Pregame Shootaround 2.16.13: San Diego State-UNLV is nightcap to watch Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Pittsburgh began its Big East schedule with two straight losses. Since then, though, the Panthers have gone 8-2 and have quality wins over Syracuse and Cincinnati. One team they have yet to beat, though, is Marquette, who won in overtime on Jan. 12. In that game, Tray Woodall played just four minutes after suffering a concussion. With him in the lineup Saturday, his 10.9 points and 5.4 assists per game could make the difference.

For Marquette, Davante Gardner has struggled over the last five games. In that January meeting with Pittsburgh, he was 6-of-6 from the floor for 13 points. Another night like that from him would have the Golden Eagles on the right track for a win Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: North Carolina (-6) vs. Virginia (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

North Carolina does well when it is able to get out in transition and score when the defense is scattered. Against Virginia, those opportunities will be limited because the Cavaliers take care of the basketball and shoot a solid percentage from the field (46% FG, 40% 3pt FG).

Joe Harris will again be the key for Virginia on the road. If he continues to hit shots as he has for much of ACC play, it will open up opportunities for complementary scorer Akil Mitchell toward the interior. With limited possessions, North Carolina can’t afford to turn the ball over, and will need James Michael McAdoo to bounce back after shooting 4-of-12 from the floor vs. Duke.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saturday night’s matchup sees two of the Mountain West’s best players (and likely the two top contenders for the conference’s Player of the Year award) face off. The Rebels are in need of a win after dropping three of their last four, including losses to Boise State, Air Force, and Fresno State.

San Diego State, on the other hand, has won two of its last three but fell on Wednesday to Colorado State. In that game, Frankling struggled to shoot just 4-of-13 from the floor for 11 points. He needs to return to his typical 17 points and nine rebounds for the Aztecs to get a win Saturday.

Five Things to Watch For

1) No. 2 Duke has responded with six straight wins after getting blown out by Miami on Jan. 23. We’ll see one of the better individual big man matchups Saturday as the Blue Devils’ Mason Plumlee meets Maryland’s Alex Len. The Terrapins will be without Pe’Shon Howard because of suspension.

2) No. 8 Michigan State finds itself in a trap game Saturday against Nebraska. With a brutal four-game stretch waiting over the next two weeks (No. 1 Indiana, No. 13 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan, No. 20 Wisconsin), the Spartans need not overlook the Cornhuskers on the road. Don’t expect any problems, but it’s something to keep in mind.

3) No. 15 Kansas needed a big win over Kansas State to try to return to equilibrium after three straight losses. They got it. Now they face a Texas team that has gotten a lift from the return of guard Myck Kabongo.

4) No. 11 Butler has a chance to bounce back after a loss to Charlotte on Wednesday. The Bulldogs travel to 6-19 Fordham, though they could be without center Andrew Smith, who was cleared to practice but is a game-time decision. Expect Rotnei Clarke to find his groove again after being quiet until late vs. Charlotte.

5) Both UCLA and Stanford need a win Saturday. The Cardinal are fresh off a loss to USC on Thursday, and the Bruins started off their road trip to the Bay Area with a loss to Cal that same day. Stanford will look to the interior with Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, while UCLA hopes Shabazz Muhammad finds his shooting touch again after going 4-of-13 from the floor vs. Cal.

The Top 25

No. 1 Indiana vs. Purdue (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 2 Duke vs. Maryland (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Gonzaga vs. San Francisco (4:30 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

No. 6 Syracuse vs. Seton Hall (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Florida vs. Auburn (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Michigan State vs. Nebraska (8:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 10 Kansas State vs. Baylor (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 11 Butler vs. Fordham (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 14 Kansas vs. Texas (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Pittsburgh vs. No. 18 Marquette (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 17 Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 New Mexico vs. Boise State (9:00 p.m. ET)

No. 21 Notre Dame vs. Providence (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 22 Memphis vs. Marshall (8:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

No. 23 Oregon vs. Washington State (7:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

No. 24 Colorado State vs. Air Force (4:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 Kentucky vs. Tennessee (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Other Notable Games

Villanova vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Virginia vs. North Carolina (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Joseph’s vs. La Salle (1:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

NC State vs. Virginia Tech (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Army vs. Navy (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Creighton vs. Evansville (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Missouri vs. Arkansas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Stanford vs. UCLA (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2)

Temple vs. Massachusetts (6:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Detroit vs. Valparaiso (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Princeton vs. Harvard (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Charlotte vs. Saint Louis (7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Saint Mary’s vs. Loyola Marymount (7:00 p.m. ET)

Georgia vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Arizona State vs. Colorado State (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

San Diego State vs. UNLV (9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

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

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.