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No. 2 MSU tops Minnesota 87-57 with 27 points from Jackson

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jaren Jackson Jr. scored a career-high 27 points on 10-for-14 shooting for second-ranked Michigan State, and the Spartans cruised to their ninth consecutive victory by beating Minnesota 87-57 on Tuesday night.

The Spartans (25-3, 13-2) notched their best 28-game record under coach Tom Izzo and pulled within a half-game of first-place Ohio State in the Big Ten despite just five points in 25 minutes from star Miles Bridges.

Nick Ward had 13 points and nine rebounds and Cassius Winston pitched in 12 points for the Spartans, who made their first six 3-point attempts and finished 14 for 22 from behind the arc.

Isaiah Washington scored 18 points and Jordan Murphy added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Gophers (14-14, 3-12), who lost their eighth straight game.

When the Big Ten schedule was finalized over the summer, this game looked like one of the marquee matchups that would help shape the conference race. That was before Minnesota fell apart in early January, bulldozed by the sudden absence of senior center Reggie Lynch amid allegations of sexual assault against him.

Any long shot the Gophers had of shocking the Spartans was lessened significantly when starters Amir Coffey (shoulder) and Dupree McBrayer (shin) were again held out of the lineup. Coffey has missed 10 of the last 12 games. McBrayer, after playing through the pain for several weeks, sat out for the second straight time.

Then whatever mystery about the outcome that might have still lingered at tipoff was erased by Michigan State’s long-range shooting. Winston swished the first three 3s, Jackson knocked down the next two, and Bridges hit one, his only made field goal of the first half, to build an 18-6 lead in less than five minutes.

There’s much more to the Spartans than a bunch of outside shooters, though.

Ward made his burly presence felt with a jarring screen to the shoulder that made Gophers point guard Nate Mason wince in pain on the bench after being subbed out. He contributed a three-point play after converting a power layup and then threw down a dunk on the next possession. Jackson, the only freshman in the otherwise-all-sophomore starting lineup, added three blocked shots to his Big Ten-leading total.

The Spartans, who won their previous three games by three points each, had a 49-23 rebounding advantage. They padded their 18-point average victory margin, third in the country entering the night, with a dominant performance from start to finish.

BACK TO THE BARN

Last season at Minnesota, the Spartans rallied for a 75-74 overtime victory. They beat the Gophers 69-61 here on Jan. 2, 2016, the only other visit they’ve made to Williams Arena during coach Richard Pitino’s five-year guidance of the program. Izzo’s first experience on the raised floor actually came more than four decades ago, when his Northern Michigan team lost at Minnesota in 1974 and 1976.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: The Spartans are built for a long run in the NCAA Tournament, with an eighth Final Four appearance and even a second national championship for Izzo well within reach during a season played in front of a backdrop of past sexual assault allegations that arose against the program. The conference title is the goal for now, and the Spartans have a favorable finish with two of their last three opponents in the bottom five of the Big Ten. Ohio State, which plays at Penn State on Thursday, still has trips to Michigan and Indiana.

Minnesota: The Gophers have tumbled so hard since they were ranked 14th in The Associated Press poll the week of Dec. 4 that they’re essentially out of consideration for an NIT bid now too. With Bakary Konate at center and Washington at shooting guard, this was their 11th different starting lineup of the season.

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.