Latest NCAA tourney projections: Duke’s a 1, but who else?

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After another wild weekend of college hoops, one thing is certain.  We can expect the unexpected.  Which should make for an incredible month of March.

Take the top seed line.  Indiana remains in control of its current No. 1 seed position.  The other three spots still have some wiggle room – although based on Ryan Kelly’s return performance Saturday against Miami-FL, the Duke Blue Devils appear headed for yet another top seed on Selection Sunday.  In this update, Gonzaga and Kansas grab the other two No. 1 slots.  Miami, Georgetown, Louisville, New Mexico, Michigan State, and Michigan are close behind.  Remember, there are only four spots on each seed line.  Someone has to be number nine or ten on the seed list (s-curve).  And the order could easily change.  Throughout the bracket, these final two weeks will help decide the starting position for several teams.

The bottom of the bracket is no less uncertain.  This past Saturday, six teams sitting directly on the bubble lost.  So in some ways, not a lot changed.  The newest addition to the bracket is Boise State.  After beating Colorado State, the Broncos resume is tournament worthy with two games to play.  As a side note, Boise is a true 11 seed in the bracket but had to be placed on the 12 line because of various conflicts and bracketing principles.  It’s not uncommon for this to happen.  Many of the teams in the middle of the bracket are tightly bunched and while one or two seed lines may appear to be a big difference, that’s not necessarily true.

The final couple of at-large spots in the Field of 68 could be argued for hours.  That’s why this week’s games and those in conference tournament play may prove more important than ever.  For now, the final at-large spots belong to Iowa State, Villanova, Virginia, and Tennessee.  Those four are paired in the First Four – with winners headed to matchups in the East and West Regions. Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Arkansas are among the first teams outside the bracket.

Note: The bracket update does not include the Baylor-Texas game on Monday evening.  That game will be factored into our next update. Enjoy the ride to Selection Sunday.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings. 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)

  • Villanova vs. Tennessee | East Region
  • Iowa State vs. Virginia | West Region
  • NORFOLK STATE vs. SOUTHERN | South Region
  • CHARLESTON SO vs. NORTHEASTERN | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EASTWashington, DC                         MIDWESTIndianapolis
Philadelphia Dayton
1) Duke 1) INDIANA
16) MERCER 16) CHARLESTON-SO / NORTHEASTERN
8) Butler 8) NC State
9) MEMPHIS 9) Missouri
Dayton San Jose
5) Ohio State 5) Arizona
12) Villanova / Tennessee 12) AKRON
4) Oklahoma State 4) Syracuse
13) BELMONT 13) DAVIDSON
Auburn Hills Kansas City
6) OREGON 6) UNLV
11) Temple 11) Saint Mary’s
3) Michigan State 3) Kansas State
14) VALPARAISO 14) SF AUSTIN
Lexington Philadelphia
7) Colorado State 7) Minnesota
10) Oklahoma 10) Wichita State
2) Louisville 2) GEORGETOWN
15) NIAGARA 15) PRINCETON
SOUTH – Dallas WEST – Los Angeles
Kansas City Salt Lake
1) KANSAS 1) GONZAGA
16) NORFOLK ST / SOUTHERN 16) LONG BEACH
8) San Diego State 8) North Carolina
9) Cincinnati 9) CREIGHTON
Salt Lake San Jose
5) SAINT LOUIS 5) UCLA
12) MID TENNESSEE ST 12) Boise State
4) Wisconsin 4) Marquette
13) LOUISIANA TECH 13) BUCKNELL
Austin Auburn Hills
6) Notre Dame 6) Pittsburgh
11) La Salle 11) Iowa State / Virginia
3) FLORIDA 3) Michigan
14) MONTANA 14) STONY BROOK
Lexington Austin
7) Illinois 7) VCU
10) Colorado 10) California
2) MIAMI-FL 2) NEW MEXICO
15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 15) ROBERT MORRIS

NOTES on the BRACKET: Indiana is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Duke, Gonzaga, and Kansas. Next in line are Miami-FL, New Mexico, Georgetown, Louisville.

Last Five teams in (at large): Boise State, Iowa State, Villanova, Virginia, Tennessee

First Five teams out (at large): Kentucky, Baylor, Alabama, Massachusetts, Arkansas

Next Five teams out (at large): Maryland, Mississippi, Iowa, Southern Miss, Arizona State

Breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Villanova

Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois

Mountain West (5): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State, Boise State

Pac 12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State

Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, VCU, Temple, La Salle, Saint Louis

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

SEC (3): Missouri, Florida, Tennessee

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (1): Memphis

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … BELMONT (Ohio Valley), BUCKNELL (Patriot), MIDDLE TENNESSE ST (Sunbelt), SOUTH DAKOTA STATE(Summit), VALPARAISO (Horizon), DAVIDSON (Southern), LOUISIANA TECH (WAC), NIAGARA (MAAC), STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland), AKRON (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), PRINCETON (IVY), LONG BEACH (Big West), NORTHEASTERN (Colonial), STONY BROOK (American East), MONTANA (Big Sky), NORFOLK STATE (MEAC), CHARLESTON-SOUTHERN (Big South), ROBERT MORRIS (NEC), SOUTHERN (SWAC)

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.