East Region Preview: Indiana didn’t get Indy, which is a good thing?

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Indiana didn’t get Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers lost to Wisconsin in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, meaning that they sat at home on their couch and watched as Louisville beat Notre Dame and then Syracuse to win the Big East tournament title. As a result, the Cardinals played their way into the No. 1 overall seed, meaning that they got a preferential locale and a spot in the Midwest Region.

So Indiana heads East, meaning they could end up playing Syracuse in DC in the Sweet 16, a game that could feature more orange in the stands than red.

That said, when you look at the East Region, it’s tough not to think that the Hoosiers may have actually lucked out. The Midwest is the Region of Doom, where the East Region is more talented-but-enigmatic. NC State? Syracuse? UNLV? They won’t strike fear into Indiana’s heart. Neither will No. 2 seed Miami, or No. 3 seed Marquette. Butler, the No. 6 seed in the East, could end up being dropped by a Bucknell team that matches up really well with them.

All things considered, Indiana got a pretty good draw.

Here’s your East Region breakdown:

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Three story lines to watch

  • We could end up getting a conference matchup in the round of 32 if Butler and Marquette both advance, which is not guarantee. At some point this week, Butler is expected to announce that they are leaving the Atlantic 10 and joining up with the Catholic 7 in the new Big East. Throw in the fact that, you know, they’re Butler, and there will be a lot of hype surrounding that game. Oh, and who can forget this game?
  • Will UNLV prove that it deserved the No. 5 seed gift the committee gave them? Most agree that the Rebels probably got overseeded by the committee. Were they really within two natural seed lines of New Mexico and three natural seed lines better than Colorado State? That’s a tough call. You know what else is tough? Drawing Cal in the opening round in a game that will be played in San Jose. I guess it all evens out.
  • James Madison’s leading scorer became the first player to be arrested before tournament play starts. Who’s next?

The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 2 Miami

When I actually sit down to fill out my bracket, things may end up shaking out differently, but I’m just not sure who in the East is going to be able to take down IU or UM. I know the Hoosiers went 3-3 down the stretch, but they were also arguably the best team in the country before then, and I’m not quite sure how much has changed since. Victor Oladipo, the nation’s preeiminent role-player, has been so good at what he does this season that people have completely forgotten about the fact that Cody Zeller is the best post scorer in the country. He’s surrounded by shooters, he’s getting more aggressive by the day and he won’t have to deal with the overly in-depth scouting reports of the Big Ten anymore.

I have a theory about making the Final Four. I think you need four things: a quality point guard, size up front, the ability to lock down defensively, and a stud to give the ball to in the clutch. Miami is 4-4 on that list. It would be nice if Reggie Johnson hopped out of the funk that he’s been in recently, but the bottom-line is that there is a reason that Miami won the dual-ACC titles. Some of it is Ryan Kelly’s injury and North Carolina’s struggles early-on, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that the Hurricanes are actually a really good basketball team and Shane Larkin is the real deal at the point.

Final Four sleeper: Illinois

I’m not betting this will happen. I’m certainly not going to have it in my bracket. But hear me out. Illinois has proven they can win big games, knocking off Gonzaga in Spokane and Indiana at home. They are a dangerous three-point shooting team on the nights that they get hot. They can spread the floor on Miami in the round of 32 and take away the effectiveness of their big men. Neither Butler nor Marquette is overpowering. And they’ve already beaten Indiana. So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Best opening round matchups

  • No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Temple: The Wolfpack have a ton of talent and an overpowering front line. But Temple has a kid named Khalif Wyatt that is as clutch as anyone in the country.
  • No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell: This is going to be a great watch for x’s-and-o’s junkies. Both teams are exceedingly well-coached and execute their offense. but how does Butler deal with Mike Muscala, Bucknell’s 6-foot-11, double-double machine?

Matchups to root for

  • No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 6 Butler: It might have been cooler if this were to take place in Indianapolis again. ‘Big brother’ gets a shot at revenge after a former walk-on for ‘little brother’ hit a game-winner in their first matchup.

The studs you know about

  • Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Indiana: Oladipo was a Player of the Year candidate. Zeller was the Preseason Player of the Year. Both are all-americans.
  • Anthony Bennett, UNLV: The Rebel big man has deep range and dunks as ferociously as anyone in the country, but his dominance only comes in spurts.
  • Shane Larkin, Miami: He’s the engine that makes Miami run, and may be the nation’s best point guard this side of Trey Burke.
  • Allen Crabbe, Cal: It’s a shame if you haven’t seen this Rip Hamilton-clone play. He’s liable to go for 30 on any given night.

The studs the nation will find out about

  • Mike Muscala, Bucknell: The Bison big man is a throwback, low-post scorer. He can go over either shoulder and score with either hand, he’s got a soft touch on his jump shot, he blocks shots, be rebounds and he’s tough. Throw in the fact that he’s 6-foot-11 and a rapper, and we’ve got ourselves a tourney hero if Bucknell can get out of the first weekend.
  • Khalif Wyatt, Temple: It will take a Herculean effort from Wyatt to get out of the first weekend of the tournament, but he’s up for the task. He’s a slow-footed, big-bodied two-guard that lumbers his way around, using his strength and craftiness to make some ridiculous shots.
  • Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, Montana: The Grizzlies have a very, very good back court.

Upsets that ARE happening

  • No. 14 Davidson over No. 3 Marquette: Davidson has size. They execute offensively. They can shoot the ball. They are a veteran group that went into Kansas City and beat Kansas last season. Believe it.
  • No. 11 Bucknell over No. 6 Butler: Heresy and sacrilege, I know, but Bucknell might be the nation’s best mid-major program that no one pays attention to.

Upsets that AREN’T happening

  • No. 13 Montana over No. 4 Syracuse: I love Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar, but when people talk about the Grizzlies winning this game, ask them about Mathias Ward. They’ll say, ‘Who is that?’, and then you can say, ‘He’s Montana’s leading scorer who isn’t playing because of a foot injury.’

CBT Predictions: I just don’t see anyone in this region picking off Indiana.

You can find Rob 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

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.