Ranking 2014-2015’s ten best early season tournaments

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The brackets for the major tournaments held November and December have been released this week. To help you plan out what you’ll watch on TV four months from now, we’ll rank the events for you:

1. Champions Classic (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)

  • When: November 18th
  • Why you will watch: The Champions Classic is not a tournament, but it’s still the best event of the fall in college basketball. As they’ve done the past three years, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Michigan State will all be playing in the same arena on the same night. This year, it will be Kansas squaring off with Kentucky in the nightcap and Duke taking on Michigan State in the undercard. The Spartans are a bit down this year, but the other three bluebloods will all be ranked in the top ten in every preseason poll.

2. Battle 4 Atlantis (Imperial Arena, Paradise Island, Bahamas)

  • When: Nov. 26-28
  • Why you will watch: We went over this in depth yesterday, but the Battle 4 Atlantis has become the premier holiday tournament in college basketball over the last four seasons, and this year is no different. The event will feature Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Oklahoma, or three of the top ten and four of the top 15 teams in the country.

3. Maui Invitational (Lahaina Civic Center, Maui)

  • When: Nov. 24-26
  • Why you will watch: The Maui Invitational was the reigning “best holiday tournament” until the Battle 4 Atlantis swooped in and took over, and it’s still sitting in second place by a comfortable margin. This year’s event will feature Arizona, who will enter the season as one of a handful of title favorite, along with top 25 teams Kansas State and San Diego State. Pitt, BYU and Missouri should all be tournament teams this season as well. We also get a matchup between BYU and SDSU in the first round, the reincarnation of a rivalry that peaked when Jimmer Fredette and Kawhi Leonard led the Cougars and the Aztecs into the top five.

4. CBS Sports Classic (United Center, Chicago)

  • When: Dec. 20
  • Why you will watch: Because, like the Champions Classic, it features three bluebloods and a perennial top 10 program and Final Four contender: Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA and Ohio State. The only problem? This year’s version of the event will feature Kentucky taking on the Bruins and North Carolina squaring off with the Buckeyes. In an ideal world, the one-day event would give up the two top ten teams — UK and UNC — going head to head.

5. 2K Classic (Barclays Center, New York)

  • When: Nov. 20-21
  • Why you will watch: For starters, Syracuse will be playing in New York, which all-but guarantees that the arena will be sold out, something that can’t always be said for the non-conference, neutral court games. But the other three teams that will be there — Texas, Iowa and Cal — should all be tournament teams as well. Texas will likely be in the preseason top ten, while Iowa and Syracuse should both sneak into the back end of the top 25. This is a four-team, two-day tournament, not just a one-day double-header.

6. Orlando Classic (HP Field House, Orlando)

  • When: Nov. 27, 28 and 30
  • Why you will watch: Formerly known as the Old Spice Classic, the Orlando Classic will be a four-day, eight-team tournament that will guarantee everyone three games and give you something other than football to watch on Thanksgiving. The first day of the event could get a bit boring, but Kansas and Michigan State look destined to square off in the final while we will also get our first chance to see how Donnie Tyndall and Steve Wojciechowski will do at Tennessee and Marquette, respectively .

7. Jimmy V Classic (Madison Square Garden, New York)

  • When: Dec. 9
  • Why you will watch: This is always a premier event simply because of the cause, but there should be even more intrigue this season given the participants. The undercard will be a good Villanova team squaring off with Illinois, who has a chance to make a run at a spot in the NCAA tournament this season. But that matchup will be dwarfed by Indiana taking on Louisville in a rivalry game that should be played every season and will definitely get the seats at MSG filled. Tom Crean is on thin ice with Indiana fans, and a win in this game could earn him a lot of leash heading into Big Ten play.

8. Legends Classic (Barclays Center, New York)

  • When: Nov. 24-25
  • Why you will watch: For starters, it has one of the best opening round matchups of any of the tournaments this season, as Villanova will be squaring off with VCU in a game that will feature a ton of quality guard play and potential champions of the Atlantic 10 and the Big East. The other half of the bracket features Oregon and Michigan, and while the Wolverines are a top 25 team again this season, Oregon’s had a bit of a rough offseason.

9. MGM Grand Showcase (MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas)

  • When: Dec. 20
  • Why you will watch: Played on the same night as the CBS Sports Classic, these games will get significantly less hype but should be just as entertaining. Oklahoma, as we mentioned, is good enough to be a top 15ish team this season. They’ll be playing fellow run-and-fun program Washington. The other matchup will feature Utah, this year’s lock to be the “under the radar” club everyone talks about, taking on UNLV in Vegas.

10. Diamond Head Classic (Stan Sheriff Center, Honululu)

  • When: Dec. 22, 23 and 25
  • Why you will watch: Because there won’t be much else to do on Christmas night? The matchups themselves get pretty intriguing in the semifinals. Wichita State, coming off of a perfect regular season and a Final Four the year before, is part of the event, as is the Big Ten’s “under the radar” program in Nebraska. Add in George Washington and Colorado, and there could be four tournament teams in this event.

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.