Syracuse proves themselves a contender against Michigan State

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Syracuse is not complete yet.

Its been said a thousand times, but they lack consistent perimeter shooting. Kris Joseph is still competing with the mindset and aggressiveness of a complimentary player. That means that the talented, but at times erratic, Scoop Jardine (he averages 12.5 ppg and 6.9 apg, but he’s been held scoreless the same number of times he’s broken 20 points — twice) is becoming the focal point offensively. Put it all together, and you get a team that has their share of trouble on that end of the floor.

Tonight it didn’t matter.

With the number of possessions that Syracuse looked lost offensively, they still managed to hand Michigan State easily their worst loss of the season, a 72-58 defeat in the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic.

And the Spartans other two losses came at the hands of Duke and UConn, two other top ten teams.

You see, Syracuse is just as good on the defensive end as they were last season. Losing Wesley Johnson and Arinze Onuaku hasn’t hurt the length of their back line. Kris Joseph is plenty long and athletic, as is CJ Fair. In the middle, Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita actually provide more length and size (well, size vertically) than Onuaku. And while Andy Rautins proved to be a terrific defender by the time he left Syracuse, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, and Dion Waiters are all strong, athletic guards with some size that have played very well at the top of the zone.

Draymond Green is the perfect player to put at the high post if you want to break a 2-3 zone. He’s a wide target, capable of scoring from the foul line area or kicking the ball out to an open teammate on the perimeter if the defense collapses. And aside from two poor possessions to start the game when Jardine failed to drop down and prevent the entry pass, Syracuse completely took that option away from the Spartans.

Defensively isn’t the only place where Syracuse’s size has shown through.

Rick Jackson was an absolute monster around the rim tonight. He finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds (six offensive), and while he’s not the kind of player that you can just throw the ball into on the block and rely on his post moves, he’s turned into a real junkyard dog around the rim. He’s got shades of DeJuan Blair in his game, averaging almost 13 rpg, more than 4.5 of which come on the offensive end.

Melo hasn’t been the Fab Melo we all expected this season, Keita has exceeded expectations for his freshman season while Fair has looked really good in his limited minutes as well.

To be fair, this Michigan State team that was dominated inside by the Orange is not the typical Michigan State team. Their front line is not as physical or as aggressive as in year’s past, and that lack of physicality is what has cost them early this season.

But that lack of physicality had nothing to do with how flummoxed the Spartans were against the Syracuse zone.

Korie Lucious and Kalin Lucas struggled to find lanes to penetrate. When they were able to break down the defense, Syracuse had help defenders there. When the ball was kicked out, the Orange were able to get to shooters, which is part of the reason that seemingly every three the Spartans took was from NBA range.

The question now becomes how good the Orange can end up being.

Obviously, this is a team that has yet to reach their potential. There were many possessions on the offensive end of the floor where the Orange looked out of sync tonight. When they weren’t scoring in transition and off of turnovers, the Orange had their own problems dealing with the Spartan’s defense.

But there is time for this group to grow. They shouldn’t be challenged until a New Year’s Day date with Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome, and they don’t really get into the meat of the Big East schedule until mid-January.

If Joseph can find a groove as a go-to scoring option — which will mean attacking the rim more and settling for fewer jumpers — and guys like Jardine, Triche, and Waiters can become reliable shooting threats, the Orange are one of the best teams in the country.

When the shots are falling, they’ll be very difficult to beat.

And if the shots start falling on a consistent basis, this is a group that can realistically contend for the Big East crown.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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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.