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SATURDAY’S SNACKS: Villanova, Kansas and Baylor protect No. 1 seed with wins

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SATURDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

The NCAA tournament men’s basketball selection committee unveiled its top 16 seeds at this current point in the season. In the televised event, defending champion Villanova was given the current No. 1 overall seed while one notable major power conference didn’t have any top-16 seeds. We have more on this here.

Speaking of Villanova, they went on the road to play Xavier and won convincingly to help head coach Jay Wright win his 500th game. I have more on how the Wildcats have been really tough to stop offensively with the emergence of new scorer.

Another one of those No. 1 seeds is Gonzaga, the No. 1 team in the country that now looks like a sure-bet to get to undefeated during the regular season. If you didn’t already think this was a team that can win the national title, a 10-point win at Saint Mary’s should convince you.

The Big East had an interesting start to the afternoon that saw Georgetown beat Marquette and St. John’s upset Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles and Pirates are fighting for a spot in the Field of 68 while the Hoyas are trying to win enough to be in bubble consideration. More on this in Bubble Banter.

Freshman Josh Jackson had one of the best games of the year to help lead No. 3 Kansas to a tight road win over Texas Tech. I have more on why Jackson’s game is important to Kansas down the stretch.

No. 9 Arizona remained in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 on Saturday thanks to a tough home win over a better-than-you-realize Cal team. No. 5 Oregon was given a fight by USC on the road, but they shook off their collapse against UCLA on Thursday to beat the Trojans.

Luke Kennard had 25 points to help lead No. 18 Duke to a two-point win over Clemson. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on why the Blue Devils have a glaring issue that is starting to hurt them.

No. 14 Florida State went into South Bend and got worked over by Notre Dame, who seemed to take umbridge with the fact that they were dropped out of the top 25 this week.

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STARRED

J.J. Frazier, Georgia — Frazier finished with 29 points and six assists as Georgia went into Knoxville and knocked off a Tennessee team that is still fighting for their spot on the bubble.

Josh Jackson, Kansas — Frank Mason fouled out with a few minutes left and only played 26 minutes for Kansas on Saturday. So Jackson took over. The freshman played all 40 minutes and knocked in the game-winning free throw as he had a career-high 31 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Jackson was 12-for-15 from the field and very efficient. He willed the Jayhawks to victory.

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: The undersized four went up against one of the biggest front lines in the country for No. 14 Florida State and put up 33 points and 13 boards.

Johnathan Motley, Baylor — Keeping pace with the Jayhawks was Baylor as Motley also had himself a great afternoon. Motley finished with 25 points and seven rebounds as he was 12-for-15 from the field.

Tadric Jackson, Georgia Tech — Jackson scored 29 points for the Yellow Jackets in a come-from-behind win over Boston College that kept Josh Pastner’s club in the conversation for an NCAA tournament bid.

RELATED: Get caught up on all of today’s bubble action

REST OF THE TOP 25

  • It took a second-half rally but No. 4 Louisville held off Miami for an ACC home win. Deng Adel and Donovan Mitchell both finished with 18 points. Point guard Quentin Snider finished with 13 points after missing six games with injury.
  • Convincing home win for No. 6 Baylor over TCU as the Bears attempt to keep pace with Kansas in the Big 12 race. The Bears had a really good game from Johnathan Motley in this one as he tallied 25 points.
  • In a game that was tied at halftime, No. 13 West Virginia outscored Kansas State by 19 in the second half to pull away with a Big 12 home win. Junior guard Jevon Carter had 19 points and nine rebounds.
  • There was a late rally that put a scare into No. 15 Kentucky but they ultimately pulled away for an SEC road win at Alabama. Malik Monk had a so-so shooting game but still managed 17 points.
  • A big second-half run gave No. 17 Florida a home SEC win over Texas A&M. Justin Leon paced the Gators with 18 points while John Egbunu had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
  • No. 21 Maryland held off Ohio State at home thanks to a terrific first half. The Terps had lost back-to-back games to fall out of the Big Ten title race.
  • Just hours after being listed as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament selection show preview, No. 22 Butler went out and lost at Providence.
  • Easy win for No. 23 Creighton as they rolled past DePaul for a Big East road win. The Bluejays had five players finish in double-figures, led by Toby Hegner’s 14 points.

NOTABLE

  • Minnesota did what they were supposed to do and beat Rutgers on the road. Sophomore Jordan Murphy led the Golden Gophers with 17 points while also unleashing a poster dunk.
  • Playing the role of potential spoiler was Pitt as they beat Syracuse at home. The Orange had won five straight games but the Panthers were led by 22 points from Cameron Johnson and 21 points from Michael Young.
  • Another embarrassing loss for N.C. State as they lost by 30 on the road at Wake Forest. Since winning at Duke, the Wolfpack have dropped five consecutive games — three by 20 or more points. Center John Collins continued his stellar stretch with 23 points and seven rebounds.
  • After earning an important road win at Northwestern earlier this week Illinois lost by double-digits at home to Penn State. The Illini have lost seven of nine games and head coach John Groce’s job could be in trouble. Payton Banks led the Nittany Lions with 24 points.

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.