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Bubble Banter: Did Virginia Tech just lock-up their NCAA tournament bid?

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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

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 71, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 10): The Hokies landed the best win that you can possibly land on Saturday, going into John Paul Jones Arena and knocking off Virginia, No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the RPI. And with that, the Hokies will no longer be on the bubble when we do this again next week. Not only do they now have four Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-6 record against the top two Quadrants, they now have two top ten wins and of their six remaining games, three more are against top ten teams and a fourth is against a top 25 opponent. Put another way, those losses are not necessarily going to hurt their profile. It’s too early to call Virginia Tech a lock for the tournament, not when they have a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 312, but it is not too early to say they’ll be dancing so long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the way.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 107, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: Out): For the second time this season, Oklahoma State went on the road and knocked off one of the best teams in the Big 12. On Saturday, it was West Virginia that the Cowboys picked off. The Pokes are just 15-10 on the season, but they are 4-7 against Quadrant 1 with just one loss outside the top two Quadrants. That was against Baylor at home. Frankly, the Pokes still have work to do, but a top ten road win and a top 25 road win keep them in the mix, and “in the mix” is far more than anyone expected out of OSU this season.

MISSOURI (RPI: 25, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 9): The Tigers are slowly but surely playing themselves into a place where they won’t have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. On Saturday, they blew a 12-point lead in the final 90 seconds and ended up having to head to overtime, but Kevin Puryear hit a huge three and Jordan Geist drew a critical charge as the Tigers got a win over Mississippi State. The Tigers are 5-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents and now 9-7 in Quadrant 1 and 3 games. Their only Quadrant 3 loss came on a neutral against Illinois in the Bragging Rights game.

BAYLOR (RPI: 62, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Out): A win over Kansas at home means that we probably should talk about the Bears. They are now just 2-8 against Quadrant 1 foes with no losses to teams outside the top two Quadrants. Every game they play the rest of the way would be a Quadrant 1 win: at Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma, at Kansas State. This thing is doable for the Fighting Scott Drews.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 35, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 10): Arkansas did what they needed to do on Saturday, beating Vanderbilt at home. Now they need to go out and get a win at Ole Miss this week, because the end of their season is a killer: Texas A&M, Kentucky, at Alabama, Auburn, at Missouri. That’s five Quadrant 1 games.

TCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 10): TCU snapped a two-game losing streak and added another Quadrant 2 win to their name on Saturday night as they picked off Texas at home. The Horned Frogs are just 3-7 against Quadrant 1 foes, but they are now 4-1 against Quadrant 2 and do not have a loss beyond that.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Next four out): The Huskers did what they needed to do: they won. If Tim Miles wants a real chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the cannot lose until they win at least one, if not two Quadrant 1 games in the Big Ten tournament. They have not won one yet this season and will not play another one during the regular season. Beating Rutgers does not help them.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bonnies handled their business against Richmond on Saturday evening, although the only reason that win helps them is because it doesn’t hurt them. The Bonnies are 3-2 in Quadrant 1 games but they also have two Quadrant 3 losses. I think they need to win out, but I think they have a shot to make up the ground if they do. They only play one top 100 team the rest of the year, but that is Rhode Island (5) at home.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): It’s simple with Middle Tennessee: They cannot lose a game unless it is to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament if they want a real chance at being an at-large team. On Saturday, they beat North Texas (193).

TEMPLE (RPI: 38, KenPom: 88, NBC seed: Next four out): The Owls are still in the mix because they have some unbelievable wins — Auburn, Clemson, Wichita State — but they also have four Quadrant 3 losses. That’s not good, and that’s why they had to beat South Florida (290) on the road today. They did. I think Temple needs to go at least 4-1 down the stretch to get a bid.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 73, NBC seed: 10): The Friars have six Quadrant 1 wins this season, which, in theory, should mean that they can handle taking some bad losses. But just how many can they survive? On Saturday, they suffered their third Quadrant 3 loss of the year, getting absolutely pummeled at home by DePaul. They’ve also lost at UMass and at home to Minnesota; there should be an asterisk for the Minnesota game, as the Gophers fell off a cliff thanks to injuries and off-the-court scandal. The Friars are still in a good spot, but they have more work to do than they did 24 hours ago. Their remaining schedule: Villanova, at Butler, Seton Hall, at Georgetown, at Xavier, St. John’s. They probably need at least three of those, but four would make life a lot less stressful.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 38, KenPom: 99, NBC seed: 10): It was a disastrous road trip this week for Washington. They lost at Oregon by 25 points on Thursday night and followed that up by losing in overtime at Oregon State on a Stevie Thompson buzzer-beater. That’s problematic for Washington. They have five Quadrant 1 wins, but they also now have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. What’s worse is that they play no more Quadrant 1 games, and only three of their remaining six games come against Quadrant 2 opponents.

USC (RPI: 48, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): USC is in a much more difficult spot than many might imagine. As of today, they are probably not an NCAA tournament team. A home loss to Princeton (204) just keeps looking worse and worse, while the only two Quadrant 1 wins to their name came against mid-major foes — Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State. I have a feeling that giving away a win at Arizona State on Thursday night is going to end up hurting this team more than people think.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 60, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette dropped to 14-11 on the season losing at St. John’s on Saturday. The Golden Eagles have now lost five of their last six games and sit at 3-9 against Quadrant 1 teams; believe it or not, after starting Big East play with 11 straight losses, St. John’s is now a Quadrant 1 loss. So this isn’t the killer for Marquette you might think it is, but the Golden Eagles certainly need to start stacking some wins and quick.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): Boise State is in trouble after losing at Utah State on Saturday night. They don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and have just five Quadrant 2 wins. The good news? Beating Boise means that Utah State is now a Quadrant 2 loss (130), so I still think winning out — which would include beating Nevada at home — might be enough.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 61, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs had their four-game winning streak snapped at Missouri in a tough way. After coming back from 12 down in the final 90 seconds, Mississippi State was whistled for an offensive foul on a would-be game-winning three that went in. As a result, they still have just two Quadrant 1 wins and a non-conference SOS in the 300s.

UCLA (RPI: 50, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Last four in): The Bruins were playing with house money on Saturday after they picked off Arizona in Tucson on Saturday, and it looked like it. Arizona State was in control throughout as the Bruins dropped to 2-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents. The big issue right now for UCLA is that four of their eight losses come outside Quadrant 1 — including one Quadrant 3 loss — but the good news is that their last three games are all Quadrant 1 games: at Utah, at Colorado, at USC.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: 11): Losing to Texas Tech, the current leaders in the Big 12 title race, is hardly a bad loss. But where this might end up costing the Wildcats is that this was their last chance to land a Quadrant 1 win at home. Their remaining three home games: Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. If they can’t win at Oklahoma or at TCU, then K-State will be heading into Selection Sunday with four Quadrant 1 wins, a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS in the 320s.

BUTLER (RPI: 34, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): Butler is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. All nine of their losses are to Quadrant 1 opponents, but they have just a 3-9 record in Quadrant 1 games after blowing a 13-point lead at Villanova on Saturday. If Butler goes 2-3 down the stretch, they should probably be in with room to spare.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 71, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: Play-in game): Like Butler, where N.C. State really hurt themselves was opportunity cost. They had a chance to land a marquee win against North Carolina and just could not get enough stops down the stretch. The Wolfpack have a number of great wins (at North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Arizona) but are in a bit of a tough spot because of three Quadrant 3 losses and a less-than-stellar non-conference SOS. Four wins down the stretch should get the job done.

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.