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Nwora’s 22 points lead No. 1 Louisville past No. 4 Michigan, 58-43


It was hyped as one of the best games that we are going to get this college basketball season, and the showdown between new No. 1 Louisville and No. 4 Michigan was anything but.

It wasn’t pretty, not in the slightest. It was one of the ugliest basketball games that you are going to watch this season. It didn’t look a battle of top ten teams, it was the personification of what everyone in America thought Virginia basketball has been for the last half-decade. It was what Sloth from The Goonies is to iconic movie characters. It was as aesthetically pleasing as Jabba the Hut. 

And the best part about it, at least if you are Louisville head coach Chris Mack, is that pretty doesn’t show up anywhere in the win-loss column.

The Cardinals simply overwhelmed Michigan. The Wolverines had five points with seven minutes left in the first half. They didn’t reach double-figures until Isaiah Livers hit their first three of the game with 3:43 left in the half. As a team, they shot 25.9 percent from the floor and just 3-for-19 from three. Outside of Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson – who were a pedestrian 10-for-29 from the field, the rest of the Wolverines managed just a 5-for-29 shooting night.

That’s how you lose 58-43 as the No. 4 team in America.

And we’ll get to Michigan in a second.

Because I think there are some things that we need to discuss there.

But I want to make it clear: This win was about Louisville. The reason that the Wolverines struggled offensively were because of the defense the Cardinals played. Louisville is long and athletic and versatile. Michigan missed a number of open looks down the stretch, but the reason for that is because Louisville never allowed them to get into any kind of a rhythm.

This is important.

Chris Mack is one of college basketball’s best offensive minds. He has a favorite for National Player of the Year on his roster in Jordan Nwora. It was pretty safe to assume that the Cardinals were going to be able to score this year, even with the questions we have about their point guard play. At some point, you just trusted that good coaching ensure that Louisville would be fine.

But entering Tuesday night, Louisville was No. 2 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, and I think there is a virtual certainty that number regresses as the season moves on. Louisville started the night with three players shooting better than 50 percent from three. That just isn’t sustainable, and even with some of the early success that he has had, I’m not convinced Darius Perry is the answer at the point. Michigan proved as much. The Wolverines are a real defense, as opposed to the seven sub-75 opponents that Louisville had feasted on to start the season. It’s not all that surprising, then, that they managed 58 points on 65 possessions while shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 4-for-19 from three.

I say that to say this: I think that if Louisville can defend the way that they defended against Michigan, that’s the difference between being one of the best teams in college basketball in a year where No. 1 is a revolving door and truly setting themselves apart as the nation’s best.

The question then becomes whether or not this performance was matchup based.

Louisville did a terrific job defending Michigan’s ball-screen offense. Their length bothered Zavier Simpson, it took away passing lanes and it forced Michigan to play more 1-on-1 than they are comfortable with. Put another way, Simpson had been averaging nearly 10 assists per game by himself entering Tuesday night. As a team, Michigan finished with just six assists against Louisville.

It was a clinic.

But this is also a Michigan team that had just spent a bunch of time in the Bahamas. They had just played three games in three days, two of which came against top ten teams. The third game was on Friday. They had to fly back to Michigan before flying to Louisville for this game, which comes in the first game that the Cardinals were ranked No. 1 after everything that happened with the end of the Rick Pitino era.

I’ll say it again: This was the first meaningful game that the Cardinals have played all season long. They were fired up. They were ready to prove themselves to the country. This was a pretty clear letdown spot for the Wolverines.

So while it is very impressive that Louisville smothered Michigan to the point that a battle of top five teams was only competitive for the first five minutes of both halves, I am nowhere near ready to leap off of the Michigan bandwagon.

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.