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Bubble Banter: Texas, Syracuse lands critical resume wins to end regular season

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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

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: First four out): The Longhorns picked up a critical win on Saturday that bumped their record to 18-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big 12. They have five Quadrant 1 wins and are 8-13 against the top two quadrants. Barring a run in the Big 12 tournament, Texas is all-but locked into being one of the handful of teams that end up in that conversation for the final couple of spots. They can make this easy by simply going out and winning another game or two, but if not it is going to be a stressful Selection Sunday in Austin.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: First four out): The Orange landed a must-win game in the Carrier Dome on Saturday as they knocked off No. 18 Clemson, 55-52. Syracuse is now 6-10 against the top two Quadrants with three Quadrant 1 wins and a pair of losses to teams in Quadrant 3. Where Syracuse was crushed was with the three-game losing streak prior to Saturday’s win. At this point, the Orange, like Texas, look destined to be one of the last teams in or out of the field. They are right on the cutline, but beating Clemson is their best win of the season. I’d still recommend getting two wins in the ACC tournament.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 87, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: Out): The Cowboys are suddenly looking an awful lot like a bubble team. They have two wins over Kansas (including on in Allen Fieldhouse), a win over Texas Tech at home, a win at West Virginia and a win over Florida State on a neutral. They’re 9-13 against the top two Quadrants, which is impressive when considering that they have two wins over Kansas! The only issue is that their RPI is 87. That’s really, really low, and it probably has a lot to do with the fact that their non-conference SOS is in the 270s. The Pokes get Oklahoma in the 8-9 game of the Big 12 tournament before another game against Kansas. If they win two games, I think they’ll be in.

UCLA (RPI: 50, KenPom: 53, NBC seed: Last four in): UCLA went into the Galen Center and picked up their third Quadrant 1 road win, knocking off USC and improving to 8-8 against the top two Quadrants. The only “bad” losses that the Bruins have are Colorado at home and at Oregon State. Throw in the fact that their three Quadrant 1 wins are all very good wins — at Arizona, Kentucky on a neutral, at USC — and I think that, as of today, UCLA is in with a little bit of room to spare.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette looked like they were out of it after losing four straight in late-January, but they’ve rallied, closing the season with two straight wins, winning four out of five and five out of seven. They closed the regular season with a win over Creighton at home, sweeping the Bluejays. The biggest issue with Marquette’s is that they haven’t beaten a top 25 team all season long, although they do have three road wins over top 40 teams. I would have them on the outside looking in right now.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 40, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): The Friars got past St. John’s on Saturday which means that they are going to head into the Big East tournament with a 19-12 record, a 10-8 mark in the Big East and a 9-9 mark against the top two Quadrants with wins over Xavier and Villanova. The big problem for this team is that they have three Quadrant 4 losses, although one of those three came against a Minnesota team that was a top 25 team when Providence played them. I think the Friars are in even with a loss in the Big East quarters.

UTAH (RPI: 48, KenPom: 62, NBC seed: Next four out): The Utes did what they needed to do on Saturday night by knocking off Colorado at home. The Utes have a resume that is awful similar to Louisville’s in that their three Quadrant 1 wins are against mediocre teams on the road. The difference? They lost to UNLV on a neutral court by 27 points. I think Utah needs a win over Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament to really have a chance.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 58, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: Play-in game): Kansas State is now in a pretty good spot. They have three Quadrant 1 wins, they are 9-10 against the top two Quadrants and they own sweeps of both Baylor and Texas, the Big 12’s other two bubble teams. Their issue is that their non-conference SOS is just 325. That’s not good, and the Selection Committee has published teams for that before.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 22, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: 9): The Bonnies did what they needed to do again, going into Saint Louis and knocking off the Billikens. They closed out the regular season with 12 straight wins. At this point, I think they might be able to survive a loss in their first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament, but it’s not something that I would want to risk.

LOSERS

ALABAMA (RPI: 61, KenPom: 55, NBC seed: 12): The Crimson Tide looked like a surefire NCAA tournament team as recently as a week ago, but after falling at Texas A&M on Saturday, Avery Johnson’s club is suddenly in very real danger of getting relegated to the NIT. they’ve lost five in a row to close out the regular season and now sit at 17-14 on the season and 8-10 in the SEC. But here’s the thing: They are 10-12 against the top two Quadrants with five Quadrant 1 wins, including Auburn, Tennessee and Rhode Island. Their two Quadrant 3 losses came against UCF, who is 76th in the RPI and one spot away from Quadrant 2, as well as Minnesota, who was really good at the time in a game where Alabama ended with just three players on the court. They have work to do in the SEC tournament, but it’s hardly a done deal.

ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached this point with the Sun Devils, but we have: they are very much a team that is in danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament. They have just three Quadrant 1 wins to go along with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. But here’s the catch: Those win came against Xavier on a neutral and at Kansas. No one has a pair of wins that are that good. A first round loss in the Pac-12 tournament would be bad, but I think still think the Sun Devils are on the right side of the bubble right now.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 27, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 10): The disaster happened on Saturday night. The Blue Raiders lost at home to Marshall, meaning that they now have two Quadrant 3 losses and just three Quadrant 1 wins. I’m not sure if MTSU can survive another loss in the CUSA tournament.

BAYLOR (RPI: 60, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Play-in game): Baylor’s at-large candidacy comes down to this: What do you think of a team that has played a lot of good teams and beaten a couple of them? The Bears are 4-10 against Quadrant 1 opponents — that includes a win over Kansas — with none of their 13 losses coming to teams outside of the top two Quadrants. But they also have 13 losses. The Bears still need to win a few games in the Big 12 tournament.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 59, KenPom, 94, NBC seed: Last four in): The Huskies have some very intriguing wins to their name. They beat Kansas in Kansas City. They knocked off Arizona at home. They picked off USC in La. all told, they have six wins against the top two Quadrants just one of their 11 losses came outside that tier. That said, the Huskies also finished 10-8 in a mediocre Pac-12 and lost three home games to teams that they should be beating in the league. I think they are probably in as of today, but there is no question they have work left to do in the Pac-12 tournament.

BUTLER (RPI: 45, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 10): Butler’s resume is not as good as you think it is. They have three Quadrant 1 wins — including Villanova at home — and a 7-11 record against the top two Quadrants with an ugly home loss to Georgetown. The Bulldogs are going to need a win over Creighton in the opening round of the Big East tournament if they don’t want to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 45, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: First four out): Louisville missed out on another chance to land a Quadrant 1 win on Saturday night, falling at N.C. State. Louisville’s résumé is just bland. They have three Quadrant 1 wins and all of them are on the road, but they haven’t beaten a top 40 team at any point this season. They are 3-10 against Quadrant 1 and 4-12 against the top two Quadrants with no bad losses, but that’s it. They don’t really have any positives but there are no negatives. That’s why the loss against Virginia on Wednesday was so painful … oh well.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 66, KenPom: 28, NBC seed: Out): The Fighting Irish were an interesting case because they spent the last two months playing without Bonzie Colson, and with a game at No. 1 Virginia on Saturday night, they had a chance to prove just how good they can be with him. They lost that game, and now they’ll head into the ACC tournament needing to do quite a bit of work.

PENN STATE (RPI: 68, KenPom: 30, NBC seed: Out): The Nittany Lions ran out of gas on Saturday night, falling to Purdue in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. They are now 21-13 with just three Quadrant 1 wins and a pair of Quadrant 3 losses and a Quadrant 4 loss. And here’s the catch: All of their Quadrant 1 wins came against Ohio State, who matches up horribly with Penn State. The Nittany Lions had to beat Purdue, especially when you consider that the rest of the high major bubble teams will have conference tournament games this week to add to their profile.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 70, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs certainly didn’t do themselves any favors by losing to LSU on Saturday. They had been inching closer to bubble contention in recent weeks, but getting swept by Tennessee and LSU probably means that MSU needs to win two games in the SEC tournament to really have a chance.

USC (RPI: 31, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: 11): USC did themselves no favors by losing at home against UCLA. The Trojans are in an interesting spot. They are now 4-6 against Quadrant 1 and 5-3 against Quadrant 2 with that brutal Quadrant 4 to Princeton; it’s worth noting that the Trojans were missing some players in that loss. I think that USC is probably in the tournament as of today, but they probably don’t want to tempt fate and lose their Pac-12 tournament opener.

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

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.