Pregame Shootaround 3.9.13: High-major & mid-major action make for a big Saturday

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Game of the Day: No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Otto Porter made his case for National Player of the Year when these two teams last met, scoring 33 points and carrying Georgetown in a big road win over the Orange. Now the Hoyas return home with a chance to claim at least a share of the Big East regular season title with a win. Syracuse has some concerned because of its recent slide, having lost three of its last four games and sliding back into the middle of the pack in the Big East.

Who’s Getting Upset?: Lafayette (-2) vs. Lehigh (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Lehigh will be without star C.J. McCollum again, as he has been ruled out for Saturday’s semifinal, but the Mountain Hawks still have plenty to work with. The key for Lehigh will be defending the Lafayette three-point shooters, who lit them up in the two previous matchups (21-of-51) between these teams. That includes the team’s leading scorer, Seth Hinrichs, who averages 14.6 points per game. Lehigh has the advantage in the frontcourt and that’s what it should look to exploit. That means Gabe Knutson and Holden Greiner need to come up big Saturday.

Mid-Major Matchup of the Day: San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

In the first meeting between these two teams San Diego State blew a 17-point lead before Chase Tapley saved them with a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining, giving the Aztecs a 63-62 win. This time around, the stakes are higher in the season finale. Boise State sits on the bubble and couldn’t get resume-building road wins over New Mexico and UNLV in recent weeks, but now returns home with another chance to solidify its spot. As for San Diego State, the Aztecs are cemented in the tournament but could use another win on the road to affect their seating.

Five Things to Watch For 

1) No. 3 Duke has not lost a game with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Kelly has put up astronomical numbers since returning from his foot injury. What does it likely mean when you consider those two factors for Saturday’s rivalry matchup with North Carolina? A Duke win on the road. But don’t underestimate North Carolina. Since Roy Williams switch to a smaller, for versatile lineup, the Tar Heels have become a different team.

2) No. 6 Miami severely  hurt its chances at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with a loss at the buzzer to Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes have now lost three of their last four, including games to Wake Forest and that game against Georgia Tech. They try to get back on track Saturday against Clemson.

3) Indiana State escaped last night in the final moments to advance in the crazy Missouri Valley tournament. The Sycamores now meet Creighton, who they beat handily in their first meeting of the season. Expect Doug McDermott to come up big after his huge season finale to clinch the conference title.

4) Amidst all the drama in the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC, don’t forget about the Big 12. Kansas State is tied atop the conference with Kansas and a win Saturday, plus a Jayhawk loss, would give the Wildcats an outright conference title. They take on Oklahoma State.

5) Kentucky’s NCAA tournament hopes took another blow with its double-digit loss to Georgia this week. Because of that, it needs a big home win over No. 11 Florida and a run in the SEC tournament to stay alive.

The Top 25

No. 3 Duke vs. North Carolina (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 4 Kansas vs. Baylor (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 17 Syracuse (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 6 Miami vs. Clemson (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 8 Louisville vs. No. 24 Notre Dame (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State (1:30 p.m. ET)

No. 11 Florida vs. Kentucky (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 12 New Mexico vs. Air Force (6:00 p.m. ET)

No. 15 Marquette vs. St. John’s (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 16 Saint Louis vs. La Salle (1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 18 Arizona vs. Arizona State (4:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

No. 19 Oregon vs. Utah (2:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

No. 20 Pittsburgh vs. DePaul (2:00 p.m. ET)

No. 23 UCLA vs. Washington (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

No. 25 Memphis vs. UAB (12:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Other Notable Games

Providence vs. Connecticut (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Minnesota vs. Purdue (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Ole Miss vs. LSU (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

NC State vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Lehigh vs. Lafayette (2:00 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Indiana State vs. Creighton (2:35 p.m. ET)

San Diego State vs. Boise State (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Georgia vs. Alabama (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Missouri vs. Tennessee (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oregon State vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Canisius vs. Iona (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Cornell vs. Harvard (5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Fresno State vs. UNLV (6:00 p.m. ET)

Xavier vs. Butler (6:30 ET, CBS Sports Network)

Louisiana Tech vs. Denver (7:00 p.m. ET, ROOT Sports)

Nevada vs. Colorado State (8:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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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.