Bubble banter: Ole Miss among those trying to crash the dance

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The bubble reached new heights and depths on Friday.  That leaves us with about 11 spots up for grabs.  We have potential party crashers in Conference USA (Marshall), SEC (Ole Miss), and Atlantic 10 (St. Bonaventure/Massachusetts).  The Pac-12 will have an upset winner, too – with Arizona and Colorado in the championship game.   Then there’s NC State, which can greatly improve its position by beating North Carolina in the ACC semis.

Here’s your latest and final bubble update.  Selection Sunday is just one day away.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.

RPI data is for games played through Friday, March 9. Records reflect games through Friday, March 9.

UPDATED: Saturday, March 10 | 11:45 a.m. ET

Total Spots (68): Number of teams in the Field.

Automatic Bids (31): Murray State (OVC), Belmont (A-SUN), UNC-Asheville (Big South), VCU (Colonial), Loyola-Md (MAAC), Creighton (MVC), Harvard (IVY), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), South Dakota State (Summit), Detroit (Horizon), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Lehigh (Patriot), Montana (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern)

  • Projected Locks (32): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (5): These teams are in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (28): Teams projected to be under consideration for at-large selection.
  • Spots Available (11): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games completed on Friday, March 9.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: St. Louis | Bubble: Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (20-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 67 | – The Flyers have eight Top 100 RPI wins, including victories over Temple, Alabama, and Xavier. The Flyers have also beaten Ole Miss and Minnesota. But troubling losses – particularly defeats to sub-200 RPI teams Miami-OH and Rhode Island really hurt UD’s profile. A loss to Xavier in the A10 quarterfinals and a sinking RPI will probably push the Flyers into the NIT.
  • St. Joe’s (20-13 | 9-7) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 54 | – St. Joe’s stayed in the bracket for a while thanks to good non-conference wins over Creighton and Drexel. They also beat Temple. But a loss to St. Bonaventure in the A10 quarterfinals – their second defeat to the Bonnies in two weeks – probably drops SJU below the cutline.
  • Xavier (29-11 | 10-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 45 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies. And a come-from-behind win against rival Dayton in the A10 quarterfinals keeps XU in the picture. Xavier is 8-10 vs. the Top 100 which actually looks pretty good these days compared to other bubble teams. A victory over St. Louis in the A10 semis likely seals it for the Musketeers.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State | Should Be In: Virginia | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State, Virginia
  • Miami-FL (19-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 59 | SOS: 43 | – Miami has a huge win at Duke and a victory over Florida State at home. But they are just 3-11 vs. Top 100 teams. They have also lost Durand Scott to indefinte suspension. That could work against the Canes. So will a quarterfinal loss to Florida State. Miami isn’t dead-in-the-water, but they will most likely need help. On a side note, the Canes were swept by NC State.
  • NC State (22-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 32 | – The Wolfpack have a season sweep of Miami and a neutral court win over Texas. But a 1-7 mark vs. the Top 50 remains troubling – although Virginia and Miami are in the 50-60 range. NC state is 6-9 vs. the Top 100. The Wolfpack are right on the cutline at the moment. If they find a way to beat North Carolina in the ACC semis that would probably be enough. If the Wolfpack fall short, it may very well depend on how those final few spots shake out.
BIG EAST
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, Cincinnati | Should Be In: Connecticut | Bubble: Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia
  • Seton Hall (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 44 | – The Pirates ended their season with a loss to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night. That’s 3 losses in 4 games – including dropped games to Rutgers and DePaul. Victories over VCU, St. Joe’s and Dayton will help, along with wins over Georgetown, Connecticut, and West Virginia. SHU finished 7-9 vs. the Top 100. That may keep SHU as one of the 37 best at-large teams, but these are anxious moments.
  • South Florida (19-12 | 12-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 24 | – USF completed its season with an overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Big East quarters. Despite 12 regular-season Big East wins, only two were against Top 50 opponents (Louisville, Cincy). Outside the BE, the Bulls managed to beat Cleveland State, that’s about it. USF ended 5-8 on the road and just 6-10 vs. the top 100. They lost to Penn State and Auburn.
  • West Virginia (19-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 14 | – The Mountaineers fell in overtime Wednesday to Connecticut and the wait continues. With victories over Kansas State and Miami-Fla outside the conference, the Mountaineers likely still have an inside track to a bid. They finised 9-11 vs. Top 100 teams and beat Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida in the Big East. A top 20 SOS will help. WVU had five losses to Top 35 RPI teams by a total of 11 points.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Northwestern
  • Northwestern (18-13 | 8-10) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 18 | – The Wildcats ended their season with a 1-10 mark vs. Top 50 teams and a 5-12 mark vs. Top 100 teams. NW has a marquee win over Michigan State and a bubble win over Seton Hall. The loss to Minnesota in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney will be hard to overlook, however. Close losses help Northwestern, but it’s looking less likely they will be enough to warrant an NCAA at-large bid.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Texas
  • Texas (20-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 19 | – The Longhorns beat Iowa State for a second time to give them 4 wins against Top 50 opponents. A strong SOS is helping, but like many other bubble teams, the Horns have a troubling mark against the Top 100 (4-11). Texas did not beat any of the Big 12’s best teams. The Longhorns’ best out-of-conference wins are UT-Arlington and UCLA. Tense times in Austin.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: Memphis | Should Be In: Southern Mississippi | Bubble: Central Florida, Marshall
  • Central Florida (20-10 |10-6) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 76 | – We’ll leave the Knights on the at-large board, but they have certainly fallen off the pace and are probably done. They were blown out by Memphis in the C-USA tourney. A 3-7 mark vs. Top 100 teams isn’t helping.
  • Marshall (19-9 |10-6) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 89 | – The Herd’s win at Cincinnati keeps looking better, and Marshall also handily beat fellow bubble team Iona. That said, UM may still need to beat Memphis and win the league’s auto bid. Beating Southern Miss in the semis improved Marshall to 4-4 vs. the Top 50. A Top 10 non-conference schedule will also be noticed.
MISSOURI VALLEY
Locks: Wichita State, Creighton | Should Be In: None | Bubble: None
  • Creighton won the automatic bid and ensured that the MVC will be a two-bid league.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (19-11 | 8-6) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 5 | – The Rams have beaten UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico at home, and their power numbers are very strong, if not slightly inflated. The concerns are a 3-9 road record – CSU’s best road win is UTEP (No. 158) – and nothing out of conference other than a win over Montana. Losing to SDSU in the semifinals leaves the door open for Colorado State to be squeezed.
PAC 12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (22-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 115 | – The Wildcats ended their regular season with a horrible loss at Arizona State but managed to reach the Pac-12 title game against Colorado. With a weak 1-3 mark vs. Top 50 teams, a runner-up finish may not be enough. Arizona’s best non-conference win is New Mexico State.
  • California (24-9 | 13-5) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 83 | – With nine (9) Top 100 wins, Cal continues to have the best at-large resume of the Pac-12 group. At the same time, the Bears are 0-3 vs the Top 50 and have not beaten a team that would be at at-large team in the NCAA as of this update.
  • Colorado (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 71 | SOS: 81 | – The Buffaloes’ profile is improving among the Pac-12 contenders. If that means much. Colorado has beaten Cal twice (after winning late Friday in the Paac-12 tourney), Oregon twice, and Washington once. Like everyone else here, however, there’s nothing outside the league. So CU’s best bet is to win the automatic bid.
  • Oregon (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 94 | – A loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 quarters probably ended the Ducks’ at-large hopes. Oregon finished 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 5-8 vs. the Top 100.
  • Washington (21-10 | 14-4) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 83 | – The Huskies will present an interest test case for the committee. They won the outright Pac-12 title. Historically, leaving out the Huskies would be rare, given the league’s stature as a BCS conference. But this is a historically bad year for the Pac-12, and Washington is 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. Neither of those inspire confidence as an at-large selection.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Alabama | Bubble: Mississippi State, Mississippi, Tennessee
  • Mississippi State (21-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 71 | – The Bulldogs ended their season with a surprising loss to Georgia in the SEC’s first round. But with 7 Top 100 wins (7-9), and a non-conference win over West Virginia, MSU might be able to survive a very bubbly profile. Still, MSU (2-4 vs. Top 50 teams) is certainly in danger of being squeezed.
  • Mississippi (21-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 66 | – The Rebels are alive in the SEC tourney and have moved onto the bubble after a win over Tennessee on Friday. A 1-6 mark vs. Top 50 teams is an issue, and a 6-11 mark vs. the Top 100 looks like a half-dozen other teams. A win over Miami-Fla could help some, but Ole Miss probably has to upset Vandy to have a realistic at-large chance.
  • Tennessee (17-14 | 10-6) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 31 | – How the Committee evaluates the arrival of Jarnell Stokes in early January will be a major factor for the Vols. That said, Friday’s loss to Ole Miss drops UT’s RPI into very dangerous territory. There’s also 14 losses overall. The Vols beat Florida twice, and topped Vandy and Connecticut. But a 3-11 mark away from home is concerning.
WEST COAST
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (23-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 99 | – BYU failed in its attempt to beat Gonzaga a second time and finished 1-4 vs the Zags and St. Mary’s. If the Cougars miss the NCAAs that will be one reason why. Their best non-conference victories are Nevada and Oregon. Good wins, but perhaps not enough to make an NCAA bid hold up. BYU is a team that could easily be squeezed if bids get tight. Their resume is complete. It will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Drexel, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Oral Roberts
  • Drexel (27-6 | 16-2) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 213 |The Dragons may prove to be the ultimate “eye test” team for this year’s Selection Committee. Drexel had won 19 straight games before losing in the CAA championship to VCU. They were also the outright regular-season champions of the Colonial. Strictly by the numbers, Drexel finished 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-3 against the Top 100. While they lost to St. Joseph’s and Virginia, Drexel beat Cleveland State by 20 on the road. All the Dragons can do now is wait and hope a few other things fall their way.
  • Iona (25-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 144 | – The Gaels ended their season by losing to Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals. Now, it’s a long wait until Selection Sunday. Iona has to hope that wins over Nevada and St. Joseph’s hold up and that a few things go their way. The Gaels finished 1-1 vs. the Top 50 and 5-3 vs. the Top 100. Losses to sub-200 teams Siena and Hofstra may ultimately doom Iona to the NIT.
  • Long Beach State (21-8 | 15-1) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 130 | – The 49ers nearly completed a perfect Big West season. And while early wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier help, they aren’t as strong as once thought. LBSU played the No. 1 non-conference schedule but went 0-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 2-7 vs. the Top 100. Several close losses will help, but how much?
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-6 | 14-2) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 181 | – The Blue Raiders’ chances are very slim after losing in the Quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament. Their best wins are Ole Miss, Akron and Belmont. But they ended the season with back-to-back losses to Western Kentucky and Arkansas State (both sub-200 teams). MTSU ended 0-1 vs. Top 50 teams.
  • Oral Roberts (27-6 | 17-1) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 191 | – ORU beat Xavier, Missouri State, and Akron (BracketBusters) in non-conference play, although XU was without several players. But a loss to Western Illinois in the league tournament semis puts a damper on the Eagles’ at-large hopes. They finished 0-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 3-3 against the Top 100. ORU has to hope a dominate season in the Summit is enough.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

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.