Thomas Bropleh

Bubble Banter: Boise State’s losses will hurt on Selection Sunday

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There are 38 days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before. 

We seem to say it every season, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become a talking point over the course of the next 38 days: the bubble is impressively weak this year.

On the one hand, that means that trying to fill out those last couple of spots in the field of 68 is enough to give even an amateur bracketologist a migraine. It’s good news for teams chasing an at-large berth, however, because it means two things: a) A poor non-conference performance doesn’t mean that the season is over; and b) One really good win may be enough to separate your team from the rest of the pack.

Think about it like this: Cal (RPI: 52, KenPom: 47) has lost four of their last five games, which includes a visit to USC and a pair of home games against Arizona State and Stanford, but since they beat No. 1 Arizona on Saturday, they’re safely in the tournament as of today. They were a No. 9 seed in NBCSports.com’s most recent Bracketology.

And that’s why Boise State (RPI: 61, KenPom: 62) has to be kicking themselves right now.

The Broncos don’t have a single RPI top 100 win yet this season. Their only sub-top 100 loss came at UNLV on Saturday. They blew an 11-point lead in the final 3:29 in that game. On Thursday night, the Broncos had complete control in the second half against No. 5 San Diego State, only to give up a 15-0 run late in the second half and, eventually, lose when Dwayne Polee hit a three with 4.2 seconds left in the game.

Right now, the Broncos are still within striking distance of an at-large bid, but it will take a borderline miracle for it to happen. Five of their last eight games are on the road, and only one of those games will come against a team ranked higher than 93 in the RPI. They’ll probably need to win out — and then pull off an upset in the conference tournament — if they want to go dancing.

Beating SDSU and UNLV wouldn’t have locked up a bid, but it would have put the Broncos in a position where an at-large was likely, not a prayer.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION:

  • Tennessee (RPI: 49, KenPom: 24) seems determined to keep themselves in the bubble conversation this season, losing to Vanderbilt by four on the road last night. The Vols are probably in as of today, but Tuesday at home against Florida is huge.
  • Minnesota (RPI: 40, KenPom: 41) was a lock to dance ten days ago. Since their win over Wisconsin at home, they’ve lost to Nebraska, Northwestern and, on Wednesday, Purdue.
  • Florida State (RPI: 40, KenPom: 27) is much better than they were a season ago. They have no terrible losses, but they’re also without a good win in the ACC. North Carolina, at Pitt and Syracuse are three of their last five games.
  • Stanford (RPI: 37, KenPom: 34) beat Cal last night, moving both teams to 6-4 in the Pac-12. Both are firmly in the bubble discussion as well, and while Stanford has better computer numbers, Cal has that glorious win over Arizona.
  • Colorado (RPI: 26, KenPom: 63) bounced back with their second straight win (Washington State) after losing four of five following Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury. But six of their last seven games are against KenPom top 50 teams. They’re in for now, but that could change depending on how their season ends and their record without Dinwiddie.
  • West Virginia (RPI: 69, KenPom: 61) is slowly but surely getting closer to that cutline. The Mountaineers are currently sitting tied for third in the Big 12 with wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma. Seven of their nine losses are to RPI top 50 teams. They have plenty of work left to do — two games against Kansas, two against Iowa State, road trips to Texas and Oklahoma, a home date with Baylor — but Bob Huggins’ team is peaking. Get hot at the right time and who knows.
  • St. Joseph’s (RPI: 53, KenPom: 83) is in the same boat as Boise State. They had a chance to earn a marquee victory on their home floor on Wednesday and lost. The Hawks were clobbered, however, losing 65-49.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.