The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Ryan winning despite missing piece (ESPN)
Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has his team off to the best start in school history, and that’s even with their loss at Indiana on Tuesday night. But this has been a tough season for the coach as it’s his first without his father, who passed away in August. This is a really good read on the connection between father and son, and how the Ryan we see on the sidelines differs from the one that his grandkids see.

7-footers making impact again in college basketball (San Francisco Chronicle)
While guard play tends to get the majority of the attention in college basketball, especially in March, the big men are important as well. And in regards to seven-footers, there seems to be a renaissance of sorts in college basketball this season. With players such as Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski playing well, the big men are once again making an impact.

The Magic Eight: One of these teams will win the national title (Sports Illustrated)
How wide open is the national title chase? According to one article eight teams are best positioned to cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas in early April. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse are among the teams on that list, and there are also some notes on teams omitted from the discussion.

Jim Baron, King Rice and the ties that bind (Pickin’ Splinters)
On Sunday afternoon Monmouth visited Canisius, with the Golden Griffins winning 87-67 in Buffalo. Also of note is the shared history of the two head coaches, with Monmouth’s King Rice being recruited by Canisius’ Jim Baron when Baron was an assistant at Notre Dame. Rice eventually chose to attend North Carolina, but on Sunday he had nothing but nice things to say about the way in which Baron went about the recruiting process.

Army’s Zach Spiker taking success one game at a time (Big Apple Buckets)
There are three teams in the Patriot League that are still undefeated in conference play: American, Boston University and Army, with the latter being run by 37-year old Zach Spiker. One season after leading the Black Knights to their first winning season since 1984-85, Spiker’s taking things one game at a time with a team capable of making a run at the Patriot League crown.

Want to fix college athletics’ academic crisis? Three words: major in sports (The Sporting News)
With the CNN study on the academic credentials, or lack thereof, of student-athletes revealing that many arrive on campus ill-equipped to take advantage of the education being offered, many have asked what can be done. One possible solution would be to allow student-athletes to major in their particular sport. Interesting read to say the least.

Markel Brown is the mayor of LobStilly (The Oklahoman)
Oklahoma State senior guard Markel Brown’s been a key figure for the Cowboys this season, posting averages of 16.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the nation’s ninth-ranked team. Brown’s also one of the nation’s best leapers, and as a result he’s thrown down some incredible in-game dunks for the Cowboys.

For sophomore students, Villanova and men’s basketball gradually became a lasting impression (Philly.com)
The connection between college basketball teams and the student body can be strong when it comes to your more prestigious programs, and that’s certainly the case at schools where the basketball team is the most recognizable team on campus. At Villanova some sophomores, who chose the school during a period when the basketball team was down (by Villanova standards), spoke about their experiences supporting the basketball team.

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.