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No. 7 Texas Tech beats No. 23 Oklahoma to remain atop Big 12

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Tuesday’s matchup between No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas Tech was a showdown of two of the top guards not only in the Big 12 but in all of college basketball, with freshman Trae Young facing off against senior Kennan Evans.

Evans won the duel, but it was a collective effort that saw Chris Beard’s Red Raiders move one step closer to their first conference regular season title since its first the 1995-96 season with an 88-78 win.

How long has it been since Texas Tech last won a regular season conference title?

The Big 12 had yet to begin play. The Red Raiders won the last Southwest Conference title before the merger with the Big 8.

Not only did Evans outscore Young, finishing with 26 to the freshman’s 19, but he also produced in a much more efficient manner. Evans shot 9-for-15 from the field, and while he finished the game with just two assists, the senior only turned the ball over once. Young’s night was much more difficult, as he shot just 4-for-16 from the field and missed all nine of his three-point attempts.

If not for his going 11-for-11 from the foul line, Young’s night — and that of the Sooners by extension — could have been even worse. The freshman did manage to dish out seven assists, but his struggles from deep contributed to the Sooners shooting just 7-for-22 from beyond the arc. Texas Tech shot 11-for-21 from three, shooting much better than it has throughout the course of the season (35.1 percent 3PT).

Young’s in the midst of a brutal shooting slump from three. He’s just 7-for-41 over the last four games and has now missed 16 in a row. Giving the freshman the freedom to make plays is critical for Oklahoma, but if he’s off it puts the Sooners in a tough spot. Against Texas Tech, others did step forward, most notably Christian James who scored a team-high 23 points, but it still wasn’t enough.

There’s certainly talent on Lon Kruger’s roster, and they’ll hopefully see Kristian Doolittle get into some kind of a groove down the stretch as he works his way back after missing the first semester.

But as Trae Young goes so go the Sooners, and it’s no coincidence that the team’s four-game skid has coincided with him going cold from three.

While the production of Evans and Young had a significant impact on the outcome, the overriding factor was Texas Tech’s approach on both ends of the floor. For much of the night Chris Beard’s team was patient offensively, working for the shots it wanted to take as opposed to allowing Oklahoma’s defense to dictate what they would do. Defensively they got after the Sooners, using a solid man-to-man for much of the night with a trap once the freshman crossed half-court to get the ball out of Young’s hands down the stretch mixed in for good measure.

That’s been the way the Red Raiders have played throughout the season. Texas Tech knows who it is and what is the most effective way to attack opponents, and rarely have they deviated from the identity that they’ve developed. There’s certainly experience on the roster, led by Evans with the likes of Niem Stevenson, Norense Odiase and Tommy Hamilton IV not lacking for it either.

But there’s also freshmen Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver, who are both averaging in double figures for the season. Against Oklahoma, Smith (13 points, four rebounds, three assists) and Culver (seven points, three assists) combined to score 20 points and dish out six assists with the former extending his streak of double-digit scoring performances to four games. While Keenan Evans’ mastery has been a key factor in Texas Tech’s run to the top of the Big 12 standings, he hasn’t lacked for help either.

With games to be played against Baylor and Oklahoma State, two teams looking to strengthen their respective NCAA tournament arguments, before the February 24 showdown with Kansas, it’s imperative that Texas Tech remain focused on the task at hand.

But if their play over the last seven games — and for much of the season overall — is any indication, sticking with what’s gotten them to this point won’t be a concern for the Red Raiders.

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.