No. 2 Villanova rolls No. 3 Miami behind scorching shooting of Kris Jenkins

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Remember when we questioned whether or not No. 2 seed Villanova would be able to win in March given how much they shot from beyond the arc?

Remember when we were saying that the Wildcats wouldn’t be able to shed the label of being a good regular season team in an overrated Big East if they kept firing up nearly 44 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc?

Because I remember saying all of that.

And I now feel foolish for doing so, as the Wildcats landed their third straight blowout win to advance to the Elite 8, smacking around No. 3 seed Miami, 92-69, to get to the South Region final in Louisville. They will play the winner of tonight’s game between No. 1 Kansas and No. 5 Maryland.

The criticisms that were lobbed at Villanova earlier in the season were totally justified. After the Wildcats were embarrassed by Oklahoma in Hawai’i in December, it was fair to wonder whether or not this was a team that needed to change who they were. At the time, they were shooting nearly half of their field goal attempts from beyond the three-point line and hitting them at a less-than 31 percent clip. That’s not good, and while it slowly improved throughout the season — that’s what happens when shot selection becomes a larger focus of the offense — this was a Villanova team whose question marks this season were a major storyline because of the way the Wildcats had exited the tournament the last two seasons.

They exorcised those demons on Sunday when they got to the second weekend of the event. That came after they smacked around an Iowa team that no one in their right mind trusted after the way the Hawkeyes collapsed.

But Thursday night’s win was different.

Because No. 3 Miami had the look of a real Final Four contender. They had as much size and athleticism as any team left in the tournament, and when you combine that with the talent they had in the back court — Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, JaQuan Newton, Davon Reed — and Tonye Jekiri’s ability to own the paint defensively, it wasn’t a surprise that Miami had made it this far. That was a good basketball team with a good coach that was playing as well as they had all season long.

Then Villanova showed up.

And the Wildcats won by 23 points despite the fact that Miami shot 53.2 percent from the floor and 10-for-17 (58.8%) from three. Do you realize how hard it is to shoot that well and lose by that much?

Villanova shot 62.7 percent from the floor, they shot 10-for-15 (66.7%) from three and they forced 12 turnovers, many of which were of the live-ball, pick-six variety. And it wasn’t like the Wildcats were getting great looks, either. Ryan Arcidiacono, who finished with 21 points and four assists, hit some ridiculously tough shots in the first half that got Villanova going, and while Daniel Ochefu and Josh Hart both got it going a little bit, the difference-maker here was Kris Jenkins.

Jenkins has been playing absolutely out of his mind for the last month. He finished with 21 points, nine boards and four assists, hitting 8-for-10 from the floor and 5-for-6 from three, including the 30-foot bomb you see above. Jenkins has made at least two three-pointers in each of the last 11 games, scoring more than 15 points in 10 of the 11 and at least 20 points in six of those 10.

When Jenkins gets into a rhythm like this it makes Villanova a nightmare to try and defend. Both Jenkins and Hart skilled enough offensively that they’ll eat up any power forward that gets put on them, and Hart’s toughness and athleticism allows him to make up for the lack of size at the forward spot on both the offensive glass and defensively. They can switch, they can zone, they can play straight man-to-man, they can change on every possession.

All that has been in their repertoire before, the issue previously was that they weren’t consistent enough offensively.

That has not been the case in this tournament.

Villanova is now shooting 33-for-62 from three in the three games in this event. For those scoring at home, that’s 53.2 percent. And on Thursday, against a Miami team that has the size, the length and the athleticism to be a deterrent to Villanova’s forays into the lane, the Wildcats shot less than 30 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. In the tournament as a whole, only 38.2 percent of Villanova’s field goal attempts are from beyond the arc.

It’s amazing what shot selection will do to a shooting percentage.

It’s amazing what seeing a few jumpers go in will do for a team’s confidence.

And if Villanova can find a way to shoot at this clip for one more game, Jay Wright will be on his way back to the Final Four for the first time since 2009.

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

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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.