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North Carolina, Kentucky top preseason bracket projection

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source: AP

March is five months away.  Thousands of college basketball games will be played before Selection Sunday.  Yet two things seem pretty clear in early November.  North Carolina and Kentucky are loaded, and the Tar Heels and Wildcats are heavy favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans.  So it’s no surprise that UNC and UK are the top two teams in our preseason bracket projection.

From there, it gets interesting.  Debates rage across the internet and college hoops magazines about the next group of teams.  Defending champion Connecticut returns a host of talent, as does 2011 top seed Ohio State.  Other teams in the early running for No. 1 seeds: Syracuse and DukeFlorida and Vanderbilt both have the talent to challenge Kentucky in the SEC.  Louisville and Pittsburgh are potential threats to the Orange and Huskies in the Big East.  Memphis has the horses to dominate an improved Conference USA.

There are also plenty of good mid-major programs to watch.  Belmont could be an at-large candidate if it navigates an opportunistic non-conference schedule.  Detroit will test Butler in the Horizon League.  As many as three or four teams could push for bids from the Colonial and Atlantic 10.  Both the Missouri Valley and Mid-American have multiple bid options.  Our preseason projection has two teams each from the Colonial, MVC, and Horizon.  Hopefully, we’ll see that – or more – play out next spring.

Further down the bracket, it’s educated guesswork …

Last 5 teams IN: Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis.  First 5 teams OUT:  Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s.  The next group includes Kent State, VCU, Indiana, Old Dominion, and Central Florida.  None of these would be huge surprises.  That’s the beauty of college hoops.  We play the games and what happens on the court matters more than public opinion.

Here’s to a great season.  Let’s enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.

2012 PRESEASON BRACKET PROJECTION

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UTEP, BYU, etc).

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

Minnesota vs. Drexel | Wichita State vs. St. Louis | STONY BROOK vs. LONG ISLAND | TX-SAN ANTONIO vs. ALABAMA ST.

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTH – Atlanta
Pittsburgh Greensboro
1) CONNECTICUT 1) NORTH CAROLINA
16) HAMPTON 16) STONY BROOK / LONG ISLAND
8) Texas 8) Mississippi State
9) Purdue 9) Temple
Portland Omaha
5) UCLA 5) Cincinnati
12) Minnesota / Drexel 12) Oklahoma State
4) XAVIER 4) Wisconsin
13) IONA 13) Wichita State / St. Louis
Omaha Nashville
6) Texas A-M 6) Florida State
11) BUTLER 11) Detroit
3) Vanderbilt 3) Louisville
14) WEBER STATE 14) DAVIDSON
Greensboro Louisville
7) Michigan 7) Washington
10) West Virginia 10) Illinois
2) Duke 2) Florida
15) BUCKNELL 15) FLORIDA ATLANTIC
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Louisville Pittsburgh
1) KENTUCKY 1) OHIO STATE
16) TX-SAN ANTONIO / ALABAMA ST 16) UNC-ASHEVILLE
8) Miami-FL 8) NEW MEXICO
9) Villanova 9) CREIGHTON
Portland Albuquerque
5) Michigan State 5) Marquette
12) Oregon 12) Virginia
4) Kansas 4) ARIZONA
13) UTAH STATE 13) AKRON
Columbus Albuquerque
6) Alabama 6) California
11) BELMONT 11) Marshall
3) Pittsburgh 3) BAYLOR
14) HARVARD 14) LONG BEACH STATE
Nashville Columbus
7) Missouri 7) GONZAGA
10) UNLV 10) GEORGE MASON
2) MEMPHIS 2) Syracuse
15) ORAL ROBERTS 15) TENNESSEE STATE

 

NOTES on the BRACKET: North Carolina is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Kentucky, Connecticut and Ohio State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Virginia, Minnesota, Wichita State, Drexel, St. Louis

First Five teams out (at large): Notre Dame, BYU, Northwestern, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s

Next Five out (at large): VCU, Kent State, Indiana, Old Dominion, Central Florida

Bracket adjustments: None in this update.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Connecticut, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Marquette, Villanova, West Virginia

Big Ten (7): Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Kansas, Texas A-M, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma State

ACC (5): North Carolina, Duke, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Mississippi State,

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, UCLA, California, Washington, Oregon

Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, Temple, St. Louis

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, UNLV

Colonial (2): George Mason, Drexel

Horizon (2): Butler, Detroit

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Marshall

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference leaders/champions … Utah State (WAC), Tennessee State (OVC), Iona(MAAC), Akron (MAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Florida Atlantic (Sun Belt), Harvard (Ivy), UNC-Asheville (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-San Antonio (Southland), Alabama State (SWAC)

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell suspended

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department policy, the school announced on Sunday.

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists for the Gamecocks, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 20 nationally. Thornwell is the reigning SEC Player of the Week.

South Carolina plays FIU in Columbia at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Melo Trimble’s heroics get him a shout-out from Wale in a song

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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For the fourth time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season, Melo Trimble won a game for Maryland.

His two free throws in the final ten seconds gave the Terps a come-from-behind, 71-70 win over Oklahoma State in College Park, and the win not only was the sixth time this season that the Terps have won a game decided by six points or less, it improved Trimble’s record in those games to 26-5.

26-5!

That’s an insane statistic, one that should allow Maryland fans to truly appreciate just how valuable their junior point guard is.

At least one Maryland fan does. Rapper Wale, who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, made sure to name-drop his favorite Terp in a verse in a song he released on Saturday night:

And you better believe that Trimble is aware of it:

"My therapist terrible , I'm uh Terp Melo Trimbling" @wale

A photo posted by Melo Trimble (@olem__) on

Rick Pitino on Grand Canyon: ‘The toughest crowd I’ve ever faced’

Rick Pitino
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after his No. 14 Cardinals struggled to put away a tough Grand Canyon team on the road had some kind – and hyperbolic – words to say about the atmosphere.

“This, in college basketball in my 40 plus year, was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” he said.

Umm, but Rick, you’ve coached in the Big East and the ACC! This was tougher than any of those crowds?

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that crowd tonight,” he said.

Well, now.

That seems like a bit much, but to be fair, the atmosphere there was, shall we say, lit:

POSTERIZED: Charlotte’s Najee Garvin nearly jumpers over defender

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This is what you don’t try to take charges.

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 19:  Head coach Ed Cooley of the Providence Friars  reacts in the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 19, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.