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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.

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTNewark   SOUTHEASTNew Orleans
Cleveland   Cleveland
1) PITTSBURGH (19-2)   1) OHIO STATE (20-0)
16) LONG ISLAND (14-5)     16) AUSTIN PEAY / LONG BEACH
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)
16) HAMPTON (14-4)   16) McNEESE ST / TX SOUTHERN
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

Horizon (1): CLEVELAND STATE

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)

Cal and San Diego State set three-game series

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Jarmal Reid #32 of the Oregon State Beavers tries to steal the ball from Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Cal and San Diego State played last season in the Las Vegas Invitational and decided to play more often.

According to multiple reports, the two teams will play each other the next three seasons, starting with a neutral-court matchup in Sacramento on Nov. 21. The game in Sacramento will be unique in a couple of ways, as it will be the first college basketball game in the Sacramento Kings’ brand-new home arena. It will also be Cal’s first game in Sacramento since 1947.

After the Sacramento game during the 2016-17 season, San Diego State will host the Golden Bears the next season and Cal will host the Aztecs the following year to close out the three-game deal.

With both Cal and San Diego State returning plenty of talent from last season, this season’s contest should be one of the more intriguing non-conference games between schools out west and it should be fun for the players as they get to take the floor in a new NBA arena.

Report: Creighton’s Zach Hanson to miss a few months following knee surgery

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 3: Zach Hanson #40 of the Creighton Bluejays fights for position with Daniel Ochefu #23 of the Villanova Wildcats  during their game at CenturyLink Center March 3, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska.   (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Creighton will be without a key big man for the start of practice as senior Zach Hanson will be out after having knee surgery.

According to a report from Marjie Ducey of the Omaha World-Herald, the 6-foot-9 Hanson will likely be out for eight to 12 weeks. Creighton head coach Greg McDermott told Ducey that Hanson will hopefully be available when Creighton opens its regular season in November.

As a junior, Hanson was a key rotation big man for the Bluejays as he put up 6.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, making one start on the season. As McDermott noted in Ducey’s story, he’s not concerned about Hanson missing practice time from a learning curve standpoint but he is a bit worried about his conditioning. Before the knee surgery, Hanson was also nursing some ankle injuries that he was dealing with during the season, so he hasn’t had a great chance to get in proper condition.

This loss will definitely hurt Creighton as they have a ton of backcourt pieces for next season, but not as many in the front court. Hanson’s an experienced player who will help once he returns but it will something worth monitoring to see what kind of condition he’s in during the early season.

VIDEO: Mixtape of the Under Armour Association

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Now that summer basketball is nearly finished, a lot of good mixtapes are beginning to pop up from this spring and summer’s action.

Ball is Life just dropped some highlights from all of the Under Armour Association events from this spring and summer in one mixtape and it’s loaded with high-level players making tremendous plays.

Some of the top Class of 2017 prospects included in the video include Trevon Duval, Kris Wilkes, Ira Lee, M.J. Walker and North Carolina commit Jalek Felton.

Judge to review surveillance video in Appling gun case

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) A Michigan judge will review surveillance footage from the night former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling was arrested outside a strip club on weapons and drug charges.

Appling’s defense attorney presented the footage at Friday’s preliminary examination. It includes security videos from the Pantheon Club parking lot and video from police dashboard cameras.

The hearing was adjourned until Aug. 5 to allow Judge William Hultgren time to review the footage.

The 24-year-old Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and had two 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic this season.

He was arrested in May after two guns and suspected marijuana were found in a vehicle he was in.

Appling also faces a trial in Detroit where he was charged in June with carrying a concealed weapon.

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.