College Hoops Player of the Week: Elias Harris, Gonzaga

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Player of the Week: Elias Harris, Gonzaga

Harris didn’t put up eye-popping stats this week, as he averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 boards in Gonzaga’s run through the Old Spice Classic down in Orlando. He did, however, look like a first round draft pick as the Bulldog’s knocked off Davidson in the title, game, 81-67. Harris had 24 points and 10 boards on 9-11 shooting in that game, but his value extended beyond the box score. Harris is a much improved defender this season, and he’s really taken on something close to a point forward role this season. He’s not Kyle Anderson and he’s not Draymond Green, but he’s capable of pushing the ball up the floor and leading the break, which becomes especially useful when Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell are in the back court.

For the first time since his freshman season, Harris looks 100% healthy. He’s explosive, making a couple of athletically-impressive plays over the weekend. Perhaps more importantly, he’s embraced his role with the Zags. There’s simply too much talent on that roster for him to be concerned about how many points or shots he gets; he’s a complimentary piece, a rebounder and a defender, that just so happens to be able to get you 24 points on a night when you need it. Fran Fraschilla had a great line about Harris in Sunday’s title game broadcast: Harris was one of the most overrated players in the country during his freshman season, but he’s one of the most underrated players in the country as a senior.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Quinn Cook, Duke: Cook was terrific for the Blue Devils this weekend, as they picked up three very impressive wins to bring home the Battle 4 Atlantis crown. Cook isn’t the star of this Duke team — that award goes to Mason Plumlee, with Seth Curry being the runner-up — but he may be the most important piece. In three games, Cook averaged 13.7 points and 6.3 assists, which included playing 73 minutes on back-to-back nights against two of the toughest full-court presses that he’ll see this season in wins over VCU and then-No. 2 Louisville. Cook’s role this season is to be the facilitator: protect the ball, get Duke into their sets, create open shots for teammates off the dribble, and knock down an open jumper when it’s given to him. After struggling with turnovers in the preseason, it’s pretty clear Cook’s embraced this role.

G: Andre Hollins, Minnesota: No one in the country woke up on Sunday morning with a bigger smile on their face that Hollins. On Friday, the Memphis native went for 41 points against his hometown Tigers, who chose Joe Jackson over him, as the Gophers beat a roster full of his former AAU and high school teammates. Then on Saturday, Hollins finished with just eight points, but hit three free throws with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to beat Stanford; he was fouled taking a three from half court.

G: Brandon Paul, Illinois: Paul was going to be the Player of the Week this week until he needed a last-second three from Tyler Griffey to help him lead the Illini past Gardner-Webb at home. Paul was terrific in three games out in Maui, however, scoring 26 points in a rout of USC in the opener and closing the event with 20 points in a win over Butler. Here’s the million dollar question, however: are the Illini truly contenders for a tournament berth, or was this simply an early-season tease?

F: Doug McDermott, Creighton: Here’s the crazy thing about how good Doug McDermott has been in his career: he averaged 29.5 points and 8.5 boards in wins over Wisconsin and a much-improved Arizona State, yet I still came away from the weekend feeling like he didn’t play all that well because he shot 47.6%. Granted, McDermott’s legendary stroke has been a bit off early in the season — he’s down to 51.9% from the floor and 30.0% from three from 60.1% and 48.6% last year — but that’s still an impressive way to have a mediocre night.

C: Colton Iverson, Colorado State: The Rams won at Denver and at Washington this week, to improve to 4-0 on the season. They look like a team that can make a serious run at the MWC title, and the addition of Iverson is one of the biggest reasons why. The Minnesota-transfer averaged 14.5 points and 12.5 boards this week, giving CSU a low-post scoring threat and a big-body on the block that they lacked last season.

Bench: Tim Hardaway Jr (Michigan), Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati), Markel Starks (Georgetown), Jeff Withey (Kansas)

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.