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Previewing Tuesday’s three great games

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Last season, on the first day after the college football playoff ended, we got one of the best regular season college basketball games we’ve ever seen.

Buddy Hield scored 46 points as Oklahoma, who was No. 1 in the AP Poll, lost in triple-overtime at Kansas, who was No. 1 in the Coaches Poll. It was a perfect way to kick off the post-college football section of the college hoops season, and given the success that they had with it last year, it’s not hard to assume that schedule-makers tried to tap into the same success this year.

No. 3 Kansas will be paying a visit to Oklahoma tonight, the only problem being that the Sooners stink and will be playing without Jordan Woodard.

So that didn’t workout.

RELATED: Get caught up on college hoops

But we did happen to luck into three sensational basketball games thanks to Baylor becoming the No. 1 team in the country, Florida State turning into a top ten ball club and Grayson Allen and Coach K playing out the Duke as if it were a bingeable show on NetFlix.

Let’s take a look at Tuesday night’s awesome slate:

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No. 1 Baylor at No. 10 West Virginia, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

For the first time in the history of the Baylor basketball program, the Bears will play a game as the No. 1 team in the country. The problem? The day after they finally received that ranking, undefeated Baylor looks to be a prime candidate to suffer their first loss of the regular season. Morgantown is not an easy place to win basketball games, not when the No. 1 team in the country comes to down and not with the way WVU’s press operates in front of 14,000 frenzied West Virginians that want nothing more than to belt out “Country Roads” after a win.

And that’s going to be the key for Baylor. How do they handle Press Virginia? This is a team that ranks 125th nationally in turnover percentage, a team that wants to play at a methodical, possession-by-possession pace. West Virginia is going to throw wave after wave of bodies at them to try and get them uncomfortable, force turnovers and turn the game into a ragged mess.

The key for Baylor, to me, isn’t just point guard Manu Lecomte, it’s Ishmail Wainwright, Al Freeman and Jake Lindsey. To break this press they need more than just one guy to show up, and those are the three that are the best ballhandlers. If you can break WVU’s press, their half court defense is beatable.

  • PREDICTION: I do think West Virginia probably wins this game, but I think it ends up being close down the stretch. Baylor (+6) covers.
VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats shakes hands with head coach Chris Mack of the Xavier Musketeers after a game at the Pavilion on the campus of Villanova University on December 31, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

No. 15 Xavier at No. 3 Villanova, 7:00 p.m. ET (FS1)

The biggest talking point in this game is that the Musketeers finally get back Myles Davis, who missed the first 15 games of the season following a series of legal issues. Davis is important because A) he’s the best perimeter shooter on a team that has had some issues shooting the ball this season, and B) he’s a point guard that will allow Edmond Sumner a little more freedom to play off the ball.

He’s a piece this team has been lacking, which should tell you something about how good this team can be given that the Musketeers are still 13-2 overall and sitting at 3-0 atop the Big East.

Tonight’s test will not be easy, however. Villanova has lost seven Big East basketball games since Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins arrived on campus and 14 games total. Only two of those losses came at home. Last year, when Xavier made this trip, they were beaten by 31 points.

  • PREDICTION: Villanova is just not a good matchup for Xavier. Villanova (-8).

No. 7 Duke at No. 9 Florida State, 8:00 p.m. ET (ACC Network)

This is the most intriguing game of the night for a number of reasons.

  1. Coach K is not on the sideline, meaning that not only with Jeff Capel be taking this team on the road, he’ll be doing so against a top ten team that just beat the breaks off of Virginia Tech, who beat Duke by 14, and who won at Virginia.
  2. More concerning that the lack of Coach K, however, may actually be the lack of Amile Jefferson in the lineup. Jefferson has a bone bruise in his right foot, and as talented as Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden are, neither of them are anywhere near as sound defensively as Jefferson.
  3. At this point, we still don’t really know how good Florida State is. That win at Virginia looks great, but this isn’t the same Virginia team of the last three years. Beyond that, the Seminoles really haven’t done anything that would make you believe they are a legit ACC title contender. Beating Duke at home? That would be a pretty good sign.

These two teams actually matchup quite well, as both play lineups where potential top five picks with small forward skills – Jonathan Isaac and Jayson Tatum – play the four. There is talent up and down the back courts – Grayson Allen vs. Dwayne Bacon, Luke Kennard vs. Terrence Mann, Frank Jackson vs. Xavier Rathan-Mayes – and Florida State has enough size to at least contend with Duke’s bigs.

  • PREDICTION: The line keeps moving as money comes in on Florida State, but I’m still on the Noles if you can get them at (-2). Duke will have to win this game with defense, and I don’t think their defense is good enough to do that without Jefferson.

 

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.