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Malik Hall’s massive second half gives No. 3 Michigan State 76-73 win at No. 14 Seton Hall

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NEWARK — In the first five halves of his college basketball career, Malik Hall played 25 total minutes and took three shots, making exactly zero of them and going scoreless.

Suffice to say, half No. 6 went just a bit better.

Hall scored all 17 of his points, made all seven of his shots and scored the eventual game-winner, a bucket over Romaro Gill, Seton Hall’s 7-foot shot-blocking maven, before corralling a pair of defensive rebounds to help seal a 76-73 win for No. 3 Michigan State over No. 14 Seton Hall.

In a game that was billed as Cassius Winston vs. Myles Powell, it was Hall that made the plays his team needed to win.

Not bad, freshman.

“It was crazy to see him breakout like that,” junior big man Xavier Tillman said after the game. “To be honest, he’s been struggling the last couple weeks. It’s just been his confidence.”

Confidence was not an issue for Hall in the second half on Thursday night. He checked in at the 15:49 mark of the second half. On his second possession in the game, he buried a three off of a Cassius Winston assist. On the ensuing possession, Hall scored off of an offensive rebound. Two minutes later, he buried another three. After Seton Hall retook the lead 90 seconds left, Hall threw down a dunk in transition and then buried his third three of the half with 9:49 left to tie the game, capping off a five-minute stretch where he scored 13 of Sparty’s 15 points.

“After he hit that first one, he was good,” Tillman said. “You could just tell. he was energetic, positive. The way he handled himself after you could tell.”

And boy, did Michigan State need the lift.

The last ten days have not been easy to deal with in East Lansing.

Forget the fact that they lost their season-opener to Kentucky – who subsequently lost at home to Evansville – on the biggest stage the sport has to offer in November, the program is only five days removed from a tragedy that rocked their world; Winston’s younger brother Zachary died on Saturday night when he was struck by a train. The team wore patches on their jersey on Thursday night that read “Smoothie,” which was Zachary Winston’s nickname.

Winston did not play well in the first 20 minutes, scoring just four of his 21 points and picking up a pair of fouls. Tillman did not play well on the offensive end for most of the night. Aaron Henry rolled his ankle midway through the first half. It was glaringly obvious that the Spartans were waiting for their National Player of the Year candidate to get it going, and that wasn’t likely with Seton Hall draping two defenders on him at every conceivable opportunity.

That’s when Hall woke up.

“For a long time, I was hearing it,” Hall said with a laugh after the game. “There was a couple, ‘Why didn’t you shoot that?’ [from my teammates]. I said, ‘it’ll come when it’s ready.’

“Coach called a couple of our role replace actions and for the most part they weren’t coming gout so I kept shooting.”

And that right there is what makes Hall’s performance so important.

This win is going to look really nice in three months. It will help to lift the mood of the people within the program. It was a test of the, ahem, intestinal fortitude of some of the younger guys on this Spartan roster, guys that have not necessarily been asked to play minutes like this in game likes this.

“That was a March game in November,” Izzo said.

But it’s also just one win. It’s probably not going to end up having too much impact come Selection Sunday. Maybe it’s the tiebreaker that lets them get a No. 1 seed instead of a No. 2 seed.

Where this may actually impact Michigan State’s season is that it may answer the questions we have about what they are going to be doing at the four spot. As it stands, Michigan State is starting Thomas Kithier in that role, and he’s been fine. He was averaging 8.5 points. He his a three against Seton Hall. He’s not going to win Michigan State any games, but he’s not going to lose them any games, either. Marcus Bingham oozes potential and was averaging 10.0 points, 6.0 boards and 2.0 blocks entering this game, but he’s still figuring things out.

What the Spartans are missing is a guy in the Kenny Goins role, someone that can space the floor, that can rebound the ball, that can guard bigs and guard smalls.

Hall?

He can do all of that. He has the size. He obviously has the shooting ability. At his core, he’s probably more of a natural guard than a natural big, but he can do a little bit of everything.

“He’s a really talented kid,” assistant coach Dane Fife said, adding that the difference between Hall being the guy he was in the second half tonight and the guy he was for the first five halves of his season was really not all that much. Part of it is confidence. Part of it is the fundamentals. Part of it is something as simple as being in the right spot on the floor, even if it’s only a couple feet in a different direction.

And on Thursday, he finally did all of that.

“When he shoots like that, and they’re doing all that roll and replace, and you have to deal with Tillman down low, and you have Gabe Brown in the corner and Aaron Henry in the corner, then all of a sudden you have to start switching pick and rolls and you have a four-man on Cassius Winston,” Kevin Willard said. “Good luck with that.”

“If they want to double team Cash, we gotta make them pay for it,” Tillman said.

That’s precisely what Hall did.

“When I got in the locker and every was jumping around and happy, and I sat down, like, ‘dang, I just did that,'” Hall said. “You dream about those moments.”

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.