Tracking the Unbeatens: Only 12 teams remain without a loss on the season

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Every Monday from now until every team in the country has a loss on their resume, we will be Tracking The Unbeatens, and predicting when, exactly, that unbeaten streak will end.

Kentucky (9-0): The Wildcats are the best team in the country through the season’s first three weeks, having rolled through the first half of their marquee non-conference games by smacking around Texas, Providence and Kansas. Their next three games: North Carolina at home, UCLA in Chicago and Louisville on the road.

  • Next Game: Dec. 13 vs. North Carolina
  • First Loss?: Dec. 27 at Louisville

Duke (8-0): The Blue Devils worked past their toughest non-conference matchup of the year, as they knocked off Wisconsin at Wisconsin. They look like the clear-cut, second-best team in the country right now.

  • Next Game: Dec. 15 vs. Elon
  • First Loss?: Jan. 17 at Louisville

Arizona (8-0): The Wildcats survived a visit from Gonzaga over the weekend, as T.J. McConnell sparked a late comeback in an overtime win. Scoring is still a major issue for this team, but you won’t find many that can defend and rebound like the Wildcats.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Utah Valley
  • First Loss?: Jan. 22 at Stanford
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Virginia (9-0): Virginia got through their toughest week of the non-conference by knocking off Maryland and VCU on the road. Is that their springboard towards being the second-best team in the ACC?

  • Next Game: Dec. 18 vs. Cleveland State
  • First Loss?: Jan. 3 at Miami

Louisville (7-0): The Cardinals passed their first team of the season last week as they knocked off Ohio State at the Yum! Center. Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier have been as good as advertised, but we are still waiting to see if they will ever get consistent support.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Indiana (NYC)
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 vs. Indiana (NYC)

Villanova (8-0): The Wildcats have had an impressive start to the year, particularly when you consider their best players have arguably been Dylan Ennis and Daniel Echefu. But their two marquee wins, over VCU and Michigan, don’t look quite as impressive now as they did two weeks ago.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Illinois (NYC)
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 vs. Illinois (NYC)

Washington (7-0): The Huskies have wins over UTEP and at home against San Diego State, which are both good wins but not necessarily the kind of performance that will make you believe that this group can contend in the Pac-12. That said, the addition of shotblocker Robert Upshaw has changed this team on the defensive end. I’m buying U-Dub.

  • Next Game: Dec. 14 vs. Eastern Washington
  • First Loss?: Dec. 20 vs. Oklahoma (In Las Vegas)

Colorado State (8-0): It may be too early to count out San Diego State, but if Colorado State isn’t the best team in the Mountain West right now, they’re not far behind. Want to convince me? Win at Colorado on Wednesday.

  • Next Game: Dec. 10 at Colorado
  • First Loss?: Dec. 10 at Colorado

Northern Iowa (8-0): The Panthers are the best team in the Missouri Valley not named Wichita State, but it looks like this is the year that they can push the Shockers for a league title. They’ve already won at Stephen F. Austin, beaten Richmond at home and knocked off Northwestern and Virginia Tech at a neutral court.

  • Next Game: Dec. 10 at Denver
  • First Loss?: Dec. 13 at VCU

Seton Hall (7-0): Isaiah Whitehead has been terrific for the Pirates of late, and Sterling Gibbs has been the program’s best scorer, but this group’s best win is still just George Washington at home. Win Tuesday and we’ll talk.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 at Wichita State
  • First Loss?: Dec. 9 at Wichita State

TCU (8-0): The Horned Frogs made a statement last week as they went into Oxford and knocked off Ole Miss. They should enter Big 12 play unscatched, and they already are the league’s only undefeated team.

  • Next Game: Dec. 9 vs. Furman
  • First Loss?: Jan. 7 at Kansas State

Incarnate Word (5-0): The Cardinals have played four non-Division I teams. They did beat Princeton at Princeton, though.

  • Next Game: Dec. 8 at UTEP
  • First Loss?: Dec. 8 at UTEP

There seven potential meetings between undefeated teams the rest of the season, although it seems unlikely that we will get more than one.

  • Kentucky at Louisville, December 27
  • Villanova at Seton Hall, January 3
  • Duke at Louisville, January 17
  • Duke at Virginia, January 31
  • Louisville at Virginia, February 7
  • Arizona at Washington, February 13
  • Seton Hall at Villanova, February 16

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.