The Morning Mix

Leave a comment

Well, last night sure was interesting. Shabazz Muhammad announced his intentions to attend UCLA, and most of Big Blue Nation cursed him out on Twitter. An hour later, Nerlens Noel verbally committed to Kentucky, and shaved “UK” into his head, and Big Blue Nation welcomed him with open arms. According to many college basketball media members and recruiting experts, there has not been a signing day with this much excitement in quite some time.

– Eamonn Brennan explains what both of these commitments mean to the respective programs

– Jeff Eisenberg isn’t sure if Muhammad with restore UCLA to glory or if it will be a quick fix, but it sure will bring some lost enthusiasm back to Pauley Pavilion 

– Shabazz Muhammad is a superstar, no doubt about it. But can even he save Ben Howland?

– This is John Calipari’s fourth recruiting class at Kentucky, and every year they’ve been ranked No.1 by the recruiting experts. This team could be even more scary good in 2012-2013

Andy Katz details the potential impacts provided  by the upperclassmen who are returning to school

Doug Gottlieb hands out his grades to all the ACC teams for the 2011-2012 season (insiders only)

– Following the firing of head coach Isaiah Thomas, several members of the Florida International basketball team requested releases from the scholarship. Apparently the school denied them

– SMU is in fact in talks with Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus about the school’s head coaching vacancy

– LSU is looking for a coach to replace Trent Johnson, who recently bolted for TCU last week. North Texas coach Johnny Jones is in talks with the Tigers about the opening. It seems as though Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon might also be a candidate for the job

– Yesterday it seemed as though former-Oregon coach Ernie Kent would become the new head coach at Colorado State. But apparently Colorado State administrators vetoed the decision. instead it will be Southern Mississippi head coach Larry Eustachy who becomes the Rams new head coach

– Now this is a question I did not expect to see so early in the off-season: What is next for Butler basketball?

– The 2012-2013 season will begin with no less than 35 new head coaches running the sidelines

Ryan Fagan ranks the top-10 forwards of the expanded bracket era

– You too can own one of the sideline chairs sat in by the Ohio Bobcats during their memorable Sweet-16 run in this past season’s NCAA tournament

– Arizona got a point guard for the future in Duquesne-transfer T.J. McConnell, but they just found out they won’t have a point guard of the present. Why? Because troubled-freshman Josiah Turner has decided to transfer

– Arizona also lost another player, as Ukrainian center Kyryl Natyazhko has decided to leave the program in order to pursue a career overseas. He becomes the sixth program defection in three years

– Former-McDonald’s All-American LeBryan Nash struggled in his first season at Oklahoma State. But the athletic forward knows what he needs to do in order to improve

– After a bizarre week in which he was reportedly both staying and going, Bryce Cotton has decided to stay at Providence instead of transferring

– North Carolina State has one of the best incoming recruiting classes in the country, and should be ranked pretty high in the preseason top-25. But DeShawn Painter and JaQawn Raymond have both announced their decisions to transfer from the school

– Cameron Ridley, a five-star center who verbally announced his intention to sign with Texas, finally put pen to paper

– Sources are indicating that Villanova swing-man Maurice Cheek is leaning towards entering the NBA draft

Florida forward Walter Pitchford has decided to transfer. The silver lining is that his departure will open up a scholarship which the program can use to sign highly touted recruit Anthony Bennett

Baylor placed themselves on three years probation for the improper phone calls and texts made by their men’s and women’s basketball programs. They will not face any punishment from the NCAA

– One of Bernie Fine’s accusers has been sentenced to three years in jail for sexual crimes

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.