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College Hoops Weekend Preview: Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Charleston Classic, Tire Pros Invitational



Hall Of Fame Tip-Off: For my money, this is the best of the bracketed events this November. No. 1 Duke will head to Mohegan Sun where, after playing an opening round game against a Penn State team that lost to Albany, the Blue Devils will get the winner of No. 21 Cincinnati and No. 24 Rhode Island. And not only will Duke fans be in attendance, but the casino’s arena is about an hour from URI’s campus, meaning that Rhody’s fan base should be there in full force, making the environment of the building pretty awesome.

Tire Pros Invitational: Perhaps the most interesting game of the weekend will come in the semifinals of the Tire Pros event in Orlando, as No. 11 Xavier, who struggled with Missouri in the opener, faces off with a Clemson team who is legitimately good this season and who will have the best player on the floor in Jaron Blossomgame. The winner of that game will get the winner of Northern Iowa and Oklahoma, as the former beat the brakes off of Arizona State on Thursday night. The final will be played on Sunday afternoon.

Charleston Classic: No. 3 Villanova is the big name in this event. They’ll play Wake Forest on Friday afternoon for the right to get to the title game, which will feature the winner of UCF and Charleston. UCF is the intriguing team to keep an eye on here. They mollywhopped Mississippi State on Thursday night thanks to a 26-point, 12-rebound performance from 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall. Might the Golden Knights be a sleeper to track this season? We’ll certainly get a sense of that if they get a chance to square off with the defending national champions.

2K Classic: The cool thing about this event is that four teams entered that we really didn’t know much about. Pitt, SMU and Michigan hadn’t really played anyone, while Marquette had pasted Vanderbilt earlier in the year. Well, low and behold, while SMU and Pitt both looked solid in the opener last night, Marquette was on the wrong end of a beatdown from Michigan. Were the Wolverines for real or will they get a wake-up call against SMU?

Paradise Jam: The quarterfinal matchups for the Paradise Jam are kind of whatever, but Saturday’s semifinals have the chance to be pretty tasty, assuming that N.C. State and Creighton can get past Montana and Washington State, respectively. The Wolfpack and the Bluejays have two of the nation’s best back courts while Dennis Smith Jr. of N.C. State has a chance to be a top five pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. If all goes to plan, we’ll get a title game between one of those teams and Ole Miss, who is seemingly under-the-radar every year.

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1. Does Duke get their guys back?: The Blue Devils are making the trek from New York City up to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, to partake in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Is this the first chance that we are going to get to see the Blue Devils playing at full strength? Probably not, because there’s little-to-no-chance that Harry Giles III is in anything other than a suit at the end of the bench before the start of ACC play.

But at this point, I’m of the mindset that we need to start thinking about ‘Duke at full strength’ as Duke with Marques Bolden and Jayson Tatum in action. If Giles does happen to return, I would expect him to be on a Joel Embiid-esque “pitch count”. Tatum sprained his foot in late October and Bolden suffered a “lower-leg injury” in early November. Neither of the injuries were considered too serious, but both of those players were dressed in matching pall-bearer suits at the Champions Classic – along with Giles, the trio looked like bizarro world B2K – and it’s unclear if they’ll be in action this weekend. Even without a full squad, Duke looked the part of the national title favorites on Tuesday night.

2. What about Dayton’s health?: I really feel for the Flyer program. They’re heading into this weekend’s games against No. 17 Saint Mary’s – and, potentially, next week’s Wooden Legacy tournament in Anaheim – likely missing three key pieces. Josh Cunningham took a nasty fall against Alabama on Tuesday, Kendall Pollard has a thigh issue that he’s still working through and, last summer, they tragically had their starting center Steve McIlvene pass away. This is a team that entered the offseason with Sweet 16 potential, and it pains me to see them miss out on opportunities to take their mind off the loss of a friend and teammate.

3. This is the chance for the Gaels to prove themselves: That said, this game becomes all the more important for Saint Mary’s. The Gaels missed out on the NCAA tournament last season because they simply didn’t play enough games outside the state of California or enough quality opponents in the non-conference. A game at Dayton is going to be a good win on paper in March regardless of who is on the roster when they play. This is the chance that the Gaels needed to beef up their résumé to try and lock in an at-large birth to the NCAA tournament.

4. Who is the best team in the state of Texas?: Entering the year, everyone thought it would be Texas, who has been good but not great through the first week of the season. SMU has actually looked better than the Longhorns, picking off Pitt in the 2K Sports Classic on Thursday night. The Mustangs get Michigan in the title game late on Friday, which will come after we see Texas A&M face off with a good USC team in College Station. That should give us a good feel of what to expect from the Aggies, but we already know what to expect this season from Baylor, who looked fantastic in a win over Dillon Brooks-less No. 4 Oregon.

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.