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Bubble Preview: Some big names make the list

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Bubble Banter will officially launch on  Tuesday, February 1.  In preparation and ahead of our newest bracket projection on Monday (Jan. 24), here is an overview of how Bubble Banter is shaping up. 

ATLANTIC 10 – With Temple falling behind the pace of early leaders Duquesne and Xavier, there are no secure spots in the A-10.  Xavier has a history of winning the regular-season title, with the Owls grabbing the tourney title and automatic bid.  It might be the only way the A-10 earns multiple bids.

  • Locks: None
  • Should Be In: Temple
  • Bubble: Xavier, Richmond, Dayton, Duquesne

ACC – It’s pretty much Duke and everyone else.  Now, the ACC will earn more than two bids, but exactly who fills those spots is a long way from being determined.

  • Locks: Duke
  • Should Be In: North Carolina
  • Bubble: Florida State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Maryland

BIG EAST – Deepest conference in the nation.  It’s looking more and more likely the Big East will break its own record of sending 8 teams to the NCAA Tournament. Whether that number is 9, 10, or 11 is still questionnable.  Several middle-of-the-pack teams have work remaining, and the schedule could yet prove too much for everyone to survive.

  • Locks: Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova
  • Should Be In: Notre Dame, West Virginia, Louisville, Georgetown
  • Bubble: Cincinnati, St. John’s, Marquette

BIG 10 – Back in November, we suggested that Ohio State might prove to be the Big Ten’s best.  So far, it’s shaping up that way.  Purdue seems like the best challenger, with several others now a couple of games off the pace.

  • Locks: Ohio State, Purdue
  • Should Be In: Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota
  • Bubble: Penn State, Northwestern

BIG 12 – With Texas winning at Kansas on Saturday, the Big 12 race is an open battle.  The Jayhawks and Longhorns are the most certain frontrunners, with Texas AM on the edge.  Missouri is always a challenge to play.  The league has also seen two of its preseason favorites (Baylor, Kansas State) struggle for most of the season.

  • Locks: Kansas, Texas
  • Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM
  • Bubble: Baylor, Colorado, Kansas State, Oklahoma State

MOUNTAIN WEST – San Diego State and BYU meet for the first time this week in what has become a two-team race.  UNLV has fallen off the pace, and New Mexico has all but disappeared.  Surprise Colorado State has been added to the bubble.

  • Locks: San Diego State, BYU
  • Should Be In: UNLV
  • Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico

PAC 10 – Once again it appears to be Washington and everyone else.  Arizona is talented, but has a resume light on quality wins.  USC has some good wins, but way too many losses.  That leaves UCLA and Washington State as the other realistic hopefuls.

  • Locks: Washington
  • Should Be In: None
  • Bubble: Arizona, UCLA, Washington State

SEC – For a while it looked like Kentucky would cruise through the league again.  But some early road struggles suggest otherwise.  The East Division is strong and will garner all the at-large bids.  Hard to see anyone from the SEC West making the NCAA’s without winning the conference tournament.

  • Locks: Kentucky
  • Should Be In: Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Georgia
  • Bubble: South Carolina

BEST of the REST – With three additional bids available this year, one would hope more spots would be open for non-BCS teams.  Thus far, however, many of these teams have squandered chances or struggled to a point where at-large hopes have faded.  Below is an overview of how the other non-BCS profiles are shaping up:

  • Locks: None
  • Should Be In: None
  • Bubble: Memphis, UAB, Central Florida, Missouri State, Wichita State, Butler, Cleveland State, VCU, Old Dominion, Drexel, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State

Report: Dillon Brooks to return to Oregon

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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Dillon Brooks will be returning to Oregon for his junior season.

Brooks, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 boards and 3.1 assists as a sophomore, went through the NBA Draft process without hiring an agent. He did not receive an invitation to the NBA Draft combine, however, and that is as good of a sign as any that he was not likely to get drafted.

According to a report from ESPN, he has heeded the advice he received and will be returning to Eugene.

Brooks is a versatile player whose role for the Ducks is similar to what Draymond Green plays for the Warriors, but he’s not the athlete that Green is. Returning to school, tightening up his shooting stroke and getting into better shape could help him play his way into a spot where he can get a guaranteed contract after next season.

The Ducks are still awaiting word on whether or not rising sophomore Tyler Dorsey will return to school as well. With both players back in the fold, Oregon is a potential top five team next season.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft.

Whitehead announced his intention to stay in the draft last night on his Twitter account.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.