Late Night Snacks: No. 7 Gonzaga, three other teams claim automatic bids

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Robert Morris 66, St. Francis-Brooklyn 63

One night after William & Mary fell short of its goal of earning the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid, NEC regular season champion St. Francis-Brooklyn met the same fate on their home floor. Rodney Pryor led five Colonials in double figures with 17 points and Elijah Minnie grabbed a team-high nine rebounds to go along with his 14 points. Tyreek Jewell had a chance to tie the game with three free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining, but he missed the first two and missed the third intentionally.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1. No. 7 Gonzaga 91, BYU 75

The Bulldogs avenged their lone WCC loss Tuesday night, and WCC Defensive Player of the Year Gary Bell Jr. was a key reason why. Bell was the primary defender on BYU’s Tyler Haws, who scored 15 points but did so on 6-for-14 shooting. Six Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by Kyle Wiltjer who scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds, and BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth led all scorers with 28 points. While Gonzaga will likely be a two-seed, an anxious five-day wait begins for BYU.

2. Valparaiso 54, Green Bay 44

Both teams defended well but the Crusaders were just a bit better on that end, as the limited the Phoenix to 30.2 percent shooting. David Skara scored 12 points off the bench and E.Victor Nickerson added 11 for Valparaiso, whose head coach (Bryce Drew) was on the team that’s responsible for both of the program’s NCAA tournament victories (1998). Keifer Sykes scored 14 points for Green Bay but he shot 5-for-15 from the field, and Carrington Love made just one of his ten shots from the field.

3. North Dakota State 57, South Dakota State 56

Lawrence Alexander scored 25 points, with 16 coming in the second half, to lead North Dakota State to its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Both teams were solid defensively, but the Bison holding the Jackrabbits to less than 32 percent from the field gave them the upper hand. Cody Larson led South Dakota State with 19 points.

STARRED

1. Virginia Tech’s Jalen Hudson

Hudson scored 32 points and made the game-winning shot in the Hokies’ one-point win over Wake Forest.

2. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan

Like Hudson, Hanlan’s late-game heroics were the difference in a one-point win. Hanlan scored 25 points in a 66-65 win over Georgia Tech.

3. Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer

Wiltjer scored 18 points and grabbed ten rebounds in the Bulldogs’ 91-75 win over BYU.

4. North Dakota State’s Lawrence Alexander

Alexander scored 25 points, shooting 6-for-9 from three, in the Bison’s 57-56 win over South Dakota State.

STRUGGLED

1. Georgia Tech’s Quinton Stephens

Stephens struggled mightily in the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Boston College, shooting 1-for-12 from the field.

2. Green Bay’s Carrington Love

Love shot 1-for-10 from the field in Green Bay’s 54-44 loss at Valparaiso in the Horizon League title game.

3. South Dakota State’s George Marshall

Marshall scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, but he shot just 2-for-11 from the field in the Jackrabbits’ loss to North Dakota State.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • ACC first round: There were two one-point games in Greensboro Tuesday, with Boston College beating Georgia Tech 66-65 on an Olivier Hanlan jumper with 10.9 seconds remaining and Virginia Tech beating Wake Forest 81-80. Jalen Hudson, who scored 32 points, gave the Hokies the win with a shot with 11.7 seconds remaining. Wednesday’s second round: Florida State vs. Clemson, Boston College vs. No. 19 North Carolina, Pittsburgh vs. NC State and Virginia Tech vs. Miami.
  • MEAC first round: Coppin State and South Carolina State were the two winners in Norfolk, with the Eagles holding off Bethune-Cookman 64-60 and the Bulldogs beating North Carolina A&T 63-54. Wednesday’s quarterfinals: Coppin State vs. North Carolina Central, South Carolina State vs. Norfolk State.
  • SWAC first round: Alcorn State won the lone game, beating Grambling State 66-52. Next up for the Hornets is top seed Texas Southern. Wednesday’s quarterfinals: Alcorn State vs. Texas Southern, Mississippi Valley State vs. Alabama State.

– Also, Princeton beat rival Penn 73-52 in what was the final game for Penn head coach Jerome Allen. Princeton’s Hans Brase led all scorers with 18 points.

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

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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.