Memphis’ loss hurts more than Harvard, Creighton or Gonzaga

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There were five teams ranked in last week’s Coaches Poll that came from outside the Power Six conferences: Xavier, Creighton, Memphis, Gonzaga and Harvard. Four of those five — with the exception of Xavier, depending on how you view the aftermath of their brawl with Cincinnati — lost this past week.

Harvard’s loss, which came on Thursday, is explainable and was expected. There aren’t going to be many teams going into Storrs and beating UConn this season. And while the Crimson lost by 14 points, they did so valiantly, answering every UConn surge with a couple of big baskets of their own. As you might expect, Harvard fell out of the rankings this week; that’s simply what happens when you lose a game, particularly if your program hails from the Ivy League. But that doesn’t mean that there has been a shift in the majority opinion of this team: they are tough and disciplined and have enough talent to win a game or two in the tournament, but they will struggle if they get matched up with a team that has more size and athleticism.

The remaining three teams have some explaining to do:

Creighton: I’m not overly concerned about the Bluejay’s 80-71 loss at St. Joseph’s on Saturday afternoon. To be frank, this team was overrated at 17th in the country. They don’t play enough defense, and it came back to bite them against St. Joe’s. Up 35-30 at the half, St. Joe’s hit 15-26 from the field in the second half as Tay Jones scored 20 of his 29 points to lead the Hawks to a nine point win.

That wasn’t the only issue, either. Doug McDermott played great as usual, finishing with 26 points and 10 boards. But take away the 10-16 that McDermott shot, and the rest of Creighton’s lineup was 17-45 from the floor. Creighton also got beat up on the glass, giving up 13 offensive rebounds getting just five. St. Joe’s has struggled over the last couple of years, but a talented recruiting class that Phil Martelli brought in last season — Langston Galloway, CJ Aiken, Ronald Roberts, Daryus Quarles — is starting to pay dividends. This Hawk team is one of the most improved in the Atlantic 10 this season and a tough team to beat at home. Combine that with an off-night for Creighton, and, well, losses like this happen all the time.

Gonzaga: The Zags ran into a buzzsaw known as Draymond Green. Michigan State’s versatile power forward had one of the best games of his career on Saturday night, going off for 34 points as the Spartans knocked off Gonzaga 74-67. Green was the only player on Michigan State to finish the game in double-figures. Michigan State is probably better than they are being given credit for — they’ve now won eight in a row since losing to Duke — but they didn’t exactly play like it on Saturday.

That should be concerning for Gonzaga. Why? Because they have a versatile power forward of their own that got eaten alive by Green. Elias Harris finished with just six points and five boards on 2-11 shooting from the floor in 32 minutes. Harris is supposed to be the best player on the Gonzaga team, but he couldn’t slow down Green enough for the Bulldgos to win at home on a night when everyone else on Michigan State was strugging? Yes, Robert Sacre and David Stockton played well. Yes, Gonzaga did an admirable job keeping Tom Izzo’s club from getting to the offensive glass. That’s all impressive.

But until Harris can consistently be a strength for Mark Few’s team, the Zags are always going to have question marks.

Memphis: The Tigers, without a doubt, have the most to worry about from this group. While Murray State is a far cry from being a bad team, Memphis should never lose to the Racers at home. Not with that team and not on their home court. Its clear that Josh Pastner is in over his head trying to coach these guys.

They’ve already begun to take away from Joe Jackson’s ball-handling responsibilities. One of the most talented point guards in the country, Jackson is now spending just as much time as an off-guard, allowing Chris Crawford to be the one. Wesley Witherspoon has reverted back into his old self. Tarik Black fouls too much. No one on the team knows how to box out and, despite having as much size and athleticism as anyone they are going to play this season, no one on the roster — save for maybe Will Barton — has any desire to go and get an offensive rebound.

Frankly, outside of Barton, it doesn’t seem like anyone on the Tigers has any desire period. Josh Pastner is a terrific recruiter, but if he cannot get the kids he brings in to play for him, it will cost him his job eventually.

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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

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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.