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Bubble Banter: Saturday’s are always a wild day on bubble watch

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

WINNERS

Georgetown (RPI: 66, KenPom: 57, next four out): The Hoyas beat Marquette at home in decisive fashion, which adds a top 100 win to their résumé. That’s not enough for the Hoyas to make up the ground they need to make as one of the next four out, but it is a good sign beating up on another bubble team like this. Georgetown, sitting at 13-12 on the season, more or less has to run the table in the regular season to have a real chance of not being disappointed on Selection Sunday.

Wake Forest (RPI: 31, KenPom: 34, next four out): At this point, beating N.C. State doesn’t mean all that much. It’s another top 100 win for the time being, but come Selection Sunday, at the rate the Wolfpack are going, it probably won’t be. Still, winning this game is a far better outcome than losing it would have been.

Michigan State (RPI: 50, KenPom: 58, No. 11 seed): The Spartans picked up a win over an Iowa team that is barely inside the top 100 in the RPI, so they didn’t exactly add to their profile on Saturday. But the more concerning thing for the Spartans is that there were no Big Ten teams ranked in the top 16 of the bracket preview that was released Saturday morning. Michigan State is going to be firmly on the bubble come Selection Sunday, and if the selection committee doesn’t think much of the Big Ten, that’s not a good sign for Sparty.

Iowa State (RPI: 48, KenPom: 26, No. 9 seed): The Cyclones kept themselves firmly on the right side of the bubble on Saturday by knocking off Oklahoma at home in impressive fashion. Iowa State had previously played themselves off the bubble … and then they went and lost to Texas. Avoiding a second straight loss to the Sooners was a smart idea.

VCU (RPI: 27, KenPom: 48, No. 8 seed): For the first time in ten days, VCU has won a basketball game without needing to get a gift from the officials with 0.4 seconds left in a game they trailed. The Rams beat Davidson in pretty emphatic fashion and are now 20-5 on the season. With losses to Davidson and Fordham this season, VCU does not have much margin for error right now.

Middle Tennessee (RPI: 38, KenPom: 50, No. 11 seed): The Blue Raiders kept their at-large pipe dream alive by knocking off Charlotte on Saturday. I don’t think they can afford another loss in league play without winning the league’s automatic bid.

Valparaiso (RPI: 78, KenPom: 91, No. 12 seed): Valpo still has an outside chance of getting an at-large bid, and they kept that dream alive with a win over Youngstown State on Saturday. I’m just worried that a team that cannot add anything else of substance to their résumé has done enough with a month left in the season.

Arkansas (RPI: 46, KenPom: 59, first four out): The Razorbacks used a terrific second half to erase a deficit and avoid the indignity of losing to Missouri and LSU in back-to-back games.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 77, KenPom: 81, first four out): Despite scoring just 15 first half points the Yellow Jackets kept themselves in the bubble discussion by avoiding a terrible home loss to Boston College.

Illinois State (RPI: 33, KenPom: 44, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds beat Bradley, but what is a win over a team ranked 235th in the RPI going to do? None of Illinois State’s remaining opponents are in the RPI top 140. They better hope no top 50 wins, two top 100 wins and no road wins inside the top 150 is going to be enough. (Hint: it won’t be.)

Oklahoma State (RPI: 30, KenPom: 21, No. 9 seed): The Pokes avoided a résumé loss to Texas and kept themselves sitting on the right side of the bubble with a little bit of room to spare.

Minnesota (RPI: 22, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): The best thing about beating Rutgers? It means you didn’t lose to Rutgers.

SYRACUSE, NY - JANUARY 28: Tyler Roberson #21 of the Syracuse Orange dunks the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half at the Carrier Dome on January 28, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

LOSERS

Syracuse (RPI: 59, KenPom: 46, No. 8 seed): The Orange lost on Saturday at Pitt, which is not a killer on the surface. Pitt has not had a good season but they’re still a borderline top 50 team, and road losses to borderline top 50 teams don’t make or break a team’s tournament profile. Where this hurts is that Syracuse is now 16-10 on the season with losses to Boston College, UConn and St. John’s. They don’t have all that much margin for error as it is, and they still play Louisville twice and have to host Duke.

Seton Hall (RPI: 36, KenPom: 53, play-in game): The Pirates took a brutal loss on the road to a bad St. John’s team on Saturday, the kind of loss that is a nightmare scenario for a team slotted in the play-in game. But it doesn’t change the fact that Seton Hall’s bid will get earned when they play Creighton, Villanova and Xavier at home in consecutive games, starting next week.

Clemson (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Tigers had a chance to vault themselves past some other teams on the bubble on Saturday afternoon, playing Duke tough in Cameron Indoor Stadium. But they lost by two points in a winnable game, meaning that they’re in a spot down the stretch of the season where, as a 13-11 team, they may not be able to survive another regular season loss.

Miami (RPI: 49, KenPom: 40, No. 9 seed): The Hurricanes had a 14-point first half lead and went into halftime up 33-24 on No. 4 Louisville in the Yum! Center and lost. So while this is not a loss that is going to hurt their résumé – losing on the road to a top five team is what’s supposed to happen – this is a loss that is going to sting in Miami ends up on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. This was a winnable game, and the ‘Canes blew it.

Texas Tech (RPI: 85, KenPom: 41, bubble): Like Miami, Texas Tech had a chance to land an elite win on Saturday. They took Kansas to the buzzer at home in a game where the Jayhawks left five points at the foul line in the final minute and played the final three minutes without Frank Mason III. The Red Raiders are barely in the bubble picture at this point, but this was a win that would have put them right back in the conversation. That is going to sting.

UNC Wilmington (RPI: 45, KenPom: 56, No. 12 seed): A loss at Elon on Saturday probably ensures that UNCW, who doesn’t have a top 50 win, will need to get the automatic bid from the CAA.

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 27: Ja'Quan Newton #0 of the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes drives past KeVaughn Allen #5 of the Florida Gators during the game at HP Field House on November 27, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Marquette (RPI: 72, KenPom: 35, play-in game): That win over Villanova is starting to look more and more like a fluke, as Marquette has lost four of five since then. With three games left against Xavier and Creighton, the Golden Eagles still have a chance to make a run and play their way onto the right side of the bubble.

Cal (RPI: 33, KenPom: 47, No. 8 seed): Cal is still in a good spot, but there is a distinct lack of quality wins on their résumé. They won at USC and … that’s it. Princeton on a neutral, Utah and Stanford aren’t exactly great wins. they probably aren’t in danger of missing the tournament yet, but with a loss to San Diego State, there isn’t room for them to make mistakes.

Tennessee (RPI: 37, KenPom: 37, first four out): The Vols are slowly playing their way out of tournament contention after that huge win over Kentucky, losing 76-75 at home to Georgia on Saturday. They’re not 15-11 overall and just 6-6 in the SEC. It’s not over for the Vols – they still play at Kentucky and at South Carolina, two wins that can change what a profile looks like – but as of today, they just have too many losses to have a real chance to dance.

Ohio State (RPI: 62, KenPom: 60, next four out): Ohio State needed a win at No. 21 Maryland to really put themselves into the bubble conversation, and they didn’t get it. This team is now 15-11 overall and 5-8 in the Big Ten.

Kansas State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 28, No. 10 seed): Kansas State lost at West Virginia. It’s not the worst loss they’ve taken this year, but it would have been a great résumé win.

TCU (RPI: 33, KenPom: 33, No. 10 seed): TCU lost at Baylor. That would have been a great win for them, but this isn’t a loss that will hurt them.

 

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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.