Long Beach State v Arizona

Latest Bracket: Arizona grabs No. 1 seed in West Region

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If Arizona continues its strong play during the next two months, it’ll be hard for the Selection Committee to keep the Wildcats off the top line out West.  That’s where the Wildcats reside in our latest bracket projection.  At No. 4 on the s-curve, Arizona trails Duke, Kansas, and Michigan in the chase for the overall No. 1 seed.  Fresh off a win at Louisville on Saturday and Cincinnati at home Monday, Syracuse is an eyelash behind at No. 5.  Others on the two-line: Louisville, Indiana, and Florida.  When the Gators are good, they are really good.

The bubble remains a mystery.  And an ever-changing target.  Consider that six of the ten teams just outside the bracket on Saturday morning (s-curve spots 69-78) lost.  Then we have a team like Virginia.  The up-and-down Cavaliers notched a road win at Florida State, but it’s unrealistic for a team with an RPI in the mid 120’s to garner  serious at-large consideration.  So we have to still go a bit on potential at this point.  Thus, Kentucky and Maryland are among the First Four participants.

Big Ten power paid off for Iowa this week.  The Hawkeyes represent the eighth Big Ten team in the current Field of 68 after beating Wisconsin and Northwestern.  By the time March rolls around, we’ll more likely end up with six or seven Big Ten teams in the Dance.  Much of that will depend on whether an additional SEC or ACC team steps up to grab an at-large spot.  The Mountain West remains strong with six teams in the bracket.  But as MWC teams jockey for position, it might limit the number of top five seeds. We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Note: A few teams – including the First Four winners – had to be adjusted a seed line to account for conference conflicts and bracketing principles.  This is a common occurrence during the actual bracketing process.  For example, Iowa State drops to the 12-line because of related issues with the First Four and finding a spot for Iowa which needed to avoid another Big Ten opponent until a Regional final.  While the committee attempts to avoid regular-season rematches in the first two rounds, exceptions can be made; in this case Iowa and Wichita State played but it’s the way the bracket came together.

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)

  • Maryland vs. Indiana State | Midwest Region
  • Kentucky vs. Temple | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. MERCER | Midwest Region
  • CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN vs. LONG BEACH | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC MIDWESTIndianapolis                    
Philadelphia Auburn Hills
1) DUKE 1) MICHIGAN
16) LONG BEACH / CHARLESTON-SO 16) MERCER / NORFOLK ST
8) Mississippi 8) Notre Dame
9) Colorado State 9) Baylor
Auburn Hills San Jose
5) Cincinnati 5) Miami-FL
12) BELMONT 12) BUCKNELL
4) Michigan State 4) Oregon
13) MID TENNESSEE ST 13) NO DAKOTA STATE
Dayton Salt Lake
6) Wichita State 6) San Diego State
11) Iowa 11) Maryland / Indiana State
3) BUTLER 3) GONZAGA
14) VALPARAISO 14) HARVARD
Lexington Lexington
7) UCLA 7) Wisconsin
10) North Carolina 10) Oklahoma State
2) FLORIDA 2) Louisville
15) SOUTHERN 15) WEBER STATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Dallas
San Jose Kansas City
1) ARIZONA 1) KANSAS
16) NORTHEASTERN 16) BRYANT
8) Georgetown 8) Pittsburgh
9) Illinois 9) Colorado
Salt Lake Austin
5) Missouri 5) Ohio State
12) Iowa State 12) Wyoming
4) NEW MEXICO 4) NC State
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) OHIO
Austin Kansas City
6) Kansas State 6) VCU
11) Temple / Kentucky 11) Boise State
3) Minnesota 3) CREIGHTON
14) LOUISIANA TECH 14) DAVIDSON
Philadelphia Dayton
7) UNLV 7) Marquette
10) MEMPHIS 10) Oklahoma
2) SYRACUSE 2) Indiana
15) VERMONT 15) NIAGARA

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Iowa, Temple, Indiana State, Kentucky, Maryland

First Five teams out (at large): Arizona State, Texas A&M, Saint Louis, Saint Mary’s, BYU

Next Five teams out (at large): Rutgers, Xavier, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

ACC (5): Duke, NC State, North Carolina, Miami-FL, Maryland

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

SEC (4): Missouri, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi

Atlantic 10 (3): Butler, VCU, Temple

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

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), NORTH DAKOTA ST (Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), OHIO (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), VERMONT (American East), WEBER STATE (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), BRYANT (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

Player of the Week: James Blackmon Jr., Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, IN - JANUARY 21:  James Blackmon Jr. #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers attempts a shot over Alvin Ellis III #3 of the Michigan State Spartans in the first half at Assembly Hall on January 21, 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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This could have been the week where Indiana’s season collapsed.

On Wednesday night, O.G. Anunoby, who is arguably the most irreplaceable player on the Hoosier roster, injured his knee badly enough that he will need surgery and miss the rest of the season. The injury happened in the first half of a game against Penn State. Tom Crean said after the game that the team was crying in the locker room at half time.

The Hoosiers then proceeded to blow a big lead to the Nittany Lions, allowing Penn State to draw even in the final minute of regulation. That’s when Blackmon stepped up. The Hoosier star buried a three at the buzzer to give Indiana the win; a loss in that game could have been the kind of thing that sent Indiana’s season spiraling. The shot wasn’t a morale booster as much as it was a morale saver.

On Saturday, Indiana put together one of their best games of the season despite the fact that they were without Anunoby and Juwan Morgan, who was dealing with a foot injury that has now kept him out of back-to-back games. Blackmon, again, was the star, matching a career-high with 33 points.

Suddenly, Indiana has won four of their last five games and are sitting at 4-3 in the Big Ten standings, just two games out of first place.

In the long term, I don’t know if Indiana is going to be able to play at the level Hoosier fans expect without Anunoby. But in the short term, Saturday was an impressive win in a trying week, and it was Blackmon who stepped up to lead with the Hoosiers needed it the most.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: Markkanen, as he has all season long, starred for the Wildcats this weekend, helping No. 14 Arizona keep pace with Oregon at the top of the Pac-12 standings. The Wildcats swept the road leg against the LA schools, as Markkanen went for 23 points in a win over USC and followed that up with 18 points and seven boards in the big win over UCLA.
  • Jonathan Isaac, Florida State: The Seminoles had a massive week, and Isaac was the best player on the floor in both of their wins. Against Notre Dame, Isaac had 15 of his 23 points in the second half, adding 10 boards and a pair of game-saving blocks in the final second, and he followed that up with 16 points and 10 boards as Florida State knocked off Louisville.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ was pretty good in Wisconsin’s win over Michigan, but he was sensational as the Badgers went into Minneapolis and beat Minnesota in overtime, finishing with 28 points, 12 boards, six assists and five blocks. No one had put up a stat line like that since at least 2010.
  • Marcus Keene, Central Michigan: Keene became the first player since South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters in 2013 to go for 50 points in a game, scoring 39 of the 50 in the second half of a win over Miami (OH).
  • Shake Milton, SMU: SMU is quietly rolling along at 17-4, a two-point loss at Cincinnati away from being undefeated in the AAC. The Mustangs picked up a pair of wins this week as Milton averaged 25 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 boards.

No. 22 Xavier pulls away to 86-75 win over Georgetown

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers reacts after a play in the first half against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI — Edmond Sumner overcame a painful left shoulder and led a second-half surge that swept No. 22 Xavier to an 86-75 victory over Georgetown on Sunday, ending the Musketeers’ longest losing streak in three years.

Xavier (14-5, 4-3) had dropped three straight — all against ranked Big East teams. The Musketeers allowed a 12-point lead to slip away in the second half on Sunday before their injured point guard frustrated the Hoyas (10-10, 1-6) again. Sumner had a career-high 28 points in an 81-76 win at Georgetown on Dec. 31.

Sumner wore a support on his injured left shoulder and sat on the bench grimacing late in the first half. He had a jumper, a three-point play and a pair of free throws during a 12-3 run that put Xavier in control 70-61. He finished with 14 points.

Trevon Bluiett led Xavier with 24 points. J.P. Macura added 20.

Rodney Pryor scored 23 for Georgetown, which lost for the sixth time in seven games.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Xavier dropped from 15th to 22nd last week after road losses to Villanova and Butler. A home loss to Creighton on Monday put Xavier in danger of dropping out of the Top 25.

BIG PICTURE

GEORGETOWN: Junior guard L.J. Peak scored 21 points and had six rebounds in the loss to Xavier on Dec. 31, keeping the Hoyas in the game with clutch shots down the stretch. The Musketeers clamped down in the rematch — he was only 3 of 12 for 12 points.

XAVIER: Free throws again were an issue early. Missed free throws were a major factor in the Musketeers’ 72-67 loss to Creighton on Monday, when they went only 16 of 29 from the line. They drove to the basket and drew fouls on Sunday but were only 12 of 19 from the line in the first half, which ended with Xavier up 34-33. The Musketeers finished 36 of 49 from the line overall.

UP NEXT

The Hoyas host No. 7 Creighton on Wednesday. They split their series last season, with each winning at home.

The Musketeers play at crosstown rival Cincinnati, which is ranked No. 20. Xavier has won three in a row and seven of the last nine in the annual game.

VIDEO: Watch Marcus Keene score all 50 of his points

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Marcus Keene, the nation’s leading scorer at 29.8 points, went for 50 yesterday, the first time in four years a college player has done that.

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball Sunday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Sunday.

It begins at 2:00 p.m. with La Salle at VCU. Both of these teams are fighting for first place in the Atlantic 10 standings as the Explorers sit at 5-1 in league play and the Rams are at 4-2.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

No. 6 Baylor uses late spurt for 62-53 victory at TCU

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) reacts to a play against Texas in first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 74-64. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Sixth-ranked Baylor and TCU kept trading the lead in the second half, with a 9 1/2-minute gap when neither team could muster consecutive scores.

Then the Bears finally closed out their 10th straight Big 12 victory over TCU since their instate rival joined the league four years ago.

Ishmail Wainright swished a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:16 left, and there was then a TCU miss and more than a minute before Johnathan Motley’s layup for the Bears. Manu Lecomte added a layup to cap the 7-0 spurt that finally put Baylor (18-1, 6-1 Big 12) ahead to stay.

“This was typical of the Big 12. Hard-fought game, both teams playing extremely hard. The day after the game, it’s amazing how drained everybody is,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “I hope fans enjoy it, because we’re worn out.”

There were five ties and 13 lead changes after halftime.

The partisan sellout crowd of 7,276 might not have enjoyed it as much, but the Horned Frogs (14-5, 3-4) have shown great progress in their first season under coach Jamie Dixon, the former TCU point guard.

While the Frogs have already won two more games than all of last season, Dixon feels like they have let their last two game slip away late.

“Obviously got some disappointed guys in that locker room, me included,” Dixon said. “Really thought we were here to win this game. … My feeling we were ready to win them, and we were prepared, and we did things right, did things necessary.”

Lecomte scored 17 points while Motley had 15 points and eight rebounds, along with a punctuating dunk in the final minute. That came soon after Lecomte’s alley-oop pass for a dunk by Jo Lual-Acuil, who finished with 11 points.

Vlad Brodziansky had 19 points and 10 rebounds for TCU, while Kenrich Williams had 16 points and 12 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: This is the first time the Bears have ever been 18-1 overall or 6-1 in the Big 12. They have won their last three games since losing in their first game after reaching No. 1 for the first time in school history.

TCU: Brodziansky and Williams didn’t get much help from the rest of their teammates. TCU shot 29 percent from the field (17 of 58) — Brodziansky and Williams were a combined 12-of-26 shooting; the rest of the team was 5-of-32. “We outrebounded them (38-37), we had lower turnovers (8-10), things we want to do,” Dixon said. “But simply put, the shooting percentages always stand out.”

COMING FROM BEHIND

Baylor is 6-1 this season when trailing at halftime, and has outscored its opponents by more than 10 points in those second halves. “Blessed to have great leadership from the upperclassmen. They don’t panic, they don’t rattle, they stay together,” Drew said. “And they believe in each other.”

TCU led only 24 seconds in the first half, but grabbed a 28-26 halftime lead on Williams’ 3-pointer with 7 seconds left. Baylor opened the second half with four straight layups.

CATCHING AIR

When asked about Wainright’s go-ahead 3, Motley called it a “big shot. I air-balled one, Al (Freeman) too. The fans made sure they let us know. It didn’t matter, we just stayed aggressive, and my teammates trusted me to shoot again.”

UP NEXT

Baylor is home against Texas Tech on Wednesday before consecutive road games, including the SEC-Big 12 Challenge next Saturday at Ole Miss.

TCU plays its next two Big 12 games on the road, starting Monday at Oklahoma State. The Frogs then host Auburn before going to Kansas State.