Pregame Shootaround: College basketball finally takes over Saturday

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images)

GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 9 Gonzaga at No. 3 Arizona (5:15 p.m., ESPN)

Besides being the best game of Saturday, this is one of the very best match-ups of the entire season. Two top-ten teams and legitimate national title contenders with the added intrigue of Gonzaga not getting many chances to play elite competition like Arizona once conference play begins. It’s also nice to see the Wildcats continuing to challenge themselves with good competition and this will be a fun game for bragging rights on the west coast. Kevin Pangos vs. T.J. McConnell and seeing how the Zags defend Stanley Johnson will be among the interesting storylines in this one.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 7 Virginia vs. VCU (2:00 p.m., ESPNU)

VCU’s “Havoc” has come under some fire in the early season after the Rams lost to Villanova and Old Dominion, but they’re still a very tough team at home and get to host a top-ten opponent in Virginia in what should be a heated in-state contest. Justin Anderson is questionable for the Cavaliers and VCU can still get hot and get points as long as someone like Melvin Johnson or Briante Weber is making plays alongside Treveon Graham. Virginia still has a tremendous defense and Melvin Brogdon is still a capable scorer and leader for the Cavaliers.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE NIGHT: Eastern Michigan at Dayton (2:00 p.m.)

Eastern Michigan is a surprising 7-0 on the season, but they finally play on the road for the first time on Saturday against Dayton, who is 6-1 after last season’s NCAA Tournament run. The Flyers will be the favorite since they’ve played legitimate competition and are at home, but the Eagles will give them a tough non-conference game and Rob Murphy’s team has enough athletes where the team should keep up a bit with Dayton.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR: 

  • Marquette probably doesn’t stand much of a chance at home against No. 2 Wisconsin after falling at home to Omaha earlier in the season, but rivalry games are always interesting to watch and this is a fun one. Let’s see how the Badgers look after losing to Duke and if former Coach K assistant Steve Wojciehowski can pick anything up in how the Blue Devils took apart the Wisconsin defense.
  • A fun matchup of experienced point guards and some teams with scoring punch as Green Bay (5-2) travels to Miami to face the No. 15 Hurricanes. The Phoenix have senior guard Keifer Sykes and a team that is looking for a NCAA Tournament appearance and a win against an unbeaten Miami team would be great for the resume. Miami will counter with Angel Rodriguez and Shelden McClellan and both transfers have played well this season.
  • Speaking of Horizon League teams off to a solid start, 8-1 Valparaiso hosts New Mexico in its final chance to earn a nice non-conference win before conference season begins. Crusaders forward Alec Peters is one of the most underrated scorers in the country, as he’s currently shooting 59 percent from the field and 60 percent from the three-point line for the season.
  • Wichita State will be looking to bounce back after a loss on the road at Utah earlier in the week as they host Saint Louis (5-2). The No. 8 Shockers need to get Fred VanVleet going this season, as the junior point guard has struggled to 37 percent shooting and 20 percent three-point shooting.
  • Oklahoma State is quietly off to a 7-0 start, but they haven’t faced any opponent nearly as tough as their game Saturday at South Carolina. Phil Forte and LeBryan Nash have both stepped up with solid play so far this season for the Cowboys.

THE TOP 25:

  • Saint Joseph’s at No. 10 Villanova, 1:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1
  • Colgate at No. 14 Ohio State, 4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • N.J.I.T. at No. 17 Michigan, 12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • Arkansas-Pine Bluff at No. 19 Michigan State, 2:15 p.m., Big Ten Network
  • Winthrop at No. 21 Maryland, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3
  • Northwestern at No. 23 Butler, 4:30 p.m., FOX
  • American at No. 24 Illinois, 2:00 p.m., ESPN3

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

  • La Salle at Temple, 12:00 p.m.
  • Rutgers at Seton Hall, 12:00 p.m.
  • UCF at Florida State, 2:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Texas A&M, 2:00 p.m.
  • Mississippi State at Tulane, 2:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Tennessee, 3:15 p.m.
  • St. John’s at Syracuse, 5:15 p.m.
  • Hawaii at BYU, 6:00 p.m.
  • Penn State at Marshall, 6:00 p.m.
  • Wake Forest at NC State, 7:30 p.m.
  • Alabama at Xavier, 8:00 p.m.
  • Rhode Island at Southern Miss, 8:00 p.m.
  • Boise State at Saint Mary’s, 11:30 p.m.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
3 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
6 Comments

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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
3 Comments

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.