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Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville, Ole Miss roll as no top ten teams lose

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Blake Hinson, Ole Miss

Freshman guard Blake Hinson picked a terrific day to put together the best basketball game that he has ever played.

Playing on the road against a top 15 team in a rivalry game, Hinson scored a career-high 26 points on 8-for-16 shooting while hitting five threes as the Rebels improved to 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC with an 81-77 win at No. 14 Mississippi State.

Not bad for a player in just his third career conference game.

“I was super fun,” Hinson said, and I do not doubt that it was.

The bigger story here, however, is that suddenly, out of nowhere, the Rebels look like a team that is going to be very relevant at the top of the SEC this season. This is now their second straight win over a top 15 team — on Wednesday, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points at home — and currently sit in first place in the league, tied with Tennessee. Weird things happen in conference play, and it is probably too early to jump to too many conclusions, but I do think it’s fair to say that there has not been a more pleasant surprise in the SEC this year and there may not be a single coach in the country that is outperforming expectations more than Davis is in his first season in Oxford.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Louisville Cardinals

Louisville entered Saturday just 72 hours removed from losing at Pittsburgh, and with a trip to North Carolina and the Dean Dome coming up, I’m not sure how many people expected much of anything from the Cardinals.

Those people, apparently, were foolish.

Because Louisville went out and absolutely smacked the Tar Heels around. They held Luke Maye to 3-for-14 shooting. They kept Coby White from having any kind of impact, and he didn’t hit a single field goal and finished with as many turnovers as he did points. They limited the Tar Heels to 34.5 percent shooting form the floor and a 3-for-22 mark from deep, and the reward for all of that hard work was an 83-62 win.

It was, believe it or not, the worst home loss that North Carolina has suffered under head coach Roy Williams, and frankly, seeing that happen at the hands of this iteration of the Louisville Cardinals is not something I ever expected to see happen.

So good for Louisville and good for Chris Mack. This win more or less cements a trip to the NCAA tournament so long as the Cardinals find a way to remain above .500 in league play.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Cam Reddish, Duke

Reddish scored 23 points, carrying Duke after Zion Williamson went out with an eye injury and hitting the game-winning three to beat no. 13 Florida State in Tallahassee, 80-78.

More on the Blue Devils below.

EXTRA ONIONS

There were plenty of helpings of onions on Saturday.

Let’s start with D’Marcus Simonds, who traveled while making this game-winning shot and then hopped on twitter to let the world know that, yes, he did travel, and he also committed an offensive foul, too:

Then there was this shot from Texas A&M’s T.J. Starks to beat Alabama on the road:

And this miracle from UTEP:

What a day, folks.

What a day.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

TOP TEN TEAMS ON THE ROAD: I would have bet any amount of money that, at some point today, one of the seven top ten teams that were playing on the road would lose.

Someone, somewhere, playing a road game in league play would have an off shooting night, get a couple of bad whistles and head home with a loss.

And I would have been very, very wrong.

  • No. 1 Duke beat No. 13 Florida State, and once that three from Cam Reddish went down, I should have known that there was no chance a top ten team was losing.
  • No. 3 Tennessee pulled away from Florida down the stretch before Grant Williams and the rest of the Volunteers went full Marshall Henderson, gator chomping the entire student section:

  • No. 4 Virginia was barely challenged at Clemson, leaving South Carolina with a 20-point win despite barely breaking 60 themselves.
  • No. 5 Gonzaga was tied with San Francisco with less than three minutes left, but a pair of threes created separated and, eventually, the Zags would win 96-83, covering the spread by the time it was all said and done.
  • No. 7 Kansas got 18 points from Lagerald Vick as they went into Waco and picked off Baylor.
  • No. 8 Texas Tech got 22 points from Matt Mooney in a 68-62 win over Texas.
  • And No. 10 Nevada was able to take care of Fresno State on the road despite the fact that Fresno State looks like the second-best team in that league.

It was the rare day where an upset of a top ten team was nowhere to be found. This will not be the norm.

KANSAS STATE: At 8:16 p.m. ET on Wednesday I texted a prominent college basketball writer and asked if this was going to be the year where Bruce Weber would get fired. At that exact moment in time, the Wildcats were trailing West Virginia 42-21 at home in the second half.

Things looked bad.

Since I sent that text, Kansas State proceeded to outscore West Virginia 50-27 to win that game by two points, and then they went into Ames and knocked off No. 20 Iowa State, 58-57, in the gym that Kansas couldn’t find a way to beat the Cyclones. That’s one way to stick it to the idiots that are questioning job security.

KRISTIAN DOOLITTLE: Doolitte finished with 24 points and 10 boards to lead No. 23 Oklahoma as they knocked off No. 25 TCU, 76-74, in Norman. The Sooners trailed at the half, but with this win they keep pace with the rest of the league as they make a run at Kansas and a Big 12 regular season title.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling at Iowa after losing at Rutgers and at home against Michigan State the last two games. Chris Holtmann can work magic as a head coach, but eventually the youth on their roster was going to catch up with it.

IOWA STATE: The Dauster Curse strikes again! Every time I get on board with a team, they immediately fall off of a cliff. This is proven. It’s a scientific fact. Last week, I called Iowa State a top ten team. This week, they lost at Baylor and they lost at home to Kansas State, who look like two of the bottom four teams in the Big 12.

I guess I’d like to walk that one back.

ST. JOHN’S: I know that the Johnnies were playing without Shamorie Ponds, but that doesn’t make a home loss to DePaul any more palatable. It’s not going to have all that much of an effect on their NCAA tournament standing — St. John’s is going to be dancing, and Ponds’ absence will be factored in by the committee — but this drops them two games behind Villanova atop the Big East standings.

But no one cares about regular season titles these days anyway.

SYRACUSE: The Orange lost by 14 points on Saturday. At home. To Georgia Tech. That’s not good, not when they have already lost to Buffalo, Old Dominion, Oregon and UConn. And guess what? They play at Duke on Monday. Good luck!

FINAL THOUGHT

Saturday was all the evidence that you needed that Duke is the best team in college basketball this season.

The Blue Devils were on the road playing against a top 15 team in a gym that has been their bugaboo for the last decade or so, and they played the entire second half without the player that just about everyone with a pulse believes will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and the National Player of the Year this year.

And it didn’t really matter.

Florida State looked pretty good, but R.J. Barrett (32 points) and Cam Reddish (23 points and the game-winning three) looked even better. It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. Lose the No. 1 overall pick and suddenly the third consensus top five pick, the one that has struggled for the last month of the season, figures things out and drops 23.

I’m sure that is a nice security blanket to have.

Reddish is actually the most interesting part of the Duke season. He is immensely talented — there are still people out there that think he has the highest ceiling of the three Duke freshmen — but he’s been in a funk for the last five weeks. He played just 16 minutes against Clemson and 20 minutes against Texas Tech and at Wake Forest. He entered Saturday shooting 25.4 percent from the floor and 18.4 percent from three over his last six games. It has not been pretty.

Saturday, however, was different. Without Zion Williamson on the floor, space and touches opened up, and Reddish pounced.

The question now is how he responds. Does this get him more involved in the offense? Does this mean that he’ll start knocking down the shots that he gets? Does this get Coach K to run more stuff for him?

Because the truth is that the issue here isn’t talent, it’s role. With Williamson, Barrett and Tre Jones on the roster, there are three players that play with the ball in their hands, and that’s actually what Reddish does best. It’s been an adjustment, one he has yet to truly figure out.

Was this the moment he woke up?

Because if it is, Duke just became scary.

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.