Bubble Preview: Some big names make the list


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

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.