Middle Tennessee State could be worthy of an at-large bid

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The question as been posed a few times in Sun Belt Conference circles. Does Middle Tennessee State deserve an at-large bid to the Big Dance, should they fall in the conference tournament?

The Blue Raiders are 27-4 with a 19-1 mark in the conference. They’re far and away predicted to win the conference tournament next week and give coach Kermit Davis his first trip to the NCAA Tournament since he took over the program in 2002. But if that doesn’t happen, what’s left for the Blue Raiders?

At first glance, the schedule doesn’t paint the picture of an at-large candidate.

MTSU has one win over a team currently in the RPI Top 100, no. 58 Ole Miss according to RealTimeRPI.com. Other than that, they’ve whiffed, badly, at any other attempt at a quality win, with losses to RPI no. 6 Florida (66-45 on a neutral court), no. 46 Akron (82-77 on the road) and no. 23 Belmont (64-49 on the road).

But after digging a bit, there’s a legitimate case.

First, let’s concentrate on the bad losses. When it comes to a team in a league like the Sun Belt, those mainly come from within your own conference. The Blue Raiders worst loss is their lone conference defeat, at Arkansas State, a 17-11 team that is currently no. 155 in the RPI. Not really what anyone would call a ‘bad loss’.

In a season in which teams like Virginia are losing to Old Dominion and no. 1-ranked programs are falling like they’re in front of a firing squad, there’s something to be said about a team with no bad losses.

Also, while the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee doesn’t do precedents, there’s one set in the Sun Belt. In 2008, the conference got two bids out of automatic qualifier Western Kentucky and South Alabama lucking out with the at-large bid despite losing to, ironically, Middle Tennessee State in the semifinals. The Jaguars were the no. 1 seed entering the tournament.

That season, the Jaguars got a 10-seed with a 26-6 overall record and a 16-2 mark in-conference. Their best out-of-conference wins were over two tournament teams, San Diego and Mississippi State, both teams that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They also swept WKU in the regular season.

So in terms of “good wins”, South Alabama’s two don’t exactly make them jump off the page over the 2012-13 version of MTSU.

Then there’s the overall wins themselves. The Blue Raiders are at 27. If they, say, get to the conference title game, they’ll be at 29. Even in a largely-one bid league like the Sun Belt, how can the selection committee overlook 29 wins in a season?

If put on the spot, I’d say Middle Tennessee gets the at-large. They may not have the eye-popping wins that grab the committee’s attention, but they also don’t have the kind of losses that make a team look suspect.

Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten

Kansas lands second commitment in the Class of 2018

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Kansas landed their second big man in the Class of 2018 on Sunday, as David McCormack, a top 50 prospect, announced that he will be a Jayhawk when he plays his college ball.

The 6-foot-10 center picked Kansas over Xavier, NC State, Oklahoma State and Duke.

A product of the famed Oak Hill Academy, McCormack averaged 15 points and 10 boards on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this spring. He joins fellow four-star big man Silvio de Sousa in the 2018 class for Bill Self, although the Jayhawks will get three players eligible after they sit out the 2017-18 season as transfers: Dedric and K.J. Lawson, who transferred in from Memphis, as well as Charlie Moore, a point guard from California.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.