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.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”