(Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

BUBBLE BANTER: The SEC’s bubble teams are in action today

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Vanderbilt (KenPom: 23, RPI: 48, CBT Bracketology Seed: 10) may have just played their way out of the NCAA tournament.

The Commodores lost to Tennessee in their opening game of the SEC tournament on Thursday afternoon, falling behind by 12 at the half and losing when a game-tying layup from Wade Baldwin was waived off at the buzzer.

Let’s take a look at their profile: Vandy has a pair of really good wins in league play, beating both Texas A&M and Kentucky in Nashville. But that’s it in terms of elite wins for the ‘Dores. They did sweep Florida and they do have seven top 100 wins, but they’re 2-8 against the top 50 and they have three losses to teams outside the top 100.

Their KenPom rank is terrific, and there may be an argument to make that that will be enough to get them into the dance. I don’t think it will be enough, however.

Vandy is headed to the NIT.

WINNERS

  • Florida (KP: 44, RPI: 54, CBT: First Four Out): The Gators beat Arkansas in their first game in the SEC tournament, setting themselves up for a clash with Texas A&M in the quarterfinals of the event. That’s the game that Florida has to get if they want to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble. Barring a win tomorrow afternoon, Mike White’s promising first season in Gainesville is going to end in the NIT.
  • Michigan (KP: 55, RPI: 67, CBT: Next Four Out): It was closer than the Wolverines probably would have liked, but they eventually held on to knock off Northwestern in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament. The Wolverines will now get a shot at Indiana in the quarterfinals, and they cannot get a bid without beating the Hoosiers. Even that may not be enough. But they’ll have their shot now.
  • San Diego State (KP: 38, RPI: 43, CBT: 11): The Aztecs picked up a win over utah State in the opening round of the MWC tournament, meaning that SDSU still has a chance to avoid having to sweat out Selection Sunday. I’m not sure they’ll have the profile to get an at-large bid should they lose this week in Vegas.
  • Alabama (KP: 91, RPI: 69, CBT: N/A): The Crimson Tide beat Ole Miss on Thursday setting themselves up with a date against Kentucky in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. Alabama has to win that if they even want a prayer of getting to the dance.

LOSERS

  • Pitt (KP: 42, RPI: 45, CBT: 9): The Panthers held an early lead on North Carolina, but a late 10-0 second half run combined with a flurry midway through the second half was too much for Jamie Dixon’s club overcome. The Panthers are probably in a position where they will be able to get into the NCAA tournament — losing to UNC only hurts their profile in the sense that it didn’t add to it — but there’s a chance they end up in one of the play-in games. Selection Sunday will be a sweat, but I’d wager that it ends up being a happy day for Pitt.
  • Butler (KP: 33, RPI: 44, CBT: 8): Like Pitt, I’m not sure Butler is in real danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament following their loss to Providence on Thursday afternoon, but stranger things have happened. They have a sweep of Seton Hall and a neutral court win over Purdue which, when combined with their lack of bad losses, should probably do the trick. It’ll be a sweat, though.
  • USC (KP: 47, RPI: 39, CBT: 8): The Trojans are in the same boat at Butler and Pitt. They’ve probably done enough to finish on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday, but a win tonight over Utah would have been the clincher. They lost, so they’ll have a moderately stressful Selection Sunday.
  • Oregon State (KP: 58, RPI: 26, CBT: 8): The Beavers would have locked up a bid with a win over Cal on Thursday. They lost to the Bears, but I think that this group has done enough to get into the dance.

 

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.