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Luke Kennard bails out No. 17 Duke in win at Wake Forest

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Luke Kennard scored 30 of his 34 points in the second half as No. 17 Duke erased a late, 10-point deficit as they landed their first road win in ACC play, beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, 85-83.

“The pride we showed in wearing this name across our chest, it meant something today,” Kennard said in an interview after the game.

Kennard was quiet in the first 20 minutes, but he took over down the stretch, hitting a flurry of threes and thriving as the Duke their offense through the sophomore.

He made all ten of his shots in the second half.

One of those ten field goals was a three that he hit with 6.6 seconds left to give Duke their first lead since the under-12 time out in the first half.

The win gets the Blue Devils back to .500 in ACC play, and ends a skid where they had lost three out of four in league play.

Here are three things to take away from Duke’s win:

1. It’s time to turn this team over to Luke Kennard: We talked earlier in the week about how there is a power struggle amongst Duke’s ranks. What is this team’s identity? Who is the leader? Whose team is it?

The answer should be obvious today: Luke Kennard’s.

He put together one of the most impressive performances that you’ll see this season, hitting all ten of his shots and scoring 30 of his 34 points in the second half as the Blue Devils overcame a ten-point deficit in the final five minutes and a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes. He not only made the big shots, but he made the right play. Twice late in the half, when he was on fire, he drove the lane, drew the defense and kicked the ball out in what ended up being a wide-open three for a teammate.

It was masterful, and it saved Duke’s on Saturday, and maybe even saved their season.

2. Is this a low-point for Jayson Tatum?: Duke made a definitive choice to try and play more small-ball on Saturday, using Tatum at the four alongside three guards while Marques Bolden sacrificed minutes on the bench. And while it seemed to work early on, Tatum ended up playing his most disappointing game to day. He finished with just eight points on 2-for-6 shooting with three turnovers before fouling out with seven minutes left.

Part of his struggles had to do with the fact that he couldn’t stay on the floor – there’s something to be said for the officiating on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem, but I’m not going there – but even when he was on the floor he never seemed in the rhythm of the game. In a half where Kennard has clearly caught fire, there were at least two possessions where the ball stopped with Tatum and he tried to make a one-on-one move that resulted in a shot bouncing on the front of the rim.

Duke’s offense is at its best when the ball moves quickly and the myriad of quick guards on the roster attack close outs, draws defense and kicks the ball out. That ends when Tatum gets the rock, and it was very noticeable in the second half on Saturday.

3. Duke showed the kind of heart and fight that we haven’t seen from them in a while: They erased a pretty significant deficit late in the game, and it never felt like that was something that was going to happen, did it?

From midway through the first half, when it became clear that Duke was never going to be getting a friendly whistle, it seemed like this was destined to be one of those nights where the Blue Devils couldn’t do enough to win. They’d keep shooting themselves in the foot with bad fouls, quick shots and missed box outs until they left with a close, frustrating road loss.

Only, that’s not how it played out.

Duke has Kennard to thank for that.

So, again, maybe it’s time to give him the reins?

4. Marques Bolden got benched for Antonio Vrankovic: If you’re saying ‘Who?’, that’s the point.

Duke went small in this game. It was clear they wanted to see what this team looked like with Tatum at the four, and that meant that Harry Giles III and Amile Jefferson were going to be splitting minutes at the five. Bolden played a few minutes here and there as Giles and Jefferson picked up fouls, but in the second half, it was the seldom-used Vrankovic that interim head coach Jeff Capel turned to.

#TheNightcap is back. Come chat college hoops as we talk Duke Men's Basketball's come back, Kansas Men's Basketball's win over the Kentucky Wildcats and the rest of a wild Saturday and I enjoy a cold Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Union Jack.

Posted by Rob Dauster on Saturday, January 28, 2017

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

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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.