Louisville Cardinals

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Jordan Nwora returning to Louisville

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Count Louisville as one of the winners of early-entry decisions.

Forward Jordan Nwora will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to the Cardinals for his junior season, he announced Wednesday just hours ahead of the deadline.

Nwora had a breakout sophomore season for Chris Mack and the Cardinals, averaging 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. He shot 44.6 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from 3-point range.

His decision to return to Louisville is one of the most impactful ones in the country with the bulk of last year’s 20-14 team returning for Mack, who will now have a borderline top-10 team entering the season.

College basketball trial names big-name head coaches during Christian Dawkins video

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The college basketball corruption trial directly mentioned a few of the sport’s most prominent head coaches in a video played during testimony on Wednesday.

As college basketball’s second corruption trial began its second day in New York, known runner and convicted felon Christian Dawkins mentioned names such as Arizona’s Sean Miller and Louisville’s Rick Pitino during a video played for the courtroom. Dawkins seems to imply that Miller cheated in order land center Deandre Ayton while also appearing to absolve Rick Pitino of knowing any improper recruiting existed during his time at Louisville.

According to a report from CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander, the video was played as government witness Marty Blazer was directly examined by the prosecution. Blazer was among two who met with Dawkins in New York on a yacht in 2017 when the video was recorded. Blazer will continue to take the stand when the trial resumes as the defense will get to question him later this week.

“And the the thing with (former Arizona assistant) Book (Richardson), Arizona is like, Sean Miller has to know everything that’s going on,” Dawkins said on the FBI’s video. “I can call Sean and have a conversation like, this is what’s going on. Like, this is what’s needing to be done.”

Dawkins also paraphrased Miller speaking about Ayton in the video by saying, “‘I’m taking care of everything myself. I wanna bring you in. I’ll turn everything over to you.'”

Blazer’s testimony then backed up Dawkins’ notion that Miller cheated to get Ayton.

“I understood him to mean that Sean Miller was talking about inappropriate things with recruiting, paying the money and those sorts of things,” Blazer said during testimony. “Sean Miller was taking care of everything for Deandre Ayton and his family.”

This is the first time Miller has been directly named in court since initial ESPN reports in February 2018 tied him to allegedly cheating to get Ayton. While Dawkins is merely speculating that Miller is cheating, the under-oath testimony of Blazer adds another element to what Dawkins is claiming. Dawkins’ theory, and Blazer’s testimony, still doesn’t directly provide proof of Miller, or Arizona, cheating to land Ayton. It’s merely speculative at this point. But it lends more credibility to the argument that it could have happened and will be a subplot to watch as the trial continues.

It’ll be interesting to see if Miller is also asked to testify in court as defense attorney Steve Haney said Wednesday that he will ask the judge to reconsider the initial ruling that Miller won’t be apart of the trial. If he were to testify, Miller wouldn’t be on federal trial for any wrongdoing, but Arizona and the NCAA would be interested in what he has to say if asked about any of these implications under oath.

Dawkins also gave his thoughts on fired Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — as he appeared to back up Pitino’s claim that he didn’t know about cheating going on to help land Brian Bowen. Pitino was ousted from the Cardinals before the 2017-18 season as he remains in an ongoing lawsuit with the school over the rest of his lucrative contract.

“Rick Pitino may be the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on” when it came to what was happening in his program,” Dawkins said.

“Rick has no clue what’s going on at his school. Most of the bigger guys, they know,” he continued.

The NCAA will likely continue to investigate Louisville regardless of what Dawkins says in this trial, but Pitino and his team will undoubtedly try to use this claim from Dawkins to help their case against the school to claim the rest of his contract.

According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, during Wednesday’s testimony a screenshot of a text from Dawkins that said, “these are my guys” listed names that included Arizona’s Sean Miller and Book Richardson, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Dwayne Stephens and Dane Fife, LSU’s Will Wade and Greg Heiar, N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts and UNLV’s Marvin Menzies.

There is no direct evidence that Dawkins actually spoke to all of these people as that evidence has not been presented in court yet. It’s also important to remember that Dawkins did not know he was being recorded during this meeting as he’s attempting to land business on a yacht. It’s entirely plausible that he name-dropped high-profile coaches and linked assistants he spoke to with their bosses in order to impress who he was speaking with.

But now that those names have been listed during the actual corruption trial, it’ll be fascinating to see what else plays out as Blazer’s testimony likely continues through the week.

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.