2017 NCAA Tournament Bold Predictions

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KANSAS LOSES IN THE SWEET 16: This one pains me to say. Truly. Because I’ve ridden harder for Kansas and Frank Mason III than anyone with an address outside of Lawrence. I picked them to win it all in October. I’ve had Mason as the Player of the Year since he made that game-winner against Duke on the fifth day of the season. The problem with the Jayhawks is that they don’t have any depth up front, and when they end up playing Purdue and Caleb Swanigan in the Sweet 16, the big fella is going to give Landen Lucas all the fouls. All of them. I don’t want it to happen — I openly root for myself to be right about everything I say — but it will. Sorry, KU. (Rob Dauster)

GONZAGA WINS IT ALL: The fourth No. 1 seed will cut down the nets. It’ll be the coronation for Mark Few and the program he’s built in Spokane. Either Notre Dame or West Virginia pose a threat in a potential Sweet 16 matchup, and there is the rematch we’re all dreaming of in the Elite Eight with Arizona. But I think this is the Zags’ year. They really check all the boxes: they’re deep, balanced, big, can make shots, experienced. (Terrence Payne)

FLORIDA STATE TAKES DOWN ARIZONA IN THE SWEET 16: Arizona enters the NCAA tournament riding high after the Pac-12 Tournament title but the No. 2 seed in the West Region has a potential matchup nightmare in the Sweet 16 against No. 3 seed Florida State. The Seminoles have one of the few players in the field in Jonathan Isaac who might be able to slow down Lauri Markkanen. (Scott Phillips)

Power Rankings 1-68 | Duke deserved a 1 seed | Committee got bubble right

REGIONAL BREAKDOWNS: East | Midwest | South | West

SAINT MARY’S WILL PLAY IN THE FINAL FOUR: Yeah, they’ll have to get by a couple of west coast powers to get there, but this Gaels team has got the goods. In a potential second-round matchup, Arizona will allow them to play at their prodding pace and get good looks inside and at the arc that it’ll take to pull the upset. Then, in the Elite Eight, the Gaels will finally break through in their fourth meeting against Gonzaga, denying their rivals their first trip to the Final Four while booking their own. (Travis Hines)

CINCINNATI WILL MAKE LAVAR BALL SHUT UP: The Bearcats have a good defense to slow down the Bruins and an improved offense that could look even better against a lackluster UCLA defense. Cincy is tough and physical, and they are going to beat up the Bruins. Lock it in now, get rich. (TP)

JAYSON TATUM PLAYS HIS WAY TO NO. 1: Markelle Fultz can’t hurt his draft stock because his Washington team is done after going 9-22, but Tatum can help his own. The Duke freshman has thrived since moving to power forward, and he’ll have a chance to showcase those skills in the East, easily the most difficult region. He’ll then get the opportunity to play in a title game against Kansas, where his play against fellow frosh Josh Jackson will elevate him ahead of Fultz on draft boards. (TH)

THERE WILL BE NO NO. 1 SEEDS IN THE FINAL FOUR: Is this even all that bold of a prediction? Kansas gets picked off by Purdue once they run into foul trouble. Gonzaga gets exposed as a team that doesn’t have the same level of high-end talent as Arizona, and they don’t matchup well with Notre Dame or West Virginia. Villanova runs into Duke in the Elite 8. North Carolina will, in all likelihood, have to dispatch Kentucky or UCLA in the Elite 8. (RD)

BRACKETS: Cinderellas | Upset Watch | CBT Podcast | Unsung Heroes

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

MIDDLE TENNESSEE MAKES AN ELITE 8 RUN: America should know all about the Blue Raiders after last year’s win over Michigan State when they were a No. 15 seed. Now earning more respect as a No. 12 seed, the Conference USA champions have a favorable draw and could make more noise this season. Kermit Davis is coming for you, UNC. (SP)

NOTRE DAME REACHES THE FINAL FOUR: Mike Brey is the most underrated coach in the country. He’s been to back-to-back Elite 8s, and he’s about to make it a third-straight. Matt Farrell is going to surprise everyone and Bonzie Colson is going to be the Most Outstanding Player in the West Region. There is no one in college basketball better at building an offense around a point guard that loves ball-screens and a bunch of dudes that love to shoot threes than Mike Brey, and that is how you win games in March. (RD)

THE BIG TEN DOESN’T MAKE IT OUT OF THE FIRST WEEKEND: Big Ten earned seven bids, but the committee didn’t think two highly of them. In some cases, like Michigan State and Northwestern, both in Nos. 8-9 matchups, neither are favored, but even the league’s highest seeds will have a tough road. Purdue is playing a Vermont whose last loss was pre-Christmas. That’s followed by a potential second round clash with red-hot Iowa State. Minnesota gets Middle Tennessee State one year after the Blue Raiders upended Michigan State and Maryland is playing a Xavier team that had a much better showing last week after a seven-game losing streak to close out the year. (TP)

WAKE FOREST GOES FROM THE FIRST FOUR TO THE ELITE 8: The Demon Deacons, powered by John Collins, dispatch Kansas State in the first four, handle Cincinnati in the first round and knock off UCLA to reach a Sweet 16, where Wichita State awaits after upsetting Kentucky. There, the Shockers cant contain Collins and Wake Forest moves on only to be stopped by North Carolina. (TH)

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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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.