Pitino lands 4th 2013 recruit; why isn’t there more oversigning outrage?

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This has been a wild week on the recruiting front, and the latest news to come down on Wednesday night involved our old friend Rick Pitino.

Pitino seemingly came out of nowhere to land a commitment from a 6-foot-9 Nebraskan named Akoy Agau, who is a native of Sudan. As a prospect, Agau is pretty much exactly what you would expect out of a kid from Sudan: he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s got terrific upside as a rebounder and a shotblocker, and he needs to develop the offensive side of his game, although he has proven to have a decent touch from the perimeter.

He’s got enough potential on the court that he is a consensus top 100 recruit and enough vowels in his name that, when combined with current Cardinal bigs Mangok Mathiang and Gorgui Dieng, announcers will have nightmares the night before they have to call a Louisville game.

As hard as this may be to believe, the impossibility of properly pronouncing the names of everyone on the Louisville roster is not the most interesting part of this commitment. You see, as of right now, Louisville has 15 player scheduled to receive a scholarship in 2013-2014. Two seniors are scheduled to graduate — Stephen Van Treese and Peyton Siva — and four players are currently committed to the school — prep point guard Terry Rozier, JuCo point guard Chris Jones, and big men Anton Gill and Agau.

That’s a problem, because college basketball teams are only allowed to have 13 players on scholarship.

This, quite frankly, is the definition of oversigning. And it’s not the first time that Pitino has done this. In 2010-2011 he asked Chris Smith, Kyle Kuric and Elisha Justice to give up their scholarships and become walk-ons to get to the necessary number of scholarship players. Since then, Pitino has “asked” a number of players — Jared Swopshire, Van Treese (he was eventually allowed to return when Raheem Buckles left), George Goode — to transfer to make room for better, healthier recruits.

Personally, I don’t have a huge issue with this. The players weren’t good enough, so they got cut. It sucks, but it happens.

But this is an enormous issue on the football side of things. So why isn’t there more outrage for basketball coaches like Pitino — or Tom Crean or Buzz Williams or any other coach who does something similar — who practice oversigning? John Infante took a look earlier this week in a terrific post. He offers up a number of explanations, but here are the two that I think are the most relevant:

So much more attention to roster management in basketball is paid to the roster management initiated by the players themselves. The high number of transfers helps mask issues with over-signing in two ways. First, it helps provide justification for oversigning in the first place. Coaches never know who will want to leave. Second, it clears up the scholarship crunch.

[…]

There are fewer horror stories. 
In basketball, the result of an over-signed basketball team typically ends with a basketball player transferring and moving on to continue his career at another Division I school. Football has all sorts of worse outcomes, including allegations of athletes being pressured into signing permanent medical non-counter scholarships, freshmen dropped from the team on the eve of fall camp, athletes transferring to junior college and needing to restart the recruiting process all over again, etc.

The bottom-line is this: there are a few programs who are developing a reputation for over-recruiting. If you don’t want to run the risk of getting “cut” or being forced to transfer, avoid those schools. Otherwise — i.e. if you decide that you just have to go to a school like Louisville — than you’ll have to deal with any negative outcome.

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

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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

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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

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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.