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Coach of the Year Power Rankings: Miller, Drew, Wright and Few lead the way

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1. Sean Miller, Arizona: Let’s think about this for a second. As of today, Sean Miller has Arizona sitting in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, a league that counts three top ten teams as members, despite the fact that there are very few people that would think that the Wildcats are the best team in the conference (that would be Oregon) or the most dangerous team in the conference (hello, UCLA). And he’s doing that despite the fact that his best player, Allonzo Trier, missed the first 19 games of the season, his star recruit, Terrence Ferguson, went pro in Australia and last year’s star recruit, Ray Smith, tore his ACL for the third time. Should I mention that the Wildcats have as many question marks at the point guard spot as any elite team in the country, or that they rely heavily on a pair of freshmen – Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins – who can be labeled somewhere between inconsistent and erratic?

2. Scott Drew, Baylor: The Scott Drew Coach of the Year Campaign has hit a bit of a snag in the last three weeks, as the Bears have dropped two games off the pace in the Big 12 after losing three of their last five games, but that really shouldn’t put too much of a damper on what Drew has done with this group this season. Baylor is still a No. 1 seed in spite of their recent slump, and a win over Kansas on Saturday puts them right back into the Big 12 title race. Drew is doing all of this with a team of juniors and seniors, none of whom were considered program-changing talents when they got to school. Do people still think Scott Drew can’t coach?

3. Jay Wright, Villanova: Can the reigning national champs have a coach in the running for Coach of the Year? Yes, they can, when you consider that Villanova lost arguably the two most valuable players from last year’s team, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, and seem likely to end up playing this season without Phil Booth, who scored 20 points in the national title game. Should I mention that Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in Saturday’s bracket reveal despite the fact that they start either Darryl Reynolds or Eric Paschall at center?

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4. Mark Few, Gonzaga: I don’t care how good you are supposed to be or what the caliber is of the league that you play in, if you make it through an entire season undefeated, you belong in the conversation for National Coach of the Year. If you do it with a team that lost Domas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, where your top five scorers played a total of six games your team last season, you deserve to be near the top of that list.

5. Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech: No one expected Georgia Tech to do much of anything this season. Avoiding the ACC basement probably would have been considered a successful season. Instead, the Yellow Jackets are 15-10 overall and 6-6 in the ACC with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame, and if the NCAA tournament started to day, they would be in it.

6. Bill Self, Kansas: Self has the Jayhawks primed to win their 13th straight Big 12 title despite everything his team has gone through this season. They Udoka Azubuike for the season with a wrist injury, meaning that Landen Lucas is the only effective big man on their roster. Carlton Bragg Jr. has been a bust in between his two suspensions. The Jayhawks seem morally opposed to playing defense despite, which has a lot to do with the fact that the two mid-major recruits starting in their back court are the only two lead guards on the roster. This wouldn’t rank as one of Self’s best coaching performances – he has had a lot of those – but that shouldn’t diminish what he’s done with this team.

MORGANTOWN, WV - JANUARY 24:  Head coach Bob Huggins of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts to a call in the second half during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at WVU Coliseum on January 24, 2017 in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Bob Huggins (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

7. Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Huggins lost his leading scorer, his second-leading scorer and leading rebounder and the point-man in his press in the offseason and … the Mountaineers got better? Press Virginia has been more effective this season than in any season past, and if they hadn’t choked away a lead at Kansas on Monday night, he might be getting more attention for it.

8. Chris Collins, Northwestern: Collins is on the verge of doing something that no one has done in the history of college basketball: Get Northwestern into the NCAA tournament.

9. Mike White, Florida: Who had Florida as a team that could contend with Kentucky for the SEC title this season? Anyone? Bueller? That’s exactly where Mike White has this group in his second season at the helm.

10. Mike Brey, Notre Dame: Brey isn’t quite at the level of Bo Ryan and Tony Bennett just yet, but he’s quickly reaching the point where, when predicting how good the Irish will be, it’s less important to look at who the team lost than it is to simply recognize the fact that Brey is on the sideline. Two years ago, he lost Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton and made it back to the Elite 8. Last offseason, Demetrius Jackson left and Zach Auguste graduated, and Notre Dame is right in the thick of the ACC title hunt.

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.