Atlantic 10 releases schedule, Dayton to visit VCU on February 28

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The Atlantic 10, which had six teams reach the NCAA tournament last season, released its full schedule on Wednesday and there are a number of quality games on the slate. Dayton, which reached the Elite Eight last year, and VCU are expected to be two of the teams battling it out for conference supremacy in 2014-15 and they’re scheduled to meet just once.

That game will be played on February 28 in Richmond, and the contest should have a major impact on the Atlantic 10 race. Conference play tips off with six games on Saturday, January 3 with three of those contests scheduled to be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. Among those games is Davidson’s inaugural game as an Atlantic 10 member, with Bob McKillop’s Wildcats hosting Dayton. The other games to be played on that day are Dayton hosting Duquesne and Rhode Island visiting reigning regular season champion Saint Louis.

Some other conference games that will be interesting to watch are:

– VCU at Rhode Island, January 13: URI’s received some attention this offseason, with the expectation being that Dan Hurley’s team will take a step forward in 2014-15. We’ll learn some things about E.C. Matthews and company when VCU visits the Ryan Center.

– Dayton at Massachusetts, January 29: The Minutemen lost Chaz Williams but they return some key pieces from last season, and West Virginia transfer Jabarie Hinds is now eligible to play. The combination of their style of play and Dayton’s depth should make for a good contest in Amherst.

– VCU at George Washington, February 14: There are some good college basketball matchups scheduled for Valentine’s Day and this is one of them. Mike Lonergan’s building a good program at George Washington, and the Colonials should be among the contenders in the Atlantic 10 this season.

– Saint Louis at Duquesne, February 25: The Billikens will have to replace a very successful senior class, a group that included Jordair Jett and Dwayne Evans Jr. Can Jim Crews keep the momentum going? That’s one of the big questions hovering over the A-10 this offseason. This game will include a Duquesne team led by guards Micah Mason and Derrick Colter.

– La Salle at Saint Joseph’s, March 4: Both teams took some key personnel hits at the end of last season, but it doesn’t get much better than a battle between Big 5 rivals (not sure which of their two meetings will count in the Big 5 standings). And by this point in the season, Saint Joseph’s sophomore DeAndre Bembry could be regarded as one of the best players in the conference.

The NBC Sports Network Atlantic 10 schedule (conference games):

January 3: Duquesne at Dayton, 1:00 p.m.
January 3: Rhode Island at Saint Louis, 3:00 p.m.
January 3: Richmond at Davidson, 5:00 p.m.

January 8: George Mason at Richmond, 7:00 p.m.

January 10: George Washington at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

January 17: Saint Louis at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.
January 17: Rhode Island at Massachusetts, 2:30 p.m.
January 17: George Mason at George Washington, 4:30 p.m.

January 18: Saint Joseph’s at St. Bonaventure, 2:30 p.m.

January 22: George Washington at Fordham, 7:00 p.m.

January 31: Davidson at Saint Joseph’s, 12:30 p.m.

February 5: Richmond at La Salle, 6:30 p.m.

February 7: VCU at St. Bonaventure, 2:00 p.m.
February 7: Saint Louis at Fordham, 4:00 p.m.

February 8: Rhode Island at Richmond, 2:30 p.m.

February 14: St. Bonaventure at Dayton, 12:30 p.m.

February 15: Saint Joseph’s at Fordham, 2:30 p.m.

February 21: Dayton at Duquesne, 2:00 p.m.

February 22: La Salle at Saint Louis, 2:30 p.m.

February 28: Rhode Island at La Salle, 12:30 p.m.

March 7: Massachusetts at George Washington, 3:30 p.m.
March 7: George Mason at VCU, 5:30 p.m.

NBC Sports Network will also air the second round and quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, which runs from March 11-15 and will once again be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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.