Last chance for teams to move off NCAA tourney bubble

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Welcome to Bubble Banter.

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com. If you would like great access to regular RPI information, Jerry Palm provides great information for all NCAA Tournament fans. A subscription is very reasonable.

UPDATED: Monday, March 7

Automatic Bids (4): UNC-Ashville (Big South), Morehead State (OVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Indiana State (MVC)

Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (29): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (4): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (26): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (11): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Cleveland State (out), Southern Mississippi (out)
  • Joining the Bubble: New Mexico, USC
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated 11:00 p.m. ET on March 6.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (24-7 | 13-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 138 | – The Spiders closed with 10 wins in 12 games – their only losses to Xavier and Temple. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is looking better again. Because the Spiders suffered lopsided losses against Xavier and Temple in their regular-season meetings, do they need to beat one of them in the A-10 tournament? We’ll see. Doing so would certainly make them feel more secure on Selection Sunday.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (19-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 25 | – After closing out Wake Forest Sunday, BC enters the ACC tourney on a three-game winning streak. Winning at Virginia Tech could prove really big as the Eagles swept the Hokies. That said, BC remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM), even though they are 7-10 vs. the Top 100. Although the Eagles are in just “in” right now, BC needs to win its opening ACC tournament game.
  • Clemson (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 74 | – The Tigers won their critical home game with Virginia Tech on Saturday in the only meeting between the two. Clemson’s resume remains pretty modest (2-5 vs. Top 50 teams – BC and Florida State), however, and is backed by a rather weak No. 204 non-conference schedule. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina to go along with hiccups against NC State and Virginia. Whether the Tigers end up in the NCAAs will depend on how they perform at the ACC Tournament.
  • Florida State (21-9 | 11-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 78 | – While it’s hard to see FSU missing the NCAAs with an 11-5 ACC record, most of their wins are against teams below them in the standings. The Seminoles’ win over Duke is helping, but FSU was swept by Carolina. Outside the league, Florida State’s best win is Baylor (Hawaii). They also lost to Butler. The Seminoles are 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-8 vs the Top 100 – other bubble teams have more such wins. Beating NC State on Sunday was important. Avoiding a one-and-done at the ACC tourney should be enough.
  • Virginia Tech (19-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 87 | – Losing back-to-back games against bubble teams in your own conference has certainly created a lot of doubt after the win over Duke. The Hokies enter the ACC Tournament squarely on the cutline. An opening-round loss could very well mean another year of heartbreak. Besides Duke, the Hokies beat Florida State in the ACC, and Penn State. They were swept by Boston College and lost their only game with Clemson. They were also swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech, and are 4-6 in road games. VT is 2-6 vs. the Top 50 and 7-7 vs. the Top 100.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia, Cincinnati | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Marquette
  • Marquette (18-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 31 | – By losing at Seton Hall, Marquette has left some doubt about their once-promising NCAA hopes. The Golden Eagles are 4-11 vs. Top 50 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. But they are also just 11-13 vs. the Top 200 – a stat that has often meant the NIT. We’ll see if the strength of the Big East and a strong SOS overall helps the Golden Eagles. Winning at Connecticut was huge because it proved that Marquette could win away from home. Still, Marquette is just 4-7 on the road. Out of conference, Marquette’s best win is Bucknell. A first-round loss to Providence at the Big East tourney would create some uncertainty.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 17 | – The Illini took out some frustration on Indiana Saturday in Champaign and avoided a costly loss. While the general feeling is the Illini will make it, their outlook would be clearer if they can beat Michigan (again) in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and perhaps Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois has gone 5-7 in its last 12 games. Strong SOS numbers and 10 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with the dropped game at Indiana in January.
  • Michigan State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 9 | The Spartans won 3 of 5 down the stretch, but struggled on the road against Michigan on Saturday – giving the Wolverines a season sweep. MSU is hoping its strong SOS will be rewarded; we’ve seen it in the past. The Spartans are just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams, but 9-12 vs. the Top 100. They are 12-12 vs. the Top 200. What’s it all mean? Michigan State plays Iowa in its Big Ten tourney opener. A second loss to the Hawkeyes could prove too much. A victory and a good showing against Purdue? Close call.
  • Michigan (18-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 18 | Michigan played well down the stretch, going 8-4 in its last 12 Big Ten games. Through a series of tiebreakers, the Wolverines earned the 4-seed in the Big Ten tourney and play Illinois Friday. The Illini won in Champaign – the only meeting between the two. A 3-8 mark vs. Top 50 teams is somewhat offset by a 9-11 mark against the Top 100. Outside the league, Michigan’s best win is at Clemson, although they did beat Harvard, too. In the Big 10, Michigan swept Michigan State and Penn State. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana in early January. If good losses help, Michigan took Kansas to OT in Ann Arbor. If they lose to Illinois, it could go right down to the wire.
  • Penn State (16-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 6 | The Nittany Lions staved off bubble elimination by winning at Minnesota Sunday. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) but the Lions are a just 3-8 on the road – a major disparity. PSU was also swept by Michigan. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. They also lost at Virginia Tech. Penn State has to beat Indiana in its B10 tourney opener, and probably upset Wisconsin to sneak in. They are 3-7 vs. the Top 50 and 9-12 vs. the Top 100.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 39 | – Baylor has dropped 5 of 6 and is clinging to life support after losing to Texas at home. The Bears’ RPI is sliding fast and the only thing keeping them afloat is a world of talent and a sweep of Texas AM. It’ll take a deep run in the Big 12 tourney at this point. It starts with Oklahoma.
  • Colorado (18-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 72 | – Colorado’s win over Nebraska Saturday did two things – kept them near the cutline and kept Nebraska off the immediate bubble. While the Buffs have some high-level wins (5-6 vs. the top 50 and a sweep of Kansas State), a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322) could still prove to be an at-large killer. That, and a 3-9 record in true road games. It’s also worth noting that Colorado is just 10-12 vs the Top 200 – often an NIT qualification. The Buffs best non-conference win is over fellow bubble-dweller Colorado State. Colorado gets a rematch with Iowa State in its Big 12 tourney opener. Another loss to the Cyclones (in 10 days) might very well end their hopes of an NCAA bid.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State, New Mexico
  • Colorado State (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 33 | – The Rams lost 4 of 5 down the stretch after falling at San Diego State. CSU is just 1-6 vs. the Top 50 and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. CSU has to reach the MTW final to warrant re-evaluation. Next up is New Mexico in an elimination game.
  • New Mexico (19-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 90 | – While still a long-shot, we have to welcome back the Lobos who have won three straight and own a season sweep of BYU. They also split with Colorado State and beat Colorado. UNM’s non-conference SOS (No. 257) is still an eyesore, but if the Lobos could reach the MTW final, they would be in the picture. First, UNM has to beat Colorado State in an elimination game.
PAC 10
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, USC
  • Washington (20-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 52 | – The Huskies have left themselves on the bubble by playing some very inconsistent basketball. They beat UCLA at home (season sweep), then lost on their same home floor to USC two days later. Keep in mind that Washington accomplished nothing outside the Pac-10 – Long Beach State is the Huskies best non-league win. Thus, it’s hard to move Washington above the fray just yet. They open the Pac-10 tourney against Washington State. What if they lose and WSU or USC makes a run? Washington also has losses at Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State.
  • Washington State (19-10 | 9-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 86 | – With Klay Thompson suspended, the Cougars coughed up a late lead to UCLA and lost in OT. That could be a major blow if the Cougars lose to Washington in their Pac 10 tourney opener. WSU is 6-8 vs. Top 100 teams, but just 2-6 vs. the Top 50. The Cougars have beaten Gonzaga and Baylor, but lost to Butler. WSU also swept Washington, but was swept by Arizona.
  • USC (18-13 | 10-8) | RPI: 68 | SOS: 42 | – Having won 5 of 6, it might be prudent to add Southern Cal to the bubble, but the Trojans have a long way to go. Yes, they have 5 Top 50 wins (Texas early, and then at Tennessee included), but they also have 6 sub-100 RPI losses – including 3 sub-200 losses (TCU, Oregon State, Bradley). They were also swept by Oregon. That type of resume suggests the NIT. But if USC can reach the Pac-10 final? We’ll see how the landscape looks.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (20-10 | 9-7) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 36 | – Having won at Tennesse and beaten Kentucky, the Bulldogs remain decent position. They also have a win over UAB. A victory at Alabama would have helped, but the Bulldogs do have one edge on some other bubble teams – no “bad” losses. In fact, every loss except at Alabama has been to teams in the Top 40 of the RPI. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. Overall, the Bulldogs are 3-9 vs. the Top 50 and 5-10 vs. the Top 100. Is Georgia safe? Not yet. They can’t afford a loss to Auburn in their SEC tourney opener.
  • Alabama (20-10 | 12-4) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 127 | – What will the Selection Commitee do with Alabama? That’s a big topic of debate. Winning the SEC West was hardly epic work, but a 12-4 SEC mark is hard to ignore. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 280 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. They also have early losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, and Seton Hall. With just 4 Top 100 wins, it’s hard to move Alabama off the bubble. Yes, the Tide beat Kentucky at home, but UK has been an average team on the road. Their other notable win – other than Georgia at home Saturday – is at Tennessee. But the Vols are very unpredictable. Is that enough? Alabama had better win at least one game in Atlanta. They might need two.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason, Old Dominion | Bubble: Butler, Missouri State, Memphis, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (21-9 | 14-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 71 | – Butler has done what it had to do by reaching the Horizon League final. They play at Milwaukee on Tuesday. Certainly, winning the automatic bid would be best, but the Bulldogs have won 8 straight to be squarely in the conversation. A win over Florida State in Hawaii helps as could a win over Washington State – although that is more questionable. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – causing the question mark. Butler played a strong non-conference schedule (No. 12), and might be rewarded. That said, losing three times to Milwaukee could be a stumbling block.
  • Missouri State (25-8 | 17-4) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 124 | – Long wait coming up for the Bears who lost to Indiana State in the finals of the MVC tournament. With no Top 50 wins and just a 3-6 mark vs. the Top 100, Missouri State has to hope the Selection Committee values an outright MVC regular season title. Odds aren’t promising, we’ll see how the week develops.
  • Memphis (22-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 55 | – Memphis lost 3 of 5 down the stretch and needs to do some hefty work in the C-USA tourney. The Tigers swept UAB and Southern Miss in league play but also managed to lose at East Carolina, Rice, and SMU. Further, Memphis was blown out in its prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. The win at Gonzaga is Memphis’ only non-conference victory of note. Have to think the Tigers need to at least reach the C-USA final.
  • UAB (22-7 | 12-4) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 68 | – UAB wrapped up the C-USA regular-season title – something to note. Whether that would warrant an at-large bid is questionable. The Blazers are just 3-4 vs. Top 50 teams (but two of those are Marshall at No. 50). However, they do have 8 top 100 wins overall. The Blazers’ best non-conference win is VCU – they lost at Georgia and Duke. Within the league, UAB was swept by Memphis, we’ll see if that matters. A 9-5 road mark helps, but there’s just not a lot to be excited about. UAB needs to reach the C-USA final.
  • VCU (23-10 | 14-6) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU rallied to beat Drexel and then upset George Mason in the CAA tournament. Now, the Rams are in the title game against Old Dominion. Winning would erase all doubt, although VCU should be in the conversation either way. The Rams have a neutral-court win over UCLA and also won at Wichita State in the BracketBuster. VCU is 3-4 vs. the Top 50 and 8-7 vs. the Top 100. A loss at UAB could come into play.
  • Gonzaga (21-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 103 | – Gonzaga had won 9 of 10 heading into the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas and held off San Francisco Sunday to advance to the title game with St. Mary’s. That’s a good spot, and helps their at-large case. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor, as well as a home loss to Memphis. The ‘Zags split two games with St. Mary’s. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 5-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps a little.
  • St. Mary’s (22-7 | 12-3) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 114 | – The Gaels beat Santa Clara to advance to the WCC title game. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-5 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would likely fall behind Gonzaga. A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. In an interesting note, SMC has a game with Weber State on March 11 – after the WCC tourney concludes.
  • Utah State (27-3 | 15-1) | RPI: 17 | SOS: 122 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 95) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Avoiding an early WAC flameout would be advised. Reach the final and it could be difficult to leave the Aggies home on Selection Sunday.

Self says he’s “optimistic” about Preston playing for Jayhawks

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There hasn’t been much new good around Lawrence lately with Kansas dropping its last two games, but the Jayhawks apparently have reason for hope.

Kansas coach Bill Self said he is “optimistic” that freshman Billy Preston, who has been held out of competition while the school investigates the financial background of a car he has been driving, will play for the Jayhawks this season, according to the Kansas City Star.

“I think our school has done a great job in creating, getting, all the information that could possibly be pertinent to his situation,” Self said, according to the Star. “The other thing you don’t know … they (NCAA officials) could come back and say, ‘We need more information.’ They could come back and say, ‘OK good to go.’ They could come back and say, ‘No it’s not good to go.’.

“Who knows what the response will be because it will be determined by somebody else. The reality of it is us putting a total package together from every scenario … we’ve done a good job. Hopefully, whatever information that is given to the deciding parties, it’ll be a quick turnaround … but we don’t know that yet either.”

Preston, a top-20 recruit in 2017, has yet to play for the Jayhawks after being suspended for the team’s season opener and then because questions were raised about a car he was driving when he was involved in a single-car accident. The Jayhawks could use the 6-foot-9 Preston in the lineup to help right the ship after these back-to-back losses that have, in part, shown just how thin up front the Jayhawks are.

There is also the possibility that Silvio De Sousa, a 6-foot-9 2018 commit, could enroll this semester.

“There are questions, but the answers will probably take place I would say in the next week to 10 days.”

Former NBA star Mark Price fired by Charlotte

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The college basketball coaching carousel now has three openings just over a month into the season, as Charlotte announced that head coach Mark Price has been “released from his contract.”

“We appreciate all that coach Price has done for our program,” said athletic director Judy Rose. “His background and knowledge were assets to our young players and we appreciate him sharing his talents with our team. This was a difficult decision, especially as we make plans to open conference play, but we do feel it is in the best interest of our basketball program.”

Assistant coach Houston Fancher has been tabbed as the interim coach.

Charlotte is 3-6 this season. Through two and a half years, Price had a record of 30-42 with the 49ers and was 16-20 in Conference USA play.

East Carolina’s Jeff Lebo and UTEP’s Tim Floyd both resigned earlier this season.

College Basketball Futures Watch Part II: Maryland through Seton Hall

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Over the course of the next three days, we at College Basketball Talk will be cruising through the best, the most surprising and the most disappointing teams in college basketball.

As of today, how should we view the 45 most interesting teams in the country based on preseason expectation? 

Are we more confident in them? Less confident? Still unsure?

We used five different labels here to help define how we feel about each of the 45 teams mentioned:

  • Bet The Mortgage
  • Raise
  • Check
  • Fold
  • Get Your Stuff And Go Home

Today, we go through everyone from Maryland to Seton Hall.

Let’s get into it.

MARYLAND: Check

The Terrapins don’t lack for young talent, with the sophomore class of Anthony Cowan Jr., Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson being joined by talented freshmen Darry Morsell and Bruno Fernando. But the turnover issues of last season are still present, with Maryland turning the ball over on more than 23 percent of its possessions. Given how tight the Big Ten stands to be in the middle of the conference standings, giving away possessions could be the difference between earning a double-bye in the conference tournament and being in a spot where a team needs to go on a run to ensure itself of an NCAA tournament bid. Maryland’s been better with the turnovers of late, but I’d like to see this be the case against high-level competition before raising my bet. Also, while none of Maryland’s losses have been particularly “bad,” the losses to St. Bonaventure and Syracuse mean that this team has just one noteworthy non-conference win on its resume (Butler). (Raphielle Johnson)

MIAMI: Bet The Mortgage

I’ve been all-in on Miami since the preseason. I thought they were going to win the ACC before the season started, before they went into Minnesota and sent the Gophers on this mini-spiral, before Duke lost and it became trendy to think that someone other than Duke was the best team in that conference. That was also before I knew that Dewan Huell was going to be as good as he’s been. We saw on Saturday what happens when Duke has to deal with ball-screens, and Jim Larrañaga loves ball-screens and has a roster full of talented, athletic guards that thrive in them. (Rob Dauster)

MICHIGAN: Fold

The Wolverines have not exactly been all that impressive this season. They blew a 20-point lead to Ohio State and lost to LSU in the Maui Invitational opener. The overtime win over UCLA on Saturday and a win at Texas on Tuesday do make me second-guess myself here, but I just have a difficult time projecting much out of a John Beilein-coached team with this many point guard question marks a month into the season. (RD)

MICHIGAN STATE: Bet The Mortgage

The Spartans have only lost to another national contender in Duke the first week of the season. Looking as deep and balanced as any team in the country, Michigan State has five double-figure scorers and a bench full of upperclass veterans. They might break the Big Ten’s title drought. (Scott Phillips)

Jordan Murphy (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

MINNESOTA: Fold

Since nearly blowing a lead while playing three Alabama players, the Golden Gophers have lost three of five games, including bad double-digit losses at Nebraska and Arkansas. For a team that hopes to make a run in March, Minnesota hasn’t shown enough recent consistency against good teams to look like a major threat. Jordan Murphy looks like one of this season’s biggest new stars but Minnesota is in a recent tailspin and the heart of the conference schedule has yet to begin. (SP)

NEVADA: Raise

The Wolf Pack missed out on two quality wins as they dropped close ones to Texas Tech and TCU last week, but this is still the team to beat in the Mountain West. The Martin twins have hit the ground running during their first season on the court after transferring in from NC State, and in Jordan Caroline they’ve got a versatile forward who’s averaging 17.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Purdue transfer Kendall Stephens has shot the ball well from the perimeter, and players such as Josh Hall, Lindsey Drew and Hallice Cooke are all solid contributors as well. UNLV, Boise State and Wyoming are also worth keeping tabs on in the Mountain West, but Eric Musselman’s ability to blend together talented transfers with players who have already been part of the program is what makes Nevada such a threat. (RJ)

NORTH CAROLINA: Check

I had North Carolina down as a raise until I realized that they were ranked No. 7 in both polls. If that’s where they are in the national consciousness, that’s probably fair. I’d argue that’s their ceiling. Remember, we’re talking about a team that is currently getting all-american performances out of Luke Maye on a nightly basis, a team where Maye is the only big man on the roster that isn’t a freshman. If being a top ten team is the baseline we’re working with here, then North Carolina is a check. (RD)

NORTHWESTERN: Fold

Not showing nearly the same focus and intensity as last season’s NCAA tournament team, Northwestern has been sluggish defensively against strong competition. Only owning an overtime home win over Illinois, the Wildcats have fallen to Creighton, Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Purdue. The next stretch of three non-conference games against DePaul, Valparaiso and Oklahoma are key. (SP)

NOTRE DAME: Raise

Although the Fighting Irish suffered a puzzling home loss to Ball State, there is still reason to be optimistic. Bonzie Colson hasn’t found his touch from the outside and could get hot at any point. Younger role players like Rex Pflueger and D.J. Harvey have room to grow. Notre Dame has a favorable ACC schedule. Notre Dame’s offense is still potent and they have plenty of weapons. (SP)

OKLAHOMA: Raise

The Sooners have Trae Young.

He’s really good.

Bet on the Sooners. (Travis Hines)

OREGON: Check

When it comes to the on-court product, the impulse when it comes to Oregon is to trust that Dana Altman will have it all figured out for conference play and the Ducks will be a Pac-12 contender. Maybe that happens again this season, but thus far the Ducks have largely been a jump-shooting team that struggles when it comes to getting to the foul line (254th in free throw rate). And when you’re shooting just 36.1 percent from three, that could be an issue. Despite the additions of talented offensive options such as Elijah Brown and Troy Brown, Oregon hasn’t been as efficient offensively as past Altman-coached teams have been. And I’d argue that this team doesn’t have as many versatile players who can fill a variety of roles on both ends of the court as past Oregon teams have possessed, either. Don’t give up on Oregon, but don’t be in a hurry to add money to the pot either. (RJ)

Trae Young (Harry How/Getty Images)

PURDUE: Raise

Minus a poor stretch at Battle 4 Atlantis, Purdue has looked like a veteran team with a number of options. Owning quality wins over Arizona, Louisville, Marquette, Maryland and Northwestern, the Boilermakers look like a potentially strong team in a weak Big Ten. Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards has blossomed as a scorer and he has weapons like Dakota Mathias, Vincent Edwards and Isaac Haas around him. (SP)

RHODE ISLAND: Raise

That win over Seton Hall, which came without the injured E.C. Matthews, will do wonders for URI’s profile as it looks to earn a second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. The perimeter is deep and talented, even without Matthews, with Jared Terrell, Jeff Dowtin Jr., Jarvis Garrett and an emerging freshman in Darron “Fatts” Russell among the contributors. The front court is the question mark; if Nikola Akele, Cyril Langevine and Andre Berry can provide consistent production the Rams should be able to take care of business in the Atlantic 10 and get back to the NCAA tournament. I’d raise on Dan Hurley’s team, but maybe exercise some caution with the dollar amount until Matthews returns to the court. (RJ)

SAINT MARY’S: Check

This is a good team and the biggest threat to Gonzaga in the race for the WCC title. But here’s the question that arose from those losses to Washington State and Georgia in the Wooden Legacy: can this group slow down dynamic guards? Malachi Flynn did his thing for Washington State, and in the third-place game Georgia’s Juwan Parker, William Jackson and Tyree Crump all performed well. The Gaels haven’t lost since, taking care of Cal, Sacramento State and Seattle, but that’s to be expected. Emmett Naar and Jock Landale are capable, talented players who will lead the way, and Randy Bennett’s team will once again produce a gaudy win total. But due to the lack of a marquee non-conference win, those games against Gonzaga are of even greater importance to Saint Mary’s. Talent-wise this is an NCAA tournament team, but will the profile be good enough to get Saint Mary’s a good seed as well come March? That’s my concern. (RJ)

SETON HALL: Raise

So here’s the thing about Seton Hall: To date, they’ve been about what I expected them to be entering the season. They look like they may be the best team in the Big East not named Villanova. They are tough. They defend. They are nestled somewhere in the top 15 nationally. But I’m still bullish on the Pirates because their two best players haven’t been their two best players. What does that mean? Well, Angel Delgado was a preseason all-american. Khadeen Carrington was a member of the preseason all-Big East team. Through the first month and change of the season, Desi Rodriguez has been Seton Hall’s all-american and Myles Powell has been an all-Big East player. That’s explainable – Delgado is dealing with double-teams, Carrington is still figuring out the point guard role – but it also means the Pirates haven’t yet reached their ceiling. That’s a good thing. (RD)

Desi Rodriguez (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

VIDEO: Wisconsin beats Western Kentucky on controversial blocking call 90 feet from the hoop

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Wisconsin freshman Brad Davison helped the Badgers sneak past Western Kentucky for an 81-80 win on Wednesday night by drawing a blocking call 90 feet from the basket on an inbounds play with two seconds left.

With the game tied at 80 and the Badgers in the double bonus, the blocking foul on Western Kentucky’s Marek Nelson sent Davison to the free throw line to clinch the game. Davison made the first free throw and purposely missed the second to give Wisconsin the one-point win.

Obviously, some smart coaching from Gard (if he called it) and a good play from Davison to elicit the call from the official. But for Western Kentucky to lose like this? On a call like this? That’s a really poor look from the officials, who could have just as easily called this a charge. Or even better, let the play go and settle for a likely overtime between two tied teams.

That referee’s call, on what’s very close to a non-basketball play, decided Wisconsin’s win over the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury was furious over the call and was hoping the officials could check to see if Davison was out of bounds.

Brunson leads No. 1 Villanova in rout of Temple

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Brunson had 22 of his career-high 31 points in No. 1 Villanova’s dominating first half and Omari Spellman scored 27 to help lead the Wildcats to an 87-67 rout of Temple on Wednesday night.

Donte DiVincenzo added 12 points for Villanova (11-0), which won its unprecedented 22nd straight Big 5 game. The Wildcats last lost a contest in the Philadelphia round-robin series to Temple on Dec. 5, 2012. The Big 5 also consists of La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Penn.

The Wildcats, who moved into the top spot in the rankings for the third straight season this week, looked like the best team in the country in a dominating opening 20 minutes.

With his dad Rick – a former Temple standout and current assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves who played nine seasons in the NBA – sitting two rows behind the Villanova bench, Brunson led the way.

The 6-foot-2 junior point guard made 8 of 10 shots, including 5 of 7 3-pointers, and added four assists while controlling the opening 20 minutes.

The performance surely impressed Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown and Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, who were among the sellout crowd of 10,206 at Temple.

Quinton Rose scored 27 points for the Owls (6-3), who began the week No. 11 in the RPI rankings. It was the third straight season Temple played Villanova as a No. 1, and the Owls fell to 2-18 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents.

The Temple student section was fired up in the pregame, hoping to help the Owls end Villanova’s Philadelphia dominance, but the Wildcats gave them little for which to cheer.

The Wildcats scored the first seven points as Temple came out cold, missing its first five shots and committing three turnovers.

And Villanova went from there.

The Wildcats took their biggest lead of the half on DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer that made it 25-5 with 11 minutes left before the break. And the lead reached 20 again on Brunson’s 3-pointer that made it 28-8 44 seconds later.

Temple rallied by scoring the next 13 points over 3 1/2 minutes to pull within 28-21 on Josh Brown’s jumper with 6:45 left before the break.

But Villanova continued making shots and Brunson, appropriately, finished the first-half scoring with a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a 46-29 lead.

Villanova shot 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from the arc in the opening 20 minutes.

The second half was a mere formality.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: The Wildcats likely will hold the top spot in the rankings for at least another week, as they will take nine days off for exams before returning to the court. They will next play a nonconference game against Hofstra, the program Wildcats coach Jay Wright led before coming to Villanova, on Dec. 22 before beginning Big East play on Dec. 27 at DePaul.

Temple: The Owls host another Philadelphia school, Drexel, on Saturday and then play at Georgia on Dec. 22 before starting American Conference play on Dec. 28 against Tulane. The Owls will be looking for their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and will need a high finish in the conference to get there.

UP NEXT

Villanova: After a break for exams, the Wildcats play Hofstra on Dec. 22 in Uniondale, New York.

Temple: Hosts Drexel on Saturday night.

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