LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Is Duke a No. 1 seed?

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SATURDAY’S THINGS TO KNOW

No. 14 Duke won four games in as many days to win the ACC Tournament championship. Did the Blue Devils go from the No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament to the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? CBT’s Rob Dauster explains why it’s likely to happen on Selection Sunday.

No. 1 Villanova defeated Creighton, 74-60, in the Big East Tournament title game behind 29 points from Josh Hart. It’s the second time in the past three years that the Wildcats are dual-Big East champs. The reigning national champions Villanova has the best chance to repeat since Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford won back-to-back at Florida a decade ago. So, why has that storyline flown under the radar all year. CBT’s Rob Dauster was at the Garden to offer up his thoughts on ‘Nova.

Sure, No. 23 Iowa State didn’t have to face Kansas or Baylor in the conference’s postseason tournament, but there’s no denying that the Cyclones are arguably the nation’s hottest teams. Iowa State have won nine of 10, and avenged that only loss in that span by defeating No. 11 West Virginia, 80-74, in the Big 12 Tournament championship game in Kansas City on Saturday night. The Cyclones scored 80 points, off 54 percent shooting, against Press Virginia.

STARRED

De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: The speedster scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half to fend off a good fight from Alabama. Malik Monk also shook off a two-point effort the previous day with a 20-point performance.

Josh Hart, Villanova: This week in New York City, Hart made a late case for the nation’s player of the year. In a championship game win, the senior wing went for 29 points and grabbed six rebounds. He becomes only the third player in the Big East history — joining Patrick Ewing and Peyton Siva — to win multiple Big East Tournament MVP honors.

Myles Stephens, Princeton: The first-ever Ivy League Tournament game was a thriller. Undefeated Princeton, playing essentially a road game against Penn in The Palestra, sent the game to overtime and kept the Tigers’ tournament hopes alive with a tip-in with 5.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Stephens had 21 points and 10 boards in the overtime victory.

Jaylin Walker, Kent State: The sophomore had himself a week in Cleveland. A day after hitting the game-winner in the semifinals against Ohio, Walker set a career-high with 30 points (18 coming after halftime) in a win over top-seeded Akron.

Derrick Walton, Michigan: The senior point guard has led he Wolverines to the Big Ten Tournament title game behind his 29 points, nine assists (one turnover), five rebounds and two steals in a semifinal win over Minnesota.

REST OF THE TOP 25

No. 7 Arizona made its case for the No. 1 seed in the West Region with an 83-80 victory over No. 5 Oregon. The Wildcats led by as many as 14 in the second half before the Ducks rallied. Allonzo Trier, who ended with 23 points, helped secure the win from the free throw line.

No. 12 SMU went on a 14-3 second-half run to cruise to its 15th straight victory, advancing to the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship game with a 70-59 win over Central Florida.

The Mustangs will meet No. 15 Cincinnati, who held off a comeback from UConn, after leading by 12 at halftime. After several threats from the Huskies, the Bearcats finally put the game away at the line en route to an 81-71 semifinal victory.

Playing its third game in as many days may have done Northwestern in, as No. 24 Wisconsin rolled past the Wildcats, 76-48, and into the Big Ten Tournament title game. Nigel Hayes had 18 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Ethan Happ with 16.

NOTABLES

  • Princeton and Yale will meet in the first Ivy League Tournament championship game at The Palestra.
  • Texas State defeated UT-Arlington by 20 to advance to the Sun Belt Conference title game. UT-Arlington was the top-seed and had a double-digit win over Saint Mary’s in Moraga. Many thought the Mavericks could be a Cinderella this March.
  • Bubble teams across the country are happy VCU knocked off Richmond in overtime of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament semifinal.
  • However, the A-10 could still get three bids in the NCAA Tournament, if Rhode Island wins on Sunday against VCU. The Rams entered the day as one of the “First Four Out.” Perhaps a win over Davidson sealed the deal.
  • Moses Kingsley recorded a double-double 12 points and 13 rebounds in Arkansas‘ 76-62 SEC Tournament semifinal win over Vanderbilt. The Razorbacks have looked good in Nashville this week.

AUTOMATIC BIDS

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.