CBT’s Recruiting Roundup: Arizona’s interior depth, Oklahoma gets rolling, another Memphis recruit reclassifies

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Each Friday, College Basketball Talk’s Scott Phillips goes over some important news and notes in the world of college basketball recruiting. This week, Arizona continues to add interior depth, Oklahoma gets rolling in 2016 and Memphis has more commitments reclassifying.

Arizona continues to added talented forwards

When Arizona added five-star Class of 2016 forward T.J. Leaf on Wednesday, it gave the Wildcats another blue-chip talent, but it also stabilizes head coach Sean Miller’s depth at power forward for the foreseeable future. Leaf still has another two season of high school basketball before he begins his college career, but his pledge means that Arizona has a good feel for its interior depth the next few years.

Junior Brandon Ashley and freshman Craig Victor currently give Arizona a talented duo at the four, and if Ashley opts to leave early for the 2015 NBA Draft as some have speculated, then the Wildcats will still have depth without him. Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson is currently waiting in the wings as a redshirt and could fill in for Ashley in the starting lineup and Victor would be a valuable backup again as a sophomore.

Once Anderson leaves Tucson after his one season playing for the Wildcats, Victor would likely assume the starting power forward role and Leaf, a freshman, would be the stretch-shooting backup. Miller has to love the depth he has in place at this position the next few seasons. If that projection played out as I just laid it out — and injuries and players exceeding or failing expectations could certainly change that — then Miller would have an upperclassman starting at that position in three straight seasons with a talented underclassman backing him up.

Let’s focus more on Leaf for a second. With his skill level and ability to stretch the floor, he provides valuable additional shooting off the bench in his first season or two as he adjusts to the physicality of the college game. While many teams in the college game will space the floor at forward, Leaf’s 6-foot-10 size gives him an immediate advantage over his peers at the position.

Leaf will need to get a little tougher on the inside and become a more consistent rebounder, but he has two years to add strength and get more comfortable with his size before arriving in college. Arizona continues to roll on the recruiting trail and Leaf is a great start in the 2016 class.

Oklahoma lands a key piece in 2016

Lon Kruger has a lot of positive things going at Oklahoma right now. The Sooners are a trendy darkhorse Final Four pick and Oklahoma looks like it should be able to score points in bunches again this season. That on-court momentum has also translated to recent recruiting success as Kruger landed a commitment from Oregon native and four-star 2016 guard Payton Pritchard on Tuesday.

Adding Pritchard means that Kruger has another high-octane guard who can push tempo, create shots for himself or find others with the pass. Oklahoma now has the luxury of having a skilled guard in place to mold the next few seasons before Pritchard is asked to take over for Jordan Woodard.

Woodard should be a senior when Pritchard is a freshman and the two guards could spend time playing alongside each other and forming a potent scoring backcourt while Pritchard can also get points off of the bench.

This is a nice start to the 2016 class for Oklahoma, and as the No. 38 overall prospect in Rivals’ 2016 national rankings, this is the most highly-touted commitment Kruger has reeled in.

More Memphis reclassifying

Memphis has been all about reclassifying commitments this fall as the Tigers already had two different verbals move classes to balance things out a little better for the future. In a previous recruiting roundup, I went over Memphis putting Dedric Lawson with his brother K.J. in the 2015 class and former 2015 center Nick Marshall moving to the 2016 class.

Now, the Tigers are at it again, as guard Randall Broddie is moving back up to the 2015 class from the 2016 class, according to Evan Daniels of Scout.com. Given the early-season struggles for Memphis with its guard play, this really comes as no surprise.

Broddie is a combo guard capable of scoring or doing a little bit of distributing and he’ll at least push the competition level at guard next season if he isn’t ready to come in and play major minutes right away. Josh Pastner has done a lot of tweaking with this 2015 class, but based on his team’s slow start, it’s become apparent that he needs a shot in the arm on the perimeter and this next group should bring some help.

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.