Weekly Awards: Stanley Johnson’s takeover, and a comeback in Memphis?

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Stanley Johnson (AP Photo)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Stanley Johnson, Arizona

In the biggest game of the Pac-12 season to date, Stanley Johnson scored all 18 of his points in the second half to help the Wildcats pull away from Utah and take home an impressive, statement win against the league’s second-best team. That came just two days after Johnson was in takeover mode against Colorado, finishing with 22 points on the night. For the week, he averaged 8.5 points, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals as well.

Johnson has not exactly had the overpowering kind of season we expected from him when we all put him on preseason all-american teams, but for the first time as a collegian, Johnson truly looked dominant this week. I’m not sure that it’s a coincidence that he played this way after the Wildcats lost to Oregon State last Sunday.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Derrick Marks, Boise State: The Broncos picked up a pair of massive wins over UNLV and at New Mexico this week, and Marks was the catalyst, averaging 29.5 points.
  • Pee Wee Gardner, American: Gardner hit a pair of game-winners this week, beating Lehigh with a three with 0.8 seconds left and Lafayette with a runner with 1.0 seconds left.
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: Trimble had 21 of his 24 points in the first half against Michigan State as the Terps blew out the Spartans. He also added 11 points, five boards, four assists and three steals in a win over Rutgers.
  • Chasson Randle, Stanford: Randle averaged 24.0 points, 3.0 assists and 3.5 steals as the Cardinal knocked off both Cal and UConn at home.
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige played his best game of the season in a win at N.C. State, finishing with 23 points and nine assists.
  • Notables: Dallas Moore (North Florida), Darius Carter (Wichita State), Alex Hamilton (Louisiana Tech)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Memphis Tigers

Maybe we wrote Memphis off too soon? The Tigers moved to 11-6 overall and 4-2 in the American with their third straight win on Saturday, a beat down of Central Florida in which Memphis scored 99 points. That came just two days after the Tigers knocked off Cincinnati in a game where Kedren Johnson, for the first time all season, looked like the guy that played for Vanderbilt two seasons ago.

Ever since the news became public that Johnson was going to be eligible to play this season, it was clear that he was the x-factor on a team with absolutely no experience in their back court. And he still is. But with how well some of the Memphis role players have performed in recent weeks, the Tigers don’t appear to be the pushovers that we all thought they would be this season. The American may only end up with one or two teams in the NCAA tournament, and while the Tigers likely did too much damage during non-conference play to recover and get an at-large bid, winning the automatic bid isn’t out of the question.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish survived at Georgia Tech without Zach Auguste and then came from 12 down in the second half to beat Miami on a night where Auguste played just nine minutes.
  • Dayton: The Flyers continue to win, extending their winning streak to eight games since the only two players on their roster over 6-foot-6 were kicked off the team.
  • VCU: The Rams won a pair of A-10 road games last week, including picking off Rhode Island in a game where Treveon Graham had 26 points and eight boards after spraining his ankle. They then beat Duquesne without Graham available.
  • San Diego State: The Aztecs made it known that the MWC title still runs through Viejas Arenas. They handed Wyoming their first loss in league play — in Laramie — and then landed a come-from-behind win over UNLV.
  • Texas: The Longhorns badly needed a win and they got one in resounding fashion: by 27 points over West Virginia.
  • Notables: Kentucky, Iowa, Georgia, Tennessee, SMU

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 18 Oklahoma at No. 9 Kansas, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
  • Iowa at No. 7 Wisconsin, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • Saint Mary’s at No. 3 Gonzaga, Thu. 11:00 p.m.
  • No. 9 Kansas at No. 20 Texas, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 Oklahoma at No. 22 Baylor, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

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.