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The most important NBA Draft decisions left to be made

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News has leaked that both Grayson Allen and Thomas Bryant will be retuning to play their junior and sophomore seasons, respectively, without so much as going through the NBA’s draft process.

No combine. No NBA Draft workouts. Nothing.

They’re back, meaning that Duke will be the preseason No. 1 team in the country and that Indiana may crack the preseason top 15 for the second straight season. But for a number of other teams, who are still waiting for kids to declare for the draft — or, given the new rules that have been implemented, announce whether or not they’re signing with an agent — their prospects for next season remain somewhat in limbo.

Here are the 12 most important NBA Draft decisions that are left to be made:

O.G. Anunoby and Troy Williams, Indiana: We found out on Thursday that Thomas Bryant will be returning to the Hoosiers. It’s thought that Anunoby will be joining him back in Bloomington next season, while Williams’ future is still up in the air. The Hoosiers are going to have a lot of work to do to replace Yogi Ferrell, but it’s worth noting that they really took off last season when Tom Crean started using Williams and Anunoby together. They give him versatility and athleticism.

Trevon Blueitt, Xavier: Blueitt has declared for the draft but has not yet signed with an agent. He’s a versatile forward that was Xavier’s leading scorer last season. With James Farr leaving and Jalen Reynolds also putting his name in the draft, the Musketeers will be replacing quite a bit of their front line if they lose Blueitt as well.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon: With Brooks, a 6-foot-6 wing forward that played the role of small-ball four for the Ducks, Oregon looks like they’ll be a top five team in the country next season. They’ll still be good without him, but his presence makes them so much more versatile and dangerous offensively.

Deyonta Davis, Michigan State: Davis is in a similar position to where Jakob Poeltl was last season. He can leave now and get drafted somewhere from the late-lottery to the late-first round based almost solely on his potential, or he can come back for a year and work hard enough that he becomes more of a player than a prospect. Poeltl has an outside shot of going top five this season. If the Spartans get Davis back, they’ll be in the conversation with Kentucky and Kansas (plus Josh Jackson) for the No. 2 spot in our preseason top 25.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Assuming Kris Jenkins makes the decision to return to school, Hart is the name that is really in question for the reigning national champs. He’s the piece that makes everything else fit together with his ability to rebound the ball and defend bigger players at the small forward spot. With Hart and Jenkins back, we have the Wildcats as the No. 3 team in our preseason top 25. Without them, I’m not sure they would be top 20.

Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga: The Zags should be good whether or not Karnowski opts to try and take advantage of his chance to get a fifth season with a medical hardship waiver, but getting back their best low-post scorer and rim protector would be key.

Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson, Syracuse: Lydon and Richardson became one of the most promising, and dangerous, freshmen combos in the country by the end of the season, with both playing major roles in leading Syracuse to the Final Four. There is some question over just how good the Orange will be next season, but there’s no arguing that losing their best perimeter scorer and their best front court shooter would be a massive blow. With both of them returning, we had Syracuse as a top 20 team in our preseason top 25.

Monte’ Morris, Iowa State: It goes without saying that Morris will be the best player on the Cyclones should he return next season. Without him, ISU will be in full blown rebuilding mode. With him, they’ll have a shot to be pretty good. Remember, when Steve Prohm had his best teams at Murray State, they were built around superstar guards. (UPDATE: Morris is returning to school.)

Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville: The Cardinals should be really good next season even if Onuaku stays in the draft, like many expect him to. But if he does return, we’re looking at a Louisville team that could crack the preseason top 10, as Onuaku was their best, and most physical, front court player last season.

Isaiah Taylor, Texas: Taylor is the perfect point guard for Shaka Smart’s ‘Havoc’ system, and with another influx of talented wings coming into the program, we should be seeing more ‘Havoc’ out of the Longhorns next season. Taylor has declared for the draft, but he has not signed with an agent. His return is the difference between the Longhorns being a real Big 12 contender and being a borderline top 25 team.

Melo Trimble, Maryland: We know how good Melo can be when he’s playing well. He was the biggest reason that Maryland was a top 20 team when he was a freshman. We also know what it means for Maryland when Melo is mortal, which is the biggest reason Maryland was only top 20 this past season. If he returns, the Terps will be relevant in the Big Ten next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll be a borderline top 25 team at best.

Mo Watson, Creighton: If you’ve never seen Creighton play, you may not know about good Watson is. He and Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster will be one of, if not the best back court in college basketball next season … if Watson returns.

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.