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Texas vaults to No. 1 seed status in NCAA tournament projections

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As we move into February, one this is clear: not much is clear.  Especially in the Big 12.  Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Colorado have all spent time in the bracket, but none appear today.  Who returns by March?  We’ll see.  More on this in Bubble Banter which debuts Tuesday evening.  It’s not atypical for late January, but we have more questions than answers right now.  We have very few “locks.” 

What we do know is that Ohio State is undefeated – by a whisker at Northwestern – and remains No. 1 overall.  The Buckeyes are followed on the S-Curve by Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Texas.  Connecticut leads a group of two-seeds that include Duke, San Diego State, and BYU.  If you have a different order, no argument.  The goal is to offer perspective of how the bracket is shaping up.  Thankfully, there’s a lot of basketball yet to be played.  Rebounds always welcome.  Follow on Twitter at BracketguyDave.  More at Bracketville.

UPDATED: Monday, January 31 | Records reflect Division I games only – through January 30.

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. Old Dominion | Richmond vs. Wichita State | Jackson State 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, February 7.

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTNewark   SOUTHEASTNew Orleans
Cleveland   Cleveland
1) OHIO STATE (22-0)   1) PITTSBURGH (20-2)
16) LONG ISLAND (16-5)     16) HAMPTON (15-5)
8 Georgia (14-6)   8 Illinois (14-7)
9) St. John’s (12-8)   9) XAVIER (15-5)
     
Tampa   Tucson
5) Syracuse (18-4)   5) Tennessee (14-7)
12) Gonzaga (13-8)   12) UCLA / Old Dominion
4) Missouri (16-4)   4) Texas AM (16-3)
13) Richmond / Wichita State   13) OAKLAND (15-8)
     
Chicago   Charlotte
6) Wisconsin (15-5)   6) West Virginia (14-6)
11) Washington State (15-6)   11) Virginia Tech (14-6)
3) Notre Dame (17-4)   3) KENTUCKY (16-4)
14) BUCKNELL (15-8)   14) BELMONT (19-4)
     
Charlotte   Denver
7) Vanderbilt (15-5)   7) Cincinnati (18-4)
10) MEMPHIS (16-5)   10) Penn State (12-8)
2) DUKE (19-2)   2) BYU (19-2)
15) FLORIDA ATLANTIC (14-7)   15) MONTANA (14-5)
     
SOUTHWEST – San Antonio   WEST – Anaheim
Tulsa   Tulsa
1) KANSAS (20-1)   1) Texas (18-3)
16) McNEESE ST / JACKSON ST   16) LONG BEACH / AUSTIN PEAY
8 Arizona (18-4)   8 Florida State (15-6)
9) Michigan State (12-8)   9) Marquette (14-8)
     
Tampa   Denver
5) Florida (16-5)   5) WASHINGTON (15-5)
12) CLEVELAND STATE (17-3)   12) UTAH STATE (20-2)
4) Georgetown (16-5)   4) Louisville (17-4)
13) CHARLESTON (15-7)   13) FAIRFIELD (16-4)
     
Chicago   Washington, DC
6) North Carolina (15-5)   6) Minnesota (16-5)
11) MISSOURI STATE (16-5)   11) VCU (18-5)
3) Purdue (18-4)   3) Villanova (17-4)
14) COASTAL CAROLINA (16-2)   14) PRINCETON (13-4)
     
Washington, DC   Tucson
7) UNLV (16-5)   7) Temple (15-5)
10) ST. MARY’S (16-4)   10) Boston College (14-7)
2) Connecticut (17-3)   2) SAN DIEGO STATE (19-1)
15) MAINE (13-7)   15) KENT STATE (13-7)

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Gonzaga, UCLA, Old Dominion, Wichita State, Richmond

First Five teams out (at large): Kansas State, Baylor, George Mason, Clemson, Maryland

Also Considered: UAB, Duquesne, Butler, Colorado State, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Rhode Island, Northern Iowa, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi, UTEP, California, Portland, Arkansas, Alabama, New Mexico

Bracket adjustments: Memphis moves up a seed line and Virginia Tech drops one to avoid conference conflicts.

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 (5): KENTUCKY, Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia

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

Big 12 (4): KANSAS, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri

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

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

Atlantic 10 (3): XAVIER, Temple, Richmond

Missouri Valley (2): MISSOURI STATE, Wichita State

West Coast (2): ST. MARY’S, Gonzaga

Conference USA (1): MEMPHIS

Colonial (1): VCU

Horizon (1): CLEVELAND STATE

Auto Bid conference champions … Utah State (WAC), Austin Peay (OVC), Fairfield (MAAC), Kent State (MAC), Montana (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), Maine (America East), McNeese State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC)

Johnson, Paige help No. 9 Tar Heels roll past Panthers 85-64

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks (4) dunks against Pittsburgh during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Brice Johnson scored 19 points to lead a dominating offensive performance that helped No. 9 North Carolina beat Pittsburgh 85-64 on Sunday.

Marcus Paige added 15 points for the Tar Heels (21-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 59 percent to stay atop the league ahead of the next renewal of their fierce rivalry with Duke.

UNC had plenty of balance, shared the ball and got out in transition in arguably their best performance in weeks, using a 13-0 second-half burst to blow the game open. UNC finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets, 24 points off turnovers and scored 16 fast-break points after managing a combined five in the past two games.

Michael Young and James Robinson each scored 15 points to lead Pitt (17-7, 6-6). But the Panthers shot 37 percent and committed 19 turnovers, and a strong effort on the glass did little to offset their troubles.

The Tar Heels were playing their first home game in two weeks after a difficult three-game road trip that started with losses at Louisville and Notre Dame. Then came Tuesday’s game at Boston College, where the Tar Heels struggled against a winless league team then had a scare when Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams briefly collapsed in a second-half huddle after an attack of vertigo and had to leave the sideline for the rest of the game.

Williams was back in the office on Wednesday’s off day, returned to practice Thursday and told reporters Friday he was fine and even cracked jokes about a two-decade history with vertigo dating to his Kansas years.

Getting back home certainly helped everyone feel better. After wrestling with shooting struggles for much of the past month, UNC’s offense kicked back into an efficient and balanced gear, while Paige – the player the Tar Heels are practically begging to jolt free from a prolonged shooting slump – looked more like his old self against the Panthers.

That included one second-half play in which he caught a crosscourt pass from Theo Pinson in transition and made sure to step back behind the arc before burying a 3-pointer.

The Panthers had lost three of four since a 5-2 league start coming in, including 65-63 on a late tip-in at No. 12 Miami on Tuesday. And Pitt again had trouble getting their offense going, failing to crack 70 points for the third straight game.

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Second-leading scorer Jamel Artis scored five points on 2-for-8 shooting. … Pitt finished with a 41-29 rebounding advantage. … Pitt made 9 of 21 3-point attempts.

UNC: Justin Jackson scored 14 points. … UNC made 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range and 13 of 15 free throws. … Jackson and Pinson had six assists each. … UNC managed just one offensive rebound.

UP NEXT

Pittsburgh hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.

UNC hosts Duke on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Denzel Valentine dominant as No. 8 Michigan State whips Indiana

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) shoots over Indiana's Kevin Yogi Ferrell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
AP Photo/Al Goldis
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Trailing by one point at the half, Indiana appeared to be in good shape at No. 8 Michigan State. However the fact that they were unable to slow down Denzel Valentine, who scored 15 first-half points, was a major concern for Tom Crean’s Hoosiers. Sure enough the national Player of the Year candidate continued on his tour de force in the second half, scoring another 15 points and dishing out seven assists as the Spartans rolled to an 88-69 victory.

For the game Valentine finished with 30 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover. Of Michigan State’s 48 second half points, Valentine had a hand in 29 of them with all seven of his assists resulting in Michigan State layups. It was a dominant performance from one of the nation’s best players, a versatile guard whose four games missed due to injury may have led to some overlooking him when it comes to those national Player of the Year conversations.

When Valentine’s on everything else flows smoothly for Tom Izzo’s team, as his ability to both score and create results in quality looks for teammates who would struggle if they had to get that part of the job done themselves.

The biggest beneficiary Sunday afternoon was forward Matt Costello, who finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Of Costello’s ten made field goals (10-for-12 FG) five were assisted by Valentine, and he accounted for 13 points and seven rebounds in the second half. As a team Michigan State shot 63.3 percent from the field and assisted on 16 of their 19 made field goals in the second half, turning a tight contest into a blowout.

Tum Tum Nairn returned the court for the first time in seven games, but he played just two minutes and his time on the court will be managed carefully by Izzo moving forward. For many teams not having your point guard at full strength would represent a crippling blow, but that hasn’t been the case for Michigan State thanks in large part to Valentine. Michigan State went 4-3 in those seven games without Nairn, but the three losses were by a total of three points.

Valentine’s ability to make his teammates better will be a key factor down the stretch for Michigan State, and that skill was what led to the Spartans blowing out Indiana on Sunday.