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Tre Jones, Jack White steal the show as No. 2 Duke knocks off No. 12 Texas Tech

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NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden was buzzing the way that only The Mecca does on Thursday night, as 19,812 people packed into the World’s Most Famous Arena to see No. 2 Duke and their traveling band of soon-to-be NBA superstars take on a Texas Tech team that was simultaneously ranked 12th in the country and totally anonymous in the city that couldn’t care less about them.

The crowd was 80-percent Duke fans — amongst them Jimmy Butler, who is close with Tre Jones because of his relationship with Tre’s older brother Tyus —  but it was the traveling Texas Tech support that made 80-percent of the noise as the Red Raiders controlled this game for the first 35 minutes.

Chris Beard’s team took Cam Reddish completely out of the game. He had one point with four minutes left, furthering the questions about what in the world is going on with the player some believe has the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft class. R.J. Barrett missed 14 of his first 17 shots from the floor. Zion Williamson, the show-stopper, picked up three charges going up against a Red Raider defense designed to do exactly that, fouling out with 3:51 left after playing just 23 foul-plagued minutes.

Texas Tech didn’t play a perfect basketball game, but it was damn close to it.

And Duke still managed to find a way to win. The final score was 69-58, covering the spread and leaving the box score watchers wondering if Texas Tech was ever actually in this game. Big shots and clutch plays from Barrett and Reddish made that happen.

But the credit for this win, the reason that Duke was in a position to be able to eke out a W like this against a team like that, belongs to the players whose names you may not have known until last night: Tre Jones and Jack White.

“They were huge,” assistant coach Jon Scheyer said. “Difference-makers for us.”

They are, at the same time, happy being anonymous and precisely what makes this Duke team so dangerous.


Jack White (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Jack White was an afterthought.

A 6-foot-7 forward from Australia and a junior that had spent his first two seasons in Durham keeping the seats on Duke’s bench heated for the likes of Jayson Tatum, Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter, White seemed destined for another year’s worth of mop-up duty with this iteration of the Blue Devils.

They were bringing three wings into the mix that could all end up being top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft, and a pair of junior centers — Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier — seemed destined to soak up whatever frontcourt minutes were leftover. White was just a guy, that line of thinking went, a player that was talented enough to give Duke’s relevant pieces a fight in practice while lighting it up on the scout team.

But nothing more, we thought.

At no point during the preseason did I — or anyone outside of the Duke program, really — think that White would end up being the piece that made Duke’s four star freshmen fit, but here we are. The best lineup that Duke can put on the floor features Traralgon, Victoria’s finest alongside Zion, R.J., Cam and Tre.

Yes, this is real life.

White is quick enough to switch onto point guards and tough enough to battle in the paint against centers. He was guarding Texas Tech star Jarrett Culver on key possessions down the stretch less than a month after he was guarding Gonzaga’s bigs during Duke’s comeback against the Zags in Maui. He can board, he can wall-up and protect the rim, he won’t get embarrassed if he’s left on an island defensively. That is the definition of defensive versatility, of position-less basketball.

Then there is what he provides offensively: He actually make threes on a consistent and trustworthy basis.

Never was that more apparent than on Thursday, when he hit two clutch second half threes on a night where the Blue Devils shot 3-for-20 from beyond the arc. Duke missed their first 15 threes. White made two in the final 12 minutes. The first tied game at 45. The second gave Duke a 56-55 lead they would never relinquish.

“When it’s not going well and Jack White hits that three, that’s a huge shot,” Mike Krzyzewski said.

He provides the spacing the Blue Devils so desperately need on the offensive end. Perhaps more importantly, on a roster full of ball-dominant talents, he doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands in order to be an effective weapon. No one else on Duke is able to provide the combination of skills that White can, and when slotted alongside those four freshmen, Duke’s ‘death lineup’ is complete.

“The beauty of Jack,” Scheyer said, “is he can plug in for anybody because of his defense versatility. On offense, he doesn’t need the ball. We have enough guys that can make plays. He brings every body together on both ends. He’s really the glue for us.”

“That’s literally what we call him,” Barrett chuckled, sitting in Alonzo Trier’s locker in the Knicks locker room after the game. “The Glue.”



Tre Jones was bred to be a defender.

Four years younger than Tyus, Tre spent his entire life playing up. Soft wasn’t an option, not if he wanted to be on the same court as the player that was a legend in his city and his state before he had a learner’s permit.

Tre couldn’t afford to back down from anyone or anything.

“My whole life I played up,” he said. “I was always the smallest kid on the court.”

Tre is the youngest of three brothers. Everyone knows about Tyus, who is four years his senior. Fewer know about Jadee, who is 14 years older than Tre and has spent a decade working as a trainer for his younger brothers. Jadee is a former Division I player in his own right, and started working out daily with Tyus when Tyus was heading into high school. Tre was in fourth grade, and like every youngest brother in every family on the planet, he wanted nothing more than to be included.

When Tyus worked out with Jadee, Tre would go, too. When Tyus would work on improving his body, Tre would be right there, too. And the way that Jadee sees it, these are the days that molded Tre into the player that he is today. He’s a better athlete than Tyus because he started developing that athleticism at a younger age. He takes pride in his defense because he was the nine-year old that had to earn respect working out with his older brother, the star eighth-grader on a high school basketball team.

Tyus has always been something of a basketball savant, a player whose understanding of the game allows him to outperform physical gifts that, by an NBA standard, are lacking.

Tre’s different.

“Tre goes at being a point guard with a lot of fire,” Jadee told NBC Sports last year. “With his feet, the things you can see, the hustle plays, the defense, the rebounding, taking charges, scoring in transition.”

And on a night where defense was king, Thursday was Tre’s coming out party. He finished the night with six steals, forced twice as many turnovers and staked his claim to the title of best defender in college basketball this season. He did it all while committing just one of the 43 turnovers by both teams on Thursday night.

“Tre plays like that every game,” Barrett said. “That’s what he does every day.”

The oft-forgotten member of Duke’s freshmen class and the younger brother of a Duke Final Four MOP, Tre embodies every point guard cliché in the book. He’s tough, both physically and mentally. He couldn’t care less about what stats show up in the box score as long as his team has more points than the other team. He’s unselfish. He’s a leader. He “makes winning plays.” In a way, he couldn’t be more perfect to play the point at Duke; he’s Wojo with NBA pedigree.

“He’s a great leader, but he leads by action,” Barrett said. “He talks, but his action speaks louder than his words.”

When asked for an example, Barrett said that on Thursday night there was a timeout in the second half, when Texas Tech was on a run, “and after we came out the huddle, he told us we have to play with heart. He’s going to give it everything he has and we just have to follow him.”

And that’s precisely what he did.

Anyone that watched this game could see the impact that Jones had on it defensively. He was credited with six steals, which was probably half the number of turnovers that he forced and in no way comes close to signifying the impact that he had on Texas Tech’s offense.

“He’s as good on the ball (defensively) as we’ve had — Amaker, Wojo, Hurley. He’s in the class with all those guys,” Mike Krzyzewski said, adding that Jones is the best Duke defender since Chris Duhon. “He can make reads like LeBron or Chris Paul did when I was coaching Team USA. There aren’t many freshmen who can do that.”


Tre Jones (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Duke is going to go as far as Zion, R.J. and Cam will carry them this season.

No one can, with a straight face, say otherwise.

That’s the Big Three and it’s always going to be the Big Three.

But that is also beside the point: There are going to be nights where those three struggle to get things going. There are going to be nights where Duke runs into a team that can stagnate their dribble-drive offense. There are going to be nights where they need to find a spark elsewhere.

If there is one thing that we learned on Thursday, it’s that Tre Jones and Jack White can be that spark when they need to be.

And the result, in the end, is that Duke landed their best win of the season.

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.