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Latest NCAA tourney projections a seeding mess in middle

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source: AP

With Valentine’s Day arriving on Tuesday, the Missouri Tigers will find a lot to love about our latest bracket projection.  Mizzou moves up to No. 3 on the s-curve – behind Kentucky and Syracuse – which positions the Tigers for a little home cooking in St. Louis via the Midwest Region.  If Missouri fans are so inclined, they can send a kind word to East Lansing.  Michigan State knocked off Ohio State in Columbus and bumped the Buckeyes out West.  Kansas is right behind OSU and the two teams are slotted 1-2 in the West Region.  If you have a different order, that’s fine.  It was a very close call.  After that, it’s Duke, Michigan State, and North Carolina on the two-line.

The middle of the bracket is a seeding nightmare.  It’s hard to find a lot of differences between a 6 to 8 seed in this bracket, or for that matter, an 8 to 11 seed.  You could slot them several ways.  Hopefully, a few of these things will become more clear over the next three weeks.  Other than Kentucky, it wasn’t a particularly good week for the SEC.  Florida lost to Tennessee (again), Mississippi State lost to Georgia, and Alabama suspended several key players.  Thus, the Tide take a little sharper hit this week, falling to an 11-seed in the East.  That might be a tad low, but let’s see how the team comes back together if players are reinstated.

We still have a very weak bubble.  That makes it easier for teams like Illinois, West Virginia, and others to work through losing streaks.  When you start comparing resumes, quality wins help separate pretenders from contenders.  Remember, a team’s record in it last 12 games is no longer an official criteria used by the Selection Committee.

I’ll be at the NCAA’s Mock Selection exercise later this week in Indianapolis.  It will be fun to see how the group works through some of the selection and seeding issues with this year’s landscape.  Enjoy a great week of hoops.

UPDATED: Monday, Feb. 13

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

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Miami-FL (14-8) vs. Minnesota (17-8) | West Region
  • Xavier (16-9) vs. Seton Hall (17-8) | South Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (13-11) vs. STONY BROOK (15-8) | East Region
  • NC-ASHEVILLE (16-7) vs. UT-ARLINGTON (18-5) | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (25-1) 1) KENTUCKY (25-1)
16) STONY BROOK / MS VALLEY ST 16) NORFOLK STATE (17-7)
8) St. Louis (19-5) 8) Memphis (18-7)
9) Kansas State (16-7) 9) Connecticut (15-9)
Portland Nashville
5) San Diego State (18-4) 5) WICHITA STATE (21-4)
12) NC State (18-7) 12) Xavier / Seton Hall
4) Indiana (19-6) 4) Wisconsin (18-6)
13) MID TENNESSEE ST (22-4) 13) DAVIDSON (18-6)
Albuquerque Louisville
6) Creighton (21-5) 6) TEMPLE (19-5)
11) Alabama (16-8) 11) CALIFORNIA (20-6)
3) Baylor (20-4) 3) Marquette (21-5)
14) NEVADA (19-4) 14) IONA (20-6)
Columbus Greensboro
7) Virginia (19-5) 7) Mississippi State (19-6)
10) HARVARD (20-3) 10) Purdue (16-9)
2) Michigan State (19-5) 2) North Carolina (21-4)
15) BELMONT (18-7) 15) BUCKNELL (19-6)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Omaha Omaha
1) MISSOURI (23-2) 1) OHIO STATE (21-4)
16) LONG ISLAND (18-7) 16) UT-ARLINGTON / NC-ASHEVILLE
8) Notre Dame (17-8) 8) SO. MISSISSIPPI (19-4)
9) New Mexico (19-4) 9) Iowa State (18-7)
Portland Nashville
5) Gonzaga (20-4) 5) ST. MARY’S (21-3)
12) Washington (17-8) 12) Minnesota / Miami-FL
4) Michigan (18-7) 4) Louisville (20-5)
13) LONG BEACH ST (17-6) 13) ORAL ROBERTS (23-5)
Columbus Albuquerque
6) Florida (19-6) 6) Florida State (17-7)
11) Texas (16-9) 11) BYU (19-6)
3) Georgetown (18-5) 3) UNLV (20-4)
14) DREXEL (21-5) 14) AKRON (17-7)
Greensboro Omaha
7) MURRAY STATE (21-1) 7) Vanderbilt (17-8)
10) Illinois (16-9) 10) West Virginia (16-10)
2) DUKE (21-4) 2) Kansas (20-5)
15) VALPARAISO (16-9) 15) WEBER STATE (18-4)

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Syracuse, Missouri, and Ohio State. Next in line are Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina.

Last Five teams in (at large): Washington, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Miami-FL, Xavier

First Five teams out (at large): Northwestern, Arizona, Mississippi, Dayton, Cincinnati

Next Five teams out (at large): Colorado State, UCF, Oregon, Arkansas, Colorado

Bracket adjustments: There are several one-line adjustments to accommodate both conference conflicts, bracketing principles, and efforts to avoid regular-season rematches.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (8): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota

Big East (8): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Seton Hall

ACC (6): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, NC State, Miami-FL

Big 12 (6): Baylor, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Texas

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

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

Mountain West (3): UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico

West Coast (3): Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi

Pac 12 (2): California, Washington

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee State

Conference leaders/champions … Valparaiso (Horizon), Akron (MAC), Drexel (CAA), Nevada (WAC), Murray State (OVC), Iona (MAAC), Weber State (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Summit), Long Beach State (Big West), Long Island (NEC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Harvard (Ivy), NC-Asheville (Big South), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

Before he won an Academy Award, Mahershala Ali played at Saint Mary’s

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26:  Actor Mahershala Ali accepts Best Supporting Actor for 'Moonlight' onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Mahershala Ali won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the film ‘Moonlight’ on Sunday night.

How does that tie into college basketball?

It’s simple: Ali played college basketball for four years at Saint Mary’s, from 1992-1996.

Now, this was before Saint Mary’s turned into the Saint Mary’s that Randy Bennett has built. At the time, Ernie Kent was the program’s head coach, and the teams that Ali — whose used his given last name of Gilmore at the time, although he was already using the shortened version of his first name, Mahershalalhashbaz — played on weren’t really all that good. They finished under .500 in the WCC three of the four season, finding a way to finish in a tie for second place in his junior year.

As a senior, Ali averaged 7.0 points for the Gaels.

This would probably make Ali the most famous player that Kent has ever coached. He’s more famous than Aaron Brooks, who had about two good NBA seasons, and he’s definitely more famous than Luke Ridnour, who is best known either for getting traded four times in a week or being name-dropped in a song by the rapper Wale, who bragged about being able to turn ‘Ducks into Bucks [like] Luke Ridnour.’

 

VIDEO: Tom Izzo’s touching senior day tribute to Eron Harris

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Eron Harris #14 of the Michigan State Spartans kisses the midcourt logo on senior day during the second half of the college basketball game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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Eron Harris suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game at Purdue earlier this month, meaning that he would not be able to take the floor for his Senior Day.

Tom Izzo made sure to rectify that, as he called a timeout with just 12 seconds left in Michigan State’s win over No. 16 Wisconsin on Sunday, giving Harris a chance to go out to the center of the court, get a standing ovation and give the Spartan logo a smooch.

He was also greeted by the Wisconsin team. All around great moment:

Nick Ward-led Michigan State beats No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 26: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers in the second half at the Breslin Center on February 26, 2017 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Nick Ward had 22 points and nine rebounds, Miles Bridges had 17 points and Matt McQuaid added a season-high 15 to help Michigan State beat No. 16 Wisconsin 84-74 on Sunday.

The Spartans (18-11, 10-6 Big Ten) have won six of their last eight games, moving them into a third-place tie in the conference and perhaps sealing their spot in a 20th straight NCAA Tournament.

The Badgers (22-7, 11-5) have lost four of five and lost a chance to pull into a first-place tie with No. 14 Purdue.

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes scored 22 points, Bronson Koenig had 17 and Zak Showalter added 15. Ethan Happ fouled out with eight points, more than six points below his average for the Badgers.

Michigan State went on an 11-1 run midway through the second half, building a 12-point lead that it was able to maintain unlike a big lead in the first half.

In the first half, the Spartans led 36-23 only to allow the Badgers to come back with a 15-4 run to pull within a point at halftime.

Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had 10 points and eight assists and Joshua Langford had nine points.

In the last game of the season at Breslin Center, senior guard Eron Harris checked in late in the game a little more than a week after he had a season-ending knee injury. Harris, with a brace on his right knee, went to center court and kissed the Spartan logo to follow a senior tradition Shawn Respert started in 1995.

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: The Badgers have been shooting poorly and it is catching up with them. They were held to 43.1 percent shooting against Michigan State, a ninth straight game of connecting on 44 percent or fewer of their shots. They made 13 of 25 free throws at Michigan State after shooting 67 and 57 percent from the line the previous two games.

Michigan State: The Spartans are surging at the right time and are gaining confidence perhaps allowing them to position themselves for better seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

POLL IMPLICATONS

With Wisconsin’s losses at Michigan State and Ohio State, the Badgers will likely plummet from No. 16 in The Associated Press poll on Monday.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: The Badgers end the regular season at home, hosting Iowa on Thursday night and Minnesota on Sunday.

Michigan State: The Spartans close on the road, playing Illinois on Wednesday night and No. 24 Maryland on Saturday.

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

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

Rick Pitino
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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.