College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25: How far will Wisconsin and Gonzaga fall?

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1. Kentucky (29-0, LW: No. 1): Ho-hum, just another pair of blowout wins for the Wildcats. March Madness can’t get here soon enough. Here’s what I’m hoping happens: Kentucky has to beat Wisconsin, Virginia and Arizona or Duke to win the national title. I want to see them challenged. Seeing this team coast to No. 9 without beating anyone higher than a No. 3 seed would not only be boring, but it would result in their season having an asterisk next to it. I can see the headlines now: “Kentucky might be the greatest team ever, but we’ll never know because they were never tested.” That would get annoying really, really quick.

2. Virginia (27-1, LW: No. 4): No Justin Anderson, no problem. London Perrantes breaks his nose, Virginia beats Wake Forest by 36 on the road. They just keep on winning. We can only hope Anderson gets healthy. This team deserves to be at 100 percent in March.

3. Wisconsin (26-3, LW: No. 2): The Badgers picked up their first loss since January on Tuesday, as they went into College Park and lost to a Maryland team that is going to find themselves in the top ten of every poll in the country on Monday morning. What a devastating blow! I won’t mention the part about how the Terps matchup very well with Wisconsin, or how the Badgers missed a number of very good looks at threes in the first half, a major reason they found themselves down 11 at the break. The only real damage from that loss? It hurts their chances of getting a No. 1 seed, and may set them up for a date with Kentucky in the Elite 8.

4. Duke (26-3, LW: No. 5): As good as Duke’s wins are this season, I still have my doubts about their ability to win a national title. Their defensive issues are a major, major problem — it almost cost them against Virginia Tech — but that’s not it. Duke has four different guys that can take over a game when Justise Winslow plays the way he did this past week. But they lack depth and balance beyond that, which says nothing about how badly they need a stretch four or another big, athletic wing. The advantage that Duke gets when playing Winslow at the four is negated by the fact that they have to play either Matt Jones (too small) or Grayson Allen (not ready) at the three, and Amile Jefferson isn’t a good enough shooter to make it difficult for opposing defenses to smother Jahlil Okafor with big-to-big doubles.

5. Villanova (27-2, LW: No. 6): The Wildcats just keep winning. They clinched the outright Big East title this week with a 28 point win over Providence on Tuesday, following that up with an impressive win at Xavier over the weekend.

6. Arizona (26-3, LW: No. 7): The Wildcats have clinched a share of the Pac-12 title, and as long as they beat either Cal or Stanford at home next week, they will be the outright league champs. Sean Miller’s club seems to have shaken off their road struggles, and while they still have some issues with their perimeter shooting, Arizona can really, really defend. Also, it’s good to see Kaleb Tarczewski starting to play like a former top ten recruit.

7. Gonzaga (29-2, LW: No. 3): I can understand why Gonzaga lost on Saturday night. They were distracted by Senior Night in a game that didn’t mean much to them and that gave life to BYU’s season. It happens. But it doesn’t explain why the Zags have not looked like themselves over the course of the last three weeks.

8. Kansas (23-6, LW: No. 8): I still think that Kansas is one of the top eight teams in the country, but it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Cliff Alexander. He wasn’t playing all that effectively to begin with, but without him, the Jayhawks have a massive hole in their front line. At least Alexander provided them with some athleticism and physicality up front. The Jayhawks all but have a No. 2 seed locked up because of how strong their schedule is, but I think there’s a real gap between them and the rest of the top seven.

9. Maryland (24-5, LW: No. 17): After knocking off Wisconsin on Tuesday, the Terps are getting a bump into the top ten. I’ll be honest: after seeing them in person, I’m not convinced this is actually one of the top ten teams in the country. I’m also not convinced this is a team that can make the Final Four. But I don’t known if any of the teams below them can do that either.

10. Baylor (22-7, LW: No. 15): Has there been a hotter team in the country over the course of the last two weeks than Baylor? The run that they used to beat Iowa State in Ames on Wednesday — hitting six threes in six possessions — was impressive. It’s fluky, yes, but it shows you how dangerous this group is.

11. Utah (22-6, LW: No. 10)
12. Notre Dame (24-5, LW: No. 9)
13. Wichita State (27-3, LW: No. 14)
14. Northern Iowa (27-3, LW: No. 13)
15. North Carolina (20-9, LW: No. 11)
16. Oklahoma (20-8, LW: No. 16)
17. Iowa State (20-8, LW: No. 12)
18. West Virginia (22-7, LW: No. 18)
19. SMU (23-6, LW: No. 19)
20. Arkansas (22-5, LW: No. 20)
21. Butler (21-8, LW: No. 21)
22. Ohio State (21-8, LW: No. 22)
23. Louisville (23-6, LW: No. 25)
24. St. John’s (20-9, LW: UR)
25. Boise State (22-7, LW: UR)

Dropped Out: No. 23 Providence, No. 24 VCU

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.