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Huggins: ‘Press Virginia’ may not get used all the time

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia opponents, take note. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins isn’t sure whether his tenacious pressure defense will be on full display this season.

The Mountaineers’ depleted roster might be unable to harass opposing offenses for an entire 40 minutes without wearing down. So Huggins is going to pick and choose his battles.

Oh, Press Virginia is still going to happen. Maybe just not as often.

“We might be better served to do something else,” Huggins said. “We’re going to keep doing it and see.

“I’m more convinced we can’t than we can right now. We kind of play so hard.”

In reaching the NCAA Tournament’s regional semifinals last season, West Virginia led the nation with 10 steals and 20 forced turnovers forced per game, and in turnover margin at 7.7 per game.

Besides the loss to graduation of top rebounder Nathan Adrian and top bench scorer Tarik Phillip, junior forward Esa Ahmad has been ruled ineligible for the first half of the season after failing to meet NCAA requirements. In May, forward Elijah Macon said he wouldn’t return for his final season to pursue a pro basketball career. And Huggins said freshman forward Brandon Knapper won’t play this season after undergoing knee surgery.

That leaves just 11 other players on the roster , and only four who averaged more than 10 minutes per game. Besides Ahmad, the other forwards have a combined one start.

“Our five inside guys are all sophomores,” Huggins said. “Somehow we’ve got to get a couple of them anyways a little ahead of the curve.”

Shouldering much of the load will be senior guard Jevon Carter, the team’s top returning scorer at 13.5 points per game and the reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year after leading the league in steals.

Carter is more confident than Huggins is in maintaining the Mountaineers’ pressure defense.

“I think the press is going to be as effective as it’s been,” Carter said.


Some other things to know about West Virginia as it goes after a ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in Huggins’ 11 seasons:

DO-IT-ALL CARTER: Carter said there’s little he hasn’t worked on in the offseason. He put a lot of attention on his defense and finishing plays around the rim. “We’re young, got a lot of new guys,” Carter said. “We definitely need my leadership, now more than ever.”

Carter and backcourt mate Daxter Miles Jr. are the only seniors on the roster.

“JC’s playing at a really, really high level right now,” Huggins said. “I think his ball skills are much, much better.”

VETERAN HELP: Guard James “Beetle” Bolden and forward Lamont West showed scoring bursts a year ago. Bolden had a career-high 17 points in 10 minutes against Oklahoma and eight points in five minutes at Iowa State. West scored in double figures seven times, including a career-high 23 points against Texas ..

NEWCOMERS: Huggins said he is happy in general so far with a pair of junior college transfers, 6-8 Wesley Harris and 6-6 D’Angelo Hunter. The coach said 6-5 freshman Teddy Allen has some toughness and might be the most improved player in practice.

KONATE A SCORER?: Forward Sagaba Konate was fourth in the Big 12 with 53 blocked shots, a school record for a freshman. Huggins said Konate has worked hard on his jump shot enough that the coach plans to run some offensive plays with him. “He’s playing with so much confidence,” Huggins said.

NONCONFERENCE TESTS: The Mountaineers open the season Nov. 10 against Texas A&M in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. Huggins said he likes the exposure the game will bring and its location on a U.S. air base. “To play before our troops is a no-brainer,” he said. West Virginia also will also play Virginia (Dec. 5) and Kentucky (Jan. 27) at home and renew its Backyard Brawl rivalry at Pittsburgh on Dec. 9.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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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

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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.