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Weekend Preview: A North Carolina showdown, Wisconsin-Purdue

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N.C. State at No. 14 North Carolina, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN): The best game of the weekend takes place in Chapel Hill as Dennis Smith Jr. will make his one and only trip to the Dean Dome. The Wolfpack are coming off what is, by far, their best performance of the season, a 104-78 mollywhopping of No. 21 Virginia Tech behind 27 points, 11 boards, 11 assists and five steals from Smith.

N.C. State is finally reaching full strength. Omer Yurtseven, a potential first round pick this season, missed the first nine games due to some amateurism issues while Maverick Rowan sat out much of the first month of the season with a concussion. With Smith playing the way he’s playing and the likes of Terry Henderson, Torin Dorn and Abdul-Malik Abu on the floor as well, Mark Gottfried’s got himself a squad that looks like it can make a run this year.

But just how much of a run?

As good as N.C. State looked on Wednesday night, they lost by 18 points in their ACC opener to a Miami team that looks to be headed for the bubble. Playing at UNC will be a nice test for them, and for the Tar Heels as well. UNC lost their ACC opener at Georgia Tech. They barely survived a trip to Clemson. Is the road in the ACC just that difficult, or are there real reasons to be worried about Roy Willaims’ club?

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No. 13 Wisconsin at No. 20 Purdue, Sat. 4:30 p.m. (CBS): This is a fascinating matchup of what appears to be the two best teams in the Big Ten this season. Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan has been absolutely fantastic through the first two months of the season, turning into a double-double machine. But Wisconsin has a pretty good good front court of their own, with Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. This game has serious Big Ten title implications, which I’ll get into later.

No. 21 Virginia Tech at No. 12 Florida State, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ACCN): First place in the ACC is on the line as the Seminoles, who are one of just two teams sitting at 2-0 in the league, host the Hokies. The last time we saw FSU take the floor was at Virginia, where Dwayne Bacon was scoring 26 second half points to lead them to a win in Charlottesville. The last time we saw Virginia Tech, they were getting beaten down by N.C. State on the road. FSU has the talent to push for a top four finish in the league, but if they are going to do so, they have to win games like this.


  • Clemson at No. 23 Notre Dame, Sat. 3:00 p.m. (ESPNU): The Tigers missed out on a massive opportunity to land a win over North Carolina on Wednesday. Can they get that back against one of the ACC’s two undefeated teams?
  • Tennessee at No. 24 Florida, Sat. 5:15 p.m. (ESPN2): Tennessee has been better than they’ve gotten credit for this season, while Florida may be the second-best team in the SEC.
  • Oklahoma State at No. 2 Baylor, Sat. 7:00 p.m. (ESPNNews): The way that Oklahoma State plays – a pressuring, half-court man-to-man – should give the Bears some trouble, as should their talented back court of Phil Forte and Jawun Evans.
  • Texas Tech at No. 3 Kansas, Sat. 7:15 p.m. (ESPN2): Kansas struggled to hold off Kansas State at home and couldn’t put away TCU on the road. Now they get the Red Raiders, who are coming off of a win over West Virginia.
  • Rhode Island at Dayton, Fri. 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2): A battle of the two-best teams in the Atlantic 10 this season.
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 04: Associate head coach Jeff Capel of the Duke Blue Devils watches during the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 4, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 110-57. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)


1. Jeff Capel’s first game: On Wednesday night, for the first time all season long, we saw the Duke team that we expected to see this season. Grayson Allen was running the point, Harry Giles III was starting at center and Coach K was on the sidelines. That will be the last time that we see that team for quite some time, as Krzyzewski will undergo surgery on Friday to repair an issue with a herniated disc in his back, meaning that associate head coach Jeff Capel will spend the next four weeks working as the interim coach.

Capel has some experience – he coached Blake Griffin at Oklahoma and he coached at VCU – but this next month could very well end up being his audition to eventually be Coach K’s replacement. He’ll get an easy opener, with Boston College coming to Cameron Indoor Stadium, but the road gets tougher after that, with visits to Florida State and Louisville on deck.

2. Can the Badgers take control of the Big Ten?: No. 13 Wisconsin will have a chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten title race on Sunday afternoon. If the Badgers go into Mackey Arena and beat No. 20 Purdue, Wisconsin will hold a two-game lead over both the Boilermakers and No. 25 Indiana, owning wins on both team’s home floor.

Since Nigel Hayes embraced the roll of playing point forward on Wisconsin’s return from the Maui Invitational, the Badgers have looked like the best team in the conference, with Indiana and Purdue right behind them. The other team to keep an eye on: Michigan State, who plays against Penn State on Saturday and who is also undefeated in the conference.

3. No. 25 Indiana has a get-right game: The Hoosiers have reached a crossroads this season. Having lost their last three games and the last four games they’ve played against teams not named Delaware State or Austin Peay, Indiana is currently sitting at 10-5 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten. A loss at home to Illinois on Saturday would drop them to 0-3 in the league with all three of those losses coming in Assembly Hall. If that happens, it will be fair to question if the Hoosiers, who have already beaten Kansas and North Carolina this season, might play their way back onto the bubble.

4. ACC teams looking to bounce-back: No. 9 Louisville, who has beaten Indiana, Purdue and Kentucky this season, is the only team in the ACC without a win yet this season. They’ll spend their Saturday at Georgia Tech, playing in the same building that North Carolina took a loss in last weekend. Meanwhile, No. 11 Virginia, who has lost two straight after winning at Louisville, will look to bounce back as they host Wake Forest.

5. Will the Big 12 have the nation’s No. 1 team?: For all the talk about how the Big 12 was going to be down this season, it looks like, on Monday morning, we’re going to have two teams from the conference sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in the national polls. Baylor, who is currently No. 2, hosts Oklahoma State while Texas Tech pays a visit to No. 3 Kansas. With No. 1 Villanova losing to Butler on Wednesday, there will be room for the two teams to move up, which begs the question: Do we all really think that Baylor is better than Kansas this year?

WACO, TX - JANUARY 04: Ishmail Wainright #24 of the Baylor Bears and King McClure #22 of the Baylor Bears celebrate with fans after beating the Iowa State Cyclones 65-63 at Ferrell Center on January 4, 2017 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Photo by Tom Pennington/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

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.