Getty Images

Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the best day of hoops to date

Leave a comment

SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

*(NOTE: Lines are not posted for Saturday or Sunday games as of publication. Spreads referenced are via Kenpom.com)

No. 3 PURDUE at No. 4 MICHIGAN STATE (-1), Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

The game of the weekend, and one of the games that I have been looking forward to the most this season. Coming off of a home loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night, one where the Boilermakers blew a 14-point second half lead, Purdue will have to turn around and make the trip to the Breslin Center to take on a Michigan State team that could very well have the size inside needed to slow down Isaac Haas. And if you can slow down Isaac Haas without having to double-team him, then you can slow down what has become an uber-efficient offensive machine for Purdue. The key for Michigan State might simply be avoiding foul trouble and turnover, although with this group that is easier said than done.

  • PREDICTION: I think Michigan State gets it done at home. Michigan State (-1)

No. 5 XAVIER at CREIGHTON (-2), Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

The Musketeers have been really good this season, but they have also had a couple of games where they struggled to put away teams that they probably should not struggle with. Creighton has been up and down after losing their starting center, but they do have the two most underrated players in the league in Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. This game might come down to whether or not Thomas can slow down Trevon Bluiett in front of 18,000 people in Omaha.

  • PREDICTION: Like Michigan State, I think that Creighton gets this done at home. The Bluejays are not an easy team to beat in that building. Creighton (-2)

BUTLER at No. 1 VILLANOVA (-11), Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

Butler has beaten Villanova the last three times that they have played with Villanova, who is expected to be without Phil Booth and Eric Paschall on Saturday, is coming off of a home loss to St. John’s. Frankly, I think that the Wildcats will get this thing done — betting against Jalen Brunson to win a game coming off of a loss is silly, and the Wildcats had an outlier shooting performance on Wednesday — but 11 is a lot of points for a team that is missing a third of its six-man rotation.

  • PREDICTION: I don’t think the line will be 11. But if it is, this is easy. Butler (+11)

No. 24 KENTUCKY at TEXAS A&M (-4), Sat. 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Is Texas A&M actually back? I think that they are after winning at Auburn. I also do not think all that much of Kentucky this season, not when they are playing an Aggie team that excels at all of the things that Kentucky, in theory, should excel at.

  • PREDICTION: I think that A&M has a point to prove in this game and that they will prove it. Texas A&M (-4)

No. 12 GONZAGA at No. 11 SAINT MARY’S (-2), Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

If Gonzaga wins, the safe bet is probably that the WCC is going to end up being a tie for first place. If the Gaels win, they will win the regular season title outright for the first time since 2011. There is nothing better than capping off a wild Saturday with a late-night battle between these two rivals.

  • PREDICTION: Until you can prove to me that Gonzaga can slow down Jock Landale, I am riding with Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s (-2)

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO WATCH?

So much.

Saturday might be the best day of basketball we get this season. Not only are there the big games, but EIGHT ranked teams play on the road against unranked teams. It is going to get wild. Here are the games you need to know about:

  • No. 10 KANSAS (-1) at BAYLOR, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (CBS): Kansas seems to play better away from home, but Baylor always gives them a fight. Kansas (-1)
  • No. 17 OKLAHOMA (-5) at IOWA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN): Who on Iowa State can slow down Trae Young? Oklahoma (-5)
  • No. 21 NORTH CAROLINA (-4) at N.C. STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ACC Net): North Carolina has already lost to N.C. State, they will be 42 hours removed from a win over Duke at tip-off and Joel Berry II riled everyone up by saying this isn’t a rivalry. N.C. State (+4)
  • No. 8 AUBURN at GEORGIA, Sat. 3:30 p.m. (SEC Net): Georgia badly needs this win, and Auburn will be without leading scorer Bryce Brown, but I like the Tigers to bounce back after losing to A&M midweek. Auburn (-5)
  • No. 15 TENNESSEE (-4) at ALABAMA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (SEC Net): This is a tough line, and when it’s a tough line, go with the home team. Alabama (+4)
  • No. 7 TEXAS TECH (-2) at KANSAS STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU): I think that the Red Raiders have found their groove and figured out how to play without Zach Smith. Texas Tech (-2)
  • USC at No. 13 ARIZONA (-6), Sat. 10:15 p.m.: First place in the Pac-12 will be on the line on Saturday. USC gives the Wildcats a fight. USC (+6)
  • No. 6 CINCINNATI (-5) at SMU, Sun. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): Will Shake Milton be back? If he is, I like SMU plus the points. If not, good luck breaking 50 points against this Cincinnati defense.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
4 Comments

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
4 Comments

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.