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Georgia Tech knocks off No. 15 Miami

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The start of ACC play appeared to be a manageable one for No. 15 Miami, as the Hurricanes opened with games at Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. However, after handling the Panthers on Saturday the Hurricanes ran into trouble in Atlanta. The combination of Josh Okogie and the Yellow Jackets throwing out multiple looks defensively proved to be too much for Miami, which fell by the final score of 64-54.

Here are some thoughts on Georgia Tech’s surprising win over Miami, and what it potentially means for both teams moving forward.

1. Improved health makes big difference for Georgia Tech.

There’s no sugar-coating it: the Yellow Jackets did not play well for much of non-conference play. And while there’s no excuse for some of the losses Josh Pastner’s team took, this is a group that also had to navigate suspensions and injuries. Two of the team’s key players, Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers, struggled with injuries during non-conference play while Okogie also had to miss time due to an NCAA rules violation.

Both played pivotal roles in Wednesday’s win, with Okogie scoring a game-high 30 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and Lammers adding eight points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Lammers was just 3-for-11 from the field and Okogie needed 23 shots to get his 30, but in a game that lacked rhythm (to Georgia Tech’s benefit) both were good enough.

Georgia Tech will have to “muddy” things up some to be successful in ACC play, especially given the fact that it’s operating with a six-man rotation right now. Wednesday night that approach worked.

2. Miami settled for jump shots far too often, struggling with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks.

Despite the number of guards capable of making plays off the dribble on the roster, the Hurricanes haven’t been all too good at getting to the foul line this season. Miami entered Wednesday’s game with a free throw rate of 27.3, which ranked 304th nationally according to kenpom.com, and they were even worse in that regard against Georgia Tech. Miami posted a free throw rate of 19.6, attempting just 11 free throws on the night.

Far too often Miami settled for pull-up jumpers, being it from thee (4-for-19) or in the mid-range game. Bruce Brown finished the game 4-for-12, Chris Lykes 2-for-10, Ja’Quan Newton 3-for-7 and Lonnie Walker IV 3-for-8 as Miami struggled with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks. The Yellow Jackets used man-to-man at some points, a 1-3-1 at others, which impacted the tempo at which the game was played.

3. Jose Alvarado will have better nights, but he did some good things as well.

For a point guard to have seven turnovers in a game, one would think that his team would wind up on the losing end. Luckily for Georgia Tech freshman Jose Alvarado, who turned the ball over seven times, he had help in the form of Okogie, Lammers and a team defensive effort that forced 18 Miami turnovers. The turnover count for the freshman wasn’t optimal, but he also accounted for 12 points, three steals and two blocked shots.

One of those blocks came on a Lykes three-point attempt with 1:46 remaining that could have trimmed the margin to five points. Instead, Alvarado’s subsequent layup extended the Georgia Tech lead to ten. Miami would get no closer than seven from that point forward. Alvarado, who continues to learn what it takes to play the point at a high level, has now reached double figures in scoring in four of the last five games. If he can keep the turnover count down (he had just one against Notre Dame) Alvarado should be able to have an even greater impact on a team that will need him to do so.

4. Miami now enters a difficult three-game stretch that will have a major impact on its ACC hopes.

Why was taking care of business against Pitt and Georgia Tech so important? Because Miami’s next three league games are against No. 24 Florida State, No. 25 Clemson and No. 2 Duke. The good news is that the Florida State and Duke games will be in Coral Gables, but none of those games will be gimmes by any stretch of the imagination. Florida State has the athleticism and balance to give Miami trouble on both ends of the floor, and thanks to its improvements across the board Clemson is more of a threat than anyone imagined them being before the season began. Lastly there’s Duke, one of the team on the shortlist of surefire national title contenders in the eyes of many.

Those games represent challenges for Miami, but they’re opportunities as well. And for the Hurricanes to take advantage, they’ll need to be far more efficient offensively than they were Wednesday night in Atlanta.

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

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.