You think the season’s been fun? It gets so much better this week

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The excitement of the college basketball season reached a crescendo last week.

It started with Tuesday’s classic between Ohio State and Michigan, which Michigan won in overtime only hours after Arkansas walloped then-No. 2 Florida. That happened to fall on the same night that Michael Snaer hit his third buzzer-beater of the season and Wichita State lost on a blown goaltending call in the final seconds.

On Wednesday, Kansas lost to TCU, Creighton was blown out by Indiana State, Markel Brown raced the length of the court to beat Baylor in over time, Wisconsin was taken to double-overtime by Iowa and San Diego State used a last-second three to survive a visit from Boise State.

Believe it or not, Thursday ramped things up another notch, as Illinois shocked the country by beating No. 1 Indiana on a buzzer-beating layup from Tyler Griffey that capped a 13-2 run. Missouri lost at Texas A&M on a three from Fabyon Harris a matter of minutes before Larry Drew II beat Washington with a buzzer-beater of his own. Colorado came from behind to beat Oregon in the final minute while Nate Wolters was busy scoring 53 points for South Dakota State. Oh, and who can forget the three-quarter court buzzer-beater to force overtime?

That brought us to Saturday, where Ben Brust’s heroics and Russ Smith’s five-overtime struggles bookended a typically inexplicable Saturday. The weekend was capped with a Sunday that saw Minnesota lose to Illinois, Arizona lose to Cal, Duke barely survive BC and Scott Wood save the day for NC State in Lorenzo Brown’s return.

I’m exhausted just typing that out.

But here’s the best part: it’s only going to get better.

Because this week is Rivalry Week. That a look at some of the games on the schedule over the course of the next seven days:

  • No. 10 Kansas State at No. 14 Kansas
  • No. 4 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State
  • No. 25 Kentucky at No. 7 Florida
  • North Carolina at No. 2 Duke
  • No. 6 Syracuse at UConn
  • No. 5 Gonzaga at St. Mary’s
  • No. 20 Wisconsin at Minnesota
  • No. 2 Duke at Maryland
  • Purdue at No. 1 Indiana
  • Oklahoma at No. 17 Oklahoma State
  • Xavier at Dayton

Regardless of when or where these games are played, they are the kind of matchups that are must-see TV. As the saying goes, in a rivalry game, you can throw the records out the window. Fan bases will be fired up. Players will be fired up. Dick Vitale may spontaneously combust. It’s everything that we love about college basketball.

Except these games are packed with so much meaning. Kansas State has a chance to go into Lawrence and drop the Jayhawks two games out of the Big 12 title race. Michigan State can do the same to Michigan. Kentucky will get another shot at proving their legitimacy at Florida. Syracuse will be making their final visit to UConn as a member of the Big East. UNC will be looking to solidify a tournament spot — seriously — by winning in Cameron. Gonzaga and St. Mary’s is one of the nation’s most underrated rivalries.

This week is going to be incredible.

But based on the week and the month — and, frankly, the season — we’ve had, you should have known that already.

You can find Rob 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

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.