Breaking the bubble divide between big schools, mid-majors

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As Selection Sunday looms the ongoing discussion will get louder:

Is bubble team X more deserving of an NCAA Tournament bid than bubble team Y?

The blind résumé game is a bit played, but when it involves a mid-major and a member of a BCS-conference, the argument can get contentious (and fun to observe for some).

Teams will carry similar RPIs, records against the RPI top 100, strength of schedules, etc. They have many of the same characteristics, but peel back the curtain and if one team is from a major conference, and the other is not, favoritism usually ensues.

Either you’re a big brand guy or you subscribe to MidMajority.com. You usually never waver.

The argument when deciding whom to favor doesn’t really involve numbers, even though when you argue over one mid-major vs. a BCS-conference team, it has everything to do with numbers.

Personally, I don’t really lean either way. I think that taking a stand and picking a side is ignorant.

If you think that NC State should get in over, say, Iona 10 times out of 10, you’re probably refusing to lend any credence the personnel of the Gaels. Sure, Iona shot themselves in the foot by losing a few regular season games, but put them up against the Wolfpack on a neutral court, roll the ball out on the court and let them go at it? I guarantee you the game would be close and interesting.

The problem is you don’t get to do that. Instead, you have to establish a hierarchy of what is most important to you when weighing the information on a team’s resume sheet.

If you back the little guy, you probably refuse to think a middling team from a major conference would run away with a mid-major conference tournament

If you can’t stand the little guy, you’re convinced they would wilt at playing 18-games against “real teams”.

I understand the arguments, but what I look for in distinguishing a tournament team from a non-tournament team, regardless of their conference membership, is finding something that jumps out at me. Something that their peers did not do.

For my argument, Drexel is the perfect example. The Dragons had a 19-game winning streak this season. Regardless of who they played, that’s impressive. To weather unforeseen injuries and off-nights for two months and always pull off the “W” has to earn some level of clout among the selection committee.

They also know how to score, which is something you can’t say about fellow bubble member South Florida cannot say.

But getting back to the Wolfpack – they have done little to impress.

I understand that they stayed afloat in one of the country’s tougher conferences, going 9-7 with a few wins over Miami and a non-conference win over Texas, but they didn’t beat anybody. They had eight chances to get a victory over an RPI top 50 teams, and came up empty every time. They’re were just sort of…there.

Much like the Virginia Tech syndrome of the past few seasons, if you don’t schedule tough or you don’t do something that sticks out, you shouldn’t be in the tournament.

It’s sort of an unwritten rule.

Some of us are never going to find common ground on this argument. BCS teams and mid-majors have fan bases of two different ilks.

To eliminate the minutia, look for something that sticks out. Find a team that has done something great in the regular season. Something the team standing next to them in line did not do.

You’ll at least get the media’s attention.

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.