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Bubble Banter: Louisville’s must-win game kicks off a thrilling day of bubble action


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 Thursday.

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.


EVERYONE!: Nevada, who is a lock for the tournament, was trailing UNLV on the road in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament. They came back to win. If they had lost, the MWC would be sending a team without a shot at an at-large to the dance. In other words, someone’s bubble would have burst.

ALABAMA (RPI: 47, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: Next four out): Alabama landed a thrilling win over Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon, picking off Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon on a buzzer-beater layup from Collin Sexton that may be what ends up getting the Crimson Tide a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide have 14 losses, two of which came against Quadrant 3 opponents, but they also now have six Quadrant 1 wins and a 10-12 record against the top two Quadrants. They’ve beaten both SEC co-champions (Auburn and Tennessee), Rhode Island, Texas A&M at home and on a neutral and won at Florida. Whether or not they beat Auburn on Friday, I think that they are in.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 35, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): Providence landed an enormous win in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as they outlasted Creighton in overtime. The Friars improved to 20-12 on the season with a 10-8 mark in the Big East. More importantly, the win over Creighton is their fifth against Quadrant 1 opponents and puts them over .500 — 10-9 — against the top two Quadrants. The big issue for the Friars is that they have three terrible losses, but even that got better today; because UMass’ RPI has improved enough that they are no longer a Quadrant 4 loss. The Friars still do have two other Quadrant 4 losses, but I should also note here that they’ve beaten both Xavier and Villanova this season and they’ll get another chance against the Musketeers tomorrow. I think they’ve going to be fine.

USC (RPI: 33, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: First four out): The Trojans are another in a long line of teams on the bubble with weird profiles. They have four Quadrant 1 wins and a 9-9 mark against the top two Quadrants, but they also have a disastrous home loss to Princeton (Quadrant 4, albeit missing a few rotation guys) and their best wins are not great. Middle Tennessee State looks like they’ll miss the NCAA tournament. New Mexico State needs to win their automatic bid to have a chance. Sweeping Utah and Oregon is fine, but neither of those teams are likely to be tournament bound. What about this résumé sets it apart from the rest of the bubble?

UCLA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: 11): UCLA knocked off Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday afternoon, a win that should just about get the Bruins into the NCAA tournament field. UCLA is now 8-9 against the top two Quadrants with a trio of pretty impressive wins — Kentucky on a neutral, at Arizona, at USC — and just one bad loss, which came at home against Colorado. A win over Arizona on Friday night might be enough to get the Bruins into the 8-9 game.

BUTLER (RPI: 36, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 9): Butler was close to a lock before playing Seton Hall today. Then they went out and beat the Pirates. The Bulldogs are in.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 50, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 9): I think that Kansas State probably just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a win over TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. They have four Quadrant 1 wins — TCU at home, TCU on a neutral, at Texas and at Baylor — and a 9-10 record against the top two Quadrants with no losses outside of the top two Quadrants. The mitigating factor here is that the Wildcats are ranked in the 320s in non-conference SOS and we know what the Selection Committee thinks of teams that won’t challenge themselves.


OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 86, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Cowboys are in some trouble now, and they will be one of the most fascinating cases on Selection Sunday. They are now 19-14 on the season after losing to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, but that was their first loss to the Jayhawks in three games against them this season. Their RPI is an atrocious 86th, but their KenPom numbers are much better. There are no bad losses on their résumé, but there are 14 “good” losses. They have five Quadrant 1 wins — including a sweep of the Jayhawks during the regular season — and nine wins against the top two Quadrants but they also have a non-conference SOS in the 280s. BartTorvik.com gives the Pokes a 34.5 percent chance of getting into the dance, and that sounds about right to me.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 31, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 12): Kermit Davis went out and lost to Southern Miss in the quarterfinals of the CUSA tournament on Thursday night, which is their worst loss of the season and comes on the heels of losing to Marshall in their regular season finale. The Blue Raiders now have two Quadrant 3 losses and a Quadrant 4 loss while their only good wins are at Murray State and at Western Kentucky. They’re in trouble, and likely headed for the NIT.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Golden Eagles could not take down Villanova on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, meaning that they are now going to have to wait out the next three days to see if their name gets called on Selection Sunday. Their résumé is good — four Quadrant 1 wins, 8-12 against the top two Quadrants and just one Quadrant 3 loss — but they don’t have any great wins. They have not beaten an RPI top 25 team this season, although they have won at Seton Hall, Providence and Creighton. It’ll be tight. They are the cut line.

BAYLOR (RPI: 63, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears are in big trouble. They are now 17-14 on the season with just four Quadrant 1 wins and a 7-13 record against the top two Quadrants. They also lost at Iowa State, a Quadrant 3 loss. The good news is that they have a win over Kansas. The bad news is that that probably is not going to be enough to get them in. I would have Baylor behind teams like Oklahoma State, Alabama and Arizona State. They are going to be right there on the cutline.

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): Texas lost to Texas Tech in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, which means that they are going to be sweating out Selection Sunday with the rest of the nation’s bubble teams. As it stands, the Longhorns have five Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-14 record against the top two Quadrants, but their best wins of the season — TCU and Texas Tech — are at home, and their best wins away from home — Butler on a neutral and at Alabama — aren’t quite as impressive as we thought at the time. I think Texas will be in.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Last four in): Louisville, at this point, looks like they are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. There are a lot of reasons why, and I dove into them all in more depth here.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 64, KenPom: 28, NBC seed: First four out): The Irish are in a tough, tough spot now. We went over why this Notre Dame team had to beat Duke last night. I think that, at this point, they are out.

UTAH (RPI: 58, KenPom: 65, NBC seed: Out): The Utes were in the conversation, but they needed to at least get to the Pac-12 tournament title game to have a real shot at an at-large. They lost to Oregon in the quarterfinals.

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.