AP photo/Wade Payne

College Basketball AP Poll: Tennessee Remains At No. 1, Ahead Of Duke

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The NCAA Division I Basketball Committee slated Duke as the No. 1 overall seed in its initial tournament rankings over the weekend. Voters in the AP Top 25 stuck with Tennessee as their top team.

The Vols received 40 of 64 first-place votes from a media panel in the poll released Monday, remaining ahead of Duke for fourth straight week. The No. 2 Blue Devils had 24 first-place votes.

No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 4 Virginia, the other top seeds in the NCAA’s initial rankings on Saturday, rounded out the top five with Kentucky.

Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC) moved to the No. 1 spot in the AP poll after Duke (21-2, 9-1 ACC) lost to Syracuse on Jan. 14.

The Vols continued winning, stretching their school-record streak to 18 games with wins over Missouri and Florida last week.

Committee chair Bernard Muir said the decision for the top overall seed was close, but Blue Devils edged the Vols based on strength of schedule.

Tennessee was No. 1 in the South Region.

“I want these guys to enjoy what they’re doing and I’m probably not the easiest guy to let that happen because I’m always thinking of ways we can get better, and I want to do it right now,” Vols coach Rick Barnes said. “I appreciate how hard they’re competed and the fact that they want to get better.”

Duke won both of its games last week, rolling over Boston College by 25 before winning a rematch with Virginia 81-71 on Saturday. The Blue Devils needed overtime to beat the Cavaliers the first meeting and shot them out of the gym in the second, making 13 of 21 from the 3-point arc.

“We were just in our zone and it’s great to see when our team is like that,” said Duke’s R.J. Barrett, who had 26 points and was 6 for 10 on 3s.

Virginia dropped one spot from No. 3 after losing to the Blue Devils.

HERE IS THE FULL TOP 25

1. Tennessee (40 first-place votes)
2. Duke (24)
3. Gonzaga
4. Virginia
5. Kentucky
6. Michigan
7. Nevada
8. North Carolina
9. Houston
10. Marquette
11. Michigan State
12. Purdue
13. Villanova
14. Kansas
15. Texas Tech
16. Louisville
17. Florida State
18. Kansas State
19. LSU
20. Wisconsin
21. Iowa
22. Virginia Tech
23. Iowa State
24. Maryland
25. Buffalo

BIG 12 RACE

Kansas State moved back into the poll this week at No. 18.

Perhaps more importantly, the Wildcats are in control of the Big 12 race after knocking off rival Kansas and Baylor last week.

The Wildcats (18-5) are 8-2 in the Big 12, putting them 1 1/2 games ahead of the 14th-ranked Jayhawks, No. 15 Texas Tech and No. 23 Iowa State. Kansas State plays Texas and Iowa State this week.

Kansas will need to make a late-season run for the second straight year if it is going to stretch its record run of conference titles to 15. The Jayhawks play TCU and West Virginia.

ZIGGING ZAGS

Gonzaga moved up a spot in the AP poll this week, was selected as the top overall seed in the West by the NCAA’s selection committee and crushed WCC rival Saint Mary’s 94-46 on Saturday.

It wasn’t all good news for the Zags last week.

Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie did not play against the Gaels and is out indefinitely after suffering a torn ligament in his right foot against San Francisco on Thursday. He missed the first two months of the season due to a foot injury and has played just nine games.

MOVING UP

No. 17 Florida State had the biggest jump in this week’s poll, climbing five spots after beating Syracuse and Louisville, which remained at No. 16 despite the loss.

No. 9 Houston and No. 12 Purdue each moved up three spots.

MOVING DOWN

No. 22 Virginia Tech had a precipitous drop this week, falling 11 spots after losses to Louisville and Clemson.

DROPPING OUT

A week after moving into the poll at No. 25, Cincinnati dropped out beating Memphis and losing to Houston last week.

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.