The CBT Bracket Breakdown: East Region

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See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 Syracuse: For the last couple of months of the season, the Orange have been the consensus second best team in the country. They have their issues — defensive rebounding, for one — but this is a group that is as talented and balanced as any team in the country. They legitimately have six starters on their roster, with CJ Fair and Dion Waiters coming off the bench, and selfless enough as a unit that they can deal with whoever is struggling riding the bench. That said, its their defense that is going to carry them as far as they’ll go.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Ohio State: The issues that I have had with Ohio State all season long are still quite present. William Buford is not consistent enough as a secondary scoring option and Aaron Craft is not as effective when he is counted on to be more than a facilitator and a defender. That said, Jared Sullinger is still Jared Sullinger, and he’s good enough to lead the Buckeyes. If Deshaun Thomas and Buford are productive, watch out.

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Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 13 Montana: A lot of people would put Harvard in this spot, and I wouldn’t blame them. But the Grizzlies are intriguing to me. They have one of the best back courts in the region with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar and they have enough size up to hang with some of the bigger schools. Cherry is also a terrific defender. Montana gets Wisconsin in the first round, so Jordan Taylor beware.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 5 Vanderbilt: The Commodores are the most interesting team in this region of the bracket. From a talent perspective, they should be a top two or three seed. They have two first round picks on their perimeter in John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor and a big man in Festus Ezeli that will play in the NBA. The issue with Vanderbilt is that they have almost had a culture of losing. They’ve gotten dropped in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a few times recently and they’ve been notoriously incapable of winning big games. But they just beat Kentucky. Does that get them over the hump? Are they “fixed”?

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor hasn’t exactly had the season we all expected him to, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the best point guards in the country. And he means everything for the Badgers. He’s the reason they can control tempo and he’s the guy who gets the ball put into his hands at the end of a shot clock.

source: Getty Images

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure: Nicholson proved himself during the Atlantic 10 Tournament, averaged 23.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 5.3 bpg as he led the Bonnies to the conference’s automatic bid. He also probably played himself into the first round of the NBA Draft. The problem? His first game will be against Florida State and Bernard James.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin Jones. He’s an all-american that led the Big East in scoring and rebounding. The kid can play.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 2 Ohio State: I know it’s a bit of a cop out to pick the top two teams, but this is a matchup that really intrigues me. Jared Sullinger is the most dominant presence on the block in the country, but Syracuse is loaded up front. I’d love to see Aaron Craft try and defend Dion Waiters and Scoop Jardine. Deshaun Thomas could be a perfect option at the high post against the Syracuse zone. I could go on and on.

So who is getting upset?:

– I think Montana knocking off Wisconsin is an obvious pick, and one that will be trendy this week.

– If they make to to the second round, I like Cincinnati over Florida State as well.

– Everyone is going to pick Vanderbilt over Harvard, and I like Harvard. They have good bigs and a very underrated point guard in Brandyn Curry. I just don’t see it this season. Sorry, Harvard.

– Keep an eye on Kansas State and Syracuse in the Round of 32. Syracuse is terrible on the defensive glass and Kansas State is as good as anyone in the country when it comes to getting second chance points.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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.