset about blowing a 14 point lead, losing at Hilton Coliseum is not anything to be ashamed of. That place has always been a tough arena to get a win, especially with the Cyclones are putting a winner on the floor.

So how good is Iowa State? As of now, I think we can say that this group is the fourth best team in the Big 12 and now safely in the NCAA Tournament. But before I get too excited about this group, let’s see them do something impressive on the road. Knocking off a couple of team in your own arena is noteworthy. Going into Waco or Columbia or Manhattan and coming out with a win is an entirely different story.

Arkansas 82, Vanderbilt 74: Vandy went into the break with a 34-32 lead, but they Razorbacks came out on fire in the second half. They hit six of their first seven threes — including five in the span of about three minutes — that carried a 22-6 run and opened up a 59-46 lead. Arkansas may be young, but they do have a couple of talents on their roster. When guys like BJ Young, Madracus Wade and Julysses Nobles get it going, Arkansas is capable of making some noise. In a year or two, this group has the potential to be scary.

That said, I’m not all that concerned about this result. For starters, Arkansas doesn’t lose at home. Ever. They are 16-6 on the year. Those 16 wins have all come in Bud Walton Arena and those six losses have all come elsewhere. Until this group proves they can win on the road, they aren’t to be taken seriously. The fact that they had to play in BWA isn’t the only reason this was a tough matchup for Vandy. Arkansas loves to press. In fact, they are running the same system now under Mike Anderson that they ran under Nolan Richardson back when the program was competing for national titles. And that system is one that is going to give the ‘Dores trouble. If there is anything that they are lacking, its a dominating back court presence. Brad Tinsley is not going to be able to beat a full court trap by himself. Basketball is all about the matchups, and this matchup didn’t give Vandy much of a chance.

No. 15 Marquette 66, Seton Hall 59: The Golden Eagles were able to overcome a slow start and a poor shooting night from Darius Johnson-Odom as they used a 20-5 run to open up the second half and take control of what was a fairly ugly basketball game. Jae Crowder had 20 points and 12 boards and Vander Blue added 16, including an oop that sparked the run and got Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, who were sitting courtside, to jump out of their seats.

For Seton Hall, this is just another bad loss. The Pirates are now on a five game losing streak after they entered the top 25 with a 15-2 record. The season is not yet over for SHU. They still have enough on their resume that, if they can turn this thing around, they will be able to get to the NCAA Tournament. But, at this point, its almost a mental issue. The confidence that hot start provided them is all but gone.

The rest of the top 25:

No. 6 UNC 68, Wake Forest 53: Tyler Zeller continued his stretch of terrific play, going for 18 points and 18 boards in the win.

No. 18 Virginia 65, Clemson 61: The Cavs got 23 points, 10 boards and three blocks out of Mike Scott as they further solidified their standing as a top four team in the ACC.

No. 20 Wisconsin 52, Penn State 46: You know Big Ten basketball is boring when a game that doesn’t even break 100 combined points was the best game of the night in the conference.

Other notable scores:

– Oklahoma State 80, Texas Tech 63
– Youngstown State 73, Milwaukee 65
– New Mexico 81, Air Force 42

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

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.