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College Basketball’s Under the Radar Stars

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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are taking a look at a few Under the Radar Stars heading into the 2016-17 season.

Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall: This could easily be Desi Rodriguez or Angel Delgado, but I think Khadeen Carrington can make a big jump this season as he fills the shoes of Isaiah Whitehead. One of the best two-way guards in the Big East averaged 14.1 points per game last year.

Troy Caupain, Cincinnati: The Cincinnati senior lead guard has be a consistent performer for Mick Cronin. Last season, Troy Caupain averaged 13.0 points and is the AAC’s top returning assist man at 4.8 per game.

Matt Daum, South Dakota State: You will likely hear his name quite a bit this season. The Jackrabbits are in a good position to return to the NCAA Tournament for the a second straight season. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 boards in less than 21 minutes as a freshman. He also shot 45 percent from three.

Vince Edwards, Purdue: Some of the Boilermakers on frontline last season could overshadow certain skyscrapers. But they can’t overshadow Vince Edwards, who continues to provide production for Purdue, averaging 11.3 points and 5.4 boards during 2015-16. With point guard play being a major issue for Purdue the past few seasons, Edwards has found himself leading the team in assists as a freshman and sophomore.

Marcus Evans, Rice: The 6-foot-4 sophomore guard could very well end up being the nation’s leading scorer, especially if he can prove upon his 30 percent 3-point shooting. He poured in 21.4 points per game and Conference USA in steals. Expect Evans to improve on his 2.8 assists per game, while also cutting down on the miscues.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are the faces of Wisconsin basketball. That makes sense. They were part of two Final Four teams, and both have made headlines off the court: Koenig traveling to the Standing Rock protest and Hayes’ public criticism of the NCAA. But when it’s all said and done, Ethan Happ will be the Badgers’ best player this season. The 6-foot-10 sophomore averaged 12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, recording 10 double-doubles last season.

Josh Hawkinson, Washington State: The Cougars are most likely finishing in the bottom of the Pac-12 standings again this season. But the 6-foot-10 senior is on the verge to averaging a double-double for the third season in a row. I think that is worth mentioning.

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
UT-Arlington’s Kevin Hervey (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Kevin Hervey, UT Arlington: Like Daum, Kevin Hervey enters this season as a mid-major star on the radar of NBA franchises. In 15 games, the 6-foot-8 forward was close to averaging double-double, putting up 18.1 points and 9.8 boards. He guided the Mavericks to back-to-back wins over Memphis and Ohio State. But then he tore his ACL, ending a promising season. All five starters are back, and by the time we get to March, the Mavericks could be a trendy upset pick.

Trey Kell, San Diego State University: The 6-foot-4 guard made quite the jump as a sophomore, especially during Mountain West Conference play. Trey Kell averaged 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from the field. Those points per game increased to 16.4 points a contest in league play. The first-team all-conference selection anchors the best team in the Mountain West.

Kyle Kuzma, Utah: The Utes lost plenty of talent, including lottery pick Jakob Poeltl, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor. The 6-foot-9 junior had three 20-point games last year. Big scoring games should be expected to happen on a more consistent basis this season.

Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech: Buzz Williams’ team is expected to have a breakout year this season. The Hokies have a deep and talented backcourt, but the frontline will rely heavily on Zach LeDay, especially if Kevin Blackshear doesn’t return due to a foot injury. In his first season in Blacksburg, LeDay, the 6-foot-7 South Florida transfer, averaged 15.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, Georgia: As a sophomore, Yante Maten made a major jump for Georgia. The 6-foot-8 forward was top-10 in the SEC in points, rebounds and blocks, averaging 16.5 points, 8.0 boards and 1.8 blocks per game. J.J. Frazier posted 16.9 points, 4.5 boards and 4.4 assists (1.6 turnovers per game) last season. He also shot 39 percent from three. The Bulldogs have two guys who could land them a top-3 finish in the SEC.

E.C. Matthews
Rhode Island’s E.C. Matthews (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: A potential breakthrough season for the Rams essentially ended 10 minutes into the 2015-16 season when EC Matthews tore his ACL. I hope fans didn’t forget about the 6-foot-5 lefty. As a sophomore, he averaged 16.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Voted as a preseason second-team, all-conference selection, E.C. Matthews will contend with Jack Gibbs for A10 Player of the Year honors.

Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s: An efficient guard on a talented offensive backcourt, Emmett Naar is a reason why the Gaels are beginning the season in the top-20. Naar, as a sophomore, averaged 14.0 points, 6.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game en route to first-team all-West Coast Conference honors.

Cameron Oliver, Nevada: The 6-foot-8 sophomore averaged a double-double in the Mountain West Conference Tournament and the CBI Tournament, which the Wolf Pack won. Oliver posted 13.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.

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.