Updated Preseason Top 25, post Andrew Wiggins

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1. KENTUCKY
Record: 21-12, lost in 1st round of NIT
Who do they lose?: Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Ryan Harrow
Who comes back?: Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein
Newcomers?: Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee
Outlook: Even with Andrew Wiggins is heading to Kansas, Kentucky’s recruiting class is still one of the best recruiting classes of all time. They also return two future lottery picks in Poythress and Cauley-Stein. I have some doubts about this group, but it won’t change the fact that they are the favorite to win it all as of today.

2. LOUISVILLE
Record: 35-5, won the title
Who do they lose?: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva
Who comes back?: Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell, Kevin Ware
Newcomers?: Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, Akoy Agau, Anton Gill
Outlook: With Smith changing his mind and deciding to return to school, Louisville looks like they are going to have a real chance to repeat as national champions. Smith won KenPom’s National Player of the Year award in large part because of the havoc that he wreaks on the defensive end of the floor, which makes him the perfect guard for the Cardinals. The key for this team is going to be the development of Harrell. He needs to develop into a guy that can dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.

3. MICHIGAN STATE
Record: 27-9, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Derrick Nix
Who comes back?: Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice
Newcomers?: Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis
Outlook: With both Payne and Harris returning to school, Michigan State is once again loaded. Harris, with a full summer to rehab his shoulder, should have a fantastic sophomore campaign. But getting Payne back was the key, as he’ll be the only real presence that the Spartans have in the paint next season. If he can continue to improve, he’s got the tools to be a first round pick next season.

4. ARIZONA
Record: 27-8, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Grant Jerrett
Who comes back?: Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski
Newcomers?: TJ McConnell, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Jefferson
Outlook: I had concerns about the makeup of Arizona’s roster, but the loss of Jerrett actually may be a blessing in disguise. There is no longer such a bottleneck on minutes in the front court. Instead, there are five guys that can rotate between three positions, all of whom are incredibly talented — Gordon, Tarczewski, Ashely, Chol, Jeffereson. The addition of McConnell at the point will be huge, and I think Johnson is primed for a big year on the wing.

5. KANSAS
Record: 31-6, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Kevin Young
Who comes back?: Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor
Newcomers?: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, Connor Frankamp, Frank Mason, Brannen Greene
Outlook: The Jayhawks lost their entire starting lineup from a team that spent the majority of the season in the top ten and won the Big 12 conference, and they are going to be better next year despite the fact that college basketball, as a whole, is going to be loaded at the top next season? That’s the power of Andrew Wiggins. His addition gives Bill Self a go-to guy and allows the loaded recruiting class he brings in to spend a season as role players. The Jayhawks are once again the Big 12 favorites and a national title contender.

6. DUKE
Record: 30-6, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly
Who comes back?: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee
Newcomers?: Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye
Outlook: It feels weird ranking a team that loses their top three scorers this high, but it’s very much deserved. Parker is going to be a star, which is a good thing when you consider that either Sulaimon or Mississippi State transfer Hood will end up being the third option for this team. Cook is a good-but-not-great point guard, and someone from the trio of Jefferson, Murphy and Plumlee is going to have to have a breakout season up front. The Blue Devils could actually really use the infusion of size that Memphis transfer Tarik Black would provide. But there’s enough talent here to be considered a title contender.

7. FLORIDA
Record: 29-8, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy
Who comes back?: Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier, Will Yeguete
Newcomers?: Chris Walker, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris
Outlook: The Gators lose their top three scorers, but they could end up being even better next season thanks to the infusion of talent they have in their front court. Not only is Young coming back to school, but they add a McDonald’s all-american in Walker and two high-major transfers in Finney-Smith and Harris. Hill is one of the best point guards in the Class of 2013. The key is going to end up being how the rest of Florida’s perimeter attack — Prather, Frazier, Wilbekin — ends up developing.

8. SYRACUSE
Record: 30-10, lost in the Final Four
Who do they lose?: Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, Brandon Triche,
Who comes back?: CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney
Newcomers?: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson, BJ Johnson, Chinonso Obokoh, Michael Gbinije
Outlook: The Orange lose quite a bit this offseason, but with what they bring back and what they bring in, I think that Jim Boeheim will have a successful first season in the ACC. Fair is one of the most underrated players in the country and a key to the Cuse offensive attack with his perimeter ability. I think that both Grant and Cooney will end up having big years for the Orange. But with Ennis and Patterson joining them in the back court, along with two more freshmen wings in Roberson and Johnson that are perfectly built for the Cuse zone, the Orange have a bright future.

9. MICHIGAN
Record: 31-8, lost in the title game
Who do they lose?: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Who comes back?: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Spike Albrecht, Caris LeVert
Newcomers?: Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Mark Donnall
Outlook: The Wolverines got some huge news when McGary and Robinson announced that they would be returning to school for their sophomore seasons. Throw in the return of Stauskas, LaVert and Albrecht and the addition of another good freshman class, and there is plenty to like about Michigan. The key is going to end up being Walton. How good is he going to be at the point guard spot?

10. OKLAHOMA STATE
Record: 24-9, lost in the Round of 64
Who do they lose?: Philip Jurick
Who comes back?: Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, Brian Williams, Phil Forte, Michael Cobbins
Newcomers?: Stevie Clark, Detrick Mostella, Leyton Hammonds, Gary Gaskins, Jeffrey Carroll
Outlook: Oklahoma State vaulted Kansas to become the favorite to win the Big 12 when Smart announced to the world that he would be returning to school for his sophomore season, but that changed when Andrew Wiggins decided to head to Lawrence. With Nash, Brown, Williams and Forte also returning, and a talented recruiting class headlined by back court studs Clark and Mostella, the Pokes are going to be a really fun team to watch next season. The key? Cobbins and Murphy inside. Expect a lot of up-and-down basketball out of this group.

11. North Carolina
12. Ohio State
13. Colorado
14. Marquette
15. Indiana
16. UCLA
17. Wichita State
18. VCU
19. Wisconsin
20. Gonzaga
21. Harvard
22. Virginia
23. Memphis
24. New Mexico
25. Boise State

Also considered: Tennessee, UConn

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.