Wednesday’s Morning Shootaround: A lot of action on the bubble

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No. 3 Ohio State 71, Michigan State 61: See here.

George Mason 71, VCU 51: See here.

No. 14 Villanova 60, Seton Hall 57: The Wildcats were playing without Corey Stokes, who is out with turf toe until at least February 21st, got a huge lift from freshman James Bell off the bench. Bell, who sat out from June until December and had rods inserted into his shins to help combat stress fractures in his tibias, scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Wildcats. Villanova needed the performance badly. They got just 17 points and seven assists (and 12 turnovers) combined from Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, and the team turned the ball over 22 times.

“James Bell killed us. He hit some tough shots,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said.

As far as the Pirates are concerned, its just another tough loss in a season full of them. SHU is 4-6 since Hazell’s return, but only one of those losses (at Pittsburgh) was a blow out. The other five, the Pirates were in it until the end, unable to pull out a victory.

Virginia Tech 91, Maryland 83
: The Terps lost another close game to a quality opponent, further distancing themselves from the bubble picture despite 25 points and six assists from freshman Terrell Stoglin. The Hokies, on the other hand, are playing as well as they have all season long. Malcolm Delaney had 22 points, Jeff Allen scored 16 and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Tech won for the 13th time in their last 16 games. Barring a collapse, Tech should be dancing this season. Maryland? They need a late season push.

St. John’s 80, Marquette 68: See here.

Is there anyone in the country playing better basketball right now than Dwight Hardy? The St. John’s senior scored 28 points and added six boards and five steals. The Johnnies have won five of their last six games (five straight in the Big East) to move to 8-5 in the league and firmly into the NCAA Tournament picture. During those six games, Hardy has averaged 25.3 ppg.

No. 22 Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 79: Doron Lamb got the start over Darius Miller, who was questionable coming in (but scored 13 big points off the bench) and answered Calipari’s call with 20 points on 7-8 shooting, including a couple of big shots during Kentucky’s second half runs. The Wildcats were flat for about the first 25 minutes of the game, allowing an under-manned Mississippi State team playing with Renardo Sidney (who couldn’t make it three minutes without being gassed) to stay in the lead.

At the 15 minutes mark of the second half, Cal turned on the press and his team work up. Brandon Knight finished with 24 points and seven assists while Jones added 17 points.

“We just had no fire, no fight,” Calipari said. “I told them, ‘We’re pressing man to man and if you choose to go back, I’m subbing you.’ ”

No. 19 North Carolina 78, Wake Forest 64: The Tar Heels coasted a little too much for Roy Williams’ liking against the Demon Deacons, allowing Wake to get to within eight points late in the second half. Its not exactly the killer’s demeanor he wanted to see out of his team. Good team win games they are supposed to win. Great teams don’t allow an inferior opponent to believe they have a chance.

Another piece of concern? In their last five halves of basketball (since halftime of the Duke game), the Heels are 7-47 from three.

No. 21 Missouri 92, Texas Tech 84: Missouri was hot offensively, as Marcus Denmon scored 18 of his 20 points before halftime and Kimmie English snapped a slump with a 16 point performance. But 84 points to Texas Tech? The Tigers are a poor defensive team once you break their press, and the jury is still out on whether they are a good defensive team in their press. If the Tigers want to make any kind of noise in March, they need to make some improvements on that end of the floor.

Gardner-Webb 59, Coastal Carolina 57: The Chanticleers lost their first game in the Big South conference, ending any chance they had of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Desmond Holloway at a shot to force overtime at the end of regulation, but he missed it. To make matters worse, the game was at CCU and Gardner-Webb was 3-11 in the league coming in. Luckily for CCU, Liberty lost as well, meaning they still hold a two game lead in the Big South standings.

Wild night in the CAA:

  • George Mason went into Richmond and beat VCU by 20, putting a dagger in the Rams chances of earning an at-large bid while bolstering their own profile.
  • Charles Jenkins had 28 points and hit the game-tying and game-winning shots.
  • Old Dominion kept pace with VCU and Hofstra with a 17 point win over Georgia State. Those three teams trail Mason by two games with two left in the regular season.
  • James Madison’s Denzel Bowles went for 40 points in a win over Towson.

High Point 70, Winthrop 69 2OT: Nick Barbour hit a game-winning runner at the buzzer.

Other Notable Games

  • UNLV 49, Air Force 42
  • Northern Iowa 80, Bradley 70
  • Wichita State 80, Evansville 74
  • Missouri State 60, Drake 51
  • Baylor 64, Wayland Baptist 50
  • Austin Peay 73, Jacksonville 70
  • Butler 64, Green Bay 62

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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

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.