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Pregame Shootaround: Duke/UNC II, more key ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC contests fill Saturday

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GAME OF THE NIGHTNo. 8 North Carolina at No. 17 Duke, 6:30 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

Do I really need to explain this one?

I shouldn’t have to. But I will. Because I’m a nice guy and all.

For starters, it’s Duke-Carolina, which is never not must-see TV. It’s the best rivalry in college basketball. When it’s on, you watch it. Especially when there is an ACC title on the line, which is the case for UNC on Saturday. The Heels are currently tied for first in the conference with Miami, who also happens to be playing on the road on Saturday.

But all that is before you consider what happened last month in Chapel Hill. Duke, playing without Amile Jefferson and, for the most part, Matt Jones, went into the Dean Dome and beat the Tar Heels, erasing a late deficit as the defense-deficient Blue Devils held UNC’s guards to 1-for-14 shooting in the final 11 minutes. They also managed to keep Brice Johnson, who had 27 points and 17 boards in the first 29 minutes, to just two points and two rebounds down the stretch.

It was those 11 minutes that made the media at-large hop off of the North Carolina bandwagon. Words like “physically soft” and “no mental toughness” were mentioned and questions were being asked about whether or not this was truly a team that could be considered the most talented in the country. So in addition to the incentive of trying to win a title, the Tar Heels will be looking to get revenge by making a statement on Duke’s home court.

And doing that to a team with Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram in Cameron Indoor is not going to be an easy thing to do.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKENDNo. 11 Louisville at No. 4 Virginia, 8:30 p.m.

The two best teams in the ACC squaring off isn’t normally must-see TV, but considering that A) Louisville was utterly humiliated by Virginia earlier this season, B) it’s the last game of Louisville’s season thanks to that postseason ban and C) that the winner of this game can win a share of the ACC regular season title if Miami and UNC lose on the road, and what you’re going to see is a battle between two veteran, well-coached teams.

THE OTHER OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 21 Iowa State at No. 1 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

In October, we circled this game on the calendar as one that could potentially have decided whether or not the Jayhawks would win their 12th straight regular season title. Obviously, that is no longer the case, but it will be the last time that we see this Cyclone team play a Big 12 regular season game. It’s something of the end of an era, as Georges Niang will be facing off with Perry Ellis for the last time in their illustrious, 17-year careers.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 7 Miami at Virginia Tech, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview.

I know I’ve said a lot about how good Miami has been and how good Larrañaga is and how special it would be for the Hurricanes, twice in the span of four seasons, to win an outright ACC regular season title. But that doesn’t change the fact that Miami will be playing on the road tonight, and they’ll be playing against a Virginia Tech team that Buzz Williams has turned into a real threat in Blacksburg. The Hokies haven’t finished above .500 in the ACC since 2011, and they can do that with a win on Saturday. In fact, Va. Tech has already won more games in ACC play this season (nine) than they did in the previous three seasons combined (eight). The ‘Canes better come ready to play.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. The SEC regular season title is going to come down to the final day of the regular season, and depending on how it shakes out, there could very easily be a four-way tie atop the conference. No. 22 Kentucky and No. 20 Texas A&M are tied for first place in the league with Vandy and LSU sitting one game behind them. Vanderbilt plays at Texas A&M at noon on Saturday while LSU plays at Kentucky at 2:00 p.m.

2. The Pac-12 regular season title is going to come down to the final day of the regular season as well. No. 9 Oregon, who is currently sitting all alone in first place, plays at USC on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. while Colorado will pay a visit to No. 13 Utah, who is one game out of first place, at 9:30 p.m. Oh, and should I mention Josh Scott vs. Jakob Poeltl will be awesome for anyone that loves a good throwback battle of the big men?

3. No. 10 West Virginia will pay a visit to No. 19 Baylor on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. which should be an entertaining game to watch as the Mountaineers look to maintain their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Big 12.

4. We get our first autobid officially punched of the conference tournament season as Austin Peay takes on Tennessee-Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. The Skyhawks swept the regular season series between the two teams.

5. There will be an Atlantic 10 game featured on NBCSN on Saturday: George Washington at Davidson (3:30 p.m.). George Washington is battling for an at-large bid in the Atlantic 10 while the Wildcats are still a strong conference team trying to potentially build momentum before a postseason bid.

CLICK HERE to watch this game on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

OTHER TOP 25 GAMES

  • Ohio State at No. 2 Michigan State, 12:00 p.m.
  • Georgetown at No. 3 Villanova, 12:00 p.m.
  • Creighton at No. 5 Xavier, 2:30 p.m.
  • No. 6 Oklahoma at TCU, 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 16 Iowa at Michigan, 8:00 p.m.
  • No. 25 Cal at Arizona State, 8:00 p.m.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Ole Miss at Tennessee, 12:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Notre Dame, 12:00 p.m.
  • Clemson at Boston College, 12:00 p.m.
  • Seton Hall at DePaul, 12:00 p.m.
  • Providence at St. John’s, 12:30 p.m.
  • Minnesota at Rutgers, 1:00 p.m.
  • Syracuse at Florida State, 2:00 p.m.
  • Pitt at Georgia Tech, 2:00 p.m.
  • Auburn at Mississippi State, 2:30 p.m.
  • Marquette at Butler, 2:30 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Texas Tech, 3:00 p.m.
  • Northern Iowa at Wichita State, 3:35 p.m.
  • Alabama at Georgia, 4:00 p.m.
  • South Carolina at Arkansas, 5:00 p.m.
  • USF at Tulsa, 5:00 p.m.
  • Oregon State at UCLA, 6:30 p.m.
  • VCU at Dayton, 8:00 p.m.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

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
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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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.