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LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Minnesota stuns No. 6 Maryland

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GAME OF THE NIGHTMinnesota 68, No. 6 Maryland 63

Minnesota picked up its first conference win of the season, stunning the Terrapins in Minneapolis. Joey King, who hit some big free throws late, scored 15 points off the bench with Nate Mason accounting for 18 points and six assists and Jordan Murphy 17 points. Maryland played without the suspended Diamond Stone, and Melo Trimble once again struggled. If not for Rasheed Sulaimon (28 points), the margin could have been worse.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Connecticut 68, No. 21 SMU 62: The Huskies, who appeared to be in good shape in regards to the NCAA tournament, picked up a quality win at home as they outlasted the Mustangs in Hartford. Amida Brimah was good on both ends of the floor, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks, and Shonn Miller added 12 and seven caroms. SMU, which shoots 52.6 percent from two, made just 40 percent of those looks thanks in large part to Brimah’s play in the middle for UConn.

No. 8 Michigan State 69, Wisconsin 57: The Spartans ended the Badgers’ seven-game win streak, with Denzel Valentine playing a key role. Valentine finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists to lead the way for Michigan State, with Bryn Forbes adding 17 points. Ethan Happ scored 18 points and Bronson Koenig 12 for Wisconsin, but an off night from Nigel Hayes spelled doom for the visitors.

No. 14 Kentucky 80, Tennessee 70: No. 14 Kentucky avenged its loss at Tennessee earlier this season with an 80-70 win over the Vols in Lexington. Jamal Murray scored 28 points and Derek Willis 25 for Kentucky, which currently leads the SEC. John Calipari’s team has been playing very good basketball of late, and the emergence of Willis is one of the reasons why.

THURSDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

STARRED

Jamal Murray and Derek Willis, Kentucky: Both players shot 8-for-12 from the field, with Murray scoring 28 points and grabbing nine boards in the win over Tennessee. Willis has really emerged in recent weeks, and he added 25 points while shooting 7-for-11 from three.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 24 points, seven rebounds and ten assists in the Spartans’ win over Wisconsin.

Joel Bolomboy, Weber State: 34 points and ten rebounds in the Wildcats’ win at Southern Utah.

STRUGGLED

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: Hayes scored five points, shooting 1-for-13 from the field, in the Badgers’ loss at No. 8 Michigan State.

CJ Wiggins, North Carolina Central: Wiggins shot 1-for-9 from the field in the Eagles’ 71-60 loss at Coppin State.

Kevin Johnson, Cincinnati: Johnson scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting as the Bearcats lost by two at Tulsa.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • UNCW’s 11-game win streak came to an end, as the Seahawks lost 87-69 at William & Mary. Kevin Keatts’ Seahawks are still on top of the CAA standings with a record of 12-3, one game ahead of second-place Hofstra.
  • In a matchup of two of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun, reigning league champ North Florida blitzed NJIT by the final score of 107-71. Demarcus Daniels scored 25 points and Dallas Moore added 21 and 11 boards for the Ospreys, who ended their four-game losing streak with the win.
  • UNC Asheville and Winthrop are tied for first in the Big South, as both teams picked up wins Thursday night. The Bulldogs rebounded from a 19-point first half to win by nine at Presbyterian, and Winthrop beat Coastal Carolina by 12 at home.
  • Wichita State retained its two-game lead atop the Missouri Valley with a 99-68 beating of Missouri State. Zach Brown scored 16 points and Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker added 15 apiece for the Shockers, who are now 13-2 in league play.
  • In a matchup of two of the four teams that entered the night tied atop the NEC standings, Wagner won 94-74 at Fairleigh Dickinson. Bashir Mason’s Seahawks are now in sole possession of first, as Mount St. Mary’s was upset by Central Connecticut State and Saint Francis (PA) lost to St. Francis-Brooklyn at home.
  • Chattanooga maintained its two-game lead atop the SoCon with an 85-59 win over VMI. The Mocs scored 52 first-half points against the Keydets.
  • Little Rock moved to 13-2 in Sun Belt play with a 57-49 win at Georgia State. The Trojans limited the Panthers to 5-for-22 shooting in the second half, and Lis Shoshi finished the game with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
  • Marshall took care of Charlotte, 87-72, thus remaining a game behind UAB in the Conference USA standings. Marshall and Middle Tennessee are both 10-3 in league play, with the Blue Raiders taking on UAB Sunday.
  • IPFW moved into sole possession of first place in the Summit League with a 91-79 win over South Dakota State. Max Landis and John Konchar scored 22 apiece for the Mastodons, with Konchar also grabbing 12 rebounds.
  • Belmont moved to 11-3 in OVC play with an 86-78 win at Eastern Kentucky. Craig Bradshaw finished with 33 and seven boards for the Bruins, who host 10-3 Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
  • Gonzaga beat Pacific 90-68, moving to 13-2 in the WCC. Kyle Wiltjer and Damontas Sabonis combined to score 49 points, with Sabonis adding ten rebounds. The Bulldogs are a game ahead of Saint Mary’s, who they host Saturday night.
  • Tulsa nearly threw away the game with a turnover in the final seconds of overtime, but a Cincinnati three missed the mark as the Golden Hurricane won 70-68. The loss makes Saturday’s game against UConn even bigger for the Bearcats, who are squarely on the bubble.
  • New Mexico State retained its lead atop the WAC with a 63-55 win over CSU Bakersfield. The Aggies hold a one-game lead on Grand Canyon in the standings.
  • Weber State moved into a tie for first in the Big Sky with an 87-83 win at Southern Utah. Joel Bolomboy led the way with 34 points and ten rebounds.
  • A Joe Rahon shot in the final seconds gave Saint Mary’s a two-point win at Portland. With their résumé not having much from a non-conference standpoint, the Gaels can’t afford any missteps down the stretch.
  • Utah picked up its first win at UCLA in 55 years as they held off the Bruins 75-73. Jordan Loveridge led the way for the Runnin’ Utes with 17 points.
  • Stacy Davis became Pepperdine’s all-time leading scorer as he scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for the Waves to avoid an 82-72 home loss to San Francisco.
  • Stefan Jankovic scored a career-high 34 points as Hawai’i remained alone atop the Big West with a 69-63 win at CSUN.
  • Cal hung on in the second half to pick up their second win away from Berkeley this season, 78-75 at Washington. Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace combined to score 41 points for the Golden Bears.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar
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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.