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Stay Or Go: The 13 NBA Draft decisions that we’re waiting to hear

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The deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft is this Wednesday. There are still 13 players whose decisions could have a major impact on college basketball next season.

Here they are:

Josh Hart, Villanova: Hart could be a first-team all-american next season on a Villanova team that will be in the preseason top five as they look to become the first team in a decade to repeat as National Champions. He’s also good enough that there is a shot that he could end up being a first round pick, or, at the very least, be a second rounder that earns a guaranteed contract. That’s not an easy decision to make.

Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble was a potential first round pick after his freshman season. A dreadful close to his sophomore year has him as a question mark to even get picked. He needs to go back to school for his junior year and prove that he can shoot and wants to put in the effort on the defensive end.

Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: Oregon is coming off a terrific year and looks to be a top five team heading into next season. Brooks and Dorsey are arguably their two best scorers heading into next year, and neither of them were invited to the NBA Combine. In an ideal world, both would make the trek back to Eugene to try and improve their draft stock, but it wouldn’t be that surprising to see either one of them ditch school to pursue the professional route, even if that is overseas.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes did not have a good junior year. He really struggled shooting the ball down the stretch and did not adjust to life on the perimeter as well as many hoped. But if he returns to school, he could end up being the third-best player on Wisconsin. It’s not an easy decision, but if Hayes truly wants to be a draft pick, he needs to go back to school.

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: Whitehead was unbelievable down the stretch of his sophomore season, but he’s a volume scorer that is inefficient with the basketball and a bit undersized to be a two-guard in the NBA. He’s a second round pick, but he may be a second round pick next season given the glut of point guards projected to be in that draft. I’d bet that he’s gone.

Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr., Indiana: Blackmon should absolutely return to school. He’s coming off of an injury, he’s undersized and he’s not a guy that will be able to defend at the next level, but there’s questions about just how well he fits with what Tom Crean is looking to do with the Hoosiers next season. Williams is more of a question mark. He’s undoubtedly an NBA athlete and, at times, he looks like a guy that could be a starter in the NBA. But he’s so inconsistent that there are times that he looks like he should never set foot on a basketball court again. Decision-making and shooting are the keys for Williams, and those are things that can be taught in the NBA. I think he’s gone.

Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan is more versatile than people realize, but he’s still a Land Warrior, a strong and stocky power forward that averaged 10.3 points and 8.2 boards. His guardian is an agent, so he’ll have the best information possible, the question is whether or not he’s OK heading to the next level as a likely second round pick.

Isaiah Briscoe and Marcus Lee, Kentucky: Lee seems to want to head to the professional ranks, but the problem is that he’s just not quite good enough to get to the NBA. That’s at least what NBA minds believe, so the question is whether or not Lee will kickstart his pro career or return and try to improve enough to get picked next season. Briscoe is a more interesting case. He was a terrible shooter as a freshman and likely wouldn’t get picked this season. But he’ll play behind both De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk if he returns to Kentucky, so his chances to showcase his improvement will be limited. Is he OK with potentially being a three-year player for the Wildcats?

Malik Newman, Mississippi State: Newman looked to be a surefire one-and-done player for Ben Howland. Then he got to college and he wasn’t even the best freshman guard on his own team. He’s a second round pick at best if he opts to remain in the draft, and the safe bet is that is what he’ll end up doing.

Chinanu Onuaku, Louisville: The standard belief is that Onuaku would head to the NBA this season. He’s got a chance to be a first round pick this year, but the process is drawing out. There’s still a shot, but if I’m a Louisville fan, I wouldn’t expect to see him in the Yum! Center anytime soon.

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.