Ugly losses by Illinois and Michigan State continue disappointing seasons

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Its time to stop talking about Illinois and Michigan State as contenders.

For anything.

Prior to the season, the Illini’s prospects were a bit up in the air. There were some that thought this team was simply near the top of the Big Ten, and there were others that believed this was a squad with the talent to make a Final Four. But after their ugly 52-49 loss to the Hoosiers, the better question to ask seems to be whether or not this team can actually win a game or two come March.

Illinois has lost four of their last five games. They are 14-7 on the season having lost four of their last five, including games against Penn State and now Indiana. And don’t forget their debacle against Illinois-Chicago, a team that hasn’t beaten anyone other than the Illini since a November 28th win over Toledo.

There was no debate about Michigan State in the preseason beyond whether they were the second or the third best team in the country. That seems like such a long time ago. After losing 61-57 to Michigan at home — the Spartans first loss to the Wolverines at the Breslin Center since 1996-1997 — Michigan State is just 12-8 on the season and 4-4 overall. They have played a brutal schedule and have notched enough solid wins that, barring a collapse, they should be able to make the tournament, but the fact that we are talking about Michigan State simply “making the tournament” should tell you all you need to know about the way this season has gone.

I have no doubt that both teams have the talent to be able to turn this thing around.

Whether they are going to be able to is an entirely different question.

Illinois’ biggest problem is the same problem they have had since Deron Williams and Luther Head left. This team is terribly inconsistent. For all the hype that Demetri McCamey had coming into the season, his performance against Indiana was a disgrace. He finished with just six points on 2-11 shooting to go with three assists and five turnovers. He was coming off of another 2-11 game against Ohio State on Tuesday, when he finished with five points, five assists, and five turnovers. In those two games combined, McCamey took a single free throw. In the Illini’s loss to Penn State, McCamey was 3-8 from the floor, and while he had 10 points, five assists, and five more turnovers, he once again managed just two free throws. For a guy whose name was in the conversation as the best point guard in the country, that is unacceptable.

Illinois has other issues. They rely too heavily on the three. Their role players are inconsistent. Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis are about as strong in the paint as a pipe cleaner.

But it all starts with McCamey. He’s the star, but he’s not being aggressive, he’s turning the ball over too much, and he’s settling for too many jumpers that he isn’t making. Simply put, McCamey is not playing like a star.

The issue is a little bit different for Michigan State.

Either we overvalued this team in the preseason, or the worst case scenario in every situation has occurred.

Korie Lucious got booted off the team. Kalin Lucas seems to finally be nearing 100% after rupturing his achilles in March. Durrell Summers hasn’t blossomed into a guy that can be a dominant player like we expected him too. Neither has Derrick Nix or Delvon Roe. What’s returned is a team that settles for far too many threes pointers and gets way too few offensive rebounds.

We all got so caught up in Tom Izzo’s second straight Final Four and the talent that returned to East Lansing that we all forgot that this was, in fact, a team that was nothing more than a five seed that got hot at the right time in a region where the No. 1, 2, and 3 teams lost during the first weekend.

It may be time to face reality.

Illinois and Michigan State may have some talented individuals, but there is more that goes into being a quality team than having talent on a roster.

Maybe these two teams are, in fact, only decent basketball teams.

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

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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

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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

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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.