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Bubble Banter: 16 teams with most on the line during Championship Week


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.


SAINT MARY’S (RPI: 43, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 10): The Gaels did themselves absolutely no favors on Monday night when they lost in the semifinals of the WCC tournament. Now they are going to spend every day until Selection Sunday hoping that every single team you see on this list loses their first game. That is a miserable was to spend the week before Selection Sunday. Saint Mary’s has two Quadrant 1 wins and two Quadrant 3 losses, but the only really notable win to their name is beating Gonzaga in Spokane. The more I look at résumés, the more I think that the Gaels are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): The Blue Raiders did themselves absolutely no favors when they lost to Marshall at home in their season finale. That one might be the killer, considering that the only Quadrant 1 wins that MTSU has are at Murray State and at Western Kentucky. That said, they did win at Vanderbilt and lost to Auburn, Miami and USC by a combined 14 points. At the very least, they need to get to the CUSA title game. They also are on track to play Marshall, the only team to beat them in league play and who swept them, in the semis if seeds hold.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 21, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: 9): I think the Bonnies are in better shape to withstand a loss before the Atlantic 10 title game than Saint Mary’s was in the WCC. The Bonnies have three Quadrant 1 wins and seven wins in the top two Quadrants. Their losses are worse — At home to Niagara? Gross. — but if they can get to the semifinals they’ll have. Lose in the finals to URI and I think the Bonnies are in.

Jeffrey Carroll (John Weast/Getty Images)


BAYLOR (RPI: 61, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: First four out): The Bears looked like they were going to be able to coast into the tournament after winning five straight late in the year, and then they turned around and lost three of their next four games. With just a 2-9 record on the road and a 7-13 mark against the top two Quadrants, Baylor has some work to do. The good news? They did beat Kansas by 16 points, and they get West Virginia in their Big 12 opener. That’s something of a play-in game.

TEXAS (RPI: 48, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 11): Texas has one of those profiles where there isn’t much that is great but there really aren’t any negatives. They’ve lost 13 games, but their “worst” loss was either at Oklahoma State or at home against Baylor or Kansas State. They’ve won five Quadrant 1 games and three more in Quadrant 2, but their best win is against TCU and their best road win is at Oklahoma. The Longhorns get Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament opener, and a loss there would be an absolute killer.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 62, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 11): Kansas State’s profile looks a lot like that of Texas: 3-7 against Quadrant 1, 6-3 against Quadrant 2, no bad losses, not great wins. The big difference is that the Wildcats have three more wins and a non-conference SOS that ranks in the 320s. The Wildcats get TCU in the quarters to open up the Big 12 tournament. I think that is a play-in game for them.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 88, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: First four out): Oklahoma State is not all that close to the cut-line just yet, but with five Quadrant 1 and a 9-13 record against the top two Quadrants — including a sweep of Kansas, a win over Texas Tech and a win at West Virginia — the Pokes have landed some impressive wins. Since they still have group to make up, I think the only way to get this thing done is to beat Oklahoma in the opening round and pick up their third win over Kansas in the quarters. There’s a very real chance that OSU will be the Big 12’s ninth tournament team if things break right.

Bobby Hurley (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 59, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): The truth is that Arizona State should be in, and it really shouldn’t be a question. The problem is that after starting the season 12-0, the Sun Devils lost 10 of 18 games in the Pac-12. There is no team in the country that has two wins as good as Xavier on a neutral and Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but if the Sun Devils lose to Colorado in their Pac-12 opener, they’ll have lost five of their last six games with the only win coming against Cal. If enough other bubble teams win a few games this week, this could end up being very embarrassing.

UCLA (RPI: 36, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bruins have a trio of really impressive wins: Kentucky on a neutral, at Arizona in the only game they played, at USC. They are 8-8 against the top two Quadrants, although they do have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. I’m higher on UCLA than most, and as long as they can beat the winner of Stanford-Cal and get to the Pac-12 semifinals, I think they’re in with enough room to avoid getting stuck in a play-in game.

USC (RPI: 34, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): There are two issues with USC’s résumé in my mind: They lack elite wins (their four Quadrant 1 wins are Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, at Utah and at Oregon) and they have a brutal loss to Princeton at home, although that did come without a couple of rotation players. USC certainly needs to beat the winner of Washington-Oregon State in the quarterfinals, and I’d recommend getting past Utah/Oregon/Washington State in the semis to avoid a stressful Selection Show.

Collin Sexton (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


NOTRE DAME (RPI: 69, KenPom: 27, NBC seed: Out): We can pretty much throw Notre Dame’s resume out the window. Here’s what you need to know: At full strength, with a healthy Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, they beat Wichita State in the Maui Invitational. They also lost to Ball State at home and Indiana on a neutral. Without him, they stunk, but Bonzie is back and the Irish almost won at Virginia over the weekend. I think they’d need to win three games — Pitt, Virginia Tech and then Duke — to have a shot at an at-large, but if they get that done, I think they would have a real chance.

ALABAMA (RPI: 58, KenPom: 53, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Crimson Tide looked like they were definitely headed to the NCAA tournament, potentially as a top six seed, after a win over LSU on Feb. 13th. They’ve since lost five straight to fall to 17-14 on the season and 8-10 in the SEC. The catch is that all five of those losses were to top 40 teams and four of them came against Quadrant 1 opponents. They are 9-12 against the top two Quadrants with wins over both SEC co-champions (Auburn and Tennessee) as well as a win over Rhode Island and an 18-point win at Florida. One of their two Quadrant 3 losses came in a game where they were left with just three players against a Minnesota team that was in the top 25 at the time. It’s just a weird, weird profile. At the very least, they have to beat Texas A&M in the 8-9 game. They might be able to survive a loss to Auburn in the quarters.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 42, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): The Friars have wins over two of the top three teams in the RPI — Villanova and Xavier — at home. They’re also 8-9 against the top two Quadrants. In theory, that should be enough. The problem? They have three Quadrant 4 losses. The rest of the RPI top 50 has three Quadrant 4 losses combined. I’m not even going to pretend to know what to make of that, so I’m just going to say that they have to beat Creighton on Thursday if they are serious about dancing.

Tyus Battle (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)


SYRACUSE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): Two important things happened this week for the Orange: They beat Clemson on Saturday and Miami won their fourth-straight one-possession game to climb into the top 25 in the RPI; the Orange won at Miami. A 6-10 mark against the top two Quadrants isn’t great, neither are road losses to Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, but the Orange will get North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament if they beat Wake Forest on Wednesday. Two wins and they’re in.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Next four out): Everything about Louisville’s résumé is just so blah. They have three Quadrant 1 wins, but they came at Florida State, at Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame. They have no bad losses but they are 4-12 against the top two Quadrants. They really, really, really needed that win over Virginia. Alas. If the Cards can take care of Florida State on Wednesday, they’ll have a shot at Virginia in the quarters. They need those two wins to have a chance.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Golden Eagles looked dead in the water for a while before winning four of their last five games to get back into the mix. They have four Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-10 mark against the top two Quadrants with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. This is a pretty standard bubble profile. Beat St. John’s on Wednesday and Villanova on Thursday and they’re in. That simple.


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

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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.