Viewer’s Guide for the 2014 Tip-Off Marathon: Loaded slate, marquee nightcap and great mid-major matchups

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On Monday evening, the college basketball season will truly begin, as the annual Tip-Off Marathon and it’s loaded slate of games will take place. There are 19 games in total on the schedule, and by the time it is all said and done, we could very well be looking at 29 straight hours of basketball.

Who doesn’t love that?

Since most of you are normal and don’t do things like watch 29 straight hours of basketball, I’ll go ahead and help you prioritize which games you need to watch, a pressing concern for all of you, I know (all times EST, games on Tuesday unless noted):

RELATED: The full schedule can be found here

THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR NOT WATCHING BEYOND CHILDBIRTH

The Champions Classic (Indianapolis):

  • 1. No. 5 Kansas vs. No. 1 Kentucky, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN): The final game of the event will, as always, end up being the best, as preseason No. 1 Kentucky takes on a Kansas team that will likely be better despite losing Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks are going to have the bodies up front to match up with the size of John Calipari’s front line, but it will be interesting to see how the young and inexperienced point guards (Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham) Bill Self has at his disposal will handle the pressure of a nationally televised game. They didn’t play particularly well in KU’s opener. This game will also feature a ton of future NBA talent, from Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden and Cliff Alexander to Karl Towns, Trey Lyles and, well, the rest of Kentucky’s roster.
  • 2. No. 18 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Duke, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN): This game won’t have as much intrigue as the nightcap will, as the Spartans are in a bit of a rebuilding mode. But that doesn’t change the fact that it will be Tom Izzo vs. Mike Krzyzewski, or that this will be our first look at Duke’s hyped trio of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones against real competition. One thing to note: Travis Trice looked like a star in Michigan State’s opener against Navy.

YOU CAN GO ON A DATE AS LONG AS THAT DATE ENTAILS WATCHING THESE GAMES

3. No. 22 SMU at No. 13 Gonzaga, Mon. 11:00 p.m. (ESPN2): One of the most intriguing matchups of the day. Gonzaga is a top ten team (according to us) this season as they get a healthy Kevin Pangos, transfer Kyle Wiltjer and freshman Domantas Sabonis. SMU would have been in that same conversation had they been able to get Emmanuel Mudiay onto campus for a season. Even without him, they return enough to be a tough defensive team, although losing Markus Kennedy for the semester hurt.They are led by point guard Nic Moor,e and Moore vs. Pangos will be a highlight of this event.

4. No. 25 Utah at No. 16 San Diego State, 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): Utah, led by Delon Wright, has the pieces to make a push for second place in the Pac-12 this season. The Aztecs lost Xavier Thames to graduation, but if Dwayne Polee can continue to make strides and their young guards — Trey Kell, Kevin Zabo, Dakarai Allen — can have an impact, the Aztecs should win the MWC.

5. No. 12 Wichita State vs. Memphis, 2:00 p.m. in Sioux Falls, SD (ESPN): Wichita State hasn’t lost a regular season game in 17 months, returning the majority of their key pieces not named Cleanthony Early from a team that went 35-0. Memphis as much talent stockpiled as anyone, especially up front, but they also just lost to Division II Christian Brothers in an exhibition.

RUN ERRANDS OR GO TO THAT DANCE RECITAL, JUST MAKE SURE YOU STREAM THE GAMES ON YOUR PHONE

6. Marquette at No. 20 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2): This will be our first chance to witness a pair of new eras beginning. Buzz Williams moved of from Marquette during the offseason, ushering in an opportunity for Steve Wojciechowski to step in and take over the program. He’ll be going up against Ohio State in their first meaningful game in four years without Aaron Craft.

7. Miami at No. 7 Florida, Mon. 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU): Florida should once again be a top 15 team and the kind of program that will push Kentucky in the SEC, especially with Kasey Hill and Chris Walker back. Miami was bad last season, but they add Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan to the program and could end up making the NCAA tournament.

8. Toledo at No. 13 VCU, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU): VCU is VCU, a now-perennial top 25 program that is always entertaining to watch. Toledo, however, won 27 games last season, returns essentially the entire teams and will enter this season as the favorite to win the MAC.

9. Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin, 9:00 a.m. (ESPN2): UNI and SFA are two of the best mid-major programs in the country, well-coached teams that execute offensively and play tough defensive. We could also be looking at two NCAA tournament teams, as the Lumberjacks are coming off of a win over VCU in the 2014 NCAA tournament while the Panthers are the favorite to give Wichita State a run in the Missouri Valley.

10. Auburn at Colorado, 1:00 a.m. (ESPN2): The Bruce Pearl era in Auburn will get its first national television exposure with a trip to Boulder to take on the Buffaloes, who will be without Spencer Dinwiddie.

11. Iona at Wofford, 7:00 a.m. (ESPN2): Another great mid-major matchup early in the day. Iona loves to press, they love to get out and run, they score a lot of points and they win a lot of games. Wofford plays a much slower, more deliberate brand of basketball, but they made the tournament last season and return everyone from that team.

12. Manhattan at UMass, 11:00 a.m. (ESPN2): If you like watching teams play uptempo, back-and-forth basketball, this is the game for you. Both teams love to press and both teams love to run the floor in transition. It may not be pretty, but it will be fun.

YOU KNOW WHAT? JUST WATCH MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. OR PLAY FIFA. OR WHATEVER. I’LL BE DISAPPOINTED, BUT I WILL UNDERSTAND

13. Baylor at South Carolina, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN): Scott Drew vs. Frank Martin might be the biggest difference in coaching styles you’ll come across. The Bears will be in a bit of a rebuilding reason as they try to replace Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, while South Carolina is perpetually rebuilding.

14. Texas Tech at LSU, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU): Texas Tech is Texas Tech, but LSU should actually be good enough to compete for a top four spot in the SEC this season, especially if Texas Tech transfer Josh Gray turns out to be able to play.

15. New Mexico State at Saint Mary’s, 3:00 a.m. (ESPN2): NMSU lost Sim Bhullar but will replace him with … Tanveer Bhullar. Saint Mary’s will be looking to build a tournament-caliber resume against this season behind Stanford-transfer Aaron Bright, Washington-transfer Desmond Simmons and Brad Waldow.

16. High Point at Hawaii, 5:00 a.m. (ESPN2): John Brown of High Point is one of the best dunkers in the country.

17. Detroit at Oregon, 11:00 p.m. (ESPNU): Our first national glimpse at Oregon this season, who had one of the most disastrous offseasons in recent memory.

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.