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Final Four Preview: Drawing sweeping conclusions about one and dones based on this tournament is foolish

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BOSTON — After two weeks of insanity — from buzzer-beaters to historic upsets to wild comebacks to Sister Jean — we’ve finally whittled down the Field of 68 teams to the four that will play for the national title next weekend.

On one side of the bracket, we have No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago squares off with No. 3-seed Michigan.

On the other, we have No. 1-seed Villanova and No. 1-seed Kansas.

And for those of use without a rooting interest in this event, the way this played out could not have been better given what the Elite Eight gave us.

We have one of college basketball’s best programs in Villanova, the best team in the country and a team looking to win their second national title in three years. We have one of college basketball’s blue-bloods in Kansas that is close enough to San Antonio that we can be assured of a packed house for at least one round of games. We have a massive national brand in Michigan that will surely send a big crowd to Texas. And we have the best story of the tournament in Loyola, just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four.

But here’s what we don’t have: one-and-done freshmen and an abundance of first round NBA Draft talent.

Let’s start with the latter: The only player that is a lock to go in the first round of the NBA Draft is Mikal Bridges, a lottery pick wing from Villanova whenever he decides to head to the next level. He’s not the only guy that is going to play in the NBA — I’d guess at least three of his teammates, two or three Jayhawks and Moe Wagner from Michigan will join Bridges at the highest-level of the sport — but he is the only guy that I’d feel comfortable betting any kind of money on to get picked in the first 30 picks.

The one-and-done freshmen are also no longer around.

Villanova isn’t going to lose Jermaine Samuels or Collin Gillispie to the NBA. Marcus Garrett is the only freshman on the Kansas roster that has played the entire seasonĀ — Silvio De Sousa joined in December — as Bill Self has decided to go the transfer route this year, and neither of them are ready to bounce to the NBA. Michigan, like Villanova, is a program that is predicated on continued development year over year. Loyola is Loyola.

All the narratives will no commence to come flooding out.

And rest assured, they are always going to be stupid. The stats show us it’s a good thing to have first round picks, and those first round picks tend to be one-and-done freshmen. Duke won a national title in 2015 when their three best players were Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, a trio of one-and-done first round picks. Kentucky did it in 2012 with a team that had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — the two-best players on the roster and the top two picks in the draft — on their team, along with a third one-and-done first rounder in Marquis Teague.

So, generally speaking, get out of my face with that nonsense.

But, more specifically, it’s especially dumb to fire up those takes this year.

Because essentially what you are saying is that Duke having a roster full of one-and-done first round picks is why this shot from Grayson Allen — which would have been one of the most memorable game-winners in the history of the NCAA tournament — happened to fall off the rim one way instead of the other way:


That shot not going down is why people that I generally think are very smart can unload their “evidence” that becoming a one-and-done factory does not lead to success in college hoops.

The fact of the matter is that using the results of the NCAA tournament to prove any kind of point just does not work. You’re basing your take on what happens in 40 minutes of basketball. The NCAA Tournament is madness because it is unpredictable. Literally anything can happen. It’s why this event is the absolute best way to determine a champion and a farce if you think that it’s going to determine who the best team in the sport is.

Anyone can beat anyone on any given night in college hoops, whether you’re a one-and-done factory facing off with Kansas in the Elite 8 or the nation’s No. 1 overall seed that rarely, if ever, loses an underclassmen to the draft getting bumped by No. 16-seed UMBC in the first round of the tournament.

Drawing sweeping conclusions beyond “it’s March, sh*t happens” is dumb.

The way to win the NCAA tournament is to make your team as good as you can possibly make it, hope that you get a good draw when the bracket is released and then pray that the bounces go your way.

For Duke, if one shot happens to fall through the net during the two seconds that it hangs on the rim, then all of those columns feigning outrage over one-and-done players would be feigning outrage over Bill Self’s inability to capitalize on one-and-done players and why his decision to try and build through the transfer market cost his team a shot at a national title.

There is more than one way to win a title.

Two of the last six champions did it with freshmen.

Two of the last seven, both UConn titles, did it with an all-american point guard that went into God mode for an entire month.

And maybe this year, Loyola will take home the title.

Then maybe everyone will try to find a 98-year old nun to attach to their program.

Because that would become the only way to win, right?

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.