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Monday Overreactions: Arizona’s back, Creighton’s dangerous, Gonzaga vs. SDSU vs. Dayton

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Reggie Perry, Mississippi State

Reggie Perry is quietly putting together an SEC Player of the Year caliber season in Starkville. The 6-foot-10 Georgia native is averaging 17.2 points, 10 boards and 2.3 assists this season. Those numbers just to 21.3 points and 10.9 boards during SEC play. This past week, as the Bulldogs landed a pair of critical wins over Florida and Tennessee, Perry averaged 25.5 points and 10 boards. He’s been an absolute monster this season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats

The biggest knock on Arizona this season has been their utter inability to win away from home. They blew a lead at Oregon earlier this year. They got smoked at Oregon State. The capper was when they blew a 22-point lead at Arizona State last week, the kind of loss that can derail the season of a lesser team. This week, however, the Wildcats rectified all of that. They make their trip up to visit the Washington schools and left quite successfully — the Wildcats erased a second half deficit in a win at Washington before going into Pullman and knocking off a sneaky-good Washington State team. They have now won four of their last five games and get Utah and Colorado at home this week.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. GONZAGA IS THE LEAST LIKELY TO WIN THE TITLE OF THE THREE NON-POWER CONFERENCE CONTENDERS

Instead of writing this all out, I’m going to say this: We had a long conversation about this on the podcast this week. It starts at the 23:00 mark. Go listen here.

2. CREIGHTON IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TEAM OUTSIDE THE TOP 25

Unfortunately for this take, Creighton no longer remains outside of the top 25.

But alas, we’ll continue.

The Bluejays are the team that I do not want to see come March. They are a nightmare to matchup with, have a coach that has built an offense that is very difficult to play against and have a number of players on their roster that are capable of taking a game over. We know about Marcus Zegarowski, Mitchell Ballock and Ty-shon Alexander, but what we saw on Saturday in their 76-61 win at Villanova is that the Bluejays can create all kinds of mismatches as well. We saw Denzel Mahoney go for 21 points playing as a small-ball five in lineups that included Damien Jefferson stepping in as a small-ball four.

The Bluejays are lethal, efficient, explosive and difficult to matchup with. That is a good combination of things to be heading into the NCAA tournament.

3. WILL WADE IS MAKING MIRACLES HAPPEN AT LSU

You may not have noticed since they have been flying under the radar, but No. 22 LSU improved to 17-4 on Saturday by knocking off Ole Miss, 73-63. The Tigers improved to 8-0 in the SEC and have now won 10 straight games overall, and they are doing all of this as the reigning SEC regular season champions. All told, Will Wade’s club is 45-11 in the last two seasons combined with a 24-2 mark in the SEC, which is incredibly impressive. As much has been written about John Calipari, Bruce Pearl and Rick Barnes, it’s inarguable that Will Wade has been the best coach in that conference during this stretch.

And the reason I say that is because of everything else that he has had to deal with. LSU has been right in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college athletics. There are reports that Wade was caught on a wire-tap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to land Javonte Smart, a player currently on LSU’s roster. He lost Naz Reid and Tremont Waters this summer. He had a player murdered before the start of last season.

The people in that program have been through more than they should have to deal with, and through it all they haven’t stopped winning.

It’s time we gave them their due for it.

4. XAVIER TILLMAN NEEDS TO START MAKING LAYUPS

Michigan State is quickly developing a reputation for being a team that can’t win games away from home, and while that is inarguably true — their only road win since Christmas came at Minnesota — it’s not simply because they aren’t playing well on the road. When Michigan State lost at Indiana, they erased a 16 point first half deficit and should have sent the game to overtime, except Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open, point-blank put-back layup that would have tied the game.

On Saturday at Wisconsin, the Spartans again erased a huge first half deficit, but Tillman was still unable to finish around the rim. He was 2-for-8 on layups, missed at least three that were relatively uncontested and that doesn’t include layup opportunities where he dropped the pass.

The Spartans are not that far away, but they need Tillman to be more consistent. It is costing them wins.

5. THE ATLANTIC 10 AND WCC BOTH SHOULD GET THREE BIDS

At this point, it looks like the WCC is a pretty safe bet to get three teams into the NCAA tournament. Gonzaga is dancing. That’s a given. But BYU and Saint Mary’s are both sitting in a place where they are fairly comfortably on the right side of the bubble. In our most recent bracket projection, our Dave Ommen has Saint Mary’s as a No. 9 seed and BYU as a No. 10 seed. As long as they avoid one of the landmines in their league, they should be fine.

The Atlantic 10 is a different story. We know Dayton is dancing, but Rhode Island and VCU are also right there in the mix. Rhode Island has the benefit of a sweep over the Rams, who have beaten LSU but don’t have all that much more on their resume right now. They do get a chance to host Dayton coming up in two weeks, and that is starting to feel like something close to a must-win for Mike Rhoades if he wants to get this group back to the dance.

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.