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BUBBLE BANTER: VCU lands a critical win at GW

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In what was a virtual play-out game, VCU (KenPom: 41, RPI: 61, CBT Bracketology Seed: First Four Out) went into Foggy Bottom and knocked off George Washington (KP: 71, RPI: 46, CBT: First Four Out), 69-65. The Colonials had a chance to take the lead late, as Pato Garino had a great look at a three with 15 seconds left, but he missed and VCU hit the free throws they needed to hold onto the win.

And what a big win it was.

This was just the third top 50 win of the season for the Rams, and the second of which that came on the road. It evened up their record against the top 100 at 6-6 and it game them more top 50 wins than they have sub-150 losses.

I don’t think that this loss gets VCU onto the right side of the cut line — it certainly doesn’t lock up a bid — but it does move them one step closer to getting an at-large and one step closer to an Atlantic 10 regular season title.

What this does do is put GW in a position where they may have to win the A-10’s automatic bid if they want to dance. Their win over Virginia is elite, but they have just two top 50 wins, are just 5-5 against the top 100 (which includes a win over No. 99 Penn State) and have three sub-100 losses on their profile, including a loss at DePaul and a loss at Saint Louis.

If they’re going to the tournament, they cannot lose to George Mason and they have to get that win at Davidson in the season finale. And that probably won’t be enough. The only way GW feels safe on Selection Sunday is if they win out and beat Dayton before losing in the A-10 tournament.


  • Vanderbilt (KP: 27, RPI: 55, CBT: Play-In Game): The Commodores landed a massive, massive win over Kentucky. We wrote all about it right here.
  • Butler (KP: 40, RPI: 62, CBT: First Four Out): The Bulldogs tried their damnedest to give this win away — they blew a 79-66 lead in the final two minutes — but hung on to win a key road game in overtime. Georgetown isn’t a marquee win by any stretch of the imagination this season, but when you’re living life on the bubble like the Bulldogs are, every win — and every loss you avoid — is critical at this stage of the season. Butler gets Seton Hall at home on Tuesday. With just a pair of top 50 wins on the season, that game may be a must-win.
  • Syracuse (KP: 42, RPI: 54, CBT: 8): The Orange landed a win over N.C. State in the Carrier Dome on Saturday, a win that could very well be enough to get them into the NCAA tournament. Their seeding is going to be a tough call due to how the committee judges the time that Jim Boeheim was suspended, but I think it’ll be safe to call Syracuse a lock if they win at North Carolina or at Florida State next week.
  • Wichita State (KP: 9, RPI: 54, CBT: 9): The Shockers beat Illinois State, which means that they still can probably get into the NCAA tournament as an at-large. Our bracketologist has them in as a No. 9 seed. I think that is probably too high at this point.
  • Temple (KP: 83, RPI: 60, CBT: 12): The Owls avoided what would have been a disastrous loss, beating UCF by two points in Philly on Saturday. The Owls are currently in most bracket projections, but that’s a result of them being in first place in the American. Temple is on the wrong side of the bubble if they’re an at-large.
  • Cincinnati (KP: 28, RPI: 58, CBT: Play-In Game): The Bearcats did what they had to do at East Carolina, and if they do the same at Houston and against SMU at home in the season finale, Mick Cronin’s club will likely be tourney bound. If they don’t, they’re going to have some work to do in the AAC tournament to feel comfortable.
  • Alabama (KP: 78, RPI: 45, CBT: Play-In Game): The Crimson Tide snapped a two-game losing streak on Saturday, picking off Auburn and keeping themselves on the right side of the bubble as of today. Here’s the problem: Alabama had Georgia and Arkansas left on their schedule. They’re not getting another chance at a quality win until the SEC tournament.
  • Gonzaga (KP: 34, RPI: 70, CBT: Next Four Out): If the Zags are going to have a shot at an at-large bid, they absolutely had to win tonight at BYU. They did. I still think they need to automatic bid.
  • Saint Mary’s (KP: 37, RPI: 59, CBT: 11): The Gaels kept the at-large dream alive with a win over San Francisco on Saturday night. Without a top 50 win on their profile, I can’t seen this team getting in without the automatic bid.
  • Providence (KP: 59, RPI: 40, CBT: 10): The Friars beat DePaul at home on Saturday, which is a win they desperately needed. And that is something I did not think I would be saying two months ago.
  • St. Bonaventure (KP: 73, RPI: 33, CBT: First Four Out): The Bonnies were winners because they didn’t lost to UMass. They get Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. That is almost a must-win.


  • South Carolina (KP: 51, RPI: 32, CBT: 7): The Gamecocks took another bad loss on Saturday, falling at Mississippi State. They now have three sub-100 losses, two of which are outside the top 150. USC’s 22-6 record does a lot to hide the fact that their profile is not really as strong as you might think. They get Georgia at home and play at Arkansas. Given their struggles on the road this season, I’d recommend they beat Georgia to avoid any issues.
  • Florida (KP: 43, RPI: 42, CBT: 10): The Gators are reeling. They’ve now lost three in a row, after falling at LSU, and five of the last seven. The Gators are in a difficult spot. They don’t have many great wins, and their profile was built on great computer numbers. As these losses pile up, those computers numbers get uglier and uglier.
  • Texas Tech (KP: 38, RPI: 23, CBT: 7): Losing at Kansas isn’t going to hurt the Red Raiders’ profile, especially considering how safely they are in the field, but a win would have locked up a bid for Tubby Smith. They still have a bit of work left to do.


Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

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

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

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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.