College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: So where do we rank Duke?

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On Tuesday, Duke lost their second straight game to a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, getting torched by Miami’s talented back court and completing a three-day, two-game stretch where they allowed 177 points.

Their defense was a shambles, and Louisville’s ball-screen heavy offense was almost assuredly going to light them up again.

And then Duke went zone, Louisville went ice cold and the Blue Devils picked up a convincing victory over the Cardinals.

So how do you rank the Blue Devils this week? I have them at No. 7. Here’s why: Duke won on Saturday because they had the element of surprise — Coach K NEVER plays zone — and a perfect matchup to switch up their defense and have it be successful.

That’s not always going to be the case, however. ACC teams now know they have to prepare for a zone when they play Duke, and there aren’t many teams that are going to shoot 4-for-25 from long range. And that’s saying nothing of the fact that these Duke players have never played zone in college before.

I’ll credit Coach K with that win at Louisville. There’s a reason he’s about to win his 1,000th game. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Blue Devils have some flaws this season.

We need to see what they do at Notre Dame and at Virginia before we can put them back into the vicinity of the top three.

Anyway, on to the Top 25 …

Willie Cauley-Stein (AP Photo)

1. Kentucky (17-0, LW: No. 1): Remember when Kentucky was struggling to put away SEC opponents? Well, last week they obliterated Missouri at home and followed that up by going into Tuscaloosa and beating Alabama 70-48. I think they’re back.

2. Virginia (17-0, LW: No. 2): The Cavs continue to roll through the ACC, beating Clemson and Boston College this past week. They’ll play both of the Techs this week before their real test: An eight-day stretch where visits from Duke and Louisville bookend a trip to North Carolina.

3. Gonzaga (18-1, LW: No. 4): The Zags survived a tough road trip to Southern California last week, including a two-point win over Pepperdine. On Thursday, they will host St. Mary’s, the other undefeated team in the WCC.

4. Wisconsin (16-2, LW: No. 5): The Badgers bounced back from their loss at Rutgers with a win over Nebraska in the Kohl Center. It will be interesting to see just how well the Badgers fare without Trae Jackson in the mix.

5. Villanova (17-1, LW: No. 6): Villanova got a fight from Penn on Saturday, which is a perfect example of why playing a non-conference rivalry game in January is a risk. The Wildcats continue to look like the class of the Big East.

6. Arizona (16-2, LW: No. 8): The Wildcats made a statement on Saturday with their 18 point win over Utah at home. There are still questions marks for them offensively, particularly when T.J. McConnell is forced into playing the role of lead distributor.

7. Duke (15-2, LW: No. 3)

8. Iowa State (13-3, LW: No. 11): The Cyclones lost by one at Baylor this week and followed that up with a win over Kansas at home. I know I have them ranked above Kansas, but I still think that Kansas ends up winning the conference.

9. Utah (14-3, LW: No. 9): I know that they lost by 18 to Arizona, but I think that had more to do with the fact that the game was played at Arizona than the Utes not being a top ten team. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back.

10. Kansas (14-3, LW: No. 10): A loss at Iowa State aside, I still think that the Jayhawks are the class of the Big 12. There’s no shame in losing in Hilton Coliseum.

11. Notre Dame (17-2, LW: No. 12)
12. Louisville (15-3, LW: No. 7)
13. Maryland (17-2, LW: No. 15)
14. North Carolina (12-4, LW: No. 14)
15. Oklahoma (12-5, LW: No. 13)
16. Wichita State (16-2, LW: No. 16)
17. VCU (15-3, LW: No. 17)
18. Texas (13-4, LW: No. 19)
19. West Virginia (15-3, LW: No. 18)
20. Seton Hall (13-4, LW: No. 20)
21. Northern Iowa (16-2, LW: No. 25)
22. Baylor (13-4, LW: No. 20)
23. Indiana (14-4, LW: UR)
24. Iowa (13-5, LW: UR)
25. Oklahoma State (12-5, LW: No. 23)

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.