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NCAA Tournament Sunday Recap: Louisville, Duke get upset, North Carolina, Kentucky survive

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Saturday gave us two of the best games of the tournament, with No. 8 Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 Villanova and No. 5 Iowa State erasing a 19-point second half deficit only to give the game right back to No. 4 Purdue.

Sunday hasn’t disappointed either, as the day was chock-full of upsets, dogfights, highlights and last-second shots.

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No. 2 Duke is heading home. The Blue Devils got run out of Greenville by No. 7 South Carolina, as the Gamecocks scored 65 second half points in an 88-81 win on Sunday night. It was a fitting ending for a team loaded with talent that was never quite able to put it all together, as they were more or less punked by a tougher, more physical South Carolina team in what amounted to a road game.

The best game of the day was the nightcap in Indianapolis, as No. 2 Kentucky avoided a late-game collapse and locked up No. 10 Wichita State on the final two possessions of the game. There was so much to love about this game, from the Wichita State revenge factor to the battle between De’Aaron Fox and Landry Shamet to the way that Gregg Marshall schemed Malik Monk into a limited role. What was even better was that the game came down to a final possession, and while it was a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, it was a hell of a game to watch. Defense doesn’t have to be ugly.

The ride isn’t over yet for No. 7 Michigan, as the Wolverines came from behind to beat No. 2 Louisville and get to the Sweet 16. The most impressive part of the win is that Michigan did it while star point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who has ben one of the best players in the country over the course of the last six weeks, finished with just 10 points on 3-for-13 shooting. The Wolverines were involved in a plane crash earlier this month, and ever since then, the narrative that this is a Team of Destiny has ben bandied about. That should stop, because the Wolverines aren’t a Cinderella. They’re just damn good.

With the loss, the ACC — the ‘best conference in the history of conferences’ —  is now down to just two teams left in this tournament, No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Duke, while the Big Ten — which was maligned all year long — has three teams in the Sweet 16, including the two teams that beat No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Louisville.

The team that Michigan will play in the next round, No. 3 seed Oregon, came very close to getting upset as well. The Ducks erased an 11-point second half deficit, knocking off No. 11 Rhode Island thanks to a Tyler Dorsey three with 36 seconds left in the game. URI had a couple of shots to tie the game on the final possession, but they couldn’t connect.

No one in the tournament has been more impressive throughout the first weekend than No. 1 seed Kansas, who pulled away from No. 9 Michigan State down the stretch and ended up sending the Fighting Tom Izzos home with a 20-point loss.

No. 1 seed North Carolina was not impressive, however, as the Tar Heels blew a double-digit lead and very nearly lost to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Sunday evening. The Tar Heels were down 65-60 with three minutes left, but used some sterling defense and a 12-0 run down the stretch to pull away with the win. The question with this team is defense and toughness, and while that was something of an issue late in the first half and early in the second half, the Tar Heels made the plays they needed to make down the stretch to win it.

Terry Maston and Johnathan Motley combined for 38 points and 19 boards as No. 3 seed Baylor survived an upset bid from No. 11 seed USC to get back to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under Scott Drew and the first time since 2014. And while No. 3 seed UCLA struggled in the first half, Lonzo Ball did all the things that his Daddy keeps telling us he can do in the second half and carried the Bruins past No. 6 Cincinnati.

SATURDAY’S BEST

Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: Dorsey not only scored 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting against Rhode Island, but he had five boards, three assists and two steals, in addition to, you know, a game-winning jumper.

Moe Wagner, Michigan: The German important scored 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting as the Wolverines knocked off No. 2 seed Louisville to get to the Sweet 16. Just don’t call them the ‘Team of Destiny’.

Josh Jackson, Kansas: Jackson had a team-high 23 points as the Jayhawks beat No. 9 seed Michigan State.

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.