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Bubble Banter: A look at who has helped and hurt their tournament cause

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WINNERS

Miami (RPI: 66, KenPom: 42, first four out): Entering Saturday, Miami had the kind of schedule that’s difficult to judge: they had no bad losses on the season, but their best win was either at Pitt or over N.C. State at home. That’s not much to go on. But on Saturday, the Hurricanes blew out North Carolina in Coral Gables, landing what will likely be a top 10-15 win on Selection Sunday. For ACC teams trying to get an at-large bid, all they’ll need to do is protect their home court.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 73, KenPom: 76, No. 11 seed): At this point, we shouldn’t be talking about Georgia Tech as a team that’s on the bubble, because as of today, the Yellow Jackets are in the NCAA tournament, and pretty comfortably, too. Look at this group of wins Josh Pastner has amassed in his first season in Atlanta: at VCU, North Carolina, Clemson, at N.C. State, Florida State and, after today, Notre Dame. The Tar Heels, Seminoles and Fighting Irish are the three teams currently sitting at the top of the ACC standings. Tech’s only “bad” loss at at home against Ohio, who was a contender in the MAC until they lost their best player for the season.

Tennessee (RPI: 46, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Vols backed up their win over Kentucky on Tuesday by knocking off a good Kansas State team in Knoxville. Tennessee still has some work left to do to make up for some of their poor early season performances, but this win is going to look better as the season moves closer to March.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 41, KenPom: 27, bubble): The Cowboys have such a weird profile. They put together a pretty good non-conference schedule but managed to lose their first six games in Big 12 play. But three straight wins, capped by a blowout win at Arkansas, keeps them in the bubble picture. Eight wins in conference play might be enough.

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13: Head coach Josh Pastner of the Memphis Tigers calls a play during the Final of the 2016 AAC Basketball Tournament against the Connecticut Huskies at Amway Center on March 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Head coach Josh Pastner (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Clemson (RPI: 50, KenPom: 33, first four out): The Tigers picked up a nice bounce-back win at Pitt, getting them their second win in league play against another program sitting on the bubbly’s cut-line. A loss would have hurt much more than a win helps, but this is a start.

Texas Tech (RPI: 69, KenPom: 41, No. 11 seed): The Red Raiders were probably the biggest loser in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Getting a road game against LSU does nothing to help them with a him. In fact, playing that game probably hurts their computer numbers.

Middle Tennessee State (RPI: 45, KenPom: 48, No. 9 seed): The Blue Raiders remained perfect in Conference USA play with a win over Louisiana Tech. I’d recommend going undefeated in the regular season if they want to feel comfortable about an at-large bid.

Utah (RPI: 59, KenPom: 36, bubble): The Utes picked up a win over a bad Oregon State team on Saturday, but the loss that really hurt them was falling at home to Oregon on Thursday. Their only game against one of the top three teams in the Pac-12 remaining comes at Oregon in February.

Rhode Island (RPI: 57, KenPom: 51, bubble): Rhode Island has some work to do throughout the rest of the Atlantic 10 schedule, mostly because the Rams are not going to have many great wins to get in league play. Beating St. Bonaventure at home was almost a must-win, and they did it.

Nevada (RPI: 39, KenPom: 67, No. 12 seed): Given the relative strength of everyone else in the Mountain West, I’m not sure that Nevada can afford another loss and still get an at-large bid. They beat New Mexico today.

UT Arlington (RPI: 52, KenPom: 73, bubble): Like Nevada, UT-Arlington is in a position where they probably cannot afford to lose until their conference tournament if they’re going to get an at-large bid. Their win at Saint Mary’s is going to look phenomenal on Selection Sunday.

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Kevin Stallings of the Pittsburgh Panthers yells to his team against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Pitt defeated Penn State 81-73. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Kevin Stallings (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

LOSERS

Marquette (RPI: 43, KenPom: 31, No. 9 seed): After the Golden Eagles beat No. 1 Villanova on Tuesday, I said that Marquette should be in the NCAA tournament as long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the year. Losing at home to Providence qualifies as one of those dumb things. Steve Wojciechowski is still in a pretty good spot, but this loss is just going to give them that much more work to do. Tournament teams protect their home floor, especially against the bottom of their league.

Iowa State (RPI: 38, KenPom: 24, No. 9 seed): The Cyclones were in a pretty good spot entering Saturday afternoon at Vanderbilt, but they fell in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to the Commodores. It’s a road loss, so it’s not a killer, but it does make ISU’s path to locking up an at-large bid just that much more difficult.

Kansas State (RPI: 39, KenPom: 26, No. 10 seed): Games like this are why the Wildcats are going to regret not winning those close games at Kansas and Texas Tech early this season. Tennessee is a tough team to beat at home, but they may not end up being a tournament team. On Selection Sunday, this wouldn’t have been a great win by any means, but it is another loss they’re going to have to overcome.

Minnesota (RPI: 19, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): Minnesota missed a chance to put themselves in a great position heading into the stretch run, losing a close game to No. 22 Maryland at home. The Golden Gophers are still in a good spot, but this was a missed opportunity.

Wake Forest (RPI: 26, KenPom: 35, play-in game): Wake blew a golden opportunity to add to their résumé, blowing a late lead to Duke at home in a game where they were clearly the best team for 39 minutes. If Duke eventually puts it all together, that result is going to sting if the Demon Deacons find themselves on the outside of the tournament picture.

TCU (RPI: 36, KenPom: 34, play-in game): The Horned Frogs took a bad loss at home to Auburn on Saturday, a loss that will probably drop them out of the tournament as of today. TCU is much-improved this season, but they need to make a late-run in league play.

Illinois (RPI: 42, KenPom: 66, bubble): The Illini have now lost four of their last five and five of their last seven after falling at Penn State today. Their last game against a top three team in the Big Ten is next week against Wisconsin.

Arkansas (RPI: 27, KenPom: 46, No. 8 seed): The Hogs are 16-5 on the season. Their best win? Tennessee. A solid record on the road is the only reason they’re in the conversation right now.

UNC Wilmington (RPI: 31, KenPom: 44, No. 10 seed): The Seahawks’ shot at getting an at-large bid is effectively gone with a loss at William & Mary today.

Pitt (RPI: 47, KenPom: 78, next four out): With a home loss to Clemson on Saturday, the Panthers are all alone in the ACC’s basement and out of bubble discussion until they land a couple of wins in a row.

#TheNightcap is back. Come chat college hoops as we talk Duke Men's Basketball's come back, Kansas Men's Basketball's win over the Kentucky Wildcats and the rest of a wild Saturday and I enjoy a cold Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Union Jack.

Posted by Rob Dauster on Saturday, January 28, 2017

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.