Getty Images

Iowa State earns critical Big 12 road win at No. 8 Texas Tech

Leave a comment

Iowa State earned a critical Big 12 road win on Wednesday night as the Cyclones held off a late charge to beat No. 8 Texas Tech 68-64. Coming off of a two-game losing streak, both coming in close games, Iowa State’s road win solidified that they’ll remain a threat in a complicated Big 12.

Here are three takeaways from Iowa State’s win over Texas Tech.

Iowa State is getting more comfortable in tight games

One of the fascinating things to watch with this Iowa State team over the next several months will be how the young Cyclones continue to play at the end of close games.

Most of Iowa State’s wins have come in double-digit fashion this season. Single-digit wins have generally been tough to come by. Recently, that has hurt the Cyclones with two close losses in which Iowa State could have earned wins against Baylor and Kansas State.

Losing late leads and falling in close games wasn’t the case on Wednesday night. In a critical conference road game against the league’s only unbeaten team, Iowa State played a balanced, impressive first half, then held off the Red Raiders’ best, late charge to earn this win.

With so many capable weapons and great ball movement, the Cyclone offense is able to generate good looks and points against even the No. 1 defense in the country like Texas Tech. And although Iowa State can still have lapses at times defensively, they took Jarrett Culver’s best punch (more on him in a minute) and sustained to get right back in the Big 12 race.

Marial Shayok (20 points) and Michael Jacobson (14 points, 10 rebounds) both had strong efforts while Lindell Wigginton (11 points) and Nick Weiler-Babb (11 points) also contributed. Even with slow nights from offensively-capable players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton, and Cameron Lard out with an ankle injury, the Cyclones still had plenty of firepower to hang 40 first-half points on the No. 1 defense in the country.

Iowa State might not be consistently great, but they have glimpses of strong play. Once Wigginton is more acclimated since his return, and Lard is also back in the rotation, the Cyclones will also have more depth and potential explosiveness.

Texas Tech needs consistent offensive help for Jarrett Culver

For as good as Texas Tech has been this season — No. 8 in the country, No. 1 KenPom defense, only unbeaten in the Big 12 entering tonight — there is still the glaring wart of their completely average offense.

With only sophomore Jarrett Culver as a gifted scorer, the Red Raiders struggle to generate offense for others during long stretches of time. Matt Mooney (eight points) and Davide Moretti (10 points) can both attain double-figures if they knock down catch-and-shoot opportunities and convert on swing drives, but they aren’t creating very much on their own against this level of athleticism like Iowa State has.

Culver (20 points, 16 rebounds) didn’t have his finest day from the floor at 7-for-21, but his ability to get to spots and take the looks he generally wants is nearly unparalleled in college hoops this season. Iowa State was successful defensively because they didn’t allow others to get loose while containing Culver to just a solid night with a variety of options.

Although Texas Tech needs to hit some three-pointers, or build a cushion, to be at its best, there is still a comforting feeling for the Red Raiders after this. Knowing that the No. 1 defense is still there as a backbone helps. Even with Culver having just a solid night, Texas Tech almost beat one of the Big 12’s more talented teams with its second-half defense and Culver’s will.

If the Red Raiders get more consistent offensive help from others then they’ll remain an elite team.

The Big 12 is wide open

With tonight’s results of Kansas State beating No. 20 Oklahoma on the road and Iowa State taking down previously-unbeaten Texas Tech, the Big 12 race is as wide-open just a few weeks in.

The Red Raiders at 4-1 have moved into a tie with Kansas atop the Big 12 standings while Kansas State, Iowa State, TCU and Baylor all only have two conference losses each. Oklahoma and Texas also loom as intriguing three-loss teams.

The Cyclones are the darkhorse since they’re the only team to beat Texas Tech¬†and Kansas. Showing that they can hang with the top teams, Iowa State just has to stay consistent to stay in the race as they could be a team to watch.

Kansas has lost Udoka Azubuike and has to regroup a bit to win the league once again while Texas Tech remains a major threat thanks to their defense and Culver. Texas Tech and Kansas both also have two games remaining against each other, so we have a long way to go before anything is decided.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.