Previewing your college hoops weekend

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UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 12:00 pm: Utah State @ No. 14 Georgetown: While Kenpom may be telling you that Washington State over Kansas State is the upset to watch out for, I’m going with the Utah State. Stew Morrill runs one of the most consistently underrated programs in the country. Generally, he avoids playing road games against power conference teams without a return game, but after living on the bubble for much of his tenure, Morrill made the decision to schedule the Hoyas. They are an experienced group with some good perimeter defenders. Tai Wesley is a better post player than Ricardo Ratliffe of Missouri, who had 22 points against the Hoyas. And Nate Bendall is back in the lineup, although he is still battling the foot injury that has plagued him this year. Throw in a potential hangover from Georgetown’s thrilling win over Mizzou, and the Aggies seemed primed for an upset.

UPSET ALERT

Sat. 12:30 pm: No. 11 Kentucky @ North Carolina: You have to figure that Harrison Barnes and North Carolina turn things around at some point, right? Kentucky is a young team, they don’t really have a low post presence, and Brandon Knight has had some struggles at the point. Throw in the fact that this is the first true road game for this Kentucky team, and the Wildcats could be in trouble if Terrence Jones is the only one that shows up.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Western Kentucky @ No. 15 Memphis
: The Tigers haven’t shown up a few times this season. Miami FL took them to the final possession, LSU stayed way too close for comfort, and Arkansas State took the Tigers to overtime after being down 18 points. Memphis better be ready against the Hilltoppers, because this is a team with some talent.

BEST MATCHUPS:

Sat. 4:00 pm: West Virginia @ Miami FL: This is a sneakily good game. The Mountaineers look like they are once again headed to the NCAA Tournament. While the size and toughness is still there, its the emergence of Casey Mitchell as a scorer that has made this team appear dangerous. The ‘Canes look to be much improved, as they have a couple of very good guards and a bruiser in the paint in Reggie Johnson.

Sat. 5:15 pm: No. 21 Illinois @ No. 24 Gonzaga
: Last year when these two got together, it was a dandy, as Gonzaga blew a 21 point lead, but then rallied in overtime to win it. The game was Elias Harris’ coming out party, and hopefully it will be again. Harris was cleared yesterday to play, as he is still dealing with an injury to his achilles. Steven Gray and Demetri McCamey going head to head is alone worth the price of admission.

Sat. 6:30 pm: Boston College @ UMass: Another sneaky good game. The Minutemen are still undefeated on the season, while BC is playing much better after an early season loss to Yale. Reggie Jackson is playing as well as anyone in the ACC that doesn’t live in Durham.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Murray State @ Morehead State: The two best teams in the OVC square off. They are also two of the best mid-major teams in the country. One of these two will be playing in March. Morehead has the star in Kenneth Faried, a 6’9″ center that is a rebounding machine and will be drafted. Murray State is more balanced and defensive-minded. Seriously, this is required watching for the weekend. Consider it your homework.

Sat. 10:05 pm: Wichita State @ No. 19 San Diego State: The headliner of the MWC-MVC Challenge is shaping up to be a dandy. SDSU has already knocked off St. Mary’s and Gonzaga this season using their big, athletic front line. The Shockers, however, have some talented big men of their own. They also desperately need this win if they want to have any chance of being an at-large team. Keep an eye on WSU junior David Kyles, who has come out of nowhere to be the team’s leading scorer and an absolute sniper from three.

Sun. 2:00 pm: Richmond @ Arizona State: The Sun Devils could really use a win over a relevant team after losing to New Mexico, St. John’s, and Baylor. But the Spiders need to shore up their resume as well. The Purdue win doesn’t look like it will be a marquee victory come March, and the loss to Iona is a serious blemish. Both of these teams run a Princeton-style (well, Richmond’s isn’t exactly the Princeton, but similar principles) offense and like to shoot threes.

Sun. 8:00 pm: Temple vs. Maryland at the Verizon Center: In the nightcap of the BB&T Classic, the Owls take on the Terps in what could turn into an intriguing matchup and an important result in March. Neither team has done much with their schedule thus far. Lavoy Allen and Jordan Williams will be a fun matchup to watch, but the key is going to be whether or not Maryland’s turnover prone point guards can handle the Owl defensive pressure.

BEST STORYLINES:

Saturday

  • 3:15 pm: Butler vs. No. 1 Duke in New Jersey: The title game rematch got a bit less interesting with Butler’s struggles and Ronald Nored’s injury.
  • 4:00 pm: Texas Tech @ No. 22 Washington: These two played a classic last year. And there was a false court-storming. Just watch the video.
  • 5:15 pm: NC State @ No. 7 Syracuse: The Wolfpack, like most ACC teams, are getting into the danger zone when it comes to their non-conference resume. Will NC State’s freshmen be able to handle the Cuse zone and get a win?
  • 8:00 pm: Cornell @ No. 13 Minnesota: Can the Gophers right the ship after losing in to Virginia?
  • 8:00 pm: Southern Miss @ Ole Miss: USM could very well be the best team in Mississippi. They can prove it here.
  • 8:00 pm: Miami OH @ Dayton: Miami OH just beat Xavier. Dayton’s had two ugly losses in a row. Can Charlie Coles make it two straight against the A-10?
  • 9:00 pm: New Mexico @ New Mexico State: Its a shame that both teams are down a potential all-conference forward (Drew Gordon and Wendell McKines).
  • 11:00 pm: No. 23 UNLV @ Nevada: Will the Wolfpack still be relelvant when Olek Czyz gets eligible.

Sunday

  • 2:45 pm: No. 16 Florida vs. American in DC: This is like a road game, I guess, and Florida just lost to UCF on the road.
  • 4:00 pm: Clemson @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington vs. Demontez Stitt should be fun. In-state, high major matchups are always worth watching.
  • 6:00 pm: Virginia @ Virginia Tech: See?

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.