College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: Where should Virginia, Gonzaga be ranked?

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Virginia will be without Justin Anderson, their leading scorer and best three-point shooter who is having an all-american caliber season, for the next 4-to-6 weeks. That means that, at a minimum, he’ll be out for the remainder of the regular season, with the chance that he could return for the ACC tournament; Selection Sunday is in precisely five weeks.

What does that mean for Virginia?

I’m not sure that it means all that much. Anderson is the perfect wing for Tony Bennett’s system. He’s turned himself into a knock-down three-point shooter and he’s as good of a defensive player as you’ll find. But as good as Anderson is, he’s just a cog in the Virginia machine. They’ll be fine without him, particularly when you consider that they only play one game against the rest of the top five in the ACC and that they hold a two-game lead over the rest of the ACC pack.

With Anderson, I think Virginia is the clear-cut second-best team in the country. Without him, they’re “just” one of four or five teams that deserve consideration for that spot.

Anyway, on to the top 25 …

1. Kentucky (23-0, LW: No. 1): The Wildcats knocked off Georgia midweek and survived Florida in Gainesville in what was their toughest test of the season on Saturday. The Wildcats took a punch from Florida, coming from eight down in the first half in one of the most underrated home court environments in the country.

2. Virginia (21-1, LW: No. 2): See above.

3. Gonzaga (24-1, LW: No. 3): Gonzaga won at Santa Clara and at San Francisco last week, although neither win was overly impressive which has only led to more chatter that the Zags are overrated. I wouldn’t have an issue with anyone ranking Wisconsin or Duke above them, but it’s foolish to think that Gonzaga isn’t a Final Four caliber team.

4. Wisconsin (19-2, LW: No. 4): The Badgers may not be tested until their final four games of the regular season, when they play at Maryland, at Minnesota, at Ohio State and get Michigan State in the Kohl Center.

5. Duke (20-3, LW: No. 6): The Blue Devils made a statement for all those that thought their win at Virginia was a fluke as they obliterated Notre Dame in Durham on Saturday. The most impressive part? Duke finally started playing some defense, holding the Irish below 1.0 points-per-possession for the first time this season.

6. Villanova (21-2, LW: No. 8): If there was any doubt who the best team in the Big East is, the Wildcats erased it with a systematic beatdown of Georgetown on Saturday.

7. Arizona (20-3, LW: No. 5): It looked like the Wildcats had finally gotten things rolling, and then they went and lost at Arizona State. That’s certainly not a good thing, but I’m not all that concerned; anything can happen in a rivalry game on the road.

8. Kansas (19-4, LW: No. 7): Kansas took a step back on Saturday with a loss at Oklahoma State, but road losses are going to come in the Big 12. An impressive win at home over Iowa State says just as much.

9. Louisville (19-4, LW: No. 9): There’s not shame in losing at Virginia. The bigger concern for the Cardinals? They’ve gone two full games without someone other than their top four scoring, and more than 100 minutes of game time without someone other than the top four making a field goal.

10. Utah (18-4, LW: No. 12): Utah climbs back into the top ten after an impressive win over Colorado. The Utes really need to beat Arizona at home later this year for me to truly buy them as a title contender.

11. Notre Dame (21-4, LW: No. 10)
12. North Carolina (18-6, LW: No. 11)
13. Iowa State (17-5, LW: No. 13)
14. Baylor (18-5, LW: No. 18)
15. Northern Iowa (22-2, LW: No. 16)
16. Wichita State (21-3, LW: No. 17)
17. Oklahoma (16-7, LW: No. 19)
18. Ohio State (18-6, LW: No. 20)
19. Maryland (19-5, LW: No. 14)
20. Butler (18-6, LW: No. 24)
21. SMU (19-5, LW: No. 25)
22. VCU (18-5, LW: No. 23)
23. Oklahoma State (16-7, LW: UR)
24. Providence (17-7, LW: UR)
25. West Virginia (18-5, LW: No. 15)

Dropped Out: No. 21 Indiana, No. 22 Georgetown

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.