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Bubble Banter: Georgetown’s big chance, bubble showdowns in Big 12, Big Ten, ACC

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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds listed below are from. 

WINNERS

Syracuse (RPI: 69, KenPom: 47, No. 11 seed): The Orange got a buzzer-beater from Tyus Battle to give them a win over Clemson on the road, the second thrilling road win they’ve picked up in the last week. Once a tournament afterthought, Syracuse is probably in the tournament with some room to spare as of today. They have some terrific wins (Virginia, Florida State) but no bubble team has the trio of horrid losses that Syracuse has.

Rhode Island (RPI: 39, KenPom: 45, first four out): The Rams dodged a landmine on their schedule by knocking off UMass on the road. URI’s only sub-100 loss came on the road to a Richmond team that is barely outside the top 100. As long as they don’t suffer a dumb loss to one of the four sub-100 teams left on their schedule and pick up a win at home against either VCU or Dayton, Danny Hurley should feel pretty good about his NCAA tournament chances.

Michigan (RPI: 79, KenPom: 40, first four out): The Wolverines inched closer to the bubble with a demolition of in-state rival Michigan State. This was a win that the Wolverines absolutely needed. It’s against a fellow bubble team, for one, but the 15-9 Wolverines play five of their last seven games on the road with their two home games coming against Wisconsin and Purdue. That’s a nightmare stretch, but it’s one that can do wonders for Michigan’s résumé if they get hot.

TCU (RPI: 43, KenPom: 32, No. 10 seed): The Horned Frogs landed a nice win over Texas Tech at home, keeping themselves on the right side of the bubble and adding another top 100 win to their profile. If TCU can hold serve at home – Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Kansas State – and avoid a loss at Oklahoma, they’ll be in the tournament.

Dayton (RPI: 33, KenPom: 31, No. 8 seed): I’m not ready to put Dayton as a lock yet for three reasons: 1. Their best win is Rhode Island, and it’s the only top 50 win that they have; 2. They have a loss at UMass, who is 150th in the RPI; 3. There are some potentially disastrous losses left on their schedule. As long as Dayton doesn’t do anything dumb the rest of the year, they should be in a good spot.

Illinois State (RPI: 34, KenPom: 48, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds pasted Drake on the road on Tuesday, but I still think this is a team that is going to be autobid or bust. The Valley, in my eyes, is a one-bid league.

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 23: Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas glides to the basket and shoots during the second half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images). Oklahoma State won the game 97-70.
Rodney Pryor (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

LOSERS

Northwestern (RPI: 31, KenPom: 30, No. 7 seed): Here comes Northwestern, inching ever closer back to the bubble. The Wildcats moved to 18-4 on the season and 7-2 in the Big Ten with a win over Indiana last week, and it looked like the Wildcats were ready to slide on into “lock” status in the NCAA tournament. Since then, they’ve been torn apart by Purdue on the road and, on Tuesday, lost to Illinois at home, and suddenly, that profile doesn’t look so strong. They have a win over Wake Forest at home, and Wake Forest is somehow a top 30 RPI win. I don’t know if that will last. A neutral court win over Dayton seems like it has some staying power, and Northwestern still doesn’t have a bad loss to their name. But with a trip to Wisconsin this weekend and a visit from Maryland next Wednesday, we’re going to have a really good sense of what this team is in the next week.

Clemson (RPI: 45, KenPom: 38, first four out): The Tigers lost on a buzzer-beater from Tyus Battle on Tuesday night, a killer blow to a team that is already on the outside looking in. The Tigers do have some quality wins – at South Carolina, at Wake Forest – but with three of their next four games on the road, they need to turn things around quickly. The Tigers are just 13-10 on the season and 3-8 in the ACC.

Georgetown (RPI: 62, KenPom: 59, next four out): The Hoyas fought back from down 17 points at Villanova to get within two points at the under-four timeout. Villanova is one of the best teams in the country. The only negative for Georgetown is the missed opportunity. They have some ground to make up and this would’ve done the trick.

Texas Tech (RPI: 80, KenPom: 42, next four out): The Red Raiders are slowly playing themselves out of tournament contention after losing at TCU on Tuesday, but it’s not over yet. Their next two games come at home against Kansas and Baylor. Win one or both of those and they’re back in the thick of it.

Marquette (RPI: 64, KenPom: 34, No. 9 seed): Marquette missed on a great chance to bolster their tournament profile on Tuesday night, losing a close game at home to a reeling Butler team. They’re still probably on the right side of the bubble with a little bit of room to spare thanks to a pair of road wins at Creighton and Georgia.

Michigan State (RPI: 47, KenPom: 49, No. 8 seed): The Spartans got blasted on the road by Michigan. All things considered, this is not the worst loss in the world – road games never are – but it does chip away at Sparty’s margin for error down the stretch.

Wake Forest (RPI: 28, KenPom: 33, next four out): The Demon Deacons had a chance to add to their profile with a win over a good-but-struggling Notre Dame team on the road, and they whiffed. Wake is still without a top 50 win on the season, and that’s not something that they’ll be able to overcome despite their good computer numbers.

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.