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BUBBLE BANTER: Wichita State is going to be Selection Sunday’s most interesting test

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This post will be updated throughout the day.

And now it gets really interesting for Wichita State (KenPom: 10, RPI: 41, CBT Bracketology Seed: 8).

The Shockers lost in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament on Saturday afternoon to a Northern Iowa team that beat North Carolina, Iowa State and won at Wichita State earlier this season. That’s not a bad team that just picked off Gregg Marshall’s club, but it’s not a loss that the Shockers could afford.

Because they unequivocally do not have a profile that’s deserving of an at-large bid. Entering the day, they had just a single top 85 RPI win this season with three losses to sub-85 RPI teams. That’s never going to be enough to get a bid. Ever.

But there’s two factors at play here. For starters, Wichita State’s chances to land elite wins during non-conference play were lost when their star point guard Fred VanVleet went down with a hamstring injury in November. How does the Selection Committee account for that?

The other part of it is that Wichita State, prior to Saturday’s loss, sat at No. 10 in KenPom’s efficiency ratings. KenPom’s numbers, for those that are unaware, are widely regarded as the most accurate rating system when it comes to college basketball teams, and it’s also worth noting that there has never been a team ranked in KenPom’s top 15 that has missed out on the NCAA tournament.

There has been a pushback against the RPI in recent years, as new and better and more accurate metrics have begun to pop up all over the place, and the Selection Committee has said that they are going to be putting more of an emphasis on those metrics when bracketing. Wichita State will likely end up being the perfect test case.

Personally, I want the committee to let Wichita State in. I’ve loved watching VanVleet and Ron Baker turn Wichita State into a nationally-relevant program. The Gonzaga of the Plains, if you will. But winning and losing matters, and the Shockers just haven’t won enough.

WINNERS

  • Providence (KP: 35, RPI: 38, CBT: 8): The Friars avoided losing at St. John’s today, which means that they’re going to the NCAA tournament. More importantly, a team that was struggling now has won three straight to close the regular season. Will that right the ship as we head into March?
  • Butler (KP: 56, RPI: 47, CBT: 10): The Bulldogs beat the breaks off of Marquette on Saturday, putting them in a position where they can probably feel pretty comfortable about getting into the NCAA tournament. I still think they want to beat Providence in their Big East tournament opener, but that wouldn’t be a bad loss. My guess is they can survive it.
  • St. Bonaventure (KP: 74, RPI: 29, CBT: Play-in Game): The Bonnies avoided a loss to Saint Louis on Saturday, which was not a loss they would have been able to overcome. I think they’ll be fine as long as they avoid losing to one of the landmines that they’ll run into in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
  • Oregon State (KP: 61, RPI: 31, CBT: 10): The Beavers did themselves a favor by winning at UCLA on a night where so many other bubble teams lost. One win in the Pac-12 tournament should lock them into the field.
  • Tulsa (KP: 42, RPI: 45, CBT: Play-in Game): The Golden Hurricane are super-bubbly right now, meaning that they certainly could not afford a loss to South Florida on Saturday. They did not lose to South Florida on Saturday, and they got an added bonus of seemingly every bubble team losing. Tulsa needs to win a game or two in the AAC tournament to really feel comfortable.
  • South Carolina (KP: 57, RPI: 52, CBT: 10): South Carolina won at Arkansas on Saturday, putting them in a position where they should probably feel pretty comfortable about their tournament standing. I think they can probably withstand a loss early in the SEC tournament, but as always, I’d strongly recommend not doing that.
  • Florida (KP: 46, RPI: 54, CBT: First Four Out): Florida beat Missouri on Saturday, which is not going to help their profile but certainly means that the Gators won’t have another landmine to their name. Florida, unfortunately, does not currently have enough good wins on the résumé. They need to win one or two games in the SEC tournament to have a real chance at this thing.
  • Saint Mary’s (KP: 34, RPI: 39, CBT: 10): I’m going to go ahead and assume that they only reason I’m seeing Saint Mary’s in brackets is because they are the top seed in the WCC tournament. I have no idea how they can be a projected at-large team. They beat LMU tonight.

LOSERS

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 24, RPI: 46, CBT Bracketology Seed: 9): The Commodores had a chance to win a share of the SEC regular season title and all-but lock up a tournament bid with a win at No. 20 Texas A&M today. They lost, and while that is not the kind of loss that is going to drop them to the wrong side of the cut-line, it does affect their margin for error in the SEC tournament. They need to win at least one to feel comfortable, I believe.
  • Pitt (KP: 41, RPI: 44, CBT: 9): After knocking off Duke last Saturday, all the Panthers had to do to avoid becoming bubble fodder again was win one of their last two games. They couldn’t manage that, and as a result, here we are. On Saturday, Pitt lost at Georgia Tech, just a couple of days after they lost at Virginia Tech. Wins over Duke and at Notre Dame are nice, but the Panthers are not quite as safe as that No. 9 seed might indicate. I’d recommend winning a game or two in the ACC tournament.
  • VCU (KP: 38, RPI: 42, CBT: 11): VCU had a great chance to win at Dayton on Saturday night, a win that would have locked up their at-large status and given them the outright Atlantic 10 regular season title. The Rams lost, however, and while that’s not going to be a killer for their profile, it’s a step in the wrong direction. They’re on the right side of the bubble as of today, but it would be nice to see them add a win or two in the A-10 tournament to avoid the stress.
  • USC (KP: 51, RPI: 35, CBT: 10): The Trojans are probably still safe after losing to Oregon at home on Saturday, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors from a seeding standpoint by losing six of their last eight games. Four top 50 wins, an 11-11 record against the top 100 and no sub-100 losses should allow them to avoid the play-in game at minimum.
  • Michigan (KP: 49, RPI: 59, CBT: Play-in Game): Michigan lost to No. 16 Iowa at home on Saturday, which is the loss that I think relegates them to the NIT. Without Caris LeVert, this Michigan team just hasn’t been that good.
  • George Washington (KP: 69, RPI: 60, CBT: Next Four Out): The Colonials lost at Davidson on Saturday, putting them in a position where they probably need to earn the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid to go dancing.
  • Alabama (KP: 88, RPI: 63, CBT: First Four Out): The Crimson Tide lost at Georgia on Saturday, meaning they’ve now dropped four of their last five games. I think they need to get to at least the SEC finals to really have a chance at an at-large.
  • Ohio State (KP: 64, RPI: 76, CBT: Next Four Out): The Buckeyes needed to win at Michigan State today to really have a chance at an at-large. They lost.
  • LSU (KP: 77, RPI: 85, CBT: Next Four Out): The Tigers lost at Kentucky. They’re going to need to get that automatic bid if they want to dance.

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.