College Basketball Oscars: Who would bring home the biggest awards?

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Argo took home Best Picture at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, but who is deserving of similar awards in college basketball? CollegeBasketballTalk compiled a list and voted for winners in 12 key categories. Take a look at the list below. Have a differing opinion? Feel free to vote for your own winners in the comments.

Best Picture: No. 13 Butler 64, No. 8 Gonzaga 63

This one had all the elements of a true masterpiece. There are good college basketball games, then there are those like Butler-Gonzaga on Jan. 19. It had all the elements: the “underdog” implications, the national rankings, the late-game drama, the surprise ending. You thought the game was over when Alex Barlow was called for traveling with 3.5 seconds to play? Wrong. Roosevelt Jones’ steal, weave, and floater as time expired gave Butler the win and cemented a place in highlight history for years to come.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJOTrmNpT6I]

Best Player in a Leading Role: Trey Burke, Michigan (18.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds per game)

When Burke made the decision to return to Michigan for his sophomore season and put off his NBA dreams for another season, he knew that he was walking into a leading role. He knew he would inherit and team with talent and national title aspirations in the nation’s toughest conference and, like Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he has shouldered the weight of those expectations.

Best Player in a Supporting Role: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (14 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 steals per game, 63.9% FG)

Oladipo has emerged throughout the season and shown that he has the single most important characteristic of a supporting player: versatility. One night, he could carry the Hoosiers offensively. Another night, it is his defense that makes Indiana go. He may even bring everything together into one performance that is truly masterful, like when he had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals, and three blocks in a win over Michigan State on Jan. 27.

Best Original Dramatic Sequence: Frantz Massenat, Drexel vs. Hofstra

There’s always room for a low-budget film in the College Basketball Oscars. None is more deserving than the moment Frantz Massenat gave us against Hofstra. With seconds remaining in regulation, Massenat heaved a shot from beyond half court between two defenders and nailed it, giving Drexel the 55-52 win. Perfection. We’ve seen similar shots, like Ben Brust’s prayer against Michigan on Feb. 9 that sent that game into overtime, but sheer distance and the fact that it was for the win gives Massenat the nod.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/jBYSF4bLfgM]

Best Costume Design: UCLA’s blue alternates, adidas

In a year that has seen its share of new uniforms, including the logo-prominent Nike look to adidas’ monochromatic experiment, UCLA’s blue alternate jerseys stand above the rest. The designer takes care to contrast the lighter blue with a sharp navy color for the number, but also makes one key addition. Where the monochromatic jerseys failed, these succeed. A thin bit of gold outlines the numbers and makes them pop. Important.

Best Short Film: Jamaal Franklin’s Off-the-Backboard Dunk vs. Fresno State

Considering the undertaking, for Franklin to even attempt a moment like this is almost unthinkable. To have captured it so perfectly is something else entirely. But that is a mark of a great innovator. He is not afraid to take chances. As a wise man once said, “You miss 100% of the off-the-backboard alley-oops to yourself that you don’t take.” Perhaps I’m paraphrasing, but the message still rings true.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-stx17fY-I]

Best Kiss: Jack Cooley, Notre Dame

Very little can be said, other than to let the image speak for itself. The Casablanca kiss pales in comparison.

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Best Director: Jim Larranaga, Miami

With the cloud of an impending NCAA investigation hanging over the program’s head, Larranaga has worked with a group of veterans that he largely inherited to become a force in the ACC and a contender for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. College basketball lacks a dominant team this season, which makes Larranaga a clearer choice, considering the expectations going into the season, a non-conference loss to Florida-Gulf Coast, and the injuries that the Hurricanes have endured.

He has mastered a range of styles, key for any director, helping Miami to win at a slow, grinding pace, or more up-tempo and in transition. He caps it all off with his personal masterpiece, a 27-point drubbing of then-No. 1 Duke. Bravo.

Best Player in a Foreign Film: Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s (Australia)

Dellavedova comes from a program that has a history of producing and developing quality Australian-born players. He is simply the next in line. In the off-season, he developed his game by adding muscle to his frame, making him a player with more physical tools with which to work. He knows how to work the whole “persona” thing, too. His oversized mouthguard is unique and helps him stick out more than just his 16.1 points and 6.3 assists per game already do.

Best Single-Game Performance in a Leading Role: Kendall Williams, New Mexico vs. Colorado State

There are nights when one player simply cannot be stopped. On Feb. 23 against Colorado State, Kendall Williams had one of those nights. The junior shot 12-of-16 from the floor, including 10-of-13 from three-point range on his way to 46 points and a nine-point New Mexico victory. Consider the stakes of the game, with both teams ranked and fighting for position in the highly contested Mountain West, and Williams’ performance shines even brighter.

Most Animated Player: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss

Henderson has been as polarizing as he has been productive, which makes him such an intriguing personality and the kind of “What will he do next?” character that we don’t often see at the college level. He once posited that Ole Miss could beat Tennessee 10 out of 10 times (100% of the time, for those of you keeping track at home), and on another occasion kindly told the media that he didn’t have much time for questions because it was a Saturday night and he had a place to be. Oh, and this happened:

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Breakthrough Performance: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds per game)

A breakout performer turns a quality project into an elite one. This is what Kelly Olynyk has done for Gonzaga. Olynyk redshirted the 2011-12 season and came out of it now averaging 17.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He has shown the ability to attack defenses in a number of ways, whether it is around the rim, off the dribble, or on the perimeter. Gonzaga has ridden the classic underdog narrative to a 27-2 record and a No. 3 national ranking. The Bulldogs are hoping that this one ends with triumph and possibly even a national championship.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Jeff Withey, Kansas (13.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 blocks per game)

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to the nation’s best fifth-year senior. Its recipients are part of a select group, one that only has players who have continued to produce long after others around them are past their time. Coach Bill Self and Kansas has had continued success because elite players leave and more fill in seamlessly behind them. This season, Withey is that elite player filling in the gap left by the depature of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson and is one of the main reasons that the Jayhawks are eyeing another Final Four run. For that, Mr. Withey, we honor you.

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.