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Bubble Banter: Oklahoma State back in the mix, N.C. State continues their run

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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.

WINNERS

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 115, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: Out): The Cowboys are back in the mix! The Cowboys had lost three in a row and seven of their last ten games before going into Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday and knocking off Kansas. Combine that with a win over Oklahoma at home and a win over Florida State on a neutral and that’s three Quadrant 1 wins, two of which came over top 15 teams. Seven of their nine losses are against Quadrant 1 teams as well, and they don’t have any bad losses. They still have quite a bit of ground to make up, but in the Big 12, they’ll have chances to do just that.

ALABAMA (RPI: 41, KenPom: 62, NBC seed: 9): Alabama landed a massive, 20-point win at Florida. It’s the fifth Quadrant 1 win for the Crimson Tide, who had put together quite an array of victories. They’ve beaten Auburn (5), Rhode Island (8) and Oklahoma (11). But this matters because it is a Quadrant 1 win on the road. It is just their second true road win of the season. The other was LSU.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 43, KenPom: 90, NBC seed: 10): Washington may have just played their way into the NCAA tournament thanks to a sweep of the Arizona schools this weekend. On Saturday night, they beat Arizona at the buzzer.

MISSOURI (RPI: 35, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: Play-in game): For the second straight game, Missouri landed themselves a Quadrant 1 win, this time knocking off Kentucky at home. The Tigers now have five Quadrant 1 wins, including three of which that came on the road. The win over Kentucky looks better on an NCAA tournament résumé than it does in real life, but it should be enough to slide Missouri that much closer to playing their way off the bubble. Missouri entered this week having lost three in a row and six of their last nine.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: 9): The Wolfpack have now won three in a row and six of their last eight games, a stretch that has included wins over Duke, Clemson and at North Carolina, after blowing out Notre Dame at home. Kevin Keatts has four Quadrant 1 wins, including three over top ten teams, They are probably comfortably in the tournament as of today, but a poor non-conference SOS (271) is something of a concern.

BUTLER (RPI: 26, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): The Bulldogs did what they needed to do by knocking off DePaul at home. Wins over Villanova and Ohio State at home plus a blowout win at Marquette gives Butler three Quadrant 1 wins. They don’t have a single loss that isn’t a Quadrant 1 loss. They are in a very good spot right now.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 36, KenPom: 61, NBC seed: 10): The Friars added another Quadrant 1 on Saturday, going into Milwaukee and knocking off Marquette. They now have five Quadrant 1 wins and eight wins in the top two Quadrants. Throw in the fact that five of their remaining eight games are at home, and the Friars look like they’ll be able to cruise into the NCAA tournament.

UCLA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bruins are working their way back into the bubble picture, and they’ve put themselves in a position where they’ll have an opportunity to win the games they need to win to get in. Beating USC at home helped — UCLA only has one Quadrant 1 win and now three Quadrant 2 wins — but it’s just the start. Five of their last seven games are on the road, including Arizona, Arizona State and USC.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 58, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: Out): Beating Georgia at home isn’t a game-changer for Ben Howland’s club, but it is another Quadrant 2 win. They only had two of those before today, along with just a single Quadrant 1 win. They’ve now won three in a row after losing five out of six. That pesky non-conference SOS (310th) may be their downfall.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 40, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: First four out): The Broncos picked up an overtime win at home against UNLV (163) on Saturday. They needed that, mainly because they don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and cannot afford any more bad losses; believe it or not, Iowa State on a neutral is Boise State’s worst loss. They might need to win out and beat Nevada at home if they want to get in with an at-large.

TEXAS A&M (RPI: 31, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Aggies won a game that they needed to win, beating South Carolina at home on Saturday. I say they needed to win it because they’ve now won two in a row heading into the toughest stretch of their season: at Auburn, Kentucky, at Missouri, at Arkansas. The Aggies already have four Quadrant 1 wins and three more Quadrant 2 wins. Splitting that four game stretch would put them into really good position down the stretch of the season.

HOUSTON (RPI: 48, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 11): The Cougars added their fourth Quadrant 1 win of the season on Saturday, as they went into Orlando and picked off a UCF team that has been obliterated by injury. The Cougars are right on the edge, however. Three of their four Quadrant 1 wins could easily fall to Quadrant 2 — Arkansas (28) and Wichita State (29) at home, UCF (70) on the road — which means that they still have some work to do.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 20, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 12): MTSU couldn’t afford a loss at Charlotte (309). They didn’t lose at Charlotte.

LOSERS

SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 60, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: First four out): The Gamecocks were absolutely smoked on the road by Texas A&M in a game between two teams right on the edge of the bubble’s cut-line. This is the third-straight loss for South Carolina, and their next four games are rough: at Arkansas, Florida, at Tennessee, Auburn. We’ll know by the end of that run if they’re going to the tournament.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 62, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 11): The Hokies missed out on a chance to protect their home court on Saturday, losing out on a Quadrant 1 win by losing to Miami. The Hokies have one of the toughest remaining schedules. They have four games against top RPI five teams and six games against top RPI 20 teams: at Virginia, at Duke, Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami. There are plenty of chances left.

GEORGIA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: First four out): Georgia is not all that far away, but they have not really done anything to help themselves in recent weeks. A loss at Mississippi State is a Quadrant 1 loss, but it is also their sixth loss in the last eight games. They have two Quadrant 3 losses that they need to make up for, and this is not going to get the job done. With five Quadrant 1 games left — including three at home — Mark Fox will still have a few chances to stave off that hot seat.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: First four out): The Golden Eagles blew another chance to land a quality win at home this week, as Providence beat them in Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. They have now lost four in a row, including three straight games at home. Five of their next six games are on the road, and as of today, Marquette has just two Quadrant 1 wins and only six wins that are not Quadrant 4. They are in a very, very difficult spot.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Next four out): The Orange missed out on a chance to land a win over the No. 1 team in the RPI, losing at home to Virginia. The Cuse have good underlying numbers, but they just don’t have the quality wins to back those numbers up at this point. They are 0-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents now.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 28, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: 10): The Razorbacks lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling at LSU to drop to 15-8 on the season. Mike Anderson’s team should still feel pretty good about themselves. They are 3-6 against Quadrant 1 teams with two more Quadrant 2 wins. Perhaps more importantly, for a team that plays much better at home than on the road, they play five of their last eight in Fayetteville including their three toughest opponents left.

USC (RPI: 39, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 10): Losing at UCLA doesn’t really hurt USC. It’s a Quadrant 1 loss and those can be forgiven. Where it hurts is that the Trojans held a double-digit lead in the second half and gave it away. There are only so many Quadrant 1 wins available in the Pac-12. They can’t waste opportunities.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 48, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Next four out): The Hilltoppers couldn’t afford a loss to anyone not named Middle Tennessee State. They lost to UT-San Antonio.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 66, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: Last four in): Losing at West Virginia is not exactly ideal. But West Virginia has lost five of their last six games and needed to make a statement. Sometimes you run into a buzzsaw, Bruce Weber.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 77, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: Out): The Fighting Irish were smoked at N.C. State on Saturday. They will no longer be featured in this space until they land a win or two of note. Or until Bonzie Colson makes a return.

OREGON (RPI: 89, KenPom: 88, NBC seed: Out): We can probably count Oregon out after they lost by 35 points at Stanford.

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

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

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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.