Virginia, Indiana State have two of the strangest bubble resumes

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Believe it or not, it’s now mid-February, which means that March Madness is right around the corner. We’ve already given you our newest bracket and bubble watch, but we will also be taking a weekly look at some of this season’s wackiest at-large profiles. All RPI and SOS numbers via WarrenNolan.com.

Virginia (17-6, 7-3) RPI: 81, SOS: 154

Virginia may have the strangest profile I’ve ever seen. The Cavs are 6-0 against the RPI top 100, and have managed to put together some impressive wins — at Wisconsin, NC State, North Carolina, at Maryland. The problem, however, is that the ‘Hoos have been just atrocious against some of the worst teams they have played. All six of their losses have come against teams with RPI’s in the triple digits. They are 0-3 against the CAA, including the RPI killing loss to Old Dominion (who is 3-22 and 319th in the RPI). They’ve lost at Clemson, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. They played the 320th worst non-conference schedule in the country. Only Iowa’s is worse among teams in the RPI top 100.

Only USC in 2011 has gotten an at-large bid with six bad losses, and only George Washington in 2006 (when they went 26-2 and got an eight seed) has gotten an at-large bid with a non-conference SOS as high as 320.

But here’s the catch. Starting point guard Jontel Evans was injured earlier this year. He didn’t play in losses to ODU and George Mason and played just three minutes in the loss to Delaware. Do they win those games with Evans? How different does Virginia’s profile look without those ugly losses weighing it down? And, if Virginia has a healthy Evans and beats Delaware, they would have headed to the Preseason NIT semifinals in NYC, where they would have played Pitt and either Michigan or Kansas State. That would have boosted their non-conference schedule just a bit, I’d say.

Here’s the good news: Virginia still gets to play at North Carolina, at Miami and at home against Duke. They’ll have their chances to play their way into the tournament.

Indiana State (15-8, 9-4) RPI: 45, SOS: 50

The Sycamores are like a miniature version of UVA. Their good wins are really, really good. They beat Miami (No. 2 in the RPI) and Ole Miss in the Diamond Head Classic out in Hawaii, they won at Wichita State by 13 and knocked off Creighton at home by 19. They are tied for first in the Missouri Valley and can win the conference outright if they win out and if Wichita State wins at Creighton.

But the Trees also have some head-scratching losses. Morehead State beat them, as did Drake, Illinois State and Southern Illinois, who is 215th in the RPI. They have three road games in their final five in league play. Might want to avoid losing one of those.

Illinois (16-8, 4-7) RPI: 26, SOS: 5

No one in the country makes less sense than Illinois. They started off the regular season looking like an actual threat to compete for a Big Ten title, as they went into Spokane and knocked off Gonzaga, won the Maui Invitational with a 17 point win over Butler and smacked around Ohio State in their Big Ten opener. And then, the Illini proceeded to lose eight of their next 11 games and all but knocked themselves out of bubble contention.

Just when it seemed like John Groce’s club quite on the season, they turned around and beat Indiana at home and then went into Minneapolis and knocked off Minnesota. Put it all together, and Illinois has a top 30 RPI, five wins against the top 50, the fifth-toughest schedule in the country and a 4-7 record in the Big Ten.

Ole Miss (18-5, 7-3) RPI: 47, SOS: 105

The Rebels have a profile that looks like it would belong to a team coming out of Conference USA or the WAC. Their computer numbers aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They’re competing for a league title, but they are doing so in a conference that’s a long way from good. They haven’t lost to anyone outside the top 50 in the RPI, but they’ve only won one game against the RPI top 50 and that came when Missouri was playing without Laurence Bowers.

In essence, there is nothing bad about Ole Miss’ resume other than the fact that there is nothing good about it. And the worst part is that playing in the SEC won’t provide anymore chances for big wins until the SEC tournament. The Rebels play as many teams with an RPI in the 200s as they do teams in the top 100 — three.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.