Four takeaways from No. 4 Duke’s 118-84 win over No. 2 Kentucky

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The Duke Blue Devils are apparently better than everyone thought they were going to be.

That’s the biggest takeaway from their 118-84 win over No. 2 Kentucky in Indianapolis on Tuesday night.

Here are four more things that we learned:

1. THAT WHOLE ‘DUKE CAN’T SHOOT NARRATIVE’? MIGHT’VE BEEN OVERBLOWN

The biggest question mark that I — and many others — had about Duke was just how much the concerns about their shooting would affect what they were able to do in the halfcourt. If a defense doesn’t have to run any of their perimeter guys off of the three-point line, will there be enough space for the ridiculous amount of talent on the roster to create off the dribble?

As it turns out, Duke might have enough shooting to keep defenses honest. On Tuesday night, they shot 12-for-26 from beyond the arc. Zion Williamson made the only three that he attempted, although he also hit another deep jumper. Cam Reddish was 3-for-8 from three. R.J. Barrett shot 3-for-7 from deep. Tre Jones hit the only three he attempted. That’s more than enough shooting to punish defenders for helping too much.

But Duke probably doesn’t even need to worry about playing in the halfcourt.

Their transition attack is absolutely lethal. They have four stars that can grab a defense rebound and lead the break without needing to make an outlet pass. Williamson is the best grab-and-go big that I have ever seen, and Barrett is right there with him.

Who needs halfcourt offense when you can just get dunks in transition?

2. I HAVE NO IDEA WHO IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO BEAT DUKE THIS SEASON

I went longer on this subject here, but suffice to say that I simply have no idea how anyone in college basketball is going to be able to beat this team.

I’m sure it will happen at some point. There are going to be nights where Duke shoots 2-for-26 from three instead of 12-for-26, and if that happens against, say, Syracuse or Virginia on a night where Duke lets their opponent hit a dozen triples, they can get picked off.

But I just don’t know how you go into a game against them with anything other than a hope and a prayer that happens. Duke has the two-best players in the sport and, more often than not, will have the three-best players on the court. They have the ideal point guard, they have the pieces to defend the way that Coach K has always wanted to defend and their role players are all capable of and willing to do their jobs.

Seriously.

How do you beat them?

Zion Williamson (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

3. DUKE’S ROLE PLAYERS DID A JOB

I want to come back to this point because it matters.

Javin DeLaurier was more or less a no-show on Tuesday, but that didn’t matter because Marques Bolden was, dare I say, effective? He scored seven points and he grabbed four boards and he changed a few shots at the rim while being functional defending ball-screens. He did his job well. Jack White? He had nine points, 11 boards, three assists, one impressive hustle play that led to a steal and Williamson dunk and knocked down a three for good measure. Alex O’Connell made three threes.

Hell, even Tre Jones fell in line and let the Big Three show out while he racked up six assists, gave Kentucky’s point guards headaches and played the brand of winning basketball we associate with his family tree.

Duke has better depth than I’ve been giving them credit for.

4. THIS RESULT HAD AS MUCH TO DO WITH KENTUCKY AS IT DID DUKE

I wish I had beaten this drum more during the preseason so I could sit here and gloat about how correct my take was.

Kentucky has a problem. They don’t have a star. Keldon Johnson was good tonight, Reid Travis put up numbers in a blowout loss (he did that a lot at Stanford) and Tyler Herro was as impressive as we expected him to be.

But do any of those guys scare you?

After watching the tape of this game, if you’re an opposing coach, are you up burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how in the world you are going to slow them down?

No.

What Kentucky has is a roster with nine players that are all good enough to start on a top five team but who are all at their best as the third- or fourth-best starter on that team. This is a roster full of role players, guys that would thrive playing in a complimentary role. Even Johnson has a lot of Miles Bridges to his game, and while that means he (rightly) projects as a terrific college players and a really good pro, it’s important to note that all last season, we criticized Bridges for the fact that he wasn’t a ‘take-the-game-over’ kind of guy.

The other issue?

They only really have one two-way player (Johnson). Kentucky’s best defensive backcourt features Immanuel Quickly and Ashton Hagans. Their best offensive backcourt has Quade Green and Herro. The same can be said about their bigs, where E.J. Montgomery and Travis are their offensive weapons while Washington and Nick Richards are better defensively.

Minimal overlap between a team’s best offensive five and best defensive five is not ideal.

There are more red flags with this team than anyone was willing to acknowledge.

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.