Can Duke go undefeated?

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I don’t want to do it.

In fact, I feel silly doing it. Because, you know, its December 2nd. We’re not even a full month into the season yet, and we have a solid four months worth of games left.

But after Duke’s 84-79 win over Michigan State tonight, the question has to be asked — can this Duke team go undefeated?

December is usually way too early to be asking that kind of question, but Duke is just that good. The Blue Devils are now 7-0 with wins over two of the top five or six teams in the country, and Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith have yet to find their groove.

Making the argument that much simpler is the fact that the Blue Devils schedule has gotten much, much easier as the first month of the season has played out. What I mean is that Michigan State, as of today, was the last ranked team on Duke’s schedule.

Seriously.

Right now, there is not another top 25 team on the Blue Devil’s schedule.

The Blue Devils essentially have three more non-conference games that matter. They play Butler at the Izod Center in New Jersey on Saturday, they head to New York to take on St. John’s January 30th, and they host Temple on February 23rd. Butler may still be the best team in the Horizon League, but they are a far cry from a Final Four contender right now and may very well be without their point guard Ronald Nored on Saturday. Road games against power conferences opponents are always difficult, and the Johnnies have a track record of playing Duke tough. The Owls have struggled early on, but they are too good not to turn it around by February.

Temple may end up being the best candidate to knock off Duke, because no one else in the ACC seems all that concerned with, you know, winning games. UNC is no where near as good as they were expected to be. Florida State and NC State have been less than impressive in their matchups with meaningful opponents. Virginia Tech is struggling. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Maryland and Boston College are the second and third best teams in the conference right now.

No disrespect to the Eagles or the Terps, but that is not a good sign. Neither of those teams will strike fear into the hearts of the Cameron Crazies.

So do I think Duke will go undefeated?

No.

Like it or not, these are still 18-22 year old kids here. They are going to have bad games. There are going to be nights when the shots aren’t falling. As good as Kyrie Irving looked tonight, he is still a freshman. He’s not going to score 31 points every night. He hasn’t yet experienced an ACC road game. (The “neutral site” matchup with Kansas State did come close.) Mason and Miles Plumlee are going to get into foul trouble.

The last time we had a conversation like this in December was back in 2008 when North Carolina was head and shoulders above the rest of the country. After they destroyed then-No. 3 Michigan State by 35 points at Ford Field on Dec. 3rd of that year, the peanut galleries started talking abou a potential undefeated season. That Tar Heels team ended up losing two of their first three in ACC play — including a loss at home to Boston College — and finished the year with four losses.

Duke will be as prepared as anyone heading into every game this season. They have enough senior leadership that I doubt they will come out flat against a lesser opponent. They have enough talent that they can win games even if they don’t play their best game.

But they also go on the road to play the five teams competing for second in the ACC, including Maryland and North Carolina. In each of those road games, the home crowd will take the game as seriously as the national title, especially if Duke comes in undefeated. Opponents — and opposing home courts — always get up for the Dukies. The intensity level will only rise if and when its No. 1 Duke protecting a perfect record. Somewhere along the line, they are going to get clipped in a game they should win.

And it will probably happen more than once.

So, no, I don’t think Duke will go undefeated this season.

I do, however, expect the Blue Devils to go undefeated when it counts: in March.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.