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Saturday’s Things To Know: The Big East is drunk, SDSU is undefeated, LSU’s awesome?

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It was another wild Saturday in college basketball, and since we know that you couldn’t sit in front of a TV and watch every game like we did, we have you covered.

Here are the ten things that you need to know after Saturday’s action.


Xavier jumped out to a 30-6 lead on No. 10 Seton Hall within the first 12 minutes on Saturday. What does this mean for Xavier’s bubble chances? Should we be overly concerned about Seton Hall now? I have all the answers, and they’re in this column.


Denzel Mahoney scored 21 points off the bench while Ty-shon Alexander and Mitchell Ballock combined to shoot 9-for-13 from three as Creighton went into the Wells Fargo Center and jumped all over No. 10 Villanova, 76-61. They were up 31-14 before Villanova woke up and the Wildcats never got closer than three the rest of the way.

There’s a lot to digest from this game, the most important point being that Villanova missed on a golden opportunity to draw even with Seton Hall atop the Big East regular season standings. That is going to sting.

But the bigger story here is that Creighton proved just how dangerous they can be. Creighton has, historically, had quite a bit of success against Villanova because of the way that they want to play. The Bluejays can spread the floor and they can matchup with Villanova’s positionless style of play, and when their “bigs” — in this case, Mahoney — can win their matchup, the Bluejays become tough to beat.

This is proof of how dangerous they can be.


As if all of that wasn’t enough, No. 16 Butler — the third of three Big East ranked teams to play at home on Saturday — lost to Providence, 65-61. The Bulldogs have now lost four of their last six games and are now sitting three games out of first place in the Big East standings. Providence, on the other hand, is doing everything they can to try and play their way back onto the bubble. They still have quite a bit of work to do, but landing a road win against the best team in the conference is certainly a good place to start.


In what was perhaps the toughest test that they are going to face the rest of the season, the No. 4 Aztecs erased a 10-point second half deficit thanks to a 24 point second half explosion from Matt Mitchell in an 80-68 win over Utah State at home.

There’s still a chance that SDSU can take an odd loss on the road to someone in the league, but there really is no one in the conference that should be able to do that. What that means is that we are staring at an undefeated SDSU team heading into the NCAA tournament, and I am so here for that storyline. This season is bereft of the kind of stories that will get a casual fan locked into college hoops, and the chance for someone to go undefeated certainly would qualify.

They’re barely halfway there, so it’s too early to take any of this too seriously, but if you’re asking me if 40-0 is possible, I absolutely think it’s less than a pipe dream. The Aztecs can really, really guard and they have two guys — Mitchell and Malachi Flynn — that can completely take a game over and win it on their own.

This is a fun, and very good, team.


The Badgers had quite an eventful week. On Monday night, they blew a 12 point lead in the final seven minutes in a loss at Iowa. During that loss, starting guard Brad Davison was given a game-changing flagrant foul for hitting an Iowa player below the belt. Davison was eventually suspended for his conduct, and that suspension was announced by the Big Ten just hours after another starting guard, Kobe King, announced that he would be transferring out of the program.

Oh, and then on Saturday Wisconsin went out and beat up on No. 14 Michigan State in the Kohl Center.

That is quite the roller coaster ride.

Wisconsin needed this win for team morale if nothing else, but I’ll contend that Michigan State blew this game. Xavier Tillman finished 2-for-8 around the rim, and four of those misses were shots that he makes 90 percent of the time. And that doesn’t count the number of times that he dropped passes that would have been layups. The Spartans had Wisconsin’s lead down to three points twice during the second half. There was a three-minute stretch where the lead sat at 61-57 in the final minutes. As well as Wisconsin played early on, as impressive as it was that they built an 18-point lead, I left that game thinking Michigan State should have won.


Entering Saturday, this felt like it was going to be the battle to determine who the favorite to win the SEC would be, and while the Tigers left as the winner, it did not feel like much was settled.

Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards struggled. Auburn grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and got to the line 44 times. Auburn didn’t pull away until the final five minutes of the game. I’m not sure how anyone can walk away thinking either of those teams is definitively better than the other.

But you might be justified in thinking that neither of them are the best team in the SEC, because …


You may not have noticed since they have been flying under the radar, but No. 22 LSU improved to 17-4 on Saturday by knocking off Ole Miss, 73-63. The Tigers improved to 8-0 in the SEC and have now won 10 straight games overall, and they are doing all of this as the reigning SEC regular season champions. All told, Will Wade’s club is 45-11 in the last two seasons combined with a 24-2 mark in the SEC, which is incredibly impressive. As much has been written about John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes, it’s inarguable that Will Wade has been the best coach in that conference during this stretch.

And the reason I say that is because of everything else that he has had to deal with. LSU has been right in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics. There are reports that Wade was caught on a wire-tap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to land Javonte Smart, a player currently on LSU’s roster. He lost Naz Reid and Tremont Waters this summer. He had a player murdered before the start of last season.

The people in that program have been through more than they should have to deal with, and through it all they haven’t stopped winning.

It’s time we gave them their due for it.


In one of the most powerful and unforgettable moments of the college basketball season to date, Tulsa’s Elijah Joiner hit a buzzer-beating, game-winning three to cap off a 22-point, five-assist performance as the Golden Hurricane knocked off No. 23 Wichita State, 54-51. What made the moment so special was that it was the first time Joiner’s father had seen him play in person, and he broke down in tears after the game because of it.

That was the most important part of what happened in Tulsa on Saturday.

But strictly from a basketball perspective, the best part of the day for Tulsa came when Cincinnati erased a 12 point second half deficit to knock off No. 21 Houston, because it meant that the Golden Hurricane moved into sole possession of first place in the American. Frank Haith is working miracles.


The North Carolina Tar Heels got their super star freshman point guard back from injury on Saturday.

He had a huge second half and scored 26 points at home against Boston College. The only problem? North Carolina happened to lose, 71-70, on a questionable foul call in the final minutes.

Looks like their hopes of getting onto the right side of the bubble have gone up in smoke.


The Cardinal were arguably the single biggest bubble winner on Saturday. We talk all about them, their resume and the resume of every other team in danger of missing the NCAA tournament right here.

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.