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Louisville’s NCAA tournament chances in doubt after another Virginia loss


NEW YORK — And now the waiting game begins.

For the second time in a week, the Louisville Cardinals lost to Virginia, the ACC’s regular season champs, in a game that they had to win if the dream of getting to an NCAA tournament in the worst year in the program’s history was going to come to fruition.

And while this Thursday’s 75-58 loss wasn’t as painful as last Thursday’s 67-66 defeat — a loss that came on a banked-in three at the buzzer of a game the Cardinals led 66-62 at home when they fouled a three-point shooter with 0.9 seconds left on the clock — it is what may have put the final nail in their tournament coffin.

The Cardinals entered Thursday sitting at No. 39 in the RPI, and while three really aren’t many negatives on their résumé — beyond, you know, the 14 losses — the issue is that they quite literally have not beaten anyone good. They are 0-11 against the RPI top 50. Their three Quadrant 1 wins came on the road against Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame. If there was anything that the Selection Committee showed us when they unveiled the top four seeds last month, it’s that they do value quality wins. They need you to prove you can beat good teams.

Can you really be that good if you can’t find a way to get a win over someone better than Florida State?

“Without a doubt,” interim head coach David Padgett said. “Unfortunately that’s not my decision. If you look at our overall body work we haven’t done anything wrong. I think that’s getting lost in the shuffle. People used to put a lot of weight in bad losses.”

“Maybe we haven’t done as much right, but not doing anything wrong is doing something right.”

We’ll find out if he’s right in roughly 72 hours.

Until then, Louisville fans are going to be sweating out every game played involving a bubble team. As of today, projects the Cardinals as having an 88.5 percent chance of getting into the NCAA tournament. That, however, doesn’t factor in the games that have yet to be played. Notre Dame probably jumps over the Cardinals with a win over Duke today. Oklahoma State has a chance to land a tourney-clinching win against Kansas. The same with Marquette against Villanova. And Baylor against West Virginia. And Texas against Texas Tech.

Then compare their profile to that of, say, Oklahoma, who has just as many losses and six Quadrant 1 wins to boot.

I saw all that to say this: The next three days are not going to be fun.

But the last three weeks have not been much fun for this program or the people that support it. Their 2013 national title banner came down. Six months ago, their Hall of Fame head coach was fired because he couldn’t withstand a pay for play scheme that the FBI unearthed during an investigation into corruption in college basketball that came on the heels of the NCAA handing down penalties for a scandal involving strippers, hookers and recruits in the basketball dorms.

That happens two and a half years ago.

It has been a long road for the Cardinals to get here.

And the question now is where it will lead, because the future of this program is very much unclear.

Let’s start with the obvious: They have an interim head coach, one that may or may not return next season. They are going to go through a coaching search, but having just finished with an NCAA investigation and with the potential of facing another one because of the money that was allegedly funneled to recruit Brian Bowen by Adidas at the request of Pitino, there is no real clarity on when Louisville will return to being Louisville again.

Even if they are able to hire, say, Xavier head coach Chris Mack or Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall.

And that is assuming that the Cardinals get a coach of that caliber. There’s no guarantee that Mack or Marshall will say yes, at which point Louisville could find themselves faced with a choice between wildly overpaying for a guy that only kind of want, or rolling with Padgett in the short-term as a low-cost option to try and get them through the doldrums.

Their 2018 recruiting class has already been torched. How many guys currently on the roster are going to want to deal with the drama or risk potentially having to play through another postseason ban? This team has been through more than any team in recent memory, which is part of Padgett’s pitch to the Selection Committee.

“Their head coach that they came here to play for got relieved of his duties three days before practice starts,” Padgett said. “I coached the team by myself for three weeks. I’m not able to hire assistant coaches for the first month of the season. We have to deal with the distractions of a scandal that happened before most of them were even here. It just kind of goes on and on.”

“But hey, the way these guys, for being 18 to 22 years old, have handled it is absolutely remarkable. Whatever happens on Sunday, they deserve a ton of credit for that publicly, because so many times this year they could have just folded up and said, this is not why we came here. They could have felt sorry for themselves. And not one single time throughout the last four or five months did they do that. And I mean that with all sincerity. It’s been the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen.”

Louisville is one of college basketball’s biggest and best brands.

They’ll be back at some point.

But regardless of whether or not there is good news at the end of this three-day window, whether or not Louisville ends up in the 2018 NCAA tournament, the waiting game for this fanbase has only just begun.

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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.