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Weekend Preview: Grayson Allen will return to relevance as No. 4 Duke hosts No. 2 Virginia

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We are now 13 months removed from the third and final tripping incident of Grayson Allen’s roller coaster ride of a career as a Duke Blue Devil, and he’s managed to pull of his most impressive feat to date: He’s become an afterthought.

We don’t really need to rehash the details, do we? Allen intentionally tripped two players at the end of the 2015-16 season. Before league play started last season, he tripped another player, and all hell broke loose. He was the most-hated person in college hoops at a time when LaVar Ball was fully rounding into form. He was the topic of discussion on every debate show. Every little thing that he did was scrutinized. He needed a Florida State assistant coach to make a statement confirming that Allen did nothing wrong when he collided with the coach chasing down a loose ball. He was blamed for an incident where Wake Forest’s Brandon Childress threw Allen onto the Duke bench.

And this season, unless you’ve been paying close attention, you might have forgotten that he opted to return to school for his senior year.

He had that massive performance as the Blue Devils knocked off Michigan State in the Champions Classic, but since that night, Allen has been more than happy to play the background. Marvin Bagley III is this team’s star. Wendell Carter would be this team’s star if Bagley wasn’t around. Put another way, Duke runs everything through their massive, talented and lottery-bound front court.


He’s been relegated to playing a role. He’s Duke’s energy guy. He’s the one diving on the floor for loose balls and jumping passing lanes and doing what he can to slow down an opponent’s best wing. He’s Duke’s 3-and-D guy.

The transition hasn’t been perfect. He has the highest offensive rating of his career while using the fewest numbers of possessions, but he’s also managed to shoot just 24.6 percent from three during ACC play.

And that is the major question mark as we head into what may be the most fascinating matchup of the college basketball season to date.

On Saturday, No. 2 Virginia will make the trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on No. 4 Duke in a battle of two teams that will butt heads, strength on strength.

Duke is ranked second in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to KenPom, and they lead the nation in raw points-per-possession. Virginia is not only the best defensive team in the country this season, they are currently playing defense at an unprecedented level in the KenPom era, which dates back 16 years. When an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object, we find out whether or not Isaiah Wilkins, the nation’s best front court defender, can slow down Bagley, who might end up being the No. 1 pick in the draft.

But there is more to that matchup than simply the nation’s best offense going up against the nation’s best defense.

RELATED: What is the Pack-Line defense and how does it work?

Tony Bennett, Virginia’s head coach, has become famous for his use of the Pack-Line defense, and the principles of the Pack-Line defense are really pretty simple: Don’t let the ball get into the paint and force teams to beat you with contested jumpers. The specifics are a little more complicated than that — three years ago, I broke down the defense in full — but for all intents and purposes, what you need to know is that if the ball gets into the painted area it means the defense has broken down.

The result is that Virginia does two things as well as anyone:

  1. They double the post on every post touch, and their defense moves so quickly that the double-team is typically there on the catch.
  2. They prioritize the defensive glass — something this team struggles with more than any Tony Bennett team of the past — and more or less cede the offensive glass to protect against transition points.

Duke’s offense runs through the post. They lead the nation is offensive rebounding percentage. They actively made the decision to sacrifice some of their defensive prowess in order to get both Bagley and Carter on the floor at the same time. Virginia’s defense is built around slowing those things down.

So like I said, what happens when an unstoppable force collides with an immovable object?

Which brings me back to Grayson Allen.

If Duke is going to take down Virginia, Allen is going to be so important. On the one hand, Allen is going to be chasing around Kyle Guy. Virginia doesn’t run isolations for any specific player at the end of a clock. What they do instead is run a player off of a series of screens, looking to get him freed up for a three or curling into the paint. They did it with Joe Harris. They did it with Malcolm Brogdon. They do it with Kyle Guy. Allen is going to play a major role in slowing that down.

He is also one of Duke’s resident shooters. He is the guy that Virginia is going to dare to beat them. Allen has played the background this year, but in the one game where he was forced to step into a more prominent role, he put up 37 points — 29 of which came in the final 21 minutes — on a top six team in the sport.

Duke is going to need Allen to show up like that again on Saturday if they want to beat Virginia and cut the Wahoos’ lead in the ACC to one game.


  • No. 12 OKLAHOMA (-3) at ALABAMA, Sat. 2:15 p.m.: Trae Young vs. Collin Sexton. Sexton is finally healthy after missing a few games, and he will get the chance to square off with the best player in college basketball this season. I think the hyper-competitive Sexton shows up in a big way, puts up 35 and five assists and the Crimson Tide leave with a win.
  • TEXAS A&M at No. 5 KANSAS (-7), Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Texas A&M badly needs to get this win, and I think they are going to be able to do it. The Aggies have struggled mightily in league play this season, losing six of their first eight games, but they have the biggest front line in the sport. Kansas? They don’t have the size or depth to handle any kind of foul trouble.
  • KENTUCKY at No. 7 WEST VIRGINIA (-7), Sat. 7:00 p.m.: Press Virginia taking on a young Kentucky team with questionable decision-makers and not enough guards on the roster? Yeah. Give me the Mountaineers here.

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.