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)

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”