Oakland earned their win over Tennessee

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Tennessee was in firm control of this game.

They had weathered Oakland’s storm. Despite 20 first half points from Keith Benson (who finished with 26 points and 10 boards) and 70% shooting from the Grizzlies over the first 13 minutes of the game, Tennessee was able to open up a 50-39 lead at the half. That lead was pushed as big as 13 in the second half, which combined with Benson rolling an ankle (he missed about five minutes of game time and returned with a noticeable limp) gave the Vols firm control of the game.

It seems like the Vols believed this one was over.

Because down the stretch, it was all Oakland.

Sure, Oakland had their fair share of luck — they banked in two jumpers from the foul line and had a seven foot center hit a 19-foot contested fadeaway to beat a shot clock buzzer — and Tennessee had their fair share of dumb plays — they took a number of ill-advised shots and committed at least three fouls 75 feet from the basket to put Oakland on the line — but the difference down the stretch was effort.

It was Oakland that was getting all the loose balls. It was Oakland that was getting to the offensive glass. It was Oakland that was forcing Tennessee into tough shots.

And it was Oakland that earned an 89-82 victory at Thompson-Boling Arena against the No. 7 team in the country despite their first round pick becoming essentially a non-factor down the stretch.


Because the Grizzlies made the plays down the stretch.

Three in particular stand out to me. The first was after Oakland had taken their first lead of the second half. Melvin Goins missed a tough layup driving through traffic and Oakland pushed the ball in transition the other direction. Tennessee lost track of Benson, who was left wide open from 17 feet and knocked down the jumper.

After a Cam Tatum turnover at the other end, Oakland grabbed three offensive rebounds on one possession, the third of which bounced in between three Tennessee players and was gobbled up by Will Hudson, who had six offensive boards to go with 17 points on the night. He immediately went up and scored a layup, making it 81-76.

Two possessions later, after Tennessee had trimmed the lead to 82-79, the Vols needed to get a stop with under a minute left. After Oakland worked the ball around, it ended up in Larry Wright’s hands. Wright, who finished with 19 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards, hit Goins with a pump fake to create space and buried a three with 35 seconds left.

Dagger! Onions! Whatever you want to call it.

Oakland had all but sealed the win.

The Vols were primed for an upset in this game. Oakland came into this one at 5-5, but their last two times out they very nearly knocked off two of the Big Ten’s best in Illinois and Michigan State. Tennessee was coming off of a huge win against Pitt, was undefeated on the season, and was every writer’s kool-aid of choice to sip on.

Tennessee should not have lost this game. Top ten teams cannot blow 13 point leads at home to team from the Summit League.

But give credit where credit is due.

Oakland’s toughness, execution, and determination down the stretch allowed them to capitalize on Tennessee’s mistakes.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

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.