Ranking the ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchups

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Earlier on Monday afternoon, the matchups for the 14th ACC-Big Ten Challenge were announced, and while we ended up with a couple of gems, we also got handed a couple of duds. Here is a rundown of the most watchable and the least watchable games, in quick preview form:

  1. No. 13 North Carolina at No. 1 Indiana (Nov. 27th): This is a pretty easy pick as the best game of the event. Two of the nation’s premier programs squaring off in November. If this game had happened one year earlier, we would have been given a chance to see Tyler Zeller take on little brother Cody Zeller. Indiana is likely to be the No. 1 team in the country come November, but UNC returns quite a bit of talent and brings in another great recruiting class. Seeing the younger Zeller go up against James Michael McAdoo will be a treat. This will likely be our first chance to gauge whether the Heels are going to be in a bit of a rebuilding season or if they can compete for the ACC title.
  2. No. 6 NC State at No. 5 Michigan (Nov. 27th): NC State will be the favorite in the ACC heading into the season, thanks in large part to the decision of CJ Leslie to return to school for his junior year. Michigan may not be the favorite in the Big Ten, but they will be a legitimate contender for the Final Four thanks to Trey Burke’s decision to return to school. Both teams will also be bolstered by talented recruiting classes. Hard to believe that the second best matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge is between NC State and Michigan. Is it the late 1980’s?
  3. No. 8 Ohio State at No. 15 Duke (Nov. 28th): This is a rematch of last year’s contest, which Ohio State won by 22 points. Next year will be different, however. Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Austin Rivers are all gone, and this season the game will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. What this game should end up being is a good gauge to see just how relevant both teams will be.
  4. No. 25 Minnesota at Florida State (Nov. 27th): Minnesota not only gets Trevor Mbakwe back for a sixth-year in 2012-2013, but they also return the majority of a young and talented roster. The Gophers will be a sleeper in the Big Ten. The same can probably be said about the Seminoles, who will once again have a big front line, a tough defense and a couple of talented back court players in Ian Miller and Michael Snaer. This will be a nice test for Minnesota, who will be playing a road game against a team that would fit in perfectly in the Big Ten.
  5. No. 9 Michigan State at Miami (Nov. 28th): After barely, missing the 2012 NCAA tournament, Miami will return Durand Scott, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji, which should be enough to get them into this year’s dance. It will also make them a tough road test for Michigan State, who will be looking for a way to replace all-everything forward Draymond Green. Getting Branden Dawson healthy would be a good way to start.
  6. Purdue at Clemson (Nov. 28th): Clemson loses their top two scorers and returns no one of significance in the paint, unless Milton Jennings somehow learns to become a relevant interior presence. Purdue loses Robbie Hummel, but Matt Painter has a solid core of youngsters on his roster. The Boilermakers won’t have much size, either, but if they can somehow figure out a way to defend better than they did last season, they could once again earn a trip to the Big Dance.
  7. Virginia at No. 22 Wisconsin (Nov. 28th): Virginia loses Mike Scott to graduation. Wisconsin loses Jordan Taylor to graduation. Both teams plays a plodding, half-court style and struggle to score in the 60’s. Yay! There will be some interesting storylines, however: Tony Bennett, who coaches Virginia, is the son of Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett.
  8. Maryland at Northwestern (No. 27th): This is when the games start getting a bit ugly. Maryland may have a bright future under Mark Turgeon, but with Terrell Stoglin leaving school, the Terps still have a long way to go before they are back to the good old days of being an ACC contender. And Northwestern? Well, their history speaks for itself, and losing John Shurna to graduation certainly won’t help matters at all.
  9. Georgia Tech at Illinois (Nov. 28th): Georgia Tech is in full-on rebuilding mode under second-year head coach Brian Gregory. Illinois is rebuilding as well, but at least new head coach John Groce as some talent on his roster — DJ Richardson, Brandon Paul, a couple of quality recruiting classes back-to-back.
  10. Iowa at Virginia Tech (Nov. 27th): Back in April, this game had some potential. Losing Matt Gatens will hurt, but Fran McCaffery has a solid core of talented youngsters on his roster. And on the strength of a couple of talented recruits and point guard Erick Green, Seth Greenberg looked like he was starting to get the Hokie program rebuilt. But Greenberg was fired, Montrezl Harrel decommitted and Dorian Finney-Smith transferred. So much for that.
  11. Nebraska at Wake Forest (Nov. 27th): Wake Forest has been a train wreck under Jeff Bzdelik, and while Tim Miles may eventually get things turned around at Nebraska, it will take some time for that program to become relevant. When these two played last year, the final was 55-53. Thrilling.
  12. Boston College at Penn State (Nov. 28th): I’d rather watch a marathon of “Say Yes to the Dress”.

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

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

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.