Kentucky, Wisconsin join short list of Final Four rematches

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So we meet again… (AP Photo)

Saturday night when No. 1 Kentucky and No. 1 Wisconsin meet at the Final Four in Indianapolis, it will be the fifth occasion in which two programs have done so in consecutive years. In the prior four instances, the team that won the first meeting has taken care of business in the rematch on three occasions with Duke’s 1991 win over UNLV being the lone exception.

Below are each of the four instances, with the 1961 and 1962 meetings between Cincinnati and Ohio State being the only case in which both meetings took place in the national title game.

1961-62: Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
both national title games (Cincinnati won both)
1961: 70-65 UC
1962: 71-59 UC

This is the only rematch in which both games were played in the national title game, and the Bearcats managed to win both. Ed Jucker’s Bearcats boasted three common starters in the two meetings: Paul Hogue, Tom Thacker and Tony Yates, and in both games the starting five was responsible for every point scored. The two starters in 1961 who wouldn’t be holdovers, Bob Wiesenhahn and Carl Bouldin, scored 17 and 16 points apiece to lead the way in the first of two consecutive title game wins for Cincinnati.

Hogue (22 points) and Thacker (21) led the way the following year, with Ron Bonham (ten points) and George Wilson (six) being the players who replaced Wiesenhahn and Bouldin.

As for Ohio State, future hall of famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek started both games as did Melvyn Nowell. Lucas accounted for 27 points and 12 rebounds in the 1961 title game, with Larry Siegfried (14 points) being the only other Buckeye in double figures that night. Gary Bradds led the Buckeyes in scoring in the 1962 title game with 15 points, with Lucas (16 rebounds) and Havlicek scoring 11 apiece. Siegfried and Richie Hoyt started in 1961, with Bradds and Richard Reasbeck moving into their spots the following year.

1967-68: UCLA vs. Houston
both national semifinals (UCLA won both)
1968 game also rematch of regular season game Houston won at the Astrodome
1967: 73-58 UCLA
1968: 101-69 UCLA

The 1967 and 1968 national titles were the first two of what would eventually become seven straight for John Wooden’s program, and they ran into Houston on the way to both. Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, was one of four Bruins who started in both games with Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackleford and Mike Warren being the others. Jim Neilsen, who started in the 1967 national semifinal, moved into a reserve role in 1968 with Mike Lynn taking his place in the starting lineup.

Those four common starters for UCLA were responsible for 72 of the team’s 73 points in the 1967 win, with Shackleford scoring a team-high 22, and Alcindor, Lynn and Warren led a balanced effort with 19 apiece (all five starters reached double figures) in 1968.

As for Houston, Elvin Hayes was the most noteworthy starter in both games with his performance in the 1968 regular season meeting at the Astrodome being the difference in a Cougar victory (which UCLA avenged in ruthless fashion at the Final Four). Hayes accounted for 25 points in 24 rebounds in the 1967 Final Four meeting, but was limited to ten points and five rebounds in 1968. Don Chaney, who both played and coached in the NBA, was the only other Cougar to start both Final Four games against UCLA. Melvin Bell, Gary Grider and Leary Lentz started in 1967, with Theodis Lee, Vern Lewis and Kevin Spain moving into their spots the following year.

1990-91: Duke vs. UNLV
1990 title game, 1991 national semifinals (split meetings)
1990: 103-73 UNLV
1991: 79-77 Duke

Of the rematches that have occurred in the history of the Final Four, the two games between the Blue Devils and Runnin’ Rebels may be the most memorable. Jerry Tarkanian’s team won the program’s lone national title in the first meeting, as they steamrolled to the largest margin of victory in the history of the national title game. Four of the five starters for UNLV in the ’90 title game were part of the starting lineup in ’91, with guard Anderson Hunt scoring a team-high 29 points in both games.

Joining him as returning starters were point guard Greg Anthony and forwards Stacey Augmon and Larry Johnson, with David Butler (1990) being replaced by George Ackles (1991) as the fifth starter. As for Duke only two starters in the 1990 title game made the start the following year: point guard Bobby Hurley and forward Christian Laettner.

Seniors Phil Henderson, Alaa Abdelnaby and Robert Brickey all moved on following the 1990 title game, with Grant Hill, Thomas Hill and Greg Koubek moving into those spots. Koubek was a reserve in 1990, and sixth man Brian Davis added an important 15 points off the bench in Duke’s win in 1991. Laettner scored 28 points, the final two coming on a pair of free throws, to lead Duke to the win in the rematch with Hurley (12 points, seven assists) playing much better than he did the year prior in Denver.

2006-07: Florida vs. UCLA
2006 title game, 2007 national semifinals (Florida won both)
2006: 73-57 UF
2007: 76-66 UF

The most recent case of Final Four rematches, Billy Donovan had the same starting lineup for both meetings between the two teams. Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey manned the guard spots, with Corey Brewer on the wing and Al Horford and Joakim Noah being the big men. Noah accounted for 16 points and nine rebounds in the ’06 title game, with Humphrey adding 15 while shooting 4-for-8 from three. In the ’07 Final Four it was Brewer who led the way offensively with 19 points, with Chris Richard scoring 16 off the bench and Horford (17 rebounds) and Noah (11) combining for 28 rebounds.

As for UCLA, only two players started in both games: guard Arron Afflalo and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. In the ’06 title game point guard Jordan Farmar scored a team-high 18 points, with Afflalo and Ryan Hollis (ten rebounds) adding ten points apiece. Afflalo scored 17 points the following year and Josh Shipp a team-best 18, but they were the lone Bruins in double figures in the rematch.

Information from was used in the compilation of this post. 

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.