Weekend Preview: Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA all with major tests

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Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (AP Photo)

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 13 Utah vs.. No. 10 Kansas, Sat. 3:15 p.m.

Kansas, as we noted yesterday, is trending in the right direction these days after an embarrassing start to their 2014-2015 season. Their last two games have been an 18-point comeback against Florida at home and a win on the road against a Georgetown team that might be the second best team in the Big East.

Next on their list? A visit from Utah — the game is in  Kansas City — who is clearly the second-best team in the Pac-12 right now. The Utes are not sneaking up on anyone anymore, not after beating Wichita State at home or going into the Marriott Center and knocking off BYU. Utah starts a pair of future pros — Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl — and has depth along their front line. It looks like the Jayhawks are finally starting to hit their stride, but they will certainly be tested by Larry Krystkowiak’s club.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 21 North Carolina at No. 1 Kentucky, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

This was a lot more intriguing before we realized that North Carolina simply does not know how to score. That said, I’m certainly not ready to write off the Tar Heels just yet. In fact, I think this is actually a fairly decent matchup for them, particularly if Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker don’t play. Roy Williams has the big bodies along his front line that can hold their own against UK’s towering platoons. The key for UNC is whether or not they actually get any kind of support for Marcus Paige from their perimeter. Good teams can take away Paige because they don’t after to be worried about Justin Jackson, Nate Britt or J.P. Tokoto.


  • No. 9 Gonzaga at UCLA, Sat. 10:00 p.m.: This will be a great chance for us to see just how good the Bruins are. They have the athleticism and versatility up front to give Gonzaga some issues. That said, the Zags are not going to be happy about the way things ended for them against Arizona.
  • No. 14 Iowa State at Iowa, Fri. 8:00 p.m.: This game took a bit of a hit on the intrigue scale when Bryce Dejean-Jones was suspended by Fred Hoiberg for his Wednesday arrest. It’s a big game for Iowa, who will be looking to build off of their road win over North Carolina.
  • No. 23 Northern Iowa at VCU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: The most underrated game of the day. Northern Iowa looks like they’ll be able to give Wichita State a run for their money in the Missouri Valley. But VCU is VCU, and it will be interesting to see how the Panthers handle that pressure. ALSO! Watch it on NBCSN and online via Live Extra.
  • Michigan at No. 3 Arizona, Sat. 5:15 p.m.: This game was a lot more intriguing before Michigan lost to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. It has blowout written all over it.
  • St. Mary’s at Creighton, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Creighton has been a bit up and down this season, but they’re going to have some trouble with a talented Gaels team. Brad Waldow has been downright sensational.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 15 Butler at Tennessee, Sun. 2:00 p.m.

This will be a tough matchup for the Bulldogs, as Donnie Tyndall gets his guys to play as hard and as tough as anyone, even Butler. That said, Butler can really, really make it difficult for you to score on them, and Tennessee is not exactly dynamic offensively.


  • Louisiana Tech at Syracuse, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: Tech loves to press and loves to try and wear down opposing point guard. The problem for Syracuse? For them, it’s point guard. Singular.
  • Sam Houston State at LSU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: SHSU is actually pretty good this season, and may be the best team in the Southland. LSU bounced back from a slow start last week, but is it a fix that will hold.
  • Morehead State at No. 12 Ohio State, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: Morehead State is a team that can press you and force turnovers, and Ohio State can struggle with teams that do that.
  • Stony Brook at Providence, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: The Friars righted their ship with a win over Rhode Island this week, but they had lost their previous three, including a home date to Brown. Stony Brook is way better then Brown.
  • Wofford at N.C. State, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: Wofford is underrated this season, and they should be able to matchup well with the Wolfpack.


1. Eastern Washington at No. 17 Washington, Sun. 8:00 p.m.: Washington looks like a completely different team with shot-blocker extraordinaire Robert Upshaw patrolling the paint. But EWU has two guys that average 20, including Venky Jois.

2. Temple at No. 7 Villanova, Sun. 2:00 p.m.: Some Sunday afternoon Big 5 ball? Who doesn’t love that? They’ve been reintroducing an old tradition of late.

3. Dayton at Arkansas, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Dayton appears to be a bit overrated this year despite coming off of a trip to the Elite the same can be said of Arkansas, who just lot at Clemson.

4. Florida State at No. 25 Notre Dame, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: Florida State already has four losses, but a number of those came without Devon Bookert and Aaron Thomas in the lineup.

5. No. 16 Oklahoma at Tulsa, Sat. 2:30 p.m.: Tulsa was a tournament team last season under Danny Manning. This year? They’ve already lost to a Division II team. Can they turn things around against Oklahoma.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

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.