Rasheed Sulaimon, Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston

Duke headlines first NCAA tournament projection of 2013

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Through the first two months of the college basketball season, no team has accomplished more than Duke.  Thus, the Blue Devils hold the top spot on the s-curve and the No. 1 overall seed in our first bracket projection of 2013.  For what it’s worth, Duke is No. 1 in the RPI, has played the nation’s third best schedule, is 10-0 vs. the RPI Top 50, and has wins over Louisville, Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Temple, and Ohio State.  That’s about as good as it gets.  The other No. 1 seeds are Louisville, Michigan, and Kansas.

As expected, the lower half of the current bracket is quite fluid.  Even some national headliners have suspect resumes to this point: Kentucky, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina come to mind.  Of those three, Kentucky seems most likely to push for a significantly higher seed come tournament time.  We also have teams whose non-conference schedules could prove costly in March:  Virginia (No. 329), Maryland (No. 323), Georgia Tech (No. 302), Charlotte (No. 300), Wyoming (No. 281), Iowa (No. 276), Pittsburgh (No. 255), and St. Mary’s (246) are just a few.  How these teams – and others – handle conference play will define their seasons because their non-conference numbers won’t help much.  (SOS numbers are from ESPN’s RPI rankings).

Quick note:  The current bracket is for games played through Sunday, January 6.  It does not include games played Monday (Jan. 7).  Notre Dame’s win at Cincinnati will be included in the next bracket and s-curve update.

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)

  • Arizona State vs. Wisconsin | South Region
  • Virginia vs. Oklahoma | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. SOUTHERN | Midwest Region
  • CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN vs. WAGNER | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC MIDWESTIndianapolis                    
Philadelphia Lexington
1) DUKE 1) LOUISVILLE
16) CHARLESTON STHN / WAGNER 16) NORFOLK ST / SOUTHERN
8) Wyoming 8) Temple
9) MEMPHIS 9) UCLA
Dayton Auburn Hills
5) Ohio State 5) NC State
12) BUCKNELL 12) MURRAY STATE
4) Cincinnati 4) Illinois
13) DETROIT 13) MID TENNESSEE ST
Austin Austin
6) Georgetown 6) New Mexico
11) Colorado State 11) Indiana State
3) CREIGHTON 3) MISSOURI
14) CANISIUS 14) UTAH STATE
Dayton Kansas City
7) Oklahoma State 7) VCU
10) Oregon 10) Marquette
2) Indiana 2) Minnesota
15) NORTHEASTERN 15) MERCER
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Dallas
Kansas City Auburn Hills
1) KANSAS 1) MICHIGAN
16) WEBER STATE 16) STONY BROOK
8) Kentucky 8) Baylor
9) Miami-FL 9) Maryland
San Jose San Jose
5) Notre Dame 5) BUTLER
12) Saint Louis 12) Arizona State / Wisconsin
4) Michigan State 4) SAN DIEGO STATE
13) NORTH DAKOTA ST 13) DAVIDSON
Salt Lake City Lexington
6) UNLV 6) Kansas State
11) Virginia / Oklahoma 11) North Carolina
3) GONZAGA 3) Florida
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) OHIO
Salt Lake City Philadelphia
7) Wichita State 7) Colorado
10) Pittsburgh 10) Boise State
2) ARIZONA 2) Syracuse
15) HAWAII 15) HARVARD

NOTES on the BRACKET: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Louisville, Michigan, and Kansas.

Last Five teams in (at large): Saint Louis, Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona State, Oklahoma

First Five teams out (at large): Iowa, Iowa State, Dayton, California, Tennessee

Next Five teams out (at large): Belmont, Texas, BYU, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (7): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh

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

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

Mountain West (6): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Boise State, Colorado State

Atlantic 10 (4): Butler, VCU, Temple, Saint Louis

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma

Pac 12 (4): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon

Missouri Valley (3): Creighton, Wichita State, Indiana State

SEC (3): Missouri, Florida, Kentucky

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … MURRAY STATE (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), NORTH DAKOTA ST (Summit), DETROIT (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), UTAH STATE (WAC), CANISIUS (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), OHIO (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), HAWAII (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), STONY BROOK (American East), WEBER STATE (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), WAGNER (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

AP
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File
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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
AP Photo/Nati Harnik
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.