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BUBBLE BANTER: Seton Hall punches their ticket to the dance

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This post will be updated as the games come to an end.

Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Seton Hall (KenPom: 33, RPI: 39, CBT Bracketology Seed: 8).

The Pirates knocked off No. 5 Xavier on Sunday afternoon, giving them their first truly marquee win of the season and their fourth top 50 win. With a 9-6 record against the top 100 and just one loss to a team outside the top 100 — that would be Long Beach State, who is currently 101st in the RPI — Seton Hall is in.

That’s a huge deal for Kevin Willard, the Seton Hall head coach. Willard was on the hot seat entering the season. That’s what happens when you’re in your sixth season at a program with nothing but a single NIT appearance to show for it. After the collapse at the end of last season (the Pirates with top 15 in the country at one point) and what appeared to be a splintering locker room, this win has to feel particularly good for Willard.

The key now? Keep winning games. Get a seed that’s good enough to spend more than a day dancing.

WINNERS

  • Pitt (KP: 47, RPI: 44, CBT: 9): Like the Pirates, the Panthers just about punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament on Sunday with an emphatic win over Duke. The difference for Pitt is that they already have a pair of sub-100 losses on their résumé, which, when combined with just two top 50 wins, puts them in a spot where they still have room to slip up. They have two road trips left: at Virginia Tech and at Georgia Tech. Both of those teams have been tough out this season. The Panthers would do well to avoid slipping up.
  • Wisconsin (KP: 30, RPI: 34, CBT: 8): It may be too early to lock the Badgers into an at-large bid, but it’s hard to imagine that one of the hottest teams in the country would go from winning 10 out of 11 to losing at Minnesota, which would be the only bad loss left on their schedule. It’s hard to believe, but a team that, on January 12th, was 9-9 with a loss at Northwestern and home losses to Marquette, Milwaukee and Western Illinois will be comfortably in the NCAA tournament.
  • Saint Joseph’s (KP: 35, RPI: 25, CBT: 7): The Hawks are getting closer and closer to punching their ticket to the dance. I still think they need to beat Duquesne and avoid another bad loss in the A-10 tournament, but even then the Hawks still might be able to snag a bid.
  • Oregon State (KP: 60, RPI: 27, CBT: 9): Losing to Washington State at home is a good way to derail an NCAA tournament run. The Beavers did not do that.

LOSERS

  • UConn (KP: 23, RPI: 42, CBT: 10): The Huskies are playing with fire right now. As of today, they are probably still safe. They have seven top 100 wins, including at Texas and SMU at home, and their only sub-100 loss was Sunday’s loss at home to Houston. Winning at SMU this week would punch their ticket. If they can’t win there, UConn may need to beat UCF and win a game or two in the AAC tournament to really feel comfortable.
  • Michigan (KP: 44, RPI: 50, CBT: 10): The Wolverines are going to be one of the most interesting teams to discuss on Selection Sunday. On the one had, they had three terrific wins: Texas, Purdue and Maryland. There are just 10 teams in all of college basketball with more top 25 wins that the Wolverines. And while those three wins are the entirety of Michigan’s top 100 wins, the Wolverines only loss outside the top 50 is at Ohio State. Pro-tip: Beat Iowa next Saturday and end any speculation.
  • USC (KP: 46, RPI: 35 , CBT: 8): The slide of the Trojans continues. They’ve now lost five of their last six games and square off with the Oregon schools next weekend with a real chance of finishing the Pac-12 season under .500. The Trojans have three top 50 wins, 10 top 100 wins and no bad losses to their name; losing to Monmouth isn’t quite as bad as losing at Arizona State in the eyes of the RPI. I think one more win might be all they need to get it done, but they still have work left to do.
  • Tulsa (KP: 40, RPI: 38, CBT: 11): I think it’s too early to say that Tulsa played their way out of an at-large bid on Sunday, but losing to Memphis is really going to hurt on Selection Sunday. The Tigers are now the worst loss on the résumé of a team with two sub-140 losses, and with A) just South Florida left on their schedule, and B) a 19-10 record and just three top 50 wins, Tulsa has some work left to do. They need to land a big win in the AAC tournament.
  • Washington (KP: 65, RPI: 73, CBT: Next Four Out): The Huskies lost to Oregon on Sunday night, which was their last chance to land a quality win during the regular season. Getting to the Pac-12 final may be needed for them to get an at-large bid.

 

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

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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.