Michale Kyser

Bubble Banter: Who helped and who hurt their tourney chances?

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Virginia: Thanks to an RPI that’s weighed down by six sub-100 losses — and one sub-300 loss to Old Dominion — Virginia still isn’t a lock for the NCAA tournament after they knocked off No. 3 Duke on Thursday night. But Virginia has three very winnable games left — at BC, at Florida State and at home for Maryland. This win should mean that, if the Cavs win out, they’ll earn themselves an at-large bid.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels have probably worked their way off the bubble at this point barring a disastrous collapse down the stretch of the season. It didn’t happen tonight, as UNC extended their small-ball winning streak to four games by beat Clemson on the road.

Louisiana Tech: Because of a strength of schedule that is outside the top 250 nationally, Louisiana Tech is going to have a lot of ground to make up if they want to get an at-large bid to the dance. The problem? They play in the WAC. They don’t have the chances to get quality wins that teams in bigger leagues do. Throw in the fact that the Bulldogs have lost to McNeese State and Northwestern State, and, well, it’s a long shot they’ll get in without winning the WAC’s automatic bid. But here’s the thing: playing on ESPN3 tonight, Mike White’s team beat down a (depleted, I know) 19-8 Utah State team. The eye test will always have some kind of role in this process, and this was a good way to make a statement.

Temple: Khalif Wyatt scored 10 straight points in a two-minute stretch at the end of the game to turn a 74-69 deficit into a 79-74 lead as the Owls hung on to beat Detroit at home on Thursday night. With three top 50 wins — including a win over Syracuse at the Garden — and eight top 100 wins, the Owls should be in good shape if they can win out. That would include beating VCU at home.

Missouri: The Tigers are barely in the bubble conversation right now, but with an ugly road record, Mizzou still has some work left to do. They left no doubt on Thursday night, going into South Carolina and knocking off the Gamecocks.

California: The Bears are in a similar spot as Missouri. Thanks to a late-season surge, Cal should feel pretty good about their chances as long as they don’t slip up down the stretch. They didn’t on Thursday, beating Utah by 18 points at home. Saturday’s date with Colorado should be more telling.

Middle Tennessee State: The Blue Raiders are an interesting case. They are 23rd in the RPI, but that’s mostly the result of beating a lot of mediocre teams and avoiding truly disastrous losses. MTSU has no top 50 wins and just a single top 100 win — Ole Miss. They cannot afford a loss, and will be a questionable at-large candidate even if they lose in the Sun Belt title game.


(No one)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.