Georgetown bounces back from a loss to Pitt by beating UConn

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WASHINGTON – John Thompson III has unquestionably brought the Georgetown basketball program back to national relevancy, but if anything has defined his tenure as the head coach of the Hoyas, its late-season meltdowns.

The Hoyas won the Big East Tournament and made a run to the Final Four in 2007, but that March seemed to use up all of their postseason magic. In 2008, the Hoyas won the 2008 Big East regular season title and made the final of the tournament before losing to Davidson and Steph Curry in the second round of the Big Dance. The following year Georgetown didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament, getting bounced in the first round of the NIT after finishing the regular season 16-14 and 7-11 in conference play despite a 10-1 start to the year. In 2010, the Hoyas started the year out with wins in 15 of their first 18 games, but went 8-8 down the stretch and got bounced in the first round of the Big Dance by Ohio. And last season, Chris Wright’s broken hand facilitated four losses in their final five regular season games before first round exits in both the Big East and the NCAA Tournaments.

This season, Georgetown fans have been waiting for the collapse, determined not to have their hearts broken. They’ve been waiting for the team that, prior to their Wednesday night tilt with UConn, was 16-4 overall and 6-3 in the Big East to come back to earth.

And for a while, it looked as if that collapse was on the horizon. After two less-than-stellar performances in wins over DePaul and Rutgers, Georgetown went into the Peterson Events Center and got dropped by Pitt.

That’s what made this win so important for Georgetown. At this point in the season, they don’t “need” a win, not when they are sitting in third place in the Big East with enough strength in their non-conference schedule to ensure that they are going to have to fall pretty hard to miss the NCAA Tournament.

More than anything, Georgetown just needed a confidence builder, the kind of performance that would push their recent struggles to the back of their mind. And that’s what they get in Wednesday’s 58-44 win over UConn.

“It was good to have this type of performance, because I thought we played well at both ends of the floor,” JT III said after the game. “Our communication, our effort and our attentiveness was good.”

Thompson isn’t quite on the level of his father in terms of putting a guard up around his program, but he does not like to allow anyone into the inner-workings of his team. Case in point: Jason Clark was asked about the offense that Georgetown was running last night, and he responded by saying the Hoyas were using some new sets they had been putting in over the last week. But about halfway through his answer, you could hear Thompson in the background with a subtle “shhh”. Clark heard this, smiled and continued answering the question, only with a more vague and stock response.

For a coach that rarely comments on how important or influential a single game is to make that kind of statement about Georgetown’s play is notable.

Georgetown’s defense was terrific against UConn, as was their work on the glass, but perhaps the most important aspect to take out of this game was the play of Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

Thompson has struggled of late. Over the last three games, he was averaging just 9.7 ppg while shooting 37.5% from the floor and just 3-10 from three. And while Thompson didn’t exactly shoot the ball as well as we have seen him in the past, he did finish with 18 points, nine boards and two steals. He also hit a couple of big shots midway through the second half as the Hoyas held off a UConn run.

His coach, however, was more impressed with the work Thompson did without the ball in his hands.

“I thought this was one of the better games that Hollis has played because he did so many things,” JT III said. “You can look at the stat sheet and see that he had 18 and 9, but he was key in that zone defense. Not just the steals, but being there so they didn’t get the shots.”

“Its the exact opposite of the Pittsburgh game where I thought he was just floating. He wasn’t floating today, he was an active part in every aspect of the game and effective.”

Sims was also able to put together a solid performance, although it took a while for him to find his rhythm. Early on in the game, UConn’s star freshman Andre Drummond looked dominant, scoring eight points in the first 3:23 of the game. He finished with 18 points on 9-12 shooting and helped force Sims into seven turnovers on the game. Turnovers have been an issue plaguing Sims over the last few weeks, and he was exposed on Wednesday night.

But to his credit, he didn’t stop attacking. Sims scored the last six points in a 10-2 run after UConn cut the lead to six, a stretch that included a thunderous dunk over Jeremy Lamb that got the Verizon Center rocking.

“Everybody was just like ‘Woah'”, Thompson said of Sims’ dunk, “‘on his head?’ It was a great dunk.”

UConn is not the team we expected them to be this season, but this is still an extremely talented basketball team that, eventually, is going to turn this thing around. With Georgetown’s recent struggles, they seemed like a perfect victim to be the catalyst of change for the Huskies.

But thanks to the play of Sims and Thompson in the second half, the Hoyas were able to send UConn back to Storrs with their fourth straight loss.

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

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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.