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Travis, Washington lead No. 8 Kentucky past No. 9 Kansas

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Reid Travis and P.J. Washington overwhelmed an undermanned Kansas frontline, combining for 38 points and 25 boards as No. 8 Kentucky overcame a slow start to knock off No. 9 Kansas in Rupp Arena on Saturday, 71-63.

Dedric Lawson finished with 17 points and 14 boards for the No. 9 Jayhawks, but it was nowhere near enough, as a Kansas team missing Udoka Azubuike did not have nearly enough size or strength in the paint to handle Kentucky’s big men.

This win is the latest in a string of impressive victories for the Wildcats, who suddenly have the look of a team that is a very real threat to cut down the nets on March. Last Saturday, they went into Auburn and knocked off the No. 16 Tigers before picking off No. 22 Mississippi State by 21 points on Tuesday. This makes three straight wins over ranked teams and pushes Kentucky’s winning streak to six games; they’ve won nine of their last ten since the overtime loss to Seton Hall.

Perhaps the most important part of this win is the fact that it proves Kentucky can play a style that doesn’t necessarily suit their personnel. Without Azubuike, Kansas has been forced to play small, and for the most part, they’ve done it well. They lost at West Virginia and at Iowa State, but they landed four wins over top 45 KenPom opponents, including Iowa State at home.

The key to this success has been the emergence of Marcus Garrett as a scoring threat. He posted the three highest scoring games of his career in the three games prior to Kansas’ trip to Lexington, and he was the guy that looked like he was destined to be guarded by a bigger defender.

That’s exactly what happened.

And Washington, to his credit, did a magnificent job slowing him down. Garrett finished just 1-for-9 from the floor with four points, four fouls and three turnovers.

Seeing Washington emerge like this is another great sign for the Wildcats. He’s had some impressive moments this season, but Kentucky is at their best when he plays like he is their best player. Consistency has not always been Washington’s forte, but he is capable of taking a game over, especially on the nights when his jumper is falling.

That’s a trend that is starting to become the tie that binds these Kentucky guys together. The last two games have arguably been the two best games that he has played this season. Tyler Herro struggled on Saturday, but he’s found his shooting stroke and scoring touch over the course of the last couple of weeks. Ashton Hagans, as we all know, has turned into the game-changing defensive dynamo he was known as in high school, and with the way he has shot the ball of late, I think it’s clear his offense is further along than we realized. Even the much-maligned Reid Travis has shown up in big spots. He was just as dominant against Auburn as he was on Saturday.

Depth seems to be an issue — Kentucky didn’t get a single bench point on Saturday — but even that buries the lead a little bit. Nick Richards chipped in with five blocks in nine minutes, which is more or less the reason he’s on the floor, while E.J. Montgomery was never going to get major minutes with the way Travis and Washington were playing. Quickley struggled, but that’s more or less par for the course for him this year.

Point being, Cal got the minutes he needed to get out of his bench.

What matters much, much more is the fact that his best players are hitting their stride as January turns to February.

Once again, a struggling Kentucky team is streaking late in the season.

At this point, the only question is whether or not they are going to peak too soon.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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.