Baylor fans should be ecstatic about timing of ESPN’s report

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On Monday afternoon, Trent Johnson was formally introduced as the head coach at TCU, which made official something that we had expected for nearly a week.

A few hours earlier, ESPN.com had published a report from Jason King that Baylor’s men’s basketball program could be facing possible NCAA sanctions stemming from a 29-month investigation. The sanctions are the result of more than 1,200 impermissible phone calls and text messages that were sent by both the men’s team, which is coming off of their second Elite Eight in three seasons, and the women’s team, which was led to a 40-0 record and a national title by Player of the Year Britney Griner.

The details of the investigation’s findings are, for the most part, irrelevant. When you recruit at the level that Scott Drew does and the NCAA investigates your program for 29 months and only comes up with impermissible phone calls — a rule that has since been changed; there are no more contact restrictions — than you are doing something right. Baylor’s already instituted a number of self-imposed slaps on the wrist and may end up getting a few more from the NCAA. Whoop-dee-doo.

What’s much more interesting is the timing of this report being leaked.

You see, Trent Johnson’s decision to take the head coaching position at TCU opened up the same job at LSU. One of the names that keeps coming up as Johnson’s replacement? Scott Drew. Is LSU going to hire a coach days after news breaks of a recruiting scandal he was involved in? Are they willing to make that leap when the overwhelming sentiment was “that’s all you got?”

It begs the question: where did Jason King get this scoop? Did Baylor leak this story in an effort to try and keep their head coach?

And here’s where the irony begins. Baylor fans are fired up about the findings. They are mad that they will get in trouble for rules that are no longer in place, they are mad that this will only further sully the reputation of their head coach and they are mad that their program will continue to be considered “cheaters”. What they don’t realize, however, is that this report may be the reason that their head coach remains their head coach.

Think about like this: In early April of 2009, John Calipari left Memphis to take over at Kentucky. He’s since led the Wildcats to an Elite Eight, a Final Four and the national title. Memphis replaced him with Josh Pastner, who missed the NCAA tournament in 2010 and failed to get out of the first round in 2011 and 2012 despite having a roster stocked with talent. In late May of 2009, the news that Derrick Rose may have cheated on his SATs and that Memphis could have their 2007-2008 season — the year in which they made a run to the national title game — erased from the record books finally broke.

If the folks at Memphis had leaked that news two months earlier, would Kentucky still have come calling for Calipari?

And don’t underestimate the importance of Scott Drew to Baylor. The reason that Johnson was able to take the TCU job is that it was opened up when Jim Christian went to Ohio. In other words, based on the movement of the coaches, Ohio is better than TCU, which is better than LSU. And Scott Drew wants the LSU job?

Jason King’s inbox should be filled with thank you notes by the end of the day.

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

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.