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College Hoops Autobids: Who will be this year’s Cinderella teams?

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Wondering who the 2020 NCAA tournament automatic bids are? Which of college basketball’s automatic bids can win a game in March Madness 2020? We have you covered!

It’s time for March Madness 2020! Below, you will find an image that details every 2020 conference tournament schedule, and as you scroll down you will find the 2020 conference tournament brackets.

Make sure that you are ready for the madness.

For those schools who are flirting with the NCAA Tournament bubble, click here for the latest projections of who’s in and who’s out. And for the rest of the field interested in where your team may be headed for the Big Dance, click here for our latest NCAA Tournament projections. (And if you really want to get ahead of the game, get your printable NCAA Tournament bracket here.)

Below, you will find each and every one of the 2020 NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids.

2020 NCAA Tournament Automatic Bids

MOUNTAIN WEST AUTOMATIC BID: Utah State

The Aggies were in danger of missing the 2020 NCAA tournament, but thanks to Sam Merrill taking over for three days in Las Vegas, Utah State has punched themselves a ticket to the 2020 NCAA tournament with an automatic bid. And to be frank, I would have to be the five or six-seed that has to draw this team in the first round. We saw how good Merrill can be these last three days. What we haven’t truly seen yet this season is just how dangerous Neemias Queta is. There are two borderline pros on a team with one of the better coaches outside the mid-major ranks in Craig Smith complete with a handful of talented role players.

Utah State underachieved all season long. They were a top 20 team in the preseason for a reason. We saw it on Saturday night, and eventually someone is going to see it in the NCAA tournament, too.

OHIO VALLEY AUTOMATIC BID: Belmont

The Bruins avenged a loss is last year’s Ohio Valley tournament title game by beating Murray State. The Bruins are going to be a dangerous team in the tournament again this year because of their ability to shoot and the fact that they have a big guy that can produce. Last season, Belmont picked up their first ever win in the NCAA tournament when they beat Temple in a play-in game because losing a thriller to Maryland, and I think that they are good enough to win another game in March this year.

BIG SOUTH AUTOMATIC BID: Winthrop

Hampton made the Eagles sweat early, but Winthrop took control in the second half to earn its second Big South tournament championship and NCAA tournament bid in four years with a 76-68 victory. Winthrop had a 14-game winning streak earlier this season and defeated St. Mary’s in November, but a weak strength of schedule in the Big South likely means they’re headed for a 16-seed and an incredibly difficult path to the second round.

MISSOURI VALLEY AUTOMATIC: Bradley

The Braves are headed back to the NCAA tournament for the second-straight year despite barely finishing in the top-half of the conference standings in both seasons thanks to the chaos that is Arch Madness in St. Louis. Bradley knocked off Valpo in the title game, 80-66. The Braves have the core of last year’s tourney team back for another go-round and they can really shoot it from distance, so if they can be a 14-seed or better, they could emerge as a promising Cinderella pick for brackets across the country.

ATLANTIC SUN AUTOMATIC BID: Liberty

Liberty had little trouble wrapping up its second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament by turning in a 73-57 win against Lipscomb, who beat the Flames in the teams’ regular-season finale. The Flames won a game in the tournament last year as a 12-seed, dispatching No. 5 Mississippi State in the first round before losing to Virginia Tech. Much of that team remains for the second trip to the Big Dance, and the Flames could become a trendy upset pick.

SOCON AUTOMATIC BID: East Tennessee State

The Buccaneers made sure they did not need to worry about trying to get an at-large bid, as they went out and won the SoCon tournament with a double-digit win over Wofford in the title game. This is the second time that Steve Forbes has been to the tournament with ETSU, and the major question at this point is whether or not this team can keep Forbes for another season; he’s certainly going to be a target from bigger programs. But that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that the Buccaneers have a chance to win a game in this event, and they will certainly be a trendy first round upset pick.

IVY LEAGUE AUTOMATIC BID: Yale

The Ivy League announced on Tuesday that they have cancelled their conference tournament, meaning that the Elis are heading to the Big Dance as the Ivy’s automatic bid. And they are legit. Jordan Bruner and Paul Atkinson can match up with most frontlines in college basketball, and Azar Swaim is a dangerous shooter. The Elis look like they are destined to end up as a No. 13 seed, and if they do, they will be a real threat to win another game in the NCAA tournament. James Jones has turned New Haven’s Ivy program into a powerhouse.

CAA AUTOMATIC BID: Hofstra

For the first time in 19 years, the Pride are headed to the NCAA tournament. Hofstra knocked off Northeastern in the CAA tournament title game, completing a sweep of CAA titles. This is a team that is going to be a threat to do some damage in the field of 68. They have a pair of really talented guards is Desure Buie and Eli Pemberton, and they are top 25 in the country in three-point shooting percentage. They are not big, but they are dangerous if they get hot.

HORIZON AUTOMATIC BID: Northern Kentucky

It’s been quite a season for the Norse. A year after getting to the NCAA tournament under head coach John Brannen, NKU turned around and made it to the NCAA tournament in their first season under new head coach Darrin Horn. The No. 2 seed in the Horizon League tournament, the Norse knocked off Green Bay and Illinois-Chicago en route to the automatic bid. This is the third trip to the NCAA tournament in the last four years for a team that has been in the Division I ranks for exactly five years. That’s an incredible run.

NEC AUTOMATIC BID: Robert Morris

Andy Toole is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015. At the time, Bobby Mo was running as well as any mid-major program in the country. They had won back-to-back regular season titles in the two years before getting to the dance. Since then, the Colonials have been ravaged by transfers as much as any program in the sport. It took five years to get back on top, but Toole did it, and he was aided by the fact that Merrimack — the NEC’s regular season champion — was not eligible to play in March.

SUMMIT LEAGUE AUTOMATIC BID: North Dakota State

Dave Richman is heading back to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season and for the third time in his six seasons as the held of the Bison. He also won a share of this year’s Summit League regular season title, and they have only lost a single regular season game since January 25th. As a projected No. 15 seed, I don’t know if a team that plays as conservatively as NDSU can pull off an upset, but they are not going to be an easy out against whoever they play. They do not beat themselves.

WCC AUTOMATIC BID: Gonzaga

The Zags were already a lock for the Big Dance, but by running through the WCC tournament — including a statement win over St. Mary’s in the title game — Gonzaga has played their way into being a lock for a No. 1 seed.

PATRIOT: March 11th, 7:30 p.m.
AMERICAN EAST: March 14th, 11:00 p.m.
MEAC: March 14th, 1:00 p.m.
MAAC: March 14th, 4:00 p.m.
SWAC: March 14th, 6:00 p.m.
BIG 12: March 14th, 6:00 p.m.
BIG EAST: March 14th, 6:30 p.m.
MAC: March 14th, 7:30 p.m.
BIG SKY: March 14th, 8:00 p.m.
ACC: March 14th, 8:30 p.m.
CONFERENCE USA: March 14th, 8:30 p.m.
SOUTHLAND: March 14th, 9:30 p.m.
PAC-12: March 14th, 10:30 p.m.
WAC: March 14th, 1:00 p.m.
BIG WEST: March 14th, 11:30 p.m.
ATLANTIC 10: March 15th, 1:00 p.m.
SEC: March 15th, 1:00 p.m.
AMERICAN: March 15th, 3:15 p.m.
BIG TEN: March 15th, 3:30 p.m.

How do I watch the 2020 March Madness games?

Myriad networks broadcast the conference tournaments, including (but not limited to) ESPN, CBS, NBCSN, Fox, Big Ten Network, SEC Network, ACC Network and more. There’s a full rundown of the 2020 conference tournament brackets and their respective TV networks available here.

2020 NCAA Tournament automatic bids to the Big Dance

As a reminder, any school that wins its conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. For the men, that means 32 teams will get a spot in the bracket, while another 36 receive at-large bids. We’ll be tracking those automatic bids as well. Click here for more info on NCAA tournament automatic bids.

When do Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament begin?

Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament is on March 15 (about 4 pm ET), while the games begin a couple days later. The First Four is on March 17 and 18 (which airs on TruTV), while the craziness of Round 1 starts on Thursday, March 19. The four networks that air those games are: CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV.

The Sweet 16 games begin on March 26 and will air on CBS and TBS. Elite Eight games start on March 28 and also air on CBS and TBS.

The Final Four, held in Atlanta this year, starts on Saturday, April 4. The National Title Game is Monday, April 6. All of those games air on TBS.

 

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.