West Virginia’s Bob Huggins torches Marshall after coach calls Huggs ‘afraid’

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West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins didn’t hold back when commenting on the West Virginia-Marshall “rivalry” that took place over the weekend.

The Mountaineers knocked off the Thundering Herd 69-66, and after the game, new Marshall head coach Dan D’antoni took aim at Huggins and West Virginia, calling them out to try and get the Mountaineers to schedule them twice during the season.

He said Huggy Bear was scared.

“I heard suggestions for a home and home,” D’antoni said. “Here’s my suggestion: Morgantown, Charleston. Next year Charleston, Huntington and just keep it that way. It’s good for the state. If they back out now they’re afraid of us. We’re coming back.”

That wasn’t a good idea.

Huggins, on his radio show on Monday night, took a blowtorch to the Herd. You can here it all here (click 12/15 Bob Huggins, it’s early in the show), but I’ll transcribe it for you anyway. After some small talk about interviews he’s done with host Tony Caridi and the other little things that coaches get asked on their radio shows, Huggins is asked how he’s doing. His response? “A lot of things now are laughable.” Oh really, Bob. Do elaborate (this gets long, but it’s totally worth it, I promise. I’ve also, with the help from friends over at Smoking Musket, cut this down to what Huggins is saying without all the banter):

Huggins: I probably coached a thousand games. And now I’m scared. Scared to play Marshall. Scared to death. It’s terrible. Must have been when I turned 61 that the fear set in because I’ve never felt that way before. Now I’m just scared to death of Marshall. But that’s what the word is.

[…]

I’m just saying I guess I’m getting old. […] The whole thing’s comical. I just happen to get the paper. We have a little column about what a rivalry we have. But really the headline is the Morgantown High-University High girls. And above that Trickett’s in limbo. And they think this is a rivalry. It is sports this time, though.

Tony: You do not view this game as a rivalry?

Huggins: Tony. How can it be a rivalry when they don’t even care to write about it in the paper? I mean, those are the guys asking me the questions. ‘Is this a rivalry?’ Well, obviously not. You don’t write about it. I mean, rivalries they put on the front page. They can’t wait, you know what I mean? They get really excited. We obviously don’t get very excited.

Tony: So would it bother you if the game went away?

Huggins: No.

Tony: It would not?

Huggins: No. Not at all. Not at all.

(Applause! There was applause!)

Do you want to get into it? Let’s be honest. I have all the RPIs of all the people we’ve played this year. Going into the game Marshall was 270 in the RPI. After playing us they jumped all the way up to 237. Now, you know what that would do for us if we happen not to win? We were 36 I think it was coming into the game.

You try not to play anybody below 200, you know that. And now they want to play twice in a year? Are you kidding me? It’s like I said: Why don’t we do what’s best for West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia. I don’t think it’s my job to support them. I don’t think that’s part of my contract.

He can say I’m afraid all he wants to say I’m afraid. I’ve probably coached 1,116 more games than he has. It’s ridiculous to say something like that. We’re afraid. Yeah, we’re really afraid. It’s crazy, we’ve beaten Duke. Mike’s a pretty good coach. Was I afraid? I don’t think I was afraid playing Duke. Played Boeheim. Used to play him every year. He’s a pretty good coach, I wasn’t afraid. Why would I be afraid?

And the thing that’s most laughable, and I’ll get in trouble for saying it, I know, but I’m to the point in my life where I really don’t care. How about this: “We’re back.” That was their sixth loss in a row. “We’re back”. (Laughs) “We’re back”, alright. Honestly it becomes laughable. It’s laughable. So they lose by three, “we’re back.” It’s their sixth loss in a row. Three of them at home.

Jay Jacobs: “Either he’s the dumbest guy or he’s the smartest guy in the world.”

Huggins: My fear is that our people get caught up in this stuff and do something that’s not in our best interest. It’s not in our best interest to play a team who […] this is the fifth time in ten years that they’ve been 160 in the RPI or worse. How’s that in our best interest? It’s not in our best interest. It’s not in the best interest of West Virginia basketball.

To go to Charleston, I think it really is good for the kids that can’t get here and those kind of things. Now think of this if you’re Marshall and no one’s coming to your games why wouldn’t you want someone that’s going to fill the place up. They’re not going to fill our place up. It’s not equitable. He wants to sit here and act like it’s equitable, it’s not equitable. We play in the No. 1 RPI league in America. The No. 1 RPI league in America. And has been for quite awhile.

Conference USA’s RPI, as of today, they’re the 15th ranked conference. How is that equitable? It’s not equitable. It’s laughable.

Tony: I’m glad you got that off your chest.

Huggins: Tony, today we had seven teams out of the top 27 in the country. Six of our coaches have been in the Final Four. 60% of our league coaches have been in the Final Four. We’ve had the second-most amount of draft picks, the second-most amount of lottery picks coming out of our league. And that’s with ten teams. The ACC’s No. 1, but they have 16 teams.

We’re the best basketball league in America. And we’re afraid. What a joke. What a joke. It’s laughable, Tony, it’s laughable.

Jay: I thought you were going to say the way you played.

Huggins: Well, that was miserable.

Jay: You mean to tell me he did not stir you up with his comments.

Huggins: Jay you of all people know I love this university and I take great pride in being able to represent this university. And for someone to say that West Virginia University is afraid, please. Please.

Jay: Well they say that they’re going to be there next year.

Huggins: So will we.

(Huggins pulls out a newspaper)

We got the headline for the womens’ game. It’s IUFW. The day before the game.

Tony: Ft. Wayne.

Huggins: That was the headline. The day before the game. It’s a rivalry though, Tony, by god. Here in Morgantown, we don’t even get their box scores. I tell you what, it’s a rivalry, we hang on everything that goes on down there in Marshall. We don’t get their box scores here. You gotta look at. I don’t even know where that is (meaning where in the paper’s national list of box scores they list Marshall games), wherever they are the east or south or whatever to look and see if they won or lost but I doubt that anyone here really does that.

Tony: So basically as you beat around the bush here you’re saying you’re not going to play them twice.

Huggins: It would be a travesty. It would be a travesty.

Tony: You done?

Huggins: It bothers me because, maybe it was a shot at me, I don’t know. But I took it as a shot to our university and that’s not right. I mean, come on. I could go on and on and on.

You try to tell your players “this is where I am in life, and if I wanna aspire to be higher, then I gotta work my butt off.” But it doesn’t come by just saying “why don’t we play four times. Ten maybe.” Come on, man. I try really, really hard not to schedule people below 200. Really, really hard. If you look Lafayette’s in the top 100. We try to research that. Now it’s not a science, but you try. You really try.

VMI’s RPI is better than Marshall’s. Come on. It don’t help us. From a pure basketball standpoint of where we want to go it does not help us. Now it helps them. I understand his point, it helps them. Oh, to get us to come in, fill their place with 7,000 people? That’s a big thing for them. It’s not my job to do that. That’s his job.

Tony: Will you make any move not to play them in the future?

Huggins: I think if this kind of thing continues, why would we? Why we want to sit here and hear we’re afraid? Go find somebody else to play.

Never change, Huggs. Never change.

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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.