2016 NCAA Tournament: Which top seeds are on Upset Watch?

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The best part of the NCAA tournament is the upsets.

We want to see those No. 14 seeds hit buzzer-beaters and those No. 15 seeds somehow play their way into the second weekend of the Big Dance. We want to see those little guys we’ve never heard of and may never hear of again get their 15 minutes of fame. We want the story of Goliath falling to David.

These are the Goliaths that could be toppled during the first weekend of the tournament:

No. 1 (East) North Carolina: Carolina drew a horrid potential matchup with Providence in the second round. UNC’s been much better defensively the last two weeks, I’ll give them that, but their weakness this season has been guarding call-screen actions. And Providence basically runs nothing but ball-screen actions for Kris Dunn. If Dunn is healthy, and the Friar supporting cast is knocking down jump shots (which is never, ever a given), they could give the Tar Heels a run for their money.

No. 1 (West) Oregon: I think the Ducks will have a much tougher test in the second round than they will in the Sweet 16. Saint Joseph’s is built to match up with their small ball lineups. Isaiah Miles is one of the most improved players in the country, and Deandre Bembry vs. Dillon Brooks will be one of the best individual matchups in the event. I’ve had a couple people — including Brian Snow on last night’s podcast (see below) — tell me that Cincinnati can take out Oregon as well, so keep than in mind.

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

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No. 3 (East) West Virginia: I think the Mountaineers will have a tough test if they face Notre Dame in the second round. Pressing Demetrius Jackson makes a defense feel like a cat trying to catch the red dot of a laser pointer, and when the Irish do break that press, if they attack to score, they’ll get a myriad of rhythm threes in transition. While they may get a fight, I don’t think WVU will lose Stephen F. Austin.

No. 3 (Midwest) Utah: I think Utah can handle Gonzaga if they face the Zags in the second round, but Seton Hall is a bit of a quagmire for them. The Utes tend to struggle against big, athletic guards that can pressure defensively, and I think roughly 95% of the players in the Seton Hall program are big, athletic guards that can pressure defensively.

No. 4 (West) Duke: UNC Wilmington presses full court, trying to force turnovers and wear down their opponent. Duke’s issues this season? Depth and point guard play. In the end, Duke’s talent may win out — BREAKING: Grayson Allen, Brandon Ingram and Luke Kennard are really good. — but on paper, this is the perfect matchup for UNCW.

No. 4 (Midwest) Iowa State: In a vacuum, I like ISU over Iona because when two teams want to do the same thing, I pick the team with more talent. Styles may win fights, but when teams have the same style, role with the dudes that are better. Iowa State’s dudes are better, but Monte’ Morris has a banged up shoulder and we never quite know which Jameel McKay and Deonte Burton will show up. Iona also has a dude named A.J. English that can go for 35 on any given night.

No. 5 (Midwest) Purdue: Purdue’s strength is their front court. Arkansas-Little Rock, who went 29-4 with wins at Tulsa and at SDSU, plays a Pack-Line defense, which is one of the best ways to keep big men from getting easy touches in the paint.

[ CBT Podcast: Bracket Breakdown | Expert Brackets | Cinderellas  ]

BRACKET BREAKDOWN LIVE: Who needs an upset pick filled? Final Four questions answered? Let's get it.

Posted by Rob Dauster on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

No. 6 (West) Texas: I actually like this Texas team, but Northern Iowa is really, really good and potentially under-seeded because of an ugly stretch at the start of league play. Remember, UNI has beaten Iowa State, North Carolina and Wichita State twice, including at WSU.

No. 6 (South) Arizona: I actually think the Wildcats matchup pretty well with both Vanderbilt and Wichita State. Vandy doesn’t have the kind of athletic power-wing that Arizona struggles with and Wichita State’s guard aren’t quite quick enough to take advantage of where Arizona struggles defensively. (We discussed this on the podcast as well.) That said, both Vanderbilt and Wichita State are good enough to make it out of the first weekend. This is a tough draw for the Wildcats.

DON’T PICK THESE GUYS TO LOSE, THOUGH

  • No. 2 (South) Villanova: It’s not happening this season. They’ll get past the first round, they’ve beaten Temple by 15 at Temple and Iowa — who hasn’t played well in about a month — is basically the same team as Villanova, just not as good.
  • No. 2 (East) Xavier: The Musketeers are vulnerable in the Sweet 16, but as long as they get past Weber State, neither Wisconsin or Pitt are the kind of team that should trouble them.
  • No. 5 (West) Baylor: I could see the Bears losing in the second round, but I just can’t see Yale winning. These are two teams that win games because of big front lines and their work on the glass, and when two teams have the same strength, bet on the team with more talent.
  • No. 4 and No. 5 (East) Kentucky and Indiana: All due respect to Stony Brook and Chattanooga, the world needs Indiana and Kentucky to square off in the NCAA tournament. Don’t even put that thought into the universe.

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.