Kansas guard play atrocious in loss to VCU

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I called them the most complete team remaining in the tournament no less than 48 hours ago, and I could not have been more incorrect.

Relying far too heavily on The Brothers Morri, Kansas was downed by VCU 71-61 in a game that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary may or may not have an adjective to precisely describe how improbable the result was.

Despite jumping out to an early 6-0 lead from two lay-ups and two made free-throws,  the remaining 36:26 of the Southwest Regional Final was tough sledding for the last standing No. 1 seed, as the Rams from the CAA were shockingly quicker and more effective on the offensive ends, ending yet another season in sorrow for Rock Chalkers.

We speak with alacrity on just how important good guard play is in the NCAA Tournament. It was missing in KU’s rotation this afternoon, and it was evident when the Rams executed their first head-butt.

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With a “Winning” label tagged to them, guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar shot a combined 2-16 from the floor with only four assists. Just for good measure, freshman Josh Selby continued to show he’s a ways away from being an elite player, scoring a measly lone field goal himself.

As the game wrapped up, it dawned on me that all these articles on the success of Reed and Morningstar might have a lot more to do with their surroundings than the talent they possess themselves. It’s tough not to accumulate all those wins when you’re surrounded by future pros. If either of these outgoing seniors had the make-up needed to eek out a victory today, Bill Self would be exiting his post-game press conference lauding this duo for stepping up when it mattered most. Instead, they were porous when it mattered most, looking far less valuable (and talented) than their primary defensive assignments.

With the loss, the focus now shifts to Bill Self. An elite program with a penchant for losing to programs in March that are on a tight athletic budget, and have inferior breadth and depth of talent, should he shoulder the blame?

In eight seasons under Self, Kansas has won seven straight Big 12 titles and hung one national championship banner at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but they’ve also conspicuously fallen victim to the upstart mid-major four times in the last seven seasons. Since 2005, the Jayhawks have lost to Bucknell as a No. 3 seed, Bradley as a No. 4, Northern Iowa as a No. 1 and now the Rams, again as a No. 1.

How does Self explain this to the local media? How does he explain it to the Kansas University suits and boosters and alum who value his talents as a basketball coach to pay him $3 million a year?

The people who pay the bills don’t want to hear things like, “well, Sherron Collins isn’t walking through that door, and that’s why we had to start Tyrel Reed all season despite his mediocre scoring and assist output. And Josh Selby has a ways to go before he reaches his potential.” Elite programs aren’t supposed to have excuses. They just pluck stars from high school and reload.

Surely, VCU-Butler brings with it a story line we’ve never really seen before in the Final Four, but it’s still a real shame Kansas isn’t marching on to Houston. Big programs aren’t supposed to stumble like this. I guess that’s just how it goes when your ball-handlers are inadequate.

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

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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.