Pregame Shootaround 1.12.13: Duke on upset alert against NC State without Ryan Kelly

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Games of the Day: No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

With wins over Michigan State and Illinois, Minnesota has officially shown that it has staying power in the nation’s most powerful conference. The Gophers are in the nation’s Top 50 in scoring and the Top 25 in rebounding and assists, thanks in large part to the play of point guard Andre Hollins (13.7 points, 3.7 assists per game). The most important part, though, has been balance, with four players averaging in double figures and senior Trevor Mbakwe just outside double-digit scoring with 9.3 per game.

The biggest task for the Gophers Saturday will be containing Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller. If Zeller has his way inside, it opens up opportunities on the perimeter for guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls, as well as forward Victor Oladipo. Assembly Hall is never an easy place for a conference opponent to get a win, but Minnesota could make it happen on Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 1 Duke (-3.5) vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Duke will be without forward Ryan Kelly, who is out at least two weeks with a foot injury. His absence will be felt most on the offensive end where he typically spaces the floor and allows guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee to match up in more isolated situations. Without Kelly last season in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils were upset by 15th-ranked Lehigh in the Round of 64.

NC State has a chance for a major conference win, especially with Kelly out. Saturday will be a chance for forward C.J. Leslie to produce, but it will be equally important that center Richard Howell not get into foul trouble against Plumlee.

With the advantage on the interior, NC State will try to win the battle on the perimeter as well. The key matchup will be at the point guard spot between the Wolfpack’s Lorenzo Brown and Duke’s Quinn Cook. Brown’s perimeter defense needs to disrupt Cook, which puts more stress on a Duke offense that is already missing a key asset.

Mid-Major Matchups of the Day: 

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Butler endured a tough road fight to beat St. Joe’s on Wednesday and now has to go on the road again against a tough Dayton team. Watch for the matchup in the backcourt in this one between Dayton’s Kevin Dillard and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke. Dillard has already outdueled Trevor Releford when the Flyers beat Alabama and outplayed Isaiah Canaan in a win over Murray State. But, if Clarke’s 28 points vs. St. Joe’s were any indication, he no difficulties coming up big on the road. Andrew Smith will be important in the paint for Butler, as well.

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Louis has not lost since its former coach, Rick Majerus, passed away on Dec. 1. They face one of their toughest tests of the season Saturday, though, against a Temple team that took down Syracuse and nearly walked out of Allen Fieldhouse with a win over Kansas. The key for Saint Louis will be to contain Khalif Wyatt, who has shown that his relentless old-school style of play can consistently frustrate defenses. Kwamain Mitchell needs to continue to find his stride after missing much of the season recovering from injury.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Freshman Ben McLemore saved Kansas with his 33 points in a comeback overtime win over Iowa State on Wednesday. They travel to Texas Tech Saturday and should be able to bounce back with a win.

2) After suffering its first loss of the season to Oregon, No. 4 Arizona continues its swing through the Beaver State with a matchup against Oregon State. In the loss, Arizona allowed Oregon to shoot 7-of-11 from three-point range. Saturday, they’ll need to rotate defensively and get a hand in the face of shooters Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks. Both guards shoot better than 40 percent from three.

3) Villanova has won seven games in a row, including quality wins over South Florida on the road and over a tough mid-major, St. Joe’s. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono will get one of his toughest matchups of the season so far, as he goes up against Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams. If Villanova wants the upset, they ought to take a page out of Temple’s book. Force Carter-Williams to score and be physical on the interior.

4) Aside from the Big Ten, the Mountain West might end up being the most exciting conference race to watch this season. We’ve got another good matchup Saturday, as Jamaal Franklin and San Diego State face Colorado State. The Rams will have to contain Franklin and Chase Tapley on the perimeter, but the combination of Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung gives CSU the advantage in the paint.

5) Georgetown ranks 263rd in the country in scoring offense with just over 63 points per game. They scored just 45 in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh. Shots around the rim won’t be easy Saturday, as the Hoyas run into Chris Obekpa, the St. John’s freshman tied with Kansas’ Jeff Withey for the nation’s lead in blocks per game (5.1).

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 3 Louisville vs. South Florida (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 4 Arizona vs. Oregon State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 6 Kansas vs. Texas Tech (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Syracuse vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 10 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 11 Florida vs. LSU (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 12 Illinois vs. Wisconsin (2:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 San Diego State vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Connecticut (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 18 Kansas State vs. West Virginia (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 Georgetown vs. St. John’s (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 21 Cincinnati vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Air Force (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Fresno State (3:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Pittsburgh vs. Marquette (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Tennessee vs. Alabama (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

UCLA vs. Colorado (2:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Texas vs. Iowa State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

North Carolina vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Washington State vs. California (4:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

Texas A&M vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Washington vs. Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

San Francisco vs. St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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.