A viewer’s guide to the 24-hour hoops marathon

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Here’s to hoping that all of you college hoopheads out there were able to get a good night’s sleep on Sunday, because Monday night brings with it the now-annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

What that means is that for a full 24 hours — actually, its closer to 30 if you’re like me and willing to start the “marathon” with Monday’s 7:00 pm tips — starting when the calendar changes from Monday until Tuesday, there will be a college basketball game on TV. For me, this is the precipice of heaven. I’ll be up all night watching, pounding Monster’s (Red Bull is just too weak these days) and, in all likelihood, putting down an extra large pizza by myself.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it?

For the majority of the sane world, however, I realize that life does not revolve around college basketball and the chance to stay up all night, drinking caffeine and eating pizza (all of a sudden, this sounds like a sixth grade slumber party). So I decided to break down the marathon for you. Hopefully, this helps you select which games to watch, which games to ignore and when to fire up the TiVO:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

1. 8:00 pm: Florida @ Ohio State: You remember what happened last year, right? The Gators hung with Ohio State for the first 25 minutes or so before Jared Sullinger took over and carried the Buckeyes to a resounding, 93-75 win. And that happened when the Gators had a big front line. This season, all of the weight of battling in the paint will fall on the shoulders of Patric Young. Part of what makes that matchup in the post so intriguing is that Young and Sullinger are both potential lottery picks, but they are nearly polar opposites in terms of ability. Sullinger is a big, physical, fairly-unathletic kid with a variety of post moves and an innate understanding of positioning and how to use his hindquarters. Young, on the other hand, still has a way to go in terms of learning how to play the game and developing his post arsenal, but he’s a freak athlete.

The matchup in the back court carries some intrigue as well. Florida’s potent back court has been well-publicized. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario are as talented as any perimeter attack in the country. But the Buckeyes have a couple of all-league caliber guards on their roster as well. Aaron Craft will lock down whoever Thad Matta decides to put him on while William Buford will be a difficult matchup for any of the Billy Donovan’s defenders. The x-factor may be Lenzelle Smith. The sophomore looked like a promising defensive player in Ohio State’s first game of the year vs. Wright State. Now is a chance to prove it.

2. 7:00 pm: Duke vs. Michigan State (Madison Square Garden): First and foremost, the interest in this game has less to do in the action on the court than what the result of a Duke win means off the court. You couldn’t have written the story any better. Coach K is in line to win his 903rd game at the Garden on national television in an event called the Champion’s Classic. What is the significance of the number 903? Its one more than the number of wins current record-holder Bobby Knight had in his career. There is no doubt that Duke fans will be scrounging for these ticket stubs should the Blue Devils pull out the win.

There is no guarantee that Duke wins this game, however. The Blue Devils resemble North Carolina to me in a few ways. They have a point guard that can’t defend his own shadow and tall, athletic posts that can be pushed around by more physical defenders. In the Carrier Classic last Friday, the Spartans abused Carolina on the offensive glass. They forced their fair share of turnovers as well. If Michigan State hadn’t shot an abysmal 30.6% from the floor, they would have had a chance to win that game. If Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson were able to push around John Henson and Tyler Zeller, what happens when they go up against the Plumlees.

3. 12:00 pm: Belmont @ Memphis: This is the most intriguing game of the entire marathon for me. This is the Tiger’s first real game of the season, and while we are all expecting Josh Pastner’s terrific sophomore class to show a marked improvement, there is no guarantee that will happen. Belmont is not an easy team to play in the first game of the season. Just ask Duke, who needed a late three from Andre Dawkins to finally take control against the Bruins.

Belmont is deep, they are experienced and they love to press and are excellent at forcing turnovers. The Memphis back court of Joe Jackson, Charles Carmouche and Antonio Barton is not going to have an easy task trying to protect the ball. The other thing Belmont does well is shoot the ball. They have a tendency to live and die by the three, but they get hot as a team; when a couple go down, the Bruins are capable of catching fire and hitting five or six in a row. But what makes Belmont an ideal upset candidate is that they have a couple big bodies inside in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. Folks in Memphis have been raving about Tarik Black, the Tiger’s sophomore center, and having two capable post players to throw at him is important.

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

4. 9:30 pm: Kentucky vs. Kansas (Madison Square Garden): I have to be honest — I don’t think Kansas is going to be able to hang with the Wildcats. I love Thomas Robinson as much as anyone in the country this side of Jeff Goodman and I think that Bill Self is a terrific coach, but the Jayhawks are not deep and they are not overly experienced, meaning that most of their players are taking on (much) more expanded roles this year. I’m not convinced that Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor are the answer at the point, either. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats are once again incorporating a loaded recruiting class, but this year they add that crop of youngsters to a couple of talented sophomores in Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. I have a bad feeling this game could end up looking something like the Carrier Classic.

5. 2:00 am: Northern Iowa @ St. Mary’s: Northern Iowa was supposed to be going through a bit of a rebuilding season this year, as they deal with replacing Lucas O’Rear and Kwadzo Ahelegbe. I, personally, had them in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley. (Well, sixth, but six out of ten in the bottom half.) That’s why I was the first to get in line congratulating the Panthers for their 17 points road win against an Old Dominion team that had Kent Bazemore in the lineup. This will be a real test for UNI, however. St. Mary’s may have lost Mickey McConnell, but they brought back Matthew Dellavedova to anchor a back court with a couple of talented sophomores. The Gaels also return their entire front line, meaning that Jake Koch is going to have his hands full. This would be a big win for both teams and both leagues. The MVC has had a good early showing (Missouri State won at Nevada) while Loyola Marymount’s win over UCLA was negated by their loss to Middle Tennessee State and San Francisco’s loss to North Dakota State.

6. 12:00 am: Washington State @ Gonzaga: Elias Harris looks like he is all-but back to his freshman year form, as he soared for a couple of big throwdowns in the Zags opening day win against Eastern Washington. Harris finished with 16 points and eight boards, but he wasn’t even the best big man on the team, as Robert Sacre went for 22 points and 10 boards. But Gonzaga’s back court struggled on both ends of the floor, allowing EWU to shoot 13-29 from three. The Cougars have a couple of talented guards in Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden. Will the Bulldogs be able to stop them?

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

7. 2:00 pm: San Diego State @ Baylor: San Diego State will be playing their fourth game in five days on Tuesday (by the end of the week, it will be six games in nine days), with their tip in Waco coming barely 40 hours after the final whistle of the Aztec’s 89-74 win over UC-Davis. SDSU is 3-0 heading into the game, getting some terrific play out of their back court of Chase Tapley, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames. The issue, however, is that Baylor’s front line is loaded even with Perry Jones sitting out, while SDSU relies on a guy that struggled to get minutes on LSU last season. Its too bad this game couldn’t have been played with last year’s SDSU team.

8. 4:00 pm: Rhode Island @ Texas: For the first time in what feels like forever, the Longhorns are going to be rebuilding this season. They have a couple of pieces in their back court — Myck Kabongo has been compared to Chris Paul too many times to court, while J’Covan Brown had 28 points and eight assists in his first game — but Rhody is no pushover. They got 38 points from Jamil Wilson as they took George Mason to overtime at the Patriot Center on Friday. Can they give Texas a similar run?

9. 10:00 am: Kent State @ West Virginia: Kent State might as well be the same team as Oral Roberts. Both are veteran-laden teams with a history of success in the program and a potential conference Player of the Year at the forward spot. Oral Roberts lost to WVU 78-71 on Friday night, and the Golden Eagles shot themselves in the foot down the stretch, making a couple of mental mistakes and missing two wide-open threes. Justin Greene is the guy to keep an eye on for Kent State. But if that’s not enough, you should watch to get a glimpse of Deniz Kilicli, who is doing his best to try and look like the Mountaineer mascot.

10. 10:00 pm: Austin Peay @ California: The Governors have a star in Tyshawn Edmundson, a St. John’s transfer that can put up points in a hurry. That said, Cal has been one of the most impressive teams in the country early in the season (and the only impressive team in the Pac-12). It will be worth it to watch Jorge Gutierrez try and slow down Edmundson.

11. 6:00 am: Drexel @ Rider: I know this game looks boring on paper, but there is some intrigue here. Drexel is a favorite to win the CAA this season. Bruiser Flint’s team is, essentially, a mid-major model of Pitt. They preach defensive discipline and attack the glass with reckless abandon. This Rider team just lost to Pitt by a score of 86-78 on Sunday, and the game was much closer than the final. It took an Ashton Gibbs three with a minute left to finally open up a six point cushion. What else are you going to watch, anyway? Good Morning America?

You know what? Go ahead. Get some sleep. I won’t even be mad:

12. 8:00 am: Morehead State @ College of Charleston: It will be fun to see two mid-major superstars go head-to-head in Kenneth Faried and Andrew Goudelock. Wait, what? They graduated? Oh. Well, then.

13. South Alabama @ Hawaii: If you stay up through this game, you’ve reached true junkie status by allowing your addiction to affect your work. There is no way you’ll be able to function normally the rest of the week. I can tell you this, though: Troy will be up for this game. He loves the Rainbows.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar
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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.