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Virginia heading to Final Four for first time since 1984

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Purdue’s got dudes, but Virginia has a Guy.

Kyle, to be exact.

Guy hit five second half threes, finishing with a team-high 25 points and 10 boards and ensuring that Virginia kept pace with God Mode Carsen Edwards as he lead the Virginia Cavaliers to an 80-75 overtime win against Purdue.

379 days removed from becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed and Virginia was off to the Final Four, the program’s first since 1984 and the first of Tony Bennett’s career.

And all it took was surviving one of the most impressive individual performances that you will ever see.

Edwards, as he was all tournament, absolutely caught fire on Saturday night. He finished with 42 points, matching his output against Villanova in the second round and equaling the most points scored by a player in an NCAA tournament game since 2004. He made 10-of-18 threes while single-handedly blowing apart one of the best defenses we’ve ever seen in college hoops. Purdue is known for running some of the best stuff in college basketball, and by the end of the game their entire offense was ‘give the rock to Carsen and get the hell out of his way.’

It should have delivered a win.

With a minute left in the game, Edwards banked-in his tenth three, giving Purdue a 69-67 lead that was pushed to three by a Ryan Cline free throw with 18 seconds left.

But on the ensuing possession, Jerome was fouled intentionally with 5.7 seconds left in the game, setting with a wild and thrilling finish deserving of the moment. Purdue held a 70-68 with Ty Jerome at the line shooting his second of two free throws. He missed and the ball was tipped out all the way into the backcourt. Bennett did not call a timeout, and his diminutive freshman point guard Kihei Clark fired a 60-foot dart to Mamadi Diakite, who hit a 10-foot jumper to force the extra frame.

In the extra frame, it was De’Andre Hunter that eventually scored the game-winning bucket. He had been dreadful all night, but with 30 seconds left on the clock, Bennett isolated him at the elbow and he went right through Grady Eifert and scored the go ahead bucket.

After Edwards missed a jumper at the other end of the floor, it was Guy — who else — that corralled the loose ball and hit the two free throws to push the lead to three. On the ensuing possession, Edwards tried to find Ryan Cline for a game-tying three, but he threw the ball out of bounds, all-but sealing the win for Virginia and sending the Wahoos to the Final four.


(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Virginia never once shied away from The Loss.

It never made sense to, because no matter where they went or what they did, their story would be right there in front of them. A UMBC mention found its way onto just about every Virginia broadcast. A UMBC sign could be found in the student section at every road game. Duke tried to bring former UMBC point guard K.J. Maura in to sit with the Cameron Crazies when Virginia came to town.

Being the only No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament history to lose to a No. 16 seed was never going to get erased from the records books or the memory of those that watched it all unfold live.

History cannot be changed.

But the narrative can.

And prior to Saturday night’s epic, thrilling, everything-that-is-great-about-March win, the narrative of this Virginia program, its players and the coach that built it all was that this group was not cut out for winning in March.

It started with the players. They are — well, were — choke artists, not mentally tough enough to be able to handle the rigors of playing in a one-game knockout tournament. For all their regular season success, the only year in the previous five NCAA tournaments that Virginia lost to a team that was seeded the same or higher came in 2017, when No. 5 seed Virginia lost in the second round to No. 4 seed Florida. Once things started going bad, they were powerless to stop it. Ask Syracuse, who erased a 15 point deficit in the final eight minutes the last time Virginia played in an Elite Eight. Ask UMBC.

Virginia trailed Gardner-Webb by 14 points and won that game. They gave up an 18-5 run in the second half against Oregon, blowing an eight-point lead in the process, and won that game. They trailed Purdue by 10 in the first half and then blew another eight-point second half lead — surviving a banked-in three with a minute left — to win.

So much for that.

The other side of this was that Virginia couldn’t win playing the style that they play. They slow the game down too much. Defense wins games but offense wins championships. A system can only carry you so far if there aren’t pros running it.

So much for that, too.

“Not only did we silence his critics,” Guy said after the game, “we silenced our own.”

And it’s fitting that Guy played such a central role in this win, because he turned into something of the posterboy of the UMBC loss. His pictures were the ones that went viral, crouched down, head between his knees; crying as he buried his face into his jersey.

(Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

A year later, he is the one leading Virginia to the win that changes the narrative.

Because the story isn’t over yet.

The loss to UMBC can never be taken away.

But neither can this run to the Final Four. Virginia and these players will always be able to say that.

And with two more wins, they’ll be able to cut down one more set of nets.

Tony Bennett is no longer the best coach to never get to a Final Four, but he is one step closer to joining the pantheon of national title-winning coaches.

That’s a helluva was to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of getting hired at Virginia.

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

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.