Late Night Snacks: No. 1 Kentucky remains perfect, Virginia and Duke both lose

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IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1. No. 24 Davidson 67, La Salle 66

While the Wildcats won the Atlantic 10 regular season title and are nationally ranked, in some circles Bob McKillop’s team wasn’t seen as a lock to go to the NCAA tournament. That’s what makes Tyler Kalinoski’s layup as time expired so big, as Davidson will take on VCU in the Atlantic 10 semis on Saturday. The Wildcats trailed by as much as 18 before coming back in the second half, making eight three-pointers while La Salle didn’t score over the final 4:45.

2. No. 1 Kentucky 64, Florida 49

The top-ranked Wildcats are now 32-0, as they held Florida without a point for more than five minutes in the second half in Nashville. Aaron Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 13 points apiece to lead the way offensively for Kentucky, which outscored Florida by ten from the foul line in the second half. The Gators trailed by just four at the half, but they didn’t have enough to take down the Wildcats.

3. No. 19 North Carolina 71, No. 3 Virginia 67

Freshman forward Justin Jackson dropped 22 points off 8-of-10 shooting, lifting the Tar Heels into the ACC Tournament title game. This gives UNC two wins over top-15 in as many days as it will get a crack at Notre Dame or Duke on Saturday. Virginia had its struggles offensively, and Friday night’s outcome may have cost the Cavaliers a No. 1 seed.

4. No. 11 Notre Dame 74, Duke 64

The Fighting Irish defeat Duke for the second time this year, potentially knocking the Blue Devils off the top line. Notre Dame.

5. No. 4 Villanova 63, Providence 61

Villanova holds on to its hopes of being a No. 1 seed. But with the events down in Greensboro, could the Wildcats be in line for the top seed in the East Region?

STARRED

1. Purdue’s A.J. Hammons

23 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in the Boilermakers’ win over Penn State.

2. Justin Jackson, North Carolina

The freshman has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games, going for a career-high 22 points off 8-of-10 (4-of-5) shooting.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: The Sparty wing flirted with a triple-double, putting forth a 23-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist performance against Ohio State.

STRUGGLED

1. Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith

Scored four points on 2-for-10 shooting in the Gators’ loss to No. 1 Kentucky.

2. Ryan Spangler:

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • ACC semis: Two teams who entered with No. 1 seed aspirations in next week’s NCAA tournament both went down. Virginia’s offense sputtered against North Carolina and Notre Dame took down Duke for the second time this season.
  • American quarters: No. 20 SMU survived an afternoon in which East Carolina hit 13 three-pointers, beating the Pirates 74-68. They’ll take on Temple in Saturday’s semifinals, as the Owls beat Memphis 80-76. The Temple duo of Will Cummings and Obi Enechionyia held off Memphis in the last minute. Tulsa’s hops of a bid remain alive with a 59-51 victory over Houston. And like every March it seems, a UConn guard hit a clutch shot.
  • Atlantic 10 quarters: No. 24 Davidson beat La Salle as time expired, and VCU avenged its two defeats to Richmond with a 70-67 win over the Spiders. Rhode Island is still a potential bid stealer, advancing to the semis after a win over George Washington. Dayton held off Dion Wright and St. Bonaventure.
  • Big East: The Big East Co-Players of the Year each scored in the final moments. Kris Dunn tied the score with a layup for Providence. Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono was fouled on the ensuing possession, sinking the decisive free throws. Villanova will play Xavier, which survived a second half comeback.
  • Big Ten quarters: No. 6 Wisconsin took a little while to get going but they managed to take care of Michigan 71-60 with Sam Dekker leading a balanced effort with 17 points. Also advancing was Purdue, which held off Penn State 64-59. Indiana came up short against No. 8 Maryland and are bound to have a stressful Sunday. Michigan State capped off the quarterfinals with a 76-67 win over Ohio State.
  • Big Sky semis: Tyler Harvey and Eastern Washington are still in contention for an NCAA tournament berth. The Eagles will take on Montana, which advanced with a last-second win (a must-watch video).
  • Big West semis: Top-seeded UC Davis was upset by Hawaii, 65-58. Alan Williams missed a final second floater  in regulation for UC Santa Barbara. He re-aggravated his shoulder early in overtime and UC Irvine took advantage of his absence in route to a 72-63 win.
  • Big 12 semis: Kansas, the regular season champ, will take on Iowa State in Saturday’s final. Scroll up to see how Iowa State got past Oklahoma.
  • Conference USA semis: Kermit Davis’ Middle Tennessee squad has now won three games in three days, as they beat UTEP 53-50 with DeVante Jones scoring 17 points off the bench. UAB upset top-seeded Louisiana Tech 72-62, in overtime.
  • MAC: Central Michigan (75-66 win over Toledo) and Buffalo (68-59 win over Akron) will meet in the MAC final.
  • MEAC semis: North Carolina Central lost a conference game for the first time in 37 tries in a 63-57 loss to Delaware. The Eagles will not be back in the field of 68. Delaware State will take on 15-17 Hampton.
  • Mountain West semis: Larry Nance and the Cowboys are eyeing a bid as Wyoming knocked off top-ranked Boise State, 71-66.
  • Pac-12 semis: Arizona held off UCLA, 70-64 while Joe Young sunk a game-winner in the final second to send Oregon to the title game.
  • SEC quarters: In addition to Kentucky, Auburn continued its surprising run with a 73-70 overtime win over LSU. KT Harrell’s three-pointer with four tenths of a second remaining in regulation forced overtime. Bobby Portis went for 26 points and 11 boards in Arkansas’ 80-72 over Tennessee.
  • Sun Belt second round: Louisiana Lafayette advances to face top-seeded Georgia State. Louisiana Monroe gets Georgia Southern in the conference semifinals.
  • SWAC semifinals: Texas Southern punched its ticket for the Big Dance with a win over Prairie View A&M. Southern beat Alabama State 68-66 in the first semifinal of the day. Southern is ineligible for postseason play, meaning regardless of outcome, Mike Davis will led his program into the field of 68.
  • WAC: New Mexico State is one step close to a fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance.

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.