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What’s the matter with No. 13 Oregon?

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A day after the Ducks needed to rally just to keep the final score respectable in a loss to Georgetown, who were four days removed from a home loss to Arkansas State, No. 13 Oregon needed a three from the recently-returned Dillon Brooks in overtime to avoid succumbing to a Tennessee team picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC this season.

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The final score was 69-65, which was unquestionably a better result than the 66-49 loss that the Ducks suffered at the hands of Baylor last week, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of performance that would remind people why Oregon entered the season as one of a handful of national title favorites.

It begs the question: What is wrong with Oregon? The way I see it, there are four problems that Dana Altman has to find a way to deal with:

 

1. Tyler Dorsey and Dana Altman aren’t on the same page: Dorsey entered the season as a guy a lot of people expected to have something close to a breakout season. He was a promising freshman, averaging over 13 points, that can be favorably compared to Joseph Young, who had so much success under Altman. With the pieces that the Ducks lost to graduation and without Brooks in the lineup for the first three games of the season, it only made sense that Dorsey would see a lot of shots and score a lot of points.

Only, it didn’t work out that way.

Dorsey had 21 in the season-opening win against Army, but he’s yet to break double-figures since then. In the last four games, he’s 10-for-37 from the floor (27.0%) and 2-for-13 from three (15.4%) while averaging just 6.5 points. Those two aren’t on the same page, and whether that’s a result of Dorsey being unhappy with his role in the offense or Altman being unable to find a way to utilize his ability, the bottom line is that Dorsey is not the player that we expected him to be.

That’s a problem because …

2. … we under estimated how much losing Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook would hurt: Cook and Benjamin were seniors that stood 6-foot-6, were as athletic as anyone in the country and could guard – and play – multiple positions. They were so important in giving Altman the kind of lineup versatility that made Oregon so effective last season, and the Ducks simply don’t have anyone to fill that role this season.

The other part of it?

Cook was Oregon’s second-leading scorer last season at 14.8 points. Benjamin averaged 7.8 points off the bench. That’s more than 22 points per game that left, 28 percent of Oregon’s scoring from last season, which is why we have to ask …

3. … who is going to get buckets for Oregon?: We thought it was going to be Dorsey. We thought he was going to be the guy that buoyed Oregon’s offense early in the year, and that clearly hasn’t gone according to plan. Chris Boucher is an intriguing talent because of his unique skill-set, but offensively he’s a guy that needs to be set up, either for an open three-pointer or a dunk at the rim. Jordan Bell’s the same way, except he’s not knocking down many threes. Casey Benson isn’t a guy that looks to score, he’s a facilitator through and through. Payton Pritchard is a freshman that needs a year before he’s a focal point offensively. Dylan Ennis might be Oregon’s best offensive weapon right now and he’s a sixth-year senior that missed last season with a foot injury who has never averaged double-figures in his collegiate career.

Oregon is playing pretty good defense this season, much better than what they did last year. But they’re not scoring. Against Baylor, they mustered 49 points (0.817 PPP). Against Georgetown, they scored 61 points (0.859 PPP). Against Tennessee, they finished at 0.851 PPP. Those are the kind of numbers that Virginia’s record-setting defense would allow to good opponents, which should give you an idea of just how bad the Ducks have been.

An answer may be coming, however, because …

4. … Dillon Brooks isn’t right yet: This one is obvious, right?

Brooks missed the first two weeks of the season with a foot injury that had kept him out since July. He had eight points in 13 minutes against the Hoyas and went for 17 points in the win over Tennessee in 25 minutes. He looks a little rusty and a step slow, like he hasn’t played basketball in about four months. He should be back to his normal, all-american self in time.

The question for the Ducks is just how many of these question marks Brooks will answer.

He’ll make them more effective on the offensive end of the floor – that’s what happens when you plug in a guy that can get you 25 points on any given night – but is his presence the difference between a team that can win the Pac-12 and a team that was a possession away from playing Chaminade for last place in the Maui Invitational?

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.