A few good wins get you in our latest NCAA tournament projections

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There’s a lot of good news in Pittsburgh these days: the Steelers are headed to another Super Bowl, and – more important for hoops fans – the Panthers are leading the Big East and back on pace for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Our latest bracket projection has Pittsburgh as No. 1 in the East with trips through Cleveland and Newark.  Ohio State remains the top overall seed and No. 1 in the Southeast.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Buckeyes end up East or Southeast should the current projection move forward.  Duke and Kansas are the other No. 1 seeds.  Close behind our two-seeds Connecticut, Texas, San Diego State, and Syracuse.

As we noted in our Bubble Preview, there is a large group around the cutline.  Bubble Banter officially returns on February 1.  On that note, the Big 12 is very bunched.  Oklahoma State, Baylor, Colorado, and Kansas State are all on the bubble.  This week, KSU squeezes in a single spot above Marquette to avoid being among the Last 5 In.  The Wildcats get the nod based on a superior strength of schedule.  How these teams separate will be important to watch over the next few weeks.  Safe to say, there are a lot of teams who will play their way “in” and/or “out” during February.

If you had to pick a Game of the Week, how about San Diego State at BYU?  Can either earn a No. 1 seed? The short answer is yes, obviously.  But it will probably require an outright  Mountain West regular-season title.  What happens at the top of the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC will matter, too.  Duke, for example, figures to post a gaudy record in the ACC.  We’ll see. 

Rebounds always welcome.  Follow along at Bracketville.

UPDATED: Monday, January 24 | Records reflect Division I games only – through January 24.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected conference champion for this bracket. Exceptions are made for those teams that traditionally use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc).

NOTE: In the new 68-team format you will notice two pairing games that represent the First Four pairings. In this bracket the First Four games in Dayton would be … UCLA vs. South Carolina | Penn Sate vs. Wichita State | Texas Southern vs. McNeese State | Austin Peay vs. Long Beach. The final four at-large teams are paired along with the teams seeded 65-68 on the S-curve. The matchups are indicated in the bracket below.

Next Update: Monday, January 31.


EASTNewark   SOUTHEASTNew Orleans
Cleveland   Cleveland
1) PITTSBURGH (19-2)   1) OHIO STATE (20-0)
8 UNLV (15-5)   8 Florida State (15-5)
9) Virginia Tech (13-5)   9) MISSOURI STATE (16-4)
Tampa   Chicago
5) Florida (15-4)   5) Vanderbilt (14-4)
12) VCU (15-5)   12) MEMPHIS (15-4)
4) Wisconsin (15-4)   4) Notre Dame (17-4)
13) CHARLESTON (14-6)   13) OAKLAND (13-8)
Charlotte   Denver
6) West Virginia (13-5)   6) Tennessee (12-7)
11) Penn State / Wichita State   11) Kansas State (12-7)
3) KENTUCKY (15-4)   3) BYU (17-1)
14) BUCKNELL (14-7)   14) FAIRFIELD (15-4)
Tulsa   Washington, DC
7) Georgetown (14-5)   7) Temple (13-5)
10) Arizona (16-4)   10) Boston College (14-6)
2) Texas (16-3)   2) Connecticut (16-2)
15) BALL STATE (12-3)   15) FLORIDA ATLANTIC (13-6)
SOUTHWEST – San Antonio   WEST – Anaheim
Charlotte   Tulsa
1) DUKE (18-1)   1) KANSAS (18-1)
8 Cincinnati (17-3)   8 North Carolina (13-5)
9) ST. MARY’S (14-3)   9) St. John’s (11-7)
Denver   Chicago
5) Minnesota (15-4)   5) WASHINGTON (15-4)
12) UCLA / South Carolina   12) CLEVELAND STATE (16-3)
4) Missouri (16-3)   4) Purdue (17-3)
13) UTAH STATE (18-2)   13) BELMONT (18-3)
Tucson   Tampa
6) Michigan State (11-7)   6) Illinois (14-6)
11) Marquette (13-7)   11) XAVIER (13-5)
3) Texas AM (16-2)   3) Villanova (17-2)
14) PRINCETON (11-4)   14) COASTAL CAROLINA (14-2)
Washington, DC   Tucson
7) Georgia (14-4)   7) Louisville (15-4)
10) Washington State (14-6)   10) Gonzaga (12-7)
2) Syracuse (18-2)   2) SAN DIEGO STATE (18-0)
15) MAINE (11-7)   15) NORTHERN COLORADO (9-7)

NOTES on the BRACKET: Ohio State is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Pittsburgh, Duke, and Kansas. The two seeds in order are Connecticut, Texas, San Diego State, Syracuse

Last Five teams in (at large): Marquette, Penn State, UCLA, South Carolina, Wichita State

First Five teams out (at large): Oklahoma State, Baylor, Colorado, Butler, Old Dominion

Also Considered: Richmond, Central Florida, Duquesne, Dayton, Colorado State, Maryland, Miami-FL, George Mason, Southern Mississippi, UTEP

Bracket adjustments: The First Four matchup of Penn State/Wichita State (East) moves up to the No. 11 line to avoid a conference conflict and Memphis drops to the 12-seed in the Southeast.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (11): PITTSBURGH, Connecticut, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. John’s, Marquette

Big Ten (7): OHIO STATE, Purdue, Michigan State, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State

SEC (6): KENTUCKY, Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina

ACC (5): DUKE, North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Florida State

Big 12 (5): KANSAS, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State

Pac 10 (4): WASHINGTON, Arizona, Washington State, UCLA

Mountain West (3): SAN DIEGO STATE, BYU, UNLV

Missouri Valley (2): MISSOURI STATE, Wichita State

West Coast (2): ST. MARY’S, Gonzaga

Atlantic 10 (2): XAVIER, Temple

Conference USA (1): MEMPHIS

Colonial (1): VCU


Auto Bid conference champions … Utah State (WAC), Austin Peay (OVC), Fairfield (MAAC), Ball State (MAC), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Charleston (Southern), Oakland (Summit), Long Beach (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Princeton (Ivy), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Vermont (America East), McNeese State (Southland), Texas Southern (SWAC)

Louisville’s Deng Adel and Ray Spalding to test draft process

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A season that began with the firing of Rick Pitino in mid-October came to an end Tuesday night, as Louisville lost to Mississippi State 79-56 in a Postseason NIT regional final. There are a lot of questions to be answered, most notably who will lead the program moving forward after interim head coach David Padgett led the Cardinals to 22 wins.

As for the players, two announced following the loss that they will be going through the NBA Draft process. Junior wing Deng Adel and junior forward Ray Spalding both confirmed that they will be entering the NBA Draft but not hiring agents, so as to preserve their collegiate eligibility should they decide to return to school.

This will be the second time that Adel has entered the NBA Draft, doing so last spring before making the decision to return to school.

Playing just over 33 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8 Adel averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. Moving into the starting lineup after serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, the 6-foot-10 Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

Mississippi State advances to NIT semifinals at MSG

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Mississippi State advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York with a 79-56 victory over Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State (25-11) will face Penn State (24-13) on March 27.

Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Mississippi State led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.

Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for Mississippi State, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon each chipped in with 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.

Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.

Gregg Marshall does right by Alex Lomax with NLI release

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Memphis introduced Penny Hardaway as its new head coach Tuesday morning, with the former Tiger great and Memphis native making his triumphant return to campus.

And it didn’t take long for Hardaway’s hiring to have an impact on the recruiting trail either, as the point guard who led Hardaway’s Memphis East squad to its third straight TSSAA AAA state title is expected to play for his longtime mentor.

Alex Lomax, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, requested to be released from his NLI on Tuesday. It didn’t take Marshall long to make his decision, granting Lomax’s request and citing the unique circumstances in his statement as to why.

“Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the 5th grade has become a Division I head coach,” Marshall said. “Allowing him out of his NLI without any penalty is the right thing to do.”

The National Letter of Intent, for those who may not be too familiar with it, is a document that when signed binds the recruit in question to the school they’ve committed to. If the circumstances surrounding the recruitment change, getting released from the NLI can be incredibly difficult. Coaches and universities have no obligation to release a recruit once they sign, and it seems like every year we run into a situation where a coach is refusing to so.

Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham is only a senior this season because, after signing an NLI with Appalachian State, he was not given a release and forced to go to prep school for a year. That’s not as uncommon as you might think.

That is also perfectly within the bounds of the rules, if not the laws of being a decent human being.

Wichita State and Marshall could have taken this opportunity to make life miserable for Lomax, and there would have been those who rushed to say that since the young man made a commitment he should stick by it no matter what. Lomax was a noteworthy recruiting win for the program during its first season in the American Athletic Conference, as the Wichita State went into Memphis and landed a pledge from a prospect who was likely to be a key part of the program’s plans moving forward.

But the hit that comes with allowing Lomax to leave without fuss is far less severe than what happens if Wichita State and Marshall make things difficult for him.

Faced with the opportunity to do the right thing and help out a young player, Marshall and Wichita State did just that.

The program should, and will, be applauded for it.

Stevens’ 30 points leads Penn State past Marquette in NIT

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face either Mississippi State or Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey’s missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Report: Joseph Chartouny to transfer from Fordham

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After three seasons at Fordham, guard Joseph Chartouny will be leaving the school to play his final year elsewhere. News of Chartouny’s transfer was reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and the 6-foot-3 guard from Montreal will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

Chartouny made 28 starts for the Rams this season, averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Leading the nation in both total steals and steals per game, Chartouny was an Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection.

In three seasons at Fordham Chartouny, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Given his abilities as a defender and a distributor, Chartouny stands to be a popular player amongst programs looking to add an immediately eligible contributor who also has ample experience at the Division I level.

With Chartouny reportedly moving on, Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has a significant hole to fill in his backcourt rotation for 2018-19.

Transfers Antwon Portley (Saint Peters’s) and Erten Gazi (DePaul) will be eligible next season, with reserve Cavit Havsa set to be a junior next season. Fordham’s also landed three perimeter recruits in its 2018 class, with three-star point guard Nick Honor among that trio.