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20 Bold Predictions for the 2016-17 College Basketball Season

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Here are our 20 bold predictions for the 2016-17 college basketball season.

Wisconsin won’t make the NCAA tournament’s second weekend: The Badgers return all five starters from a team that made the Sweet 16 last season, but the Big Ten is weaker this season and the rest of college basketball is stronger. Wisconsin won’t be as battle-tested heading into the postseason. (Scott Phillips)

Villanova becomes the first repeat national champion since the Florida Gators from a decade ago: Sure Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu are huge loses, not just from a production standpoint but a leadership one. However, Jay Wright has Josh Hart, a national player of the year candidate, and a versatile lineup that can bring home a second straight title. (Terrence Payne)

Creighton wins the Big East: Villanova has to deal with the pressure of wearing the crown and Xavier drops a game or two they shouldn’t, clearing the path for Creighton and their huge home court advantage to leapfrog both. (Travis Hines)

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Maryland wins at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title: I’m not enamored with any of the four teams most have pegged at the top of the Big Ten: Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin. I’m not necessarily enamored with Maryland, either, but I do think that Melo Trimble is going to be a problem this year. He averages 20 points and six dimes and the Terps shine. (Rob Dauster)

Texas Tech will finish second in the Big 12: The Red Raiders were a surprising NCAA tournament team last season and they return most of last season’s core. With the rest of the Big 12 outside of Kansas having a significant amount of question marks, Texas Tech has a chance to make a major move. (SP)

AMES, IA - JANUARY 18: Monte Morris #11 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates after scoring a three point basket in the second half of play against the Oklahoma Sooners at Hilton Coliseum on January 18, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 82-77 over the Oklahoma Sooners. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
Monte Morris (David Purdy/Getty Images)

Monte’ Morris becomes the national player of the year: Not much of a bold prediction considering that he’s the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and an All-American candidate, but I think he could be the best player in college hoops this year. He doesn’t turn the ball over, we know that. But like Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne, two former Steve Prohm point guards, I think we’ll see a big increase in his points per game. (TP)

The Big Ten will be contested by three or more teams heading into the final week: Wisconsin and Michigan State are the prohibitive favorites but Purdue and Ohio State will be right there going into the league tournament. (TH)

N.C. State reaches the Elite 8: When it comes to the talent on the roster, I’m not sure that are ten teams better on paper than the Wolfpack. Dennis Smith Jr. will be a star and Omer Yurtseven will be a first round pick. The shooters on the perimeter makes shots and Abdul-Malik Abu plays his role, this team matches up with anyone. Can Mark Gottfried get them that far? (RD)

Mustapha Heron will be one of the five most productive freshmen in college basketball: The Auburn freshman wasn’t selected to any of the major spring high school all-star games, but with a starting role in a weaker power conference, Heron could put up big numbers. (SP)

Both Chattanooga and UT Arlington, not only make the tournament, but pull off upsets: We’re bound for upsets this March. We know that. But I think the Mocs and the Mavericks will be two of this year’s Cinderellas. Kevin Hervey and UT Arlington was 13-2 and had defeated Ohio State and Memphis. Then he tore his ACL. Little Rock went onto win the Sun Belt and upset Purdue. UT Arlington brings back everyone from a 24-win team. Chattanooga, a tournament team from a season ago, will have its hands full with EasteTennessee State, but I still give the Mocs the edge. They bring back four starters and Casey Jones, the 2015 SoCon Player of the Year, who missed all of last year. (TP)

Austin Nichols will be ACC Player of the Year: There are more talented players in the conference, but Nichols is positioned perfectly to put up big numbers for a good team. (TH)

Virginia Athletics
Austin Nichols, courtesy Virginia Athletics

By March, we’ll be talking about Duke as the best team in the one-and-done era: Harry Giles III comes back healthy to contribute 20 minutes a night, Grayson Allen adjusts to more of a lead guard role and Jayson Tatum ends up being a better version than Brandon Ingram was last season. (RD)

Florida will become a consistent top 25 team: Things were up-and-down in Mike White’s first year but Kasey Hill was great at the end of the last season and Devin Robinson, KeVaughn Allen and John Egbunu give the Gators enough talent to once again be a major threat. (SP)

Whoever loses the February 11th game between Georgia Tech and Boston College will go winless in the ACC: Boston College went 0-18 in league. ACC is absolutely brutal this year. Twelve teams have a realistic shot to make the NCAA Tournament, which only limits the amount of wins for the Yellow Jackets and Eagles. (TP)

Kansas will go 18-0 in Big 12 play: The Jayhawks have a near-impenetrable homecourt advantage and the rest of the league will be down significantly, making their 13th-straight title their most definitive. (TH)

Malik Monk will be a top five pick: Come March, it will be evident that Monk is the best player on Kentucky. His shot selection will improve on a more talented team, he’ll consistently make jumpers and his athleticism will have teams salivating over finding the “Next Russell Westbrook”. (RD)

Conference USA will have more NCAA tourney contenders than the Mountain West: After sending only one team to the NCAA tournament in 2016, things don’t look much better for the Mountain West in 2017. Conference USA has UAB and Middle Tennessee returning a lot while Western Kentucky could be intriguing. (SP)

Virginia Tech wins at least a share of the ACC regular season title: I’m high on the Hokies, and you should be too. They bring back essentially everyone (Kerry Blackshear may be out for the year with an injury) and could really surprise people in the ACC standings. Duke has some injury concerns, Virginia lost Malcolm Brogdon (18.2 points per game is a lot in that offense) and while Louisville has a high ceiling, it’s dependent on sophomores making big jumps. (TP)

St. Mary’s makes it to February undefeated: The Gaels will have to get by Dayton on the road in November and Gonzaga in January, but they’ve got the personnel and experience to get it done. (TH)

All four No. 1 seeds get to the Final Four: Just like in 2015, there is a clear delineation between the best teams and the rest of the country, and one of those top teams – Oregon – will be dealing with an all-american that has a foot issue. (RD)

Malik Monk (Kentucky Athletics)
Malik Monk (Kentucky Athletics)

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.