Bubble Banter: Tuesday had some intriguing games for potential Tournament teams

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  • Texas A&M: The Aggies were the biggest winner of the night, as they picked up a win in the bubbliest game of the night, knocking off LSU at home. Texas A&M, who was a No. 11 seed in our most recent bracket, looks like they are going to end up being one of the toughest profiles to judge come Selection Sunday, as their resume looks an awful lot like what you might expect from a good mid-major team from a mediocre conference. Sitting at 17-7 on the season, the Aggies have no bad losses, the worst coming on a neutral site against Kansas State, No. 93 in the RPI. But they also don’t have many great wins. Just six of their 17 came against top 100 opponents, their sweep of LSU being A&M’s “marquee” wins. The Tigers entered the night at No. 48 in the RPI, which will likely drop to outside the top 50 once the numbers are updated. The Aggies really could use a win on Feb. 24th at Arkansas.
  • Michigan State: The Spartans probably don’t have to worry about missing out on the NCAA tournament, as long as they avoid a Seton Hall-esque collapse in the season’s final three and a half weeks. On Tuesday, they rolled their way through one potential speed-bump, as they went into Ann Arbor and knocked off a depleted Michigan team. Road wins over top 100 teams are always helpful.
  • San Diego State: Much like Michigan State, the Aztecs — both teams were No. 8 seeds in Monday’s bracket — are in a position where they can feel pretty comfortable about their NCAA tournament position. On Tuesday, they avoided what could have been an ugly road loss by taking care of business in a tough environment. They beat New Mexico, whose RPI is approaching the sub-150 range, in The Pit by double-figures.

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s Latest Bracket Projection


  • Georgia: A home loss on Saturday to Auburn wasn’t a killer for the Bulldogs, although it did drop them from a No. 8 seed to a No. 10 seed. Tuesday’s home loss to South Carolina may hurt a little more, however, as it gives Mark Fox’s club just that much less wiggle room. Georgia has just two top 50 wins — Ole Miss and Texas A&M — and as of tonight, they have four sub-100 losses. (Ironically enough, two of those losses are to South Carolina, who will likely jump from No. 105 into the top 100 as of tomorrow morning.) What’s saving the Bulldogs right now are rock-solid computer numbers. They have a top 30 RPI and a top 25 strength of schedule, numbers that give them some staying power despite those four ugly losses. Worth noting: Georgia gets Kentucky at home on March 3rd. Win that, and they’re likely in.
  • St. John’s: The Johnnies got smoked at Georgetown Tuesday night, but lucky enough for them, the RPI sees that loss as the same as a one point loss, meaning that it likely doesn’t hurt their overall profile. St. John’s has good computer numbers, two top 25 wins, three top 50 wins and six top 100 wins, and both of their bad losses came on the road in Big East play. They also get Seton Hall, Xavier and Georgetown at home in the next week and a half. They’re probably just on the right side of the cut line as of right now. They can probably punch their ticket by winning these next three games.
  • LSU: The Tigers lost at Texas A&M on Tuesday, meaning they’ve now dropped four of their last six and will likely fall out of the RPI top 50. LSU has four top 50 wins and eight top 100 wins, but they’ve lost to Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri, the three reasons they’re still in the bubble conversation. Tuesday’s loss isn’t going to hurt their profile, but another road win over a top 50 team would have made them feel a lot more comfortable.
  • Texas: Texas lost a close game at No. 17 Oklahoma, and while the Longhorns are not yet in real trouble of missing the tournament — this loss surely won’t hurt their profile — missing out on a top 25 road win will hurt if UT’s slide continues.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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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

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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.