Rutgers coach classy about botched ending: ‘That’s just the way it is’

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Yesterday, Gil Biruta picked up his fifth foul in overtime when he was called for a technical for swinging his elbows.

It was a tough call for Mike Rice to swallow, no doubt, but his response — “That’s a tough call. Big East referees are the best in the world. I’m going to trust that they were right. In overtime that’s an unbelievable call.” — was professional, classy, and what we like to call taking the high road.

What are the odds that on Wednesday, just 24 hours after the call against Biruta, Rutgers would once again would be on the wrong end of a tough call late in the game. Only this time, the officials didn’t get it right and St. John’s claimed a 65-63 win.

First, the video:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlOWkNBxlTo]

As you can see, with time still left on the clock, Justin Brownlee traveled with the basketball and stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball into the stands. The travel or the out of bounds call should have given Rutgers the ball with 1.6 seconds left on the clock.

Andy Katz spoke to the head of NCAA officiating, who told him that the officials decision not to referee the game until the final buzzer was “unacceptable“.

Rice agreed. Kind of.

“Was there a mistake? I saw it on YouTube. There was a mistake made,” Rice said. “I’m sure they’ll say it. But that’s just the way it is.”

“Circumstances … it is what it is. It’s not what happens, its how you respond to it.”

And while Rice went out of his way to commend the officials, repeatedly saying those are great officials and that the Big East has the best crews in the country, its clear that he was holding back.

“There’s going to be blood coming through my tongue,” Rice said.

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/33399756?launch=41996599″ width=”420″ height=”245″ allowFullscreen=”true” /]

That speaks to the character of Rice. He’s as intense and demanding as any coach in the country. With this being the second straight season his team was screwed in the postseason — if you remember, Robert Morris missed an enormous upset of Villanova due to some questionable refereeing — every one of the media members at the press conference (more than 100) expected a Bob Knight/Bobby Gonzalez level meltdown.

Instead, Rice was cracking jokes.

“I was a lunatic to be honest with you and I lost some self-control,” he said. “I admit it, and I thought it was a judgment call. Had I known it was 1.2, I might have literally held on, done a Van Gundy and held one of their legs on the court.”

“The judgment calls I have to believe that they are right,” he continued. “I watched him step out on our SID’s iPhone. He literally took three steps and — it was a mistake. The game should have been one more play, does that mean we’re going to win? Certainly not. It was a mistake and that’s what happens in basketball. I made a ton of mistakes in the last 48 hours in my life.”

This did not cost Rutgers the game. It cost them an opportunity to win the game on a prayer, but that is not the point — the referees failed to make a call, they failed to do their job, and it affected the outcome of the game. I was pissed. Everyone in my twitter feed was pissed. The folks on press row were in shock that no call was made.

But the head coach of the team at the wrong end of the call — the guy most affected by the ref’s ineptitude — came into the press conference and more or less said “whatever, everyone makes mistakes.”

I’m sure the sentiment will be different for whatever unlucky assistant heads out for “a few cold ones” with Rice tonight, but the point still stands.

It takes some serious restraint not to blast the officials that end your season too early. And Rice deserves to be commended for it.

For the Rutgers seniors, this is a difficult way to end their careers. Nothing was expected of this team, but they bought into what their new head coach was saying. They fought hard. They pulled off a couple of upsets. They won a game in the Big East tournament. And while their season and career comes to a disappointing close (they are under .500, so they are not eligible for a postseason tournament, according to Rice), this team is not exactly disappointed.

“I can’t even be mad at how the game ended because of how hard we fought,” James Beatty said.

Its a shame that the refereeing is what has taken center stage talking about this game, because it overshadows what was another terrific finish in the Big East Tournament.

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

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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.