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Colson’s return lifts Irish over Pitt 73-56

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — With Bonzie Colson back in his lineup and No. 1 Virginia awaiting his team Saturday, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was having visions of a possible NCAA Tournament berth after Wednesday’s 73-56 victory over Pittsburgh on Senior Night.

A preseason Associated Press All-America pick, Colson, who missed two months with a broken bone in his left foot that had to be surgically repaired, played 21 minutes and almost had a double-double. He finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, as the Irish (18-12, 8-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their second straight and fifth in their last seven games.

“We’re 8-9 in this league,” Brey said after earning his 400th career victory at Notre Dame. “I’m proud of this group and what they have done. Saturday we have an unbelievable opportunity against a great team. Having him (Colson) back adds so much confidence and energy. Those guys missed him, they missed his edge and confidence.”

Matt Farrell, playing for the last time at Notre Dame, and T.J. Gibbs led the Irish with 14 points each, and senior Martinas Geben had nine points and 13 rebounds as the Irish won the rebound battle 51-35.

Colson played 21 minutes and scored his 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting. He also added three blocks and an assist as the crowd saluted him with chants of “Bonzie, Bonzie” during his last home game.

“I just wanted to play my game, to play with passion and to stay in character,” Colson said.

Jared Wilson-Frame had a game-high 20 points and Terrell Brown and Shamiel Stevenson had 10 each for Pittsburgh (8-23, 0-18), which concluded its regular season with its 18th straight defeat in ACC play.

“I admire them because they haven’t stopped battling and haven’t stopped trying,” Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings said. He also believes the Irish, who went 6-9 with seven straight losses without Colson, may be able to open some eyes on the NCAA selection committee if they can give Virginia a scare and make a nice run at next week’s ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

“They’re one of the best at-large teams in the country,” Stallings said. “I hope they have enough ball left in them and the committee can see the difference in them. Colson is one of the best players in our league when he is right and ready.”

Colson played the first 6:45 before taking a breather with the Irish ahead 12-11. Notre Dame opened a 27-13 lead with seven minutes remaining on back-to-back 3-pointers by Farrell and Gibbs before settling for a 39-23 halftime lead. Colson’s layup early in the second half made it 45-23 and the Irish cruised from there.

“We’ve been through more adversity than anybody in the country,” said Farrell, who missed some time after Colson’s injury with a sprained left ankle himself. “It’s going to be fun. We like being the road dogs.”

BIG PICTURE

Pittsburgh: The Panthers, who had clinched last place in the 15-school ACC and will play the No. 10 seed in next week’s tournament in Brooklyn, started four freshmen — Parker Stewart, Khameron Davis, Brown and Stevenson — with senior guard Jonathan Milligan. The Panthers have not won since beating Towson before Christmas. The coaching status of Stallings, in his second year at Pitt and with four years remaining on his contract, is rumored to be very tenuous. Davis, Stewart, Stevenson and Marcus Carr and junior Wilson-Frame were named to the ACC’s all-academic team.

“To have five guys (a league best) on the all-academic team is outstanding,” Stallings said.

Notre Dame: Colson started and played to the first media break 6:45 into the contest. He got the first rebound of the game and had the second rebound stripped from him before diving for the loose ball. He scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting, had six rebounds, one assist and two blocks in playing 12 minutes in the first half. His presence could help the Irish in next week’s ACC Tournament and whatever tournament — NCAA or NIT — that takes the team.

“Our confidence is high right now,” Colson said. “We’ve just got to keep building.”

EMOTIONAL SENDOFF

In addition to Colson, Notre Dame said goodbye to three other seniors and other non-playing personnel. Geben was in tears and sang along to the national ballad of his native Lithuania before Colson’s sister, Syndi, performed the national anthem. When she was done, Colson broke ranks and ran to her for a lengthy, tearful hug. After the game, Farrell left with his parents to return to New Jersey for the burial of his grandfather, Robert, a 1958 Notre Dame graduate. The elder Farrell died from cancer early Sunday after watching his grandson score his 1,000th career point and hit a closing 3-pointer Saturday in a 76-71 victory at Wake Forest.

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.