Thursday’s slate and what to watch

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If the Big East does place 11 teams in the NCAA tournament, Marquette’s gonna another big win or two before the season’s over. Thursday’s the biggest one left.

A win at UConn would be the Golden Eagles’ best W since beating Notre Dame back in early January and likely ensure at least a .500 record in the Big East. That’ll mean doing a few things:

  1. Check Kemba Walker. Louisville harassed UConn’s leading scorer into a 3-for-13 shooting night last Saturday, resulting in a 71-58 UConn loss.
  2. Hit the offensive glass. Nothing signals a better result for Marquette than when they grab more than 35 percent of their misses. They’re a good shooting team, so there’s usually not much need for it, but UConn’s good at preventing foes from doing that.

West Virginia at Pitt, 9 p.m. (ESPN): The Backyard Brawl is always must-see TV. Ashton Gibbs’ knee injury forced the Panthers (24-3, 12-2) to go inside in the previous matchup, which they did to great success (42 points). This time around, the Mountaineers (17-9, 8-6) are intent on beefing up their boardwork.

Arizona at USC, 10:30 p.m. (FCS): Trojans coach Kevin O’Neill says Arizona star Derrick Williams is “the most protected dude I’ve seen since Michael Jordan.” Hm. Just because the guy shoots a lot of free throws doesn’t mean the refs favor him. Maybe it means he actually plays smart basketball. USC could try that for once.

Georgia at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPN): The Gators (21-5, 10-2) have won five straight and eight of their last nine. But this opens a brutal four-game stretch that could either bolster their chances for a Top 3 seed in the NCAA tournament or to stumble toward a seed that might be suited to their profile.

Morehead State at Murray State, 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU): There’s a 380-mile stretch of Kentucky that’s jacked for this game. But really, that’s not enough. The showdown for the Ohio Valley regular-season title – between two rivals – is one deserving of a national audience.

Gonzaga at St. Mary’s, 11 p.m. (ESPN2): The Zags’ era of WCC dominance may be over, but they can stave it off for one more season by winning in Moraga. Rest assured, they’re pumped for this game.

EAST
Boston U. at Binghamton, 7 p.m.
Marquette vs. Connecticut at the XL Center, Hartford, Conn., 7 p.m.
Bryant at Long Island U., 7 p.m.
Monmouth, N.J. at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.
Mount St. Mary’s, Md. at Robert Morris, 7 p.m.
Fairleigh Dickinson at Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
Cent. Connecticut St. at St. Francis, NY, 7 p.m.
Wagner at St. Francis, Pa., 7 p.m.
West Virginia at Pittsburgh, 9 p.m.

SOUTH
E. Kentucky at Tenn.-Martin, 6:30 p.m.
Coll. of Charleston at Appalachian St., 7 p.m.
Elon at Davidson, 7 p.m.
Georgia at Florida, 7 p.m.
Troy at Florida Atlantic, 7 p.m.
Radford at Gardner-Webb, 7 p.m.
Northeastern at George Mason, 7 p.m.
UNC Greensboro at Georgia Southern, 7 p.m.
Old Dominion at James Madison, 7 p.m.
Columbia Union at Longwood, 7 p.m.
VMI at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.
Carver Bible at Savannah St., 7 p.m.
High Point at UNC Asheville, 7 p.m.
The Citadel at W. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Liberty at Winthrop, 7 p.m.
North Florida at Stetson, 7:15 p.m.
ETSU at Campbell, 7:30 p.m.
Jacksonville at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:30 p.m.
Lipscomb at Kennesaw St., 7:30 p.m.
Belmont at Mercer, 7:30 p.m.
W. Illinois at Centenary, 8 p.m.
Fla. International at W. Kentucky, 8 p.m.
Ark.-Little Rock at South Alabama, 8:05 p.m.
Denver at Louisiana-Lafayette, 8:15 p.m.
E. Illinois at Austin Peay, 8:30 p.m.
SE Missouri at Tennessee St., 8:30 p.m.
Morehead St. at Murray St., 9 p.m.

MIDWEST
Wis.-Milwaukee at Cleveland St., 7 p.m.
Buffalo at Kent St., 7 p.m.
Wis.-Green Bay at Youngstown St., 7:05 p.m.
Hannibal-LaGrange at SIU-Edwardsville, 8 p.m.
Oakland, Mich. at UMKC, 8:05 p.m.
Loyola of Chicago at Valparaiso, 8:05 p.m.
Penn St. at Northwestern, 9 p.m.
N.J. Tech at South Dakota, 9 p.m.

SOUTHWEST
North Texas at Arkansas St., 8:05 p.m.
IUPUI at Oral Roberts, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST
California at Oregon, 9 p.m.
Stanford at Oregon St., 9 p.m.
IPFW at S. Utah, 9 p.m.
Pepperdine at San Francisco, 10 p.m.
UC Davis at UC Irvine, 10 p.m.
Pacific at UC Riverside, 10 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at CS Northridge, 10:05 p.m.
Montana St. at E. Washington, 10:05 p.m.
Cal Poly at Long Beach St., 10:05 p.m.
Montana at Portland St., 10:05 p.m.
N. Arizona at Sacramento St., 10:05 p.m.
Idaho at Nevada, 10:30 p.m.
Arizona at Southern Cal, 10:30 p.m.
Boise St. at Fresno St., 11 p.m.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, Calif., 11 p.m.
Portland at San Diego, 11 p.m.
Arizona St. at UCLA, 11 p.m.
Loyola Marymount at Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Hawaii, 12:30 a.m.

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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.