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In Chris Holtmann, Ohio State landed the coach they should have wanted all along

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After all that, after Ohio State fired the best coach in the history of the program, missed on some names you didn’t think that they would miss on and learned the hard way that having a coaching search play out in the middle of June in the public eye can lead to some embarrassment, the Buckeyes got the man that they should have targeted all along.

Chris Holtmann, the new Ohio State head coach, is what Thad Matta was 13 years ago, when he was the new Ohio State head coach.

Holtmann is a little older than Matta was at the time, and Matta had a little more success at Butler and Xavier than Holtmann had at Gardner-Webb and Butler, but they really aren’t all that different. Neither coach has an ego that needs to be stroked. They aren’t attention whores, which is the perfect demeanor for a basketball coach to have on the campus of a football school. Both have a reputation for “doing it the right way”; it’s silly for anyone to out-and-out say that any coach doesn’t cheat, but talk to people in recruiting circles and you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to tell you that either Matta or Holtmann are doling out Ricky Roe duffel bags to every recruit that visits campus.

But the most important part here is that both Matta and Holtmann are terrific coaches. Matta never got the credit he deserved for being great at his job. Before arriving at Ohio State, he went to four NCAA tournaments — winning at least a game every year — and won his league three times in the four years that he was a head coach. The only year he didn’t win his league was when he went to the Elite 8 with Xavier in 2003. From 2006-2012 at Ohio State, he won five regular season titles, four tournament titles and reached two Final Fours and one national title game.

Holtmann hasn’t won a league title yet, but he did turn Gardner-Webb around, taking them from the Big South basement to a second-place finish in his third season. His time at Butler, however, should not in anyway be underestimated. Remember, for a second, where the Bulldogs were four years ago, when Holtmann arrived on campus as an assistant coach on Brandon Miller’s staff. Brad Stevens had just left the previous July to take over the Boston Celtics, four months after Butler had finally joined the Big East. In Miller’s one season as head coach, the Bulldogs went 14-17 and finished just 4-14 in the league.

     RELATED: Who should Butler target to replace Holtmann?

Then, in October of 2014, Miller took a leave of absence from the program that he would never return from.

Holtmann stepped in and immediately turned the program around. Butler went 23-11 in his first season, 22-11 the year after and 25-9 this past season. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament and won a game in each of the last three years, and next year’s team, which is coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance and a second-place finish in the Big East, may enter the year in the preseason top 25.

The program is recruiting at levels that we’ve never seen it recruit at. They’re rightfully sitting near the top of a league that includes programs like Villanova and Xavier. If Ohio State hadn’t come along and scooped him up, there’s no reason to think that Holtmann couldn’t have won a Big East title with the Bulldogs at some point in the near future.

Even without Holtmann at the helm, Butler still may be able to make that happen.

And that’s because Holtmann ushered them out of the darkness and into a new era for Butler basketball.

That should never get overlooked, and there’s only one reason to think that he may not be able to do for Ohio State what he did for Butler: recruiting.

Recruiting players to Butler and recruiting players to Ohio State is a different ball game. He’ll mostly be targeting the same regions — his bread-and-butter with the Bulldogs was Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, but he pulled kids out of Rhode Island and Georgia, not to mention that he tapped into the transfer market effectively — but he’ll be trying to get a different caliber of player. Recruiting at that level is not always clean, and there are few that believe he will resort to that in Columbus.

You can win at Butler by finding the kids that want to play for you, whether it’s because they’re from Indiana, they love the coaching staff or they were under-recruited, overlooked and accurately evaluated by your staff. If Holtmann can do the same for the Buckeyes, then Ohio State should be right back in the mix at the top of the Big Ten sooner rather than later.

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.