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Bubble Banter: The SEC-Big 12 Challenge is a big chance for a number of teams

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.


N.C. STATE (RPI: 70, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: First four out): The Wolfpack will go down as Saturday’s big winner, as they landed a road win over North Carolina, who is currently 5th in the RPI. Kevin Keatts’ club now has wins over Duke (1), Clemson (6) and Arizona (15), the latter of which came on a neutral floor. Losses to UNC Greensboro at home and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor are not ideal — both are Quadrant 3 losses — but I challenge you to find any program with four wins as good as N.C. State’s four wins.

ALABAMA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 58, NBC seed: 11): Alabama added another excellent win to a profile that already looks like it is strong enough to earn the Crimson Tide an at-large bid as they knocked off Trae Young and Oklahoma on Saturday. Alabama now has three Quadrant 1 wins — which could become four if Texas A&M rights their ship — and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss. The big concern? Alabama’s five-best wins all came at home. They’ve only beaten BYU (69) and Memphis (107) on a neutral and LSU (84) on the road. They still have work left to do, but as of today, the Tide are in a really good spot.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 54, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 10): Is there a hotter team in the country than Kansas State right now? The Wildcats have won four games in a row — including Oklahoma (9) and TCU (16) — and it would be six if Barry Brown hadn’t missed a game-winner at Kansas. The Wildcats have just two Quadrant 1 wins right now, and the combination of a non-conference strength of schedule that ranked 344th (before Saturday’s win over Georgia) and a home loss to Tulsa (122) keeps Kansas State less safe than they feel like they should be.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 77, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: Next four out): Has anyone had a better week than Virginia Tech? Six days ago, they were barely in consideration for an at-large bid. Now, after beating North Carolina on Tuesday and winning at Notre Dame (60) on Saturday, they now have four Quadrant 1 wins. They’ll need more with a non-conference SOS of 319, but seven of their last nine games come against RPI top 20 teams.

TEXAS (RPI: 41, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns took care of business at home on Saturday afternoon against an Ole Miss (75) team that is better than their 11-10 record would indicate. With four Quadrant 1 wins and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss to their name, the Longhorns are in a great spot. The Big 12 is a bear, which means that there are going to be plenty of chances for big wins … and more than a few opportunities to take a loss.

UCLA (RPI: 65, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: Out): I think the Bruins are closer to the NCAA tournament than they are getting credit for right now, but it’s really going to come down to the next two weeks: USC (38), at Arizona (15), at Arizona State (42). I think they need to win at least two of those games.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 8): The Seminoles picked up a Quadrant 1 win on Saturday, knocking off Miami (14) at home in overtime. That’s the third Quadrant 1 win that FSU has to their name. Throw in a 16-5 record with four Quadrant 1 losses and a Quadrant 2 loss, and Leonard Hamilton’s club is in a really good spot. The one thing to keep an eye on: Their non-conference SOS is 308th. That’s bad enough that it could be the difference between a couple seed lines.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 22, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 9): The Razorbacks landed a home win over Oklahoma State (79), which isn’t a great win. The Hogs are 15-6 on the season now, and their toughest remaining games on the schedule are at home. They’re in a good spot.

BUTLER (RPI: 29, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): Butler smoked St. John’s, which is relevant for one reason and one reason only: Losing to St. John’s would be bad, as would losing to DePaul or Georgetown at home.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): Boise State did not lose at Air Force (239). Their only chance of getting an at-large is to win out, which includes Nevada (18) at home.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: First four out): Syracuse beat Pitt. Pitt is terrible. A loss could have been a killer for the Orange because they don’t have much in the way of good wins. Buffalo (26) at home is the only Quadrant 1 win, and Georgetown (163) is their only road win.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: 11) and WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 47, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Next four out): The Conference USA foes both won on Saturday. WKU has the better win while Boise State doesn’t have losses that are nearly as bad. I honestly don’t think either ends up being an at-large bid by the end of the year.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 63, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Out): I think Nebraska is drawing dead tight now. They don’t have a top 100 win away from home, they don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and they only play one top 100 team the rest of the season. Congrats on beating Iowa (139), though.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, NBC seed: Out): The Bulldogs landed themselves a nice win at home on Saturday, knocking off Missouri (40). They have so much more work to do, however. MSU has just one win away from home — Southern Miss (194) on a neutral — and just two top 85 wins.


TEXAS A&M (RPI: 31, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: First four out): There really is no shame in losing at Kansas, like the Aggies did on Saturday. The bigger issue is that they have now lost seven of their last nine games and have not won on the road since picking off USC (38) on Nov. 26th. The good news? None of their losses are terrible, and a win over West Virginia (21) on a neutral and that win at USC will both age well.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 60, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: Next four out): The Irish lost their fifth straight on Saturday. They’re now 12-8 on the season with three sub-100 losses, only one of which is a Quadrant 2 loss. Six of their last ten games are on the road. They need Bonzie Colson back.

SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 52, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Gamecocks wasted a great opportunity to add another Quadrant 1 win to the résumé, as they blew a late lead at home against Texas Tech. The good news for Frank Martin’s club is that those wins over Kentucky and at Florida aren’t going anywhere, and they will have plenty of chances to add to their profile in SEC play.

LSU (RPI: 84, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: Next four out): The Tigers are in the midst of a three-week stretch that will determine their tournament chances. They started it with a blowout loss at Auburn (7), their fourth loss in five games. Their next five games: at Tennessee (12), Arkansas (22), at Florida (37), Ole Miss (75) and at Alabama (33).

GEORGIA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: First four out): The Bulldogs were in a great spot three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve lost five of their last six games to drop to 12-8 on the season, not a good thing when you’ve lost to San Diego State (121) on a neutral and at UMass (184). They’re not all that far from the cut line right now, but this thing is trending the wrong way.

MISSOURI (RPI: 40, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Play-in game): Losing at Mississippi State on Saturday certainly didn’t help matters for the Tigers, but that’s not devastating. That’s a Quadrant 1 opponent, and Mizzou has three Quadrant 1 wins and two more Quadrant 2 wins. The biggest issue? That neutral court loss to Illinois, a Quadrant 4 loss.

UTAH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 70, NBC seed: Out): Already well on the wrong side of the bubble, Utah lost at Arizona, which is their last game against an elite team this season. They are going to need to win games in the Pac-12 tournament to have a chance.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 79, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: Out): Losing at Arkansas (22) is hardly a bad loss. But with just two Quadrant 1 wins and one other Quadrant 2 win and a non-conference SOS of 322 (before the game at Arkansas), they have ground to make up.

BAYLOR (RPI: 86, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: Out): The Bears can certainly play their way back into contention, but after losing at Florida on Saturday, they’ve lost five of six and seven of nine. They have a lot of ground to make up.

IOWA STATE (RPI: 81, KenPom: 100, NBC seed: Out): As of today the Cyclones are in a tough spot. Beating Tennessee at home would have helped; they lost by 23. But there are eight Quadrant 1 wins left on their schedule. It would be a helluva, but there is a road to get there.

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.