The Ivy League, and a change in how we determine automatic bids?

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Generally speaking, it’s a slow news day when the Ivy League leads off the conversation. In the days of realignment, one-and-done drama and Kobe Bryant’s upset stomach, news about the athletic programs at Harvard and Princeton is not exactly the kind of thing that shows up on ESPN’s Bottom Line.

Having said that, the decision that the Ivy League came too on Thursday afternoon is an intriguing one: instead of adopting a proposal to go to a four-team tournament to determine the league’s automatic bid, the Ivy will continue to determine their champion by the regular season.

The argument is an intriguing one.

On the one hand, sports in our country thrive on knockout tournaments. There is a reason that the only event that annually piques the interest of the nation more than the NCAA tournament is the NFL Playoffs. While the argument against the current national championship structure in college football centers on how unfair and corrupt the process is, it seems like there are just as many people of the opinion that a college football playoff should be implemented because, simply put, it would be friggin’ awesome.

That’s also why Championship Week is so great. These smaller schools have a chance to get hot and play their way into the national spotlight. Everyone loves a cinderella story. Some of the best moments in March over the last couple of years have come during Championship Week. Who can forget Anthony Johnson scoring 34 second half points to lead Montana to the Big Sky tournament title? Or what about Darius Washington missing two free throws to cost Memphis a trip to the NCAA tournament? The Big East tournament developed its reputation thanks to performances like Gerry McNamara had is 2005 or Kemba Walker had in 2011.

Who wants to see that go?

But the flip side of the argument is that a tournament is far from the fairest way to determine a league champion. The winner of a round-robin regular season, which is what the Ivy League has, is undoubtedly a better way of determining the best team in a conference. It makes every single conference game that much more important. Team’s cannot coast through the regular season knowing that they will be able to have a shot to make it all back with one, three-day hot streak.

It creates plenty of drama, as well. I’ll forever regret making the decision not to go to the Princeton-Harvard Ivy League playoff game in 2011.

Maybe there is a way that we can have both. Back in March, as small-conference favorites started dropping like flies in the league tournaments — Drexel, Oral Roberts, Iona, Middle Tennessee State — I came up with a proposal to fix this problem:

– Expand the NCAA Tournament. Make it a 72 team tournament — it may need to be more — which means there will be eight play-in games.

– Give the regular season winner of every conference an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Give the winner of every conference tournament a bid to the NCAA Tournament. If you win both, you get immunity from a play-in game.

– Force all play-in games to be between either the winners of conference tournaments or bubble teams. This is where it gets tricky (and where this theory could use some outside input). The way I see it, how many play-in games there are for 16 seeds will be at the committee’s discretion. If there are upsets in a whole bunch of the low-major conferences, then the number of play-in games for a 16 seed will be higher than if the favorites win in all of them.

– Every other spot in the field gets filled by bubble teams. How many spots there are available will vary form year to year.


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

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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.