Latest NCAA tourney projections: Duke’s a 1, but who else?

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After another wild weekend of college hoops, one thing is certain.  We can expect the unexpected.  Which should make for an incredible month of March.

Take the top seed line.  Indiana remains in control of its current No. 1 seed position.  The other three spots still have some wiggle room – although based on Ryan Kelly’s return performance Saturday against Miami-FL, the Duke Blue Devils appear headed for yet another top seed on Selection Sunday.  In this update, Gonzaga and Kansas grab the other two No. 1 slots.  Miami, Georgetown, Louisville, New Mexico, Michigan State, and Michigan are close behind.  Remember, there are only four spots on each seed line.  Someone has to be number nine or ten on the seed list (s-curve).  And the order could easily change.  Throughout the bracket, these final two weeks will help decide the starting position for several teams.

The bottom of the bracket is no less uncertain.  This past Saturday, six teams sitting directly on the bubble lost.  So in some ways, not a lot changed.  The newest addition to the bracket is Boise State.  After beating Colorado State, the Broncos resume is tournament worthy with two games to play.  As a side note, Boise is a true 11 seed in the bracket but had to be placed on the 12 line because of various conflicts and bracketing principles.  It’s not uncommon for this to happen.  Many of the teams in the middle of the bracket are tightly bunched and while one or two seed lines may appear to be a big difference, that’s not necessarily true.

The final couple of at-large spots in the Field of 68 could be argued for hours.  That’s why this week’s games and those in conference tournament play may prove more important than ever.  For now, the final at-large spots belong to Iowa State, Villanova, Virginia, and Tennessee.  Those four are paired in the First Four – with winners headed to matchups in the East and West Regions. Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Arkansas are among the first teams outside the bracket.

Note: The bracket update does not include the Baylor-Texas game on Monday evening.  That game will be factored into our next update. Enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc). Records are for games against Division I teams only.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Villanova vs. Tennessee | East Region
  • Iowa State vs. Virginia | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. SOUTHERN | South Region
  • CHARLESTON SO vs. NORTHEASTERN | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC                         MIDWESTIndianapolis
Philadelphia Dayton
1) Duke 1) INDIANA
16) MERCER 16) CHARLESTON-SO / NORTHEASTERN
8) Butler 8) NC State
9) MEMPHIS 9) Missouri
Dayton San Jose
5) Ohio State 5) Arizona
12) Villanova / Tennessee 12) AKRON
4) Oklahoma State 4) Syracuse
13) BELMONT 13) DAVIDSON
Auburn Hills Kansas City
6) OREGON 6) UNLV
11) Temple 11) Saint Mary’s
3) Michigan State 3) Kansas State
14) VALPARAISO 14) SF AUSTIN
Lexington Philadelphia
7) Colorado State 7) Minnesota
10) Oklahoma 10) Wichita State
2) Louisville 2) GEORGETOWN
15) NIAGARA 15) PRINCETON
SOUTH – Dallas WEST – Los Angeles
Kansas City Salt Lake
1) KANSAS 1) GONZAGA
16) NORFOLK ST / SOUTHERN 16) LONG BEACH
8) San Diego State 8) North Carolina
9) Cincinnati 9) CREIGHTON
Salt Lake San Jose
5) SAINT LOUIS 5) UCLA
12) MID TENNESSEE ST 12) Boise State
4) Wisconsin 4) Marquette
13) LOUISIANA TECH 13) BUCKNELL
Austin Auburn Hills
6) Notre Dame 6) Pittsburgh
11) La Salle 11) Iowa State / Virginia
3) FLORIDA 3) Michigan
14) MONTANA 14) STONY BROOK
Lexington Austin
7) Illinois 7) VCU
10) Colorado 10) California
2) MIAMI-FL 2) NEW MEXICO
15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 15) ROBERT MORRIS

NOTES on the BRACKET: Indiana is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Duke, Gonzaga, and Kansas. Next in line are Miami-FL, New Mexico, Georgetown, Louisville.

Last Five teams in (at large): Boise State, Iowa State, Villanova, Virginia, Tennessee

First Five teams out (at large): Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Massachusetts, Arkansas

Next Five teams out (at large): Maryland, Mississippi, Iowa, Southern Miss, Arizona State

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois

Mountain West (5): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State, Boise State

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, VCU, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL, Virginia

SEC (3): Missouri, Florida, Tennessee

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE(Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), AKRON (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), PRINCETON (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), STONY BROOK (American East), MONTANA (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), ROBERT MORRIS (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

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.