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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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.

NCAA looks to September for decision on basketball tipoff

CHARLIE NYE/USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA will likely decide next month whether to start the college basketball season on time or have a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said Monday that mid-September will likely be the first of many decisions about the 2020-21 season. Gavitt said the NCAA has developed and studied contingency plans in case the season cannot be started on Nov. 10.

Four conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, have postponed fall sports and hope to play in the spring. Six leagues, including the Big 12, ACC and SEC, are moving forward with plans to play in the fall.

The Pac-12 has said its postponement includes basketball, but other conferences have not mentioned plans for hoops.

Students at colleges across the country have started returning to campuses in recent weeks, leading to new COVID-19 clusters, and numerous football programs have been hit by positive tests.

EJ Montgomery leaves Kentucky for 2020 NBA draft

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Kentucky’s roster will look completely different next season.

EJ Montgomery became the latest Wildcat to turn pro on Wednesday. Kentucky announced the sophomore forward’s decision to leave school. The 6-foot-10 Montgomery is planning to stay a pro, according to multiple reports. All five Kentucky starters are turning pro this season.

Montgomery played a bigger role for the Wildcats his second season. His minutes jumped from 15.1 to a respectable 24.1 per game. The forward put up 6.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest in 28 games. Montgomery shot 51 percent from the floor and 66 percent from the free-throw line. Nick Richards was Kentucky’s established go-to big man. But Montgomery played a valuable frontcourt role for the SEC champions.

It’s unlikely EJ Montgomery finds himself in the first round. But by turning pro and staying in the draft, Montgomery is betting on his pro future.

With the pro decision from Montgomery, Kentucky’s roster is virtually all new players. Forward Keion Brooks returns for his sophomore season. Creighton grad transfer Davion Mintz is joining the program. But John Calipari’s roster will rely on six new freshmen.

Kentucky’s roster has been led by freshmen plenty of times before. Calipari is accustomed to getting rosters full of new players to mesh. But with only Brooks returning from the rotation, it will feel like an entirely new culture at the start of the season. Every player on the roster will be unfamiliar with each other.

It should make for an interesting experiment for a very talented team. Kentucky sits at No. 10 in the CBT Preseason Top 25 at the moment. The talent on the wings for the Wildcats will be evident with Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston. With the loss of EJ Montgomery, the frontcourt will have more questions next season.

Anthony Edwards leaves Georgia for 2020 NBA Draft

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Anthony Edwards is declaring for the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Georgia freshman star made his decision official on Friday. The 6-foot-5 Edwards signed with Octagon and agent Omar Wilkes. Edwards’ draft decision was first reported by Evan Daniels of 247Sports.

Potentially the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards put together a strong season for the Bulldogs. The freshman averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game for the season. Edwards showed natural scoring ability and long-term upside. The freshman displayed smooth athleticism, shot-making ability and an improving feel for the game.

Edwards drew national attention early in the season. A second-half scoring outburst against Michigan State in the Maui Invitational set the tone for Edwards’ talent and upside. From there, Edwards had 20-point games 13 times during the season. Edwards also had 30-point games against the Spartans, Florida and South Carolina.

But Edwards also showed some flaws he’ll need to improve for the NBA during his year at Georgia. Shooting only 40 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three-point range, Edwards will need to shoot with more consistency at the next level. Playing heavy minutes to end the season, Edwards also struggled down the stretch. His final three college games, Edwards shot only 11-for-55 from the field. It’s possible that Edwards was burned out by the end.

Those are correctable flaws, however. You can’t teach what Edwards brings to the table as a scorer. Edwards has the necessary length and athleticism to turn into a premier perimeter defender. And for a player who reclassified into college a year early, Edwards is still only 18 years old. There’s plenty of time to improve shot selection and stamina the next few years.

When it comes to the 2020 NBA Draft, Anthony Edwards is a very realistic potential No. 1 pick. Even if Edwards doesn’t go No. 1, he shouldn’t fall outside of the top five.

AAC, Big East, Pac-12, SEC among leagues to ban fans from conference tournaments

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Conference tournaments across college basketball will feel empty this week.

Coronavirus continues to grow as a public safety concern. As a result, conferences across college basketball are taking unprecedented steps. Fans will be banned from the AAC, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC conference tournaments beginning on Thursday.

These four power conferences follow the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC, as well as numerous others across college basketball, amid growing public health concerns. Once the NCAA announced the 2020 NCAA tournament would be without fans on Wednesday, conferences aggressively followed suit.

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It comes as no surprise that additional leagues are starting to go the empty arena route. Some conference tournaments will allow some family and close team personnel. Others will maintain as much of a closed-door atmosphere as possible.

Coronavirus changing conference tournaments might only be the first step in how postseason plans could be altered. As coronavirus updates come through with every hour, it’s difficult to grasp how college basketball’s postseason will look the next several weeks.

No. 6 Kentucky rallies from 18 down to stun Florida

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kentucky coach John Calipari went around the locker room at halftime and picked on just about everyone. His harshest criticism was directed toward star forward Nick Richards.

“Nick, you are so bad right now,” Calipari recalled. “We’re not going away from you, so you can either be the player you’ve been all year or look like this.”

Richards chose option No. 1. The junior scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, leading the way as the sixth-ranked Wildcats rallied from an 18-point deficit and stunned Florida 71-70 on Saturday.

The shorthanded Wildcats (25-6, 15-3 Southeastern Conference) needed the comeback to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time in nearly three months. They blew an 17-point lead against Tennessee on Tuesday night.

Richards, Keion Brooks Jr. and EJ Montgomery provided the spark in this one, helping make up for the absence of point guard Ashton Hagans.

Hagans didn’t make the trip three days after arguing with Calipari on the bench against the Volunteers.

“Just personal,” Calipari said. “Here’s what I’ll tell you about these kids: In the last three years, this has totally changed. What is on these players. … The clutter that they got to deal with, the lists, what’s out there, not being able to stay in the moment, the anxiety of worrying a year from now, everyone around them.

“And then you’re at Kentucky, where every game is someone’s Super Bowl, every game is sold out and now all of a sudden you start struggling four of five games and now you don’t know how to deal with stuff.”

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Calipari said he expects Hagans to return before next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky is the No. 1 seed and opens play Friday following a double bye.

“Hopefully what you’ll see is an inspired young man,” Calipari said. “And if he doesn’t think he’s ready for that, then he’s not ready. We’re going to go without whoever we have.”

Kentucky showed a little depth without Hagans and guard Immanuel Quickley, who fouled out with about nine minutes remaining. Quickley finished with 12 points. Freshman guard Johnny Juzang scored 10 points while playing a season-high 32 minutes. But the frontcourt did most of the heavy lifting down the stretch.

Brooks hit a floater in the lane with 59 second remaining to cut the lead to 70-69. Florida answered with a shot-clock violation on the other end.

Brooks missed a driving baseline layup, and Montgomery’s tip-in was initially waived off as a cylinder violation. Officials reviewed it and gave Montgomery the basket with 11.8 seconds left for a 71-70 Wildcats’ lead, their first of the game.

Richards missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Florida a final chance to win it. But Andrew Nembhard’s 3-pointer bounced twice off the rim before missing, setting off Kentucky’s raucous celebration.

Richards was 1-for-6 shooting in the first half. He was 7 of 11 after the break.

“Coaches gave me the challenge to see if I could turn it around,” Richards said. “I took on that challenge. Obviously, we came out with a really big win.”

Scottie Lewis scored a career-high 19 for Florida (19-12, 11-7). Noah Locke added 14, and Keyontae Johnson 12. Florida led by 18 points with 11:48 left in the game.

The Gators played most of the second half with standout forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. Blackshear sprained his left wrist in the first half. He went to the locker room and returned with it heavily taped. He tried to play in the second half, but he ended up on the bench with it wrapped in ice.

Blackshear was scoreless for the first time all season. He had five rebounds. Without him, Kentucky had a much easier time in the paint.

“Obviously, that’s big for us, a big loss defensively and offensively,” Lewis said. “He’s someone that can go get an easy bucket for us.”

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: The Wildcats need Hagans back to make a deep postseason run. They’re simply not the same without arguably the league’s best perimeter defender and open-court playmakers.

Florida: The Gators have to wait and see their seeding. They will be either No. 4 or 5 depending on Mississippi State’s outcome tonight.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Gets an extended break before playing in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday in Nashville.

Florida: Awaits seeding in the SEC Tournament. Will begin play Thursday or Friday.