Bubble Banter: Maryland, Ole Miss headline Friday’s big movers

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This page will be updated throughout the day. Come back and feed your bubble fix. You can find the Bubble Losers here.

It’s a massive day for teams on the bubble’s cutline, as the Atlantic 10 and the SEC quarterfinals today could determine a handful of bids, for both the NCAA tournament and the NIT. Here’s what to watch for today:

Maryland: Finally, someone on the bubble decide to make a serious play for an at-large bid. The Terps picked up a massive win over Duke — the second time this season that they have beaten their rivals — which puts them that much closer to the cut line. It becomes all the more important due to the number of bubble teams that can currently be found on the bubble losers list. That said, the Terps probably aren’t in just yet. Their non-conference schedule is an embarrassment, and they piled up some ugly losses in league play. Maryland fans should hope that they beat North Carolina in the semis. A loss to Miami in the ACC tournament title might be enough to get them in. Regardless of what happens, anything short of the automatic bid, and the Terps will be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

Ole Miss: The Rebels look like they may end up dancing after all. On Friday evening, the Rebels erased a 13 point second half deficit thanks to 11 points in the final six minutes from Derrick Millinghaus — who also happened to hit the game-winning runner with 1.1 seconds left on the clock — and knocked off Missouri, 64-62. Ole Miss now has two top 50 wins (both Missouri), but they do have eight top 100 wins. The problem? Two sub-200 losses on the road. The Rebels simply cannot afford to lose to Vandy on Saturday if they want to dance.

UMass: The Minutemen have a chance to make a move tomorrow. They entered Friday as the sixth team out of the bracket, according to our Dave Ommen. They beat Temple on Friday, which is unquestionably helpful. The Owls are a tournament team and another top 50 win. But UMass needs more if they want to leapfrog all of the teams currently in front of them. They get VCU on Saturday. Win that game, and they might actually be an NCAA tournament team. It would be nice to see someone play their way into the tournament instead of earning a bid thanks to the rest of the country losing.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are a long shot. They probably need to make it to the Conference USA tournament finals to even have a prayer of getting an at-large bid. But they beat UTEP on Friday, getting themselves one step closer.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide are probably the biggest bubble winner of the day to this point. Not only did they inch themselves that much closer to the bubble, but they did it by knocking off a team directly in front of them — Dave Ommen has the Tide as the one of the first four out. Alabama still has some work left to do thanks to a myriad of awful losses from the middle of the season. They get Florida on Saturday. Win that, and we’ll talk.

Everyone else on the bubble: You know who loved the happenings of today? Middle Tennessee State. You know who else did? St. Mary’s. And Boise State. And Oklahoma. And all of the other teams that have already finished their seasons and are currently playing the waiting game. Because thus far, it’s been ideal for those teams. Tennessee, La Salle and Virginia all lost. Alabama won, but if they lose to Florida tomorrow, they won’t be getting an at-large bid. Now those bubble teams need to root for Ole Miss, Kentucky and UMass all to lose tonight.

  • Ole Miss vs. Missouri (10:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
  • Oregon vs. Utah (11:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.