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Saturday Recap: Xavier wins the shootout, Wichita wins on the road, Devonte’ Graham goes ham

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

Devonte’ Graham and Lagerald Vick combined to put on a clinic on how to beat a 2-3 zone as No. 2 Kansas cruised to a 76-60 win over Syracuse in Miami. Vick went for 20 points, eight boards and seven assists, but it was Graham that was the real star on Saturday. For the second straight game, Graham – who entered the weekend averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 assists for the undefeated Jayhawks – finished with 35 points, adding five dimes and making seven threes, which helped boost his three-point percentage from 36 percent to 41 percent. I think it’s safe to say that Graham’s slow start to the season has come to an end.

The question for Kansas now is whether or not they are ever actually going to get another big man on the roster. It’s not going to hurt them when Clay Young plays 12 minutes at center against Syracuse. It will once they get into the meat-grinder of the Big 12.

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • Trevon Bluiett shook off a two-game slump to pop off for 28 points as No. 21 Xavier put a whupping on No. 11 Cincinnati, 89-76. That was before the postgame fireworks.
  • Jalen Adams had 31 points on 13-for-22 shooting as UConn squeaked out another overtime win against a mid-major, this time picking off Columbia. I’m beginning to think Adams is the only good thing about the current UConn program.
  • Shake Milton had 22 points and nine assists as SMU handed No. 14 USC their second-straight loss, 72-55.
  • Drexel’s Tramaine Isabell had 35 points, 13 boards, three assists and three steals in a come-from-behind win over Rider. I feel like I should mention that he’s 6-foot-1.
  • 5-foot-10 Fatts Russell came off the bench to score 20 points for the second-straight game as Rhode Island picked off in-state rival Providence.

TEAM OF THE DAY

Last Friday, No. 21 Xavier was embarrassed by then-unranked and now-No. 20 Arizona State, giving up 102 points and trailing by as many as 25 in the second half despite leading by 15 just before half time while allowing Tra Holder and Shannon Evans to look like the reincarnation of Stephen Curry and Allen Iverson. It was, as they say, a mollywhopping.

But that seems like so long ago after the week that Xavier has had. After picking off No. 16 Baylor in the Cintas Center of Wednesday, the Musketeers smacked around their archirival, No. 11 Cincinnati, in the Crosstown Shootut, arguably the most intense rivalry in college hoops. They won 89-76, but that number doesn’t quite let you know just how thorough this win was. Xavier was up by ten by the first TV timeout. They were up by 23 points early in the second half. Cincinnati never really threatened them on Saturday.

It was so bad that the loss coupled with the incessant trolling of professional heel J.P. Macura had Mick Cronin looking to fight after the game. A win over your rival as their coach embarrasses himself publicly is a pretty good day.

GAME OF THE DAY

No. 20 Memphis lost to No. 14 UCF in a triple-overtime thriller, 62-55.

It was in football, but I feel like I should mention it here because Memphis is, apparently, now a football school. Tubby Smith’s team sold 4,113 tickets in an 18,000 seat arena to see his Tigers win in double-overtime over Mercer. I’m old enough to remember when they use to sell out the FedEx Forum.

WTF??? OF THE DAY

Big Ten play started this weekend, and if that wasn’t strange enough, this result might be: Ohio State 83, Wisconsin 58.

In the Kohl Center.

For years, the Badgers were just about unbeatable in that building, and not only did the Buckeyes take a 2-by-4 to the back of the Badgers’ proverbial heads, they did so in a year where they were supposed to be rebuilding. Remember, it was just six months ago that Ohio State fired the greatest coach that their program has ever seen. Thad Matta was let go because the program in the eyes of the higher-ups, was too far gone.

And now Ohio State is winning by 25 points at Wisconsin when they have an all-american at center. Good for them.

Keita Bates-Diop led the way with 17 points, 11 boards and five assists if you were wondering.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Is Arizona back??? The Wildcats, who went from No. 2 to unranked this week, went into Vegas and left with a 91-88 win in overtime over a good UNLV team. Deandre Ayton had 28 points and 10 boards to lead the Wildcats while Allonzo Trier chipped in with 29 points. Brandon McCoy added 33 points and 10 boards.

No. 8 Wichita State landed their first win over a ranked team in roughly two years as they went into Waco and knocked off No. 16 Baylor, 69-62. The Shockers were led by 17 points from Connor Frankamp.

The AAC badly needed some good non-conference performances, and Wichita State wasn’t the only one to chip-in. Houston beat Arkansas by 26 points.

Virginia Tech landed an 83-80 overtime win at Ole Miss after trailing by 16 points in the second half. The Hokies are now 7-1 on the season after wins over the Rebels and Iowa this week, which is why the loss they took at the hands of Saint Louis – who lost by 30 to Bulter after trailing 42-13 at the half – earlier this year is one of the most perplexing results of the season. The Hokies head to Rupp Arena on Dec. 16th.

Georgia and head coach Mark Fox have quietly put together an excellent start to the season. The Bulldogs are 6-1 after winning at Marquette on Saturday. They also have a win over Saint Mary’s on a neutral. With games left at home against Georgia Tech and Temple and a trip to Kansas State, the Bulldogs have a chance to put together a really solid non-conference slate.

 

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.