Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Wednesday’s Things to Know: The Big East is up for grabs, Florida State survives and Kansas reclaims the Big 12

Leave a comment

Quite a few developments Wednesday from some of the country’s best teams in the nation’s best leagues. Here’s what you need to know:

Villanova makes this weekend interesting in the Big East

Seton Hall had a chance to do something really cool Wednesday. The Pirates, already having secured a piece of the Big East regular-season championship, could lock up an outright title at home, on a senior night honoring the likes of Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill and the incomparable Myles Powell.

That is a stage set beautifully.

Except the Pirates were sharing it with Big East powerhouse Villanova.

The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3-point range while holding Powell to 5 of 18 shooting to claim a 79-77 win in Newark and to send the Big East into some serious drama this weekend.

Seton Hall, now 13-4 in the league, still controls its own fate and can win the title outright, but the Pirates’ loss Wednesday means they’re not the only team who holds its fate in its own hands. That’s because the Pirates face Creighton on Saturday in Omaha, and the Bluejays are owners of a 12-5 mark in Big East play. If Greg McDermott’s team wins, they’re co-champs with Kevin Willard’s group.

But, that’s not all!

By virtue of knocking of Seton Hall, Villanova, too, sports a 12-5 conference mark. If the Wildcats can beat Georgetown for the second time this season on Saturday in D.C. and the Bluejays beat Seton Hall at home, it’s a three-way tie atop the Big East.

The ‘Cats tipoff a couple hours before Seton Hall and Creighton, so they’ll have the opportunity to watch their Big East title chances materialize on TV should they beat the Hoyas.

There’s intrigue in the Big East because Saddiq Bey scored 20 points while Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels both added 19 for the Wildcats, who shot 10 of 18 from the free-throw line to keep Seton Hall hanging around for the final seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvli had 20 and 10 for Seton Hall while McKnight scored 16.

All three teams are jockeying for seed lines both in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, so how things shake out not only effect the regular-season banners that might go up in Philly, Omaha and Newark, but the likelihood if they’re joined by something a little sweeter from the postseason.

Florida State steals a win in South Bend

Raiquan Gray hit a jumper 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game to put Florida State up one in the early going against Notre Dame. On the next possession, which took a total of 16 seconds, the Fighting Irish got a triple from Prentiss Hubb to regain the lead. A lead they would hold nearly until the very end.

The nearly is doing a lot of work in that sentence, though.

From the time of Hubb’s 3-pointer to when Florida State’s Trent Forrest’s layup went through the rim with 3 seconds remaining, Notre Dame had No. 7 Florida State on the ropes, but Forrest’s bucket and the three-seconds worth of advantage it gave the Seminoles was enough for Florida State to beat Notre Dame, 73-71.

The ‘Noles led for just 19 seconds in the game and trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. They really didn’t have a whole lot of business being in this thing late, but there they were until their they went, back home with their 25th win of the year. It also keeps Florida State tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings with just a home game against Boston College this weekend between them and a conference title.

As for Notre Dame, it was a missed opportunity to land a big win in a season that appears destined to end without an NCAA tournament for the third-straight time, which will match the longest drought of the Mike Brey era. They went without a dance from 2004-06 previously.

King Kansas…again

After 12 long months, at long last, the tyrannical reign of Texas Tech and Kansas State as Big 12 champions is over. Kansas injects some much-needed fresh air into the Big 12 as its new champion.

It was a long year for the Jayhawks, who spent the previous 14 as the conference’s best. Must of been tough, I’m sure.

The top-ranked Jayhawks dispatched TCU 75-66 to win at least a piece of the conference title for the 15th time in 16 years, and they can win it outright if they can beat Texas Tech in Lubbock or if Baylor gets tripped up by West Virginia in Morgantown.

Kansas has now won 15 straight and looks to only be rolling into tip-top fighting shape with Udoka Azubuike scoring 31 against the Horned Frogs. Not only is Kansas back after a one-year hiatus atop the Big 12, it looks as though the Jayhawks are quickly becoming the national title favorite.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

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
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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.