The Morning Mix

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– How many times on Friday will we read some of sort variation of the following: Is Louisville this year’s UConn?

– An awesome list of the 21 most interesting Final Four fields in tournament history

– According to Forbes Magazine, John Calipari is the most overpaid coach in college basketball

– Six, count ’em SIX players have decided to transfer from San Francisco. That must be some sort of record

– Ohio guard D.J Cooper took back what he said last week about Tennessee and Baylor contacting him after his freshman year. Wait, what? He released a statement indicating he was lying? Or is he just covering up? The post-game press conference following the Ohio-UNC game tonight should be

– Speaking of Ohio-UNC, you should probably get to know Stillman White and Justin Watts, who look to fill in for Kendall Marshall as UNC’s point guard

– Michigan State was the first No.1-seed to get bounced from the tournament. Was this the biggest upset loss of  Tom Izzo’s career?

– It was reported yesterday that Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe was granted a sixth year of eligibility. But the report has yet to be confirmed. Mbawke’s season ended abruptly when he tore his ACL back in November

A look at the top NBA prospect from each Sweet-16 team

– Creighton star Doug McDermott will return to school for his Junior season

– Duke junior forward Mason Plumlee will forgo his senior year in order to enter the NBA draft. If Austin Rivers decides to leave early too, Duke could be in a lot of trouble next year

– Andy Katz is reporting that Memphis guard Will Barton will leave the school in order to enter the NBA draft. Barton finished the season on a hot streak, and looks to cash in while his stock is high.

– Yet another Wake Forest player has decided to transfer. Last week it was Tony Chennault, and this week it’s sophomore center Carson Desrosiers. Next week could be Anthony Fields

Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody will return for next season. The coach is a perennial member of the coaching hot seat, but another tournament snub didn’t deter the school from bringing him back

– Oregon head coach Dana Altman will not pursue any job openings, specifically the Nebraska one. Before arriving in Eugene, Altman spent seven seasons as head coach at Creighton

Jonathan Givony provides a must-read article on everything you need to know about “testing the waters in 2012”

– Villanova guard Maalik Wayns is not going to test the NBA draft waters. He is going to navigate them at full-steam. The junior will not be returning to the Main-Line for his final season

– Charlotte 49er’s guard Jamar Briscoe has decided to leave the program and will transfer to a different school

–  It is being reported that J’Covan Brown, the leading scorer for the Texas Longhorns, will leave school in order to enter the NBA draft. Along with Myck Kabongo, the Longhorns will lose their two best scoring threats to the NBA draft

– Iowa State freshman Tavon Sledge has decided to transfer in hopes of getting more playing time

– Just to be clear, Alex Oriakhi’s decision to transfer from UConn had nothing to do with Jim Calhoun

– Speaking of Oriakhi, there was speculation that Alex may look at Vanderbilt as a potential landing spot. However this would not be possible because the SEC does not allow players with one year of eligibility left to join teams if they are immediately able to participate

– Back in February, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stated that he was staying at Kentucky for his sophomore season. But on Thursday, reports surfaced that he would enter the NBA draft at the end of the season. But since then has released a statement that hasn’t exactly refuted the report but hasn’t backed up the statement he made in February

– Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore, the 2012 CAA Defensive Player of the Year, was arrested just minutes before the tip-off of his team’s CITgame on Wednesday. The arrest was stemming from a DUI arrest last summer

– An awesome infographic on how fans consume March Madness

– Shabazz Muhammad will finally make his college decision on April 11th, the first day of the spring signing period

– Dan Harrell, the legendary custodian who presides over The Palestra, is set to retire after 23 years of service. While this might be seen as a goofy headline, know that Harrell is the primary caretaker for the most historical basketball court in the country. that’s nothing to scoff at

– What is the better championship bet: Kentucky or the field?

– Gatorade announced their high school Player of the Year awards for each state

– Marquette might have lost, but Darius Johnson-Odom hit a shot that will never be duplicated again

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
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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.