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What do we make of Brandon Ingram’s performance against Indiana?

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DURHAM, N.C. — The problem with the one-and-done era and the dominance that highly-ranked freshmen have had over the college game in the last decade or so is that it has created an expectation for greatness.

No one knows that better than Brandon Ingram these days.

The current member of an emerging pipeline of elite wings that Duke has landed — Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Jayson Tatum — has struggled to acclimate to the college game. After scoring 36 points in his first two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, reality hit Ingram like a ton of bricks. Prior to Wednesday’s date with Indiana, Ingram had managed a grand total of 17 points on 5-for-20 shooting in No. 7 Duke’s three games against high-major competition.

Kentucky’s quicker, stronger wings frustrated him. His shooting touch evaporated against VCU. As his struggles continued against Georgetown, Ingram was relegated to the bench, playing a season-low 16 minutes despite being projected as a top five big in this June’s draft.

“I knew I had to pick it up,” Ingram said. “I knew I had to have my teammates’ backs, so I had to pick it up and just be aggressive. I’m never satisfied but [tonight] was better.”

It didn’t take long for him to make that change against Indiana.

Ingram scored eight of Duke’s first 10 and 13 of their first 26 points. In total, he notched 18 of his career-high 24 points in the first half, a performance that helped the Blue Devils overcome Indiana’s initial surge in a 94-74 evisceration of a team projected as a top 15 program entering the season.

That’s one way to boost your lagging confidence.

“It was great for him and it was big time for us,” Amile Jefferson said. “He kept us in the game early. He did an amazing job of shooting with confidence, just shooting freely.”

It’s no secret that one of Indiana’s biggest issues defensively is their ability — and, specifically, Thomas Bryant’s ability — to defend ball-screen actions. That’s one of the ways to attack this Indiana defense, and early on, Ingram was the prime beneficiary.

“We always go based on our game plan and that was one of our plans going in, just go at the five setting the ball-screen,” Ingram said.

It’s been a process for Ingram, who was as aware of his struggles as anyone. He didn’t mope about it. He didn’t get down on himself. Instead, he got in the gym.

“He’s really practiced hard these last two weeks,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Right after our training meal, at about 5:15 p.m. [today], Nate worked him out. Hard. He responded. He’s put a lot of work in. He was outstanding tonight, he missed that one layup in the second half, it’s still a real good work in progress.”

Ingram’s presence is a difference-maker for the Blue Devils.

Let’s go beyond the fact that he’s clearly the most physically-gifted player on the roster. That’s not really debatable. He has the skill set to be a game-changer. That’s why he’s rated as highly as he is by NBA scouts. That’s why he was considered to be one of the few game-changing recruits in this class.

But it’s more than that.

Ingram is Duke’s lineup versatility. He’s a natural small forward, a guy that can guard on the perimeter, that can be effective in Duke’s switching man-to-man defense. Coach K’s defense doesn’t change. Duke does what they do, and what they do is switch all exchanges 1-through-4. Ingram can more than hold his own in that role. But it’s his size and length that is so important, because he can handle being a four as well. He can block some shots and he can rebound the ball, and while he’s not quite to a point where he can bang with opposing power forwards, his physical tools help make up for it.

“The physicality,” Ingram said when asked what the biggest adjustment has been for him at this level. “Playing against men, 22 and 23-year olds.”

And when he does play at the four, it makes the Blue Devils that much more difficult to defend. He may not be the ideal player defensively, but how many opposing power forwards can stop him?

“It’s unbelievable for our team [when he plays like this],” Jefferson said, adding that the team sees him do things like this in practice. “It makes us longer, not only defensive wise, but spacing. We get bigger. We get better. Our confidence goes up because we know how good he can be.”

“He’s a real threat on the court.”

The question now is what happens from here.

Indiana is as high-major as high-major programs get, but defensively they’re a mess. No one in the Duke locker room was willing to say as much outright, but it’s obvious how much work the Hoosiers have to do when, to a man, every Duke player made sure to carefully word their answers to a question along the lines of “How bad is Indiana defensively?” to make sure they didn’t say something that would inevitably end up in a headline.

I say that to say this: Ingram probably faced tougher defensive tests when the Blue Devils played Yale and Utah State. Scoring 24 on Indiana is entirely different than putting up 24 on ACC foes like Virginia or North Carolina or Miami.

Was this the launching point of Ingram’s season?

Or was this simply a result of his Blue Devil team facing an opponent that provided as much defensive resistance as Nate James did during Ingram’s Wednesday afternoon workout?

The answer to that question will go a long way towards determining what Duke’s ceiling is this season and whether or not they will be able to reach it.

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.