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No. 9 Kansas State wins ugly game over upset-minded No. 16 UMBC

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Kansas State held off another feisty performance from No. 16 seed UMBC as the No. 9 seed Wildcats won an ugly 50-43 game on Sunday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

America was rooting for the Retrievers, the first No. 16 seed to ever beat a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament, after UMBC shocked America with a blowout win over Virginia on Friday night. Kansas State also gave UMBC ample opportunities to secure another upset — turning the ball over 18 times and shooting 1-for-12 from three-point range.

But after putting up 74 points against the nation’s best defense two nights ago, the Retrievers couldn’t get a shot to go in the second round.  Defense is ultimately what is taking Bruce Weber’s team to the second weekend.  UMBC shot 28 percent (14-for-47) from the field and 27 percent (6-for-22) from three-point range as they struggled to generate offense against a strong Kansas State defense.

The Wildcats (24-11) were also ugly on offense as they only shot 40 percent (18-for-44) from the field and had only two double-figure scorers — led by Barry Brown’s 18 points. Kansas State couldn’t buy a bucket from the perimeter. They had a ton of unforced errors.

It wasn’t pretty, but the only thing that matters is that Kansas State advanced to the Sweet 16 in the South Regional despite not playing particularly well. Leading by only three points with under two minutes left, the Wildcats are lucky that the Retrievers didn’t get hot from the perimeter to steal another win.

Kansas State moves on to play No. 5 seed Kentucky in Atlanta in the Sweet 16 on Thursday. The matchup of Wildcats will almost assuredly have a heavy Kentucky lean in the crowd, with many in Big Blue Nation already referring to the host city as Catlanta.

But the South Regional is wide open since all four top seeds have already been eliminated. A young Kentucky team has also been inconsistent at times during the season. It would be silly to count out Kansas State since this team has defended at a pretty high level during this tournament.

Kansas State might have earned the victory and advanced, but America fell in love with UMBC over the last few days. The magical run of the Retrievers was the reason everybody tuned in to see this game.

The program became a national story after the team’s shocking blowout win on Friday night. The Retrievers won over America with a fun underdog team and an aggressive social media presence.  It might not sink in how monumental UMBC’s win over Virginia was until we look back at it many years later.

Since taking the nation by storm as a No. 15 seed advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2013, Florida Gulf Coast has become a respected mid-major program that regularly competes for conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances. The program’s recruiting reach has also increased as the Eagles are bringing in better talent.

The school’s surprise run also had huge financial implications for the school and athletics department. According to a report from the Baltimore Sun, annual donations at FGCU went from an average of $15 million per year to $27 million per year after the Sweet 16 run. Applications for out-of-state students increased by 80 percent. The school was also able to sell gear while making a push for more season ticket holders and consistent revenue.

Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, UMBC is now a nationally-known program thanks to one special win. UMBC’s weekend perfectly encapsulates why the NCAA tournament is such a big deal for the one-bid leagues who usually get slaughtered by the bluebloods in the opening round.

The Retrievers might not have picked up a catchy original nickname like “Dunk City.” But the letters “U-M-B-C” will likely forever be synonymous with massive upsets and unlikely underdog stories. We could very well see books and documentaries get produced off of this run.

It’ll be fascinating to track the school, and the men’s basketball program, over the next several seasons to see how all of this will benefit the school. Capitalizing on this hot stretch is going to be a key for UMBC’s sustained growth.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County could see an uptick in enrollment applications and donations to its school. All because of an orange bouncing ball.

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

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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.