Bracketology: Florida moves to top line

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With the Super Bowl behind us, it’s time to start focusing on March Madness.  Given the action we’ve witness the past couple of weeks, the upcoming NCAA Tournament should be full of surprises.

If you need any other evidence, check out the teams listed around the bubble in today’s bracket.  They’re moving around faster than the Seahawks’ defense at MetLife Stadium.  We have some very interesting resumes.  Like recent weather forecasts, they change quickly, and often.

After 12 straight wins – and a loss by an injured Michigan State squad – the Florida Gators move to the line.  Wichita State is another team pushing for region supremacy.  The aforementioned Spartans, along with Villanova and San Diego State round out the two-seed line today.   Following its thrilling overtime victory over Duke on Saturday, and Arizona’s loss at California, the Orange now sit atop the bracket as the No. 1 overall seed.  Arizona and Kansas remain as the other projected No. 1 seeds based on games played through Sunday, February 2.  Yes, the Jayhawks lost at Texas, but their resume is filled with 12 Top 100 wins, a No. 1 strength of schedule, and the top spot in the RPI. Kansas also leads arguably one of the best two conferences (Big 12) in the nation.

Memphis absorbed the biggest seeding drop.  It’s not so much the loss at SMU as much as the behind-the-scenes resume numbers.  The Tigers are a concerning 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 and they have just three Top 100 RPI victories.  Fortunately, opportunities for seed-building wins remain: Gonzaga, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, and SMU are still on the schedule.

If you’re returning to hoops with a football hangover, several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.  You will see several examples of that in today’s bracket.

Enjoy a fun week of hoops.  We’re on the final push toward Selection Sunday.

UPDATED: February 3, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Florida State vs. Arizona State | West Region
  • Oregon vs. Baylor | Midwest Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. COASTAL CAROLINA Midwest Region
  • ROBERT MORRIS vs. CHATTANOOGA | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTNew York WEST Anaheim                                 
Buffalo San Diego
1) SYRACUSE 1) ARIZONA
16) ROB MORRIS / CHATTANOOGA 16) UTAH VALLEY
8) VCU 8) Memphis
9) California 9) Kansas State
Orlando Spokane
5) Oklahoma State 5) Kentucky
12) HARVARD 12) Florida State / Arizona State
4) Iowa 4) Iowa State
13) CANISIUS 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Raleigh San Antonio
6) Wisconsin 6) GONZAGA
11) SOUTHERN MISS 11) Colorado
3) CINCINNATI 3) CREIGHTON
14) OHIO 14) UC-IRVINE
Buffalo San Antonio
7) Massachusetts 7) Ohio State
10) Minnesota 10) Tennessee
2) Villanova 2) SAN DIEGO STATE
15) STONY BROOK 15) NC-CENTRAL
SOUTH – Memphis MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Orlando St. Louis
1) FLORIDA 1) KANSAS
16) WEBER STATE 16) CO. CAROLINA / SOUTHERN
8) North Carolina 8) UCLA
9) George Washington 9) Xavier
Spokane San Diego
5) SAINT LOUIS 5) Texas
12) GREEN BAY 12) Oregon / Baylor
4) Oklahoma 4) Virginia
13) MERCER 13) DELAWARE
Raleigh Milwaukee
6) Connecticut 6) Louisville
11) LSU 11) Stanford
3) Duke 3) MICHIGAN
14) GEORGIA STATE 14) MURRAY STATE
Milwaukee St. Louis
7) New Mexico 7) Pittsburgh
10) Missouri 10) Providence
2) Michigan State 2) WICHITA STATE
15) AMERICAN 15) IPFW

NOTES on the BRACKET: Syracuse is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Kansas, and Florida.

Last Five teams in (at large): LSU, Florida State, Arizona State, Oregon, Baylor

First Five teams out (at large): Georgetown, Ole Miss, SMU, Indiana, BYU

Next five teams out (at large): Clemson, St. Joseph’s, Dayton, Maryland, Richmond

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

Pac 12 (7): Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State

Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota

ACC (6): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, LSU

American (4): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati

Atlantic 10 (4): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Geo Washington

Big East (4): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Providence

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Southern Miss (C-USA), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), American (Patriot), IPFW (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Chattanooga (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Canisius (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Ohio (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Harvard (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

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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.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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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.