Kentucky’s John Calipari on short list of coaches with four Final Four appearances over five seasons

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Last weekend Kentucky head coach John Calipari joined an esteemed group of coaches who have managed (at the very least) to lead their schools to four Final Four appearances within a five-year span.

Below are the other coaches in the history of the event who have made four Final Four appearances within a five-year period or better, with John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski. Also listed are coaches who have managed to lead their programs to three Final Four appearances within a four-year period or three consecutive appearances (which includes Michigan State’s Tom Izzo).

Coaches who have reached four Final Fours in five seasons:

– John Wooden (UCLA) 1964-65, 67-75
In regards to championships won Wooden is the gold standard in the sport, and after dealing some complaints about the lack of a Final Four appearance he led the Bruins to 11 Final Fours in a 12-year span. UCLA won ten national titles during that period, with 1966 (didn’t reach the NCAA tournament) and 1974 (national semifinal loss to NC State) being the exceptions. That NC State loss was also the lone defeat UCLA suffered in the Final Four during this run.

– Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) 1986, 88-92, 94
Coach K is in Indianapolis this weekend, and his first great run at Duke began with the 1986 team reaching the national title game where they lost to Louisville. Two years later Duke began a streak of five consecutive Final Four appearances. Duke lost in the national semifinals in both 1988 and 1989 before losing to UNLV in the 1990 title game, and they would break through with national titles in 1991 and 1992. Add in a title game appearance in 1994, and Duke reached the final four in seven of nine years.

– John Calipari (Kentucky) 2011-12, 2014-15
In Calipari’s three prior Final Four appearances with the Kentucky program, two of the runs were ended by UConn. The Huskies eliminated UK in the national semifinals in 2011, and they beat them in the 2014 national title game as well. Kentucky won it all in 2012, beating Kansas in the title game.

Coaches who have led their program to three Final Four appearances in a four-year period (or three straight):

Harold Olsen (Ohio State) 1944-46
These were the early days of the NCAA tournament, when there was just two regions (East and West). Olsen’s Buckeyes lost in the regional final, which would be today’s national semifinals, in each of their three appearances and won the first-ever third-place game in 1946.

Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) 1948-49, 51
Rupp’s Wildcats won the national title in each of their three Final Four appearances during this stretch, becoming the second program (Oklahoma A&M) to win back-to-back titles in 1948 and 1949.

Harry Combes (Illinois) 1949, 51-52
The Fighting Illini had an up-close view of two of those Kentucky teams, falling to the Wildcats in the regional final in both 1949 and 1951. Kentucky wasn’t around to serve as a roadblock in 1952, but Illinois ended up losing to eventual runner-up St. John’s that season.

Phil Woolpert (San Francisco) 1955-57
Woolpert’s national title teams were led by the great Bill Russell, with the Dons beating La Salle in the 1955 national title game and Iowa the following season. USF’s run came to an end in the 1957 national semifinals, where they lost to a Kansas team led by Wilt Chamberlain.

Ed Jucker (Cincinnati) 1961-63
Jucker led the Bearcats to consecutive national titles in 1961 and 1962, his first two seasons as head coach. George Smith led Cincinnati to the Final Four in both 1959 and 1960. After winning the two national titles, Cincinnati lost to Loyola (IL) in the 1963 national title game.


Vic Bubas (Duke) 1963-64, 66
Some may not realize just how good the Duke basketball program has been throughout the history of the game, and not just when Mike Krzyzewski has been in charge. Bubas led the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances in a four-year period, falling in the semis in both 1963 and 1966 and in the national title game in 1964 to UCLA.

Dean Smith (North Carolina) 1967-69
Smith was one of many whose runs to prominence wound up being overshadowed by UCLA during the 1960’s. His Tar Heels made three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1967-69, with their loss to the Bruins in 1968 coming in between national semifinal losses to Dayton (1967) and Purdue (1969).

Guy V. Lewis (Houston) 1982-84
Lewis led the Cougars to their first Final Four appearance in 1982, losing to North Carolina in the national semifinals, and in each of the following two years Houston reached the title game. UH lost both of those contests, falling to NC State in a thriller in 1983 and to Georgetown in 1984.

John Thompson (Georgetown) 1982, 84-85
During the infancy of the Big East it was Georgetown that made the biggest splash nationally, reaching the national title game in 1982 and winning it all two seasons later. Thompson’s quest for a repeat in 1985 fell short however, as fellow Big East member Villanova beat the Hoyas in the title game.

Tom Izzo (Michigan State) 1999-2001
Of the four coaches at this year’s Final Four, Izzo is the one with the most recent run of three consecutive appearances as his occurred from 1999 to 2001. The 2000 national title was sandwiched in between national semifinal losses in 1999 (Duke) and 2001 (Arizona).

Ben Howland (UCLA) 2006-08
The new head coach at Mississippi State managed to lead UCLA to three straight Final Four appearances but none resulted in a national title. After falling to Florida in 2006 (title game) and 2007 (national semifinals), UCLA lost to Memphis in the 2008 national semifinals.

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.