The Morning Mix

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– Ken Pomeroy once again provides the #ReadoftheDay. The grandmaster advanced statistician took a long hard look at the 18th most improbable comeback from last season. You should vaguely remember it too. NCAA Tournament Opening Round: Western Kentucky vs. Mississippi Valley State

-Boston College head coach Steve Donahue believes that there is not another conference in the country that can stack up against the ACC in basketball 

– Some solid responses from Eamonn Brennan and Pitt Blather regarding the Sports Illustrated article about schedule-making and the RPI

– Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg has been churning out a bunch of fantastic mid-major conference previews. I highly recommend his Atlantic Sun preview on the heirs to the A-Sun throne now that Belmont has moved to the OVC. In his Big West preview, Jeff explains how western mid-major schools are avoiding being left behind in the ever-changing world of conference expansion. Jeff also details how a “new-look” Long Beach State team will try to defend their Big West title. Seriously, just read as many of Jeff’s conference previews as you can. It will benefit you down the road. Trust me

– According to reports from Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel, the NCAA is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Notre Dame Preparatory School (MA). This comes on the heel of two Class of 2012 basketball recruits from the school academically ineligible to play college ball this year. Sam Cassell Jr. (Maryland) and Myles Davis (Xavier) were both recently denied eligibility at their respective  schools

– Nerlens Noel recently admitted that opposing recruiters assumed Kentucky was paying him. In this Sports Illustrated article, other recruit open up about shady recruiting practices

– The SB Nation blog “Tar Heel Fan” has provided some of the best arguments and discussion topics concerning the academic scandal taking place in Chapel Hill. The most recent post questions the purpose of recent reports published by the Raleigh News and Observer

– The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA is not easy to keep track of. But luckily Matt Norlander fills us in on the latest updates and briefs us on the road ahead for the NCAA

– Sad new out of Baltimore, as former-Maryland walk-on Earl Badu was found dead from an apparent suicide over the weekend.  According to police reports The 33-year old former-Terp jumped to his death from the I-95 overpass onto Interstate 695 outside of Baltimore County

– The Hawaii Warriors got some terrible news on Friday, as All-Conference big-man Vander Joaquim will miss four to six weeks after he tore his MCL on Thursday. Gib Arnold’s squad is joining the Big West in 2012-2013 and Joaquim was supposed to be the team’s impact player

– One of the traditions being formed at Hawaii under third-year head coach Gib Arnold is the annual “King of the Beach” preseason fitness competition. Nebraska-transfer Christian Standhardinger won the early-morning training competition over the weekend on world famous Waikiki Beach

– No team got hit harder by the injury bug last season than the Louisville Cardinals. Mike Marra was one of the players who missed the entire 2011-2012 season. During Marra’s first practice back, he re-injured his ACL and is thus retiring from collegiate basketball

– Matt Glover started 21 games for Penn State last season before transferring out of Happy Valley admit the lengthy Jerry Sandusky scandal. The 6-foot-5 guard wanted to be closer to his family and transferring to San Francisco. Unfortunately, it was announced on Friday that the NCAA has denied Glover a hardship waiver and will have to sit out the 2012-2013 season

– JuCo star Chris Thomas announced over the weekend that he is decommitting from Xavier. This should not come as a shock considering Thomas attended three high schools and a junior college before settling on Xavier. Iowa State, Missouri and Seton Hall could all be in the mix for his services

– Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal put together a great Q&A session with Kentucky head coach John Calipari

According to the Chicago Tribune, DePaul officials are discussing the possibility of moving home games from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont to the United Center in downtown Chicago

– The Ohio State athletic department held a fundraiser in order to support an iPad program for student athletes. Why do student athletes need iPads?

A nice little review of the Athlon Sports 2012-2013 college basketball preview magazine

– It seems as though college basketball is developing another interesting publicity trend. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice rappelled down the face of a 50-story building as part of a charity fundraiser. Not to be outdone, the St. John’s Red Storm mascot did the same

– Colorado continues to haul in class of 2013 recruits thanks to the Buffs Pac-12 Tournament championship last season. The most recent addition to Tad Boyle’s future squad is 6-foot-5 wing Tre’Shaun Lexing from Takoma, WA

– Mike DeCourcy ranks his top-5 candidates for “Breakout Star” in 2012-2013

– Run The Floor ranks the top-5 guards in the Horizon League

– Ohio State President Gordon Gee spends $64,000 a year on bowties, but really likes helping out the football program on the recruiting trails

– The “Oakland Zoo” student section at Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center released their t-shirts for the new season. It’s solid. Not as good as some of the past seasons, but still pretty good

Remember, if you find an article that is worthy of being in The Morning Mix, be sure to use the #ReadoftheDay hashtag on Twitter. 

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.

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
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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.