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Bubble Banter: Michigan, Providence and Rhode Island land massive wins

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see listed below come from. This post will be updated throughout the day. 

WINNERS

Michigan (RPI: 51, KenPom: 27, No. 9 seed): Congratulations, Michigan. After smacking around Purdue the Wolverines are locked into a bid.

Providence (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, play-in game): We always talk about how frustrating it is that no one seems to play their way onto the bubble and then into the NCAA tournament, but I think Providence has done just that. They erased a late, 12-point deficit in a win over Marquette on Saturday afternoon, their fourth straight win on the season. All four came against likely tournament teams, meaning the Friars five top 50 wins, ten top 100 wins and games left against DePaul and St. John’s. But they also have already lost to DePaul, St. John’s and Boston College. The margin for error is thing, but as of today, I think they’re going to end up being in.

Rhode Island (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, next four out): The Rams landed a massive win on Saturday, picking off VCU at home in a game URI absolutely had to win. They now have a pair of top 25 wins and four total top 100 wins, which I’m not sure is enough to make up for the two sub-100 losses on their résumé. The Rams have two landmines left on their schedule, so for my money, URI is going to have to win land a win over either VCU or Dayton in the league tournament to have a real chance.

Wichita State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 12, No. 10 seed): The Shockers took down Missouri State on the road, meaning that they are going to head into the Missouri Valley tournament having just a single league loss to their name. This team’s status hasn’t changed in weeks: They have just one quality win and none of their non-league wins have turned out to be all that impressive, but they are No. 12 according to KenPom.com. That may be enough to get them in, but Gregg Marshall probably shouldn’t test that theory out.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 43, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds did what they needed to do, knocking off Northern Iowa on the road to enter the MVC tournament with just the one league loss to Wichita State. If those two programs play each other in the title game, there’s a good chance the MVC could end up with two tournament teams.

Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, next four out): A blowout win over Mississippi State sets Vandy up for a season-changing week: They play at Kentucky and host Florida. The ‘Dores probably need to win both, considering they already have 13 losses on the season — including one to Missouri — and will take another loss in the SEC tournament, but the chance is there. Two wins, get a bid.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): The Razorbacks, on the other hand, should feel pretty good about their spot on the bubble right now after winning at Auburn on Saturday. I’m not quite ready to call them a lock just yet, but I think one more win somewhere — at Florida, Georgia, first SEC tournament game — gets it done.

Indiana (RPI: 100, KenPom: 46, bubble): The Hoosiers are somehow still in the mix after beating Northwestern at home on Saturday night. This is according to people that are the best in the business at doing this. Personally? I’m not sure there’s much the Hoosiers can do to turn this thing around.

Seton Hall (RPI: 48, KenPom: 57, play-in game): Seton Hall beat DePaul. A loss to DePaul would have likely sent them to the NIT. Go 1-1 next week (Georgetown, at Butler) and Seton Hall is dancing.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LOSERS

TCU (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, first four out): TCU lost a heart-breaker at home to West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, airballing a wide-open, buzzer-beating three that would have gotten the Horned Frogs a win that could have put them on the right side of the bubble. At this point, with just two top 50 wins and five top 100 wins, TCU is going to have to win out and do some work in the Big 12 tournament to have a chance. They simply do not have enough quality wins to make up for their 12 losses, and beating Kansas State and Oklahoma won’t change that.

VCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 42, No. 9 seed): VCU lost at Rhode Island on Saturday, which is not a bad loss and certainly isn’t going to keep VCU out of the tournament. What it does, however, is reduce their margin for error. For my money, the Rams need one more win this season to lock up a tournament bid.

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 30, play-in game): Playing a game that more-or-less had their NCAA tournament lives on the line, Kansas State went into Norman and lost by 30 points to a bad Oklahoma team that doesn’t have their star point guard after he tore his ACL. That’s not a good look, is it?

Marquette (RPI: 68, KenPom: 31, No. 10 seed): Marquette had a chance to just about lock up a bid at Providence, leading by 12 down the stretch. But they game that game away, meaning that their bid is going to be earned next week, when they get Xavier on the road and Creighton at home. A split should probably be enough — they have three top 30 wins, including Villanova, and seven top 100 wins — with just one bad loss.

Clemson (RPI: 61, KenPom: 37, next four out): The Tigers have lost five games by one or two points and 11 games by six points or less after losing at home to Florida State on Saturday. They had their chances to earn an at-large bid, and frankly, are probably good enough to have done so. But if they’re going to get into the NCAA tournament, they’re going to have to get an automatic bid.

Pitt (RPI: 63, KenPom: 66, next four out): The Panthers probably needed to win at home against North Carolina to put them in real contention. As of now, they very likely need to get the automatic bid.

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.