Derek Anderson could not have been more wrong in his Calipari critique

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Former Kentucky star Derek Anderson had some harsh words for John Calipari earlier this week when he joined The Drew Deener Show on 680 AM in Louisville.

“Last year, when we went to the Final Four with (Julius) Randle and them, it was because of pure talent,” Anderson told Deener. “The reason we lost? Coaching. Why did Louisville beat [UConn] by 30? They pressured their guards. We let the kid Shabazz Napier – he walked the ball up and just shot in our face the whole night. I’m like, did you not watch the tape of Louisville beating them? They pressured these guys.”

“If Coach Cal wanted to keep these kids and develop them, he should tell them that,” Anderson added. “He’s just running them in and out. It’s not him, it’s not just him, it’s the parents. If my son is supposed to go second round, ‘Son, you need to stay in school, get your degree in case something happens, and also finish the job. Make sure you make these people know you can actually play.’ They’re just running them out of here. Like Dakari Johnson. I hope he makes it, but he’s a 7-footer who can’t jump. What’s he going to do with no degree when he’s done in two years?”

Yeah, there’s a lot there.

Too bad the majority of it is wrong.

Let’s start with the idea that Cal is just “running them out of here”. Of course he is! That’s the core philosophy that he’s built this program around! Players First, remember? The premise of his recruiting pitch — the biggest reason that he’s able to bring in all of these elite kids, the reason that he’s able to stock a roster with nine McDonald’s All-Americans — is that he’s going to get his guys to the NBA as quickly as possible. The reason an elite recruit goes to Kentucky is to put themselves in a position to start making money as a professional basketball player as quickly as possible.

Anderson can rip Dakari Johnson’s decision to go pro if he wants, but the bottom line is that Johnson is, as Anderson says, a seven-footer that can’t jump. He’s not Willie Cauley-Stein, a guy that oozes potential and only needed the opportunity to prove what he was capable of doing. Johnson is who he is, and given how limited the timeframe for earning money as a professional athlete is, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to start earning a year or two early.

And remember, Desagana Diop was in the league for 12 seasons and made nearly $50 million in his career without ever averaging more than 2.9 points in a season. You can learn to make a post move in the NBA. You can’t be taught to be seven feet tall.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, not everyone ends up being a one-and-done player at Kentucky. Alex Poythress is about to enter his senior season. Cauley-Stein spent three years on campus. Johnson and the Harrison twins were in school a year longer than many expected when they entered the program. Terrence Jones returned for his sophomore season.

Let’s move on to Anderson’s other criticism, the one where he says Cal was outcoached in the national title game. That may actually be fair; there’s a reason Kevin Ollie’s name always seems to pop-up when an NBA job opens up. He’s the real deal, and he coached a No. 7 seed that had basically three players on it to a national title.

But Cal did a damn good job in the tournament as well. Kentucky was a No. 8 seed, remember? They beat then-undefeated Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin to reach the title game. You can’t criticize the job that Cal did getting that Kentucky team to the final game of the 2013-14 season.

If Anderson really wanted to criticize him, he could have ripped Cal’s performance during the 2013-14 regular season. That would be fair. Kentucky had no business being a No. 8 seed with the amount of talent they had on that roster, as Cal couldn’t get the talent on that team to buy-in the way that he did this past season … or in 2012 … or in 2010.

Three out of four ain’t bad.

And Cal did manage to get that team to the Final Four anyway, it just took them longer to gel than anyone expected.

So what is he so upset about?

“Every time at the end of the game, end of the season, we don’t win a championship, I say ‘are you happy now? Since you want to give Coach all this praise?’” Anderson said. “I love Coach, I think he’s a great guy, he helps people out, he brings us back, he’s treated me with nothing but respect, but I’m talking about coaching. I’m not talking about personal, I’m talking about coaching. If you’re going to coach these kids, let’s make them play the game the right way.”

Play the right way?

You mean convince a bunch of future NBA Draft picks to sacrifice their minutes, their shots and their numbers for the greater good and to buy-in on the defensive end of the floor in order to become one of the most dominant college basketball teams of the last two decades?

Because that’s what Cal did.

And to me, that’s playing the right way. Reaching four Final Fours and winning a national title in your first six years at a school? To me, that’s coaching the right way.

But what do I know.

I never played at Kentucky.

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

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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.