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Duke freshman Jayson Tatum tunes out title expectations

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Jayson Tatum isn’t worried yet about expectations being too high for him as a freshman at Duke.

He’s preparing to start his college career as one of the primary options for a Blue Devils team that appears likely to begin the season at No. 1 in the polls. Duke has once again brought in one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, led by the 6-foot-8 forward from St. Louis who could slide into the spot vacated by one-and-done player Brandon Ingram.

“We’re really not looking that far ahead,” Tatum said in an interview with The Associated Press. “With this freshmen class, six guys have never played a college basketball game, so those expectations, we’re just looking at the process.”

This is a blueprint the Blue Devils have followed to a title recently, with freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones leading them to their fifth national championship in 2015. Now they’re hoping Tatum and fellow first-year players Harry Giles, Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden and Frank Jackson can do it again.

The road to Arizona in April for the Final Four starts now, with that freshmen class getting acclimated to college and meshing with a solid group of returners led by third-team AP All-American Grayson Allen and fifth-year forward Amile Jefferson.

“Those guys have welcomed us with open arms, and they’re like our new big brothers,” Tatum said. “They have so much experience just being at Duke – not just basketball, but the off-the-court things, how to get to classes and where to get food and just small things like that. They’ve been very welcoming with (me) and the rest of the freshman class. Our bond has gotten so much stronger and it will keep getting stronger through the rest of the summer.”

Tatum has some strong basketball bloodlines, but his family situation is atypical: His father coached against him throughout his high school career.

Tatum averaged 29.5 points and nine rebounds – scoring at least 40 points six times – while leading Chaminade High to a Missouri state championship as a senior. The path to that title led through Christian Brothers College high school – and coach Justin Tatum.

Justin Tatum says Pops got the best of his son only once – when he was a freshman.

“It’s like me and him are Siamese twins,” Justin Tatum said. “I have to coach against him, to prepare and just to see the attention that it brings, seeing him on the opposite team for the first time, it’s tough. But to see him not back down because he was never taught to back down … that gave me a special feeling, too, that my son is going to challenge anyone who’s across from him.”

He says the sport was “embedded in him from the jump” because the elder Tatum was playing college ball at Saint Louis in 1998 when Jayson was born, and it was his mother who helped introduce the game to him. By the time Jayson was a fifth-grader, Justin could tell what he described as “how special we noticed that he could be” on the court.

Justin Tatum says his son’s recruiting experience was different from his because “mine was probably a little more rugged … I could potentially fit in a lot of people’s program.”

Jayson, meanwhile, was a consensus top-five recruit in the nation, and, accordingly, was targeted almost exclusively by the sport’s blue bloods – Kansas, Duke and Kentucky. He committed to Duke last July, signed with the Blue Devils in the fall, arrived on campus over the summer and immediately began working on bonding with his new teammates.

“We’ve just gotten so much closer over this short period of time since we’ve been here,” Tatum said. “I think it will take us a long way.”

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.