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Trae Young, Oklahoma upset No. 3 Wichita State on the road

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Sooner or later, Oklahoma was going to make you take them seriously.

It happened on Saturday, as the Sooners went into Intrust Bank Arena and landed an upset over No. 3 Wichita State, 91-83, in one of the toughest arenas to get a win in college basketball.

Trae Young led the way with 28 points and ten assists for Oklahoma, who improved to 8-1 on the season with the win. Brady Manek added 21 points while Christian James and Kameron McGusty both chipped in with 13 points.

Here are three things to take away from this dominating performance:

1. Trae Young is the best player in college basketball

There is no other way to look at it right now.

With all due respect to the likes of Marvin Bagley III, and Deandre Ayton, and Jordan Murphy, and Trevon Bluiett, and whoever else you want to put into that conversation, it’s Young. We had him ranked as the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award in this week’s rankings, and that was before he went into Wichita and put up 29 points and 10 assists – including 21 points and seven assists in the first half as the Sooners jumped out to a 54-39 lead – on the No. 3 team in college basketball.

Prior to today, there was reason for someone – not me, but someone – to question whether or not that was true, and it mostly had to do with the difficulty of the schedule that Oklahoma had played. Oklahoma lost to Arkansas. Beating Oregon doesn’t appear to be all that impressive. Even going to Los Angeles and knocking off USC in the Staples Center might not be all that great of a win.

But after this?

After eviscerating Wichita State for 20 minutes on their own floor?

There is nothing you can say otherwise. He’s not physically imposing, but the way that Young can impact every single thing the Sooners do on the offensive end of the floor cannot be overlooked. He’s done to Oklahoma’s offense what Lonzo Ball did to UCLA’s last season. They are different players – Young dominates possession much more than Lonzo did – but the effect they have on their team is the same.

That’s how good Young has been this season.

2. We have to start talking about Oklahoma as a factor in the Big 12 race

A lot of that has to do with Young and how good he has been, but it shouldn’t be overlooked just how effective some of Oklahoma’s other pieces are.

Let’s start with Brady Manek, who has been terrific in Oklahoma’s last two wins. He had 21 points and hit five threes against Wichita State. Jamuni McNeace had 10 boards and four blocks on Saturday – including a pair of blocks where he flat-out snatched the ball out of midair – and he’s the second-best big man on the Sooners behind Khadeen Lattin, who started on Oklahoma’s Final Four team. Christian James and Kameron McGusty have been effective on the wings as well.

That’s essentially what this Oklahoma team is.¬†Trae Young and a bunch of role players that Young makes better.

Kansas is going to be the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title as long as they are a member of the Big 12. That much is simple. But in a year where there is no clear-cut No. 2 team in the conference – and in a season where Kansas has no depth and no size – the Sooners are in the mix as much as anyone.

 

3. Wichita State’s defensive woes are a major, major concern

Wichita State game up 54 first-half points to Oklahoma on Saturday, which would be surprising if the Shockers hadn’t just given up 50 first half points to South Dakota State two weeks ago.

The default for Wichita State is to assume that Gregg Marshall has one of college basketball’s stingiest defenses. That simple fact is a major reason why I wrote a column earlier this season asking if the Shockers were the best team in the country this season. They would be able to work through some of their issues offensively and some of the growing pains heading into a larger conference because of the floor their defense allowed them.

And rest assured, the Shockers are still pretty good on that end of the floor.

But they’ve not been among the elite this season. Currently, they rank 19th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. The last time they ranked that low was in 2013 … when they reached the Final Four.

So all hope is not lost, but the safest bet in college basketball is that practice for the Shockers is not going to be enjoyable until Marshall sees a marked improvement.

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.