Blue Ribbon releases 2013-14 first-team All-Americans

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Earlier today, the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook — otherwise known as the “Bible” for college hoops fans — released their first-team All-Americans, and the five names shouldn’t come as a surprise: Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Louisville’s Russ Smith, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Michigan State’s Adreian Payne, and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

If there is any conjecture who the folks at Blue Ribbon believe the best player in the nation is, that can probably be put to rest as Andrew Wiggins is featured prominently in the middle of the cover, with the other four players behind him — high expectations for the freshman to live up to.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Travis Ford and the Oklahoma State faithful all collectively breathed a sigh of relief after learning Smart would return to Stillwater for his sophomore year. As a #5 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, losing to Oregon in their opening game was already a difficult pill for Oklahoma State to swallow heading into the offseason, but losing Smart to the NBA may have been equally as difficult. Smart, who averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists last season, was one of the most dynamic players in the country. His return elevates the Cowboys from a borderline Top 25 team to a fringe Top 10 team.

Russ Smith, Louisville

Russdiculous returns for his senior year — whether you’ve grown tired of this nick name or not is inconsequential to Cardinal fans — and will be the focal point of the Louisville backcourt with Peyton Siva graduating. As a junior, Smith averaged 18.7 points, but his erratic play, at times, gave Rick Pitino head aches. Despite that, Smith is one of the most explosive offensive players in the country, and if Louisville is to reach the Final Four for the third straight year, it will largely be because of him.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State

Like Ford at Oklahoma State, Tom Izzo received good news when Adreain Payne decided to put the NBA off for at least one more year and return to Michigan State for his junior season. As a result, the Spartans are a consensus Top 5 team entering the 2013-14 season. Payne developed into an immovable force that anchored Michigan State’s interior offense and defense averaging 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.

Doug McDermott, Creighton

All college basketball fans should be pleased to see Doug McDermott returning to Creighton. Playing on a bigger stage for his final year — even a watered down new Big East is a step up from the Missouri Valley — affords McDermott the opportunity to showcase his offensive skills for all to see. There may not be a player in the country that can score in the variety of ways that McDermott is able to. He is an incredibly efficient offensive player; his numbers speak for themselves — 23.2 points per game on 54.8% shooting and 49% 3PT shooting.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

While hosting Louisiana Monroe is Kansas’ first game of the season and will no doubt draw plenty of eyeballs, the entire college basketball community will be glued to Andrew Wiggins’ first game on a true national stage: Kansas vs. Duke on November 12th at the United Center. Much is expected of Wiggins, who was perhaps the biggest story during the offseason as he committed later in the 2013 recruiting process than many others. The youngster has handled himself with great poise, class, and dignity thus far. Now let’s see how he conducts himself on a national stage with the bright lights on him.

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

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

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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.