USA Basketball, Mike Krzyzewski and thoughts on today’s ‘takedown’

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If you somehow missed it, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports wrote about the United States steamrolling Serbia in the finals of the World Cup of Basketball and, in the process, took aim at Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils.

In short, Woj is saying this: that the only person truly benefitting from the renewed focus on USA Basketball is Coach K, who is using the exposure that he gets, his relationships with NBA stars and his access to elite high school players that don the stars and stripes to help build his Duke program.

And he’s got a point.

Throughout the duration of the tournament, the Americans were truly tested for roughly one half of one game, when it took them 20 minutes to wake up against Turkey. They beat Serbia in the finals 129-92, a 37-point victory that makes the season Paul George lost to a broken leg seem all the more pointless. Why risk that kind of injury when no one in the world can compete with the US despite the fact that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and George, amongst others, didn’t even make the trip to Spain?

As Woj says, “after the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the World Cup of Basketball and Olympic Games are destined to become an under-22 developmental tournament.”

But this is a college basketball website, and the part of this column that talks about college basketball is Woj setting his sights on Coach K. Here’s the goods:

Well, the trip did something else, too: It gave the Duke coach unfiltered access to two of the best high school players in the nation. Florida’s Billy Donovan was the under-19 head coach. Virginia’s Tony Bennett and VCU’s Shaka Smart were his assistants. They probably didn’t need Krzyzewski’s voice, but he probably didn’t ask their permission, either.

The roster of college stars happened to include two 17-year-old prep phenoms: Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor and Houston’s Justise Winslow. When Krzyzewski makes his triumphant return this week, two freshmen stars will be awaiting him on Duke’s campus: Okafor and Winslow.

Within the college recruiting game, no one ever considered it a coincidence when one of those younger USA Basketball national teams would detour through Vegas to watch Krzyzewski and his Duke assistants on the training camp floor with the biggest basketball stars in the world.

Without the access of USA Basketball, there’s a strong belief within the basketball community that Krzyzewski would’ve never landed Jabari Parker. Only, he had it, used it and signed him.

I have a number of thoughts on this:

– Anyone that is surprised by the notion that Coach K is using USA Basketball to help him recruit players to Duke should venmo me $10,000 as a down payment on the bridge in Brooklyn I’m selling. OF COURSE HE IS! Not only does this allow him access to 16- and 17-year old superstars in ways that other coaches are jealous of, it allows him to brag about his relationship with the icons that those kids want to grow up to be. Whether he took this job strictly to help him land players or because he actually wanted a chance to win a couple gold medals and work with the game’s best is up for debate and probably only truly known by Coach K and his family, but there’s no denying that it has helped his Duke program.

And, for what it’s worth, Coach K was landing elite, blue-chip, five-star recruits before he was associated with Team USA.

– Coach K is also far from the only college coach that is using their association with USA Basketball to help their program. Virginia’s Mike Tobey played on that 2013 U-19 team, over the likes of Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, where Virginia head coach Tony Bennett was on staff. Syracuse-commit Tyler Lydon made the U18 team this year despite being a late invite and being late to tryouts. Jim Boeheim is the chair of the Junior National Team Committee.

Sean Miller was an assistant coach on the U18 team that saw Justin Simon, Allonzo Trier, Isaiah Briscoe and Tyler Dorsey tryout for the team. Simon, who was already committed to the school during the tryouts, and Trier are UA commits. Dorsey, who was cut, decommitted from Arizona in May. Briscoe was long considered a priority target for the Wildcats. Trier and Briscoe both made the roster.

And let’s not forget that Kentucky head coach John Calipari became the head coach of the Dominican Republic national team in part because Karl-Anthony Towns, now a freshman at Kentucky, could play for the team. Former Kentucky assistant and current South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua is now running the Dominican national program.

– Woj is as tied in with NBA executives and owners as anyone. This piece, while reading like a takedown of Coach K, is really just Woj giving us the pulse of what is being said in NBA front offices around the league. These players are an investment — for some, a nine-figure investment — for the owners, and they don’t want to see their money-generating superstars out there risking injury and tiring out their bodies for an event that, frankly, is completely inconsequential in the United States.

Coach K has rebooted the sense of pride that we get from beating the hell out of everyone else in basketball and has used that to help him get land players at Duke. That’s what he’s supposed to do as a college basketball coach.

And the owners and general managers of NBA teams are allowed to be mad when their stars are risking injury and wearing themselves down in pursuit of a title that we should win every year regardless of who is coaching.

This was Woj’s takedown of USA Basketball.

Coach K just happened to get caught in the crossfire.

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

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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.