Bubble Banter: Who helped their tournament chances?

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WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE WINNERS

Creighton: The Bluejays desperately needed to pick up a win on the road against Bradley, and they did just that, smacking the Braves by a score of 80-62. Doug McDermott, who has struggled of late, went for 32 points and 11 boards. The Bluejays had come in losing six of their last 11 games, putting a team once thought to be among the top 15 in the country back into the bubble conversation. Creighton hosts Wichita State on Saturday for the MVC regular season title and then will had to St. Louis for Arch Madness. Creighton should be OK barring two straight losses.

Kentucky: It’s tough to call a team a ‘winner’ when they beat this Mississippi State team at home, but Kentucky simply had to avoid losing to the Bulldogs to keep themselves in the NCAA tournament picture. They did just that. UK still has work to do, however: they play at Arkansas (which is one of the toughest home environments in the SEC), at Georgia and then host Florida.

Boise State: The Broncos kept their tournament hopes alive with a blowout win over Nevada at home tonight. BSU still has work to do, but they’ll have plenty of chances to play their way into a bid: the Broncos host Colorado State, play at UNLV, and then host SDSU.

Baylor: The Bears desperately needed tonight’s win over West Virginia to snap a string of six losses in eight games heading into the most important stretch of their season. Baylor hosts Kansas State and Kansas, as well as travel to Austin to take on Texas. The Bears need to win at least two games to be able to play their way into an at-large bid in the Big 12 tournament.

Ole Miss: The Rebels are in a tough spot right now. They don’t have great computer numbers, their only top 50 win is over Missouri at home, and they lost to South Carolina. That’s not good. They cannot afford to lose to anyone at the bottom of the SEC. On Wednesday, they handled Texas A&M at home. They’ll need to win out and probably pick up a few wins in the SEC tournament.

Akron: The Zips went into Ohio, erased an 18 point lead and knocked off the No. 2 team in the MAC in overtime. Akron has now won 19 straight games and is undefeated in league play. Their resume may not be strong enough to garner an at-large bid, however; they’re just 4-3 against the top 100 with Middle Tennessee State being their only top 50 win.

St. Mary’s: If the Gaels are going to get an at-large bid, they need to win out until the WCC title game and then lose to Gonzaga. That’s the only way. They could not lose to Pepperdine on Wednesday, and they didn’t. They won by 39 points.

Belmont: The Bruins won a share of the Ohio Valley regular season title tonight, but they are a bit of a longshot to earn an at-large bid that this point. Seven top 100 wins are nice, but only one of them — Middle Tennessee State — is really all that noteworthy. The Bruins also have a couple of questionable losses. Losing in the OVC title may not be enough.

NC State: The Wolfpack will be fine as long as they avoid bad losses. They beat Boston College, which would have been a bad loss. Good job.

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

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.