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Georgetown’s horrid non-conference schedule puts a damper on any NCAA tournament optimism for this season

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Here’s something I didn’t think I would say at any point this season: Georgetown isn’t all that far away from being relevant.

On Wednesday night, in their Big East opener against Butler, Georgetown gave away a 20-point first half lead in a game that quite clearly had the kind of growing pains you’d expect out of a young team that has never experienced winning at a high-level with a first-year head coach. The final score was 91-89. It took three overtimes to get there. Georgetown had their chances to put this thing away.

Patrick Ewing deserves some criticism here. The defensive assignments were questionable. The zone offense was difficult to watch. The failure of the Hoyas to get the ball into the hands of their best players on the biggest possessions may have cost them the game, and these are issues that are not necessarily unique to this game. Remember, Georgetown blew a 15-point lead to Syracuse at home earlier this season.

But that’s not really what I want to discuss.

The bigger story, in my mind, is this: Georgetown is not terrible this year. Hell, they’re on the doorstep of being pretty good. If they can figure out what’s going on at the point and if they can find a way to be functional against a zone, I don’t think it’s out of the question that they can get to .500 in the Big East this year. Jessie Govan is a beast. Marcus Derrickson is good. Jamarco Pickett and Kaleb Johnson can fill a role. So can Jagan Mosely and Jonathan Mulmore.

Don’t laugh at what I’m about to say, but I actually believe it: Come March, I can see a scenario where Georgetown is one of the 68 best teams in the country. If they don’t blow those big leads and lose in overtime to Syracuse and to Butler, that sentence doesn’t sound quite as crazy.

But the problem is that their chances of getting to the NCAA tournament are just about dead.

This is not exactly breaking news, but Georgetown has played an absolutely atrocious non-conference schedule. As it stands, they have the worst non-conference schedule in the nation, according to KenPom. According to the RPI, it is the nation’s second-worst non-conference schedule, and according to me, it is the worst that I can ever remember seeing from a high-major program since I started covering college basketball a decade ago.

Georgetown’s best win in the non-conference came against either North Carolina A&T (163rd in the RPI) or Richmond (232nd on KenPom, 2-10 on the season), depending on your metric of choice. That’s bad, but teams have been able to overcome poor performances in non-conference play before.

Take Cincinnati in 2012, for example. They entered Selection Sunday with the 319th non-conference SOS, according to the RPI, but they earned a No. 6 seed after gong 12-6 in a strong iteration of the old Big East and beating two top 15 teams – including No. 2 Syracuse – en route to the title game of the Big East tournament. In 2015, Notre Dame earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament with the 323rd-best non-conference schedule, but they also went 14-4 in the ACC, 29-5 overall and won the ACC tournament title.

Those, however, are not the examples that Georgetown should concern themselves with.

If they can get to 12 wins in this Big East, while picking off a couple of the big dogs – Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton – in the process, they probably will find themselves in the mix come Selection Sunday.

I don’t think that will happen.

Which is why SMU’s 2014 snub is the one that immediately comes to mind. That SMU team had just four top 100 wins on the season, but all four were top 40 wins. Their schedule was that lopsided because they played the 302nd-ranked non-conference schedule that season, and despite being as high as a No. 9 seed in many a bracketology, the Mustangs found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.

“Their non-conference strength of schedule was ranked No. 302 out of, what do we have, 350 teams eligible for the tournament?”¬†NCAA men’s basketball committee chairman Ron Wellman said at the time. “It’s one of the worst non-conference schedules. Their overall strength of schedule was 129. That would have been by far the worst at-large strength of schedule. The next-worst was 91. Really, the glaring weakness about SMU was their schedule.”

Not only did Georgetown put together an awful schedule, they actively made it worse; the Hoyas were supposed to be a part of the PK80 Invitational and dropped out.

I understand why.

A young team and a new coach trying to gel. Sometimes what you need are wins to boost confidence. I get it.

But I told you this would happen.

Patrick Ewing scheduled his team out of NCAA tournament contention.

 

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.