Weekend Preview: Two top ten matchups in the ACC will be must-see TV

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source: AP
Jerian Grant and Quinn Cook (AP Photo)

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 10 Notre Dame at No. 4 Duke, Sat. 1:00 p.m.

These two teams squared off last month in South Bend, and it produced one of the most entertaining games of the entire season. Duke looked to be pulling away in the second half, but Jerian Grant sparked a comeback from 10 points down in the final eight minutes, notching the go-ahead bucket and the game-clinching assist in the final minute. Since that game, however, Notre Dame has lost to Pitt while Duke has gone into Virginia and knocked off the Cavaliers.

As it was the first time around, the key here is going to be how Duke tries to slow down Grant. The Irish are a nightmare to try and zone because of how many lethal shooters they have and how willing they are to make the extra pass. But the Irish love to put Grant in ball-screen actions — where he is as good as anyone in the country and playing All-American caliber basketball — and Duke’s Achilles’ heel on the defense end of the floor is pick-and-roll defense.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 9 Louisville at No. 3 Virginia, Sat. 7:00 p.m.

This matchup might be even more intriguing that the Notre Dame-Duke game. Let me explain: Virginia runs the Pack-Line defense, which, essentially, is a man-to-man with aggressive on-ball defense and a ton of help side. (You can read an in-depth breakdown of what the Cavaliers do here.) The goal? Force ball-handlers to dribble into the help and dare teams to shoot threes over the top of the defense. Louisville has a pair of good penetrators in Chris Jones and Terry Rozier. What they lack is a bevy of catch-and-shoot threats.

In simpler terms, Louisville’s strengths offensively play right into the hands of what Virginia does best defensively. That’s usually not a good thing.

FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 24 Georgetown at No. 7 Villanova, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Georgetown pounded Villanova in the first meeting between these two teams in D.C., but the Hoyas are coming off of a really tough loss to Providence at home. Georgetown is essentially out of the Big East title race with a loss.
  • No. 23 SMU at Tulsa, 8:00 p.m.: Show of hands: Who had Tulsa and SMU as the two teams in the running for the AAC title? I didn’t. After the Mustangs lost on Thursday, the Golden Hurricane can take a three-game lead in the league with a win.
  • No. 19 Baylor at No. 15 West Virginia, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Just another day in the Big 12.
  • No. 1 Kentucky at Florida, Sat. 9:00 p.m.: Florida is down this season, but unexpected things happen in rivalry games. That said, it’s Gameday, and when Kentucky shows up fired up to play, they tend to embarrass people.
  • Providence at Xavier, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: Providence is tied for second place in the Big East after their win at Georgetown on Wednesday. Can they follow it up with another road win at Xavier?

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 17 Maryland at Iowa, Sun. 3:15 p.m.

The Hawkeyes have the ability to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. Maryland has been somewhat inconsistent of late, and going on the road in league play is anything-but a certainty. Iowa has not been trustworthy over the course of the past two seasons, but they are coming off an impressive performance against Michigan on the road on Thursday night, which, theoretically, would be something positive to carry over into the weekend.

UPSET WATCH

  • No. 8 Kansas at Oklahoma State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Kansas looks like they’ve taken pretty firm control of the Big 12 race, but crazy things tend to happen when these two teams get together. Gallagher-Iba should be rocking.
  • No. 13 Utah at Colorado, Sat. 10:00 p.m.: Colorado will be looking to get some revenge for the pounding that the Utes put on them in January.
  • No. 6 Arizona at Arizona State, Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Rivalry games on the road are always dangerous.
  • No. 20 Ohio State at Rutgers, Sun. 5:30 p.m.: A Sunday afternoon road trip against a team that they should roll. If Ohio State comes out slow, Rutgers can pick them off.
  • No. 12 North Carolina at Boston College, Sat. 3:00 p.m.: Their record may not show it right now, but Boston College has been playing well under Jim Christian this season. They’re going to pick someone off eventually.

FIVE STORY LINES

1. There are a trio of games this weekend on NBCSN:

  • No. 18 VCU at St. Bonaventure, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Saint Louis at Fordham, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Rhode Island at Richmond, Sun. 2:30 p.m.

2. No. 25 Texas at Kansas State, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Texas has fallen to 3-6 in the Big 12 this season, while Kansas State has lost three straight and four of their last five and just suspended their star, Marcus Foster. One collapse has to get stalled.

3. Harvard at Yale, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: The Elis have a chance to move two games up on Harvard in the Ivy League standings. The Ivy’s automatic bid goes to their regular season champ.

4. Texas Tech at No. 11 Iowa State, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: The last time these two teams played, the Red Raiders knocked off the Cyclones.

5. Syracuse at Pitt, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: Syracuse will be playing their first game since the university ended their season early. How will they play?

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.