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When is it time to talk about whether Wichita State is the best team in college basketball?


There is going to come a point in time where we, as college basketball fans and members of the college basketball media, need to sit down and have a real discussion about whether or not Wichita State is the best team in college basketball.

On Friday night, in a season-opening win over UMKC, the No. 6 Shockers barely broke a sweat. They were up 15 points before you could blink. The lead was 30 by the last TV timeout of the first half and, come the break, the Shockers were up by 39 points.

But UMKC isn’t much to write home about.

We’re not looking at them as a potential league champ and NCAA tournament team.

That is, however, how we’re looking at the College of Charleston, who Wichita State eviscerated on Monday evening in the Koch Center. The Cougars managed all of 11 points in the first 13 minutes on Monday, they found themselves down by 25 points at halftime and, with about 18 minutes left in the game, Gregg Marshall mercifully called off the dogs with his team up 56-24.

Charleston was a top 100 team on KenPom a season ago. They finished second to a very good UNC Wilmington in the CAA, losing to those same Seahawks in the CAA tournament title game. They return everyone of consequence from that group, including Joe Chealey, and are widely considered to be one of the best mid-major teams in the country this season. Not only are they good and experienced, but they’re coached by a rising star in this business – Earl Grant – who just so happens to be a Marshall disciple; he spent six seasons on Marshall’s staff, three at Winthrop and three at Wichita State.

And he was totally, utterly embarrassed by his former boss.

This is a Wichita State team that is still playing without Markis McDuffie, the second-best player on the roster, and has yet to really get Landry Shamet going, the best player on their roster. Through two games, their front line of Shaq Morris, Darral Willis Jr. and Rauno Nurger has looked absolutely unbeatable, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that the Shockers may just be the toughest defensive team in the country.

There is no question that this team is one of the nation’s best, a Final Four contender and probably the favorite to win the AAC title.

And while this may alienate the Shocker fan base, I still think that we need to wait and see on Wichita State, at the very least until they actually beat another team that is close to their level. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, which is basically the post-Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet Shockers, these are their five best wins: Dayton on a neutral, Illinois State on a neutral, Illinois State at home, Oklahoma on a semi-neutral and … Tulsa? LSU? Colorado State on the road?

We know that Wichita State is “for real”. I don’t even think Gregg Marshall’s worst enemy would be able to say anything else.

But before we can definitively say that this team is better than, say, Duke or Michigan State, Arizona or Kansas, even Villanova or Cincinnati, they need to collect the wins to back that up. That should happen next week, when the Shockers travel to Hawai’i for the Maui Invitational.

Win that tournament and we can reassess.

And until then, we can still talk about the one thing that anyone who watched Wichita State play this season is thinking: That the Shockers could very well be college basketball’s best.

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.