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No. 1 Duke rallies again, wins PK80 title erasing 17-point deficit vs. No. 7 Florida

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On the strength of 30 points and 15 rebounds from Marvin Bagley III, No. 1 Duke erased a 17-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to take home the title in the PK80 Motion bracket, beating No. 7 Florida 87-84 in yet another thrilling, come-from-behind win.

The Blue Devils picked up three of them in four days in Portland.

They trailed Portland State in the second half on Thursday in their tournament opener before coming back to win. They were down 16 points to Texas on Friday evening in the semifinals of the event before forcing, and winning in, overtime. And they were dead in the water against Florida, down 74-57 with an offense that was sputtering and an inability to find an answer for the high-octane, four-guard offense that the Gators and Mike White run.

Gary Trent Jr. added 15 points for the Blue Devils, including four free throws in the final 1:11 to give the Blue Devils the lead. Grayson Allen finished with 14 points and seven assists.

Jalen Hudson led the way for the Gators with 24 points, 10 boards, three assists and three steals.

Gary Trent Jr (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Here are five things we learned on Sunday night:

1. Marvin Bagley III is the truth: He had 30 points and 15 boards on Sunday night. That came after he posted 34 points and 15 boards against Mo Bamba in the semifinals. He’s now averaging 22.3 points and 12.5 boards through eight games despite the fact that against Michigan State he was yanked midway through the first half after getting his eye scratched.

At this point, you’re a fool if you don’t realize just how good Bagley is in the post. Twice in the last three days he’s carried this Duke team back from a second half deficit of at least 16 points to win by overpowering whoever Texas, a likely tournament team, and Florida, a potential Final Four team, threw at him. He’s got the total package in the paint, but what makes him so damn tantalizing as a prospect is this:

Bagley not only keeps Chiozza from beating him off the bounce and to the rim, he is able to euro-step around a defender and finish awkwardly at the rim while his momentum is taking him a different direction. People that are 6-foot-11 and that have the post skill that he has are not supposed to be able to move like that.

What a player, and what a performance.

2. Don’t let what Gary Trent Jr. did in the final two minutes get swept under the rug: With two minutes left and Duke down 84-81, Trent grabbed a tough defensive rebound in traffic. 49 seconds left, he made a pair of free throws that gave Duke their first lead in the second half. 56 seconds after that, he picked Hudson’s pocket and then proceeded to make another pair of free throws with nine seconds left to put Duke up 87-84. He also was involved defensively on the final possession, when Florida failed to get a clean look at a three.

Trent came into college with the reputation for being a big time scorer and shot-maker. He’s yet to really find his rhythm on that end of the floor — he had 15 points on Sunday and it was probably his best game to date — but those five plays he made were winning plays in key moments on a massive stage. Trent also made the go-ahead three against Michigan State with three minutes left in the Champions Classic on a night were he finished 3-for-14 from the floor.

He may look like a freshman at times, but most freshman don’t shine in big moments like Trent has this season.

3. Florida lost this game, but they might be the most dangerous team in the country: Duke is a very, very good team, and the Gators had them on the ropes. You could probably make the argument that Florida gave this game away — more on that in a second.

But I think the biggest takeaway we should have about the Gators from this week is that they may be the most dangerous team in college basketball. I hesitate to call them the best team in the sport because they have some issues on the defensive end of the floor, but the way that this team can put up mountains of points in no time at all is ridiculous.

They have four guards on their roster — Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson — that are legitimately capable of putting up 30 points on any given night. All four can reel off four or five threes in a row, and all four are extremely difficult to cover 1-on-1; even Koulechov, who is known more for being a spot-up shooter than a slasher, is dangerous because he’s getting guarded by opposing power forwards.

The way that they play, and the freedom and confidence that White gives them offensively, makes them so entertaining.

And so lethal.

They’re going to be undersized every single night, and there will be some ugly nights when those threes aren’t dropping, but when the Gators are playing their best basketball they can run anyone in the country out of the gym.

4. So why did the Gators took the air out of the ball down the stretch? It cost them a win: Florida scored 74 points in the first 30 minutes of the game. They were running and gunning and sitting pretty with a 17-point lead. Then they started to take the air out of the ball to try and drain the clock, and it didn’t work. Duke held their own when they had a chance to set their defense, and the slower tempo allowed them to work the ball into Bagley and Wendell Carter in the post.

Yes, the fact that Duke started scoring consistently slowed down Florida’s transition game. Yes, tired legs probably played a factor. And yes, it makes sense to run clock and reduce the number of possessions remaining when holding a big lead in a game.

I don’t necessarily think White made the wrong decision — process over results and all — but it certainly did not work on this occasion.

5. When do we start getting concerned about the fact that Duke can’t stop digging holes for themselves?: It’s starting to become a thing. They played three games in Portland and had to come back from a hole they dug themselves in all three games.

On the one hand, it’s a great sign that the Blue Devils are able to make the plays that they need to make in big moments in order to complete these comebacks. It’s also promising that they realize even when they are down big that their best option is to pound the ball inside to the big fellas. As Jeff Eisenberg put it on the CBT podcast, they’re learning lessons without losing games. They’re doing the things that freshmen do — make mistakes — but they have the talent and grit to land come-from-behind wins despite those mistakes.

That matters.

But why does it take them 30 minutes to start playing hard?

And why is their defense so inconsistent for the first 25-30 minutes?

The answer: I have no clue.

But I’m starting to wonder if Duke should just start every game by awarding their opponent ten points.

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.