Foul shooting, turnovers cost Utah shot at marquee victory

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Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes entered Wednesday’s home game against No. 4 Arizona in need of a resume-building victory. With their non-conference slate consisting of a home win over BYU and little else of value, Utah will need a strong finish to Pac-12 play in order to have a shot at reaching the NCAA tournament. And after falling at UCLA last Saturday, a shot at the Wildcats on their home floor represented an opportunity the Utes could not afford to let slip from their grasp.

Unfortunately for Utah that turned out to be the case, and their foul shooting was the biggest reason why. Utah shot just 13-for-22 from the foul line, falling 67-63 in overtime despite grabbing 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 13 second-chance points. If anything the fact that Utah had a chance to win the game was a surprise, considering how poorly Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright played.

Loveridge shot 1-for-12 on the night, losing patience in the second half and forcing up some shots he didn’t need to take. Finishing the game with seven points and five rebounds, the sophomore put forth his worst effort of the season. As for Wright, while he didn’t shoot as poorly as Loveridge (4-for-9 FG) he struggled to have the impact that makes him one of the most versatile players in college basketball.

Wright finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists and six turnovers, and like Loveridge he ran into trouble against one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Arizona forced 16 turnovers and limited Utah to 43% shooting from the field, and defense will continue to be the key for the Wildcats as they look to make a deep tournament turn sans Brandon Ashley.

Offensively there was a positive development for Sean Miller’s team on Wednesday, and that was the performance of guard Gabe York. York made his first start of the season on Wednesday, replacing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the starting lineup with Arizona looking for an offensive spark. York provided that, scoring ten of his 15 points in the first half and finishing the game shooting 6-for-10 from the field. And Hollis-Jefferson played well in his return to a reserve role, adding 13 points and four minutes.

Already two key players for Arizona, Hollis-Jefferson and York became even more important when Ashley was lost for the remainder of the season. Can both, especially York, build on their performances against Colorado on Saturday night? And can Arizona do a better job rebounding the basketball? If Arizona gets positive answers to those questions they’ll have a good chance of retaining sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, with UCLA currently making a late charge.

But this result, and its impact, is more about Utah than Arizona. Remove BYU and Boise State and just one of Utah’s remaining non-conference opponents didn’t have an RPI of 200 or worse, Texas State. With this being the case the Utes not only needed to get hot down the stretch but they also needed a marquee victory.

Wednesday night represented an opportunity to accomplish that task, but unfortunately for Utah they fell just short.

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.