Michael Reaves/Getty Images

St. John’s snaps 11-game losing streak, upsets No. 4 Duke in MSG


St. John’s entered Saturday sitting at 10-13 on the season, winless in all 11 Big East games that they have played this season.

The Johnnies will still be winless in the Big East on Super Bowl Sunday, but they added a nice little consolation prize into the mix, as they rode 33 points from Shamorie Ponds to an 81-77 win over No. 4 Duke in Madison Square Garden.

Ponds was the best player on the floor on Saturday, finishing with seven boards, four steals and three assists to go along with those 33 points. He lit up whoever was tasked with trying to guard him and made a pair of massive buckets down the stretch — a layup with just over a minute left to answer Duke after the Blue Devils re-took the lead, and a three on the ensuing possession to put the Johnnies up 77-73 with just over 30 seconds left.

“They made us look bad but then we made ourselves look bad. We didn’t play basketball the first 32 minutes worthy of our program,” Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “It was disgusting, really.”

He is a very, very good player and scorer. He doesn’t get much national attention because the Johnnies haven’t won this year, but it is not all that shocking to see Ponds go crazy in Madison Square Garden while carrying St. John’s to a big win over a good team.

And it’s also not all that surprising to see a lead guard slice up Duke’s defense. We’ve come to expect it at this point, right? Duke doesn’t guard, particularly dynamic, play-making ball-handlers.

Hell, I don’t even think it would be right to hammer Duke for losing this game. The fact of the matter is that St. John’s has the talent to be in the mix as an NCAA tournament team. They have been the most disappointing team in the Big East this season and one of the more disappointing teams in the counter. If the Johnnies were winning at the rate that they should be winning, this would just be another case of Duke losing a road game to an OK team that matched up well with them.

But none of that changes the fact that this Duke team just doesn’t seem to fit.

Grayson Allen was a total no-show again. He finished with just seven points on 1-for-7 shooting despite playing all 40 minutes. The only field goal he made came with less than a minute left, and if it wasn’t for two more threes that he missed on the final two possessions, he would have left the Garden having shot the ball just four times.

That said, I can appreciate what Allen is trying to do.

He’s trying to play a role. He’s trying to do what Quinn Cook did for the 2015 title-winning team. He’s trying to be the guy that sacrifices his numbers for the sake of winning. The problem is that the rest of these pieces just do not seem to fit.

Take Gary Trent Jr., for example. He’s really come on strong shooting the ball in ACC play, but he’s been such a liability on the defensive end of the floor, whether Duke is in zone or in man. Wendell Carter might be an all-american, but he essentially plays the same spot on the floor as Bagley, and hes not as good as Bagley is. Then there is Trevon Duval. No one respects his ability to shoot, which makes it that much easier to throw bodies at Duke’s bigs.

And then there is the issue of what happens when Bagley is off the floor. On Saturday, Duke’s offense went directly into the toilet. They were already the majority of the way through a slow start to the second half when Bagley picked up his fourth foul, but as soon as he went to the bench, Duke’s offense looked awful. I’m not sure they had one quality possession during the five or so minutes he was on the bench.

All told, the Johnnies used a 27-11 surge to open the second half and build a 59-50 lead.

“The basketball gods understand, in most cases, who should win,” Coach K said. “We got what we deserved.”

Oh, and Bagley?

He sat for seven minutes midway through the second half, the stretch when Duke has made a habit of digging themselves out of the holes that they create.

And to me, that right there is the most important part of this game.

Duke once again dug themselves a hole. Then Bagley got into foul trouble, and the Blue Devils didn’t have the horses to dig themselves back out.

The truth is, other than the game against Michigan State on the fifth day of the season, Duke has yet to really put in a complete performance against a team that looks like they can get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They needed to come storming back against Texas, and Florida, and Indiana. They rallied late against Miami and even trailed Virginia by 10 points at the half. Their best performance against a good team came at home against Florida State when they gave up 93 points.

And all of those comebacks more or less have one thing in common: Marvin Bagley III taking over.

It really isn’t hard to frame Duke’s season like this: They are a bad defensive team with incohesive talent that would be 15-8 on the season if Bagley wasn’t a super-human.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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

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
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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

Getty Images

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.