Fred Van Vleet wants to sustain Wichita State’s elite production

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source: AP
AP

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

In the midst of being a national story, winning 35 consecutive games during the 2013-14 season, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall tried to keep it light with his team while emphasizing a “one-game-at-a-time” mentality.

So before each game, which Marshall described late in the season as a “spectacle” on multiple occasions, the coach would assign the game a number and a related catch phrase to value its individual importance while having fun with it.

“We started naming each game by the number it represented,” Marshall told NBCSports.com. “We’re playing for win No. 18, Peyton Manning. Win No. 23, Michael Jordan. Win No. 29, B-29 Bomber, which was made here in Wichita.”

The team handled its business game after game up to No. 35, but ultimately fell short of the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament with a Round of 32 loss to Kentucky.

Fred Van Vleet’s three-pointer at the buzzer hit the rim and missed and the Wildcats advanced, 78-76.

The junior guard can’t recall the message before the game, but uses its aftermath to push towards the 2014-15 season.

“I think about it every once in awhile when I need extra motivation,” Van Vleet told NBCSports.com

For the 5-foot-11 Van Vleet, it doesn’t take much to provide extra motivation — or the rest of the team for that matter. Marshall said the team kept it simple by focusing on one game at a time during the late part of the season and it helped them sustain an intensity they hope to carry over to this season.

source: AP
AP

“We went about our business on a game-by-game basis. Our guys were really good with that,” Marshall said. “I thought they handled the spectacle very, very well.”

Practices for Wichita State also remained a big focus as they remained intense battles among the roster.

“Practice they were killing us every week. The preparation was still there. Execution and scouting was great,” Van Vleet said. “Unreal chemistry started to happen, but we were super focused and super mature about it. We weren’t too high or too low about it. We stayed focused on each game.”

MORE: MVC Preview: How does Wichita State follow its two-year stretch?

This season, the Shockers have to incorporate eight new players that were either redshirts, transfers or incoming freshmen. Van Vleet returns with junior Ron Baker and senior Tekele Cotton, and senior forward Darius Carter is expected to make a leap, but the team still features a lot of new variables.

The goal is finding chemistry and consistency in practices that carry over in the spotlight of game time.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are good players. None of them excel to the point where we’ve got an immediate contributor, but they’re also playing against really, really good players in practice,” Marshall said.

In the last two seasons Wichita State has reached a Final Four and won 35 straight games, but there still isn’t a lot of national attention or respect to them as viable national championship contenders this season. Van Vleet said that he and the team are receiving additional attention and getting recognized at airports, but there’s still the thought that a lot of people doubt his team to actually win.

“[The attention] is different for us. None of us were McDonald’s All-Americans. None of us ever really dealt with it. It’s all new to us. The outside attention doesn’t distract us,” Van Vleet said.

“I still keep that chip on my shoulder and I always will. I didn’t get much respect in high school.”

Marshall sounds similar to his players. The head coach didn’t bask in the aftermath of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, instead focusing on how to get better the next season.

“Most people just lose their last game and move on,” Marshall said. “We didn’t have a pity party, we celebrated a great year and we determined that we played a good team that played very, very good that day and beat us by one possession. We’ve got to get ready for this upcoming year and you do that as soon as  the season is over.”

The goal to compete for a national championship at Wichita State remains, even though some may count the Shockers out despite their accomplished two-year stretch.

“We have pretty high expectations for ourselves. Nobody knows the hard work that we put in,” Van Vleet said. “We’re going to do what we need to do to get to the results. We don’t focus on too much outside expectations or anything. I’m just ready for the first tip-off.”

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

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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.