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Jenkins and No. 3 Villanova romp over DePaul 83-62

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) No longer at the top of the national poll, Villanova is still No. 1 in the Big East.

Stitch another year on the championship banner, the Wildcats are again the class of the conference – a familiar regular-season coronation they can only hope doesn’t produce the same old early March exit.

Kris Jenkins scored 14 straight points and a career-high 31 overall, leading No. 3 Villanova to an 83-62 romp over DePaul on Tuesday night and the outright Big East championship.

The Wildcats (26-4, 15-2) are Big East champs for the third straight season and had already clinched the top seed for the conference tournament next week in New York. The Wildcats won the tournament in 2015.

“It’s something at the end of the year, we will take great pride in,” coach Jay Wright said. “We really do take pride in the regular season. We evaluate our program by what we do in the regular season. That’s how we make all our decisions.”

But the ultimate jury is in March, where the Wildcats haven’t advanced out of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2009. The Wildcats were eliminated three times over that span as a No. 1 or 2 NCAA seed.

“We know that we get judged publicly by how you do in the tournament,” Wright said.

Maybe Jenkins can help change the tourney ending. He scored 20 points by halftime and opened the second with consecutive 3s, topping his previous best of 23. The Wildcats shot 68 percent in the first half and proved they are still a force at any ranking.

The Wildcats slipped to No. 3 in the Top 25 after three weeks at No. 1. The Wildcats went 5-1 at No. 1 and lost last week at Xavier.

Jenkins, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, averaged 11.9 points in his first full season as a starter and stuffed a game’s worth of production in 3:31. With Villanova leading 11-10, Jenkins buried four straight 3-pointers. He forced a steal and went in for a layup that made it 25-10 and capped his outburst.

“My teammates do an unbelievable job of making the right play,” Jenkins said. “Recently, the right play has just been to catch and shoot.”

Jenkins came out for a breather and Ryan Arcidiacono promptly buried a 3 that stretched the lead to insurmountable for DePaul (9-20, 3-14).

Eli Cain led DePaul with 14 points.

“He’s become our most consistent player because his mindset has been tremendous and he’s just trying to do the right things to help our team be successful,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said of Cain.

The outcome was never in doubt, Villanova has won 12 straight against the perennial Big East cellar dwellers.

With all the hype on freshman guard Jalen Brunson, and senior stalwarts Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu carrying a bulk of the scoring load, Jenkins went a bit unnoticed until the past month.

He averaged 9.6 points through Jan. 10 before he scored 20 points against Marquette on Jan. 13. In 13 games since, he averaged 14.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. He shot 33 of 81 from 3-point range over that span.

Jenkins was 11 of 18 from the field and was the first Wildcat this season to top 30. He is a big reason why the Wildcats enter the Big East Tournament as the top seed for the third straight season. The Wildcats will play Thursday against the 8-9 winner from Wednesday night.

Win it all in New York and the Wildcats will surely enter the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.

But for a few days, there’s a Big East title to savor.

“I’ll love that accomplishment at the end of the season,” said Josh Hart, who scored 18 points. “Right now, it’s something cool. But we’re not focused on it.”

TIP-INS:

DePaul: The Blue Demons shot a solid 12 of 22 (55 percent) in the first half and made 6 of 9 3-point attempts. … DePaul made a 3 for the 705th straight game. … DePaul fell to 2-6 this season against ranked teams. … DePaul had 17 turnovers. “A lot of it was their gap defense and their hands being in good position, a lot of it was just our ineptitude of making point-to-point passes,” Leitao said.

Villanova: Villanova has 12 seasons of 25-plus victories in program history, six since 2006. … The Wildcats won their 39th straight game at the Pavilion and had their 169th consecutive sellout. … 76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor was at the game. … Villanova held a moment of silence for Mike Daly, who played on the 1971 NCAA Final Four team, and died last week.

WHAT’S NEXT

DePaul hosts Seton Hall on Saturday.

Villanova hosts Georgetown on Saturday.

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.