(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Two TV timeouts torpedoed Oklahoma’s shot at coming back vs. Villanova

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HOUSTON — Villanova’s 95-51 mollywhopping of Oklahoma on Saturday was as thorough of a beating as you’ll ever see. Shy of convincing James Harden to make the eight mile drive from the Toyota Center to NRG Stadium and throw on a Sooners jersey, there was very little that Lon Kruger could have done to change the course of that game after the first 20 minutes.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the game was significantly impacted by shamelessly long television timeouts during the NCAA tournament and the inability of the NCAA to find a way to avoid stacking those TV timeouts on top of each other.

Here’s the situation as it played out on Saturday: For the first time all game, Oklahoma looked like they were alive at the start of the second half. The lid was still on their basket, but that team was fighting and scrapping and clawing and doing everything they physically could do to try and cut into Villanova’s 42-28 halftime lead. Case in point: In the first 3:40 of the second half, Oklahoma had nine offensive rebounds.

Nine. In less than four minutes.

And it was paying dividends.

The Sooners had trimmed the lead to 46-37 with 16:17 left thanks to Jordan Woodard tipping home his own missed free throw, a free throw he was shooting because he was fouled shooting a three. The Sooner faithful were in full voice. The Oklahoma bench was on its feet and jumping around for the first time since early in the first half. The Sooners finally, thankfully, had managed to find a way to grab some momentum.

That was the beginning of the end.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright quickly called timeout, partly to stem the flow of Oklahoma’s run and partly to rip into his guys for letting a 6-foot-1 point guard tip home his own miss off of a free throw.

But since it was the first timeout called during the second half, it was extended into a TV timeout, sending the teams to their benches for 2:30 that would turn into close to a three-minute delay from whistle to whistle. When play resumed, it took Villanova’s Josh Hart 25 seconds to collect his own miss and score while getting fouled.

That meant that the clock had now ticked below the 16 minute mark, meaning that we were about to sit through another TV timeout. In the end, the amount of time that lapsed from the moment Woodard scored to the moment that Oklahoma was back in possession of the ball was nearly half of a normal halftime.

That’s one way eliminate momentum.

“That broke us,” Oklahoma’s Ryan Spangler said.

“Never recovered from that,” head coach Lon Kruger said. “Kind of snowballed downhill the rest of the way.”

Now if we’re being honest, it wasn’t just the television timeouts that did this. Hart — for about the fourth time — beat Oklahoma to a rebound that they should have gotten and got a bucket out of it. Having that run clipped by that play is demoralizing. And it’s also worth noting: Hart’s layup sparked a 33-4 run. That cannot be pinned on a pair of timeouts.

But the fact that the Sooners had to sit and cool down for three minutes on either side of that possession certainly didn’t help matters.

The NCAA changed their television timeout rules during the offseason. In an effort to avoid TV timeouts on back-to-back whistles, they implemented a rule that any called timeout that occurred within 30 seconds of a scheduled TV timeout will turn into the TV timeout … unless it’s the first timeout of the second half.

And that rule absolutely impacted the outcome of a game in the Final Four. I’m not saying that Oklahoma would have won had they not had to deal with those two TV timeouts, but I find it hard to believe they would have wilted the way that they did.

Those five or six minutes of manufactured, revenue-generating ad space torpedoed Oklahoma’s comeback attempt.

Maybe we should take another look at that rule.

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.