SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky

Bubble Banter: Kentucky was biggest Friday’s bubble loser

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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 are the teams that have hurt their bubble chances today:

Kentucky: With the number of other bubble teams that had already lost on Friday, the only thing that Kentucky needed to do to avoid serious bubble speculation was to beat Vanderbilt in the SEC quarterfinals. They couldn’t do that, however, getting blown out by a Vanderbilt team that, while improved, had lost 50-33 to Marist earlier this year. And with that, the Wildcats will now spend all weekend waiting and sweating out their tournament fate.

As of this morning, our Dave Ommen had Kentucky as the last team into the tournament, and losing to a team with an RPI outside the top 100 certainly won’t help matters. Kentucky’s in pretty bad shape. Let’s leave it at that.

Iowa State: The Cyclones are probably if a pretty good spot in terms of the bubble right now. Heading into the day, Dave Ommen had them as a No. 11 seed, but the Cyclones weren’t one of the last five teams into the tournament. They had some room to spare, and since the rest of the bubble teams lost today, losing to a potential No. 1 seed in Kansas probably won’t hurt ISU’s chances all that badly. Selection Sunday will still be a bit stressful, but ISU should feel pretty good about their chances.

Virginia: It is going to be a long, long weekend for Virginia. The Cavs lost to NC State on Friday afternoon in the ACC quarterfinals, and it wasn’t close: the Wolfpack jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 75-56 win. As of this morning, our Dave Ommen had Virginia as the first team out, and that’s before the rest of the teams on the bubble with them have a chance to improve their resumes. It’s not a lock, especially if the committee decides to over look Virginia’s bad losses. But it doesn’t look good.

La Salle: The Explorers had a chance to really improve their bubble chances on Friday afternoon, as they took on Butler in the Atlantic 10 quarters. La Salle ended up losing, which means that they, too, are going to have a stressful Saturday night. La Salle hasn’t really done anything to improve their profile since beating Butler and VCU in the same week, which is part of the reason why Dave Ommen had them as one of the last five teams in as of today. The loss to Butler hurts them in the sense that they missed a chance to improve their chances and now must hope that they had already done enough.

Temple: The Owls weren’t all that close to the bubble heading into the day, and their chances probably won’t change all that much with a loss to a potential tournament team in UMass, especially when you consider how many teams trying to catch them lost on Friday. That said, Temple isn’t a lock. There will be some relief for the Owls when their name is called by Greg Gumbel.

Tennessee: The Vols are going to have to play the waiting game. They are still in a better position than some of the other SEC teams, but they may not be on the right side of the bubble right now. Dave Ommen didn’t have the Vols listed as one of the last five in, which means they may have enough breathing room to handle this loss and still get in. With four top 50 wins and nine top 100 wins, Tennessee has a decent profile. But it is going to be a long wait until Sunday.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes had to beat Michigan State to have a chance. They blew a 12 point lead in the final 10 minutes. That’s one way to play your way off the bubble.

Charlotte: It was a longshot for the 49ers. They were one of the next five out in Dave Ommen’s bracket this morning, which means that they likely needed to beat St. Louis and Butler en route to the A-10 title game if they even wanted a chance at dancing. They lost to the Billikens in the quarters on Friday afternoon.

  • 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.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.