NBA Draft Early Entry: The most influential ‘testing the water’ decisions

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Now that the NBA has released a full list of the players that have declared for the NBA Draft, here are the 14 programs that have the most on the line with players that are testing the waters:

Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, Oregon: The Ducks were one of the biggest surprises last season, and part of what made that performance so exciting for Oregon fans was that basically everyone on the roster was schedule to return next season. Chris Boucher opted not to declare for the draft, but freshman Tyler Dorsey and sophomore Dillon Brooks did. I don’t think Dorsey is an NBA player, at least not yet, but Brooks is a guy whose size and skill set as a small forward makes him intriguing. He’s not a great athlete, however, which may be the best news for Dana Altman. Because if Dorsey and Brooks, who is a potential Pac-12 Player of the Year, both return, the Ducks will enter the season as national title contenders.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, Villanova: Prior to this season, I would’ve said that there was no way that these two would be declaring for the draft. While Jenkins seems to be a situation where he’s just trying to get an answer on what he needs to do to get drafted in 2017, Hart may actually have a chance to be a first round pick this season. He’s a tweener, but tweeners that can do a lot of different things and defend multiple positions — Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, etc. — are all the rage these days. Like both of those guys coming out of college, Hart is tough, he’s versatile, he defends, he rebounds and he cannot shoot. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone gave him a promise late in the first round or early in the second round, and that may be enough to pull him out of school, and that would be a massive blow for a Villanova team that’s currently projected in our top five.

       RELATED: Who are the Early Entry Winners?

Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps are already losing four of their five starters from last season, but given the way that that group fit — well, didn’t fit — together last season, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. That’s assuming that Trimble opts to return to school. We’ve seen what he can do when he’s asked to carry a team by himself — he did it as a freshman — and the Terps will remain relevant as long as he’s on the roster. If he’s gone? NIT baby.

      RELATED: Who were the Early Entry Losers?

Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina: All the talk about the North Carolina program during the season was how this group was going to fall off after last year’s run to the title game, but that may not necessarily be the case. There is still talent there, even if Jackson and Meeks opt to stay in the draft. But if they return, we’re looking at a team that is once again loaded with veteran depth. Will that be enough to beat out Duke for the ACC title? Maybe not, but it could be enough to make them the biggest challenger to the Blue Devils.

Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., Indiana: The Hoosiers, like the Tar Heels, actually have a better chance to be good than most people probably realize. But Blackmon is the best shooter and scorer that the Hoosiers will return, which is something that they are going to need now that Yogi Ferrell is an alum, and Williams’ presence alongside O.G. Anunoby will make Indiana one of the most athletic and versatile teams in the Big Ten. They’re a top 15 team with those two back in the mix.

Mo Watson, Creighton: I’m not sure people realize just how good Watson was last season. There’s an argument to be made that he was the best point guard in the Big East not named Kris Dunn. And if he returns, he’ll be paired in a back court with Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster, who was one of the best off-guards in the Big 12 before his falling out with Bruce Weber. That duo would have a strong argument as the best back court in college basketball, and it’s the reason that we have the Bluejays sitting in the first spot outside the top 25 right now.

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Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes actually had a somewhat disappointing season in 2015-16 and the Badgers still managed to find a way to make the tournament as a No. 7 seed — despite their 9-9 start — and get to the Sweet 16. The Badgers should be pretty good even if he doesn’t return, but if he comes back, a Big Three of Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ looks pretty good on paper.

Malachi Richardson, Syracuse: The Orange caught a break when Tyler Lydon opted not to enter his name in the NBA Draft, but as good as Lydon was — as good as he can be — he’s still something of a complimentary piece. The same can be said for Richardson, but the thing that makes him so dangerous is his ability to go for 25 points on any given night. He’s streaky, but he can win games by himself (ask Virginia). With Michael Gbinije graduating and without a clear replacement at the point guard spot, the Orange need guys that can create points for themselves.

Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville: The Cardinals have a number of talented wings returning next season. They also have a slew of big bodies that they’ll be able to bring back, but unlike Onuaku, none of those other big men are physical presences in the paint. Onuaku is a rebounder that can battle with the physical big men he’s going to run into in the ACC. If he’s gone, that’s something Louisville is going to miss.

Julian Jacobs, USC: Jacobs was one of the most surprising players in the Pac-12 last season, showing off his athleticism and ability to make plays in the open floor. He fits so well with what Andy Enfield wants to do with the Trojans, and pairing him with Jordan McLaughlin in the back court makes USC a nightmare to try and slow down in transition.

Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya, N.C. State: Anya was one of the biggest surprises that showed up on the Early Entry list, but he’s not the name that State fans need to worry about. Abu is, because Abu has the potential to be an All-ACC player next season. With Dennis Smith entering the fray, Maverick Rowan returning and Torin Dorn getting eligible, they need a big body in the paint.

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: Whitehead played such a huge role in Seton Hall’s return to the NCAA tournament last season, and the good news is that he’s nowhere near a lock to get picked in the first round. That also may not be enough to keep him from signing with an agent. The Pirates have a shot at returning to the dance if he’s back. If he’s not, they’re not.

Dedric Lawson, Memphis: As a freshman, Dedric Lawson averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 boards for the Tigers, and while that was a bad Memphis team that lost a number of pieces — including head coach Josh Pastner — his father is back with the program meaning that Dedric, if he opts to return to school, will play with the Tigers. Memphis probably isn’t a tournament team with or without him, but give Tubby Smith a potential all-american in the American and anything can happen.

Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil was one of the best players in all of college basketball last season, but his Friars really struggled down the stretch of the season. With Kris Dunn off to the NBA, it’s hard to see Providence reaching the NCAA tournament either way, but if Bentil does return, he may pop up on a few preseason all-american teams.

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.