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Latest NCAA tourney projections kind to Kansas, not Ohio St.

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After a somewhat bumpy weekend, not a lot has changed from Saturday.  Kentucky (South), Syracuse (East), Michigan State (Midwest), and Kansas (West) remain No. 1 seeds.  Ohio State’s home loss to Wisconsin drops the Buckeyes to No. 8 on the s-curve.  That means the Buckeyes are one spot from falling to a No. 3 seed.  Baylor, Marquette, and Georgetown are all in play for OSU’s spot heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Duke is next in line for a one-seed, and does hold tie-breaker advantages over both MSU and KU thanks to head-to-head victories.  As we noted Saturday, however, the Spartans and Jayhawks both have outright leads in the Big Ten and Big 12.  Although Duke won the its initial matchup with North Carolina, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are tied for the ACC lead.

Overall, we have just two changes to today’s bracket – plus some minor seeding adjustments.  Colorado State and Arizona slide out.  St. Joseph’s and Northwestern move in and join the First Four groupings in Dayton.  In Arizona’s case, the Wildcats were simply passed on the s-curve. Barely beating UCLA at home wasn’t enough help. UA hold its final at-large position.  Colorado State lost at San Diego State.  Not a bad loss, but it drops the Rams to 2-9 on the road.  St. Joseph’s (Creighton) and Northwestern (Seton Hall) also have better out-of-conference wins than CSU.

The margins separating these teams – along with several others – are very thin.  Expect this give and take to continue until someone plays their way in, or more likely, out.  Among those considered for the final spots, Northwestern was the only team without a sub-100 RPI loss.  In fact, all but two of the Wildcats’ losses have come to Top 40 RPI teams.  That alone won’t carry NW into the NCAAs, but it’s enough to give them a slight edge today.  Compared side-by-side, Northwestern has six (6) Top 100 wins while Miami has three (3).  That and a higher strength of schedule gives the Wildcats a small edge on the Hurricanes.

You’ll notice that both First Four winners are slotted into 11-seed locations.  As one at-large First Four game will be played Tuesday and one Wednesday, the Selection Committee will try to locate one to a Thursday-Saturday site and one to a Friday-Sunday site.  That is replicated here.  The only way that could be accomplished within the current bracket was to send them to Louisville and Columbus (plus both are close for travel from Dayton).  Washington and Southern Mississippi fall to the 12-seed line by virtue of the procedural bump.

March is three days away.  Enjoy the hoops.

UPDATED: Monday, Feb. 27

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)

  • Dayton (18-10) vs. Texas (18-11) | West Region
  • St. Joseph’s (19-11) vs. Northwestern (17-11) | Midwest Region
  • MISS VALLEY ST (17-11) vs. SAVANNAH ST (17-10) | South Region
  • STONY BROOK (18-8) vs. UNC-ASHEVILLE (16-9) | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTBoston SOUTHAtlanta                                      
Pittsburgh Louisville
1) SYRACUSE (29-1) 1) KENTUCKY (28-1)
16) UNC-ASHEVILLE / STONY BROOK 16) MS VALLEY ST / SAVANNAH ST
8) Purdue (19-10) 8) Virginia (21-7)
9) MEMPHIS (21-8) 9) Cincinnati (20-9)
Portland Albuquerque
5) Florida (22-7) 5) UNLV (22-6)
12) BYU (22-7) 12) Xavier (18-10)
4) TEMPLE (22-6) 4) Indiana (22-7)
13) ORAL ROBERTS (26-5) 13) DREXEL (25-5)
Albuquerque Nashville
6) Creighton (25-5) 6) Florida State (19-9)
11) California (23-7) 11) Mississippi State (19-10)
3) Baylor (23-5) 3) Georgetown (20-6)
14) NEVADA (21-5) 14) AKRON (19-9)
Greensboro, N.C. Pittsburgh
7) Gonzaga (23-5) 7) Kansas State (19-9)
10) West Virginia (17-12) 10) St. Louis (21-6)
2) North Carolina (25-4) 2) Ohio State (23-6)
15) VALPARAISO (18-10) 15) BELMONT (23-7)
MIDWEST – St. Louis WEST – Phoenix
Columbus Omaha
1) MICHIGAN STATE (23-5) 1) KANSAS (24-5)
16) LONG ISLAND (22-8) 16) UT-ARLINGTON (20-6)
8) Iowa State (21-8) 8) ST. MARY’S (23-5)
9) Alabama (19-9) 9) Connecticut (17-11)
Portland Nashville
5) Notre Dame (20-9) 5) Louisville (22-7)
12) WASHINGTON (20-8) 12) Southern Mississippi (21-6)
4) WICHITA STATE (25-4) 4) Wisconsin (20-8)
13) LONG BEACH (19-7) 13) IONA (24-6)
Louisville Columbus
6) MURRAY STATE (25-1) 6) Vanderbilt (19-9)
11) St. Joseph’s / Northwestern 11) Dayton / Texas
3) Marquette (24-5) 3) Michigan (20-8)
14) MID TENNESSEE ST (22-5) 14) DAVIDSON (21-7)
Omaha Greensboro
7) San Diego State (20-6) 7) New Mexico (21-6)
10) HARVARD (22-4) 10) Seton Hall (19-10)
2) Missouri (25-4) 2) DUKE (25-4)
15) WEBER STATE (21-4) 15) BUCKNELL (21-8)

 

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Xavier, Dayton, Texas, St. Joseph’s, Northwestern

First Five teams out (at large): Miami (Fla), Colorado State, VCU, South Florida, Arizona

Bracket adjustments: Several one-line adjustments were made to accommodate bracket principles and procedures.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (9): Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Seton Hall

Big Ten (7): Ohio State, Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue, Northwestern

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

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

Atlantic 10 (5): Xavier, St. Louis, Temple, Dayton, St. Joseph’s

ACC (4): North Carolina, Duke, Virginia, Florida State

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): Washingon, California

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

Conference leaders/champions … Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt), 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), Savannah State (MEAC), Bucknell (Patriot), Stony Brook (America East), UT-Arlington(Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

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Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
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Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.

Jim Boeheim’s Melo comments are evidence of why athletes hate the media

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States poses with Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has a habit of creating headlines that are not all that flattering, to himself or to the people that he’s commenting on, which is why it wasn’t much of a surprise that a quote he gave to Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard has been making the rounds this week.

The quote in question?

“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of his former star and now three-time Olympic champion Carmelo Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”

That sounds bad, doesn’t it?

But … I mean, he’s right, isn’t he?

Melo is 32 years old and title-less. He’s been to the conference finals once and gotten out of the first round of the playoffs just twice, and now he’s on the downside of his career. Athletes don’t get better as they exit their early 30s unless they’re taking whatever it was that turned Barry Bonds into a cyborg. Adding the remnants of Derrick Rose and a 31 year old Joakim Noah is helpful, but unless those contracts can teleport the Knicks back to 2011, Rose will be the only person calling this group a Super Team.

So yeah, Boeheim is right. You probably think so, too. Melo is probably never going to win an NBA title unless he finds a way to get to the Cavs.

But here’s the thing: focusing on that one line totally ignores the point that Boeheim was making in the interview. As always, context is critical, and if you read the story that Waters wrote, it’s pretty obvious the message that Boeheim was trying to get across. Melo is not going to leave a legacy in the NBA beyond being a guy that got a lot of buckets. It just didn’t work out for him that way. Ask Karl Malone how that feels.

But by going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, by becoming the first men’s basketball player to win three Olympic gold medals, Melo did solidify himself a legacy.

He’s the most accomplished and, arguably, the best player that Team USA has ever had. That’s not going to make up for the rings that are missing on his fingers, but it does cement his place in the history of the game.

That was Boeheim’s point, and it was a salient, intelligent point, one that complimented Melo for the success that he had in international play.

But if you scroll through your favorite blogs and see that headline, it looks like he was taking a shot at the player that brought him his only national title.

And given how twisted that quote has gotten, is it any wonder why athletes and coaches hate the media?

UPDATE (1:30 p.m.): Boeheim has weighed in:

Oregon wins their opener on Spanish tour

Oregon forward Elgin Cook, from left, forward Dillon Brooks and guard Tyler Dorsey react after a play against Washington during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinal round of the Pac-12 men's tournament Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Las Vegas. Oregon won 83-77. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Oregon won the opener of their tour in Spain 109-88 on Tuesday night, as the Ducks knocked off a team of all-stars in Madrid.

Tyler Dorsey had 19 points to lead the Ducks while Kavell Bigby-Williams and Dylan Ennis, who is coming off of a season derailed by foot injuries, both added 16 points. Chris Boucher, who was terrific at the Nike Skills Academy in July, had 12 points.

While Ennis’ health was noteworthy, it is also worth pointing out that Oregon’s star Dillon Brooks did not play on Monday and will not be playing on the trip. I know this because, in every photo posted by the official Oregon team accounts, Brooks is in a chair with a boot on his left foot.

The rising junior, a potential all-american, had surgery on the foot earlier this month.