National Title Game Preview: Everything you need to know about Villanova vs. North Carolina

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WHEN: Monday, 9:19 p.m. ET on TBS

MAJOR STORYLINES: The question that everyone wants an answer to is whether or not this is going to be the last time that we see Roy Williams on a college sideline, and if there is anything that Ol’ Roy has made clear this week, it’s that this is not going to be the end of his tenure with the Tar Heels. What it may be, however, is his third national title, which will put him on par with some of the legends of the coaching profession: the only other coaches that have at least three national titles are John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Calhoun.

That’s mighty fine company to be in, particularly for a head coach like Williams, who has dealt with his fair share of criticism throughout the years. Where as the others on that list tend to be guys that are giants in the profession, Williams is never thought out as or mentioned in the same breath with the best of all-time. This would be his third time in the last 12 years. Would that be enough to make him considered one of the very best ever?

Jay Wright is in a different situation. He’s looking for that first national title, for that piece of evidence that he’s one of the greats — a guy that will deserve a look from the Hall of Fame — as opposed to just another really good coach that sustained a program for a long, long time. Beating the Heels in the title game would be quite the feather in his cap.

But it would also make him one of the most unique national title winners, as he’s not doing it with a team that is loaded with future NBA stars. Josh Hart will probably play in the NBA, and I would bet that Mikal Bridges will end up there as well. I’m not sure either of them are destined to be stars at that level, however, and I don’t think that there is another pro on the roster. It’s not often that teams without an abundance of NBA talent win the whole thing, and while that probably says something about the year in which Villanova is winning the title, it should also tell you a thing or two about the guy that is coaching them along the way.

KEY MATCHUP: Kris Jenkins and whoever the Tar Heels decide they are going to use to try and slow him down. Jenkins has gone from a recruiting afterthought to an undersized, under-athletic gunner … to the guy that has been the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Wildcats. Perhaps more relevantly, he’s become the matchup problem for Villanova. He’s a skilled scorer with a lethal three-point stroke and the best pump fake in college basketball. He draws more fouls on three-point shots than anyone in the country.

He’s also now able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, which creates a bit of an issue: Who’s checking Jenkins? Will they put the slower-footed Meeks on him and allow Brice Johnson to act as a rim protector or will they do the opposite and let the stronger Meeks try to battle Ochefu in the post?

And just as important: How will Jenkins handle post defense and defensive rebounding against the Tar Heel big men?

X-FACTOR: Who will guard Daniel Ochefu, who has suddenly turned into arguably the most irreplaceable¬†offensive piece for the Wildcats. Ochefu is a 6-foot-11 center who developed into one of the most consistent and reliable post scorers in the country this season. That’s relevant because he is going to get quite a few chances to go one-on-one against UNC’s big men on Monday night. The Wildcats put four shooters on the floor, making it really difficult for opponents to double-team any post touch. If Ochefu can find a way to be effective on the block, it would for the Tar Heels to make a change on the defensive end.

POINT SPREAD: North Carolina -2.5

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Can North Carolina run offense against Villanova? The Wildcats do not get the credit they should for how good they’ve been defensively. They don’t have many great individual defenders — Mikal Bridges is a problem, and Josh Hart did the heaviest-lifting in slowing down Buddy Hield — but this is a team that plays tough, physical and, most importantly, disciplined team defense while constantly changing the looks that they use on that end of the floor. It’s tough to execute against, and we saw that in full effect on Saturday night. Will UNC have an easier time of it than Oklahoma did?
  2. Which Josh Hart shows up on Monday night, and just how physical will UNC wings be willing to be with him. Hart is a nightmare to play against. He’s annoying to play against, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. He’s a junkyard dog in every sense of the word, and UNC hasn’t always dealt with guys like that in an effective manner.
  3. What position does Theo Pinson play? Personally I think that he is going to play a big role on Monday night just because he matches up well with Villanova’s personal. UNC needs him to play the majority of his minutes at the three, which will mean that their size is effective. If he’s playing at the four, it means that Jenkins won the battle of the bigs and UNC had to adjust.

CBT PREDICTION: Villanova wins the National Title and Josh Hart gets named Final Four MOP.

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.