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Five Takeaways from No. 10 Louisville’s win over No. 6 Kentucky

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Quentin Snider put on for his city.

One of just two Cardinals from Louisville, Snider went for 22 points, six boards and five assists as No. 10 Louisville made a statement with a 73-70 win over their archrival, No. 6 Kentucky.

It was Louisville’s first second marquee win of the season, and it dropped the Wildcats to 2-6 in road openers under John Calipari.

Here are the five things we can takeaway from that game:

1. Louisville is a different team when their guards are making perimeter shots: That’s been the knock on them all season long. Entering Wednesday’s game, the trio of Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider and Deng Adel were shooting under 32 percent from three and none of the three were shooting better than 37 percent from the floor, and that’s after they had spent the last couple of weeks actually knocking down jumpers.

On Wednesday, the Cards shot 6-for-14 from beyond the arc, which was, percentage-wise, their best three-point shooting performance of the season. But it was also the most promising because none of the threes they shot were forced and all three of those guards knocked down a pair. They were able to get to the rim and make plays off the bounce, in part because Kentucky had to respect that five of those threes went in in the first half.

Also promising?

On a night where the Cardinals went 5-for-11 from deep in the first half, they attempted just three second half threes.

2. Quentin Snider had himself a day: Entering the season, all the talk surrounding this Louisville team was about how good Mitchell and Adel had the potential to be; some of it was about how they could end up being good enough to make up for the fact that the Cardinals were starting Snider at the point. Entering this game, the talk was about De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and how in the world were the Louisville guards going to be able to deal with that duo.

And by the middle of the second half on Wednesday, the story was Snider, whose 22 points were a career-high. He was the best player on the floor for either team, which isn’t hyperbole and is about the most shocking thing to come out of this game. That’s not because Snider isn’t good – we’ve seen him have big games before – but more that he’s never found a way to be much more than a tease.

This is what I mean: Last season, Snider went for 20 points on two different occasions. The games were about two weeks apart, and came in the middle of a seven-week stretch where they were the only two games in which he cracked double-figures. Snider had a slow-start to this season, but he’s scored at least nine points in every game for the last month, he’s averaging 16.7 points in his last three and has hit at least two threes in each of his last four games.

And he capped it with this performance.

If he can be a guy that is a consistent source of offense and perimeter shooting, it takes a whole lot of the burden off of Adel and Mitchell.

Speaking of Deng Adel: He had himself a day as well, finishing with a career-high 18 points in what was a breakout performance for the sophomore. He’s been a guy that’s run hot and cold this season. You can see the talent that he has when he plays like he did on Wednesday which is why it’s frustrating to look at his numbers this season and see that he’s shooting 35.5 percent from the floor and 28.9 percent from three.

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 21: Deng Adel #22 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at KFC YUM! Center on December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Deng Adel (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. Spin zone!: Let’s take this loss for Kentucky in perspective:

  • The Wildcats were playing their first true road game of the season. It was the first true road game in the college career of four of their starters, including their superstar back court.
  • Malik Monk was off. He was 6-for-17 from the floor, 3-for-14 on jumpers and 1-for-9 from three on a night where Louisville’s defense kept him out of a rhythm and forcing tough jumpers off the dribble.
  • Bam Adebayo looked dominant when he got touches, but he also looked like a freshman playing on the road for the first time. He had a couple of sloppy turnovers, he got burned in ball-screen actions on Louisville’s final two field goals and he was 1-for-6 from the free throw in the second half.
  • As a team, Kentucky shot 19-for-29 from the line.
  • As a team, Louisville shot 42.1 percent from three. They entered the game 248th nationally in three-point percentage.

And despite all of that, Kentucky lost by just a single point to a top ten team on the road.

Losing this game damages Kentucky’s chances of getting a No. 1 seed, but it should only reinforce the idea that this team is more than good enough to win a national title.

4. Kentucky won’t hit their peak until they get more out of their supporting cast: I said it after the win against North Carolina and Kentucky fans crushed me for it, but I’ll say it again: Kentucky needs to get more out of players not named Fox or Monk, particularly offensively. They combined to create 87 of Kentucky’s 103 points against North Carolina, which is terrific when they’re rolling and a red flag on the nights they’re not.

It looked, early on, like that was going to be Bam Adebayo’s breakout game. He had 10 points midway through the second half and was 5-for-5 from the floor with a trio of absolutely monstrous dunks, but that dissipated down the stretch as Bam missed free throws and was left in the dust when he switched on Louisville’s guards. He’ll get there, but he’s not quite there yet. Isaiah Briscoe played a really good floor game – he had five boards, three assists and helped shut down Mitchell – but that’s who he is against this level of competition. Kentucky can’t hold out hope he’s going to average 18 points against teams that can match his size and strength.

To me, the answer is either Derek Willis or Mychal Mulder. Both of those guys are snipers from beyond the arc, which will help create more space in the half court. Willis already rotates with Wenyen Gabriel at the four, but Mulder played the first really meaningful minutes of his career against the Cardinals. It worked, as he hit a pair of triples in nine minutes of action.

Whoever it ends up being, Kentucky needs to find another consistent source of points outside of their big two.

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 21: Bam Adebayo #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on December 21, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bam Adebayo (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

5. We need to consider Louisville an ACC title contender: They’ve been terrific defensively all season long. There’s a reason they entered Wednesday night as the No. 1 team in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, and they’re not going to drop after holding the Wildcats before 1.0 points-per-possession. But with the way that their guards played on Wednesday – and the way that trio has been playing of late – maybe they’re not as much of a liability as we thought.

But that’s not the only reason.

Duke is in something close to disarray right now. Grayson Allen is tripping people again, Luke Kennard is telling reporters that the team isn’t about winning and Harry Giles III has yet to get himself into a rhythm. North Carolina looks to be damn good, but there’s nothing about them that says they’re markedly better than Louisville, if at all.

And Louisville has that defense, and man, is that defense good.

Rick Pitino has so many different looks that he uses. Sometimes it’s a man-to-man press. Sometimes it’s a 2-2-1 press. Sometimes they trap in the back court. Sometimes they fall back into a man and sometimes it’s a 2-3 zone. Sometimes that half court defense changes midway through a possession. Sometimes the Cardinals are playing man on one side of the court and zone on the other.

It’s not easy to figure out, and that’s before you factor in the crazy amount of length and athleticism that the Cardinals have up and down their lineup.

This is a good team that seems to be peaking at the right time.

 

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.