Jim Boeheim and Buzz Williams: Two coaches that couldn’t be more different

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the surface, it would seem like Marquette and Syracuse are similar programs.

Both are members of the Big East this year and both will be leaving the Big East after this year. (Technically, Marquette is leaving the Big East to join the new Big East, but you get my point.) They’ve played once already this season and both have made plenty of appearances on ESPN and CBS during the year. Their head coaches are quirky, lovable characters adored by their fanbase. Most importantly, both programs are very good and nationally relevant; there’s a reason that they’re squaring off in the Elite 8 on Saturday afternoon.

But when you take a closer look at how these two teams have gotten to this point, you’ll realize that the No. 3 seed Golden Eagles and No. 4 seed Orange don’t really have all that much in common.

It starts with their game preparation. There may not be a coach in the country that puts more effort and more time into his scouting reports for an opponent than Williams. He’s thorough. He’s tireless. He embraces the x’s-and-o’s and calls out an opponent’s plays from the sidelines while understanding advanced analytics as well as anyone. This is what their locker room looked like prior to their Sweet 16 matchup with Miami:

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When he came to the press conference on Friday afternoon, he had already watch film of Syracuse’s last six games.

“How we handle scouting is probably unique to some organizations, but our kids know what to expect when it comes to scouting,” Williams said. “My staff has been incredible. This year and in years past, for that matter, in scouting. I’m over the top on the analytics involved as a team, as an individual.”

Compare that to Boeheim.

“I’m not a big proponent of scouting, film work,” he said. “I probably watch less film than anybody in the country. We know what we need to do. Everybody in this business knows what they need to do. It’s a question of if you can execute it in the game.”

“I always laugh at football coaches. They know every play, every position, every move that these other guys are going to make because they watch 36,000 hours of tape. Their players have no clue what they’re talking about. If they can get some of the players to get some understanding … It’s not what the coaches know or what you know, it’s what the players know and how they execute.”

Notice a difference?

Then you look at who they recruit.

Marquette’s roster is littered with players that embody their feisty head coach. Williams’ back-story is one that has been told 100 times, and deservedly so. It’s incredible. He never played basketball. He didn’t know anyone in college basketball. He got his first job because he sent letters to 425 different coaches every week until he was able to scrape together enough money to pay for a flight to the 1994 Final Four. From there, he heard about a job at UT-Arlington and scraped together enough money to buy a car and drive down to the head coach’s house simply to tell him he wanted the job.

Long story short, he worked his way up the ladder — quite literally — before eventually getting the head coaching gig with Marquette when Tom Crean left for Indiana. Every player that Williams recruits has that same mindset. They have a chip on their shoulder, they have something to prove. Whether it’s because they were under-recruited coming out of high school, or because they couldn’t work their way into a rotation at their first Division I school, or because they were overlooked and had to work their way up through the JuCo ranks, there’s an attitude that permeates every fiber of this Marquette program.

“When we step on the court, if you don’t give us respect, we’re going to earn it,” Vander Blue said after Thursday’s win over Miami. “Sooner or later, you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due.”

Boeheim does.

“They have a very good team. I just look at the players on the team, I don’t look at the hype,” Boeheim said. “That’s what you look at as a coach. You don’t look at how many high school all-americans they had. Whatever.”

“Half of the high school all-americans aren’t any good.”

Boeheim would know as well as anyone, as his roster is stockpiled with top 25 recruits and early entry candidates. The Orange wage war on the recruiting trail with the biggest of the big boys, and they land their fair share of the kids they target. It’s ironic, really: both coaches have a ‘type’. Williams recruits a Chevy Silverado commercial — blue-collar, motor, work ethic, toughness — while Boeheim wants the kids that hit all of the NBA Draft buzzwords — length, athleticism, potential, ceiling — to plug into his 2-3 zone.

And therein lies the beauty of this matchup.

The perennial underdogs vs. the five-star talents. The hall of fame coach that played at Syracuse vs. the short kid from Van Alstyne that got his start as a student assistant at a JuCo.

Regardless of the differences between the two programs, there is one thing that they do have in common: they don’t want their season to end on Saturday night.

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.