Thursday’s Shootaround: Akron lands year’s first upset

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No. 16 Arizona 67, Duquesne 59: Josiah Turner showed up late for a shootaround Wednesday afternoon, and that gave Jordin Mayes the start over him. That decision would end up being a blessing in disguise for Arizona, as Mayes scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half and sparked a late 12-0 run that gave Arizona a 61-48 lead. The Wildcats would go on to win 67-59, but the lead certainly wasn’t safe; Arizona had one stretch where they turned the ball over on four straight possessions while trying to put the game away.

In fact, Arizona finished the game with 21 turnovers, the most they’ve had in a game since February of 2010. And that’s where there conundrum of Jordin Mayes comes into play. For the second straight game, Mayes provided Arizona with the spark they needed to blow the game open; on Monday, he scored eight straight points to give the Wildcats control against Valparaiso. The problem? Mayes isn’t a pure point guard. After Wednesday’s game, Mayes now has one assist and three turnovers in Arizona’s first two games. Last season, he averaged just 1.2 apg despite playing 14.3 mpg.

He may be the best option at the point right now. Josiah Turner has loads of talent, but he has even more learning — and maturing — to do before he gets to the point that he can maximize that talent. Decision-making is not Turner’s strong suit. (Seriously, how do you show up late to the shootaround for the second game of the season?) Nick Johnson is talented and can be a playmaker, but he’s not a point guard. Kyle Fogg is the leader for this team, but he, too, is not a point guard. Mayes is the best option, but if Turner is able to put it all together this year, it will be interesting to see what, exactly, Sean Miller does with his back court rotation.

St. John’s 78, Lehigh 73: You would have thought that the surprising return of Steve Lavin, who is still recovering from treatment for prostate cancer, would be enough of an emotional boost to get St. John’s to come out on all cylinders on Wednesday night. Instead, it was Lehigh that had the hot hand early, knocking down their first five three pointers and eventually surging to a 32-16 lead. But like they did on Monday night, the Johnnies used a pressuring defense to create turnovers and get opportunities in the full court, where their athleticism took over. A 12-0 run cut the lead to 60-58 with five minutes left before God’sgift Achiuwa gave the Johnnies the lead for good with a running hook with under two minutes remaining.

Achiuwa finished with 21 points and eight boards — going 6-6 from the field and 9-9 from the free throw line — and Nurideen Lindsay and Moe Harkless both chipped in with 15 points.

This win was a good sign for St. John’s. Lehigh is not a bad basketball team. They have one of the best mid-major players in the country in CJ McCollum and came out completely unphased by St. John’s pressure. The Johnnies were able to regroup, made a comeback and then made enough plays in crunch time to win the game. No one — not even the most die hard St. John’s fan — should truly expect this team to contest for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. I don’t care is this game was at home and against an over-matched opponent, seeing such a young team rally from 14 points down and win a game when they didn’t play well for 30 minutes is a good sign.

Akron 68, Mississippi State 58: I touched on Renardo Sidney here, but there is more to this loss than just The Big Enigma.

Arnett Moultrie grabbed 15 rebounds (seven offensive), which was nice, but he shot 2-13 from the floor, many of which were shots around the rim. Granted, a lot of that can be attributed to the defensive presence of Akron’s Zeke Marshall, but that shooting percentage is still a problem. Dee Bost also had a tough game. He finished with 13 points, he was just 2-9 from the floor and 1-6 from three, he had four of Mississippi State’s 19 turnovers and he played far too quickly for a guy that is a point guard on a team with a terrific front line. And all you have to do is search Rick Stansbury on twitter to get a feel for his coaching job.

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But the biggest thing you should take away from this game? Akron’s pretty good, bro! They played very well defensively, forcing Mississippi State into some ugly offensive possessions. They not only forced turnovers, they created ‘pick six’ turnovers — jumping passing lanes and making open court steals that led directly to easy buckets at the other end. Zeke Marshall made things very difficult in the lane before he fouled out, Alex Abreu was a terror defensively (six steals), Quincy Diggs scored 19 points and made a lot of plays in transition and Nikola Cvetinovic made a lot of little plays that don’t show up in the score book.

Akron is a well-coached, experienced team coming off of a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This loss is not a good sign for Mississippi State, but its also not as bad as it looks on paper.

No. 19 Texas A&M 81, Liberty 59: This game was over early. Despite playing without head coach Billy Kennedy, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the Aggies were stifling defensively early on, holding the Flames to just 14 first half points. They shot 65.4% from the floor for the game and cruised to the win. Ray Turner was great, scoring 20 points on 9-11 shooting while Elston Turner and David Loubeau chipped in with 16 and 14, respectively. The best news? The Aggies were this impressive despite getting only 10 minutes from Khris Middleton, who left the game with a hamstring injury and is currently day-to-day.

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

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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.