(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

No. 3 Villanova romps past Georgetown 84-71 in finale

Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Villanova turned its season finale into a championship bash.

The Wildcats pulled Big East title T-shirts over their jerseys, watched a season highlight video on the big screen, and then mobbed each other at midcourt and took turns hoisting the championship trophy.

It could all be a prelude to some net cutting ahead.

Josh Hart scored 18 points, Kris Jenkins had 17 and No. 3 Villanova closed out the regular season with an 84-71 win over Georgetown on Saturday.

The Big East champion Wildcats (27-4, 16-2) dominated from the opening tip and looked every bit the favorite to win the conference tournament in New York. Win a second straight Big East tourney, and the Wildcats are all but guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

But Villanova will savor this one against its longtime Big East rival.

The Wildcats raced to a 21-point lead midway through the first half and had a packed house at the Wells Fargo Center going wild. The NBA arena is the site of an NCAA regional final and the Wildcats would love to return and clinch a Final Four berth just a few miles from campus.

Coach Jay Wright refused to look weeks ahead at a potential Final Four coronation.

“No, it’s not easy to envision,” he said. “We have to win games. We have to win a lot of games.”

Without a true star player, the Wildcats relied on their usual mix of team ball and game-changing 3-point shooting. The Wildcats had 14 assists on 16 baskets in the first half and buried six 3s.

Ryan Arcidiacono had the most fun; the senior point guard scored on a reverse layup and then made a no-look dish to Hart down the lane for a 27-6 lead. Arcidiacono’s highlight reel flip was his 500th career assist. He scored 16 points and received a huge standing ovation in his final home game.

Wright greeted “Arch” at the bench and told him, “How cool was that?”

“I don’t think I even said anything,” Arcidiacono said. “I was in shock.”

Jenkins, who scored a career-high 31 points Thursday against Marquette, continued his recent surge. He hit a 3 at the first-half buzzer that sent Nova into the break with a 46-27 lead.

Jenkins averaged 23 points on 56 percent shooting and was 18 of 35 from 3-point range over the last four games.

L.J. Peak led Georgetown (14-17, 7-11) with 31 points.

Georgetown was a mess in its sixth straight loss and ninth in 10 games overall. Peak fired an air ball and Isaac Copeland’s jumper grazed the rim on the same possession late in the first half, bringing out the Hoya hecklers. The Hoyas are on their longest losing streak since they lost the final nine games of the 2003-04 season.

The Wildcats not only thumped Georgetown on the scoreboard, but also on the recruiting trail: Jenkins, Hart, Daniel Ochefu and Phil Booth are all from Maryland. Georgetown coach John Thompson III, trying to stay off the hot seat headed into the Big East Tournament, called it his most challenging season.

“By far. By far,” he said. “Not close.”

Villanova, which reached No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time in program history, is dominating like it usually does this time of the year. But now comes the tricky part. The Wildcats haven’t advanced out of the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2009 when they reached the Final Four and they were eliminated three times over that span as a No. 1 or 2 NCAA seed.

This season could break that ignominious streak.

“I think they’re poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament,” Thompson said.

TIP-INS

Georgetown: The Hoyas are 45-52 against Top 25 teams under Thompson. … Georgetown still leads the series, 44-33. … Hoyas made only 4 of 26 3-pointers.

Villanova: The game was sold out with 20,173 fans at the Wells Fargo Center. The NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers average 14,721 in the same building. … Villanova is the No. 1 seed in the Big East tourney for the third straight season and fifth time in program history.

HOME COOKING

The Wildcats are 46-34 at the Wells Fargo Center and sold out the building for the 12th time. Villanova went 4-0 in NCAA Tournament games at the building in 2006 and 2009.

UP NEXT

Georgetown and Villanova will play in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.