The Morning Mix

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– Myron Medcalf provides a fantastic analysis on the new era of collegiate big men, especially the ones on display in the Sweet-16

– Critically-acclaimed journalist Bob Ryan put together a fantastic (and lengthy) article on this year in New England college basketball

– If Florida beats Marquette, and Louisville beats Michigan State, the West region finals would pit former-Providence star Billy Donovan against his former-Providence coach Rick Pitino. Jeff Eisenberg wrote a compelling article on the subject matter

– Andy Glockner breaks down which Sweet-16 coaches are under the greatest amount of pressure

– Here’s a rather interesting opinion from the Washington Post on late game refereeing. Should refs adjust the implementation of the rules during the final few minutes of the game? Sally Jenkins has some suggestions.

– A lengthy tournament stay can provide a lot of financial support to a mid-major program, but it still pays to be in a BCS-conference

– With everybody paying attention to the status of Kendall Marshall’s right wrist, this would be the perfect time for Harrison Barnes to steal the spotlight

– Jeff Goodman provides an excellent-read on Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and the debilitating disease that he doesn’t let hinder his coaching performance

– The best individual match-up of the Sweet-16 might just be the battle on the block between Yancy Gates and Jared Sullinger

– Eamonn Brennan tries to determine what the ideal Final Four team would look like

– An-awesome read from the Florida Times-Union on the tremendous leadership skills of freshman guard Bradley Beal

A position-by-position breakdown of the Indiana-Kentucky rematch. Will the Georgia Dome play a factor in the postseason rematch?

Iowa State star Royce White has decided to enter the NBA draft. His stock is at an all-time high, and has the talent and physical tools to become a great NBA player. The one issue that could arise is his anxiety disorder and his rather larger fear of flying, which is, as you know, the only way NBA teams travel

– It looks like Texas freshman Myck Kabongo is going to enter the NBA draft, becoming yet another Longhorn to exit Austin early in his career. Since 2003, nine underclassmen have left Texas for the NBA draft. Of those nine, seven have been guards

Rutgers big-man Gilvydas Biruta has decided to transfer.The Lithuanian-born sophomore was plagued by consistent foul trouble throughout the season. While no potential landing spots have been announced, Rhode Island seems to be a logical fit, as Biruta played for new Rams head coach Dan Hurley in high school.

– As we mentioned yesterday, three players, including leading scorer T.J. McConnell, are transferring from Duquesne. What does McConnell’s loss mean for the Dukes? We know for a fact that McConnell will not be heading to Pittsburgh or Robert Morris. McConnell, who is one of the most unheralded guards in the country, wants to play for a bigger school

UConn junior forward Alex Oriakhi has decided to transfer. The big-man had a difficult year due to the arrival of Andre Drummond. Because of the APR sanctions against UConn, Oriakhi would be able to play at his new school right away. This factor will make him a hot commodity on the transfer market

– Maryland got some good news yesterday. All-conference guard Terrell Stoglin announced his intentions to return to College Park for his junior season

– Michigan’s standout freshman guard Trey Burke is going to inquire about his NBA draft status. This comes just a day after it was announced that three Wolverines had decided to transfer

– Trey Zeigler’s face value is going to get him to a bigger school than he might be worthy of. The former-four star recruit decided to attend Central Michigan in order to play for his father Ernie. But when the school fired his dad last week, the shooting guard decided to transfer

– Bobby Hurley, the older brother of new Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley, has decided to bypass the Wagner opening to follow his brother to Kingston. But, as Adam Zagoria explains, Hurley still longs to be a head coach eventually

– VCU head coach Shaka Smart has turned down Illinois’ $2.5-million offer to become the Illini’s next head coach

– Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall has no interest in the vacancy at Nebraska. As of now, Nebraska has yet to make any formal offers

– Shaka Smart and Frank Martin will serve as guest in-studio analysts for CBS’ coverage of the NCAA tournament this weekend

– What does Missouri need to focus on in the off-season? Rock M Nation provides a detailed report

– Butler lost to Pittsburgh last night in the College Basketball Invitational. Brad Stevens hopes his team can make it back to the Big dance next year, because sitting out has been excruciatingly difficult

– A pretty-awesome story about a guy who found a basketball signed by the entire 1962 Cincinnati team that won the National Championship. Where did he find the autographed basketball? At a storage auction, of course!

– The Washington Post has selected their Elite Eight in the “Most Hate College Teams” bracket

– The TD Banknorth GArden will be the only regional site to have a unique hardwood floor. The home of the Celtics will have the NCAA tournament layout, but with its signature parquet pattern. But the various Boston championship banners belonging to the Celtics and the Bruins will not be hanging in the rafters

Yet another reason why Marquette head coach Buzz Williams is the most interesting and entertaining coach in the country

Bob Knight finally said the word “Kentucky”, which undoubtedly made The Big Lead very happy

– Speaking of Bobby Knight and his refusal to say the word “Kentucky”, KSR broke down how coach Knight might interact in society without using the word

– This is the greatest and most hilarious basketball flop you will ever see

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
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.