New Year’s Resolutions: Villanova Wildcats

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Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

VILLANOVA PROMISES TO: Get improved 3-point shooting from Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono

  • It will happen because: The Wildcats are actually shooting slightly better than they did during the 2013-14 campaign, where they sunk better than 35 percent of their threes. Despite the consistent numbers as a team, starting guard Darrun Hilliard and Ryan Arcidiacono have seen their percentages from deep dip from a season ago. Hilliard is down from 41 percent to 31 while Arcidiacono has nosedived to 21 percent. However, Hilliard has already shown improvement recently, knocking down 11-of-24 from beyond the arc over the last five games. On Friday, before Villanova’s rivalry game with Syracuse, Jay Wright told reporters after practice, Arcidiacono looks healthy this week, which could reverse the slide in his numbers.
  • But it might not because: Villanova might not need similar numbers from Hilliard and Arcidiacono. Villanova is an unselfish team, seeing five different players leading the team in scoring through 10 games. Dylan Ennis and Josh Hart are both averaging double figures in their second seasons in the program with both shooting the ball better from deep. Ennis is up to 46 percent and Hart is up to a 40 percent clip. Add in reserve forward Kris Jenkins and the Wildcats have ample perimeter shooting options. Yes, Arcidiacono’s scoring average has decreased each year, but he’s continuing to focus on his role, taking care of the ball with an assist-to-turnover that was 3.5-to-1 before the Temple game. He also had nine assists and zero turnovers against VCU’s Havoc defense.

VILLANOVA ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Bow out early in postseason play

  • It will happen because: Villanova’s 29 wins were overshadowed by a quarterfinal upset loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament followed by a loss to UConn, the eventual national champion, in the Round of 32 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Despite the cast of returnees, the early exits caused preseason skepticism for the Wildcats. But this team is one year older, and should learn from past shortcomings. Villanova is incredibly balanced offensively and are experienced with three juniors and two seniors in the starting five. The Wildcats have had/will have their battles — not turning the ball over against VCU, a thriller against Michigan and Saturday’s rivalry game against Syracuse. The Wildcats will also get tested from a better Big East, going up against a tough defensive team in Butler, a talented Georgetown team and a St. John’s team that runs a smaller lineup. Xavier, Providence and Seton Hall also figure to be in the conversation come Selection Sunday.
  • But it might not because: While Villanova is tough to prepare for given its balance, last year saw the Wildcats end up on the wrong end of mismatches. In two blowout losses to Creighton, the Wildcats allowed the Bluejays to shoot 60 percent (30-of-50) from three. Another area of concern for the Villanova is its frontline. Jayvaughn Pinkston can provide a scoring punch as a mismatch for opposing forwards and Jenkins has seen a spike in production, but outside of 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu, the Wildcats roster lacks another true big man.

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.