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No. 4 Duke outlasts No. 24 Florida State

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Duke used a late push to outlast No. 24 Florida State on Saturday afternoon as the No. 4 Blue Devils raced to a 100-93 ACC home. Despite battling foul trouble, cold perimeter shooting and an inconsistent defensive effort, Duke made enough plays down the stretch to finish off the pesky Seminoles.

Freshman big man Marvin Bagley III had a ridiculous outing with 32 points and 21 rebounds to pace the Blue Devils while freshman point guard Trevon Duval (16 points) made a lot of key plays on both ends of the floor to close out the game.

1. Duke’s offense can still put up ridiculous numbers despite cold shooting

Duke put up 100 points against a top-20 defense while only shooting 8-for-30 from three-point range.

The Blue Devils never seemed to get comfortable from beyond the arc on Saturday. We’ve seen stretches this season where Duke goes cold from three-point range. You also have to factor that the Blue Devils had only played one game since Dec. 9 and rust might have been at play.

But despite the cold shooting, Duke’s offense still got rolling and looked unstoppable at times. Offensive rebounding was the huge key for Duke’s sustained offensive success on Saturday. Bagley (11 offensive rebounds) and fellow freshman Wendell Carter Jr. (seven offensive rebounds) seemingly cleaned up every Duke miss as the Blue Devils had 23 offensive rebounds.

Considering that the Seminoles have a lot of depth while Duke is mostly trotting out the same five players and that sustained effort on the glass from the Blue Devils is very impressive.

If Duke is making perimeter looks, good luck stopping this team. But even if they’re not finding consistent success with the deep ball, this offense still has many other ways to beat you. It’s part of the reason Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country.

2. Duke’s defense is still a work-in-progress

One of the major developments to track for Duke this season has been its inconsistent defense. Saturday saw more ups and downs from the Blue Devils as this team is still trying to find its defensive identity.

Giving up 93 points to the Seminoles is a bit of an eye-opener. But this game was also played at a very fast pace with players like Phil Cofer (28 points) and Braian Angola (23 points) getting red-hot during certain stretches to carry the Florida State offense.

Duke’s defense still looked shaky at times — especially contesting perimeter jumpers from hot shooters — but they put together a strong final few minutes to secure this win. Florida State missed its final six shots to end the contest as the Blue Devil defense came through when it mattered most. Four starters were playing with four fouls for Duke but that didn’t seem to compromise much of the group’s intensity during the final stretch. Carter did a nice job of taking a key late charge and a rejuvenated Duval seemed to be flying all over the perimeter.

The Blue Devils still have issues with good perimeter shooting and teams who can take either Bagley or Carter away from the basket. But as long as Duke can defend in stretches like they did to close on Saturday, their offense can generally take care of the rest.

3. Just how good is Florida State?

We know Florida State is pretty good. At least we think they’re pretty good. The Seminoles were one of the final teams to remain unbeaten this season and they own an impressive road win at Florida. That’s also easily the most impressive win that Florida State has at this point.  A road win at Rutgers is arguably Florida State’s second best win. They have recent losses to Oklahoma State and now to the Blue Devils.

So how good is Florida State? It’s seriously very hard to answer that question at this point in the season. We can likely pencil this group into the NCAA tournament, for now, but where do the Seminoles rank in the ACC pecking order? Going toe-to-toe with Duke on the road is encouraging but Florida State also hasn’t done a whole lot yet when it comes to quality wins.

Cofer finished with a career-high 28 points on Saturday, as he has elevated his play to another level over the last several weeks. Angola is also capable of taking over a game on the offensive end if he gets rolling with the jumper. And although Terance Mann only attempted six field goals against Duke (a staggeringly low number for a team’s leading scorer against a top-five opponent) he’s also a noted offensive presence who was shooting over 63 percent from the floor entering Saturday’s game.

Florida State has weapons. They have depth. They have athleticism. Now comes the time when the Seminoles need to start winning games against quality competition. The next stretch will be key for Florida State. The Seminoles now get a chance to face North Carolina and Miami the next two games — two top-15 teams. Florida State needs to win one of those games to stay in the ACC race, otherwise they risk starting league play at 0-3 and putting themselves in a major hole.

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.