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Arizona State bucks graduate transfer trend

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The current trend in college basketball centers on graduate transfers, veteran players who are eligible and can contribute immediately.

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley is taking a more long-term approach as he tries to rebuild the Sun Devils’ program.

With a solid core led by three senior guards and some much-needed frontcourt help on the way, Hurley opted to sign three transfers who will have to sit out a season instead of finding graduate transfers who could play right away.

“We try to evaluate the needs of our team and how we can continue to build and take the next step this year,” Hurley said Wednesday. “We have all these guys who I think can help our frontcourt this season and then we have these three guys who can step in and have proven that they can be impact players.”

Arizona State made a splash three years ago with the high-profile hiring of Hurley, the fiery former Duke and NBA guard who had turned Buffalo into an NCAA Tournament team in two seasons.

Hurley has had a tougher go of turning around the Sun Devils, winning 15 games each of the past two seasons.

Some of it has been playing in the tough Pac-12, a conference filled with bigger, stronger players than the Mid-American Conference and no easy games on the schedule.

A lack of depth, particularly in the frontcourt, has been the bigger culprit.

Hurley pulled in solid recruiting classes each of his first two seasons, but the Sun Devils were long on perimeter players and short on length. They could score, get out in transition, hit 3-pointers, but when it came to playing defense and rebounding, the Sun Devils were often overmatched inside.

The lack of size — and a few injuries — forced Hurley to shift his roster around, forcing players into roles they weren’t accustomed to. With no real inside presence last season, Hurley often had 6-foot-5 guard Kodi Justice playing post defense against players that were often six or more inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

Arizona State will get frontcourt help this season with two eligible transfers and a pair of returning players coming off redshirt seasons.

With no need for immediate help, Hurley decided to build for the future, adding three players who will not be eligible until the 2018-19 season: Carlton Bragg from Kansas, Zylan Cheatham from San Diego State and Rob Edwards from Cleveland State.

The three veteran players will not only set the foundation for Arizona State’s future after seniors Justice, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans II graduate, but give the Sun Devils three veteran players who can help shape this year’s team.

“The one thing I can promise is our practices are going to be wars in there this year,” Hurley said. “I couldn’t really say that last season and the three guys we’re going to have sitting out and the other rotation guys added to those three, it’s going to create great competition in practice.”

Arizona State should be better this season than the previous two, thanks to the veteran leadership by the senior guards and the incoming help up front.

In addition to the three transfers, Hurley brought in De’Quon Lake, a 6-10 junior forward from Iowa Western Community College who will give the Sun Devils size inside.

Mickey Mitchell, a 6-7 mid-season transfer from Ohio State, is expected to be eligible sometime in December, perhaps by Arizona State’s game at Kansas on Dec. 10.

Ramon Villa, a 6-8 forward from Spain, returns this season after playing 33 games as a reserve last season. Arizona State also will add 6-8 Romello White, a player who loves to rebound, and 6-9 Vitaliy Shibel after both redshirted as freshmen last season.

Those players should help the Sun Devils shore up their frontcourt this season and the addition of the three transfers in 2018-19 should help solidify the foundation Hurley is setting in the desert.

“Coach Hurley has done a great job of building this program from where it was at to where it’s about to go,” said Evans, who averaged 15 points per game last season after sitting out 2015-16 as a transfer from Buffalo. “I feel like every year it’s getting better and better and better.”

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Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap

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.