Wednesday Morning Shootaround: Hot hands abound

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Notre Dame 73, UConn 70: See here.

Three quick thoughts on UConn:

  • Umm, who is that and what have you done with Alex Oriakhi? UConn’s best big man last night was Chuck Okwandu, as Oriakhi had just zero points and six boards before fouling out. After averaging 13.4 ppg and 12.0 rpg over his first five games, he’s averaging just 8.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg over the last eight.
  • Kemba Walker’s body is not going to be able withstand the beating he takes every night. He’s bumped on every cut and every screen, he’s going full bore for 40 minutes a night in the Big East, and he’s knocked to the ground seemingly every time he gets all the way to the rim. Notre Dame is now known for their physicality, and Walker looked exhausted and sore last night.
  • Despite everything that happened last night, UConn still had two chances to tie the game in the last 30 seconds. Both were ill-advised three pointers from 25 feet, the second of which Shabazz Napier looked like he had no idea what he was doing. That said, Napier had 18 points last night. Roscoe Smith, Jeremy Lamb, and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel combined for 28 points. They were open because ND was so focused on Kemba, but its a good sign that they were able to knock down some shots. Moral victories, anyone?

Pitt 83, Providence 79: The Friars are for real this season. Look past the 0-3 start in conference play and you’ll see that. They lost by seven in a game they were in until the end at Syracuse. They lost by two at home to 3-0 St. John’s. And last night, they came back from 10 points down against Pitt — one of the Big East’s powers — and took a late lead 76-72.

The Panthers are just too good, however. Here’s one example : they battled foul trouble all night long to the point that Jamie Dixon had to go zone. Then Brad Wanamaker fouled out of the game with a couple of minutes remaining and Pitt down. But Travon Woodall came in off the bench and made two huge plays, grabbing a defensive rebound in a crowd to preserve the lead he had given Pitt the possession before on a clutch three pointer in the final minutes.

Two things to take from this game:

  • Marshon Brooks is the real deal. He had 28 points and made a number of big time plays last night.
  • You can pressure Pitt, especially when Woodall is off the floor. Ashton Gibbs is a shooting guard, and Brad Wanamaker, while an excellent facilitator and playmaker in the half court, is not a pure point guard. The Panthers had 22 turnovers against a Providence press that isn’t exactly as well known as a school like Missouri’s.

No. 2 Ohio State 73, Iowa 68: Ohio State struggled early and was inconsistent throughout the night on the defensive end of the floor, but 24 points and 12 boards form Jared Sullinger, 14 points out of Jon Diebler, and a 29-10 second half run gave OSU a lead, but two big free throws from freshman Aaron Craft sealed the win.

No. 21 Minnesota 67, Indiana 63: As Tubby Smith tried to blend a couple of new faces into the mix with Devoe Joseph’s departure, the Gophers struggled early, taking a while to find an offensive rhythm and allowing a big Hoosier first half run. But Trevor Mbakwe’s strength inside (16 boards, 5 blocks) was too much down the stretch while Al Nolen, Blake Hoffarber, and Rodney Williams made enough plays offensively for Minnesota to avoid the upset.

Virginia 84, Howard 63; Baylor 89, Morgan State 72; Lamar 114, Louisiana College 62: UVa’s Mustapha Farrakhan had an unbelievable night, hitting his first 11 shots — eight from three — and he scored 31 points in the Hoos win. LaceDarius Dunn was better, going 10-18 from three as he hit for 43 points, which would have been tied for the second highest out put of the season. But then Lamar’s Mike James went off, scoring 52 points in 28 minutes off the bench for the Cardinals. Its the most points scored this season, the most points scored off the bench in the last 15 years, and the most points scored in 28 minutes or less the past 15 years. En fuego (Rich Eisen voice).

Missouri State 67, Creighton 55: Impressive win for the Bears, who go into Omaha and knock off the Bluejays despite being down 29-20 at the half. It sets up an interesting matchup on Sunday night, as MSU takes on Wichita State for first place in the MVC.

Other Notable Games:

  • No. 12 Texas 79, Arkansas 46
  • South Carolina 91, South Carolina State 56
  • Vermont 55, Stony Brook 49
  • Maryland 95, Colgate 40
  • Texas Tech 79, Delaware State 60
  • West Virginia 67, DePaul 65

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
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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.