Thursday’s slate, what to watch centers on St. Mary’s-Gonzaga

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The last time St. Mary’s and Gonzaga played, St. Mary’s turned things into a one-sided affair and sent a message to the Zags that their WCC reign might be ending.

Tonight could cement that notion.

The Gaels (22-2, 11-0) are one of eight teams who have yet to lose a conference game. Yet with four of their last six games on the road – starting tonight – there’s still time for Gonzaga to extend its conference title streak to 12 straight years.

Fairly certain this is one game Randy Bennett’s team would desperately like to win.

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

St. Mary’s at Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (ESPN2)
If the Gaels do win, it’ll be an upset. Gonzaga (18-4, 8-2) is favored by 2.5 points, which means oddsmakers consider it a toss-up. Home figures to play a huge role, too. Only Michigan State’s won at the Kennel this season, a place where the Zags actually play a little defense. The Gaels haven’t dipped below 1.06 PPP in any game since Dec. 22. We’ll see which aspect wins out tonight.

Wisconsin at Minnesota, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
A win would make the Gophers (17-7, 5-6) .500 in Big Ten play and be a huge boost for their at-large hopes. Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana and a trip to Wisconsin still remain, meaning holding the home court is huge. Won’t be easy against a Wisconsin team (18-6, 7-4) that’s won six of its last seven and nearly knocked off Ohio State on Saturday.

Washington at Oregon, 11 p.m. (FSN)
If the Pac-12’s leaders split their Thursday/Sunday tilt in Oregon, they could continue their improbable climb back to at-large NCAA tournament consideration. People had been waiting for Washington (16-7, 9-2) to play up to its talent. This’ll be the latest – and doable – test. BONUS! Hope the Huskies are ready to run. The Ducks (16-7, 7-4) are one of the few Pac-12 teams who like to play fast. Oregon State is the other (and the only team that plays faster than the Huskies).

Virginia Tech at Miami, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
How the Hokies (13-10, 2-6) haven’t won more ACC games is beyond me. Losses to Wake and Boston College are the things the ensure they’re always on the bubble. Meanwhile, we’ll see if Miami (14-7, 5-3) hits a wall after winning four in a row, including at Duke.

Nevada at Hawaii, midnight (ESPN-FC)
The Wolf Pack (19-4, 8-1) somehow lost to Idaho last weekend, one of the biggest head scratchers of the week. And now they head to Hawaii, a schools with one of the biggest home-court edges in college hoops.

EAST
Lehigh at American U., 7 p.m.
Maine at Boston U., 7 p.m.
Rider at Canisius, 7 p.m.
Utah Valley at NJIT, 7 p.m.
Albany (NY) at New Hampshire, 7 p.m.
Siena at Niagara, 7 p.m.
UMBC at Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
Manhattan at Fairfield, 7:30 p.m.
Marist at St. Peter’s, 8:30 p.m.

SOUTH
Winthrop at Campbell, 7 p.m.
High Point at Charleston Southern, 7 p.m.
Elon at Chattanooga, 7 p.m.
High Point at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m.
W. Carolina at Coll. of Charleston, 7 p.m.
Denver at FAU, 7 p.m.
North Texas at FIU, 7 p.m.
Appalachian St. at Furman, 7 p.m.
Radford at Gardner-Webb, 7 p.m.
Wofford at Georgia Southern, 7 p.m.
NC State at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.
Mississippi at Mississippi St., 7 p.m.
VMI at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.
Davidson at The Citadel, 7:05 p.m.
Liberty at Charleston Southern, 7:30 p.m.
W. Kentucky at Middle Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Tennessee St. at Murray St., 8 p.m.
UNC Greensboro at Samford, 8 p.m.
E. Illinois at Tennessee Tech, 8 p.m.
UALR at Louisiana-Lafayette, 8:05 p.m.
Arkansas St. at South Alabama, 8:05 p.m.
Virginia Tech at Miami, 9 p.m.

MIDWEST
Valparaiso at Cleveland St., 7 p.m.
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Butler at Youngstown St., 7:05 p.m.
Illinois at Indiana, 8 p.m.
UT-Martin at SE Missouri, 8 p.m.
S. Dakota St. at South Dakota, 8 p.m.
North Dakota at Chicago St., 8:05 p.m.
N. Dakota St. at UMKC, 8:05 p.m.
Wright St. at Green Bay, 9 p.m.
Iowa at Northwestern, 9 p.m.

SOUTHWEST
IUPUI at Oral Roberts, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST
Utah at Arizona St., 8:30 p.m.
Weber St. at N. Arizona, 8:35 p.m.
Colorado at Arizona, 9 p.m.
W. Illinois at S. Utah, 9 p.m.
Montana at N. Colorado, 9:05 p.m.
Louisiana Tech at Utah St., 9:05 p.m.
Washington St. at Oregon St., 10 p.m.
UC Riverside at Cal Poly, 10 p.m.
San Diego at Pepperdine, 10 p.m.
Loyola Marymount at Portland, 10 p.m.
Fresno St. at San Jose St., 10 p.m.
CS Northridge at UC Davis, 10 p.m.
UC Irvine at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10:05 p.m.
Portland St. at Idaho St., 10:05 p.m.
Montana St. at Sacramento St., 10:05 p.m.
Long Beach St. at Pacific, 10:30 p.m.
California at Southern Cal, 10:30 p.m.
Stanford at UCLA, 11 p.m.
Saint Mary’s (Cal) at Gonzaga, 11 p.m.
Washington at Oregon, 11 p.m.
Santa Clara at San Francisco, 11 p.m.
New Mexico St. at Idaho, 11:05 p.m.
Nevada at Hawaii, Mid

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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.