(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The Big South has become the epicenter of the ‘transfer epidemic’

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I’ve never really bought into the idea of the “transfer epidemic” being, you know, an epidemic.

There have already been over 600 transfers this offseason, and the heavy majority of the names on that list fall into at least one of the following three categories: 1) Players transferring down a level because they’re not good enough, 2) Players transferring up a level to get a shot at the “big time”, or 3) 1) Kids that you never have and never will again hear of.

And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the rate of college basketball players transferring is about equal to the rate of normal college students transferring.

No one really complains about a kid at the end of the bench of a Big Ten program transferring to the MAC or the Summit League once he realizes he’s never going to get any shine playing against the big boys, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the respective teams that gives a damn about Hayes Gerrity transferring from Utah Valley to Idaho State or Denzel Dulin going from Bethune-Cookman to Alcorn State.

The biggest issue people seem to have is with the up-transfers, players that go to a low- or mid-major program, star at some point during their career and then transfer to a team in a power conference.

It’s great for the players. Every single player at the Division I level thinks — or, at the very least, wants a chance to prove that — they are good enough to play for and against the best players in the sport, and if they create an opportunity to make that happen, who am I to tell them it’s a bad thing? Just because Louisville blew their evaluation on Dwayne Sutton when he was playing high school ball in the city doesn’t mean that the kid shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to transfer into the Cardinal program that a monster freshman season at UNC Asheville created.

Hell, I’m a proponent of totally doing away with mandatory redshirt years for transfers. If these kids are truly “student”-athletes and unpaid amateurs, I just can’t support the idea that punishing them for changing schools is a good thing. I’m the wrong guy to come to if you’re looking for someone to rail against social media culture or transfer epidemics.

That said, I absolutely get the frustration for the little guys.

Take UNC Asheville, for example.

Bulldogs head coach Nick McDevitt is better at his job than you are at yours. Prior to last season, he identified Sutton and Dylan Smith as potential impact players, recruited them into his program, invested a scholarship in them and helped coach them up to the point that both averaged double-figures as UNCA advanced to the NCAA tournament.

They then transferred to Louisville and Arizona, respectively. The year before, Andrew Rowsey, who averaged 20 points as a sophomore, transferred to Marquette, following in the footsteps of Keith Hornsby, who left for LSU two years earlier.

In total, the Big South, the league UNCA plays in, lost four players to high-major programs and six potential all-league players to transfer this offseason.

Do you realize how difficult it is to grow a program when doing your job well means you lose your best players?

“The topic of transfers probably took as much time, if not more, than any other singular topic we discussed,” Big South commissioner Kyle Kallander told the Fayetteville Observer on Monday after the league meetings. “That was basketball coaches, athletics directors and the presidents. It’s a real concern on our part and has been for some time – not just because we’ve been impacted pretty heavily this year.”

“It’s a really difficult subject. We’re trying to seek answers to a topic that’s really challenging because we support the ability for student-athletes to have choice.”

There’s no easy answer here.

The players are looking for their best opportunity, and for the most part, that’s going to be at a bigger school. With all due respect to the Asheville program, Smith’s going to have a better chance to turn himself into a professional basketball player at Arizona than he will at UNCA, and he’ll be do it while spending four years on scholarship in Tucson, playing in front of 14,000 at the McKale Center.

This is no different than any other profession, either. I walked away from freelance jobs and running my own website when NBC offered me a full-time gig. Lawyers leave law firms when a better job comes along. Free agents leave small market teams in every sport. If Louisville or Arizona offered McDevitt their head coaching gig he’d be stupid to turn it down regardless of how loyal he feels towards his alma mater and the players he brought into the program. This isn’t any different than Jim Boeheim getting burned when the likes of Malachi Richardson or Tyler Ennis get too good too quickly and bounce to the NBA.

Where are the people caping up for Jimbo?

I feel for McDevitt. I feel for the rest of the low- and mid-major coaches that did their job so well they sent their best players to a better program.

But don’t be the guy that’s out here telling people it’s a bad thing that a kid from Mobile, Alabama, who picked UNCA over UT-Pan American — which isn’t even called UT-Pan American anymore — coming out of high school is getting a chance to play for a top ten program with arguably the best young coach in the sport.

Because you look foolish when you do.

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

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

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.