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Will Cuonzo Martin have the personnel to take advantage of Michael and Jontay Porter at Missouri?

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Late on Wednesday night, Jontay Porter finally made it official, announcing to the world the worst kept secret in all of college basketball: He will be reclassifying and enrolling at Missouri this fall, joining his brother, Michael Jr., and father, Michael Sr., with the Tigers for the 2017-18 season.

Michael Jr. is a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and a guy that could end up being the best player in college basketball this season. Jontay is not quite on that level, but he is a terrific offensive weapon. At 6-foot-11 and left-handed, Porter can do just about everything offensively: He makes threes, he can beat defenders off the dribble, he can score in the post, he’s a willing and capable passer out of double-teams, he can score on rim-runs and ball-screen actions as a roller or a pop-man.

While there are going to be issues for both brothers adjusting to playing basketball at the high-major level, particularly on the defensive end of the floor, on paper, it’s hard to imagine a better combination of a four and a five to play “small-ball” at the college level, mostly because neither brother is small. Michael Jr. is the “little” one at 6-foot-10.

But beyond the issues that will inevitably pop up for the freshmen during their first year on campus, the biggest concern with this group is going to be whether or not Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin will embrace the small-ball ideal.

Or if he even has the pieces to do so.

Let’s start with the former.

Michael Porter, Jr. (Photo by Jon Lopez)

Martin is a throwback. He likes playing two bigs. He likes throwing the ball into the post and letting the big uglies go to work. He’s a midwest guy that played his college ball at Purdue in the early 90s. Of course he’s going to think this way.

“I’d rather have a low-post big that can dominate in the post and score the basketball and not just a guy on the perimeter to make plays,” Martin told me this summer. To his credit, I’m not sure that Martin has ever had a chance to coach two players with the size and perimeter skills of the Porters. As good as Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb were with Cal, neither of them could shoot, and Tyrone Wallace, who was a star point guard on that team, shot 29.2 percent from three for his career. The question is going to be whether or not he’s willing to change the way he coaches and the way he wants his teams to play to take advantage of what he has at his disposal.

“But I think to have a big guy that’s just a space-eater nowadays is tough,” he continued, and it sounds like this old dog may actually be learning a new trick. “You can’t defend on the perimeter, you can’t make plays offensively. Then all of a sudden it becomes five-against-four in a lot of ways.”

“I think with most cases, like when I was young I watched the NBA, whatever games I could watch, you watch how the game is played because you want to be that. I think with a lot of not only young guys but their coaches, they teach those guys to play on the perimeter because that’s the game, go inside and outside. If you’ve got good spacing I think you have a chance to be very successful.”

The question now becomes whether or not Missouri has the personnel around the Porters to make this work, and that I’m not quite so sure of.

The only perimeter weapon on the roster that is at all proven is Terrence Phillips, a rising junior point guard that averaged 10.7 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 35.6 percent from three. There is Kassius Robertson, but he’s spent the last four seasons playing at Canisius. There will be an adjustment coming in moving up a level, but at the very least he is a guy that can shoot it from three. Kevin Puryear and Jordan Barnett are both back as well, but Puryear is a post that can make jumpers while Barnett is a three that shot just 30 percent from three last season. Neither are really ideal pace-and-space options, and neither is Jeremiah Tilmon, a top 35 recruit that is the kind of low-post presence Martin is more accustomed to. He’s athletic, he blocks shots, he rebounds and he’s, shall we say, a ‘work-in-progress’ offensively.

What do you do, as a coach, when putting your five best players on the floor makes it difficult to play the way that would be best-suited for your two potential first round picks?

That’s going to be the question that Cuonzo Martin tries to answer over the course of the next three months.

Jontay Porter (Jon Lopez/Nike)

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.