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Team of the Week: Butler Bulldogs

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No. 18 Butler ensured that the Big East will at least be an interesting conference race for a while longer as they were able to end No. 1 Villanova’s undefeated run and hand them their first loss since last year’s Big East tournament. The Bulldogs followed that up by going into Washington, D.C. and landing an overtime win over Georgetown.

That’s a good week overall, but it’s made better by the fact that Butler didn’t exactly play their best basketball in either game. Kelan Martin, Butler’s star forward, shot a combined 7-for-23 in the two games. Andrew Chrabacsz never looked dominant in either game. Those are Chris Holtmann’s two horses, but the great thing about this Butler team is that they aren’t just a two-man show.

In D.C. it was freshman Kamar Baldwin that showed up, scoring a career-high 16 points. Sophomore Nate Fowler, a 6-foot-11 center that plays limited minutes off the bench, saw most of the crunch time minutes, scoring the last five points of regulation – which included burying a three from the top of the key with a minute left – to force overtime. Against Villanova, fifth-year senior Kethan Savage came off the bench to score a season-high 13 points, including seven in a game-deciding, 11-2 run late in the game.

Butler is a threat this season not only because they have a couple stars on the roster, but because they can beat anyone in the country and win conference road games on nights those stars aren’t playing like stars.

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  • Notre Dame: The Irish landed a couple of key wins over the weekend, knocking off both Clemson and Louisville to remain one of just two undefeated teams left in the league, tied with Florida State for first place in the ACC. Notre Dame has been led by Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell all season long, but it was V.J. Beachem who went off for 22 points in the win over Clemson and Steve Vasturia who had 24 points, and the game-winning floater, to knock off Louisville.
  • North Carolina: After a solid win in overtime at Clemson during the week, the Tar Heels returned to Chapel Hill and humiliated N.C. State. The Wolfpack, riding hight off a 28-point win over Virginia Tech, lost by 51 points. UNC was up 26-4 in the blink of an eye, and it snowballed from there. The Tar Heels not only righted the ship after an ugly start to ACC play, but they beat their bitter rivals like they owed them money. Not a bad weekend.
  • Florida State: It’s time to start taking the Seminoles seriously as ACC contenders. Coming off of a win at Virginia where Dwayne Bacon scored 26 second half points, FSU responded by handling No. 21 Virginia Tech at home without much of an issue on a night where Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac all had relatively quiet nights.
  • Oregon: The Ducks struggled through the first six weeks of the season as they waited to get Dillon Brooks back to full strength. When he was back, we saw what this group could become, as they ended the undefeated seasons of both UCLA and USC. This past week, however, Brooks was a no-show. He struggled against Washington and was ejected against Washington State six minutes in, but it didn’t matter. Tyler Dorsey scored 28 points on Thursday and Chris Boucher had 29 points on Saturday as the Ducks won a pair of league road games by an average of 23 points.
  • Syracuse: And we all thought the Orange were dead in the water. Syracuse bounced back from a blowout loss at the hands of Boston College with their two best performances of the season, beating Miami by 15 and knocking off Pitt by 11. How? Jim Boeheim has figured out what his best five is and rides that lineup. He’s played just six guys the last two games, and Taurean Thompson has managed just 15 minutes combined.

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

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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

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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

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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.