10 Takeaways: Misery Valley, 1 seed worries and Arizona’s top cat

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Leave it to a football school to hijack BracketBuster weekend.

Nebraska’s 70-67 win over No. 3 Texas went down as the day’s biggest surprise – the Longhorns hadn’t lost a Big 12 game and were seven-point favorites – which is saying something given two other Top 10 teams lost and two other Top 25 teams had close calls vs. the worst teams in their conferences.

So yeah, there’s a lot to cover in this Saturday’s 10 Takeaways.

Top Cat
 The day’s best game also featured the day’s best play – and perhaps the nation’s best player. Derrick Williams saved Arizona with a last-second emphatic block on Washington’s Darnell Gant, giving the Wildcats an 87-86 win. My words won’t do the block justice, so click here to watch. Williams finished with 26 points and 11 boards as Arizona (23-4, 12-2 in Pac-10 play) maintained their league lead on UCLA. Added bonus? ‘Zona plays UCLA next weekend.

Worthy of a 1?
Texas lost. So did Pitt. That means all four top seeds in Dave Ommen’s latest NCAA tournament projections have fallen in the last week. The Longhorns (23-4, 11-1) could be seen as the weakest of those four. Rob Dauster says one loss shouldn’t derail the ‘Horns from that spot, but it does open things up for San Diego State or Duke.

Red Storm rising
One of those upsets came courtesy of Steve Lavin’s St. John’s squad, which handed Pitt just its second Big East loss. You’ll hear rumblings that Dwight Hardy’s game-winning shot shouldn’t have counted because he appeared to be of bounds, but the point’s moot. Also moot? Any talk about the Johnnies wrapping up an NCAA tournament bid. Um, hello? St. John’s (17-9, 9-5) has now beaten five Top 10 teams. That’s nuts.

Patriots games
Coming on the heels of VCU’s impressive win Friday at Wichita State, the CAA watched conference leader George Mason win its 13th straight – the longest streak in D-I – at Northern Iowa. The Patriots (23-5, 14-2) rallied from seven down with just over 13 minutes left in a game that didn’t really showcase just how good the Patriots can be. Meanwhile, the CAA can earn another solid win if ODU beats Cleveland State on Sunday.

Misery Valley
No league came off worse on BracketBuster weekend than the Missouri Valley. The league’s three top teams lost (Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Wichita State on Friday night) and four of the other seven teams in action also lost. Much to MVC fans’ dismay, this isn’t a mutli-bid league in March.

WAC-y second half
Utah State needed an impressive road win to boost its NCAA tournament case, and did just that by clamping down on St. Mary’s shooters in a 75-65 win. It was the first RPI Top 100 win for the Aggies (25-3, 12-1), who outscored the Gaels by 19 in the second half. On the road. The Gaels? They’ll need to win the WCC tournament.

Bubble, bubble, bubble
It’s that time of year when roughly 30 teams affect their NCAA tournament status with their weekend play. That’s clearly too many to recap here, so I’ll let Rob Dauster do the work. But I will say this – Michigan State is trying to ruin some 5 seed’s first-round game.

Slooooooow starts
It took South Carolina more than six minutes to score vs. Kentucky and didn’t even break double digits until 11 minutes had passed in a 90-59 loss. It was even worse for Boston College’s trip to Chapel Hill. The Eagles went scoreless until 12:15 was left in the first half. Yet, unlike the Gamecocks, B.C. actually played defense and took North Carolina down to the wire in a 48-46 loss.

Tu good
Xavier was in the middle of a terrible performance against A-10 cellar dweller Fordham when point guard Tu Holloway decided to save the day (per usual). The Junior turned in a triple-double (26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) as the Musketeers (20-6, 11-1) won their fifth straight, 79-72. It should set off a few alarm bells, too. The Rams haven’t won an A-10 game, while Xavier maintained a 1-game lead over Temple for first. Meanwhile, I feel a little bad for Duquesne.

Insane stats of the day
Syracuse played 45 minutes in its 84-80 win over Rutgers – and shot 47 free throws. New Mexico’s Drew Gordon grabbed 23 rebounds vs. Utah, D-I’s highest total this season. That’s an easy transition to Morehead State rebounding fiend Kenneth Faried, who became the modern era’s all-time rebounding leader. Nice work, ‘Nard.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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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.