Bubble Banter: Ole Miss, Illinois with clutch wins while Tulsa, Iowa take bad losses

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  • Ole Miss: The Rebels further solidified their NCAA tournament profile thanks to a Stefan Moody jumper with 2.7 seconds left to give them a win at Florida. Ole Miss was an eight seed in our latest bracket, meaning they have breathing room. The Rebels host Arkansas on Saturday, and a win not only would give them a sweep in the season series, but it would likely put Andy Kennedy’s club in a position where they can feel safe about dancing barring a collapse down the stretch.
  • UConn: The Huskies are still a long way away from being anything remotely close to a tournament team this season, but in pounding Tulsa at home on Thursday, UConn took another step in the right direction. They’ve won three straight games, but they’re still barely inside the RPI’s top 100 and, frankly, probably need to win out to have an actual shot at an at-large.
  • Illinois: The Illinois used a 21-0 run that spanned the end of regulation and the start of overtime to avoid what would have been a crushing loss at home to Michigan. The Illini are probably slotted right above the cut line right now, but they’re now 7-5 in the Big Ten with a huge opportunity this weekend with a game at Wisconsin.
  • Purdue: Purdue avoided a second straight loss by knocking off Rutgers on the road on Thursday, meaning that they have now won five of their last six games and remain tied for second in the Big Ten. They’re still, at best, within striking distance of the cut line, but with road trips to Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan State remaining, the chances will be there for Purdue to make themselves a tournament team.


  • Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have played just 10 RPI top 150 opponents this season, and in their last two games, two of those opponents have beaten them. SMU won at Tulsa, and UConn blew them out in Storrs. Tulsa’s a fun story and it’s impressive that Frank Haith has been able to get this team to the top of the American, but they’re probably right on the cut line as of today.
  • Iowa: The Hawkeyes followed up their big wins over Michigan and Maryland by … losing at home to Minnesota? Performances like that are why you can’t trust Iowa, and if we learned anything last season, it’s that the Hawkeyes are capable of a collapse. That said, even with Thursday’s loss, they’re probably still in the No. 7-8 seed range.
  • Stanford: The Cardinal have now lost three of their last four games to fall to 7-5 in the Pac-12, three games off the pace of the leaders. On Thursday, they lost by 16 at Utah, which isn’t exactly a blemish on their resume but instead a missed opportunity to improve their bubble position. The Cardinal are in right now, but they’re in that No. 10-11 seed range, which means they don’t have much room for error. The best thing that could happen to them, beyond a win at Arizona to close out the season? Seeing Texas make a late run in the Big 12.
  • St. Mary’s: The Gaels were already in a bad spot, and they got smothered and covered like Waffle House hash browns by BYU.
  • Old Dominion: The Monarchs are slowly fading from the bubble pictures. A loss to UT-San Antonio on Thursday night, which dropped them to 7-4 in a mediocre Conference USA, puts them in a really tough spot to come back from.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

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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.