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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.

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)
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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)
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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.