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Three Takeaways from No. 10 Michigan State’s win over No. 18 Iowa

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The Big Ten’s early portion of the conference schedule continued on Monday night as Michigan State hosted Iowa in the evening’s most competitive contest. Although the Hawkeyes have looked like a potentially resurgent bunch this season as the No. 18 team in the country, it was No. 10 Michigan State who dominated this one with a 90-68 win.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Michigan State can still beat solid competition with an off-night from Joshua Langford

When the Spartans want to be in the conversation with the best teams in America, it is usually because junior guard Joshua Langford is playing at a high level. Earlier this season, Langford was our CBT Player of the Week after a dominant stretch against Texas.

Then Langford wasn’t the same against Louisville when Michigan State suffered an upset road loss last week. So monitoring which version of Langford might show up against a top-20 team like Iowa was something to keep an eye on.

Thankfully for Michigan State, Langford wasn’t at his best (14 points, 5-for-13 shooting) but the Spartans still had a blowout win over a likely NCAA tournament team. Relying on physicality, toughness and rugged interior play, Michigan State did a great job of playing through junior big man Nick Ward (26 points, nine rebounds, 10-for-10 shooting) and sophomore reserve big man Xavier Tillman (14 points, eight rebounds) while senior forward Kenny Goins (19 points, 14 rebounds) had a monster outing doing more cleanup work.

The combination of Ward, Goins and Tillman were able to do whatever they wanted thanks to their physicality and a solid effort from junior point guard Cassius Winston (eight points, 12 assists) and his dribble penetration. Michigan State is still going to need Langford to play at a high level if they want to make a Final Four run later this season. But at least they can take comfort in knowing that they can win in other ways if other parts step up.

2. Iowa’s concerns about defense and toughness are back

Iowa’s defense and ability to play tough were the major question marks for them entering this season. Everyone knew the Hawkeyes would be able to put up points. But could Fran McCaffery’s team step up and get more stops to compete with the Big Ten’s best?

Based on Monday night’s results in East Lansing, things aren’t looking very good at the moment for Iowa’s interior defense. While the Hawkeyes deserve some credit for early-season wins over Oregon and UConn in New York, it’s clear that a familiar Big Ten opponent like Michigan State still felt they could exploit the Hawkeyes severely on the interior.

Iowa looked completely helpless trying to stop bruising big men like Ward and Tillman. Goins had more energy than anyone on the glass. The physicality of Michigan State in general seemed to bother the Hawkeyes quite a bit. Iowa only shot 31 percent (21-for-64) from the field as they struggled to get a consistent go-to scorer until the game was well out of reach. Big men like Tyler Cook (15 points) and Luka Garza (seven points, 1-for-10 shooting) were outplayed by their Michigan State counterparts.

Now off to an 0-2 start in conference play, Iowa quickly needs to rectify its defensive issues inside or risk having a lot of trouble competing in the Big Ten this season. The talent is more than there for Iowa to run with any team in the conference but Monday night was not a great sign.

3. Michigan State’s role players are getting more comfortable

We knew that the Spartans would rely on the junior trio of Ward, Winston and Langford for much of their offensive production this season. While that will remain the case for the better part of this season, Michigan State has to be thrilled with how its role players stepped up against Iowa.

Goins had a big double-double while Tillman’s activity nearly gave him a double-double of his own. Since Ward requires potential double-teams whenever he catches the ball, it means Goins will have opportunities on the glass and around the basket.

Even playing without Matt McQuaid, Michigan State earned solid minutes from Kyle Ahrens, as his defensive intensity was helpful in the first half. Freshman Aaron Henry also showed off his athleticism in some minutes off the bench as he provided effort on defense and a memorable fast-break dunk off a pass from Cassius Winston.

Again, Michigan State needs a star like Langford or Ward to step up on most nights to run with the best teams. But if the teams role players continue to step up and play like this then Michigan State’s main trio won’t face nearly as much pressure to produce every single game.

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.