No. 19 LSU stuns No. 5 Kentucky on buzzer-beating tip

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A buzzer-beating tip propelled LSU to a stunning SEC road win at Rupp Arena as the Tigers knocked off Kentucky, 73-71, on Tuesday night.

Senior big man Kavell Bigby-Williams tipped in a Skylar Mays miss for the final LSU bucket as referees reviewed the play and determined it was good (basket interference is not reviewable, but it wasn’t necessary either way). The decision led to an uproar from Big Blue Nation, but ultimately it was correct to score this a bucket. Even if refs missed the initial goaltending on Kentucky that they should have called in the first place.

The win means LSU remains only one loss behind No. 1 Tennessee in the SEC standings as the Tigers have been one of the hottest teams in the country. Winners of 13 of their last 14 games, LSU is unbeaten on the road in SEC play as they’ve quietly amassed a credible amount of solid victories.

The Tigers didn’t find themselves in the NCAA’s early top-16 projection over the weekend. They only rated as No. 5 seed in our latest CBT Bracketology from Dave Ommen from this weekend. After a road win at Kentucky, it might be time to start taking LSU more seriously in the SEC, and national, landscape.

Pulling out a massive road win is one thing. But LSU is a young team that needed to grind this win out until the very last tip-in to secure its most important win of the season. Up to this point, head coach Will Wade has built a top-25 program, mostly on-paper, based on strong recruiting classes and returning players. Tuesday’s win is tangible proof that LSU isn’t just a roster of McDonald’s All-Americans who need seasoning. The Tigers are ready to compete with any team in the country this season.

On a night where star sophomore point guard Tremont Waters (15 points, five assists) and Mays (11 points) each went only 3-for-13 from the field and freshman big man Naz Reid (12 points, seven rebounds) struggled with foul trouble and consistency, LSU still fought back when they were down in the second half. Javonte Smart struggled to a 2-for-7 shooting night. The Tigers were only 28 percent (6-for-21) from three-point range.

Part of LSU’s comeback was the strong play of freshman forward Emmitt Williams as his relentless energy led to him finishing 5-for-5 from the field for 12 points, six rebound and two blocks. With Reid in foul trouble, the Tigers were able to still limit Kentucky’s deep and talented frontcourt group despite not having a full assortment of weapons. It speaks to the depth that Wade has built through recruiting while also to his coaching staff guiding a young team to this point in the season.

With a 6-2 record in both quadrant 1 and quadrant 2 scenarios, LSU’s NCAA tournament credibility is quickly on the rise. And at 10-1 in SEC play, they’re right on the heels of Tennessee. The schedule is also favorable for the Tigers down the stretch as the road game at Tennessee is the only scheduled game against a major opponent.

But the most fun thing about LSU in all of this is the ceiling this team possesses the final few months of the season. If LSU can manage a road win at Rupp Arena during an off-night from four key players, then what is this team capable of when multiple guys are playing at their best?

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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.