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LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Patriot, A-Sun top seeds eliminated from conference tourneys

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Louisiana Tech 97, Marshall 94

Two of the top teams in Conference USA played right down to the wire in Huntington, with a Derric Jean three from half-court as time expired giving the Bulldogs the win. Alex Hamilton scored 38 points for Louisiana Tech, which is now in a second-place tie with Middle Tennessee with one game remaining. James Kelly led the Thundering Herd with 27 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 18 Arizona 64, No. 25 California 61: A Gabe York three-pointer with 17.4 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats the lead for good as they finished the game on an 11-0 run. York scored all 19 of his points in the second half, and Ryan Anderson (18 points, ten rebounds) and Kaleb Tarczewski (ten points, 12 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Wildcats. Ivan Rabb led Cal with 15 points and 13 boards, but fellow freshman Jaylen Brown struggled with foul trouble for most of the night.

No. 24 SMU 80, Connecticut 54: The Mustangs capped the home portion of their schedule with a blowout win over UConn in Dallas. While the Mustangs can’t go to the NCAA tournament, the Huskies are trending in the wrong direction at the worst possible time. UConn shot 34 percent from the field and they struggled defensively as well, as SMU shot 51.6 percent with Sterling Brown leading four in double figures with 20 points.

Georgia 74, South Carolina: Also limping down the stretch is South Carolina, which has now lost four of its last six games. Kenny Gaines led the victorious Bulldogs with 20 points and J.J. Frazier added 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Mindaugas Kacinas scored a game-high 21 for the Gamecocks, but as a team they shot just 34.2 percent from the field.

STARRED

Alex Hamilton, Louisiana Tech: Hamilton scored 38 points and dished out six assists in the Bulldogs’ 97-94 win at Marshall.

Tim Kempton, Lehigh: The two-time Patriot League POY finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds in the Mountain Hawks’ 65-63 win over Navy.

Phil Valenti, Canisius: Valenti scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Golden Griffins’ 102-97 triple overtime win over Niagara.

Ethan Telfair, Idaho State: 31 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Bengals’ 75-71 win at Eastern Washington.

STRUGGLED

North Florida: The Ospreys, who score 43.5 percent of their points on three-pointers this season, shot 8-for-31 from distance in their 89-56 loss to FGCU.

Duane Notice, South Carolina: Three points on 1-for-7 shooting in the Gamecocks’ home loss to Georgia.

Amida Brimah, UConn: One point and four rebounds in the Huskies’ 80-54 loss at No. 24 SMU.

DJ Sylvester, UC Riverside: Sylvester shot 1-for-10 from the field, scoring four points, in the Highlanders’ 81-55 loss at UCSB.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 14 Maryland took care of business on Senior Night, as they beat Illinois 81-55. Melo Trimble and Jake Layman scored 18 points apiece, and Jared Nickens and Robert Carter Jr. added 14 each for Mark Turgeon’s Terrapins. Illinois shot just 38.5 percent from the field.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Temple remained tied for first in the American with a 72-62 home win over Memphis. Josh Brown finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Jaylen Bond accounted for 15 points and ten boards for the Owls.
  • The top seed in the Patriot League fell, as nine-seed Holy Cross beat Bucknell 77-72 in double overtime. The Bison weren’t the only team to lose in the quarters, as three-seed American won at three-seed Boston University. Also advancing were two-seed Lehigh and four-seed Army West Point.
  • Defending Atlantic Sun champion picked a bad night to go cold from deep, as they shot 8-for-31 from three in an 89-56 loss to FGCU. The Eagles will host seven-seed Stetson in the championship game Sunday. Stetson, which beat Lipscomb 96-75, is ineligible for postseason play so if they win then North Florida goes to the NCAA tournament since they won the A-Sun regular season title.
  • In the first round of the Big South tournament, a DeSean Murray put-back as time expired gave ten-seed Presbyterian a 65-64 win over Radford. Also advancing were six-seed Gardner-Webb and eight-seed Longwood.
  • Stephen F. Austin extended its win streak to 17, as they whipped Northwestern State 95-55. Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have lost just one game to Southland competition since he took over in 2013.
  • Having already clinched the MEAC regular season title, Hampton fell 83-63 to Norfolk State. The Pirates, who played many of their key contributors limited minutes, had won their last five games.
  • Little Rock fell 69-63 at Appalachian State in their regular season finale. Chris Beard’s Trojans will be the top seed in next week’s Sun Belt tournament.
  • Keep an eye on Houston in the American tournament next week. The Cougars beat Cincinnati 69-56, finishing the regular season with six wins in their final seven games. Their non-conference schedule makes getting an at-large tough for Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars, but they have the talent needed to win the auto bid in Orlando.
  • Rider, Canisius and Manhattan advanced to the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament, with the Golden Griffins needing triple overtime to beat rival Niagara 102-97. Rider will take on top-seed Monmouth and Canisius gets two-seed Iona Friday, with Manhattan facing three-seed (and host) Siena Saturday.
  • Loyola-Chicago and Missouri State advanced at Arch Madness, with the Ramblers beating Bradley 74-66 and the Bears edging out Drake 69-67. Loyola will play top-seed Wichita State Friday, with Missouri State getting two-seed Evansville.
  • Eight-seed Austin Peay continued its run in the OVC tournament with a 74-72 win over four-seed Tennessee Tech. The Governors play top seed Belmont in Friday’s semifinals, with three-seed Morehead State (a winner of six-seed Murray State) facing two-seed UT Martin in the other matchup.
  • Montana and Weber State are once again tied atop the Big Sky, as Montana beat North Dakota 71-46 and Weber State lost 62-58 at Idaho. Weber State has the head-to-head tiebreaker going into the final day of regular season play (Saturday). The silver lining for Weber State in their loss: Joel Bolomboy returned after missing two games due to injury.
  • Hawai’i got off to a slow start at UC Davis but came back to pick up the 67-65 win. As a result Eran Ganot’s Rainbow Warriors clinched the outright Big West regular season title, with Quincy Smith and Sai Tummala combining to score 29 points.

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.