Your Day Two NCAA Tournament Preview

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Well that was fun, right? I’ll take a botched attempt at handicapping the bracket for excitement from noon to midnight over beers too. Who cares if all my upset specials failed to come through, or that one of my Final Four teams was eliminated from the field just two hours into the fun, it’s part of what makes this great, and I don’t feel different about myself.

Can today match the drama of yesterday? That remains to be seen, but the opportunity is certainly there, especially late at night when the first round comes to a close with a trio of “anything goes” match-ups.

The “St. Patrick’s Day Hangover” Session

  • Best Game: #9 Villanova vs. #8 George Mason (2:10 EST; TNT) – Wanna know about a major guilty pleasure of mine? Watching implosions, and your Villanova Wildcats are just that, for a second consecutive season. There’s no reason they can’t down George Mason but, as losers of their last five, the odds are stacked against them. Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a summer league game last August; we’d love to see a bit of a spectacular scoring effort like that this afternoon.
  • Lamest Game: #15 Akron vs. #2 Notre Dame (1:40; TBS) – Not the lamest game of the day, but the Zips are just happy to be here, finishing tied for fifth in the MAC this season. Given the Irish’s 1.15 PPP (points-per-possession) and their 40 percent three point shooting clip, this could be over early.
  • Also be mindful of: #13 Oakland vs. #4 Texas (12:15; CBS) – I wasn’t sure if Morehead State could hang with Louisville because they relied too much on an interior player, and not a perimeter player, but they proved me wrong. Same rules apply here. Maybe the Grizzlies future pro, Keith Benson, will be too much inside for the Longhorns.

The “Hit the Gym” Session

  • The best (and only) game you need to watch this late afternoon: #12 Memphis vs. #5 Arizona (2:45; CBS) – Claim a treadmill or something and get plugged in for this excellent 5/12 match-up, because there’s no need to channel surf for the next few hours. Unless you enjoy lopsided upsets (Duke-Hampton; Ohio State-UTSA), or low scoring snoozers (Texas A&M-Florida State) you can focus on Josh Pastner vs. his alma mater in what could be a nice up-and-down game.

The “The Weekend is Finally Here” Session

  • Best Game: #11 Marquette vs. #6 Xavier (7:27; truTV) – Xavier and Michigan State are the only two schools to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three tournaments. The Musketeers have their work cut out for them here, though, as the Golden Eagles are a bit more physical and know how to get to the line. The best match-up? Anyone vs. Jimmy Butler. Marquette’s do-everything player can play just about every position. It will be interesting to see who checks him.
  • Lamest Game: #16 Boston University vs. #1 Kansas (6:50; TBS) – Head to Faneuil Hall in Downtown Boston and ask 100 people at random which local school is in the field of 68. I’m willing to bet less than a third correctly name the Terriers. This will be over quick, and nobody will lose sleep over it.
  • Also be mindful of: #15 Long Island vs. #2 North Carolina (7:15; CBS) – It won’t end in an upset, but the Blackbirds are the nation’s fourth highest scoring team at 82-points per game. Sure most of that came against lesser competition, but it will be fun to watch this likely 75+ possession game unfold.

The “Night Cap” Session

  • Best Game: #11 VCU vs. # 6 Georgetown (9:50; TNT) – The Hoyas have always have the talent, but they’ve only one a single tournament game in the past two seasons, in which they were a No. 3 and No. 2 seed. They’ve underperformed, and CAA squads have a penchant for overachieving. Yesterday, Clemson was able to hang with West Virginia following their First Four game. I don’t think the Rams are going to be tired here, or not competitive.
  • Lamest Game: #14 Indiana State vs. #3 Syracuse (9:57; truTV) – Only a 43 percent FG shooting team, the Sycamores will likely struggle against Syracuse’s zone. They also don’t have an impact player listed over 6’6″. Rick Jackson loves this.
  • Also be mindful of: #10 Georgia vs. #7 Washington (9:45; CBS) – A lot of athleticism will be on display here, but I expect the Huskies depth to wear the Bulldogs down. They’ll force tempo, probably employ some pressing and enjoy a deeper rotation en route to a date with North Carolina. Plus, Lorenzo Romar’s kids didn’t travel 2,800 miles to lose.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin

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.