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2016-17 College Basketball Coaches on the Hot Seat

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The hot seat is a difficult place for head coaches to be, but it’s not a death-knell for anyone’s tenure within a program.

For the last three years, the man at the top of the NBCSports.com Hot Seat list managed to hold onto his job for at least another year. Rick Barnes got Texas back to the NCAA tournament in 2014 before eventually parting ways with the Longhorns in 2015. Mark Turgeon and Melo Trimble brought Maryland back to national relevancy with a terrific year in 2014-15 and Tom Crean’s Big Ten regular season title got him some relief from the Indiana fan base this past year. 

If there is someone that would fall into that category on this year’s list, it is probably Steve Alford, who has drawn the ire of the UCLA fan base but who has a roster talented enough to get the Bruin faithful to chill out.

Here are the high-major head coaches whose name you could hear pop-up during the Coaching Carousel this spring.

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DO NOT SIT DOWN

Johnny Jones: Jones hasn’t been horrible at LSU. He is 80-51 overall, he reached the NCAA tournament in 2014-15 and he’s never finished below .500 in the SEC. The latter could easily change this year, which is a problem considering that the biggest red flag with Jones is that LSU perennially feels like an underachiever. Last season, he had No. 1 pick Ben Simmons averaging 19 points, 12 boards and five assists and couldn’t get to the NCAA tournament. That’s a bad look.

Kim Anderson: Anderson has six SEC wins in his two years as the head coach of the Missouri Tigers. He’s 19-44 overall, and given the amount of turnover within the program – 11 of the 12 players in the 2013 and 2014 Missouri recruiting classes have transferred or been dismissed from the team – it doesn’t look at if this year will be much different. Throw in a new athletic director, and the former Division II national title-winner has an uphill battle to climb.

Richard Pitino: Part of Pitino’s issue is that he hasn’t been winning. After an NIT title in his first year, he finished 10th in the Big Ten during his second season and went 8-23 and 2-16 in the league last season. That’s bad, but what makes the situation all-the-more dire is that his program has dealt with a myriad of off-the-court issues of late. Sexual assault allegations. Arrests for domestic violence. The Gophers even had a player’s phone get hacked and a sex tape involving multiple team members get released onto social media. Should I mention that the AD that hired him – Norwood Teague – was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal?

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Richard Pitino (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Richard Pitino (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Orlando Antigua: In two seasons at USF, Antigua is 17-48 overall and just 7-29 in the American, and it doesn’t look like the Bulls will be much better this season. If that wasn’t enough, the NCAA is investigating an academic matter that already cost Oliver Antigua, Orlando’s brother, his job as an assistant coach.

Jim Christian: Building a program up from the bottom of the ACC is not an easy thing to do, particularly when you’re Boston College. The Eagles are a college program in a pro sports town in a conference that’s centered 850 miles to the south. I get it. But the Eagles are 20-44 under Christian and 4-32 in ACC play, having lost to 20 consecutive ACC opponents. The only reason BC’s record isn’t uglier is that the Eagles somehow won four straight games to close out the 2014-15 regular season. Can Christian survive another year where his best player’s best memories of playing in the program involve going out to eat?

THEY REALLY NEED A BIG YEAR

Steve Alford: A good year for most programs is probably defined as finishing in the top third of the regular season standings, earning a tournament bid and picking up a win against the program’s biggest rival. That’s not a good year at UCLA. That’s essentially what Alford did for his first two seasons with the Bruins, and that didn’t prevent him from drawing the ire of the influencers in that fanbase despite the fact that he’s recruiting as well as anyone on the west coast.

Coming off of a 15-17 season with a team that has an ideal combination of quality veteran players and super-talented freshmen with a chance to make the jump to the NBA, the Bruins, on paper, look like Pac-12 title contenders and a team that can get to the Final Four. Alford needs this team to be nationally relevant come March or he’s going to see more airplane banners and billboard trucks calling for his ouster.

John Groce: Groce went to the NCAA tournament in his first season with the Illini in 2012-13, but he’s missed the tournament the last three years and has still never recorded an above-.500 season in Big Ten play. He’s been on the wrong end of some injury luck, however, and he actually has a team capable of making a run at an NCAA tournament berth. Throw in some recruiting momentum in the state, and Illinois seems to be trending in the right direction, at least for now.

POSITION RANKS: Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wings | Big Men

John Groce, (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)
John Groce, (AP Photo/Robin Scholz)

Pat Chambers: This will be year six for Chambers in Happy Valley and the best that he’s been able to muster is a 10th place finish in the league and a 7-11 conference record. That said, his best year with Penn State was last season and he’s managed to put together a couple of quality recruiting classes in a row. Six straight years without an NCAA tournament berth is difficult for any coach to overcome in a Power 5 conference, but at a program like Penn State – where basketball isn’t exactly the school’s focal point – trending up may be enough to get him one more year.

Mike Anderson: A longtime Arkansas assistant in the Nolan Richardson years, the plan was for Anderson to take over and bring back the glory years. In the five seasons he’s been in charge, the Razorbacks were nationally relevant just once, a run to the 2015 NCAA tournament’s second round. He has a chance to be very good with this group, led by seniors Moses Kingsley and Dusty Hannahs, but Anderson may need to return to the dance if he’s going to keep his dream job.

Bruce Weber: Weber took over for Frank Martin at a time when Kansas State had grown into national relevancy. He reached two straight NCAA tournaments to start his tenure, but has since gone 32-33 and just 13-23 in the Big 12. This year he has the pieces to make some noise in a league that’s wide-open after Kansas. Will anything short of a trip back to the tournament be enough to stave off a job change?

Jeff Lebo: Lebo has been at East Carolina for six years and has not made an NCAA tournament. In two seasons in the American, he’s 26-39 and just 10-26 in league play. The Pirates basketball program was not exactly a selling point in their pitch to the Big 12.

JUST DON’T BE TERRIBLE, OK?

Tim Miles: This is Miles’ fifth season at Nebraska. He’s only had one year with less than 18 losses and more than six league wins. That was in 2013-14, when the Huskers reached the NCAA tournament. He lost Shavon Shields and Andrew White this offseason. The Huskers are certainly back in a rebuilding mode, but they were also 10th nationally in attendance in 2015 and 11th in 2016. He’s one of college basketball’s most likable characters, popular with the media and still selling tickets. Be better than Rutgers and Minnesota, don’t get fired. It’s a mantra everyone in the Big Ten can live by.

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Lorenzo Romar: Romar hasn’t had a problem landing talent at Washington. He has had five players picked in the first round in the last five years. The issue has been winning: he hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament in any of those five years, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll dance this year even with potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz on the roster. But there’s more: Romar has landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr., a top five player in the Class of 2017, and hired Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach. Will that be enough to save his job if Fultz isn’t enough to get the Huskies back to playing in March?

Brad Brownell: It’s been five years since Brownell has gotten Clemson into the NCAA tournament, but this may be the year that he gets it done. As a member of a loaded ACC, he has a couple of critical transfers getting eligible and got a boost when Jaron Blossomgame opted to return to school for his senior season.

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

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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.