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Louisville lands key grad transfer in guard Lamarr Kimble

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Louisville has landed a key graduate transfer for the 2019-20 season as St. Joseph’s guard Lamarr Kimble pledged to the Cardinals, according to a release.

After infusing Louisville with graduate transfers to lead them to a surprising 2018-19 season, head coach Chris Mack is continuing to remain aggressive pursuing talented transfers who can contribute right away. Kimble returned from a season-ending injury in 2017-18 to put up 15.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a redshirt junior last season.

A double-figure scorer during his last two healthy seasons, Kimble’s three-point shooting dipped to 29 percent in 2018-19 after starting his career as a promising 37 percent three-point shooter (with a smaller sample size) as a freshman.

Although Louisville has a loaded six-man high school recruiting class in the Class of 2019 coming in, which some say is the deepest of any group in the country, the addition of a veteran guard like Kimble is a big addition for the Cardinals. Kimble’s experience should be key for a young Louisville rotation, and if he can get his shooting numbers back up a bit, he’ll be a nice addition.

Report: Louisville receives verbal NCAA notice of inquiry

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Louisville has received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA, the school confirmed to The Athletic’s Jeff Greer on Wednesday.

Stemming from the FBI’s college basketball corruption case that gave new details about Louisville and other schools during trials that played out the past several months, the Cardinals are expected to receive a follow up written notice of inquiry from the NCAA at a later time.

According to a Louisville spokesperson, the NCAA called on March 8th in an initial step in its process.

Arizona and Kansas have been the other schools reportedly contacted by the NCAA after similar evidence against them was presented in federal court during those same trials.

Louisville has already fired athletic director Tom Jurich, head coach Rick Pitino and assistant coaches Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair since the four were linked to the FBI’s case. The recruit linked to Louisville during the trial, former McDonald’s All-American Brian Bowen, enrolled at the school but never played a game for the Cardinals as he sat out in the midst of ongoing investigations.

It’s hard to say what the NCAA will try to accomplish in its investigation of Louisville since most of the people associated with these accusations have been fired — or never played for the school. But as Greer notes, since Louisville was already on probation for a prior infractions case, it makes the Cardinals’ situation with the NCAA more complicated than some of the other schools that are being investigated.

The last NCAA investigation involved Louisville resulted in the school forfeiting the 2013 national title, 2012 Final Four and 123 wins as the school lost scholarships and was placed on probation through 2021.

A proper written notice will be a clearer sign of where things stand between the NCAA and these schools as we can only speculate on the investigations until they actually begin.

Made for TV NCAAs: Louisville-Minnesota hits Pitino intrigue

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Richard Pitino sat calmly in the middle of the room, his eager players flanking him and his restless children in front of him on the floor, as the teams with NCAA Tournament bids flashed on a big screen.

There went Louisville, an awfully familiar name.

Next came Minnesota, his current team.

Pitino simply smiled, fully and immediately aware of the extra intrigue created by the selection committee with this East Region matchup of No. 7 and 10 seeds.

The madness of March has been built on all those low-major upsets and buzzer-beating swishes that bust up the office-pool brackets, but some of the must-see TV each year is arranged before the opening tip.

The Louisville-Minnesota game is one of those predetermined talkers, pitting Pitino and the Gophers against the storied program that fired his father, Rick Pitino, prior to the 2017-18 season in response to the federal investigation into a nationwide college basketball bribery and corruption case. Richard Pitino served two stints as an assistant with the Cardinals under his dad, who has been coaching a professional team in Greece this season .

“Has he talked about Louisville the last two years? Yeah, he has, not in the most positive light,” Pitino said. “It’s not going to be about me. I’m not going to be, ‘Oh, it’s revenge,’ or anything like that. It’s about our players. It’s about this program.”

The Gophers will go to the NCAA Tournament for a second time in six seasons under Pitino.

“We know he’s been there a long time, his dad’s been there, but we can’t make it all about the Pitino family,” senior shooting guard Dupree McBrayer said. “This is a team game.”

The Cardinals and Gophers were sent to Des Moines, Iowa, where they’ll face off on Thursday with a late morning tipoff. That was far from the only assignment made by the committee that carried a dimension beyond the matchups on the court, of course.

Buffalo will get a fresh look at its first opponent when Arizona State plays St. John’s in one of the play-in games on Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio. If Arizona State wins the right to face Buffalo on Friday afternoon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, well, Bulls coach Nate Oats sure won’t be surprised. Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley just so happened to be his boss, before Hurley left for Arizona State and Oats was promoted by Buffalo.

As the final quarter of the bracket, the West Region, was revealed, Oats had an inkling his Bulls, the No. 6 seed, would wind up next to the Sun Devils.

“You think it was a coincidence? Yeah, me neither. It’s TV,” said Oats, who was trading text messages with Hurley’s brother, Danny, during the selection show.

After Hurley directed Buffalo’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 2015, Oats has now steered the Bulls to three in four years.

“Coach Hurley gave me my shot. I pull for him,” Oats said. “We talk a lot. Emotionally, it’s not going to be fun. For his sake, I hope they get the win.”

If UCF, the No. 9 seed in the East Region, can beat No. 8 VCU, coach Johnny Dawkins will be subject to the same type of mixed emotions. The second-round pairing for the Knights would probably be Duke, provided the No. 1 overall seed takes care of North Carolina Central or North Dakota State. Dawkins both played for and coached under Blue Devils maven Mike Krzyzewski.

The coaches are a major part of the story in March, but they’ll always be on the bench. The players are the true stars of the show, and there are no greater individual standouts than Marquette’s Markus Howard and Murray State’s Ja Morant. Well, guess what? They’re scheduled to play each other right away, too.

Marquette is the No. 5 seed in the West, facing No. 12 Murray State in Hartford, Connecticut, on Thursday afternoon. Nobody in the tournament has scored more this season than the 5-foot-11 Howard (sixth in the country with an average of 25.0 points per game) and the 6-foot-3 Morant (eighth with 24.6 points per game). The sophomore Morant, a dynamic dunker, also leads the nation with an average of 10.0 assists per game. The junior Howard hit the 45-point mark three times.

Let’s go back to Minnesota for a moment, too. If the Gophers beat Louisville, there will likely be an even more familiar foe waiting for them in the next game: Michigan State. The No. 2 seed Spartans play No. 15 Bradley to start. That potential Michigan State-Minnesota matchup would be a big deal for the Big Ten even if not in the rest of the country.

Such an intraconference matchup on the first weekend is a rarity. In 2011, when the Big East sent a record 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament out of what was then a 16-team league, there were two all-Big East games in the second round: Cincinnati-Connecticut and Syracuse-Marquette.

According to David Worlock, the NCAA’s director of media coordination and statistics, the committee tries to avoid such matchups if possible. Tournament principles state that teams who played only once during the season can meet as early as the second round, and this season the Spartans and Gophers only met once. If two teams played twice, they’re allowed to meet as early as the regional semifinals. If they met three times, they couldn’t match up until the regional finals.

No. 3 North Carolina beats Louisville 83-70 in ACC quarters

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Luke Maye had 19 points and nine rebounds, Coby White added 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists and No. 3 North Carolina beat Louisville 83-70 on Thursday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.

Cameron Johnson scored all of his 14 points in the first half to help the Tar Heels (27-5) extend their winning streak to eight games.

Dwayne Sutton had 14 points for Louisville (20-13). The Cardinals shot just 10 of 34 from 3-point range.

The Cardinals beat North Carolina by 19 on Jan. 12 in Chapel Hill — Roy Williams’ worst home loss ever as Tar Heels coach — using their size and length to disrupt shooters and control the glass.

North Carolina had no trouble in the rubber match between the teams.

The Tar Heels got things going early and built a 45-35 lead at the half behind Johnson and White. The versatile Maye scored from down low and stepped out beyond the arc to display his silky smooth jumper.

The lead hovered around 10 for most of the second half until the Tar Heels got their transition game going with eight straight points on run outs — including four by Kenny Williams — to stretch the lead to 18 with 6:24 left.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: Despite the loss, the Cardinals appear to have a good chance to get an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament as a 20-win team in a tough conference.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels arrived in Charlotte chasing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and got that effort going with a balanced scoring attack.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Will await word on an NCAA Tournament bid.

North Carolina: Will face the winner Duke-Syracuse winner in the semifinals Friday night.

Jerome helps rally No. 2 Virginia past Louisville 73-68

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Four Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season titles in six years might make it seem like old hat at No. 2 Virginia, but after the Cavaliers earned that fourth one by coming back to beat Louisville 73-68 on Saturday, Ty Jerome said it was time to celebrate.

Even if the ACC Tournament still beckons, followed by pursuit of the school’s first national championship.

“You can’t take this for granted,” Jerome said after the Cavaliers cut down the nets with most of the 14,000-plus fans remaining in John Paul Jones Arena and cheering each snip. “Like coach (Tony) Bennett said, over an 18-game stretch to only lose two games, you can’t take that for granted. You have to be thankful for that, but we’ve got to stay humble and we have to know what we’re still trying to do.”

Jerome scored 24 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 5:34 remaining, as the Cavaliers rallied for their eighth straight win.

They will head to Charlotte, North Carolina, as the top seed and with a double-bye. No. 3 North Carolina tied for the top spot when it beat No. 4 Duke on Saturday night, but the Cavaliers had the tiebreaker for the seeding by virtue of their 69-61 victory at UNC on Feb. 11.

“Now we’ve just got to get back in the gym and work really hard and get into an extra gear going forward,” Jerome said.

Kyle Guy added 13 points and Jay Huff also made huge contributions at both ends for Virginia (28-2, 16-2), which has now won or shared the ACC title nine times in its history. Guy said the way the Cardinals made them fight for it can only bode well for Virginia going forward.

“We’re in 40-minute territory and it really showed tonight. I think there’s no better way to prepare us for what we’re about to get into and this gauntlet that we’re about to start,” he said. Virginia has trailed in three of its last five second halves and came back to win each time.

Jordan Nwora scored 19 and Malik Williams 12 for the Cardinals (19-12, 10-8), who lost their ninth in a row in the series and for the sixth time in the last eight games under first-year coach Chris Mack. The Cardinals missed nine of their last 11 shots.

“We put ourselves in position to win the game and I think their composure versus our composure in the last 3, 4 minutes probably decided the game,” Mack said. “They looked like a team that’s been there before.”

Louisville used a 20-4 run spanning the half to open a 47-40 lead early in the second half, quieting the sellout crowd until Virginia immediately scored seven straight to tie it. The game was tied at 49 when Louisville scored six in a row to go back ahead, and the lead flip-flopped until Jerome followed a three-point play by Christen Cunningham by making a pair of free throws.

That put Virginia ahead 63-62 and when Louisville turned the ball over on its next possession, Jerome found Huff free at the top of the key for his second 3-pointer. Huff also had two steals and a block during the rally, and Guy and Braxton Key hit 3-pointers.

SWAN SONGS?

Virginia honored its lone senior, center Jack Salt, before the game, but he might not be the only player the Cavaliers lose.

De’Andre Hunter, a 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore guard, has been mentioned as a potential NBA lottery pick, and Jerome, a 6-5 junior with NBA 3-point range, could also be considering leaving after the season, though Jerome wasn’t letting on afterward.

“I just try to block it all out,” he said of whether his thoughts about his own future caused him to savor the moment a little more. “Coach Bennett always says that tomorrow has enough problems. Just focus on today and never surrender to the little things.”

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals managed just 52 points in their 12-point loss to Virginia on Feb. 23, but offensive bursts by Williams (seven points early) and Nwora (10 in the last 8:33) had them within 36-33 at halftime. Nwora scored eight of Louisville’s 10 during a 10-3 run that briefly gave them a 27-26 lead with 6:06 remaining. … The Cardinals also outscored Virginia 20-16 in the paint after being outscored there 38-4 in their home loss to the Cavaliers.

Virginia: Huff has a huge offensive upside and is a fan favorite at Virginia, but his defensive liabilities have limited his playing time in the past. Lately, he’s grasping Bennett’s Pack-Line defense better, working as a rim protector and getting critical playing time.

“He’s just playing with a high level of confidence,” Guy said of the 7-foot-1 Huff.

UP NEXT

Louisville: The Cardinals will await their opponent in the ACC Tournament.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have byes through the first two rounds of the ACC Tournament.

Follow Hank Kurz Jr. on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hankkurzjr

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

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We’re just under two weeks away from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show, and the race is on for the coveted spots along the No. 1 seed line.

Gonzaga seems like a lock to lead the West Region.  At this point, a loss in the West Coast Conference tournament will do little to change the Zags’ overall profile.  What it would do, however, is send ripples along the bubble, because as we stand now, the WCC appears to be a one-bid league.

Tennessee earns the final No. 1 seed today.  Kentucky and North Carolina are equally strong contenders.  And let’s not sleep on Michigan if the Wolverines win their rematch against Michigan State and surge to a Big 10 tournament title.  We also have another matchup between Duke and UNC as we await news about the availability of Zion Williamson.

NBC Sports Top 25 | Bubble Watch

On a housekeeping note … with conference tournaments beginning this week, we’ve eliminated the CAPS referring to automatic bids; those will be reserved now as teams officially punch their tickets (exceptions made for teams traditionally known by their acronym – such as VCU).

UPDATED: March 4, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Seton Hall
WEST REGION Minnesota vs. Arizona State
EAST REGION Iona vs. Norfolk State
WEST REGION Prairie View vs. St. Francis (PA)

EAST Washington, DC   WEST – Anaheim        
Columbia Salt Lake City
1) Virginia 1) Gonzaga
16) Iona / Norfolk St 16) Prairie View / St. Francis
8) Auburn 8) Syracuse
9) St. John’s 9) VCU
San Jose Hartford
5) Mississippi State 5) Kansas State
12) Temple / Seton Hall 12) Minnesota / Arizona St
4) Kansas 4) Florida State
13) UC-Irvine 13) Vermont
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Villanova 6) Nevada
11) Texas 11) Florida
3) LSU 3) Texas Tech
14) Yale 14) Texas State
Des Moines Des Moines
7) Buffalo 7) Louisville
10) Utah State 10) TCU
2) Michigan State 2) Michigan
15) Loyola-Chicago 15) Montana
MIDWEST – Kansas City SOUTH – Louisville
Columbus Columbia
1) Tennessee 1) Duke
16) Campbell 16) Sam Houston St
8) Washington 8) Baylor
9) Oklahoma 9) Ole Miss
San Jose Hartford
5) Virginia Tech 5) Maryland
12) Lipscomb 12) Belmont
4) Wisconsin 4) Marquette
13) New Mexico St 13) Old Dominion
Salt Lake City Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Cincinnati
11) Alabama 11) NC State
3) Houston 3) Purdue
14) South Dakota St 14) Hofstra
Jacksonville Columbus
7) Wofford 7) Iowa
10) Ohio State 10) UCF
2) North Carolina 2) Kentucky
15) Colgate 15) Wright State

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Florida Minnesota Georgetown Providence
Texas Arizona State Clemson Memphis
NC State Temple Furman UNC-Greensboro
Alabama Seton Hall Xavier Creighton

TOP SEED LINE: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, and Tennessee

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): PURDUE, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas

SEC (8): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Iona (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Campbell (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Colgate (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.