Bubble Banter: Who hurt their tournament chances?

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SATURDAY’S BUBBLE LOSERS

Ole Miss: The Rebels learned the hard way that the easiest way to play yourself off the bubble is to lose at South Carolina and, two weeks later, drop a game at Mississippi State. A pair of sub-200 losses in February isn’t going to impress the NCAA committee. They have one top 50 win and have lost six of their last ten. The Rebels may need to win the automatic bid.

Akron: There was no guarantee that winning out would have resulted in a tournament berth for the Zips, but their loss to Buffalo on Saturday night all-but ensured the fact that Akron will need to win the MAC’s automatic bid to go dancing.

Iowa State: The Cyclones couldn’t afford a loss at Oklahoma, not when they have struggled so much on the road this season and missed out on two marquee wins thanks to Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Iowa State needs to win at Oklahoma State and cannot afford to lose to West Virginia. At that point, would three top 50 wins be enough to outweigh losses to Texas and Texas Tech?

Alabama: The Crimson Tide had a golden opportunity, up eight with 12 minutes left at Florida. But Anthony Grant’s club let that slip away, and they now find themselves in a tough spot with two games to play. They won’t have a top 50 win once Kentucky’s RPI is adjusted and they have four sub-100 losses.

Baylor: Baylor is all but done at this point, after losing a nail-biter at home to Kansas State on Saturday. With a home game against Kansas and the Big 12 tournament, there’s still a sliver of hope, but it’s fading fast.

Tennessee: After winning six straight games and beating Florida at home to thrust themselves into the middle of the bubble conversation, Tennessee went out and lost at Georgia, which puts them in a still-deeper NCAA tournament hole. The Vols have three top 50 wins and are 8-9 against the top 100, but they would be smart to avoid losing at Auburn and then beat Missouri at home.

Wichita State: The Shockers have eight top 100 wins and won at VCU and beat Southern Miss and Creighton at home. Combined with an RPI of 41, Gregg Marshall’s team should be OK. But with three sub-100 losses, Wichita State probably doesn’t want to risk losing in the first round of Arch Madness.

Arizona State: The Sun Devils entered this week with a chance to play their way into the tournament. They got swept at the LA schools, which will likely mean that even a win at Arizona next week won’t be enough.

Kentucky: Losing at Arkansas hurts, but all it does is erase Kentucky’s margin for error. Win three straight, and the Wildcats should be in.

Colorado: The Buffaloes lost at Cal on Saturday, but they have a strong enough computer profile — and wins over Arizona, Colorado State, Cal and Oregon — that they should be ok as long as they dont’ lose out.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes needed to beat Indiana to have any chance of earning an at-large bid. They’ll need to win the Big Ten tournament title.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.

South Carolina fans raise money to send “Gamecock Jesus” to Final Four

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South Carolina fans are sending one of their most recognizable compatriots to represent them this weekend.

Gamecock Jesus is heading to the Final Four.

South Carolina super fan Carlton Thompson is following the Gamecocks to Glendale as his fellow fans have raised over $7,500 to send the man known as “Gamecock Jesus” to Arizona for the team’s Final Four meeting with Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Thompson’s long hair, beard and presence at South Carolina games, even in lean times, earned him his nickname and apparently a following fervent enough to foot the bill for quite the trip.

“I’ve always dreamed it would be like this,” Thompson said last week about fan support at Gamecock games to the Post and Courier. “For years and years, it was so sparse with the crowds at the games. But once they started winning, the crowds started coming.”

Thompson is a 63-year-old VA hospital nurse, and has been attending South Carolina games for nearly 50 years.

Maryland’s Melo Trimble declares for the NBA Draft

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Melo Trimble’s career as a Maryland Terrapin is coming to an end. The junior guard is declaring for the NBA Draft and will sign with an agent.

“I am confident and excited to pursue an opportunity to play in the NBA,” Trimble said in a release. “I am proud of what my teammates and I were able to accomplish these past three seasons at Maryland. I developed many great relationships and friendships and together we able to create some very special moments for Maryland basketball. I want to thank Coach Turgeon for all of his support. He always believed in me. He challenged me and really helped in the development of my overall game. I am a more complete basketball player because of Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff. To stay at home and attend the University of Maryland is the best decision that I ever made and it was truly special to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. Maryland will always be home.”

There was no better winner in college basketball the last three years than Melo. He changed the trajectory of Mark Turgeon’s program, winning 79 games in three years and ending his career 30-8 in games decided by six points or less. As a junior, Trimble and the Terps earned a No. 6 seed to the NCAA tournament, but they lost in the first round to Xavier. It was the only time in Trimble’s career that he didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

“Melo Trimble is a winner,” Mark Turgeon said on twitter. “Humble, hard-working, dedicated. Words can’t express what he’s done for our program. Always #StayMelo!”