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Bubble Banter: Kansas State, Xavier the big winners while the Big Ten takes an L

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

This post will be updated throughout the day.

LOSERS

Illinois (RPI: 58, KenPom: 67, first four out): Coming off of a loss to Rutgers in their season finale, a loss that put the Illini on the wrong side of the bubble, John Groce’s club caught a break in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, playing a Michigan team that saw their plane skid off the runway on Wednesday evening and did not arrive in D.C. until three hours before the game, playing in their practice jerseys.

And the Illini were still run off the floor, falling by 20 points in a “lose and go to the NIT” game. The question we all want answered at this point is not whether or not this team will get a bid, but whether another year without a trip to the tournament costs John Groce his job.

USC (RPI: 41, KenPom: 62, No. 11 seed): The Trojans lost on Thursday night, falling by two to No. 3 UCLA in a game that USC had to win if they were going to end up getting through Selection Sunday without stress. As it stands, USC has a pair of top 20 wins, but both of them came at home. They’re 24-9 on the season with just one sub-100 loss, but they have a grand total of six top 100 and nine top 150 wins. They went 10-8 in the Pac-12, but they went just 1-6 against the top three teams in the league. At this point, USC is rooting against all of the bubble teams and hoping that they’ve done enough to sneak into a play-in game.

One x-factor that hasn’t really been mentioned with USC is Bennie Boatwright. He missed 17 games this season, and the Trojans went just 5-4 in Pac-12 play without him.

Iowa (RPI: 71, KenPom: 66, first four out): Illinois wasn’t the only Big Ten bubble team to take a beating on Thursday. The Hawkeyes lost to Indiana by 30 in a game they had to win to really have a chance of winding up on the right side of the bubble.

Marquette (RPI: 55, KenPom: 28, No. 9 seed): The Golden Eagles fell in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, meaning that they are going to have to spend the next 72 hours sweating it out with the rest of the bubble teams. And frankly, I don’t think that Marquette has all that much to worry about. My guess is that they will safely be in the tournament, but as we’ve mentioned a number of times over the course of the last week, four of Marquette’s five best wins on the season came against Xavier and Creighton after the season-ending injuries to Edmond Sumner and Mo Watson. I don’t expect this to cost Marquette a bid — maybe a seed line or two — but it is a story line to keep an eye on.

Providence (RPI: 53, KenPom: 53, No. 10 seed): The Friars are going to be an interesting case on Selection Sunday. They do have six top 50 wins, but just three of those wins are top 40. They’ve also won just eight total top 100 games — all of which are in the top 60 — but they also lost three games to sub-100 competition, including two games to sub-200 teams. I think the Friars are going to be OK, but every game a bubble team wins is bad news for Ed Cooley.

WINNERS

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 32, play-in game): Kansas State knocked off No. 9 Baylor on Thursday night, a win that puts the Wildcats in a really good position to get an at-large bid on Selection Sunday. I would not go as far as to call them a lock for the tournament. The Wildcats have a pair of wins over Baylor — both of which came away from home — but they have just four more top 100 wins to their name in addition to a pair of sub-100 losses. The Wildcats will advance to face West Virginia in the Big 12 semifinals.

Xavier (RPI: 33, KenPom: 44, play-in game): Xavier beat No. 18 Butler in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Welcome to the NCAA tournament, Muskies. You are no longer on the bubble because Chris Mack went rogue.

California (RPI: 56, KenPom: 58, next four out): Cal advanced to the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament with a win over Utah on Thursday afternoon, and it sets the Bears up for a must-win against Oregon on Friday. Cal’s tournament résumé has one, glaring hole in it: the lack of elite wins. Their best win on the season is over USC, and the Trojans are only 41st in the RPI, needing to play their win into the Big Dance as well. To be frank, I’m not even sure a win over Oregon would be enough for Cal, but it would give them a real chance, and as of right now, that is not the case.

Middle Tennessee State (RPI: 38, KenPom: 52, No. 11 seed): The Blue Raiders avoided a loss in the Conference USA quarterfinals, which is good news because it means their dreams of getting the automatic bid is still alive. And rest assured, MTSU wants that automatic bid. They do not want to sweat out Selection Sunday with the four sub-100 losses they would have on their résumé if they were to take a loss in the Conference USA tournament.

Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 40, No. 11 seed): Vanderbilt blew out Texas A&M in their SEC tournament opener, meaning that they have just about played their way into the Big Dance. If they beat Florida on Friday, the Commodores will likely find themselves dancing. If they don’t, Vandy will remain one of the most fascinating bubble teams in the country.

Seton Hall (RPI: 44, KenPom: 54, No. 10 seed): Seton Hall beat Marquette on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, a win that should lock up their at-large status. The Pirates probably would have been on the right side of the bubble either way.

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.