Mark Turgeon

Bubble Banter: Who hurt their tournament chances?

Leave a comment


Arkansas: The Razorbacks are done. Wins over Florida and Missouri put them back into the bubble conversation, but an easy way to drop back out is to lose yet another road game in league play. On Wednesday, the loss came against LSU.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils missed out on a great opportunity to help their profile when they lost at UCLA on Wednesday night. The Sun Devils have some ugly computers numbers thanks to a really poor non-conference performance and a pair of ugly losses to Utah and DePaul, but they do have four top 50 wins and they’ll visit USC and Arizona before the season’s over. Herb Sendek’s team is in a dangerous spot, but they’re not quite dead yet.

Maryland: All that credit that the Terps built up by beating Duke two weeks ago? Poof. Maryland has now lost road games to Boston College and Georgia Tech since then. They are 7-8 in the ACC, they don’t have favorable computer numbers, they have two notable wins (NC State and Duke) and they still have a tough schedule down the stretch. That schedule is the only reason they are still in the conversation: at Virginia, at Wake Forest, North Carolina and the ACC tournament. There will be chances to turn things around. It better happen soon.

Wichita State: The Shockers aren’t exactly in trouble just yet. They have three top 50 wins and eight top 100 wins. But WSU plays at Creighton in the MVC finale — which just so happens to double as the MVC regular season title game — and then heads to St. Louis for Arch Madness. After losing to Evansville at home tonight, if the Shockers lose at Creighton and then get dropped in the first round of Arch Madness, they’ll be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

Oklahoma: The Sooners aren’t in a ton of trouble just yet, thanks mostly to a really strong RPI and no glaringly awful losses. That changed, however, on Wednesday when Oklahoma lost to Texas in overtime after blowing a 22 point lead. The Sooners have wins at home against Kansas and Oklahoma State and, well, not much else. Lon Kruger’s club is at home for Iowa State and West Virginia and then heads to TCU before the Big 12 tournament. They’re going to want to avoid another slip-up.

Charlotte: Charlotte was hanging on for their tournament lives, but I think it’s safe to say that getting blown out by a Dayton team that may miss the Atlantic 10 tournament at home is not a good way to try to impress the selection committee.

Indiana State: I think we can officially pop the Sycamore’s bubble after they lost to Drake at home tonight. There is only so much juice you can squeeze out of a win over a depleted Miami team.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Leave a comment

Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.