Bubble Banter: Why the biggest game of the day was between Missouri and Tennessee

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There are 28 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.

Tennessee (RPI: 50, KenPom: 25) and Missouri (RPI: 43, KenPom: 46) are both currently sitting right there on the bubble’s cutline, which is what made this game so significant.

The two programs are in strikingly similar situations. Both have just a single top 25 win, as the Tigers beat UCLA and the Vols knocked off Virginia. Both have a handful of top 100 wins on their resume as well. But most importantly, entering Saturday, both teams had just two games against top 50 opponents left on their schedule.

This game, and the season finale, when Mizzou heads to Knoxville.

What that means is that the only way that either team can significantly improve their profile for the rest of the season, barring a win over Kentucky or Florida in the SEC tournament, will be these two games.

Missouri got the first, which will put quite a bit of pressure on the Vols in three weeks to pick up a win.



  • Baylor (RPI: 53, KenPom: 48) picked up a huge home win in double-overtime on Saturday, knocking off Kansas State thanks to a three from Brady Heslip at the buzzer that forced the first extra frame. The Bears now have wins over Colorado, Kentucky and Dayton on neutral courts, at Oklahoma State and against Kansas State. The problem? Those are their only wins in the top 150.
  • St. Joseph’s (RPI: 45, KenPom: 69) added another top 100 win to their resume, going to La Salle and knocking off the Explorers. The Hawks are one of the teams right on the cut line right now, which makes a top 100 road win that much more valuable.
  • BYU (RPI: 49, KenPom: 55) stays on the right side of the bubble’s cutline — for now — as the Cougars went into Moraga and knocked off Saint Mary’s. To feel comfortable, they’re going to want to beat Gonzaga.
  • Providence (RPI: 58, KenPom: 55) did what they had to do Saturday: not lose to DePaul. The Friars are on the outside looking in right now, so they’ll want to beat Villanova or Creighton down the stretch to feel comfortable.
  • Cal: (RPI: 48, KenPom: 47) added another top 100 road win, knocking off Washington on Saturday. Four of their last six are at home. With a win over Arizona on their resume, the Bears should feel pretty good.
  • Marquette (RPI: 73, KenPom: 50) has nine top 60 losses and a loss at Butler (125th RPI). They added another top 50 win on Saturday, however, and will have five more games against top 60 opponents, including Creighton and Villanova. They need to go at least 4-2 down the stretch to make up enough ground.


  • If N.C. State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 68) or Maryland (RPI: 71, KenPom: 53) ends up missing the NCAA tournament, they are going to look at Saturday, February 15th as the reason why. The Wolfpack lost to Syracuse in devastating fashion, while Maryland’s rivalry with Duke came to an end with a ball that hung on the rim.
  • Ole Miss (RPI: 61, KenPom: 78) may have been the biggest loser of the day, as the Rebels lost at Georgia. The Bulldogs are tied for third in the SEC, but their horrid non-conference schedule makes that a really bad loss. Ole Miss was on the wrong side of the bubble entering the day.
  • Pitt (RPI: 27, KenPom: 15) took one step closer to actually being on the bubble by losing at North Carolina on Saturday. They’re in, fairly comfortably, as of today, but with their best win being No. 46 Stanford and no more top 50 teams on their schedule, stumbling late could be disastrous.
  • Indiana (RPI: 91, KenPom: 72) got smacked by Purdue, meaning that a team with wins over Wisconsin and Michigan is just about out of bubble contention.
  • LSU (RPI: 65, KenPom: 70) cannot get out of their own way. The Tigers lost at Arkansas on Saturday night, yet another road loss for a team with four losses to teams with RPIs in the triple digits.
  • Oklahoma State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 31) lost a nailbiter to Oklahoma on Saturday, putting up a pretty good fight despite not having Marcus Smart available. The Cowboys are going to be a weird case for a bid on Selection Sunday.
  • Southern Miss (RPI: 41, KenPom: 77) lost at Middle Tennessee State Saturday by 17, which cost them their last chance at a top 100 win.
  • George Washington (RPI: 26, KenPom: 42) had a chance to lock up a bid this week with games against VCU on the road and UMass at home. They ended up losing both. With two top 25 wins, five more top 100 wins, and no losses outside the top 80, the Colonials are in good shape right now. But don’t let these two losses turn into a slide.
  • Xavier (RPI: 44, KenPom: 35) lost at Marquette, which isn’t necessarily a bad loss per se, but with losses to USC and Seton Hall already on their resume, Xavier can’t afford to mess around here. After Tennessee’s loss today, they will likely have just one top 50 win when the RPI updates.

Sister Jean: “I don’t care that you broke my bracket.”

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As Missouri Valley Conference player of the year Clayton Custer came off the floor after Loyola earned its spot in the Elite Eight after beating Nevada, he had to make a quick apology.

He had to tell the Ramblers’ star fan Sister Jean he was sorry. She, of course, had picked Loyola’s Cinderella run to end in the Sweet 16 in her bracket before the start of the tournament.

The apology was quickly accepted.

“I said I don’t care that you broke my bracket,” Sister Jean said. “I’m ready for the next one.

“For a nice little school like ours, we are just so proud of them.”

Michigan’s hot shooting carries them into the Elite Eight past Texas A&M

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Historically known as a team that lived and died with the three-ball, No. 3-seed Michigan had spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament proving history wrong.

In an ugly game in their opener against Montana, the Wolverines shot 5-for-16 from three while turning the ball over 14 times and managing a measly 61 points. Against Houston in the second round, Michigan shot 8-for-30 from beyond the arc, with one of those threes coming courtesy of Jordan Poole at the buzzer, sending the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win.

Put another way, Michigan looked the part of the defensive grinder that they turned into this season.

Against No. 7-seed Texas A&M in the Sweet 16, however, the Wolverines turned into the Golden State Warriors.

Michigan bested the number of three that they had made in the tournament to date, hitting 14-of-24 bombs while shooting 62 percent from the floor in a 99-72 win over an Aggies team that had finally, for the first time since November, looked the part of the SEC title contender that they have the talent to be.

No. 11 Loyola moves on to Elite Eight after beating No. 7 Nevada

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Loyola is in the Elite Eight.

The Ramblers’ dream run through March continued Thursday as they knocked off No. 7 Nevada, 69-68, in South Region semifinal in Atlanta.

Loyola, an 11th seed making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985, will play the winner of Kansas State and Kentucky on Sunday for a chance to return to the Final Four for the first time since it won the 1963 national championship.

Marques Townes hit a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play to put the Ramblers up four and put the game all but out of reach for Nevada. Townes finished with 18 points while Clayton Custer had 15.  Loyola shot 55.8 percent from the floor for the game.

The Wolf Pack’s Caleb Martin had 21 points while Jordan Caroline had 19. Nevada shot 41.4 percent from the floor.

Nevada looked like it may overwhelm Loyola early as it built a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game. The Ramblers, though, struck back by keeping the Wolf Pack off the board for nearly the last 8 minutes of the first half to take a four-point lead into the break.

The strong play considered on the other side of halftime for Loyola, which astonishingly made its first 13 shots of the second half. Still, despite the perfect start, the Ramblers only briefly took a double-digit lead before Nevada sliced it back down below 10.

Loyola’s inability to build a substantial lead came back to bite it as Nevada, the comeback kids of this tournament, mounted its attack on the deficit and had it erased before the under-four timeout, setting up the final frantic minutes of a battle for a spot in the Elite Eight that the Ramblers claimed thanks to Townes’ late triple.

2018 March Madness: Fans in Times Square pick fake teams in Sweet 16 predictions

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NBC Sports went into Times Square this week to ask basketball fans for their Sweet 16 picks.

The only problem?

The teams in the games are not actually playing in the NCAA Tournament.

They aren’t even actually teams.

Hilarity ensued.

Miami’s Bruce Brown declares for draft without an agent

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Bruce Brown wants to hear what the NBA has to say.

The Miami sophomore has declared for the draft but will not hire an agent, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game during his second season with the Hurricanes. He did, though, see his shooting numbers take a tumble compared to his freshman season with his field goal percentage down from 45.9 to 41.5 percent and his 3-point shoot go from 34.7 to 26.7 percent. There’s also the matter of a foot injury that required surgery and kept him off the floor for the ‘Canes’ last 12 games.

By declaring for the draft, Brown can get in front of NBA teams, who will likely take a very close look at his shooting mechanics after that sophomore season downturn. It will also be an opportunity for him to build up his reputation in the professional ranks after spending much of his sophomore season injured.