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Thursday NCAA Tournament Recap: What a wild, wild day of basketball

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Rob Gray.

The Houston star scored a career-high 39 points, including a game-winning bucket with just 1.1 seconds left on the clock, as the Cougars advanced past San Diego State to take on Michigan in the second round of the tournament. Gray’s performance — and the shot that he hit to cap it — will go down as one of the great individual games of the NCAA tournament this decade.

 

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, hitting all six of his field goals and his free throws as the No. 3 seed Red Raiders survived Stephen F. Austin.
  • DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas: No. 16 seed Penn looked like they were going to give Kansas a fight … until Graham took over. He finished with 29 points, six boards and six assists in the 76-60 win.
  • KEVIN KNOX and SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: The Wildcats needed them to go off, and they did. Knox went for 25 points and SGA added 19 points, eight boards, seven assists and five steals.
  • TREVON DUVAL, Duke: A lot of Dukies played well against No. 15 seed Iona, but Duval’s performance might matter the most. He had 19 points and eight assists and hit four threes.
  • LAMONTE TURNER, Tennessee: The No. 3 seed Vols weren’t really tested by No. 14 Wright State, and that had a lot to do with Turner’s 19 points and nine assists.

TEAM OF THE DAY

The No. 13 seed Buffalo Bulls beat the breaks off of No. 4 seed Arizona. They won 89-68. They put in their walk-ons at the end of the game. They embarrassed the preseason No. 2 team in the country. And all this was the first NCAA tournament win the program’s ever had.

Not a bad day for Nate Oats.

GAME OF THE DAY

The first game of the day was an absolute thriller, as Rhode Island knocked off Oklahoma and Trae Young in overtime in a game that very nearly featured a game-winning, buzzer-beating tip-in.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Shoutout to Donte Ingram, because he made this shot to kick off what turned into an incredible, exciting day of basketball:

 

WTF???? OF THE DAY

Radford head coach Mike Jones channelled his inner-Marshawn Lynch after losing to Villanova:

 

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

Three Ohio State players went for 20 points as the No. 5 Buckeyes knocked off No. 12 seed South Dakota State in a fun game that saw 71 threes.

Khadeen Carrington went for 26 points as No. 8 Seton Hall advanced past No. 9 N.C. State.

Zach Norvell hit a three with less than a minute left to break a tie as No. 4 Gonzaga knocked off No. 13 UNC Greensboro.

No. 1 seed Villanova advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a dominant win over No. 16 Radford.

Collin Sexton had 25 points and six assists in a win over No. 9 Alabama and No. 8 Virginia Tech.

Good Florida showed up on Thursday night. The No. 6-seed Gators smoked No. 11 St. Bonaventure.

There was nothing good about No. 3 Michigan‘s win over No. 14 Montanaexcept for the fact that Michigan won.

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.