(AP Photo/Tony Tribble)

Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

2 Comments

The Atlantic 10 will be one of the most intriguing events to watch over the final few days before the NCAA tournament. Not only is the A-10 Tournament itself a wide-open field, filled with contenders who could win it all, but there are also four teams with NCAA tournament at-large concerns that could use some more wins before Selection Sunday. While Dayton looks to be comfortably in the field, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s and George Washington all find themselves on the bubble.

The conference tournament quarterfinals might feature a game that is essentially an NCAA tournament play-in game as No. 5 seed George Washington could face No. 4 seed Saint Joseph’s, as both teams could use another win for their profiles. Don’t be surprised if a lower-seeded team wins this event, either. The No. 4 or No. 5 seed has been the winner of the A-10 tournament in three of the last four years.

The Bracket 

2016_MBB_Bracket (1)

When: March 9-13

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York

Final: Sunday, March 13, 12:30 p.m. (CBS)

Favorite: Dayton

The Flyers haven’t finished the regular season on the strongest of notes, but they’re still the No. 1 seed and the team with the best path to make the finals. With a balanced roster, the Flyers have a lot of experienced pieces who have been successful in March before as they’re led by Charles Cooke (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Scoochie Smith (11.8 ppg, 4.1 apg). With a top-20 Kenpom defense, the Flyers can also be counted on to get consistent stops.

And if they lose?: VCU

Shaka Smart might be gone, but this is still a very talented Rams team that has a lot of experience. Senior Melvin Johnson (18.0 ppg) is one of the A-10’s best scorers while Korey Billbury (11.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and JeQuan Lewis (10.3 ppg, 4.9 apg) are also talented and experienced guards who can hit shots. Much like Dayton, VCU’s defense is rated in the top 20 on Kenpom and this group can really cause a lot of problems on that end of the floor.

Other Contenders:

  • St. Bonaventure: While Dayton and VCU can get stops, St. Bonaventure can really score. Marcus Posley, Jaylen Adams and Dion Wright are a tremendously potent trio on the offensive end.
  • Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks have dropped two straight heading into Barclays, but Isaiah Miles is tough to handle on the interior and DeAndre Bembry is one of the league’s best all-around players.

Sleeper: Davidson

With plenty of players who can put up points — including junior point guard Jack Gibbs, the nation’s third-leading scorer — the Wildcats are dangerous if they get hot. Besides Gibbs, Bob McKillop’s team has floor spacing and is one of the most efficient offenses in the conference.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Saint Joseph’s: Saint Joseph’s should be safe entering Atlantic 10 tournament week, but the Hawks only have two top-50 wins to their credit and they really need to avoid a bad loss to feel truly safe on Selection Sunday.
  • VCU: The Rams could have really helped their cause by beating Dayton in the final regular season game, but they lost in overtime. As long as VCU beats No. 7 seed Rhode Island or No. 10 seed UMass in the quarterfinals, they should feel safe. A second win wouldn’t hurt.
  • St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies have charged into the at-large conversation by going 10-2 in their final 12 games and a quarterfinal win should help their cause quite a bit. A quarterfinal loss would likely put St. Bonaventure in the NIT.
  • George Washington: Losing to Davidson to end the regular season was a huge loss for George Washington as they’ll likely need to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to make the field. The Colonials still have a prayer of an at-large chance if everything goes their way this week, but they would likely have to make the A-10 finals by beating Saint Joseph’s and Dayton and hope other results across college basketball go their way.

Atlantic 10 Player of the Year: DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s

The junior was remarkably consistent in stuffing the stat sheet once again for the Hawks as he averaged 17.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Bembry has scored in double-figures in every game this season and been huge in moving the ball within the offense as well. The 6-foot-6 Bembry also shot 47 percent from the field and dropped his turnovers to 2.1 per game in 36.8 minutes per contest.

Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year: Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure was picked to finish eighth in the Atlantic 10 preseason coaches’ poll and the Bonnies ended up as co-regular season champions of the league along with Dayton and VCU. Things didn’t look so positive for Schmidt’s team after a 4-3 start in conference play, but St. Bonaventure closed out the regular season strong and are in position to make the NCAA tournament as an at-large team if they take care of business in Brooklyn this week.

First-Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph’s (POY)
  • Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: Marcus Posley had some big scoring performances, but Adams, a sophomore guard, was tremendous in conference play.
  • Jack Gibbs, Davidson: Third in the country in scoring during his junior season, Gibbs averaged 24.8 points, 4.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.
  • Charles Cooke, Dayton: After sitting out a transfer season, Cooke picked up where he left off, averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
  • Tyler Cavanaugh, George Washington: Another talented transfer, Cavanaugh put up 16.6 points, 7.5 rebounds per game for the Colonials while also adding additional floor-spacing with his 39 percent 3-point range.

Second Team All-Atlantic 10:

  • T.J. Cline, Richmond
  • Melvin Johnson, VCU
  • Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure
  • Patricio Garino, George Washington
  • Isaiah Miles, Saint Joseph’s

Defining moment of the season: Marcus Posley dropped a Division I-season-high 47 points on March 2 as St. Bonaventure picked up a critical at-large win over Saint Joseph’s.

CBT Prediction: VCU makes a run to the A-10 title, picking off Dayton along the way and ensuring that Will Wade’s statue will be built in Richmond before Shaka Smart’s.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
6 Comments

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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
Leave a comment

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.