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Pregame Shootaround 1.12.13: Duke on upset alert against NC State without Ryan Kelly

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Games of the Day: No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

With wins over Michigan State and Illinois, Minnesota has officially shown that it has staying power in the nation’s most powerful conference. The Gophers are in the nation’s Top 50 in scoring and the Top 25 in rebounding and assists, thanks in large part to the play of point guard Andre Hollins (13.7 points, 3.7 assists per game). The most important part, though, has been balance, with four players averaging in double figures and senior Trevor Mbakwe just outside double-digit scoring with 9.3 per game.

The biggest task for the Gophers Saturday will be containing Player of the Year candidate Cody Zeller. If Zeller has his way inside, it opens up opportunities on the perimeter for guards Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls, as well as forward Victor Oladipo. Assembly Hall is never an easy place for a conference opponent to get a win, but Minnesota could make it happen on Saturday.

Who’s Getting Upset?: No. 1 Duke (-3.5) vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Duke will be without forward Ryan Kelly, who is out at least two weeks with a foot injury. His absence will be felt most on the offensive end where he typically spaces the floor and allows guard Seth Curry and center Mason Plumlee to match up in more isolated situations. Without Kelly last season in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils were upset by 15th-ranked Lehigh in the Round of 64.

NC State has a chance for a major conference win, especially with Kelly out. Saturday will be a chance for forward C.J. Leslie to produce, but it will be equally important that center Richard Howell not get into foul trouble against Plumlee.

With the advantage on the interior, NC State will try to win the battle on the perimeter as well. The key matchup will be at the point guard spot between the Wolfpack’s Lorenzo Brown and Duke’s Quinn Cook. Brown’s perimeter defense needs to disrupt Cook, which puts more stress on a Duke offense that is already missing a key asset.

Mid-Major Matchups of the Day: 

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

Butler endured a tough road fight to beat St. Joe’s on Wednesday and now has to go on the road again against a tough Dayton team. Watch for the matchup in the backcourt in this one between Dayton’s Kevin Dillard and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke. Dillard has already outdueled Trevor Releford when the Flyers beat Alabama and outplayed Isaiah Canaan in a win over Murray State. But, if Clarke’s 28 points vs. St. Joe’s were any indication, he no difficulties coming up big on the road. Andrew Smith will be important in the paint for Butler, as well.

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Saint Louis has not lost since its former coach, Rick Majerus, passed away on Dec. 1. They face one of their toughest tests of the season Saturday, though, against a Temple team that took down Syracuse and nearly walked out of Allen Fieldhouse with a win over Kansas. The key for Saint Louis will be to contain Khalif Wyatt, who has shown that his relentless old-school style of play can consistently frustrate defenses. Kwamain Mitchell needs to continue to find his stride after missing much of the season recovering from injury.

Five Things to Watch For

1) Freshman Ben McLemore saved Kansas with his 33 points in a comeback overtime win over Iowa State on Wednesday. They travel to Texas Tech Saturday and should be able to bounce back with a win.

2) After suffering its first loss of the season to Oregon, No. 4 Arizona continues its swing through the Beaver State with a matchup against Oregon State. In the loss, Arizona allowed Oregon to shoot 7-of-11 from three-point range. Saturday, they’ll need to rotate defensively and get a hand in the face of shooters Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks. Both guards shoot better than 40 percent from three.

3) Villanova has won seven games in a row, including quality wins over South Florida on the road and over a tough mid-major, St. Joe’s. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono will get one of his toughest matchups of the season so far, as he goes up against Syracuse sophomore Michael Carter-Williams. If Villanova wants the upset, they ought to take a page out of Temple’s book. Force Carter-Williams to score and be physical on the interior.

4) Aside from the Big Ten, the Mountain West might end up being the most exciting conference race to watch this season. We’ve got another good matchup Saturday, as Jamaal Franklin and San Diego State face Colorado State. The Rams will have to contain Franklin and Chase Tapley on the perimeter, but the combination of Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung gives CSU the advantage in the paint.

5) Georgetown ranks 263rd in the country in scoring offense with just over 63 points per game. They scored just 45 in a blowout loss to Pittsburgh. Shots around the rim won’t be easy Saturday, as the Hoyas run into Chris Obekpa, the St. John’s freshman tied with Kansas’ Jeff Withey for the nation’s lead in blocks per game (5.1).

The Top 25

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 20 NC State (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

No. 3 Louisville vs. South Florida (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 4 Arizona vs. Oregon State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 8 Minnesota vs. No. 5 Indiana (12:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 6 Kansas vs. Texas Tech (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 7 Syracuse vs. Villanova (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 10 Missouri vs. Ole Miss (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 11 Florida vs. LSU (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

No. 12 Illinois vs. Wisconsin (2:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

No. 14 Butler vs. Dayton (2:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 16 San Diego State vs. Colorado State (8:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)

No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Connecticut (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 18 Kansas State vs. West Virginia (1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 19 Georgetown vs. St. John’s (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPN2)

No. 21 Cincinnati vs. Rutgers (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

No. 24 UNLV vs. Air Force (10:00 p.m. ET)

No. 25 New Mexico vs. Fresno State (3:00 p.m. ET)

Other Notable Games

Pittsburgh vs. Marquette (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Tennessee vs. Alabama (1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

UCLA vs. Colorado (2:00 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Networks)

Texas vs. Iowa State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

North Carolina vs. Florida State (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma (3:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Washington State vs. California (4:00 p.m. ET, Pac 12 Networks)

Texas A&M vs. Kentucky (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)

Saint Louis vs. Temple (6:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU)

Washington vs. Stanford (11:00 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Net National)

San Francisco vs. St. Mary’s (11:00 p.m. ET)

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Report: Creighton’s Mo Watson Jr. suspended after sexual assault allegation

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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Creighton announced on Wednesday that injured point guard Mo Watson Jr. was suspended from the program on Feb. 13th for “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The reason for that suspension, according to a report from the Omaha World-Herald, is that he is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault that happened in Omaha this month.

No charges have been filed and Watson was not arrested as of Wednesday night, according to the paper.

Watson was having an all-american season and leading the nation in assists when he tore his ACL on Jan. 16th in a win at Xavier. He underwent surgery in his hometown of Philadelphia a couple of weeks later, but he has not been a part of a Creighton team activity since his return.

Creighton is 4-5 since Watson’s injury, losing on Wednesday night at home against Providence. They’ll likely make the NCAA tournament still.

Watson is not going to participate in Senior Night festivities in Omaha next week, per the OWH.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham arrested over unpaid ticket

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots the ball in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham was arrested and booked into Douglas County Jail late on Wednesday night on a failure to appear for court charge, according to jail records.

The charge was a result of an unpaid ticket for an expired tag that Graham had received. It dates back to June of last year.

Graham released a statement on the matter.

“This is my fault,” Graham said. “I was driving an ex-teammate’s car and I thought the ticket was paid so I didn’t pay attention to the notice to appear that I got. That’s on me, and I apologize to everyone. I learned a lesson the hard way.”

The arrest was a damper on what should have been a great night for Graham. He had 17 points and seven assists in a home win over TCU that clinched the 13th straight Big 12 regular season title for the Jayhawks. It was also his 22nd birthday.

He was released on $196 bond Wednesday night. Bill Self said he will not be suspended for the arrest.

Bracketology: Syracuse banks in a little Madness

SYRACUSE, NY - FEBRUARY 22:  John Gillon #4 of the Syracuse Orange celebrates tying the game with little time left on the clock during the second half against the Duke Blue Devils on February 22, 2017 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse upsets Duke 78-75.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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The bank was open Wednesday night in Syracuse. John Gillon’s three-pointer at the buzzer lifted Syracuse over Duke at the Carrier Dome and back (again) into the bracket.

It’s been a wild month for the Orange who now need to close the deal.  It was also a big night for Providence, who used a Kyron Cartwright trey to knock off Creighton in Omaha.  And then Dillon Brooks nailed a long-distance dagger to beat California, leaving the Bears teetering for bracket survival as February comes to a close.  Are we ready for March?

No changes on the No. 1 seed line. By a whisker, Villanova holds onto the overall No. 1 seed after its second loss to Butler, a team whose profile is far better than its AP ranking. Kansas, North Carolina, and Gonzaga round out the group.  UNC moves up to No. 3 after dispatching Louisville.

If last night was any indication, it’s going to be fun ride toward Selection Sunday.

UPDATED: February 23, 2017

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Regarding bracketing principles, can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Seton Hall vs. Kansas State | East Region
  • Providence vs. California Midwest Region
  • MT. ST. MARY’S vs. NC-CENTRAL | East Region
  • UC-IRVINE vs. NEW ORLEANS | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EAST New York MIDWEST Kansas City              
Buffalo Tulsa
1) VILLANOVA 1) KANSAS
16) NC-CENTRAL / M.S. MARY’S 16) NEW ORLEANS / UC-IRVINE
8) South Carolina 8) Northwestern
9) VCU 9) Xavier
Milwaukee Milwaukee
5) Virginia 5) Notre Dame
12) UNC-WILMINGTON 12) ILLINOIS STATE
4) PURDUE 4) Butler
13) PRINCETON 13) VALPARAISO
Indianapolis Orlando
6) Saint Mary’s 6) SMU
11) Seton Hall / Kansas State 11) Providence / California
3) Kentucky 3) Florida State
14) AKRON 14) BELMONT
Indianapolis Salt Lake City
7) Maryland 7) Iowa State
10) Marquette 10) Wichita State
2) Louisville 2) ARIZONA
15) BUCKNELL 15) NO. DAKOTA ST
WEST – San Jose SOUTH – Memphis
Salt Lake City Greenville
1) GONZAGA 1) NORTH CAROLINA
16) NORTH DAKOTA 16) TX-SOUTHERN
8) Miami-FL 8) Dayton
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
Buffalo Sacramento
5) CINCINNATI 5) Wisconsin
12) MONMOUTH 12) UT-ARLINGTON
4) West Virginia 4) UCLA
13) VERMONT 13) NEVADA
Greenville Orlando
6) Creighton 6) Minnesota
11) MID TENNESSEE ST 11) Syracuse
3) Duke 3) FLORIDA
14) FLA GULF COAST 14) E. TENNESSEE ST
Sacramento Tulsa
7) Oklahoma State 7) Virginia Tech
10) Michigan State 10) USC
2) Oregon 2) Baylor
15) CSU-BAKERSFIELD 15) UNC-ASHEVILLE

NOTES on the BRACKET: Villanova is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kansas, North Carolina, and Gonzaga.

Last Four Byes (at large): Michigan State, Wichita State, Marquette, Syracuse

Last Four IN (at large): Seton Hall, California, Providence, Kansas State

First Four OUT (at large): Wake Forest, TCU, Georgia Tech, Rhode Island

Next four teams OUT (at large): Vanderbilt, Clemson, Alabama, Houston

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): NORTH CAROLINA, Louisville, Florida State, Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Miami-FL, Syracuse

Big 10 (7): PURDUE, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State

Big East (7): VILLANOVA, Butler, Creighton, Xavier, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence

Big 12 (6): KANSAS, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State

Pac 12 (5): OREGON, Arizona, UCLA, USC, California

SEC (4): FLORIDA, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas

Atlantic 10 (2): VCU, Dayton

American (2): CINCINNATI, SMU

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Missouri Valley (1): ILLINOIS STATE, Wichita State

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Monmouth (MAAC), Middle Tennessee State (C-USA), UT-Arlington (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), North Dakota (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), New Orleans (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Akron (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Winthrop (BSO), NC-Central (MEAC), North Dakota State (SUM), CSU-Bakersfield (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Mt. St. Mary’s (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

VIDEO: Bill Self tells hilarious Brandon Rush story

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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Last night, as Kansas clinched their 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title, the Jayhawk program retired for star Brandon Rush’s jersey. Rush was a member of the 2008 national title team and is still bouncing around the NBA despite a series of knee injuries.

He’s a helluva player.

He’s also a terrible liar, as evidenced by the story that Bill Self told about him in last night’s press conference:

I guess honesty really is the best policy.

No. 22 Butler ruins No. 2 Villanova’s seniors’ perfect Pavilion record

Butler center Nate Fowler and Villanova forward Eric Paschall, right, vie for a rebound in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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All Villanova players have known since they joined the program is winning at The Pavilion. Late into Wednesday’s game against No. 22 Butler, it looked like that would continue to be their only frame of reference for a group of seniors that were 45-0 in the building.

Then another ‘0’ turned that zero into a ‘1.’

The Bulldogs ripped off an 18-0 run in a 5-minute span to ultimately claim a 74-66 victory over second-ranked and defending national champion Villanova.

Villanova looked like it was going to cruise to another home win when Josh Hart’s 3-pointer with 10 minutes, 37 seconds remaining put the Wildcats up 49-42.

They wouldn’t score again until nearly the 4-minute mark.

During that span, Butler made 7 of 11 shots, with three being 3-pointers, while the Wildcats went 0 of 6 from the field and turned the ball over twice.

A seven-point lead for Villanova became an 11-point advantage for Butler. Villanova would try to rally, but couldn’t pull it off as it saw its home winning run stopped, its seniors’ perfect Pavilion record blemished and its seven-game winning streak come to a halt.

Beyond it probably being immensely annoying to the senior class, the loss probably doesn’t hurt Villanova too much as it looks to hold on to a No. 1 seed, preferably in the East region. The Wildcats’ resume is still as strong as nearly anyone in the country and they are, after all, the defending champs. They’ll be fine.

For Butler, it’s a signature win for a team that’s had a number of really good victories, but a few confounding losses, like St. John’s on the road and to Creighton (without Maurice Watson) and Georgetown at home. Beating Villanova – at the Pavilion, no less – could be worth a seed line.

Kelan Martin was fantastic for Butler, going for 23 points and eight boards, while Kamar Baldwin went for 15 points off the bench.

Jalen Brunson led the way for Villanova with 24 points while Josh Hart had 18 points and six rebounds. Kris Jenkins struggled, going 1 of 8 from the floor while scoring eight points.

The Wildcats get a chance to start a new streak at the Pavilion on Saturday with Creighton coming to town.