NBCSports.com Bracketology: A couple of Saints march into First Four

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Here’s a polite way of summarizing the current NCAA Tournament bubble picture:  if you don’t like today’s First Four match-ups, wait for the next bracket on Friday.  Today’s update finds a couple of Saints marching into Dayton:  Saint Joseph’s and St. John’s.  They are joined by BYU – fresh off a victory at Saint Mary’s – and Georgetown – which lost to St. John’s on Sunday night.  It would have been interesting had three Big East teams ended up among the last four at-large teams; Providence was one spot away, a single slot ahead of St. John’s on the s-curve.

On a final bubble note, the Oklahoma State situation bears watching.  How will the Selection Committee handle the Marcus Smart suspension?  Each member may look at it differently, and it may depend on how the Cowboys play when he returns.

With its victory at Kentucky on Saturday, Florida passed Arizona for the No. 2 spot on the overall seed list.  It’s worth noting, but doesn’t really impact the bracketing process.  The Gators and Wildcats are not vying for the same natural Region (as we had with Louisville and Indiana last year).  Syracuse continues to be the top overall seed with Wichita State as the fourth No. 1 seed.

Seeding for the two-line is ramping up fast and furious.  Besides Kansas, five teams were in contention for three spots:  Michigan State, San Diego State, Creighton, Villanova, and Duke.  There’s not a right or wrong way to rank them.  For now, MSU, SDSU, and Creighton grabbed those slots, with Villanova and Duke as the top two three-seeds.  That should play its way out in the next three weeks.

Enjoy your hoops.  March is right around the corner.

UPDATED: February 17, 2014

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament.  You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.   For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected.  The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Saint Joseph’s vs. St. John’s East Region
  • BYU vs. Georgetown South Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. UTAH VALLEY Midwest Region
  • ROBERT MORRIS vs. COASTAL CAROLINA East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EAST – New York SOUTH – Memphis                           
Buffalo Orlando
1) SYRACUSE 1) FLORIDA
16) ROB MORRIS / CO CAROLINA 16) DAVIDSON
8) Kansas State 8) VCU
9) Stanford 9) California
San Diego Spokane
5) Kentucky 5) Iowa
12) GREEN BAY 12) BYU / Georgetown
4) SAINT LOUIS 4) Virginia
13) MIDDLE TENNESSEE 13) MERCER
Orlando Raleigh
6) Connecticut 6) Oklahoma
11) St. John’s / Saint Joseph’s 11) Missouri
3) MICHIGAN 3) CINCINNATI
14)  GEORGIA STATE 14) S.F. AUSTIN
Milwaukee Milwaukee
7) Pittsburgh 7) New Mexico
10) Colorado 10) Xavier
2) CREIGHTON 2) Michigan State
15) VERMONT 15) NC-CENTRAL
MIDWEST – Indianapolis WEST – Anaheim
St. Louis San Diego
1) WICHITA STATE 1) ARIZONA
16) UTAH VALLEY / SOUTHERN 16) WEBER STATE
8) Memphis 8) GONZAGA
9) Arizona State 9) George Washington
San Antonio Spokane
5) Texas 5) Ohio State
12) DELAWARE 12) NORTH DAKOTA ST
4) Wisconsin 4) Iowa State
13) Iona 13) BELMONT
Buffalo Raleigh
6) UCLA 6) Louisville
11) Minnesota 11) Providence
3) Villanova 3) Duke
14) WESTERN MICHIGAN 14) UC-IRVINE
St. Louis San Antonio
7) North Carolina 7) Massachusetts
10) SMU 10) Oklahoma State
2) KANSAS 2) SAN DIEGO ST
15) BOSTON UNIVERSITY 15) YALE

NOTES on the BRACKET: Syracuse is the overall No. 1 seed followed by Florida, Arizona, and Wichita State.

Last Five teams in (at large): Providence, Saint Joseph’s, St. John’s, BYU, Georgetown

First Five teams out (at large): Dayton, Richmond, West Virginia, Tennessee, Baylor

Next five teams out (at large): Arkansas, LSU, Marquette, NC State, Indiana State

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (6): Kansas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State

Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota

ACC (5): Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia

American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU

Big East (5): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Providence, Georgetown

Atlantic 10 (5): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Geo Washington, Saint Joseph’s

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Middle Tennessee (C-USA), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), North Dakota State (Summit), Green Bay (Horizon), Davidson (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Iona (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Western Michigan (MAC), Mercer (A-Sun), Yale (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Vermont (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.