Pregame Shootaround: A lot of big matchups featuring top-25 teams on Saturday

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source: AP
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Virginia at No. 13 Notre Dame, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s weekend preview:

There may not be a more intriguing matchup all season long than this one. As I diagrammed earlier this week, Virginia runs a defense known as the Pack-Line, and they are the best in the country at doing it. The way to beat the Pack-Line is by spreading the floor with shooters and letting playmakers penetrate and get those shooters open looks. That’s precisely what Notre Dame does. So what we get on Saturday is strength on strength, one of the nation’s best defenses squaring off against a team with as potent of an offense as you’re going to find in the college ranks.

This game won’t bring with it the kind of hype that Louisville-Kentucky or Duke-Wisconsin did. Hell, Virginia plays Duke in two week and Louisville the week after that. This will be a blip on the radar compared to those to games. But when you combine the Pack-Line vs. Notre Dame’s shooters with the fact that both teams have an all-american on their roster — Jerian Grant and Justin Anderson — and this is the kind of game that you, at the very least, throw on the iPad while you watch the NFL playoffs.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Louisville at No. 18 North Carolina, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Once again, I’ll let Rob take it away:

Does anyone know what to make of North Carolina yet? I don’t. I thought they were a top ten team entering the season and then they went and lost to Butler and Iowa. I thought they were back on the upswing in the last three weeks, and then they went and lost to Notre Dame at home. A visit from the Cardinals will be a chance for the Tar Heels to make a statement, but Louisville will be looking to prove a point of their own. They’ve been up and down this season as well, with their success hitched to the Chris Jones wagon. Which Chris Jones shows up on Saturday? The one that played like an all-ACC point guard against Wake Forest or the one that looked like bad Russ Smith reincarnated against Kentucky?

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Old Dominion at Western Kentucky, 5:30 p.m.

The Monarchs have reached the top 25 and after wins over LSU and VCU we know they’re legitimate. But they still have to navigate a difficult C-USA road game at Western Kentucky on Saturday. This is the third game of a three-game road trip to open conference play for Old Dominion and it would be huge for them to get out of this unscathed. Hilltopper senior guard T.J. Price is one of the best mid-major guards you’ve never heard of and this could be a good one in the early evening.

UPSET WATCH: No. 10 Texas at Oklahoma State, Sat. 5:00 p.m.

From Rob:

We all saw what Oklahoma did to Texas on Monday night. That was in Austin. On Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns will be headed to Stillwater to take on an Oklahoma State team that has been one of the bigger surprises in the country this season. The Pokes have yet to put together a win that can be considered a statement win, but knocking off the Longhorns at home would definitely fall into that category. It will be interesting to see how Travis Ford decides to deal with the massive Texas front line.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Another great Big 12 matchup is on tap for Saturday night as No. 17 Iowa State travels to No. 14 West Virginia. Both of these teams are unbeaten early in conference play and this one could come down to a matchup at point guard between Monte Morris and Juwan Staten. It will also be intriguing to see if West Virginia’s defense can slow down Iowa State’s high-octane offense.
  • No. 8 Villanova has a chance to make a move in the Big East standings against conference leader DePaul. Wait, DePaul? Yes, DePaul. The Blue Demons are 3-0 and in sole possession of the Big East lead and they can see if they’re for real against the battle-tested Wildcats.
  • Purdue has a chance for a nice Big Ten home win when they host No. 11 Maryland. The Terps lost a tough road game at Illinois earlier this week and the Boilermakers are 2-0 at home in conference play. I’m interested to see how Maryland defends Purdue’s two massive centers in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas.
  • After starting the season 13-0, TCU has dropped two straight in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs have a chance to knock off No. 21 Baylor at home and correct that losing streak. But the Bears have also started Big 12 play at 0-2 and need a road win here, so this one could decide a lot in terms of how these teams look for the rest of conference play.
  • It’ll be a lot of fun to watch the battle of freshman guards James Blackmon Jr., and D’Angelo Russell as Indiana hosts No. 22 Ohio State. These two are the front-runners for the conference’s best freshman and both Blackmon and Russell could be all-conference players this year with consistent conference seasons.

THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Kentucky at Texas A&M, 1:00 p.m.
  • Santa Clara at No. 6 Gonzaga, 8:00 p.m.
  • Texas Tech at No. 12 Kansas, 3:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at No. 16 Oklahoma State, 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 19 Seton Hall at Creighton, 2:15 p.m.
  • Saint Joseph’s at No. 20 VCU, 2:00 p.m.
  • Vanderbilt at No. 23 Arkansas, 4:30 p.m.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • Cincinnati at Connecticut, 11:00 a.m.
  • Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at Pitt, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at Providence, 12:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota at Michigan, 1:00 p.m.
  • Alabama at Tennessee, 2:00 p.m.
  • Tulsa at Temple, 3:00 p.m.
  • Washington State at Washington, 3:00 p.m.
  • Boston College at Miami (FL), 4:00 p.m.
  • Xavier at Butler, 4:30 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Oregon, 5:00 p.m.
  • South Carolina at Ole Miss, 5:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Auburn, 7:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at Florida, 7:00 p.m.
  • Georgia at LSU, 9:00 p.m.

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

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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.