How concerned should North Carolina fans be that Brandon Ingram passed on the Tar Heels?

(Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

On Monday night, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski added yet another elite recruit to his 2015-16 roster, as five-star wing Brandon Ingram committed to play for the Blue Devils.

Ingram’s tools are absurd. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with length, athleticism and the ability to handle the ball and shoot on the perimeter. And while he’s always had loads of potential, this spring he’s seemingly put it all together, which is why he’s shot up from a top 30ish recruit to one of the top five prospects in the class.

It also means that for the second straight year, Duke has landed one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, a roster full of potential one-and-done talents that will make them one of the youngest — and best — teams in the country. Duke won the 2015 National Title on the back of a trio of freshmen, shipped them off to the NBA Draft’s lottery and have now reloaded by adding a pair of five-star recruits in April.

It’s a positively Calipari-an way of building a roster, and it’s the opposite of what Duke stood for as recently as their title in 2010. Duke was always the program that kept their best players in school for three and four years. And as of today, they’re currently beating Kentucky at their own game.

But that’s not the most interesting story line to come out of Ingram’s commitment.

That would be just how much the NCAA’s investigation into academic impropriety at North Carolina, and the sanctions that are looming over the head of the program, are currently affecting the Tar Heels.

UNC is currently the preseason No. 1 team in the country. The Tar Heels bring back essentially everyone from last year’s team. Marcus Paige will be healthy, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks will once again be roaming the paint, and the play of Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson will only get better after a full year on campus. But their 2015 recruiting class consists of a three-star forward whose father played quarterback on the football team, and it’s not for a lack of effort.

North Carolina went after Ingram hard, even before he turned into a top five prospect. They likely would have gotten him as well, as Ingram told reporters “I think I would have” committed to UNC had they not been facing this investigation.

From the News & Observor:

The questions about what might happen at UNC – and what penalties it might face – proved too difficult for Williams and his staff to overcome during Ingram’s recruitment. [Brandon’s father] Donald Ingram said the cloud of the NCAA investigation “played a big factor” in his son’s decision to turn down UNC.

“We wanted to see something on paper,” Donald Ingram said. “We wanted to hear it on television. We wanted to know that they’re not going to fall into the same situation like Jim Boeheim with Syracuse. So you don’t want to go into a (situation) that’s already hot. And it played a factor in it.”

The Syracuse situation that he is referring to is the eight-year investigation that was concluded earlier this year. The result? The university self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2014-15 season and will spend the next decade trying to work through a myriad of recruiting restrictions and a loss of 12 scholarships over a four-year period.

And the violations committed by Syracuse weren’t as bad as what North Carolina has been accused of doing, meaning that the Tar Heels could end up getting the book thrown at them.

Or maybe not. As Jerry Tarkanian once said, “the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it’s going to give Cleveland State two more years of probation.” Would the NCAA really drop the hammer on one of their flagship basketball programs?

At this point, we don’t know, which is why UNC is getting killed on the recruiting trail. In a moment of honesty, some of the coaching staffs recruiting against the Tar Heels will admit that they don’t think UNC’s basketball program will get hit too hard, but that’s not the information that they’re going to be feeding recruits they’re trying to keep out of Chapel Hill.

And frankly, they don’t even need to.

Tyus Jones and Sam Dekker became potential lottery picks because of their play in the tournament. Grayson Allen went from a bench-warmer to a guy that had to announce he’s not declaring for the NBA Draft because of two games in the Final Four.

Brandon Ingram saw this.

He knows what a strong performance in the NCAA tournament can do to draft position.

If going to North Carolina means that there is a chance he won’t get that opportunity, is it really surprising that he passed on the Tar Heels?

Wouldn’t you?

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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

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
1 Comment

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

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

Getty Images

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.