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Seven pressing questions for the Selection Committee

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1. Where is Duke going to get seeded?: The Blue Devils have the look of a No. 1 seed. They just steam-rolled through the ACC tournament, picking up wins over Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in the span on three days. That brings their tally of top 50 wins this season to 13, the most in the country. Eight of those 13 wins came away from Cameron Indoor. They have eight top 25 wins, six of which came away from home. They have four top ten wins, three of which came away from home.

The concern for Duke is their overall record. No No. 1 seed has ever had eight losses to their name before, but it is worth noting that Duke has dealt with as many injuries as anyone in college hoops this season. Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Harry Giles III, Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have all missed time. Considering that Duke is now fully healthy and rolling, will that factor into the committee’s decision-making process? Will that be enough to close the gap between the Blue Devils and North Carolina? Will it be enough to slot Duke over Gonzaga or Arizona?

My guess?

It will not. Duke ends up as the No. 2 seed in the East, setting up a thrilling potential showdown with No. 1 overall seed Villanova.

2. This would mean that Gonzaga has to be the No. 1 seed out west, right?: It should. For all the talk about how weak the conference is that Gonzaga plays in, they’re sitting here on Selection Sunday with six top 25 wins. Arizona, who won the Pac-12 tournament and a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, has just three top 25 wins and five top 50 wins. Five of Gonzaga’s six top 25 wins came away from home, and one of them came against Arizona on a neutral floor, albeit without Allonzo Trier. I just don’t see anyway that you can look at Arizona’s profile and Gonzaga’s profile and think that the Wildcats are more deserving of a No. 1 seed than the Bulldogs.

3. So who, then, is the top-seeded Pac-12 team?: This is still an under-discussed story line as we careen towards the Selection Show. Only one of the three Pac-12 teams is going to end up being slotted in the West Region. The favorite probably has to be Arizona, as the Wildcats won the Pac-12 tournament, a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and a pair of games against UCLA this season, but the Bruins have more — and better — top 10 and top 50 wins, including a win at Kentucky. I would lean towards Arizona getting the No. 2 seed out west because of their wins over UCLA, the fact that the Bruins played a poor non-conference schedule and the way Arizona has looked since Trier returned from his suspension.

The x-factor in that conversation is Oregon, who will be fascinating in their own right. The Ducks won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and, since Dillon Brooks got healthy, have looked like the best team in the league for long stretches of the season. But Oregon just lost Chris Boucher for the tournament to a torn ACL. Boucher was averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 boards and 2.5 blocks, but Oregon looked fine in their loss to Arizona on Saturday night.

Sean Miller (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. How does the committee value the Big East teams?: Villanova should probably end up being the No. 1 overall seed. Butler, who swept Villanova this season, will probably be a top four seed. But beyond that, every other Big East tournament team is fascinating. Creighton made the finals of the Big East tournament despite playing without Mo Watson, who tore his ACL, but the Bluejays are just 7-8 since Watson’s injury. Xavier won two games in the Big East tournament, including a win over Butler in the quarterfinals, but that was their first win over a team not named DePaul since Feb. 4th. They are just 6-7 since they lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL.

But here’s the kicker: the three Big East bubble teams — Seton Hall, Providence and Marquette — all bolstered their résumé with wins over Creighton and Xavier after those injuries. Marquette has four wins over those two teams in the last seven weeks. I don’t think that will be enough to keep those teams out of the tournament, but I do think that it could end up affecting where they get seeded.

5. Where does Wichita State get seeded?: The Shockers are currently, as of this exact moment, ranked eighth on KenPom. Eighth. As in No. 8. In the country. KenPom is widely considered the most accurate metric for ranking teams in college hoops circles, which should tell you just how good this team is. But they haven’t actually done anything during the season to back those numbers up. They only have two top 65 wins on the season, and both of those came against Illinois State, who may not get to the NCAA tournament. How about this for a thought: If Wichita State ends up as a No. 10 seed, they could end up being favored in both the first round and second round game against the No. 2 seed. The current No. 2 seeds in our latest bracket are Kentucky, Arizona, Duke and Oregon. Kentucky is the only one rated above Wichita State on KenPom.

6. Will Syracuse get a bid?: The Orange have quickly turned into one of the most polarizing bubble teams in the country. On the one hand, they have six top 50 wins to their name, including wins over Duke, Florida State and Virginia. On the other hand, all six of their top 50 wins came at home, and they are just 2-11 away from the Carrier Dome this season. The Orange also have lost to Boston College, Georgetown, UConn and St. John’s, the latter of which came at home by 33 points. Their best road win is Clemson, who finished 6-12 in the ACC, or N.C. State, who finished 13th. They lost at Boston College, who finished at the bottom of the conference. Will that be enough?

7. Where will Purdue get seeded?: The Big Ten is going to get seven teams into the tournament and actually rates higher in the metrics than the league did last year, but the reason the league feels down this season is that there just isn’t anyone in the conference that feels like a true title contender. That includes Purdue, the regular season champ who bowed out of the Big Ten tournament in the quarterfinal. The committee showed us during the bracket reveal in February that they didn’t have much respect for the Big Ten, so it will be interesting to see where they decide to slot the Boilermakers.

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.