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The 68 Things We Cannot Wait To See In College Basketball This Season

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College basketball officially kicks off on Friday night. Here are the 68 things we’re looking forward to the most this season.

1. How David Padgett deals with the spotlight in his first head coaching job. This is a difficult situation, but he’s got a lot of talent to work with and a solid staff to lean on. – Raphielle Johnson

2. The nonsense that the NCAA comes up with to try and fix college basketball while ignoring the obvious, easy, necessary answer: End Amateurism.- Rob Dauster

3. Bonzie Colson getting buckets like only Bonzie Colson can. – Travis Hines

4. Will Arizona freshman DeAndre Ayton play more like be the motivated potential No. 1 pick he can be or the passive center that barely gave an effort during some games during high school. – Scott Phillips

5. What weird controversy will find Grayson Allen. – TH

6. The unknown. The best part about college basketball are the story lines that pop up out of nowhere. – RD

7. Where Rhode Island head coach Danny Hurley ends up after he leads his team to the Sweet 16. – RD

8. Aaron Holiday. He’s so much better than simply being Lonzo Ball’s understudy, and we’ll see it this season. – RD

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9. J.P. Macura and the art of talking trash. – TH

10. Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura. You’ll understand why soon enough. – RD

11. BYU’s Yoeli Childs. Ditto. – RD

12. Miles Bridges dunking on anyone and everyone. – TH

13. Seton Hall’s team of veterans prove that you don’t have to have one-and-dones to win. – RD

14. Mohamed Bamba’s impact at Texas. Don’t know if I’d put the Longhorns in the category of Big 12 title contender, but they aren’t far off thanks to Bamba’s arrival. – RJ

15. The backcourt of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett at St. John’s. – TH

16. How will Kentucky adjust to being a team that lacks a significant veteran contributor from the season prior. This is unlike any team John Calipari’s had in his tenure there. – RJ

17. That Duke/Michigan State matchup in the Champions Classic. Could be the game of the year until we get to March. – RJ

18. How Kansas and Bill Self puts this roster together. Do they have anyone that can play the four? – TH

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19. Montana State’s Tyler Hall shooting three-pointers with a Steph Curry-level green light (he attempted 8.8 per game last season and made 42 percent of them.) – SP

20. People at the Final Four in San Antonio pretending that the River Walk is interesting. – TH

21. People realizing that Svi Mykhailiuk, a senior on Kansas, is four months older than Billty Preston, a freshman. – RD

22. Cincinnati proving that you can be a great college basketball team without having any preseason hype. – RD

23. The Jaylen Adams/Matt Mobley backcourt at St. Bonaventure. Do yourselves a favor and check those guys out at least a couple times this season. – RJ

24. Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington and JellyFam taking over college hoops. – SP

25. The growth of Carsen and Vince Edwards, and Purdue repeated explaining that, no, they are not actually related. – RD

26. Michael Porter Jr. being awesome and leading Missouri back to the NCAA tournament. – TH

27. Chris Mullin vs. Patrick Ewing on the sidelines. Given how fierce that rivalry was when they were players in the Big East, this should be fun. – RJ

28. The joy of listening to Bill Walton calling late-night Pac-12 games. – SP

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29. The Ivy League conference tournament since the league is loaded this season. – SP

30. Kentucky’s growth this season. They’re going to take some lumps early, but they should be a contender come March. – RD

31. Angel Delgado bullying everyone in the paint. – RD

32. The ridiculous backcourt battles in the Big East. – SP

33. What happens next in the FBI investigation since people are being indicted. What will they tell? Who’s next? – RJ

34. TCU taking the next step and actually reaching the NCAA tournament. – TH

35. How Dana Altman will decide to use Troy Brown in his offense. – RD

36. The Mountain West’s never-ending battle to return to national relevancy. Can they be a two-bid league again? – RD

37. Will the SEC actually be improved? On paper there are good reasons to believe so, but can’t blame people for wanting to see it before they buy in. – RJ

38. Seeing if Ethan Happ can carry Wisconsin to another top-four Big Ten finish with this young roster. – TH

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39. Seeing if perpetually-underrated Conference USA can get a win in the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. – SP

40. The American title race. Cincinnati and Wichita State would be my favorites, but SMU, UCF, UConn, Temple and Houston will all be heard from as well. I’d be shocked if the winner had fewer than four league losses. – RJ

41. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga battling it out in the WCC. BYU should be in mix as well, and don’t sleep on San Francisco, but that feels like a two-horse race. – RJ

42. How Northwestern handles success and expectation after their first trip to the NCAA tournament. – TH

43. Seeing how much UCF’s Tacko Fall has improved since last season. – SP

44. How Jim Boeheim handles a potentially tough season at Syracuse. – TH

45. The “Go-Go Gadget” arms of Texas freshman center Mohamed Bamba. – SP

46. Duke’s Wendell Carter. He’s a damn-good player with absolutely no preseason buzz. – RD

47. The race for who will become the presumptive No. 1 NBA draft pick: Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton. – TH

48. If there’s a serious challenger to Arizona in the Pac-12, or if Arizona and Allonzo Trier thrive despite the FBI investigation. – TH

49. Wichita State competing for the first time in the AAC after moving out of the Missouri Valley. – TH

50. Auburn’s search for a new head coach once Bruce Pearl is run out of town. – RD

51. Trevon Duval’s progression at Duke. For all the talent on that roster, really think he holds the key to a national championship. If he runs the show as well as his talent leads many to believe he can, they’ll be in San Antonio at minimum. – RJ

52. DeAndre Ayton at Arizona. That team’s loaded, but he’s the toughest matchup on that roster. And given how last season ended, those veterans should be plenty motivated as well. – RJ

53. The ever-increasing slate of good college hoops being played on Thanksgiving thanks to this year’s PK80. – SP

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54. Mike Daum at South Dakota State. There aren’t many guys his size who can score inside and out while threatening to be a 50/40/90 guy in college basketball. He’s special. – RJ

55. A healthy season of Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright playing together at USC. – SP

56. Watching Grand Canyon try to make the NCAA tournament during their first season of eligibility. – SP

57. Provindence shocking everyone when they play their way into being a top 20 team in the country. – RD

58. Vermont winning a game in the NCAA tournament and thus confirming that T.J. Sorrentine is no longer hitting them from the parking lot for the Catamounts. – RD

59. Devonte’ Graham getting his own chance to shine at Kansas with the departure of Frank Mason. – SP

60. Will coaches that staunchly support playing two bigs – Cuonzo Martin, Roy Williams – learn to embrace small-ball the way that Bill Self did? – RD

61. Giddy Potts become a mid-major darling. Who doesn’t love chunky little guys that fire up threes? – RD

62. DePaul and Illinois playing for the first time in 60 years. – SP

63. The Big East race. I really think it’s going to be closer than some people think. Seton Hall, Xavier and Providence are all capable of winning the league, and Villanova’s still Villanova. – RJ

64. A healthy Oregon State. That’s a tournament team with everyone on the court, especially Tres Tinkle. – RJ

65. How UCLA deals with initiating an international incident, and whether or not the Ball Family rips the program apart at the seams. – TH

66. What South Carolina does for an encore. They lost a lot from the Final Four team, but you know Frank Martin’s guys are going to compete. – RJ

67. Oklahoma freshman Trae Young pulling up from unfathomable distances for three-pointers. – SP

68. How Jim Larranaga puts all those quality guards to good use down at Miami. The Hurricanes have the tools to win the ACC. – RJ

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

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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.