Bubble Banter: 29 teams vying for roughly 12 spots

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Conference tournament action on Thursday and Friday could have a huge impact on who’s in and who’s out when the brackets are revealed this Sunday.  New teams involved in the anxious waiting game include Seton Hall and West Virginia.  Both lost second round tourney games on Wednesday.  For teams like South Florida, Northwestern, Dayton, Xavier, St. Joseph’s, Texas, and Tennessee, games continue. 

Here’s an updated look at the bubble through Wednesday night’s games.

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.comRPI data is for games played through Wednesday, March 7 (10 p.m ET). Records reflect games through Wednesday, March 7.

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

Automatic Bids (31): Murray State (OVC), Belmont (A-SUN), UNC-Asheville (Big South), VCU (Colonial), Loyola-Md (MAAC), Creighton (MVC), Harvard (IVY), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), South Dakota State (Summit), Detroit (Horizon), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Lehigh (Patriot)

  • Projected Locks (28): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (6): These teams are in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (29): Teams projected to be under consideration for at-large selection.
  • Spots Available (12): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games completed at 10:00 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, March 7.
  • Teams Leaving the Bubble: Cincinnati, Iowa State, Alabama (Should Be In)
  • Teams Joining the Bubble: TBA
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: St. Louis, Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (20-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 69 | – The Flyers have eight Top 100 RPI wins, including victories over Temple, Alabama, and Xavier. The Flyers have also beaten Ole Miss and Minnesota. What Dayton also has is a few troubling losses – particularly defeats to sub-200 RPI teams Miami-OH and Rhode Island. The Flyers face rival Xavier next. That could very well be an elimination game.
  • St. Joe’s (20-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 48 | – Like a lot of bubble teams, St. Joe’s entered conference tournament play in need of two or three wins. What St. Joe’s has are good non-conference wins over Creighton and Drexel. They’ve also beaten Temple. St. Joe’s beat Charlotte in its A10 opener and plays St. Bonaventure next. The Hawks need to win that one, too. Then it will depend on what happens around them. It might take another victory over Temple in the semifinals to stay in the Field.
  • St. Louis (23-6 | 12-4) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 95 | – A couple of wins by Xavier, Washington and St. Joe’s would make the Billkens’ profile even better. But it’s hard to consider SLU a lock with an 0-2 mark vs. Top 50 teams. The rest of the A10 bubble teams listed here have at least two. St. Louis also has a loss at Rhode Island (much like Dayton). St. Louis plays the Richmond/La Salle winner in its A-10 opener. It would be a good idea for the Billikens to win that one.
  • Xavier (19-11 | 10-6) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 52 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies. The Musketeers are 6-10 vs. Top 100 but just 2-7 vs. the RPI Top 50. XU will likely face Dayton in its A-10 tournament opener (see above). The loser could be in trouble.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State, Virginia
  • Miami-FL (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 42 | – Miami has a huge win at Duke and a victory over Florida State at home. But they are just 3-10 vs. Top 100 teams. The Canes open ACC tourney play against Georgia Tech. That’s a must win. After that, it would be Florida State. Beating the Seminoles again could be enough to push Miami into the NCAAs.
  • NC State (20-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 28 | – The Wolfpack have a season sweep of Miami and a neutral court win over Texas. Decent wins. But an 0-8 mark vs. the Top 50 is troubling – although UT and Miami are in the 50-60 range. NC State has to beat Boston College in its ACC opener. Then it’s a matchup with Virginia. The Wolfpack need at least those two. We’ll re-evaluate the landscape if that happens.
  • Virginia (22-8 | 9-7) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 84 | – Virginia was able to hold off a Maryland rally to avoid a more desperate situation. The Cavaliers will play either NC State or Boston College in their ACC tournament opener. If it’s NC State, one more win should seal it. UVA can probably survive a loss (if it’s not to BC) but it would leave open the possibility for concern if Championship Week gets a little crazy. UVA is 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 7-6 vs. the Top 100. Good wins include Michigan and Drexel. The win at Oregon helps too.
BIG EAST
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame | Should Be In: Cincinnati | Bubble: Connecticut, Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia
  • Connecticut (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 33 | SOS: 3 | – Connecticut opened Big East tournament play by beating DePaul and West Virginia. The victory over WVU was the Huskies’ 10th Top 100 RPI victory. That could very well be enough. A victory over Syracuse would clinch it. Non-conference wins include Florida State and Harvard.
  • Seton Hall (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 44 | – The Pirates ended their season with a loss to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night. That’s 3 losses in 4 games – including dropped games to Rutgers and DePaul. Victories over VCU, St. Joe’s and Dayton will help, along with wins over Georgetown, Connecticut, and West Virginia. SHU finished 7-9 vs. the Top 100. That may still keep SHU as one of the 37 best at-large teams, but it will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
  • South Florida (19-12 | 12-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 24 | – USF took care of Villanova late Thursday in a low-scoring game at Madison Square Garden. That keeps the Bulls right on the cutline for an NCAA bid. Despite 12 regular-season Big East wins, only the victory at Louisville was a Top 50 RPI opponent, and USF is 1-8 against that mark. They do have 6 Top 100 wins including Seton Hall and Cincinnati at home. Tonight’s matchup with Notre Dame could be very important to USF’s at-large chances.
  • West Virginia (19-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 14 | – The Mountaineers fell in overtime Wednesday to Connecticut. Now the wait begins. With victories over Kansas State and Miami-Fla outside the conference, the Mountaineers may still have an inside track to a bid. They finised 9-11 vs. Top 100 teams and beat Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida in the Big East. They could still be vulnerable if bids get squeezed, however. WVU was beaten twice by Connecticut and lost its only game with Seton Hall (away). A top 20 SOS will help. WVU had five losses to Top 35 RPI teams by a total of 11 points.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin | Should Be In: Purdue | Bubble: Northwestern
  • Northwestern (18-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 13 | – The Wildcats did everything right to close the season except for a 2-point loss to Ohio State. Those types of close losses will help the Wildcats, but at some point, winning games still counts, and a 1-10 mark vs. Top 50 teams stands out in the wrong way – same as a 5-12 mark vs. Top 100 teams. NW has a marquee win over Michigan State and a bubble win over Seton Hall. The Wildcats open with play in Indianapolis against Minnesota. Win, and it’s a matchup with Michigan. Northwestern probably needs both.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri | Should Be In: Kansas State, Iowa State | Bubble: Texas
  • Texas (19-12 | 9-9) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 21 | – The Longhorns enter Big 12 tournament play squarely on the bubble. Good wins include Temple, Iowa State, and Kansas State at home. Texas is just 4-7 on the road and 4-10 vs. Top 100 teams (3-9 vs. Top 50). A loss at Oregon State is the low mark. Texas opens with Iowa State and needs to beat the Cyclones. A win would set up a likely matchup with Missouri.
CONFERENCE USA
Locks: Memphis | Should Be In: Southern Mississippi | Bubble: Central Florida
  • Central Florida (19-9 |10-6) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 89 | – The Knights open C-USA tournament play against UAB. UCF has to win that one as it would set up a game with Memphis. The Knights need to beat the Tigers a second time. UCF is just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-6 vs the Top 100. Those numbers are considerably lower than some other bubble teams. Bad losses include Rice and UL-Lafayette.
MISSOURI VALLEY
Locks: Wichita State, Creighton | Should Be In: None | Bubble: None
  • Creighton won the automatic bid and ensured that the MVC will be a two-bid league.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (18-10 | 8-6) | RPI: 21 | SOS: 8 | – The Rams have beaten UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico at home, and their power numbers are very strong, if not slightly inflated. The concerns are a 3-9 road record – CSU’s best road win is UTEP (No. 158) – and nothing out of conference other than a win over Montana. Overall, the Rams have 8 top 100 wins. CSU opens Mountain West tournament play against TCU. That win might be enough. Assuming they play SDSU in the semis, two wins would lock up a bid. A quick loss could leave the door open for trouble if bids get squeezed.
PAC 12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (21-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 80 | SOS: 119 | – The Wildcats ended their season with a horrible loss at Arizona State. Their at-large hopes were shaky before (1-4 vs. Top 50), and Arizona accomplished little outside the Pac-10. UA has to reach the Pac-12 title game to have any serious consideration.
  • California (23-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 93 | – Cal continues to have the best at-large resume of the Pac-12 group thanks to a sweep of Oregon and a win at Washington in the only meeting between the two. But a loss to Stanford kept the Bears behind Washington in the final standings. Cal is 7-6 vs the Top 100. The Bears will likely see Stanford again in their first Pac-12 tournament game. They probably can’t afford another loss to the Cardinal.
  • Oregon (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 91 | – The Ducks have won 6 of 7 games but failed to win a game against a Top 50 RPI opponent. About all Oregon has to offer is a split with Washington, as the Ducks were swept by Cal. A victory at Nebraska is Oregon’s top out-of-conference victory. The Ducks will likely open Pac-12 tournament play against Colorado, but they need to reach the title game to stay in the discussion.
  • Washington (21-9 | 14-4) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 83 | – After a loss at UCLA, Washington backed into a Pac-12 regular season title when Cal lost at Stanford. If the Huskies don’t win the league’s automatic bid we’ll learn soon enough how the Committee values a Pac-12 title. Washington is 1-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-8 vs the Top 100. They split with Oregon, swept Arizona and lost their only game with Cal. The Huskies will open Pac-12 play with either Washington State or Oregon State. A loss could really hurt. Reaching the title game would be advised.
SEC
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Alabama | Bubble: Mississippi State, Tennessee
  • Mississippi State (21-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 66 | – The Bulldogs escaped South Carolina and beat Arkansas to close the regular season with two important wins. With 8 Top 100 wins (8-8), and a non-conference win over West Virginia, MSU survived a five-game swoon in February. The Bulldogs open SEC tournament play against Georgia. It would be a good idea to win that one. It might take a win over Vandy to feel safe.
  • Tennessee (17-13 | 10-6) | RPI: 75 | SOS: 32 | – The Volunteers actually earned the two-seed at the SEC tournament this week in New Orleans. How the Committee evaluates the arrival of Jarnell Stokes in early January will be a major factor for the Vols. They are clearly a better team with him, and three of their bad losses came before he arrived. UT is 10-5 with Stokes and has beaten Florida twice, Vanderbilt, and Connecticut. Those are four wins few bubble teams have. Tennessee gets the Auburn/Ole Miss winner in Game 1. Two more wins could be enough depending on what else happens.
WEST COAST
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (23-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 94 | – BYU failed in its attempt to beat Gonzaga a second time and finished 1-4 vs the Zags and St. Mary’s. If the Cougars miss the NCAAs that will be one reason why. Their best non-conference victories are Nevada and Oregon. Good wins, but perhaps not enough to make an NCAA bid hold up. BYU is a team that could easily be squeezed if bids get tight. Their resume is complete. It will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Drexel, Harvard, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, Oral Roberts
  • Drexel (27-6 | 16-2) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 209 |The Dragons may prove to be the ultimate “eye test” team for this year’s Selection Committee. Drexel had won 19 straight games before losing in the CAA championship to VCU. They were also the outright regular-season champions of the Colonial. Strictly by the numbers, Drexel finished 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-3 against the Top 100. While they lost to St. Joseph’s and Virginia, Drexel beat Cleveland State by 20 on the road. All the Dragons can do now is wait and hope a few other things fall their way.
  • Iona (25-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 144 | – The Gaels ended their season by losing to Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals. Now, it’s a long wait until Selection Sunday. Iona has to hope that wins over Nevada and St. Joseph’s hold up and that a few things go their way. The Gaels finished 1-1 vs. the Top 50 and 5-3 vs. the Top 100. Losses to sub-200 teams Siena and Hofstra may ultimately doom Iona to the NIT.
  • Long Beach State (20-8 | 15-1) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 103 | – The 49ers nearly completed a perfect Big West season. And while early wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier help, they aren’t as strong as once thought. LBSU played the No. 1 non-conference schedule but went 0-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 2-7 vs. the Top 100. Several close losses will help, but how much? Long Beach opens Big West tournament play against UC Davis.
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-6 | 14-2) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 183 | – The Blue Raiders’ chances are very slim after losing in the Quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament. Their best wins are Ole Miss, Akron and Belmont. But they ended the season with back-to-back losses to Western Kentucky and Arkansas State (both sub-200 teams). MTSU ended 0-1 vs. Top 50 teams.
  • Nevada (23-5 | 13-1) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 146 | – Having lost its BracketBusters game at Iona and then watching Iona fall early in the MAAC tournament, Nevada’s at-large chances are growing slim. What the Wolfpack do have is a win over Washington. Nevada has to reach the WAC title game to have any chance to stay in the at-large picture.
  • Oral Roberts (27-6 | 17-1) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 189 | – ORU beat Xavier, Missouri State, and Akron (BracketBusters) in non-conference play, although XU was without several players. But a loss to Western Illinois in the league tournament semis puts a damper on the Eagles’ at-large hopes. They finished 0-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 3-3 against the Top 100. ORU has to hope a dominate season in the Summit is enough.

USC lands four-star 2018 guard Elijah Weaver

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USC landed an important commitment for its future on Monday night as four-star Class of 2018 guard Elijah Weaver.

Regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the Rivals’ national Class of 2018 rankings, the 6-foot-5 Weaver gives the Trojans a floor leader to build around for the future as he provides great size in the backcourt. Capable of playing multiple guard spots, Weaver has a lot of upside for a program that has done a very solid job of developing backcourt talent under head coach Andy Enfield.

Weaver’s commitment is also important for the Trojans because it comes despite the looming FBI investigation that the program is dealing with thanks to former assistant coach Tony Bland. USC had recently lost a four-star commitment from forward J’Raan Brooks, so the commitment of Weaver is a huge momentum boost for them as they get right back on track in the Class of 2018.

With Weaver in the mix, USC now owns three four-star pledges in the 2018 class as he joins four-star forward Taeshon Cherry and four-star guard Kevin Porter.

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?