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No. 3 Villanova routs No. 15 Xavier as Hart, Jenkins score 20 apiece

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Kris Jenkins hit four threes and scored a team-high 20 points to lead five players in double-figures as No. 3 Villanova made something of a statement with a 79-54 win over No. 15 Xavier.

The Musketeers took a 24-16 lead at one point in the first half, but Villanova responded with a 23-4 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to blow the game open. The game was never in doubt in the second half.

Here are four things we can take away from yet another dominant Villanova win in The Pavilion:

1. It’s never going to be easy to win in The Pavilion: If anyone not named Villanova is going to win the Big East this season, they’re probably going to have to win at Villanova, and if there’s anything that we’ve learned over the course of the last three-and-a-half seasons, it’s that winning in Philly is not an easy thing to do when you’re not playing the 76ers.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have lost just seven Big East games in their careers; 14 games in total. Just two of those losses came at home, and both of those home losses came in the Wells Fargo Center – the NBA arena downtown – instead of the The Pavilion – the facility on campus. Villanova has never lost a home game out of conference, either, meaning that there is not a single player on Jay Wright’s roster that has ever lost a game in The Pavilion.

Xavier is a really good team, one that, with Myles Davis back in the lineup, has as much of an argument for being the second-best team in the league as Butler or Creighton.

And they still, for the second consecutive season, got utterly humiliated by Villanova in that building.

2. The Wildcats don’t need Josh Hart to play well to be great: Yes, Hart finished with 20 points, six boards and five assists, but the majority of his damage came after the game was more-or-less decided. I think even he would admit that he put up those numbers despite not playing his best basketball, and that’s a scary thing to think about with this team, because Josh Hart is the current leader in the clubhouse for the National Player of the Year award. On Tuesday night, it was Jenkins that carried the Wildcats early on, as he hit three of his four threes and sparked the run at the end of the first half.

And it was probably nice for Villanova fans to see Jenkins get into a rhythm again. After a somewhat slow start to the season, he’s hit for at least 20 points in three of the last four games and has at least three threes in all five of Villanova’s Big East games.

3. You can’t go small against Villanova: That’s their bread and butter. You don’t want to let them get their death lineup – Brunson, DiVincenzo/Booth, Bridges, Hart and Jenkins – on the floor without having to risk dealing with a big man on the interior. That’s precisely what Xavier did late in the second half, and it cost them. The Musketeers scored just 30 points in the final 28 minutes of the game, and on the night shot just 29.3 percent from the floor. Some of that are just the issues that Xavier has in their roster construction – we’ll get to that in a second – but much of that number is simply a result of Villanova’s effectiveness when they can switch every exchange without have to worry about Jalen Brunson ending up trying to guard a 6-foot-10 center in the post.

4. Xavier cannot fall into the trap of trying to be a three-point shooting team: They just simply don’t have enough good shooters to do it, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Philly. Xavier was 5-for-10 from three during the stretch when they opened up a 24-16 lead on Villanova. They finished the night going 6-for-32 from beyond the arc, meaning that in the final 28 minutes of the game, they shot 22 three-pointers and made just a single one.

That’s a problem. The return of Myles Davis – who was 0-for-4 in his first game back with the team after a 15-game suspension – should help solve that. His return should also help open up their half court offense as well, as he’s one of the best playmakers and facilitators on the roster. But his presence on the floor doesn’t change the fact that 28 threes were shot by his teammates.

And, quite frankly, if Xavier is going to try to win games that way, it’s not going to be all that effective.

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.