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Monday’s Overreactions: Isaiah Livers return, Tre Jones the legend, Auburn isn’t that good?

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Tre Jones, Duke

Tre Jones went for 18 points, four assists and three boards in a win at Boston College on Tuesday night last week, a game that is both a referendum on just how inconsistent Duke has been this season and something that has been more or less erased from the consciousness of the American public. That’s because Jones went out and became the first player since Michael Jordan to go for 28 points, six assists and five boards in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry as the Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit in the first 4:31 of regulation, a 10-point deficit in the final 2:06 of regulation and a five-point deficit in the final 21 seconds of overtime to knock off the Tar Heels.

Jones scored 15 straight points at the end of regulation and the start of overtime. He was unbelievable. More on him in a second.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Auburn Tigers

I don’t think Auburn is all that good of a basketball team, at least not in comparison to the rest of the teams that are in the top 10-15 teams in the country. At KenPom, the most highly-regarded site when it comes to evaluating how good a team is, the Tigers currently rank 30th nationally. The reason for this, despite sitting at 21-2 on the season, is because Auburn has developed a habit of doing just enough to win a game on the nights when they don’t actually play all that well.

On Saturday, they erased a 15 point deficit with a wild comeback at home against No. 18 LSU, winning in overtime. On Tuesday, they did the same thing at Arkansas, again winning in overtime. They rallied to land a come-from-behind win over Kentucky the weekend before that, and last Tuesday, it took them two overtimes and another pair of wild comebacks to beat Ole Miss on the road.

Overall, Auburn just is not all that good. They are not a great shooting team. They don’t force turnovers the way they have in the past. They don’t have the star power they’ve had in the past. Austin Wiley is useful playing a certain way and Anfernee McLemore is useful playing a certain way, but both of those guys really limit how Auburn plays when they are on the floor.

LSU was the better team for roughly 40 of the 45 minutes on Saturday and lost, because this is who Auburn is. They do just enough to keep a game close, waiting for the three-minute avalanche of threes from the likes of Samir Doughty and J’Von McCormick that they know is coming and that will bury whoever they are playing.

Eventually.

It’s stressful, but it’s hard to argue with 21-2.



MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. THE MOST IMPORTANT NEWS OF THE WEEKEND WAS ISAIAH LIVERS’ RETURN

With Auburn-LSU going off the rails in the same time slot, Bobby Knight returning to Indiana immediately after it ended and a Saturday that included Seton Hall beating Villanova and the absurdity of Duke-North Carolina, it was easy to overlook the fact that Michigan beat No. 16 Michigan State pretty easily on Saturday.

And it’s easy to forget that coincided with the return of Isaiah Livers.

Livers is Michigan’s leading scorer. He is their best three-point shooter by a country mile. He’s the pice on the roster that allows Juwan Howard a measure of lineup versatility, and, in turn, he may actually be the most valuable defensive piece on the Wolverines. With Livers healthy for an entire game, Michigan is now 9-3 with wins over Creighton, Iowa, North Carolina, Michigan State and Gonzaga by 18 points in the only game the Zags have lost this season. Their “worst” lost was in overtime at home against Oregon.

Without Livers, Michigan is 5-6.

On Saturday, Livers scored 14 points, made a couple threes, blocked a couple shots and, most importantly, played 31 minutes as a starter.

The Wolverines are going to be a serious threat in March with him back.

2. THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF NEWS WAS SETON HALL’S WIN

No. 12 Seton Hall did something they haven’t done since 1994 — win at No. 10 Villanova — and, as a result, they are now in a position do to something they haven’t done since 1993 — win the Big East regular season title.

Myles Powell scored 19 points, Sandro Mamukelashvili went for 17 and the Pirates, who now own a three-game lead over the rest of the field in the Big East standings with just seven games left of the regular season.

Perhaps the most impressive and important part of this win was the play of Mamukelashvili. The 6-foot-11 native of Tbilisi, Georgia, has been maligned this season. He was knocked out the lineup with a broken hand back in December, right before the Pirates went on the run that changed the course of their season, and it wasn’t hard to connect those dots. Playing without Mamu forced Kevin Willard to go small, playing four perimeter weapons around Romaro Gill, and his team has not looked back since.

This game proved just how valuable Mamu is to this team. When Villanova took away Gill, it forced Mamu into action.

And he shined.

3. VIRGINIA MAY HAVE FIXED THEMSELVES, MAYBE?

The Cavaliers entered Saturday ranked a ridiculous 276th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric despite having the nation’s best defense. The biggest reason for that? They are one of the ten-worst three-point shooting teams in all of college basketball.

Well, they went into the Yum! Center and shot 11-for-22 from beyond the arc … and still lost! That has a lot to do with how good Louisville (and David Johnson) is.

But we knew that already.

What’s more interesting to me is what happens if this kind of shooting becomes a trend for the Wahoos. Now, I’m not saying that they are going to start making 50 percent of their threes the rest of the season, or that Tomas Woldetensae is going to be hitting seven per game the rest of the way. But part of the issue that Virginia has been dealing with this year is confidence, and one way to start building confidence in your shooting is to actually see the ball go through the basket.

I’m not betting on it.

Sometimes teams just get hot, even teams that are full of really bad three-point shooters.

But it will be something to keep an eye on next week.

4. COLORADO IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE PAC-12, MAYBE?

We spoke about the Pac-12 at length on today’s podcast. It starts at the 31:20 mark right here. I’ll go ahead and urge you to listen to that.

5. TRE JONES AND WENDELL MOORE WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN

This isn’t even an overreaction.

In 25 years, when Jay Bilas has turned into Dickie V and a bald Sean Farnham is trying to convince us that he’s not actually a UCLA fan while calling Duke-North Carolina in between rips from a hand-me-down weed pen he got from Bill Walton, Tre Jones hitting this shot:

and Wendell Moore hitting this shot:

will be shown right after Jeff Capel’s halfcourt buzzer-beater in 1996, right before Austin Rivers’ in 2012 and in the same highlight montage as Gerald Henderson opening up a gaping hole in Tyler Hansbrough’s nose as Jerry Stackhouse is going right around Cherokee Parks to dunk on Erik Meek’s head.

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.