Thursday’s slate and what to watch: three league titles on the line?

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All times ET. Television guide via here.

Game of the Night: No. 5 Duke @ No. 15 Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Do I really need to explain to you how important this game is in the ACC standings? Three teams are tied for first place in league play with four games left on the schedule. Duke and Florida State are two of those teams. The Seminoles already have wins at Duke and against UNC in their only meeting, which means that a win tonight puts them in the driver’s seat. In other words, if Florida State wins their last four games, they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Raise your hand if you thought that was even a possibility back in November.

(I’ll wait.)

There will be a couple of interesting personnel matchups in this one. In the paint, the Plumlee have played better basketball of late, but from a physicality perspective, they will be at a disadvantage against FSU’s massive front line. On the perimeter, the Seminoles have some terrific on-ball defenders and should make life difficult for a Duke team that already has issues penetrating off the bounce. If you’ve forgotten, the last time these two teams played, this happened. The Blue Devils have been waiting for a month to run it back. In other words, this should be fun.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 16 Wisconsin @ Iowa, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Hawkeyes have been one of the most pesky teams in the country this season. They’ve beaten No. 11 Michigan at home. They’ve beaten No. 23 Indiana at home. And they’ve gone into the Kohl Center and knocked off Wisconsin already this season. Matt Gatens is coming off of a 30 point performance in Sunday’s upset win over the Hoosiers. Can he keep the streak going?

Also on upset alert:

No. 14 Murray State @ Tennessee State, 8 p.m. (ESPNU): Murray State doesn’t have an undefeated season to worry about anymore, which takes a bit of luster off of their remaining schedule. I’ll watch this team play simply because I enjoy Isaiah Canaan and what he is capable of doing on the court, but most other people are not addicted to this game like I am. Who is the reason that Murray State blemish on their record? Tennessee State. Like Duke, the Racers have probably been waiting to run this back.

No. 17 Louisville @ Cincinnati, 9 p.m. (ESPN): I’m not sure you can even technically justify this as an upset if Cincy were to win, but I’ll go with it because a) Louisville has that number to the left of their name which signifies that the top 25 polls that you should all-but disregard are think the Cardinals are better and b) NBC gave me the power to do so and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of that authority. Was I rambling? Sorry. Winner moves into a three-way tie with USF and Georgetown for the fourth double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

St. Mary’s @ Portland, 10 p.m. (ESPNU): This is going to be a game that you will want to keep a very close eye on. The Gaels are in the midst of another late-season swoon, having lost three of their last four. They were given a gift when Gonzaga lost to San Francisco and opened the door for the Gaels to win the WCC regular season title, but for that to happen St. Mary’s has to win their last two games. On the road in league play from a team that’s struggling? Portland is just the appetizer to Saturday’s trip to San Francisco.

Mid-major matchup of the night: Bucknell @ American, 7 p.m. (CCS)

After losing to Lehigh at the buzzer last week, the Bison stumbled at Holy Cross, meaning that both the Mountain Hawks and the Eagles, who are one game behind Bucknell, will have their shot at getting even in league play with two games left. In all likelihood this is the last chance that they will have. Bucknell’s final game of the year is against Navy, who is 0-13 this season.

Bubblicious:

Alabama @ Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): The Crimson Tide, who are still without JaMychal Green after Tony Mitchell was booted from the team, are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives against an Arkansas team that is very, very tough to beat at home. That’s a rough combination.

BYU @ Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (ESPN2): This isn’t quite a bubble game, but it does become important with the way the WCC standings look like they are going to shake out. Both BYU and Gonzaga at 11-3 in the league, a game behind St. Mary’s. But the Gaels are playing some poor basketball right now and have two road games left this season. The winner tonight will have the best chance of beating out St. Mary’s for the league title.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

Elon @ Davidson, 7 p.m.: The Wildcats will win the SoCon’s regular season title with a victory.

Belmont @ Kennesaw State, 7 p.m.: Ditto, Bruins in the Atlantic Sun.

Middle Tennessee State @ Louisiana-Monroe, 8 p.m.: MTSU has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament, but a win tonight gives them the outright league title.

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.