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Bubble Banter: Four critical bubble battles, Arkansas’ big chance

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see below come from.

This story will be updated throughout the night. 

WINNERS

Arkansas (RPI: 45, KenPom: 57, play-in game): The Razorbacks were the biggest winner of the night, and it’s not really close. For starters, they picked up a win at South Carolina, a top 25 road win that (finally) gives a little substance to their résumé: a top 25 road win. That should help Arkansas counteract the fact that they’ve lost to both Missouri and Mississippi State. But more to the point, it may be what saves Mike Anderson’s job. It’s no secret that he’s got some pressure on him, and getting into the NCAA tournament should be enough to ease that pressure. This win might be what does that for Arkansas.

Seton Hall (RPI: 44, KenPom: 55, play-in game): The Pirates started off the biggest week of their season in terrific fashion, picking off No. 20 Creighton at home. They follow that up with home games against Villanova and Butler. Split those two games and they should be dancing.

Minnesota (RPI: 22, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): Minnesota is just about off the bubble, having landed a last-second win over Indiana at home on Wednesday night. They have strong computer numbers, a handful of quality wins and nothing in the way of a bad loss.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 30, KenPom: 20, No. 8 seed): Like Minnesota, Oklahoma State is very close to playing their way out of the bubble picture, at least for the time being, as they added another quality win at TCU on Wednesday.

Wichita State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 16, play-in game): This is the deal for the Shockers: As long as they don’t lose to anyone other than Illinois State the rest of the season, they’ll probably be in the NCAA tournament. But given that their only top 100 win is league rival Illinois State, it’ll be hard for them to make up for a bad loss to anyone else in the league. They beat Southern Illinois tonight.

Miami (RPI: 52, KenPom: 36, No. 10 seed): Playing without JaQuan Newton the Hurricanes were still able to get themselves a win at home over fellow bubble-dweller, Georgia Tech. Even without Newman, this was still a win that the Hurricanes should get, but it is a nice confidence boost to be able kick off a three-game stretch where they won’t have their point guard to get a win.

Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 44, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds knocked off Missouri State on the road by one points on Wednesday, meaning that their dream of getting an at-large bid should they lose in the MVC tournament is still alive.

Iowa State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 26, No. 8 seed): The Cyclones won at Kansas State on Wednesday night, a win that probably is enough to get them off the bubble for the time being. If they can beat TCU and Oklahoma State at home, they should lock up their bid.

LOSERS

Rhode Island (RPI: 41, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Rams may have just buried themselves on Wednesday night, losing at home to Fordham in a game where they managed all of 43 points. I guess that heart-breaking loss to Dayton on Friday hurt a little more than we realized.

Indiana (RPI: 88, KenPom: 49, next four out): Indiana has now lost six of their last seven games after losing at the buzzer to Minnesota. They’re 15-12 on the season, and they’re not going to the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State (RPI: 48, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed): The bad news for the Wildcats is that they’ve lost ten games after falling to Iowa State on Wednesday night and they have just three top 100 wins. The good news? They have no sub-100 losses and one of those three wins is at Baylor, who is No. 1 in the RPI. I’d recommend going 4-1 down the stretch if the Wildcats don’t want to feel like they need to win a game in the Big 12 tournament to get a bid.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, play-in game): The Yellow Jackets whiffed on a chance to land a road win over a top 50ish opponent when they lost at Miami, who was playing without JaQuan Newton. In most years, they’d be out of it by now, but the bubble is weak enough that the Yellow Jackets are still very much in the mix.

TCU (RPI: 38, KenPom: 40, No. 10 seed): It’s too early to say that TCU is in trouble, but this is a team with just two top 40 wins (Illinois State and at Kansas State) and five top 100 wins in total. They don’t have any bad losses to their name, but they need to start adding some depth to their profile. It won’t be easy, as their next two games are at Iowa State and at Kansas.

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.