Friday’s Shootaround: Pac-12 excitement, St. Mary’s pulls ahead

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No. 9 Murray State 81, SEMO 73: See here.

The Pac-12: Since the Pac-12 has such a terrible TV and I spent the last three weeks on the road, tonight was the first night that I have actually been able to sit down and watch some Pac-12 basketball. It also happened to be arguably the best night of Pac-12 basketball this season. I think I’m spoiled.

Washington 71, UCLA 69: Washington overcame a late 10 point deficit as Terrence Ross scored 10 of UW’s final 12 points down the stretch to knock off UCLA and move into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12. Perhaps more importantly, Washington was able to make their run while Tony Wroten was stuck on the bench. Wahsington’s talented freshman came up lame midway through the second half, turning him into a liability on defense and hampering his explosiveness offensively.

We also finally got a chance to see just how good Joshua Smith is capable of being when he decides to play. The Washington native went for a career-high 24 points against the Huskies. The problem with Smith finally being motivated against Washington? It shouldn’t take a hometown crowd for him to be motivated. He needs to play like that at all times.

Arizona 78, Cal 74: Playing their first game without Kevin Parrom, who broke his foot last week, the Wildcats put together their most impressive performance of the season. After digging themselves a 22-9 hole, Arizona went on a 33-10 run. Over one stretch, the Wildcats hit 19 of 23 shots from the field. But Cal fought back from as much as 14 points down, eventually pulling even two possessions after Jorge Gutierrez and an Arizona assistant got into a bit of a scrap. In the end, however, Kyle Fogg was too much. He hit a big three to break the tie and block a potential game-tying three from Allen Crabbe.

This win was huge for Arizona. It keeps them relevant and it makes a statement. Avoiding a collapse on the road with a roster that young is a big deal. But the Cal loss is a bad thing for the Pac-12. The Bears probably have the best chance to earn an at-large bid of anyone in the conference, and the best chance of that happening would be for them to pull away from the Pac-12 pack. They had a chance to do that on Thursday but missed out.

– Colorado 82, Oregon State 60
– Oregon 79, Utah 68
– Stanford 68, Arizona State 44
– Washington State 60, USC 53

No. 5 Duke 75, Virginia Tech 60: Coach K implemented some changes heading into this game, both on the court (Seth Curry came off the bench in favor of Tyler Thornton) and off it (a ban on social media and a bus trip to Blacksburg instead of a chartered jet). It worked. Duke used a 13-2 run at the end of the first half to take control of the game and Austin Rivers — who finished with 18 points, five assists and five boards – played as well as he has all season long.

No. 24 St. Mary’s 84, San Diego 73: Rob Jones had 28 points and eight boards and Stephen Holt added 23 points as the Gaels maintained control of the WCC with a come-from-behind win over the Toreros. USD was up 42-38 at the break. The bigger news for St. Mary’s is this:

BYU 83, Gonzaga 73: BYU thoroughly dominated the Zags from the tip, opening a lead as big as 19 points in the second half, as they forced 19 turnovers and collected 14 steals. Noah Hartsock led the way with 24 points and 14 boards. The Gonzaga loss means that St. Mary’s now has a two game lead over the rest of the pack in the WCC.

Nevada 53, Utah State 52: Deonte Burton hit an off-balance three with 11.2 seconds left in the game to knock off a scrappy Aggie team. The Wolf Pack remain undefeated in WAC play and still have slim hopes of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Old Dominion 80, James Madison 71: Kent Bazemore led six scorers in double figures with 19 points and Chris Cooper went for 22 boards as the Monarchs as they pulled into a first place tie in the Colonial with VCU, GMU and Drexel.

Middle Tennessee State 68, North Texas 66: Marcos Knight had 19 points and the Blue Raiders used a 25-6 run to close the first half and open up a 10 point lead. They pushed that lead to 15 before UNT made a furious run down the stretch to make the game interesting. MTSU is still undefeated in Sun Belt play and has a chance to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

South Dakota State 75, Oral Roberts 60: The Jackrabbits moved to within a game of first place in the Summit League with an impressive win over Oral Roberts, getting revenge for an earlier loss in Tulsa. Nate Wolters led the way with 24 points and nine assists.

Iona 105, Canisius 86: Momo Jones had 43 points and Scott Machado added 14 points and 14 assists as the Gaels kept pace with Manhattan atop the MAAC standings.

Other notable scores:

– No. 11 Florida 74, South Carolina 66
– LIU 75, Bryant 70
– UNC-Asheville 89, VMI 86
– Weber State 92, Portland State 79

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.