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Indiana’s a work-in-progress, and so is Yogi Ferrell

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From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.

NEW YORK — There is no such thing as a good loss.

There are no moral victories in college basketball, not when top 25 rankings and RPI scores are on the line.

Not when the success of entire seasons are judged on results that come in March, and certainly not when so much of that March success depends on the matchups a team lucks into in the field of 68. A couple of close wins over top 25 teams this time of year could be the difference between a three seed and a five seed, and that could be the difference between a Sweet 16 and an opening round exit.

And that?

That could be the difference between a contract extension and the hot seat, the difference between a guaranteed contract as a late-first round pick and the stress of a training camp as a second round selection.

OK, I know. I’m reaching here.

But you see my point, right?

(MORE: Shabazz Napier’s path to a leadership role)

As a competitor, as a player or a coach with as much on the line as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers has on a nightly basis, there are no quality losses. A loss is a loss, and losing sucks.

“I don’t think you can look at it like that, because when you study the film, there’s always places where we could have played better in the game,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said when asked if he thought his team’s thrilling, 59-58 loss to No. 18 UConn was a good loss for his team. “I don’t want to rationalize losing, so I would never do that.”

You can understand where Crean is coming from. But for outsiders, for the Indiana fans that made their way to Manhattan, there is plenty of reason to leave the Garden feeling good about their team. Let me explain.

When it comes down to it, Indiana did not play all that well on the offensive end of the floor. They shot 40.8% from the floor and 3-for-12 from three. They turned the ball over 19 times, many of which led to leak outs for the Huskies.

But that’s understandable.

For starters, this is an entirely new Indiana team. Two four-year starters graduated last season, the same time that two all-americans decided to leave school early to enter the NBA Draft. What that means is that Indiana’s rotation includes a number of freshmen, two of whom start, and a group of returnees that have to take over entirely new roles this season. Friday night was the first time that this group played a top 25 team, and it just so happened to be the first time that they played in a hostile environment as well.

Now add in the fact that their best player, freshman big man Noah Vonleh, managed to see the floor for all of 10 minutes, where he produced more turnovers (four) than points and rebounds combined (two). Vonleh was the mismatch that Indiana could take advantage of. He was the guy that UConn, on paper, didn’t have an answer for. And he was a non-entity on Friday, so it only makes sense that the Hoosiers would look out of whack offensively. It only makes sense that, as Crean put it, they had some “freshmen moments from freshmen.”

It happens. They’ll learn. They’ll grow. It’ll take some time, but this group is good enough defensively that the ceiling for the Hoosiers is high. I don’t think it’s out of the question that this group can compete for the Big Ten title this season.

But the key to reaching that ceiling will be Ferrell. Yogi is as quick and explosive as any point guard in the country. His first step, his change of direction, his leaping ability and his strength to absorb contact around the rim, it’s all at an elite level. Where he needs to learn, where he needs to grow, is in his decision-making. Ferrell has a tendency to get a bit out of control. Too often, ill-advised drives to the rim result in turnovers and forced shots. He needs to pick his spots better, knowing when to try to get all the way to the bucket and when to simply pull the ball back out and run another set.

The Hoosiers are young, they don’t have another go-to scorer and their perimeter shooting has taken a hit from last season, all of which means that Ferrell has a ton of responsibility on this team. Add in the lack of a backup point guard, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say that Ferrell is the most important player in the country.

None of this is a surprise.

We knew this group would be a work-in-progress, a team that could look much different in February than they do in November.

And while Friday’s loss is disappointing, I think Crean’s team showed us that they are farther along right now than anyone expected them to be.

“I like our upside,” Crean said. “We’ll learn how to win low-scoring close games like this, but I think it says a lot about where we are already.”

Bubble Banter: Make-or-break games for Rhode Island, Clemson, TCU and Pitt

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Jaron Blossomgame #5 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates a basket against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first half in the second round of the 2016 ACC Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 9, 2016 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see listed below come from. This post will be updated throughout the day. 

STILL TO PLAY

No. 19 Florida State at Clemson (RPI: 61, KenPom: 37, next four out), 12:00 p.m.

No. 8 North Carolina at Pitt (RPI: 63, KenPom: 66, next four out), 12:00 p.m.

No. 25 Wichita State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 12, No. 10 seed) at Missouri State, 12:00 p.m.

No. 12 West Virginia at TCU (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, first four out), 2:00 p.m.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 54, No. 12 seed) at Northern Iowa, 2:00 p.m.

VCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 42, No. 9 seed) at Rhode Island (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, next four out), 2:00 p.m.

Seton Hall (RPI: 48, KenPom: 57, play-in game) at DePaul, 2:00 p.m.

Mississippi State at Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, next four out), 4:00 p.m.

No. 14 Purdue at Michigan (RPI: 51, KenPom: 27, No. 9 seed), 4:00 p.m.

Marquette (RPI: 68, KenPom: 31, No. 10 seed) at Providence (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, play-in game), 4:00 p.m.

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 30, play-in game) at Oklahoma, 6:00 p.m.

Northwestern at Indiana (RPI: 100, KenPom: 46, bubble), 8:00 p.m.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed) at Auburn, 8:30 p.m.

USF leaves two sleeping players behind at airport

HARTFORD, CT - JANUARY 25:  Troy Holston Jr. #25 of the South Florida Bulls reacts following a three-point shot in the first half against the Connecticut Huskies during the game at the XL Center on January 25, 2015 in Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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The University of South Florida’s men’s basketball season reached a new low late this week after the Bulls suffered a conference road loss at Tulsa.

USF fell to 7-20 overall and 1-15 in AAC conference play after Thursday’s loss. Somehow, the program made matters worse by leaving two players behind who fell asleep in the airport as the team waited for a connecting flight home.

According to a report from Collin Sherwin of the Daily Stampede, USF leading scorer Geno Thorpe and third-leading scorer Troy Holston were sleeping as the Bulls waited for a connecting flight at a Houston airport to help get them home to Tampa.

While the rest of the USF team and support staff boarded the connecting flight home, nobody woke up Thorpe and Holston until it was too late and they missed the flight. The school later made sure to get a new flight for the duo so they could make it back to campus.

USF is already facing an NCAA investigation for academic violations and head coach Orlando Antigua was fired from the program on Jan. 3.

Interim head coach Murry Bartow released a statement on USF leaving two players behind.

“Yesterday, as our team traveled back from Tulsa, two of our players were separated from the rest of our team when we boarded a connecting flight in Houston. This unfortunate circumstance, for which I apologize, was recognized by our staff as the plane was leaving the gate and not in time to get the players on the commercial flight. We immediately began to make arrangements to get the players on the very next flight to Tampa, and were in communication with them as soon as was possible. Both players arrived safely home in Tampa later that afternoon, at approximately 4:25 p.m., where a staff member met them at the airport. They are joining the rest of the team in a charity activity today.”

The mother of Troy Holston, Monique Holston-Greene, was not happy about USF leaving her son behind at the airport and made sure to express that on Twitter.

It’s hard to say what the fallout from this might be but don’t be surprised to see a massive amount of transfers from USF this offseason.

USF also might want to consider changing the headline and team photo from its game story from the Tulsa loss. The tweet of the story from the USF men’s basketball account shows a picture of Troy Holston inbounding to Geno Thorpe as the headline mentions that USF is “short-handed” during the loss.

VIDEO: Fairfield knocks off Canisius on Tyler Nelson buzzer-beating three

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Fairfield captured a buzzer-beating win over Canisius on Friday night as junior guard Tyler Nelson hit a pull-up three-pointer for the win.

With the game tied at 55 with under a minute left, Canisius worked the clock to try and get a shot close to the final horn. After a Jermaine Crumpton missed jumper, Fairfield’s Matija Milin corralled the rebound and got the outlet pass to Nelson, who pulled up and made the game-winning three.

Nelson led the Stags with 17 points as Fairfield improved to 15-13 (10-9 in the MAAC) with the road win.

 

VIDEO: Half-court buzzer-beater lifts DIII Ramapo College to conference title

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The Division III ranks had one of the best buzzer-beaters of the season on Friday night as Ramapo College clinched a conference championship in memorable fashion.

Ramapo College was facing New Jersey City University in the title game of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament on Friday night when the game became tied at 64 after a NJCU free throw with 3.1 seconds left.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Ramapo had to go the full length of the floor. Josh Ford caught the Ramapo inbounds pass near mid-court and found a trailing Thomas Bonacum, who launched a half-court shot and nailed it for the win.

Bonacum finished with 20 points and nine rebounds on the night as he was mobbed by fans for helping the Roadrunners clinch its sixth automatic NCAA tournament berth under head coach Chuck McBreen.

Here’s another angle of Bonacum’s ridiculous shot

 

De’Aaron Fox a ‘game-time decision’ for Saturday showdown

LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 23:  De'Aaron Fox #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball during the game against the Cleveland State Vikings at Rupp Arena on November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Kentucky star guard De’Aaron Fox is a game-time decision when the No. 11 Wildcats take on No. 13 Florida on Saturday afternoon.

He didn’t practice on Thursday and was limited on Friday due to a knee contusion he suffered on Wednesday night against Missouri.

“He hit his knee,” head coach John Calipari said, according to SEC Country. “It’s not sprained or anything like that. It’s a bruise.”

Fox is averaging 15.5 points and 5.3 assists on the season. He missed one game earlier in the year due to an illness.

Kentucky’s game against the Gators in Rupp Arema will be for first place in the SEC and, in all likelihood, the SEC regular season title.