Late Night Snacks: Holiday slate highlighted by Syracuse/Cincinnati

1 Comment

A few decent games on Martin Luther King Day — not to mention President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term — were highlighted on this all-day affair. It’s Late Night Snacks.

Game of the day

No. 3 Syracuse 57, No. 21 Cincinnati 55 – The early game of the day featured two Top 25 teams and it lived up to the billing. Sean Kilpatrick continued his recent scoring binge with 21 points, but got little help from his team as the Orange notched their 35th-straight home court victory. Michael Carter-Williams finished with 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds for the Orange, who have one of the more impressive conference season runs right now, with wins at then-no. 1 Louisville and a home win over the ranked Bearcats.

Games of note

Georgetown 63, Notre Dame 47 – Georgetown proved they could get it done without Greg Whittington on the road, getting a big game from Otto Porter and 14 from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Moses Ayegba pulled down 10 rebounds for the Hoyas. Jack Cooley had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Fighting Irish.

Oklahoma 73, Texas 67 –  Romero Osby had a big night for the Sooners and the Longhorns got 25 points from Sheldon McClellan, but Texas hit just 6-of-19 threes in the loss. Good win for Oklahoma, but it becomes more and more obvious this Texas team is a shell of its former self without Myck Kabongo…and I wonder how much it would help, even if they had him.

New Orleans 96, New Jersey Institute of Technology 94, 3 OTs – I’ve learn no matter where they happen, you respect a three-overtime game. The two teams combined for a ton of fouls and free throws (more on that later), but Lovell Cook turned in a career night (more on him later, too) and Isaac Mack nailed a jumper with two seconds left to give the Privateers a two-point win.

Southern 82, Alabama A&M 68 – The Jaguars are impressive and deserve your attention. They’ve won 10 in a row, eight in a row in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. This team is much better than the Mississippi Valley State that finished with one conference loss last season and had a legitimate shot at being something other than a 16-seed and a participant in the First Four in Dayton this year.

Starred

Romero Osby, Oklahoma – The big man finished with 29 points and eight rebounds in a dominating performance on national television. He also hit 10-of-11 free throws on the night.

Patrick Cole, Coppin State – It was a full slate for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tonight and Cole turned in the best game in the conference, dropping 29 points, six rebounds and shooting 52.9-percent from the field in 67-65 win at Hampton.

Lovell Cook, New Orleans – The soon-to-be member of the Southland Conference is enjoying their short stop as a Division I Independant. Cook is definitely making the most of it, scoring 32 points, pulling down six rebounds and hitting shots at a 54.5-percent in the win.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State – The Cowboys leaned heavily on the sophomore in this one. It was a loss, but Nash continues to show his development, pouring in 24 points on 52.6-percent shooting in 64-54 defeat at Baylor.

Otto Porter, Georgetown – The Hoyas continue to make pundits scratch their heads. Playing again without Greg Whittington, Porter finished with 19 points and nine rebounds on 70-percent shooting in 63-47 victory at Notre Dame.

Struggled

Markel Brown, Oklahoma State – The junior normally drops in 15.2 points per game this season. He left Waco with just two points on 1-of-10 shooting in a loss. Also finished with four fouls and three turnovers in 26 minutes.

New Orleans/N.J.I.T.’s ability to not foul – In the three overtime game, the two teams combined for 57 fouls and 79 free throws taken. The Privateers hit 23-of-34 from the stripe and committed 30 fouls. The Highlanders shot 28-of-45 from the free throw line and committed 27.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, Baylor – We alluded to it earlier, but the tandem in the paint did work tonight for the Bears. They combined for 11 blocks in the home win over Oklahoma State. Jefferson had six, Austin had five. They won’t get that every night, but about half that a night would be a welcome sign for a team that can be erratic on offense at times.

A decent day of hoops despite a light slate of games. Hope you enjoyed you holidays, everyone. Or at least those of you that didn’t have to work.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

Getty Images
1 Comment

The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

Getty Images
5 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”