2016 NCAA Tournament: Here are your Cinderellas

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During every March, America wants to know which underdogs they can follow through a couple of early upsets. The stories of double-digit seeds making a run to the second week are frequent, but even if a team pulls off one huge upset, some remember those outcomes as much as any in the tournament.

With college basketball being so wide open this season, many of the higher seeds have weaknesses and are susceptible to upsets if they have an off-game. Here’s a look at six potential Cinderella teams that could put together a memorable win or two in the tournament.

Chattanooga: At 29 wins on the season, Chattanooga is going to be tough as a No. 12 seed against No. 5 seed Indiana in the first round. The Mocs posted some impressive wins for a small-conference school this year, as they won at Georgia and Dayton and beat Illinois in a neutral court. Sporting a balanced offense with a lot of different weapons, Chattanooga doesn’t have to rely on one player to stay in a game.

Northern Iowa: As a No. 11 seed playing Texas in the first round, the Panthers are one of the most dangerous double-digit seeds in the field. The Missouri Valley Conference tournament winners went through a cold stretch at the beginning of conference play, but outside of that, Northern Iowa looked like an NCAA tournament team the rest of the season. With wins over North Carolina, Iowa State and twice over Wichita State, Northern Iowa has taken down plenty of talented teams this season. Senior guard Wes Washpun is a dynamic athlete who makes plays on both ends and Matt Bohannon, Paul Jesperson and Jeremy Morgan can all make plays.

[   BRACKET BREAKDOWNS: East | South | Midwest | West   ]

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Iona: When No. 13 seed Iona takes the floor against Iowa State they might have the best NBA prospect on the floor in senior guard A.J. English. The Gaels knocked off Monmouth in the MAAC tournament title game to reach the NCAA tournament, and led by English, they’re a good offense that rates N0. 60 nationally on KenPom. Besides English, big man Jordan Washington is a load on the interior and Deyshonee Much and Isaiah Williams are talented.

Arkansas-Little Rock: There isn’t much that is flashy about the Trojans. But there is substance in what Arkansas-Little Rock has accomplished. Picking up 29 wins is impressive, especially since 12 of them came on the road. The Trojans also beat schools like Tulsa, San Diego State and DePaul on the road and also lost at Texas Tech, so they’ve been tested. Arkansas-Little Rock also loves to dictate a slow tempo, as they’re 345th in adjusted tempo, per KenPom. That slow pace helps the Trojans allow 59.9 points per game, which is third in the country.

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Yale: The champions of the Ivy League have been a trendy upset pick by some analysts and they’ll have a chance to pick off N0. 5 seed Baylor as a No. 12 seed. The Bulldogs have some talented players that can hang with the Bears like guard Makai Mason, forward Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod. The question is whether Yale can deal with Baylor’s length and athleticism. The Bulldogs have a very good defense and should be able to stay in the game if they can hit shots.

Hawaii: During December, Hawaii showed the rest of the country the kind of damage it could do in a tournament setting by putting together two wins and a solid loss in the Diamond Head Classic. The Rainbow Warriors won by double digits over Northern Iowa and Auburn but the three-point loss to Oklahoma showed how good Hawaii could be at their best. Led by versatile big man Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii is a solid defensive team who could put up a great game with No. 4 seed Cal as a No. 13 seed.

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.