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UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton requests release from National Letter of Intent

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When shooting guard Isaac Hamilton announced that he would attend UTEP back in November, the Miner faithful were hopeful that he would be the centerpiece of a program that has made just three NCAA tournament appearances since reaching the Sweet 16 in 1992 (their most recent trip came in 2010).

With Hamilton joining a rotation that currently features forwards John Bohannon (10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and  Julian Washburn (12.2, 4.2), the hope was that Tim Floyd’s program would take a step towards asserting itself as one of Conference USA’s preeminent programs in the aftermath of Memphis’ departure to the American Athletic Conference.

Those plans have hit a major snag, as it was reported that Hamilton has asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent (NLI). According to Floyd, in making the request Hamilton cited the health of his grandmother as the reason why he’d like to be released.

But that hasn’t swayed the head coach, who has denied the request.

“He had two choices – one, not to sign the letter of intent or two, to file an appeal. I’m not releasing him,” Floyd said according to Bill Knight of the El Paso Times. “We have made our schedule based on having Isaac. People have bought season tickets based on our having Isaac. It’s too late.

“He can appeal and we’ll wait to see what happens. If he is allowed out, we might as well not even have letters of intent.”

Signing the NLI locks the student-athlete into that particular school for a full academic year, but if signed the NLI can be very difficult to get out of should the dynamic between the student-athlete and school change (the coach leaves, for example).

In the case of a high-caliber recruit (Hamilton would fit this description), why even sign it? Signing the financial aid agreement by itself accomplishes the same basic goal as the NLI, and it’s easier to make a move to another school if necessary.

And when it comes to a high-caliber player, would the coach really tell him that if he signs the financial aid agreement and not the NLI they won’t hold a scholarship for him? Tough to see a program taking that stance.

Of course Hamilton can attend another school, but with the signing of the NLI that would mean that he’d have to sit out the upcoming season and lose a year of eligibility. Is he willing to take this step if the appeal is denied?

This development comes just three days after another shooting guard from Los Angeles, 6-2 Andre Spight, learned that he did not qualify academically and as a result he’ll attend junior college this upcoming season.

So within a week UTEP has lost two quality players at the shooting guard position.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY: Oklahoma leads final push toward Selection Sunday

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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With the Super Bowl in our rear-view mirror, eyes turn toward Selection Sunday – apologies to the diehard baseball fans who toss in the start of Spring Training ahead of March Madness.  Anyway, we’re a month away from the annual NCAA Tournament Selection Show and few bracket positions have been secured.  If you’re just joining the college hoops landscape, it’s been that type of season.  Welcome, by the way.

Oklahoma continues to lead the Field of 68, but the No. 1 seed line is far from certain.  At this point a year ago, we pretty much knew that Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Duke would be No. 1 seeds.  This year, we can’t lock anyone into place. Positioning along the top three lines is very much in flux, even if we have a good idea about the contenders.  The bubble is no different.  Strap on your seatbelt; it could be a bumpy ride to the finish.

As a reminder, Louisville self-imposed a post-season ban last Friday, which eliminates the Cardinals from bracket consideration.  SMU did the same before the season.  Thus, two at-large teams will be Dancing on Selection Sunday courtesy of the Cards and Mustangs.  Today, those two teams are Clemson and Saint Joseph’s.  In the Tigers’ case, a solid group of ACC wins (mostly at home) is lifting up non-conference schedule ranked No. 341.  Ultimately, that could cost Clemson a month from now – we’ve seen it before.  When a team goes 7-5 against one of the worst non-conference schedules in the nation, it takes an exceptional conference season to overcome the disparity.

Enjoy your week of college hoops.  You can find the complete Seed List at Bracketville.

UPDATED: February 8, 2016

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. In the event of a tie in the loss column, RPI is first tiebreaker. Notes: To simulate actual bracket conditions, we’ve used current conference leaders to receive the automatic bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (ex: UCLA)

Several new bracketing principles were introduced a couple of years ago. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Cincinnati vs. Saint Joseph’s | Midwest Region
  • Clemson vs. George Washington | East Region
  • BUCKNELL vs. WAGNER | Midwest Region
  • HAMPTON vs. TEXAS-SOUTHERN | South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Louisville MIDWEST – Chicago                            
Oklahoma City Des Moines
1) OKLAHOMA 1) Kansas
16) TX-SOUTHERN / HAMPTON 16) BUCKNELL / WAGNER
8) WICHITA STATE 8) VCU
9) Colorado 9) Syracuse
Raleigh Denver
5) DAYTON 5) Arizona
12) VALPARAISO 12) MONMOUTH
4) Miami-FL 4) Texas AM
13) AKRON 13) ARK-LITTLE ROCK
Spokane St. Louis
6) Providence 6) Baylor
11) SAINT MARY’S 11) Cincinnati / St. Joseph’s
3) OREGON 3) Michigan State
14) UAB 14) NC-WILMINGTON
Brooklyn St. Louis
7) Duke 7) Pittsburgh
10) Seton Hall 10) Washington
2) Maryland 2) Xavier
15) BELMONT 15) NEW MEXICO ST
EAST – Philadelphia         WEST – Anaheim
Brooklyn Des Moines
1) VILLANOVA 1) IOWA
16) NORTH FLORIDA 16) MONTANA
8) CONNECTICUT 8) Florida State
9) Florida 9) SAN DIEGO ST
Providence Spokane
5) Kentucky 5) USC
12) Clemson / Geo Washington 12) CHATTANOOGA
4) Purdue 4) Texas
13) STONY BROOK 13) UC-IRVINE
Providence Denver
6) Notre Dame 6) Utah
11) LSU 11) Gonzaga
3) WEST VIRGINIA 3) Iowa State
14) YALE 14) SO. DAKOTA ST
Raleigh Raleigh
7) Indiana 7) South Carolina
10) California 10) Michigan
2) Virginia 2) NORTH CAROLINA
15) NC-ASHEVILLE 15) S.F. AUSTIN

NOTES on the BRACKET: Oklahoma is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kansas, Iowa, and Villanova.  Next in line: Virginia, North Carolina, Xavier, Maryland

Last Four Byes (at large): California, Seton Hall, Michigan, Gonzaga

Last Four IN (at large): Cincinnati, George Washington, Clemson, Saint Joseph’s

First Four OUT (at large): Oregon State, Butler, UCLA, Wisconsin

Next four teams OUT (at large): Georgia, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Temple

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): NORTH CAROLINA, Virginia, Miami-FL, Notre Dame, Duke, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Syracuse, Clemson

Pac 12 (7): OREGON, USC, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Washington, California

Big 12 (6): WEST VIRGINIA, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, Baylor

Big 10 (6): IOWA, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan

SEC (5): LSU, Texas AM, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall

Atlantic 10 (4): DAYTON, VCU, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s

American (2): CONNECTICUT, Cincinnati

West Coast (2): SAINT MARY’S, Gonzaga

Mountain West (1): SAN DIEGO STATE

MAAC (1): MONMOUTH

Missouri Valley (1): WICHITA STATE

ONE BID LEAGUES: UAB (C-USA), Ark-Little Rock (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), Stephen F. Austin (SLND), Chattanooga (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Akron (MAC), North Florida (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), UNC-Asheville (BSO), Hampton (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Stony Brook (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALK’S TOP 25: A new No. 1, but how far will Oklahoma and UNC fall?

Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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We may not see a week the rest of the season with this much uncertainty when it comes to the No. 1 team in college basketball.

Hell, it may be a long time before we see another Monday morning in February with this many questions marks. Because the way I see it, there are at least six teams that can legitimately be discussed at the No. 1 team in college basketball this week.

It starts with Oklahoma, who was so far ahead of the field, at least in my mind, that they can legitimately be ranked No. 1 in the country again this week despite having lost a road game in each of the last two weeks. But there’s a big difference between losing at Iowa State and losing at Kansas State, so the Sooners probably need to drop.

Then there’s Iowa, who we had slotted in at No. 3 last week, behind two teams that, you know, lost on the road to unranked teams. So in theory, they should be able to scoot up to that No. 1 spot, but are we really ready to call Iowa the best team in college basketball?

Villanova continues to cruise along at the top of the Big East, as does Xavier, who is the only team in the top ten with just two losses to their name. Kansas is still in the mix as well, as is Maryland, who beat Iowa just ten days ago.

And that doesn’t even include Virginia, who has nine top 50 wins, or Oregon, who has eight. And it doesn’t factor in West Virginia, who is currently sitting all alone in first place in the toughest conference in college basketball.

That should just go to show you how wild and uncertain and open this season is.

The NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds are a crapshoot right now, and they probably won’t even matter. I can’t help but wonder what round of the tournament will be the first where a No. 1 seed is the underdog; my money would be on the Sweet 16.

Anyway, if you’re just tuning into college basketball now that football is over, you’re in for a fun and wild ride, because you probably know just about as much as we do when it comes to trying to figure out a power structure this season.

Here is the NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Iowa (19-4, LW: No. 3): Iowa is the hottest team in college basketball, and while they’re not exactly a trendy pick here, there’s a very strong argument to make that they have the best profile in the sport. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 games, the only loss coming by six at Maryland in a game where there All-American Jarrod Uthoff shot 2-for-13. In that span, they’ve beaten Michigan State twice (in East Lansing by 19) and Purdue twice. They haven’t lost to a team that isn’t ranked in my top 25 this season. They’re all alone in first place in the Big Ten and, given their schedule down the stretch, could very well not lose until postseason play kicks off. This team is the real deal. Get used to it.

2. Oklahoma (19-3, LW: No. 1): I was tempted to leave the Sooners at No. 1 this week. They have the nation’s best player, they’ve been the nation’s best shooting team, they blew out Villanova and all of their three losses have been in true road games. But losing two of their last four is not a good look, especially when one of those losses comes by 11 at Kansas State.

3. Kansas (19-4, LW: No. 4): That loss at Oklahoma State doesn’t look quite as bad now that the Pokes nearly knocked off Iowa State in the same building while playing without Jawun Evans. My issue with Kansas — their lack of a true go-to guy — is a bigger issue for the NCAA tournament than it is in the regular season. I think given Oklahoma’s loss on Saturday, they’re once again the favorite to win the Big 12.

4. Villanova (20-3, LW: No. 5): Their are going to be shouts for the Wildcats to be ranked No. 1 in the country, especially since they’ve won 12 of their last 13 games. They’re shooting better from three and, at the moment, they are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s efficiency rankings. There’s a valid argument to have them No. 1 overall, but personally, I’m just not ready to buy this team as the best in the country. Maybe it’s because they’ve burned me before, I don’t know. I’ll leave them at fourth for now.

5. Xavier (21-2, LW: No. 6): To me, Xavier is arguably the most complete team in the country in the sense that I’m not sure there is anyone that creates a bad matchup for them. That said, their best wins this season are against USC and Dayton (albeit by 29) and when they lost to Villanova, they lost in spectacular fashion, going down by 31 points.

6. Maryland (21-3, LW: No. 7): Like the Musketeers, I love the makeup of this Terps roster, but it just feels like they aren’t quite clicking yet. They’ve beaten Iowa and Purdue in the last ten days, but those are their only two top 50 wins this season. They’ve lost three true road games, but one of them was to Michigan and they haven’t show the ability to blow out opponents they’re better than. They might be the best team in college basketball when they’re rolling, but I can’t rank them there right now.

7. North Carolina (19-4, LW: No. 2): The Tar Heels biggest flaw was exposed by Notre Dame on Saturday. I wrote about that here.

8. Michigan State (20-4, LW: No. 9): Sparty’s got it rolling again. They’ve won three straight blowouts following that win over Maryland, and I think it’s safe to say now that Tom Izzo figured out what was ailing his team.

9. West Virginia (19-4, LW: No. 12): Who had West Virginia leading the Big 12 outright the morning after the Super Bowl? If you say you did I’m calling you a liar.

10. Virginia (19-4, LW: No. 13): Virginia might have arguably the best collection of wins of any team in the country this season. They’ve also lost to George Washington, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State and needed a prayer to be answered to beat Wake Forest.

11. Oregon (20-4, LW: No. 18)
12. Miami (19-4, LW: No. 14)
13. Louisville (19-4, LW: No. 22)
14. Purdue (19-5, LW: No. 19)
15. Kentucky (17-6, LW: No. 17
16. Texas A&M (18-5, LW: No. 8)
17. Iowa State (17-6, LW: No. 16)
18. SMU (20-2, LW: No. 11)
19. Baylor (17-6, LW: No. 15)
20. USC (18-5, LW: No. 21)
21. Providence (18-6, LW: No. 11)
22. Texas (16-7, LW: UR)
23. Notre Dame (16-7, LW: UR)
24. Dayton (19-3, LW: UR)
25. Wichita State (17-5, LW: No. 20)

DROPPED OUT: No. 23 Utah, No. 24 Indiana, No. 25 Saint Mary’s
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Texas, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 24 Dayton