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Everything you need to know about the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon

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The schedule for the eighth installment of the 24-Hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon was released on Tuesday morning. Here’s a quick primer on the games: Why you should be excited, what you need to be watching and, in one instance, why you should be really, really annoyed:

THE BEST PART OF THE TWO DAYS: The Champions Classic

As is always the case, the best early-season event this year is, once again, the Champions Classic. It kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET in the United Center in Chicago with Duke taking on Kentucky, a game that features two preseason top five teams — one of whom is the reigning national champs — squaring off. Coach K vs. Coach Cal. I Still Hate Laettner. Jamal Murray vs. Grayson Allen. Skal Labissiere vs. Brandon Ingram.

Seriously. If you’re not excited about this game, we can’t be friends.

The nightcap of the Champions Classic isn’t quite as good, but it’s still one of the best non-conference games of the season. Kansas is a preseason top five team, although they are not yet at full strength, as Cheick Diallo is in the middle of trying to get cleared by the NCAA. They’ll be squaring off with a Michigan State team that seems to be flying a bit under the radar at this point in the year.

Two games, four top 15 teams, two Hall of Famers and two soon-to-be Hall of Famers. Yeah, I’m pretty excited that I’ll be in Chicago tomorrow night.

YOU ALSO NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU SEE: Monday night’s west coast action

While the highlight of the event is the action late on Tuesday night, Monday night’s games are solid as well. It starts with San Diego State’s trip up to Utah. The Utes are a legitimate contender in a Pac-12 race that will likely be wide-open this season. They brought back a potential top ten pick in Jakob Poeltl and will surround him with a load of young, talented players and a coach — Larry Krystkowiak — that has proven to be able to develop talent; Kyle Kuzma, anyone? SDSU likely won’t be as good as the Kawhi Leonard years, but they’re still an MWC contender with their own future first round pick on the roster in Malik Pope.

That game tips at 9:30 p.m. ET, with Baylor’s visit to Oregon immediately following. The Ducks have big shoes to fill with Joe Young graduating, but the return of Dillon Brooks and the addition of Tyler Dorsey will make them a dangerous team, especially in their own gym. Baylor’s guard play was impressive in an opening night win over Stephen F. Austin, but with Rico Gathers anchoring a massive, powerful front line, don’t be surprised to see the Bears make a run at being relevant in the Big 12 title race.

Worth mentioning: Kennesaw State’s visit to LSU will be a chance for the nation at large to get another look at Ben Simmons, the Australian forward that has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in 2016. He’s probably not quite as good as the hype train would have you believe, but he’s still a fun player to watch given his ability to handle the ball and pass at 6-foot-9.

Virginia at George Washington will also be good. We’ll get to that in a minute.

BUT YOU SHOULD BE MAD BECAUSE: No one will pay attention to Maryland-Georgetown

First things first: history aside, this has the makings of being a terrific basketball game. Maryland is one of two or three teams — along with North Carolina and Kentucky — that, depending on which poll or website you pay attention to,  are the No. 1 team in the country*. Georgetown will be pretty good as well, as D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera made them a worthy preseason top 25 team and a sleeper for the Big East title. Losing to Radford in their opener was not exactly ideal, but that doesn’t mean the Hoyas are talented. It does, however, mean they will be looking to make a statement tomorrow night.

*(Kansas will be in that mix if they get Diallo)

But here’s the thing: that snippet doesn’t account for the fact that Maryland and Georgetown have campuses that are roughly 10 miles apart, or that the two programs have refused to schedule each other for the last three decades thanks to a (pretty dumb, totally avoidable) beef between legendary coaches Lefty Driesell and John Thompson Jr. that was never resolved. The Big East and the Big Ten made a point to ensure that these two teams would be paired off the in the first annual Gavitt Games because this matchup deserves attention. Instead, with a tip-off at 9:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, it will be played at the same time as the Champions Classic, with the first half coinciding with the end of Duke-Kentucky.

This is a matchup deserves to stand on it’s own. College basketball is a sport that has limited intrigue while football season is still in full-swing. Burying a game like this in November simply doesn’t make sense.

UNDER THE RADAR GAMES:

There are two that I think qualify here:

  • The first of the men’s games that will be played as an official part of the Tip-Off Marathon features Virginia, a preseason top ten team and the two-time ACC regular season champs, making the ride up Route 29 to pay a visit to George Washington. The Colonials took a step back in 2014-15, but their roster was built with an eye towards this season. Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald and Patrico Garino are all back, Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh is eligible and sophomore Yuta Watanabe should be in line for a breakout season. Road games four days into the season are never easy.
  • Stephen F. Austin vs. Northern Iowa features two well-coached, veteran mid-major ball-clubs, but given what both programs lost for last season, the first game on Tuesday that is a must-watch comes at 10:00 a.m. ET when Valparaiso makes the trip to Kingston to take on URI. Valpo may be the best mid-major in the country this side of Wichita State (are they a mid-major?), while this may be the year that Danny Hurley finally breaks through with the Rams.

Anyway, here is the full schedule of games:

Mon., Nov. 16

5:30 p.m.: UConn at Ohio State (women) ESPN2
7:30 p.m.: Virginia at George Washington ESPN2
9:00 p.m.: Kennesaw State at LSU ESPNU
9:30 p.m.: San Diego State at Utah ESPN2
11:30 p.m.: Baylor at Oregon ESPN2

Tue., Nov. 17

1:45 a.m.: BYU at Long Beach State ESPN2
4:00 a.m.: Nevada at Hawaii ESPN2
6:00 a.m.: Green Bay at East Tennessee State ESPN2
8:00 a.m.: Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa ESPN2
10:00 a.m.: Valparaiso at Rhode Island ESPN2
1:00 p.m.: Alabama at Dayton ESPN
3:00 p.m.: Colorado at Auburn ESPN
5:00 p.m.: Oklahoma at Memphis ESPN
7:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Duke (Chicago) ESPN
9:00 p.m.: Georgetown at Maryland ESPN2
10:00 p.m.: Kansas vs. Michigan State (Chicago) ESPN

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.