The CBT Bracket Breakdown: Midwest Region

Leave a comment

See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 North Carolina: The Tar Heels have as much talent on their roster as any team in the country. They are loaded, and they have a point guard that is perfect for the uptempo system that they run. The question I have about UNC has to do with their toughness. They get smacked by Florida State twice, largely because the Seminoles were more physical than UNC. One thing to follow with the Tar Heels heading into the NCAA Tournament is whether or not John Henson’s wrist is healthy. I believe that it is. While he didn’t play in the ACC Tournament final, he was available to play.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Kansas: For the first time, the tournament selection committee released their s-curve on Selection Sunday, which allowed us to see where they actually had teams ranked. Kansas was fifth, meaning that if Ohio State had won the Big Ten Tournament, Kansas and not Michigan State would have been the final No. 1 seed. Thomas Robinson is a hoss and Jeff Withey is a defensive playmaker, but Tyshawn Taylor is going to be the guy that determines how far Kansas goes. When he’s great, Kansas is very, very good. But when he’s the inconsistent turnover machine that he’s been at times throughout his career, the Jayhawks are very ordinary.

Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 14 Belmont: One of the trendiest upset picks since the bracket was announced was the Bruins knocking off Georgetown. While I, personally, don’t see it — its just not a good matchup — the fact of the matter is that Belmont is a very good basketball team. They push the tempo through pressure and they shoot a lot of threes. When those threes are going down, they are good enough to pick off a higher-seeded team.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 5 Temple: The Owls have flown under the radar for much of the season, but this is a good basketball team. They have a dangerous perimeter attack, with two of the best scorers in the Atlantic 10 in Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt, and they now have their starting center Michael Eric back in the fold. The thing about the Owls this season is that they aren’t as perimeter oriented as they have been in the past. They push the ball more and they are oriented around their ability to put up points.

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State: Franklin was rightfully chosen as the Player of the Year in the Mountain West. An athletic, 6’5″ slasher, Franklin not only is capable of going for 30 points on a given night, but he averaged 9.9 rpg in league play. SDSU’s issue is their lack of interior size, and his ability to clean the glass is a hugely important.

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): DJ Cooper, Ohio: Cooper has already led the Bobcats to a first round upset in the NCAA Tournament, going for 23 points and eight assists as Ohio beat Georgetown in 2010. Did I mention he was a freshman then? Ohio is a dangerous team for Michigan. They are excellent at defending the three, something that Michigan thrives on. And Cooper is an excellent on-ball defender, meaning he will likely get the assignment of covering Trey Burke.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kansas: Again, I know this is a cop out, but with the lack of elite teams outside of the top two seeds, its really difficult to find marquee matchups to get excited out. What I love about this matchup — besides the fact that it will be between two of college basketball’s blue-blooded programs — is the idea of seeing Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson do battle with John Henson and Tyler Zeller. I love me a good post battle, and it may not get better than this in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

So who is getting upset?:

– I think Ohio has a very good chance to take down Michigan. The Wolverines looked very average in the Big Ten tournament, and they are very average when they don’t hit threes. Ohio is very good at defending the three.

– If Cal can get by USF in the play-in game, I think they have a chance to knock off Temple. The Bears have one of the best perimeter defenders in Jorge Gutierrez and have been written off by a lot of folks due to their loss to Missouri by 30 earlier in the year.

– Frankly, I’m not buying the two trendy upset picks in this region. I don’t think Belmont gets past Georgetown. The Bruins shoot a ton of threes and shoot them well, but Georgetown has terrific perimeter length and is one of the best in the country at defending the three. I also think SDSU gets by NC State. I know the pro-Wolfpack arguments, but what have they done this season to make me believe they can win a tournament game against the co-champ of the fourth-best conference in the country?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.