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Cline, Edwards lead Purdue to thrilling overtime win over Tennessee

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It took 14 years as Purdue head coach to get it done, but Matt Painter finally got over the hump.

Thanks an outburst from Ryan Cline, who scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half, and 29 points from Carsen Edwards, No. 3-seed Purdue survived a furious comeback by No. 2-seed Tennessee, knocking off the Vols, 99-94, and getting to the Elite 8 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in Painter’s tenure in West Lafayette.

In what was the most thrilling game of the tournament to date, Purdue caught fire in the first half, taking a 40-28 lead into the break and leading by as many as 17 points with 15:36 left in the game. But Tennessee, who had blown massive leads in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, wasn’t going anywhere. Admiral Schofield had 18 of his 21 points in the second half and Lamonte Turner had 13 of his 15, leading a rally that saw the Vols go up by as many as three points in the final minutes.

After trading haymakers for what felt like the last eight minutes of the game, the Vols finally took an 82-80 lead on a Grant Williams put-back dunk with 8.8 seconds left, but on the ensuing possession, Edwards was fouled shooting a three. He made two of the three, forcing the extra period, where Purdue used a 9-2 run to open the extra frame and put the game away.

And with that, the Boilermakers are one win away from getting to the program’s first Final Four since 1980.

On its own, that’s big for Painter, whose lack of high-level March success has made some people overlook just how good of a ball coach he is.

Because the truth is that there aren’t many coaches in the country who have had a better run than Painter has over the course of the last four seasons, and there may not even be a single coach in college hoops that did a better job this season than Painter has with this group.

This is not a Sweet 16 basketball team on paper.

Grady Eifert is a 6-foot-5 former walk-on that starts at the four. Nojel Eastern is their starting “point guard”, a 6-foot-6 defensive menace that has shot just four threes this season. The best thing about Matt Haarms, their 7-foot-3 center, is his hair. Their second-leading scorer, Ryan Cline, is a dad-bod all-star who shooting stroke has been described by Painter as someone flicking a fly rod.

None of them started last season.

That didn’t matter for the Boilermakers, as they won a share of the Big Ten regular season title this season.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

And they did that despite the fact that Carsen Edwards, who used more than 34 percent of Purdue’s possessions this season, shot 34 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three during league play. Even with a player that carried a larger volume offensively than all but nine players in Division I this season, the Boilermakers still finished the regular season as the fifth most efficient offense in America.

It just doesn’t make sense.

Which is where Painter enters the conversation.

The first thing that you have to discuss when talking about this Purdue team is the offense that they run. It’s an x’s-and-o’s nerd’s dream. The way they use screens. They way they alleviate their ball-handling concerns with precision execution. The counters to their counters.

But the big thing here is their dribble-handoff action. It’s such a smart thing for this group to do because of the strengths of their two most dangerous weapons offensively — Edwards and Cline. Chasing Edwards around any kind of screen is a nightmare, let alone a dribble-handoff, where he can get a full head of steam before coming around a pick. Cline is almost more dangerous in these actions, and that’s because of that fly-rod shooting stroke. He has a natural fade on his shot, and a release on the side of his body makes it nearly impossible to get a clean contest.

What they run is perfectly-suited to their roster.

That’s coaching.

The acceptance of their roles?

That’s coaching.

The fact that this program has a culture that produces individual improvement each and every year?

That’s coaching.

Let’s talk about that last point. In each of the last three seasons, we’ve expected the Boilermakers to take a step back because of what they lost. In 2016-17, it was the departure of A.J. Hammons that was supposed to be the back-breaker, but Caleb Swanigan turned himself into a National Player of the Year candidate as a sophomore and the Boilermakers won the outright Big Ten title by two full games.

Last season, after Swanigan graduated, we found ourselves asking how in the hell a Purdue team that lost Swanigan would be able to remain relevant, and the answer was simple: Everyone got better, particularly Edwards, who morphed into one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. But he wasn’t alone: Dakota Mathias, Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas all turned themselves into guys that deservedly got looks from the NBA. They finished a game out of first place in the Big Ten and fifth overall in KenPom’s rankings.

This year, Purdue lost those three seniors as well as P.J. Thompson, but, again, it didn’t matter.

Cline became an all-league player. Eastern has developed into one of the best defenders in college basketball. Grady Eifert holds his own defensively and shooting 44 percent from three. Haarms is effective. Even Purdue’s four freshmen — Trevion Williams, Aaron Wheeler, Eric Hunter and Sasha Stefanovic — have thrived in the roles they’ve been asked to play.

It is not a coincidence when a coach can consistently maximize the talent on his roster, when they win despite the fact that their talent says they shouldn’t.

It’s coaching.

Painter is one of the very best in the business, and he’s now one win away from getting the credit that he deserves for it.

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.