Fighting Alumni won The Basketball Tournament in typical Notre Dame style

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BOSTON — The night before a group of Notre Dame alumni played for a $500,000 prize in the inaugural Basketball Tournament, they had a team dinner in Boston. Head coach included.

Mike Brey, who is entering his 15th season at Notre Dame, made the trip from South Bend to Boston this weekend to be with his former players, reminiscing on old stories and catching up on the latest events in each other’s lives.

The good times from Friday night spilled over into Saturday, as the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni defeated tournament favorite Team Barstool, 72-68, to win The Basketball Tournament at Case Gymnasium on the Boston University campus.

“This is a special group to me. A lot of them played together, some of them are from different eras, but it’s been neat,” Brey said.

What are great representation of our program. They truly are an alumni team. They’re all graduates. It’s really the mark of a program when you have guys like that that are together. Even some of my guys who didn’t play have come to support them, so I couldn’t miss it.”

Supporters for both sides, nearly filled the 1,800-seat arena on Saturday night. Team Barstool, named after the popular Boston-based website, drew plenty of college-aged fans to championship game. When its sea of purple Barstool T-shirts shouted one of three “I Believe” chants — made popular by Utah State — the floor began to shake.

“We felt like we were back in college,” Fighting Alumni forward Ryan Ayers said. 

The crowd wasn’t the only reminder of their college days. Neither team led by more than nine, and as the tightly-contested championship game wore on, Brey, who sat opposite the Notre Dame bench, couldn’t resist the urge to coach his players just one more time.

“Get in the post,” he yelled to Tyrone Nash, who led the team with 19 points.

“No threes! Rebound!” he shouted with under a minute to play as the Fighting Alumni held off a Team Barstool comeback.

“It was awesome,” Chris Thomas said. “I heard him say ‘Get the ball to T. Nash’ and ‘Move!’ He was into it just as much as we were. Coach Brey is a big part of who we are as players and people .”

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The Fighting Alumni played with traits of Notre Dame teams that have helped the program win 300 games in Brey’s tenure. Throughout the tournament, it was ball movement, balanced scoring and quality 3-point shooting that guided the Fighting Alumni through the 32-team tournament field and to a big paid day. The Fighting Alumni had a different leading scorer in each of the five games in the first-ever, single-elimination, winner-takes-all Basketball Tournament while shooting 46 percent from three during the entire event.

“[We] even had guys just contributing with steals or loose balls,” Ayers added. “We played out like a team.”

The style of play and the familiarity with one another is what helped the Fighting Alumni overcome a team that boasted four former NBA players in Dahntay Jones, Josh Boone, Andre Barrett and Matt Walsh.

On Saturday night, the Fighting Alumni assisted on 14 of their 26 field goals, while cutting down the turnovers to just eight, something that had plagued the team in Philadelphia during the previous four games. Despite shooting 37 percent from three, its lowest of the tournament, the Fighting Alumni held Team Barstool to its worst 3-point shooting as well, at 27 percent from behind the arc, including 1-for-13 shooting in the second half.

In a tournament that is looking to expand, the Fighting Alumni have already made plans for a repeat. Luke Harangody and Tim Abromaitis, like Brey, were both in attendance, and names like Kyle McAlarney were being tossed around in the post game press conference.

“We’re gonna have to have a shoot off or a play-in or something [for next year],” Thomas said.

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.