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Big 12 tournament preview and postseason awards

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POSTSEASON AWARDS

BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

Culver is the Player of the Year in the Big 12, and I honestly don’t think there is really all that much argument here. He is the best and most talented player on the Big 12 co-champions, a 6-foot-6 sophomore guard that went from being an under-the-radar prospect to a likely top ten picks come the 2019 NBA Draft.

And if a way, he is the quintessential Chris Beard player. He’s a hometown kid, having gone to high school in Lubbock. He was not someone that was recruited by the likes of Kansas or Kentucky or Duke. He stayed home, outworked everyone that he went up against and found a way to win in the end. That’s more or less the mantra of this Texas Tech program under Beard …

BIG 12 COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Beard, Texas Tech

… and it’s why he is the easy pick for Big 12 Coach of the Year.

The Red Raiders were picked to finish seventh in the conference heading into the season, and that’s because they lost their leading scorer from last season (Keenan Evans), a one-and-done freshman that wasn’t expected to be one-and-done and four senior rotation players. In total, six of the top eight members of last year’s team are gone.

And Beard still found a way to share the title in the first season that Kansas was not the Big 12 regular season champion in 15 years. Coaching jobs don’t get much better than that.

FIRST TEAM ALL-BIG 12

  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
  • BARRY BROWN, Kansas State
  • MARIAL SHAYOK, Iowa State
  • DEAN WADE, Kansas State
  • DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas

SECOND TEAM ALL-BIG 12

  • MATT MOONEY, Texas Tech
  • DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
  • DESMOND BANE, TCU
  • TARIQ OWENS, Texas Tech
  • JAXSON HAYES, Texas

BIG 12 TOURNAMENT PREVIEW

WHEN: March 13-16
WHERE: Kansas City
FINAL: March 16, 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

(All odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook.)

FAVORITE: Texas Tech (+175)

There has not been a hotter team in the conference than the Red Raiders over the course of the last month. Hell, I don’t know if there has been a hotter team in college basketball. Texas Tech has won nine in a row and 11 of their last 12 games, going from being a team that ranked outside the top 100 in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric to No. 34 in that ranking. They also happen to have the best defense in all of college basketball this season.

Another reason to consider Texas Tech the heavy favorite: They are healthy while everyone else in the league is seemingly losing players left and right. Kansas State (+400) is not expected to have Dean Wade available for the conference tournament. Kansas (+350) is not getting Lagerald Vick back. Iowa State (+650) and Baylor (+1100) have both dealt with injuries all season long. This tournament being in Kansas City means it will be a home game for Kansas if they play in the semifinals and a home game for Kansas State if they play in the finals, but Texas Tech fans travel better than you think and get loud.

SLEEPER: Iowa State (+650)

My love affair with Iowa State is well-documented this season, and I can fully admit that I may be the wrong guy to ask this question to. I know they’ve lost three in a row, five of their last six and six of their last eight games. I know that there was some kind of fight in a practice and that there was some kind of an argument between players during the loss at West Virginia. But I just cannot quit this team, because I still believe that they are the most talented team in the conference.

There is a very real chance that Iowa State loses their first game of the tournament to No. 5 seed Baylor. But their path isn’t really all that difficult. The Cyclones, if they can get past the Bears, would then draw either No. 1 Kansas State — who they beat by 14 points in Manhattan and who will not have Dean Wade playing — or someone from the 8-9 game. The Cyclones also have wins over both Kansas and Texas Tech, the top two seeds on the other side of the bracket. At 6.5:1 odds, that’s great value.

I also think that Oklahoma State (+10000) is worth a look at well. The Cowboys have won two in a row, and prior to that they lost by five against Kansas and took Texas Tech to overtime on the road. They’re the No. 9 seed, which means they’re on the right side of the bracket as well.

(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

BEST VALUE: Kansas (+350)

I still think the best value here is the Jayhawks. Much has been made of the issues that have plagued Kansas this season, but I do think that it is important to note than Kansas has completed yet another season undefeated at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Playing at the Sprint Center will not be the same as playing in the Phog, but it sure is going to feel like a Kansas home game. The Jayhawks were (+450) when I started writing this, and the odds have since adjusted, so if the book you use still have Kansas getting better than 4:1 odds, that’s might be the best bet to make here.

BUBBLE DWELLERS

TEXAS (NET: 39, SOS: 6): The Longhorns suffered a disastrous loss at home on Saturday, getting drubbed by fellow bubble-dweller TCU. They’ve now lost two in a row and four of their last five, dropping them to 16-15 on the season. They do have five Q1 wins — including North Carolina (7) on a neutral and Purdue (11) at home — with just one Q3 loss, and they have played the No. 6 SOS in all of college hoops. But at some point, you have to win games to get into the tournament, and Texas lost at home to VCU (31), Providence (74) and Radford (143) and also dropped roadies to Oklahoma State(82) and Georgia (112). They are currently one of the Next Four Out in our most recent bracket projection, and they likely have more ground to make up than that. I think they need to beat Kansas and Texas Tech en route to the finals to be an at-large.

TCU (NET: 47, SOS: 26): The Horned Frogs put themselves in a pretty good spot by knocking off Texas (39) by 17 points on Saturday, their third Q1 win of the season. All told, they are 3-8 against Q1, 8-12 against Q1 and Q2 and have no bad losses. I think they will be fine as long as they avoid an opening round loss to Oklahoma State (82), but thats assuming that there aren’t a number of bubbles burst this week.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 40, SOS: 9): The Sooners are a team that is going to rile some people up, seeing as they are 19-12 on the season and 7-11 in the Big 12, but they have just two losses outside Q1, four Q1 wins and an SOS that checks in at ninth nationally. They have just one loss to teams outside the top 40, a win over Wofford (14) and a 10-12 mark against Q1 and Q2. How wild is it that Wofford is going to be a difference-making win for the Sooners?

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE LINE?

I’m not sure that anyone in the Big 12 has a real chance at getting a No. 1 seed. If Texas Tech wins the Big 12 tournament, there’s a chance, but that will likely require Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke, North Carolina, LSU and both Michigan school to take bad losses.

To me, the most interesting thing to track in Kansas City this week is going to be Shaka Smart’s job status. His buyout is massive and the Texas fanbase barely fills the Erwin Center when the Longhorns are good, so the pressure isn’t really there. But this may be a chance for them to land someone like a Buzz Williams or a Chris Beard, and a first round loss means that Shaka will end his fourth season with a 16-16 record. That’s not ideal.

PREDICTION

I think that Kansas makes a run that reminds us all just how good they can actually be, playing and beating Iowa State in the title 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.