Late Night Snacks: Fourteen teams grab automatic bids to NCAA tournament

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Saturday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: UCLA 75, No. 4 Arizona 71

Las Vegas was home to two of the most exciting games of the day, with the Pac-12 and Mountain West title games being played simultaneously. UCLA won the Pac-12 tournament crown thanks in large part to outstanding performances from guards Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. Anderson, who was named tournament MVP, accounted for 21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists against the nation’s best defense with Adams adding 19 points and four rebounds (Norman Powell’s 15 points shouldn’t be ignored either). As for Arizona, Nick Johnson scored 22 points but their minus-15 disadvantage from the foul line (the Wildcats shot 6-for-16) was an issue but they’ll still be a one-seed in the NCAA tournament.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) Providence 65, No. 14 Creighton 58

Providence arrived in New York City squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. They leave as Big East tournament champions for the first time since 1994, with Bryce Cotton scoring 23 points to lead the way. Providence went with a zone defense and it worked, as Creighton shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc.

2) No. 16 Iowa State 74, Baylor 65

Despite trailing by ten points on two separate occasions, Fred Hoiberg’s Cyclones fought back to win their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000. DeAndre Kane scored 17 points and Georges Niang added 13 for a team that has the firepower to make a serious run in the NCAA tournament. As for the Bears, while they fell short of the Big 12 crown they’ve won ten of 12 games entering the NCAA tournament.

3) No. 22 Michigan State 83, No. 12 Wisconsin 75

Don’t be fooled by the final margin, as Michigan State led by as much as 21 points in their win over Wisconsin to advance to the Big Ten title game. Adreian Payne led six Spartans in double figures with 18 points, and if Michigan State can continue to work towards being the team many expect them to be at full strength they can at the very least reach the Final Four if not win the national title. Next up for the Spartans is No. 8 Michigan, which held off No. 24 Ohio State in the other semifinal.

STARRED

1) Halil Kanacevic (Saint Joseph’s) 

Tallied 26 points, 17 rebounds and four assists in the Hawks’ 67-48 win over St. Bonaventure in an Atlantic 10 semifinal.

2) Kyle Anderson (UCLA)

21 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in the Bruins’ 75-71 win over No. 4 Arizona in the Pac-12 title game.

3) Aaric Murray (Texas Southern) 

27 points, ten rebounds and two assists in the Tigers’ 78-73 win over Prairie View A&M to win the SWAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

STRUGGLED

1) Matthew Wright (St. Bonaventure)

Wright made just one of his nine field goal attempts in the Bonnies’ 67-48 loss to Saint Joseph’s.

2) Ed Townsel (Arkansas State) 

After scoring 32 points in the Red Wolves’ quadruple overtime win the day prior Townsel ran out of gas in a 72-45 loss to Georgia State in the Sun Belt semis, scoring two points on 1-for-10 shooting.

3) Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge (Creighton) 

The duo combined to shoot 2-for-13 from the field in the Bluejays’ 65-58 loss to Providence in the Big East final.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS

  • America East: Albany to make second consecutive NCAA appearance
    For the second year in a row Will Brown’s team played the America East title game on the road, and for the second consecutive season the Great Danes won. Sam Rowley scored 18 points and Peter Hooley made a critical three-pointer in the game’s final minute to seal a 69-60 win over Stony Brook.
  • American: No. 5 Louisville rolls No. 21 UConn for third time
    At this point it’s safe to say that the Cardinals aren’t a good matchup for UConn as they beat the Huskies by double digits for the third time this season, 71-61. Montrezl Harrell scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the way for a team that’s playing very well heading into the NCAA tournament.
  • Atlantic 10: Saint Joseph’s, VCU advance to Sunday’s title game
    Nine-seed St. Bonaventure was a threat to bubble teams across the nation, as their winning the A-10 tournament would essentially take away an at-large bid. Saint Joseph’s took care of that, beating the Bonnies 67-48 behind 26 points and 17 rebounds from Halil Kanacevic. The Hawks’ opponent Sunday will be VCU, which beat George Washington 74-55 but will be without the injured Melvin Johnson.
  • ACC: Virginia, Duke win semifinal match-ups
    No. 6 Virginia and No. 7 Duke met just once during the regular season, with the Blue Devils winning a tight affair in Durham back in January. Sunday afternoon they’ll play for the ACC title, with the Cavaliers holding off Pittsburgh 51-48 and Duke beating N.C. State 75-67 with Jabari Parker scoring 20 points to lead a balanced effort.
  • Big Sky: Tresnak leads Weber State to Big Dance
    Kyle Tresnak scored 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting to lead Weber State to an 88-67 win over North Dakota in the Big Sky title game. The Wildcats, who have been one of the Big Sky’s best programs in recent years, will make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
  • Big West: Cal Poly completes improbable run
    After beating the top two seeds in the Big West tournament on consecutive days Joe Callero’s Mustangs completed their run to the title with a 61-59 win over Cal-State Northridge. The likely next stop for Cal Poly, which entered the the week 10-19 overall and will make its first NCAA tournament appearance, is Dayton for the First Four.
  • Conference USA: Tulsa grabs automatic bid
    Danny Manning’s Golden Hurricane may have struggled during non-conference play but they’ll enter the NCAA tournament playing well, winning 17 of their last 20 games. Tulsa beat Louisiana Tech 69-60 to win Conference USA’s automatic bid.
  • Mid-American: Western Michigan wraps up first NCAA appearance since 2004
    The last time a team from the West Division represented the MAC in the NCAA tournament was back in 2004, with Western Michigan doing the honors. The Broncos will do so again by virtue of their 98-77 win over Toledo, as they shot 55.7% from the field. David Brown scored 32 points and Shayne Whittington added 20 to go along with 13 rebounds.
  • MEAC: North Carolina Central caps dominant run
    When the MEAC regular season was complete there were some who thought that North Carolina Central would go down as one of the best teams in the history of the conference. Levelle Moton’s team completed the mission Saturday, beating Morgan State 71-62 to earn the school’s first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.
  • SEC: Florida/Kentucky Round 3 set for Sunday
    No. 1 Florida and Kentucky are the two most talented teams in the SEC, and they’ll meet for the title Sunday afternoon. Florida held off Tennessee 56-49 in the first semifinal, with Kentucky beating Georgia 70-58 in the second half of the doubleheader in Atlanta. The Wildcats will be underdogs Sunday, but the improved play of their backcourt is an encouraging sign for John Calipari’s team.
  • Southland: Stephen F. Austin wins 28th straight game
    Stephen F. Austin won its 28th consecutive game Saturday, beating Sam Houston State 68-49 to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Brad Underwood’s team hasn’t lost since November 23, and with their tough half-court defense the Lumberjacks are a threat to knock someone off next week.
  • SWAC: Mike Davis to take third school to NCAA tournament
    The best team in the SWAC eligible for postseason play (regular season champ Southern isn’t), Texas Southern’s headed to the NCAA tournament after beating Prairie View A&M 78-73. Aaric Murray scored 27 points and grabbed ten rebounds for head coach Mike Davis, who has now led three schools to the NCAA tournament with Indiana and UAB being the others.
  • Sun Belt: Louisiana knocks off two-seed Western Kentucky
    Elfrid Payton was all over the stat sheet, accounting for 23 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 73-72 win over Western Kentucky. Louisiana will take on top-seed Georgia State in Sunday’s final, with the Panthers whipping a tired Arkansas State squad 72-45 in the other semifinal.
  • WAC: New Mexico State earns third straight NCAA bid
    Daniel Mullings led four Aggies in double figures with 18 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists as New Mexico State beat Idaho 77-55. This is the third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament for New Mexico State.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.