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Bubble Banter: Missouri’s chances to earn an at-large bid slipping away

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There are 36 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. 

You can see NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here.

Who is the third-best team in the SEC right now?

You don’t know, do you? I don’t really know either, but I know that it has to be one of four teams — Tennessee, LSU, Missouri or Ole Miss. Two of them squared off against each other on Saturday, with Ole Miss (RPI: 56, KenPom: 70) riding a big first half and eight threes from Marshall Henderson to knock off the Tigers.

And, potentially, to book Missouri‘s (RPI: 46, KenPom: 47) ticket to the NIT?

The Tigers are currently in a bad spot thanks to the perils of non-round robin league schedules. Missouri only plays Kentucky, Florida, LSU and Ole Miss once each this season. They’ve lost three in a row and four of their last six, and those four losses just so happen to be their games against those four teams.

What that means is that the Tigers are now in a situation where their tournament resume is more or less built upon a win over UCLA at home, and it’s not going to get all that much better. Missouri plays Tennessee twice in their last seven games, but if the Vols are on the brink of falling outside the RPI top 50. If that happens, it means that the rest of Missouri’s schedules contains no top 50 opponents and four sub-100 opponents.

In other words, their resume isn’t getting much better. And they don’t exactly look like a tournament team as of today.

As far as the Rebels are concerned, they still have work to do. They’re the seventh team out of the tournament, according to our most recent bracket, but the good news is they still have games against Kentucky and Florida. Win one or both of those games and avoid a bad loss, and Andy Kennedy could end up dancing again.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION:

Winners:

  • SMU (RPI: 47, KenPom: 26) put themselves into terrific position to earn an at-large bid with a blowout win over Cincinnati. They haven’t done much on the road and they only have four top 100 wins, but they’ve beaten Cincinnati, UConn and Memphis. That’s better than a lot of fellow bubble teams.
  • Kansas State (RPI: 38, KenPom: 35) has November losses to Charlotte and Northern Colorado that drag down the Wildcats’ resume, but a 17-point win over Texas is now their fifth top 30 win. This team is barely on the bubble at this point.
  • Maryland (RPI: 79, KenPom: 59) The Terps have a lot of ground to make up to get back into the conversation, but they’ll have plenty of chances: two games against Virginia, at Duke, Syracuse. Today, they picked up their second top 50 win against Florida State.
  • Xavier (RPI: 49, KenPom: 42) picked up a win it really needed against Providence on Saturday. It’s their third top 50 win, it snaps a three-game losing streak and it helps nullify ugly losses to USC and Seton Hall.
  • Arizona State (RPI: 39, KenPom: 32) The Sun Devils picked up their second top 50 win of the season, blowing a 20 point lead but hanging on to knock off Oregon.
  • Saint Joseph’s (RPI: 52, KenPom: 83) had a huge three-game homestand and picked up two wins, beating both UMass last Saturday and VCU this Saturday. They are easily the two best wins of the year for Phil Martelli’s team.
  • Minnesota (RPI: 41, KenPom: 40) had lost three in a row, four of five and five of seven. Saturday’s win over Indiana was essential to stop the bleeding more than anything. They’re probably still on the right ride of the bubble as of today.

Losers:

  • Pitt (RPI: 23, KenPom: 13) is a loser on this list because their second straight overtime game against an ACC cellar-dweller has started questions about their lack of any substance on their resume.
  • Gonzaga (RPI: 23, KenPom: 27) has played their way into a position where they may want to avoid testing the at-large pools. The Zags best win this season is … BYU. And after blowing a lead at Memphis on Saturday, that’s not going to change. They’re looking at a situation where they could head into Selection Sunday with more sub-150 loss than top 50 wins. That’s bad news.
  • Florida State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 30) has two top 25 wins and five top 100 wins, but they got smacked around by Maryland, which is their worst loss of the season, according to the RPI.
  • Providence (RPI: 50, KenPom: 53) The Friars shot into bubble contention after winning five in a row and beating Creighton and Xavier, but they’ve lost three of their last four, including today’s six-point loss at Xavier.
  • West Virginia (RPI: 68, KenPom: 60) lost at Kansas on Saturday. The Mountaineers have a lot of work left to do, but they’re still in the conference.
  • Oregon (RPI: 40, KenPom: 33) has now lost eight of their last 10 games. The last five losses have come by a combined 12 points. Their best win? BYU. That’s not a good thing.
  • Baylor (RPI: 54, KenPom: 56) just does not want to go dancing. Their wins over Oklahoma State, Colorado and Kentucky will keep them relevant, but they’ve lost eight of their last ten games.
  • Indiana (RPI: 70, KenPom: 57) has now lost four of their last six games after dropping a game at Minnesota on Saturday. That’s not an awful loss, but it digs the Hoosiers into a deeper hole. They have four more top 50 RPI opponents on their schedule, and with wins over Michigan and Wisconsin already, a bid is still possible.

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.