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Vanderbilt may have earned an at-large bid with a critical win over No. 16 Kentucky

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Matthew Fisher-Davis led four players in double-figures with 20 points as Vanderbilt overcame a 33-point outburst from Jamal Murray and knocked off No. 16 Kentucky, 74-62, in Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.

The significance of this win for the Commodores cannot be overstated. They entered today sitting squarely on the bubble’s cut line, one of the first four out in some brackets and, in the latest CBT Bracktology, one of the last four in. This will go down as their best win of the season, and it comes just four days after Vandy won at Florida and three weeks after they picked off Texas A&M.

This win still may not be enough for Vanderbilt. With four sub-75 losses on the season — including losses to Mississippi State and Arkansas — and an 18-11 record, nothing is a given, even with five top 50 wins.

Which is why this was a notch on the belt that Vandy needed to get.

Here’s the other part of it: The Commodores look like they are finally hitting their stride. For the last three weeks, they’ve looked like the team that some (me) had pegged as a top 15 team in the preseason, and today was the perfect example. Vandy was able to pound the ball into the point and overwhelm the smaller Kentucky front line, and when the Wildcats tried to double, the myriad of shooters in Vandy’s perimeter attack rained down threes. Then throw in Wade Baldwin IV’s ability to break down a defense in transition and at the end of a clock, and what you have is a team with three potential NBA players that is finally playing like a team with three potential NBA players.

I have a theory on Vandy’s early struggles. Baldwin’s stock as a potential first rounder is based mostly on potential; he’s a talent and an athlete that’s still learning how to be a point guard. Luke Kornet couldn’t hit a shot for the first two months of the season while Jones has always been a guy whose physical tools outweighed his basketball skill. In other words, he’s not Jahlil Okafor on the block. Throw in the sophomore slump for Riley LaChance, and what you get is a team that underperformed early in the year.

But Baldwin is starting to get it. Kornet is at least making enough threes at this point where defenses have to be conscious of him. Jones is averaging 18.8 points and 10.0 boards in his last five games. And kids like Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson and have stepped up as LaChance has tried to find his rhythm.

I wouldn’t want to see Vandy in my region as a double-digit seed.

[  RELATED: A breakdown of why Kentucky’s offense is struggling  ]

As far as Kentucky is concerned, what we saw today was the result of Derek Willis being out of the lineup. As I broke down earlier this week, his absence in the lineup made Kentucky’s ball-screen actions that much easier to guard, which, in turn, limited just how effective Tyler Ulis can be. Without Willis on the floor, Kentucky consistently fields a lineup with just two players that have to be defended beyond 10 feet. In the last two games, as Willis has missed time with an ankle injury, Kentucky players not named Jamal Murray have shot 0-for-17 from three.

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

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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.