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New Faces in New Places: Ranking new head coaching hires

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The coaching carousel is always one of the more fascinating aspects to this sport, and 2016 provided plenty of intrigue in that regard.

The ripple effects of one coach or administrator are what’s truly interesting about this game of musical chairs.

One hiring, firing or retirement changes the lives of dozens of people. And the fate of a few basketball programs. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for further decline.

Here’s which ones we think are best set up to succeed with new coaches at the helm.

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1. Brad Underwood, Oklahoma State: The Cowboy faithful had long grown tired of Travis Ford as the program failed to meet expectations and then slumped toward the bottom of the Big 12, but they were perfectly positioned to go out and grab one of the most coveted names on the market, who also happens to be a perfect fit in Stillwater. All Underwood did at Stephen F. Austin was win, going 89-14 overall and 53-1 in conference over three years. He also knows the Big 12 landscape, having played at Kansas State and then coaching at his alma mater for six years under Bob Huggins and Frank Martin.

2. Tubby Smith, Memphis: Many were under the assumption that Smith headed to Texas Tech after getting fired from Minnesota to play out the string of his career in a Big 12 outpost, but Smith’s work at one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12 showed he’s still got what it takes to win at a high level. Now at Memphis, where winning is certainly easier but expectations are drastically higher, Smith will be tasked with taking a sixth program to the NCAA tournament. If he can do that in Lubbock, there’s no reason to think he can’t do that, and much more, in a proud and resource-rich program like the Tigers.

3. Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky: After a 14-year run at the head of Mississippi State, Stansbury spent the last two years under Billy Kennedy at Texas A&M, but has now re-emerged in Bowling Green and is already moving the needle. He got 2017 five-star Aggie commit Mitchell Robinson to pledge to the Hilltoppers this summer and then later nabbed four-star guard Josh Anderson. It’s apparent that Stansbury and Western Kentucky are simply going to overwhelm Conference USA with talent in the future. In the meantime, transfers Junior Lomomba of Providence and Que Johnson of Washington State will help steady the Hilltoppers this season.

4. Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt: In five seasons at his alma mater, Drew proved he was more than just the guy who hit one of the NCAA tournament’s most iconic shots or a legacy hire, going to two NCAA tournaments and winning 20 games, including 30 last year, in all but one season. He’s charged with reinvigorating a program fans felt stagnated at the end of Kevin Stallings’ 17-year tenure.

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  • 5. Travis Ford, Saint Louis: Ford flamed out at Oklahoma State because he couldn’t win with the talent that he brought into the program, and as a result, he lost the fan base. He’s already recruiting at a ridiculous level with the Billikens – he already has commitments from three top 100 players – and should have Saint Louis back in the mix in the Atlantic 10 sooner rather than later.
  • 6. Jamie Dixon, TCU: Dixon was brought in by his alma mater and has already hired a solid coaching staff that is making waves on the recruiting trail. TCU, located in the heart of the fertile Dallas-Fort Worth recruiting grounds, has the bonafides to be a player in the Big 12.
  • 7. Jared Haase, Stanford: Haase is a California native and Roy Williams protégé that had success at UAB before replacing Johnny Dawkins out west. His roster has some pieces on it, but the key for the Cardinal is going to be keeping everyone healthy.
  • 8. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers: When Pikiell was hired by Stony Brook, the Seawolves were a mess as a program. He left after building them into an America East powerhouse. Can he do the same at Rutgers?
  • 9. T.J. Otzelberger, South Dakota State: Otzelberger has been an assistant coach at Iowa State and Washington and was nearly named Fred Hoiberg’s replacement with the Cyclones.

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.