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Saturday Recap: Deandre Ayton leads Arizona to Pac-12 title; Villanova, Virginia, Kansas win titles

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

The talk of college basketball on Saturday night centered around the play of Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton. The big man dominated the Pac-12 Tournament for the second consecutive night as Ayton finished with 32 points and 18 rebounds in a championship game win over USC.

A night after putting 32 and 14 on UCLA in a win, Ayton was just as ridiculous on Saturday as he went 14-for-20 from the field and scored on a number of high-level shots. Putting up his 23rd double-double of the season — tying him with Kevin Love for the Pac-12 freshman record — Ayton appears to be peaking at the right time as Arizona looks like a really dangerous team entering the 2018 NCAA tournament.

RELATED: All of Saturday’s Bubble Banter in one place

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: The NBCSports.com Player of the Year poured in 31 points as the Wildcats claimed an overtime victory over Providence for the Big East Tournament title. Brunson also finished with six rebounds and four assists.
  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Earning its biggest win of the season, Houston is headed to the AAC Tournament finals behind Gray’s 33 points in a win over Wichita State. Gray had a key steal and assist down the stretch as he was also 13-for-15 from the free-throw line.
  • TREY KELL, San Diego StatePumping in a game-high 28 points, the senior made numerous clutch shots down the stretch to help San Diego State secure another NCAA tournament bid in the Mountain West with a win over New Mexico. Battling injuries throughout the season, Kell picked a great time to have his best game of the year.
  • JON ELMORE, Marshall: The Thundering Herd are headed to the Big Dance for the first time in 31 years thanks to Elmore’s monster second half. The junior guard had 20 of his 27 points in the second half to lead Marshall to victory over Western Kentucky.

TEAM OF THE DAY

By claiming the ACC Tournament title over North Carolina, Virginia staked a firm claim as the No. 1 team in college basketball entering the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

In a year full of parity in the sport, the Cavaliers dominated the ACC throughout this season as they claimed the regular-season title and the conference tournament title. But can Virginia carry the momentum of that No. 1 status into a Final Four appearance?

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on Virginia here.

GAME OF THE DAY

The America East Tournament title game has become an underrated treasure in college hoops thanks to its early Saturday start time the day before Selection Sunday.

Saturday’s contest didn’t disappoint.

Jairus Lyles knocked in the game-winning three-pointer to lift UMBC to a road win over Vermont for the America East autobid. A tight back-and-forth game throughout, this game only adds to the legend of the America East title game as this will be a hard act to follow for next season.

WTF???? OF THE DAY

Providence head coach Ed Cooley got so animated on the sidelines during the Big East Tournament title game that he split his suit pants.

This resulted in Cooley having to wear towels around his waist to coach the rest of the game in an overtime loss to Villanova.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Without starting big man Udoka Azubuike, Kansas was still able to outlast the field and claim the Big 12 Tournament title. The Jayhawks took down West Virginia in the finale as Malik Newman paced Kansas with 20 points.

Tennessee and Kentucky will meet for the SEC title on Sunday after the two teams earned blowout wins over Arkansas and Alabama.

Cincinnati will face Houston for the AAC title on Sunday after the Bearcats rallied to take down Memphis.

The Atlantic 10 title game will feature Rhode Island battling Davidson for the autobid. The Rams were able to outlast Saint Joseph’s for a three-point win while the Wildcats kept their NCAA tournament hopes alive with a win against St. Bonaventure.

Autobids were decided in a number of leagues on Saturday. North Carolina Central claimed the MEAC, Texas Southern won the SWAC, Montana won the Big Sky, Stephen F. Austin reclaimed the Southland, New Mexico State is back representing the WAC and Marshall is back in the field for the first time in 31 years by winning Conference USA.

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.