It’s past time to stop praising Washington’s moral victories

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NEW YORK – Lorenzo Romar said a lot in the 10 or so minutes that he was in front of the microphones after his Washington team lost to Marquette 79-77 on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic, but there was one quote in particular that stood out:

“Tonight, we didn’t finish, but I thought we played a pretty good game. If we do that, we will win our fair share.”

For a team that has been nothing more than a borderline top 25 program over the last few years, winning their “fair share” is not a bad thing. Moral victories like hanging with a talented Marquette team on national television in Madison Square Garden is a positive, a beacon sent out to east coasters that says ‘Hey, we may play late at night and on weird TV stations, but we still have some kids that can hoop’.

And frankly, this Husky program has not been anything special of late. After losing to Marquette, Washington is now 4-3 on the season, having dropped road dates against St. Louis and Nevada. Last season, the Huskies finished third in a thoroughly mediocre Pac-10 and ended the year with a 24-11 record. The season before that, in 2009-2010, Washington again struggled their way through the regular season, needing to win seven games in a row at the end of the year — three of which came in the Pac-10 Tournament — just to earn an at-large bid.

The problem is that Lorenzo Romar consistently stocks his roster with as much raw talent as anyone in the country. This year, its guys like Terrence Ross, CJ Wilcox and Tony Wroten that are taking the reins. Last year, Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning were on the roster. The year before that Quincy Pondexter was.

Washington is too good to be saying we’ll win games eventually if we continue to play like that.

Its past time for them to start actually winning these close games.

Because if the Huskies settle for another moral victory against Duke on Saturday at the Garden, there is a real chance that Washington could end up on the outside looking in on Selection Sunday. Don’t believe me? Take a look at their non-conference schedule. Their best win right now is against Portland. After Duke, the Huskies host UC-Santa Barbara and South Dakota State, as well as Cal St. Northridge. And while both UCSB and SDSU will have a chance to compete in their respective conferences, they are far from what you would consider a resume victory. (In fact, they are just good enough that U-Dub will need to be on serious upset alert.)

After that, we get into league play, and the Pac-12 has been anything but impressive this year. Right now Cal appears to be the best team — and the only team that deserves any top 25 consideration — in the league, and they have a 39 point loss to Missouri on their resume. And if Washington’s schedule wasn’t already weak enough, they only get one shot at Cal in league play this year.

So you can see why so much is being made out of Saturday’s game.

“We’re aware of that,” Romar said of the importance of getting a win on Saturday. But, in typical coach speak, he also tried to downplay it. “When you go out and play, you have to concentrate on being your best. We don’t tack on ‘Oh, by the way, we gotta win this – extra‘ because of what’s at stake.”

Its a fair point.

He’s avoiding having to put extra pressure on a team that has not proven the ability to handle adversity or a road environment the past two-plus seasons is probably not a good idea.

But maybe this Washington team needs a wake-up call. Maybe they need a dose of perspective. Maybe they need Tony Wroten to understand the consequences of playing so reckless and aggressive. Maybe they need Terrence Ross to understand why he’s being asked to become a dominant presence. Maybe they need to learn that you aren’t going to go far at this level playing lackadaisical defense and making poor decisions on offense.

More than anything, Washington, and Romar in particular, needs to start taking advantage of the talent on their roster.

Settling for moral victories, taking solace in the we-played-well-enough-to-win-but-didn’t theory, is no longer acceptable for this Washington program.

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.