Kentucky rings in New Year as overall No. 1 seed

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Here’s your New Year’s Day forecast … the Kentucky Wildcats will be a No. 1 seed when the 2015 Men’s Division I Basketball Championship bracket is unveiled in March.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Thus far, the ultra-talented Wildcats have conquered every challenge.  And while an undefeated season may or may not occur, it’s hard to imagine UK faltering enough to lose its grip on the Midwest region.  We could say similar things about Duke’s hold on the East.  But the Blue Devils’ route through the ACC figures to be a bit more rigorous than the Wildcats’ drive through the SEC.  Either way, UK and Duke hold the top two spots in today’s updated bracket projection – followed by Wisconsin (South) and Arizona (West).

One could easily make an argument that Virginia and Villanova should be ranked ahead of Wisconsin and Arizona.  But before we drop the Badgers or West-Coast Wildcats from their preseason perches, let’s see how conference play unfolds.

If you’ve followed college hoops during the first two months, you’re well aware of the quirky resumes available for review. So take the current bracket for what it is … a synopsis of where we are now, with some potential mixed in, and a whole lot of educated guesswork.  Simply put: there isn’t much difference between an 8-seed and a team listed among the First Five out.  With a lack of strong non-conference profiles, league results will play a huge role in determining at-large candidates.

A couple of additional notes:

  • As conference play is barely underway (and hasn’t begun yet in some leagues), the automatic qualifiers are projected champions, balancing current results with some future expectations.
  • Non-conference strength of schedule (NC SOS) could prove problematic for a few potential bubble teams. In particular, TCU (No. 347) and Wyoming (No. 323) have real issues – think about SMU last year.  While Notre Dame is safely “IN” at the moment, the Irish need to keep pace in the ACC or a No. 323 NC SOS mark could be considered.  Here are a few additional NC SOS numbers to keep in mind: Minnesota (238), Davidson (228), Indiana (219), New Mexico (279), Hawaii (287) and Evansville (288) – per ESPN data through Dec. 13 games.
  • We’ve got a long way to go.  Enjoy the ride.

Happy New Year!  You can find complete Seed List information for the bracket at Bracketville.

BRACKET UPDATE: January 1, 2015

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced last year. 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.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • UNLV vs. Penn State | East Region
  • TCU vs. California | South Region
  • ST. FRANCIS (NY) vs. AMERICAN | Midwest Region
  • CO. CAROLINA vs. TX-SOUTHERN | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

MIDWEST – Cleveland EAST Syracuse
Louisville Charlotte
1) KENTUCKY 1) DUKE
16) AMERICAN / ST. FRAN (NY)     16) C. CAROLINA / TX-SOUTHERN
8) Indiana 8) Georgetown
9) TEMPLE 9) Dayton
Seattle Portland
5) Notre Dame 5) Washington
12) EASTERN WASHINGTON 12) UNLV / Penn State
4) Utah 4) West Virginia
13) HAWAII 13) HARVARD
Louisville Pittsburgh
6) Northern Iowa 6) Oklahoma
11) BYU 11) Cincinnati
3) Iowa State 3) Maryland
14) MURRAY STATE 14) BUFFALO
Columbus Pittsburgh
7) Butler 7) Baylor
10) George Washington 10) Ohio State
2) Louisville 2) VILLANOVA
15) STONY BROOK 15) NORTHEASTERN
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Portland Omaha
1) ARIZONA 1) WISCONSIN
16) DENVER 16) NEW MEXICO ST
8) Colorado State 8) Syracuse
9) SMU 9) LSU
Jacksonville Columbus
5) WICHITA STATE 5) SAN DIEGO STATE
12) GREEN BAY 12) TCU / California
4) North Carolina 4) St. John’s
13) WOFFORD 13) GEORGIA STATE
Jacksonville Omaha
6) VCU 6) Iowa
11) Xavier 11) Stanford
3) Texas 3) KANSAS
14) IONA 14) S.F. AUSTIN
Seattle Charlotte
7) Arkansas 7) OLD DOMINION
10) Michigan State 10) Seton Hall
2) GONZAGA 2) Virginia
15) NC-CENTRAL 15) FL GULF COAST

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona.

Last Five teams in (at large): Cincinnati, California, UNLV, Penn State, TCU

First Five teams out (at large): Minnesota, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami-FL, Wyoming

Next five teams out (at large): Illinois, Providence, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Pittsburgh

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (7): Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State

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

Big East (6): Villanova, St. John’s, Butler, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Xavier

ACC (6): Duke, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, Utah, Washington, Stanford, California

SEC (3): Kentucky, Arkansas, LSU

American (3): Temple, SMU, Cincinnati

Atlantic 10 (3): VCU, Dayton, George Washington

Mountain West (3): San Diego State, Colorado State, UNLV

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Northern Iowa

ONE BID LEAGUES: Old Dominion (C-USA), Georgia State (SBELT), Harvard (IVY), Eastern Washington (BSKY), Green Bay (HZN), S.F. Austin (SLND), Wofford (STHN), Hawaii (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Iona (MAAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Northeastern (CAA), Coastal Carolina (BSO), NC-Central (MEAC), Denver (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Stony Brook (AEAST), American (PAT), St. Francis-NY (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

 

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.