Friday’s Shootaround: UNC bounces back and Illinois falls back

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No. 8 North Carolina 82, Virginia Tech 68: There was a lot of good and a lot of bad to take out of the Tar Heel’s 14 point win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

The good? After allowing the Hokies to hang around for far to long in the first 24 minutes or so, UNC turned it on in a big way. They used a 19-0 run that they extended into a 31-5 surge to turn a 44-36 deficit into a 67-49 lead. After their debacle at Florida State last weekend, the Heels needed to make a statement in this game. Virginia Tech borders on awful this season, and while Seth Greenberg’s teams are always tough at home, UNC needed to come out and show the country that they are not the team that was beaten into submission — both literally and figuratively — in Tallahassee.

And while it took them a half to wake up (I would pay a good amount of money to see Roy Williams’ halftime speech to his team), when they finally did, the Heels put on a show. Harrison Barnes looked like the guy that is at the top of every NBA Draft board. John Henson and Tyler Zeller were dominant in the paint. As a team, the Tar Heels looked every bit the offensive juggernaut that they were supposed to be all season long, and they were playing some defense, too.

The bad? Dexter Strickland injured his knee. There has been no diagnosis yet, but the way that his knee buckled when he planted … it looked bad. Strickland is UNC’s best perimeter defender, and with Leslie McDonald already out of action with a torn acl, UNC’s perimeter depth is at a premium. If Strickland is gone for an extended period of time, it could be a huge blow to UNC.

Penn State 54, No. 25 Illinois 52: After their win over Ohio State last week, I said that the key to the Illini’s season was whether or not they would be able to find a consistent way to get production out of Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard. On Thursday night, Illinois got 20 points out of Paul and 15 points out of Leonard on a combined 23 shots. And they still lost. That’s what will happen when your supporting cast goes 6-26 from the field and scores all of 17 points.

A couple of things worth noting: Tim Frazier is one of the best point guards in the country you’ve never seen play. He had 12 points and nine assists, including the game-winner. Also, Brandon Paul hit a pair of tough threes down the stretch, including another ridiculous three off of a curl with a hand in his face. Color me impressed.

Vanderbilt 69, Alabama 59: The Commodores were incredibly impressive in their win at Alabama on Thursday night. They were down by 17-11 midway through the first half when they completely took the game over. They outscored the Crimson Tide 15-2 to end the first half and began the second half with a 15-5 surge. But as good as Vandy looked, I can’t help but wonder whether this loss says more about Alabama. I love that team, but they haven’t done anything with anything close to a modicum of consistency this season. Is it possible that their offensive woes are a bigger issue than we thought?

No. 4 Duke 91, Wake Forest 73: The story of this game wasn’t the 18 point win we all expected and it wasn’t the seven threes that Andre Dawkins hit in the first half. It was that Austin Rivers, Coach K’s star freshman guard, was benched at the start of the game. He was told on Monday, after a four point performance against Clemson, and Rivers was not happy about it. After the game, he said:

The past three days I haven’t slept. I’ve been thinking. I was so angry. You have no idea how angry I was. … But I realize that I need to mature. That’s what (Krzyzewski’s) intention was. I mean, he’s a genius. He knows what he’s doing. He’s going to make me better and this team is going to make me better.

Admittedly, I didn’t like Rivers body language on the bench. But Coach K’s tactics worked. Rivers had 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Rivers has the talent to be something special. Whether or not he’s able to accept the fact that, the higher the level of basketball he reaches, the fewer the number of shots he is going to get is a different story.

Loyola Marymount 82, BYU 68: There was quite a bit of speculation this season that the six game round robin between Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and BYU would determine the winner of the WCC this season, and while that still may end up being true, the fact that the Cougars dropped this game to LMU — at home, none the less — is a major blow to BYU’s chances of winning the league outright. To be fair, the Lions are finally healthy this season. Anthony Ireland was terrific as usual, finishing with 27 points, five assists and five steals, but Drew Viney showed up with 21 points in this one.

Pac-12:

Cal 69, Washington 66: The Bears are starting to look like the best team in the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe had 16 points and 10 boards and Justin Cobbs went for 14, but the most important player in this game was Robert Thurman. Filling in for the ineligible Richard Solomon, Thurman, a walk-on, went for 16 points and seven boards. Can he keep up that kind of production? I’m not terribly concerned about Washington just yet, but this is a worrisome outcome.

Washington State 81, Stanford 69: This is a bad loss for Stanford. The Cardinal came into this game tied for first place in the conference with Cal and jumped out to a ten point lead in the first half. But Stanford simply had no answer for Faisal Aden, who finally woke up by coming off the bunch for 33 points.

Oregon 65, USC 62: What do we make of Oregon? They continued their solid start in Pac-12 play, but struggling with USC at home isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Dana Altman’s team. Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for 36 points.

Oregon State 87, UCLA 84: Maybe I am expecting too much out of the Beavers this season, but I wasn’t surprised by this win over UCLA as much as I was surprised by OSU’s 1-5 start in league play. Jared Cunningham has 21 points in the win, but more importantly Devon collier had 20 and got 12 shots from the floor.

– Colorado 69, Arizona State 54
– Arizona 77, Utah 51

Other notable scores:

– No. 17 Virginia 70, Georgia Tech 38
– No. 23 St. Mary’s 61, Pepperdine 47
– Davidson 87, Charleston 69
– Charleston Southern 93, UNC-Asheville 88
– NC State 76, Boston College 62
– VCU 69, William & Mary 68 OT
– Butler 57, UIC 49
– Denver 63, Louisiana-Monroe 48
– Weber State 81, Northern Arizona 67
– Gonzaga 74, San Francisco 63

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
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.