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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.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION

Winners:source:

  • 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.

Losers:

  • 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.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
Purdue Athletics
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.