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Scouting Final Four teams: How to beat Texas Tech

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NBC Sports spoke with a dozen coaches in the last two days to put together a scouting report for each of the teams in the Final Four. 

The coaches were granted anonymity in exchange for honesty. 

We started with Virginia. Then we gave you Auburn. Up next, Texas Tech.

EVERYTHING STARTS WITH THEIR DEFENSE

Texas Tech was the best defensive team in the country this season. But the way they play is unlike just about anyone else in college basketball, and fundamentally, it is the polar opposite of what Virginia does. 

“When the ball is on one side of the floor they sell out to keep you on that side, putting pressure on the ball, active hands, icing side-ball screens. They’re going to make you play on that side.”

“They put four in the box. Imagine splitting the court in half, and whatever side the ball is in, they’ll have four in the box all of the time. And everything is going to get forced to the baseline, overplaying so much. They would rather get beaten baseline then allow the ball to be reversed. They’re going to have plenty of help, too. They take a ton of charges because they already have help on that side of the floor. Their weakside defenders will drop to the level of the ball.”

“They were switching everything against us. It bothered us. The thing is, with all of that, the overplaying defense, what they do is hand the ball off. It stops in one place, if it’s dribbled in one place, the ball doesn’t move. If the ball doesn’t move, people don’t move. If people don’t move, everything becomes one-on-one. They’re too good to beat one-on-one.”

“They’ve got their base defense that’s what they do, but they’ve done a really good job adjusting to different teams and different personnel. Normally they push ball screens down, but sometimes they switch and sometimes they take people out of rotation. They help sometimes, sometimes they don’t help at all. It’s all based on personnel and what you’re trying to do. They are always really, really prepared.”

“One thing that’s underrated is how much they get their hands on the ball. It bothered Michigan and Gonzaga.”

“[Tariq] Owens and [Matt] Mooney are the two keys, but it really is just a team thing. [Norense] Odiase gives them a level and physicality and toughness. They can even switch with him. His energy is huge. Mooney gives great effort and is great positionally. But it’s a team thing. Their personnel does not add up to how good they are. The whole is great than the sum of the parts. It’s a product of Chris Beard. They are fearless, mentally tough, the belief they play with.”

“They ‘ham and egg’ it. Like when you play golf. They pick each other up. When one guy has a bad game, they are two guys having a great game to pick them up. They are absolute rock stars in their role.”

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SO HOW DO YOU BEAT THAT DEFENSE?

“Not easily.”

“You need to get crisp, solid passing. Tech does not let that happen. You have to run your stuff higher and wider, extend it out, run it wide. Position it so you’re behind on some of that stuff. Then try and get them in transition, get down the floor before they can get set. Michigan State can do that.”

“Get them in transition. Reverse the ball in transition, hit them with drag screens, pass-pass-drive. It has to be quick.”

“You have to be able to get the ball to the top of the key and then to the other side of the floor with good action behind it. Pull them away from the basket if you can, reverse it quickly and with action. Otherwise, they’re just going to switch it like a zone. He doesn’t care who is guarding who. There’s a saying in basketball, the man doesn’t beat you, the open shot does. That’s a Bob Knight thing, and Chris Beard worked with Coach Knight.”

WHAT HAPPENED IN FEBRUARY?

Texas Tech lost three straight games in the middle of January. They were smoked at Kansas on Feb. 2nd. Since then, the only game they lost came against West Virginia in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. They won their 13 other games, and saw their offensive rating on KenPom jump up from 107th on Feb. 2nd to 30th as of April 2nd. 

“They’re making shots. Mooney, [Davide] Moretti, all the role guys, they’re shooting and playing with more confidence.”

“I think they’re doing a much better job of scoring in transition off misses and turnvoers. Now, it’s easy to say that when they’re making shots. That goes into it. A lot of teams in our league, they hit a tough stretch at some point during league play. Tech has done a great job of renewing commitment to the defensive end, and they also stayed healthy.”

“Beard isn’t a pick-and-roll guy. He’s motion to an iso. During that slump, they relied too much on the iso and too much on Culver.”

JARRETT CULVER IS SO GOOD

Texas Tech has a number of guys that can thrive in their roles. Mooney has been more aggressive and confident as a creator. Moretti might be the best shooter left in the tournament. Brandone Francis, Deshawn Corprew, Kyler Edwards. They can make shots. But offensively, everything is centered about Tech’s All-American Jarrett Culver.

“He’s so good. He’s does a great job picking spots. He hasn’t forced a lot of late, and they run a lot of motion to move him around. There are a few set plays for him. The hardest thing about him is that he covers a ton of ground. You feel like you’re staying with him, but you’re not. He just blew by you and got a bucket.”

“They got Culver. He can go get his own and pop off. He makes it look so easy. He’s so quick covering ground. When you watch him on film, you’re just like, ‘sh–, we’re not stopping that.’ He can get from here to there is 1-to-2 dribbles and then finish over the help. You’re not stopping that! He makes it look so easy.”

“Michigan State challenges everything in the paint. You drive, you get an offensive rebound, look at how many guys are making a play on the ball. It’s more than anyone. I think Culver is good enough to beat that.”

TEXAS TECH CAN BE PRESSURED

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that West Virginia beat them.

“They’re so pressureable. People have to press them. They don’t have a do-it-all guard. Moretti is solid, heady. Mooney is rock solid and can score. All those role guys that play their ass off. Even Culver isn’t a true point guard, a QB. They don’t have a QB.”

“When we played them, we knew you had to pressure them. Michigan State won’t extend their defense. They can’t extend their defense. Texas Tech has seen it more now, but they can be beaten because they lack a true point guard.”

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.