Pregame Shootaround: Michigan State faces test in Austin during a loaded day of hoops

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Michigan State at Texas (4 p.m., CBS)

A banged-up Spartans team travels to Austin for its first true road game of the season on Saturday as Rick Barnes and Texas hope to continue to surpass preseason expectations. Texas has a big chance at home to capitalize on an already strong week after the Longhorns won on the road at No. 14 North Carolina earlier in the week.

The Spartans lone loss on the season is to that same North Carolina team — at the Breslin Center — that Texas outplayed earlier this week, but Michigan State should be more concerned with the health of its own roster over anything else.

Gary Harris (ankle), Matt Costello (mononucleosis) and Travis Trice (foot blister) all missed Tuesday’s win against North Florida and seniors Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis) and Keith Appling (hip pointer) both played but have missed practice time as they deal with injuries of their own.

One thing to monitor in this one: The battle on the glass.

Texas crashed the glass hard against North Carolina and it led to 21 second-chance points for the No. 7 rebounding team in the country, while Michigan State teams under Tom Izzo are traditionally strong rebounding the ball and the Spartans are also top 50 (No. 41) in rebounding despite all of their injuries.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (11:30 p.m., ESPN2)

If you’re up late on the east coast, you’ll want to flip this on to see the matchup of former Big 12 foes in Las Vegas that is led by a strong matchup at guard between All-American candidates Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado).

The second game of a doubleheader in Las Vegas that follows Marquette and New Mexico, this matchup of top-25 teams will mean something for both teams.

Oklahoma State is off to a strong 10-1 start this season, but after a loss to Memphis on December 1st at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, the Cowboys have now lost three straight games to ranked opponents on neutral floors. If Travis Ford’s bunch wants to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year, that will be a trend that will have to change.

Colorado, meanwhile, also sits at 10-1 and is riding the program’s first 10-game win streak since the 1961-62 season after losing its opener this season to Baylor. After a win over Kansas at home earlier this season, the Buffaloes would also love another top-ten victory to add to their resume.

Although Smart leads Oklahoma State in scoring at 18 points a game, he has played more of a facilitating role since the Memphis loss as LeBryan Nash has stepped up in that time to average 17.9 points a game in the Cowboys’ three wins while shooting 57 percent from the field.

CBT’s own Raphielle Johnson will be at this doubleheader and will have more on it later.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET? No. 22 UMass at Florida State (2 p.m.)

Unbeaten UMass (10-0) travels to Tallahassee for a tough Saturday afternoon tilt with the Seminoles. Chaz Williams is one of the most dynamic point guards in the country for UMass and the 5-foot-9 senior is averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 assists (second in the nation) a game but Williams and the Minutemen will face a Florida State team that has played pretty well against ranked opponents this season.

The Seminoles (7-3) thrashed VCU earlier in the year when the Rams were highly ranked and Florida State also lost to Michigan and Florida by a combined total of three points.

Florida State is also coming off of a strong overall effort against Charlotte earlier in the week, as they beat the 49ers 106-62 in a game that the Seminoles dominated in nearly every facet.

This will also be the first major road test for UMass, as they’ve only faced Eastern Michigan and Ohio on the road this season.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: USC Upstate at Charlotte, (7 p.m.)

I just mentioned Charlotte’s 106-62 loss to Florida State from earlier in the week, and the 49ers have an interesting home game against USC Upstate on Saturday as they try to improve upon Tuesday’s effort.

Charlotte (7-3) will host the Spartans (6-5) as USC Upstate is fresh off of a big road win at South Carolina on Thursday and USC Upstate has three players that can really score for them.

Senior 6-foot-6 forward Torrey Craig (17.7 points, seven rebounds per game) leads the Spartans in scoring and rebounding and the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year candidate is joined by junior guard Ty Greene (14.5 points per game) and senior 6-foot-8 forward Ricardo Glenn (12.5 points per game) as double-digit scoring threats. All three players averaged double-digits in scoring this season and last.

Charlotte will look to bounce back, led by a balanced group that features five players currently averaging 11 or more points per game.

Perimeter shooting could be a factor in this one as well. USC Upstate is shooting a dreadful 30 percent from beyond the are this season and Charlotte has struggled in that area at times as well, including going cold during the second half of the Florida State loss.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW

1) When Rick Byrd’s Belmont squad plays at Rupp Arena today against No. 19 Kentucky, they certainly won’t be scared of the talented Wildcats and Big Blue Nation. Belmont already owns a road victory at North Carolina this season and won’t be afraid of the big-time atmosphere as a smaller conference team.

2) A tremendous matchup in the backcourt is the focus of Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State as the two teams face in New York at the Gotham Classic. Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott might be the best defensive backcourt in the country early this season and they’ll have their hands full with Irish guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

3) Start the college hoops day off right with the 12:00 p.m. clash of traditional college basketball powers Georgetown and Kansas. The Hoyas visit Phog Allen Fieldhouse unranked, but still pose a major threat thanks to their talent and experience. The No. 18 Jayhawks continue their demanding non-conference schedule and it’ll be interesting to see how their point guards play against the experienced backcourt of Georgetown.

4) The Braggin’ Rights between Illinois and Missouri is one of the top rivalries in the Midwest in college hoops and this year Illinois (9-2) and No. 23 Missouri (10-0) clash in St. Louis in what should be a fun contest. Missouri has won four straight games in the series as the two teams will play in front of a sold-out crowd that will be split between the two fan bases.

5) Oregon will be an interesting team to track today in a home game against BYU as the No. 13 Ducks still work Dominic Artis and Ben Carter back in the lineup following their nine-game suspensions for selling University-issued apparel earlier in the season. Artis and Carter made their season debuts in a Tuesday win over UC Irvine and Artis saw 26 minutes of action as head coach Dana Altman looks to work those two into an already deep rotation. Also, if BYU’s offense gets back on track from a recent mini-slide, this game could turn into a shootout very quickly.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25:

  • No. 6 Louisville at Florida International, 6:00 p.m.
  • Rider at No. 8 Villanova, 4:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Davidson at No. 14 North Carolina, 5:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Southeast Louisiana State at No. 15 Memphis, 8:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Fresno State at No. 16 Florida, 4:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • No. 21 Gonzaga at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • McNeese State at No. 24 San Diego State, 10:00 p.m.

NOTABLES:

  • East Carolina at North Carolina State, 12:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Middle Tennessee at Cincinnati, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Youngstown State at St. John’s, 2:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Butler at Evansville, 3:05 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at Virginia, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 4:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UAB at LSU, 5:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • VCU vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., NBCSN
  • Texas Tech at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 7:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • Xavier at Alabama, 7:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • UTEP at Washington State, 8:30 p.m., PAC12
  • Stanford vs. Michigan, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Marquette vs. New Mexico, 9:00 p.m., ESPNU

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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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

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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

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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.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar
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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.