College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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1. We cannot judge Missouri yet: Not until they have Michael Dixon and/or Jabari Brown in the fold. Brown will get eligible in December. A former top 30 recruit coming out of high school, he’s a big-time athlete at 6-foot-5 and may actually be the best perimeter shooter that Frank Haith has on his roster. Which is saying something, because Dixon is a pretty good perimeter shooter in his own right. It’s unclear when (or if) Dixon will be back with the team, as the mystery surrounding his suspension has taken a bit of a turn. But the bottom line is that, right now, Missouri’s offensive is sputtering because the three guys that have started a game at the two and the three are shooting a combined 33.3% from three and 38.3% from the field.

Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi have been great up front. Flip Pressey is as good as advertised. But until the Tigers have that perimeter shooting, they’ll only be OK.

2. St. Mary’s might be in trouble: I love Matthew Dellavedova. From the ugly-as-sin-but-always-goes-in jumper to the mouthguard to the greasy moptop, there’s so much about his game that would make you think he’s garbage. He’d be the last guy picked at the park, but he’s nasty, with a little Mark Jackson in his game; he’s a terrific passer, especially in the pick-and-roll, and has been used in the post by Randy Bennett this season. The problem? The Gaels don’t have guys that can finished those passes. Their bigs are weak around the rim and can’t score with their back-to-the-basket. Their shooters aren’t really shooters at all. Stephen Holt is about as confident spotting up from three as I would be trying to ask Blake Lively out for coffee. Dellavedova can’t do it all himself; he’s not going to play like this every night. He’ll get his team scoring chances, but until those chances start turning into points, the Gaels are going to be just OK.

3. Jahii Carson is a stud: Anyone else that watched him go for 30 points and seven assists against Creighton on Saturday will agree with me. He’s averaging 21.0 points and 5.0 assists five games into the season, and he’s doing so as Herb Sendek has allowed the Sun Devils to put the pedal to the medal in transition. ASU still has a long way to go to be considered a tournament contender, but with Carson, the redshirt freshman, running the show, this group will be entertaining to watch.

Imagine if Arizona would have taken Carson instead of Josiah Turner? Think Sean Miller is regretting that decision now?

4. Northwestern is 6-0: The Wildcats, who are still without an NCAA tournament berth in their history, were 4-0 before heading down to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge, and while they didn’t exactly beat two top ten teams down there, wins over TCU and Illinois State aren’t too shabby. The Redbirds are going to finish near the top of a strong MVC, while TCU followed up their loss to Northwestern with a win over UAB. There’s a long way to go this year, but 6-0 is 6-0.

5. What’s up with Butler and VCU?: We’re two weeks into the season, and the Atlantic 10’s two hyped additions are a combined 6-5. Butler bounced back from a loss at Xavier by beat Marquette and North Carolina out in Maui, but followed that up with a blowout loss to Illinois in the title game. VCU looked really good in their win over Memphis, but Memphis has been bad early in the season, and the Rams have lost battles with Wichita State, Duke and Missouri.

Frankly, I’d be more concerned with Butler. Losing Crishawn Hopkins’ playmaking ability really hurts them. Rotnei Clarke is simply not a point guard, but Roosevelt Jones hasn’t progressed to the point where Brad Stevens can feel comfortable having him bring the ball up the floor. And while I understand the need to allow Clarke to fire away at will, at some point, he needs to improve his shot selection. He doesn’t need to take fadeaway 25-footers with a hand in his face with 25 seconds left on the shot clock; he can get that shot anytime he wants.

VCU will be fine, as I think this is a group that’s still figuring out how to replace Brad Burgess on the offensive end of the floor. Juvonte Reddic’s play has been impressive, as was their three-point shooting against Memphis, but I think Ram fans need to cap their expectations for this group as a borderline top 25 team for now.

My up-to-the-second Atlantic 10 power rankings: St. Joe’s, VCU, Butler, St. Louis, Temple, La Salle, UMass, Xavier.

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

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

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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.