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Film Room: How Michigan State’s former walk-on Kenny Goins was schemed open for game-winner

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It’s almost too perfect that the man — yes, man — that ended Zion Williamson’s college career is a fifth-year senior that started out his career as a walk-on.

Hell, Kenny Goins almost didn’t end up at Michigan State because the Spartans didn’t have a scholarship to give him initially. The Troy, Mi., native and lifelong Spartan fan was a good high school basketball player, but one that looked like a better fit at one of the directional Michigans as opposed to UM or MSU.

Even when Goins was offered a spot as a preferred walk-on, he struggled with the decision of whether or not to play his college ball in East Lansing. Goins’ mother had mounting medical bills, and the weight of a full tuition was not something that he wanted to burden his family with.

“My dad, I remember him saying at one point, ‘Don’t even worry about the money thing,'” Goins told of the conversation that finally convinced him to accept the offer that Michigan State made. “‘If that’s what’s holding you back, don’t even worry about that, just pick, and we’ll figure out the money thing after.'”

It didn’t take long for the Spartan coaching staff to figure out that Goins was going to be a contributor to their program. By his second year on campus, he was a scholarship player. By his third year on campus, he was a starter.

But no one — and I mean no one — could have imagined after the first two years that Goins played in East Lansing that, with less than a minute left in a one-point game in the Elite Eight against the No. 1 overall seed, Tom Izzo would draw up a play that would put Goins in a position to fire up a potentially game-winning three.

He did not shoot a single three-pointer as a freshman. He didn’t shoot a single three as a sophomore. He did, however, shoot a combined 62.9 percent from the free throw line in those two seasons. Heading into his redshirt senior year, Goins had attempted all of 15 threes in his career.

That’s changed this season.

Goins is firing up more than four threes a night, banging them home at a 36 percent clip and doing so as the best pound-for-pound rebounder on Michigan State’s roster. He’s become an invaluable cog in Izzo’s lineup, and nothing proves that more than what happened on the final possession of regulation.

As I detailed in the video below, one of the staples of Michigan State’s offense is to have Cassius Winston run off of a back-screen and he initiates an action. This allows the Spartans to move him around the floor as they get the defense chasing him. The counter to this — which they only ran twice against Duke — is for Winston to set a pindown for Goins, which allows them to then get Winston into an open-side ball-screen action with the other big that is on the floor:

The final possession of the game wasn’t even necessarily drawn up for Goins.

One of the options in the set that Michigan State ran is for Goins to shoot that three, but if you watch the play, Winston is in the middle of setting a back-screen for Xavier Tillman when Goins lets that shot go. There was more to that action than what we saw, but we never actually saw it.

That’s because Kenny Goins, the walk-on who didn’t attempt a three until he was in his fourth year in the program, broke off a play with 38 seconds left, down 66-65 in the Elite Eight against the No. 1 overall seed, and buried a three over a player that not 10 minutes early had blocked one of his three-point attempts.

And the fact that it was that player making that play that sent Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and the rest of the Blue Devils packing just about sums up March Madness perfectly.

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.