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Five Takeaways as No. 6 Louisville knocks off No. 16 Indiana

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Fresh off of an embarrassing home loss to Virginia, No. 6 Louisville went into Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday and knocked off No. 16 Indiana, 77-62.

Donovan Mitchell played his best game of the season. Deng Adel looked like a guy that is good enough to be considered for an all-ACC team. Indiana? They lost their second-straight game and their fourth this season in the state of Indiana.

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

1. This is the Donovan Mitchell we expected to see this season: Donovan Mitchell was the guy everyone had pegged has a breakout player this season. The expectation that he would be a top 30ish player in the sport and an all-ACC guard is a major reason that the Cardinals were projected as a top ten team in the preseason. And through the first seven weeks of the season, Mitchell has been … a disappointment?

That’s probably going to far. Mitchell’s been fine. He wasn’t’ the one that put that burden of expectation on himself.

But however you want to phrase it, the bottom line is this: Mitchell entered Saturday averaging 11.5 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 35.7 percent from the floor and 28.8 percent from three. If the Cardinals are going to compete for an ACC title and a Final Four, he has to be better.

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He has to be the guy he was Saturday. Mitchell finished with 25 points and three assists off the bench, shooting 8-for-15 from the floor and 4-for-8 from three. He hit important threes. He attacked the rim in the half court. He made plays in transition. He was, as he usually is, a pest defensively, but it was the points that he created that mattered. We all saw the game against Virginia and we all saw how much Louisville can struggle to score, so we all know what Mitchell means when he plays like this.

2. Anas Mahmoud is a difference maker: Deng Adel is going to get much of the credit for Louisville’s run late in the first half that opened up a 12-point lead at the break, as he should. He hit a pair of threes in that run and had an assist to Jaylen Johnson for a dunk. He finished with 17 points and hit a trio of threes, which matters for the same reason Mitchell’s offense matters, but he wasn’t the second-best player on the floor for Louisville.

Anas Mahmoud was.

He finished with 10 points, three blocks, two steals and two assists, but it was his presence as much as anything that had an impact. His length makes him a difference-maker defensively, both in his ability to change shots at the rim and to create steals and deflections in Louisville’s zone and press. Offensively, he’s better than people will give him credit for. He has a soft touch in the paint and can pass out of the post and out of a double-team.

Saturday was Mahmoud’s first start of the season. I would be surprised if it was his last.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Anas Mahmoud #14 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Anas Mahmoud (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. The importance of Indiana’s early wins even more evident: The Hoosiers are going to head into the New Year having lost two straight and three straight games to teams that aren’t named Delaware State and Austin Peay. They’ve dropped a home game to Nebraska, who entered the game having lost six of their last eight, and fell at Fort Wayne earlier this season. They’re 10-4 on the season and, quite clearly, a team that is still trying to figure out what, exactly, they are.

There are a lot of teams in that spot right now. And like most of those teams, the Hoosiers are going to take a few more losses before the season is over.

But those other teams don’t have wins over Kansas and North Carolina in their back pocket. However this ends up playing out, those two wins give Indiana a much-higher seed floor than anyone else that will lose to Nebraska at home.

4. Indiana’s go to guy issues exposed: The knock on the Hoosiers all season has been that they lack a point guard and they lack a go-to guy that can create shots when their offense stalls, and that hasn’t been more evident than it was today against Louisville and the nation’s-best defense. The Hoosiers shot 32.2 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 14 times. Robert Johnson was 1-for-13. James Blackmon was just 3-for-8. Other than O.G. Anunoby, who was 6-for-10 and had three dunks, the Hoosiers as a team shots 26 percent. No one had more than two assists, and they assisted on just eight of their 19 field goals as a team.

The question Tom Crean has to answer is this: Who on his team makes others better, and how can he put them in a position to do just that?

5. Louisville suddenly looks like the favorite the ACC: On a day where North Carolina loses at Georgia Tech and Duke gets humiliated by Virginia Tech, the Cardinals beat Indiana in the state of Indiana, which, when combined with their win over Kentucky earlier this season, gives Louisville bragging rights in Kentuckiana and the look of a team that could end up winning the ACC title.

Granted, that’s likely going to require the Cardinals going into Charlottesville and beating a Virginia team that they haven’t been able to figure out in years. But if it really just is a matchup thing with UVA, if the Cavs find a way to drop games to lesser opponents that have the tools to breakdown their Pack-Line defense – like, oh, I don’t know, Florida State? – the Cards look like a team fully capable of taking advantage.

Now imagine what we would be saying if they hadn’t blown that 22-point lead to Louisville.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 31: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the Countdown Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on December 31, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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.