Recapping the second day of the Sweet 16

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For the second weekend in a row, Friday gave us the most exciting day of hoops.

Ohio took the Kendall Marshell-less Tar Heels to overtime. Kansas tried to give away their game against NC State. The same can be said for Baylor against Xavier. And, of course, we had the fireworks between Kentucky and Indiana. I can think of worse ways to spend a Friday night.

The best news?

The top seed advanced in all four games. I know that statement might irk fans of the losing teams, but the fact of the matter is that, at this point, the best matchups are the most ideal. I love a good cinderella story as much as anyone, but I don’t think anyone is going to complain about seeing UNC play Kansas and Baylor try to topple Kentucky.

Player of the Day: Quincy Acy, Baylor: Acy was a monster in the paint for Baylor. He finished with 20 points, 15 boards, three assists and a pair of massive dunks. The Bears are still waiting for Perry Jones III to start playing like Perry Jones III in this tournament, but thanks to Acy’s contributions, the Bears are still in a position where they can wait. It has to be comforting for Scott Drew to know he has a big man capable of going for 20 and 15 when PJ3 isn’t playing well.

They were good too:

Tyler Zeller, UNC: Zeller was one of the few bright spots for the Heels in their overtime win over Ohio, finishing with 20 points, 22 boards and four blocks. He could have had 30 if his teammates looked for him more.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: MKG had been in a slump, but he broke out of it in a big way at a big time. He finished with 24 points and 10 boards (six offensive), looking like the MKG the nation fell in love with in December.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: Much like Gorgui Dieng last night, Withey dominated the paint in the Jayhawk’s win over NC State, finishing with 10 blocks.

Team of the Day: Ohio Bobcats: Ohio is allowed to be disappointed about the outcome of this game. They had a very real chance to win, and they couldn’t capitalize on it. That’s disappointing for anyone. But I really hope that this team is able to, eventually, appreciate what they accomplished. They beat the Big Ten tri-champion and a team from the Big East before giving the ACC champs everything they could handle. The Bobcats made a statement. I hope they realize it.

Game of the Day: UNC 73, Ohio 65 OT: This was about as good as it gets in college hoops. Going up against an overmatched No. 13 seed, the Tar Heels took an early 15 point lead before completely losing the ability to score. Ohio caught fire from three — hitting 12-32 on the game — and started to force turnovers by the Heels — UNC had 24 on the game — which turned this game into a barnburner. The two teams traded punches late in regulation, which ended with a Harrison Barnes turnover that led to a half court heave from Cooper that bounced off of the rim. UNC took control early in the overtime, but that shouldn’t take away from how good the game was.

They’ve had better days: Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas: If Kansas is going to advance in this tournament, they are going to need Taylor to rediscover the groove that he was in late in the regular season. Taylor had just six points and five assists against NC State, going 2-for-14 from the floor and committing five turnovers, including two costly mistakes late in the game that allowed the Wolfpack a chance to get back into the game, not to mention the front end of a one-and-one that he missed. This was coming off of a 4-for-11 performance against Purdue.

Them too:

DJ Cooper, Ohio: This loss will sting for Cooper. He went 3-20 from the floor as the Bobcats took UNC to overtime.

Tu Holloway, Xavier: Holloway missed a key free throw down the stretch, and while it didn’t cost Xavier the game, it certainly hindered their comeback attempt.

Harrison Barnes, UNC: The Heel’s struggles are easy to pin on Stilman White, but the fact of the matter is that Barnes’ 3-for-16 performance and the five turnovers he had were much more of a factor.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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

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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.