Thursday’s slate and what to watch

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This might be Gonzaga’s most complete team. And that’s saying something.

The Zags haven’t missed an NCAA tournament since 1998 and are annually among D-I’s best non-BCS teams. Mark Few’s 332-86 coaching record? Absurd. So yeah, the Zags have had great teams.

That’s why it’s somewhat amazing that this year’s version is 17-3, has only lost to quality teams (Michigan State, St. Mary’s and at Illinois) and has enough pieces to be a formidable team in March.

Winning tonight at BYU would only reinforce that notion.

(All times ET; TV info from HDSportsGuide.com)

Gonzaga at BYU, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Cougars (18-6) aren’t the Jimmer-led machine from last season, but they’re far from a pushover. Brandon Davies, Matt Carlino and Noah Hartsock are excellent players for the post, guard and wing and should give Gonzaga a run, particularly if the 3s fall. But BYU doesn’t have Gonzaga’s depth, which may be the difference.

Duke at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
The Hokies (12-9) are doing their best to miss any bubble talk this season, losing six of their last seven. But they’re not nearly as bad as their record indicates and are always a thorn in the Devils’ side. Plus, Mike Krzyzewski wasn’t overly pleased with how Duke (18-3) played in Saturday’s win against St. John’s. Upset coming?

Oral Roberts at South Dakota State, 8 p.m.
There isn’t TV for this one, but see if you can track down an Internet feed. (I know, that’s harder than ever these days.) Oral Roberts (20-4) hasn’t lost since Dec. 15, a 13-game win streak that’s not on anyone’s national radar. That’ll be tested at the Jackrabbits, who are the Summit League’s second best team and have the league’s best player in Nate Wolters.

UCLA at Washington, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Bruins (12-9) have no business winning at Washington (14-7), but if this Pac-12 season has taught us anything, it’s that any team can lose at any time. The Huskies have been much better of late (thanks to Tony Wroten) and really need to hold court against the L.A. schools to stay in the title race.

Arizona at California, 11 p.m. (FSN)
The Wildcats (14-8) don’t have Kevin Parrom, one of their most versatile players. Cal (17-5) presents enough problems for a fully healthy team. Mostly curious how Sean Miller’s team responds given the Bears are trying to secure an at-large bid.

EAST
Quinnipiac at Fairleigh Dickinson, 7 p.m.
Canisius at Iona, 7 p.m.
Bryant at LIU, 7 p.m.
Sacred Heart at Monmouth (NJ), 7 p.m.
St. Francis (Pa.) at Mount St. Mary’s, 7 p.m.
CCSU at St. Francis (NY), 7 p.m.
Robert Morris at Wagner, 7 p.m.
Marist at Manhattan, 8 p.m.

SOUTH
Samford at Appalachian St., 7 p.m.
Charleston Southern at Campbell, 7 p.m.
Coll. of Charleston at Elon, 7 p.m.
Presbyterian at High Point, 7 p.m.
Gardner-Webb at Liberty, 7 p.m.
S. Virginia at Longwood, 7 p.m.
James Madison at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.
Winthrop at Radford, 7 p.m.
The Citadel at UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.
UNC Asheville at VMI, 7 p.m.
Duke at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
Chattanooga at W. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Tennessee Tech at Austin Peay, 8 p.m.
SE Missouri at Murray St., 8 p.m.
Jacksonville St. at UT-Martin, 8 p.m.
Denver at Louisiana-Lafayette, 8:05 p.m.
FAU at South Alabama, 8:05 p.m.
FIU at Troy, 8:30 p.m.
South Carolina at Florida, 9 p.m.

MIDWEST
Wright St. at Butler, 7 p.m.
Nebraska at Northwestern, 7 p.m.
Detroit at Valparaiso, 7:30 p.m.
E. Kentucky at E. Illinois, 8 p.m.
Youngstown St. at Ill.-Chicago, 8 p.m.
S. Utah at N. Dakota St., 8 p.m.
Oral Roberts at S. Dakota St., 8 p.m.
Morehead St. at SIU-Edwardsville, 8 p.m.
IPFW at W. Illinois, 8 p.m.

SOUTHWEST
Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas St., 8 p.m.
Middle Tennessee at North Texas, 8 p.m.
Utah Valley at Texas-Pan American, 8 p.m.
North Dakota at Houston Baptist, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST
E. Washington at N. Arizona, 8:35 p.m.
Oregon St. at Colorado, 9 p.m.
Idaho St. at Montana St., 9 p.m.
Oregon at Utah, 9 p.m.
UCLA at Washington, 9 p.m.
Portland St. at Weber St., 9 p.m.
Sacramento St. at N. Colorado, 9:05 p.m.
Idaho at Fresno St., 10 p.m.
Utah St. at Nevada, 10 p.m.
San Diego at Saint Mary’s (Cal), 10 p.m.
Portland at Santa Clara, 10 p.m.
Arizona St. at Stanford, 10 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at CS Northridge, 10:05 p.m.
Cal Poly at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10:05 p.m.
Southern Cal at Washington St., 10:05 p.m.
Pepperdine at Loyola Marymount, 10:30 p.m.
UC Davis at UC Irvine, 10:30 p.m.
Gonzaga at BYU, 11 p.m.
Arizona at California, 11 p.m.
Pacific at UC Riverside, 11 p.m.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.