No. 2 Arizona pulls away from No. 6 Xavier, setting up West regional final rematch

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source: AP
(AP)

LOS ANGELES — With both teams not playing anywhere near their best in the first half, it was appropriate that No. 2 Arizona and No. 6 Xavier went into the locker room tied at 28 apiece. The second half was just as tight, but it was the Wildcats who were able to make the plays their needed to make as the game progressed.

Sean Miller’s team won by the final score of 68-60, setting up a rematch with No. 1 Wisconsin in Saturday’s West regional final.

T.J. McConnell, who struggled in the first half, rebounded in the second with 13 points, three assists and just one turnover. And while big man Kaleb Tarczewski did manage to grab nine rebounds in the first half, he couldn’t get much done when it came to finishing around the basket. Things turned around in the second half for the 7-foot junior, as he scored ten points and finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Tarczewski was effective in his job on both ends of the floor, as his defense was good enough to keep Xavier’s Matt Stainbrook from helping his teammates find shots. While Stainbrook finished with 17 points and ten rebounds, just one of those boards was offensive and he also also finished with just two assists. Those contributions may be overlooked by many, but not by Tarczewski’s head coach.

“Kaleb is the one guy on our team who doesn’t get enough credit,” Miller said of his starting center. “A lot of times he’s not our leading scorer, and we have a balanced group, so our leading scorer a lot of times gets the credit for playing or the reason we won. But he does his job, is how I would describe him.

“There aren’t many front-court players that can play Stainbrook one-on-one like he did. Now, Stainbrook had his moments, and if you look 17-10 is a great night. But he had one offensive rebound, and one of the strategies for us is we didn’t want him to provide 10 to 20 points for his teammates.”

A key for Arizona in the second half was better shot discipline against Xavier’s defensive looks, be it man to man or a 1-3-1 zone defense that gave the Wildcats fits in the first stanza. Using a look that Oregon State was able to successfully use against the Wildcats in a win earlier this season. Xavier was able to make Arizona tentative offensively, with the Wildcats settling for jump shots with many of them being challenged.

Thirteen of Arizona’s 32 shots were three-pointers in the first half, with the resulting percentage of shots taken from three (40.6 percent) was much too high for Sean Miller’s team. Entering Thursday just under 26 percent of Arizona’s shots were three-pointers, and they also weren’t all that effective hitting the offensive glass. That changed in the second half, as Arizona both committed to attacking off the dribble more and performing better on the glass.

“We drew it up in the sand halfway through the year because we thought our foot speed was really slow with our bigs, and we won a lot of games with that defense,” Mack said of the 1-3-1. “But a great team adjusts. They were driving it more than we’ve seen. In the first half they were a little bit hesitant. They missed a few shots. They held on to the ball a little bit longer.

“In the second half, they rebounded it and they also drove it a little bit more than we were used to. But we felt like we needed to play it as much as we could to win the game.”

Arizona also had adjustments to make defensively, as the tandem of Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds was a major factor (16 points combined) in the first half. Their physicality played a role in Xavier scoring 22 of its 28 points in the paint, which kept the Musketeers in the game despite poor perimeter shooting. In the second half Arizona limited the Musketeers to 12 points in the paint and won the battle on the boards, with Stainbrook picking up three fouls over a span of 51 seconds in the second half (6:18 to 5:27) serving as a needed catalyst in that regard.

“We were getting out-rebounded the whole game,” Stanley Johnson, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds, said after the game. “The first war, which is the first four minutes of the second half, we got out-rebounded by five.

“I think [Stainbrook’s] out of the game, and having a 270-pound body out of the way, we started getting rebounds and we got the advantage on the boards. That’s been the story of the season for us; when we defend and rebound, it’s hard to beat us.”

Defense and rebounding have served as barometers for Arizona all season long, and that will be the case Saturday afternoon against Wisconsin as well. The good news for Arizona moving forward is that they’ve likely seen zone for the last time this season, but the keys offensively remain the same. The Wildcats can’t settle for shots, something they did for most of the first 30 minutes against Xavier, if they’re to avenge last year’s Elite Eight defeat at the hands of the Badgers.

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.