Archie Goodwin, Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell

Saturday Bubble Busting: Who helped, who hurt tourney chances?

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Five Biggest Winners:

  • Kentucky: Quite a turnaround from last Saturday, eh? The Wildcats knocked off Missouri in overtime on Gameday, picking up their best win of the season and, thanks to Ole Miss losing to South Carolina, giving them their only top 50 win. Missouri struggles on the road, but those neutral court wins over VCU and Illinois sure look good right now. Kentucky is anything but a lock for a bid, there’s now a chance they can sneak in without beating Florida. Perhaps more important is the fact that Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin finally showed up. UK is trending the right direction. Finally.
  • North Carolina: You can more or less take everything I just wrote about Kentucky and say the same thing about UNC, with the only difference being that they knocked off NC State, they may not have to beat Duke now, and it’s their four-guard lineup that’s playing well.
  • St. Mary’s: The Gaels picked up a massive win on Saturday, as they knocked off floundering Creighton at home. St. Mary’s still has some work to do if they want a realistic shot at getting an at-large bid — this was, after all, their first top 50 win — but if they lose in the WCC title game, there’s still hope.
  • Villanova: At this point, Villanova should be able to feel pretty safe about getting an at-large bid, as there aren’t many teams in the country that can boast a trio of wins like Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette, not to mention a victory at UConn. Jay Wright’s club knocked off the Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon behind 22 points from Darrun Hilliard.
  • Cal: Thank you, Olaf Schaftenaar. The Oregon State forward was whistled for a technical foul for dunking in warmups, allowing Allen Crabbe to get to the free throw line before the clock started. He made one. Cal won by one.

Seven Biggest Losers:

  • Creighton: It still may be a bit of a stretch, but Creighton is toying with the possibility of being on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ve lost six of 11 and four of their last six. They are a game behind Wichita State in the MVC standings thanks to losses against Drake, Illinois State, and Northern Iowa. With a trip to Bradley and a home game against Wichita State left on their schedule, there’s no guarantee that the Bluejays win their last two. Creighton does have a win over Wisconsin and they did beat Cal, which looks better by the day, but they are playing with fire.
  • Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles likely won’t be getting an at-large bid this season, as Memphis completed their sweep and clinched the Conference USA regular season title with an 89-73 win in Memphis.
  • Alabama: The Crimson Tide may have a gaudy SEC record, but they’ve collected too many ugly losses to warrant serious consideration for an at-large berth. On Saturday, it was a three-overtime debacle they dropped at LSU. It’s their fifth sub-100 loss this season. It’s looking like 2011 all over again, when the Tide went 12-4 in the SEC and missed the tournament.
  • Xavier: Xavier blew a golden opportunity to boost their tournament resume as they blew a 17 point lead in the span of about five minutes on Saturday afternoon against VCU.
  • Iowa: Iowa had just managed to crawl their way back into the bubble conversation when they blew a 19 point lead and lost to Nebraska on Saturday.
  • Baylor: The Bears have lost three straight and six of their last eight to fall to 16-11 overall and 7-7 in the Big 12. The good news? They’ll still have a chance to pick off Kansas State and Kansas at home.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils suffered a loss they could ill-afford, as Washington went into Tempe and left with a 68-59 win. The worse news? Their last three games are on the road: at USC, at UCLA and at Arizona.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks 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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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson