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Monday’s Overreactions: Michigan’s awesome, Udoka Azubuike’s breakout, Obi Toppin alert

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Obi Toppin, Dayton

Heading into the Maui Invitational, Obi Toppin was one of the best kept secrets in college basketball.

We all knew who he was, but we didn’t quite have a feel for whether or not he was simply a really, really good Atlantic 10 player or a legitimate candidate for All-American and the top of the 2020 NBA Draft.

Turns out, it’s the latter.

And even the people that were bullish on Toppin probably undervalued him.

In three games in the Maui Invitational, Toppin averaged 22.3 points and 7.0 boards. He blocked four shots in the three games, including three in the overtime loss to Kansas in the title game. He was a very nice 25-for-36 (69%) from the floor and 6-for-11 from three. He was the best player every time he stepped into the gym, and he proved it.

That matters a great deal for Toppin since he does play in something of a lesser league. He’s not going to be on national television every single night going up against the likes of Kansas, or Anthony Edwards, or the team that just beat No. 3 Michigan State. He needed to make a statement in the event that literally everyone in the world pays attention to, and he did.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Michigan Wolverines

There really was no decision to make here.

Michigan went from unranked to No. 1 in the NBC Sports Top 25.

What more can I say?

OVERREACTIONS

1. MICHIGAN IS THE BEST TEAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Wolverines have one of the nation’s best point guards a senior leader in Zavier Simpson that is also the head of the snake defensively. They have one of the nation’s most underrated big men, a 7-footer in Jon Teske that has developed into an elite defensive presence that can play as a pick-and-pop five or roll to the rim. They are one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams, with myriad and versatile wings that can space the floor and lock up defensively.

Truthfully, we should have seen this coming from Juwan Howard’s program. I explain why in this column.

2. THE MOST IMPORTANT PERFORMANCE OF THIS WEEK CAME FROM UDOKA AZUBUIKE

I think that I can make the argument that the single-most important individual development from Feast Week came when Udoka Azubuike completely took over a game against Dayton.

Doke is a throwback center. He’s a low-post behemoth that can barely make free throws, let alone threes, and saying he moves slowly laterally is like saying that grass grows slowly in the winter. Dayton is a team that plays five-out, that has shooters every where on the floor and that actually has the adequate size and rim protection to hold their own against a big like Azubuike in the post.

And, after about a dozen post touches in the final five minutes and overtime, Azubuike was able to lead Kansas back from a late eight-point deficit to an overtime win against the Flyers.

I went in depth on why this matters in this column.

3. DAYTON’S PERFORMANCE IN THE MAUI INVITATIONAL WAS AWESOME, BUT HAS BEEN OVERVALUED

I cannot take credit for this overreaction. This is courtesy of Bobby Reagan, which he discussed on the CBT podcast on Monday, but I’m going to be talking about it here.

The Maui Invitational is the most visible Feast Week tournament. It’s the oldest that is still running, for starters, and it’s held in one of the best environments for a neutral site college basketball game in the world. There’s tradition, there’s history and that means there are plenty of casual college basketball fans that love it.

But that exposure means that a couple good performances can end up being massively overrated, and Dayton is the perfect example. The Flyers dominated a couple of high-major teams in Georgia and Virginia Tech, but there’s no guarantee that either of those two teams are going to be in the NCAA tournament in March. I’m guessing that both of them will eventually end up being Quad II wins. The most impressive thing Dayton did was A) Take Kansas to overtime, and B) Do it while playing a style, and with a super star, that made them jump off the page.

Put another way, anyone with two eyes will know that the Flyers are really dangerous.

But the truth is that they really did not do all that much this week to change their resume on the islands.

4. FLORIDA STATE IS A TOP 20 TEAM AT WORST

I was ready to write off Florida State as anything more than an also-ran after they went into Pittsburgh and lost to the Panthers on the opening night of the season.

And that … might have been a mistake.

Because since that season-opening loss, Florida State has reeled of seven straight wins. They beat Florida at Florida before this weekend’s Emerald Coast Classic, in which they beat Tennessee and Purdue.

The Seminoles lost some big names, but they still have all kinds of length and athleticism, and they are still a nightmare defensively, and when you combine that with the emergence of Devin Vassell and Trent Forrest and the addition of P.J. Williams, you get a pretty damn good basketball team.

5. DEPAUL IS A TOP SIX TEAM IN THE BIG EAST

I’m not ready to say top five.

Not just yet.

The Blue Demons are 8-0 on the season and they have been the easiest team to bet on over the course of the last month. It’s obvious that the market has undervalued them, I’ve won a lot of bets on the Blue Demons proving me correct and I’m sad that is going to end up going away pretty soon.

That said, their three good wins right now are at Iowa, at Boston College and at Minnesota. Beating those three teams on the road matters, but I don’t think any of the three are actually any good. The Blue Demons get Texas Tech at home on Wednesday. Let’s see what happens then.

Until then, it’s hard to justify putting DePaul above any of Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette or Butler.

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.