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Bracketology: Flyers could be flying at home

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The University of Dayton is home to the First Four participants of March Madness.  Even if the Dayton Flyers are one of those teams.

Today’s bracket update includes this very scenario, as the Flyers are the final at-large team in the projected Field of 68.  They are matched against Tennessee in one First Four pairing; Baylor and Providence square off in the other grouping.   Given the overall bubble picture, it’s hard to ignore Baylor’s non-conference wins over Colorado (when the Buffaloes were at full strength) and Kentucky.  Plus, the Bears’ are riding a three-game winning streak.  If we’ve learned anything, though, it’s that the bubble picture changes quickly.  Case in point: Baylor visits West Virginia and Texas in its next two games and the Bears have not thrived away from home.  Dayton also has a closing schedule that can help or hinder their NCAA chances.  It starts with trips to Duquesne and Saint Joseph’s.

No changes today on the No. 1 seed line despite Syracuse’s unexpected home loss to Boston College.  We’ll see how the Orange respond at Duke on Saturday night.  It should be a game where two feisty teams try to undo an unpleasant result (the Blue Devils are coming off a defeat at rival North Carolina on Thursday).

One housekeeping note … BYU is a true 11-seed after beating Gonzaga.  However, accommodating BYU’s bracketing requirements (Thursday-Saturday sites only) forced the Cougars down a seed line (12-seed in South Region).  The projected good news: they open in Spokane.

Enjoy a stellar weekend of college hoops.

UPDATED: February 21, 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)

  • Tennessee vs. Dayton Midwest Region
  • Baylor vs. Providence East Region
  • ALABAMA STATE vs. UTAH VALLEY Midwest Region
  • WEBER STATE vs. HIGH POINT East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

EAST – New York SOUTH – Memphis                              
Buffalo Orlando
1) SYRACUSE 1) FLORIDA
16) WEBER STATE / HIGH POINT 16) DAVIDSON
8) Kansas State 8) George Washington
9) Stanford 9) Colorado
San Diego Spokane
5) Kentucky 5) UCLA
12) GREEN BAY 12) BYU
4) SAINT LOUIS 4) Iowa State
13) MIDDLE TENNESSEE 13) MERCER
Raleigh Raleigh
6) North Carolina 6) Iowa
11) Providence / Baylor 11) Saint Joseph’s
3) MICHIGAN 3) CINCINNATI
14)  GEORGIA STATE 14) S.F. AUSTIN
Milwaukee Milwaukee
7) New Mexico 7) Pittsburgh
10) SMU 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 / ALABAMA ST 16) ROBERT MORRIS
8) Memphis 8) GONZAGA
9) Arizona State 9) VCU
Spokane Orlando
5) Texas 5) Ohio State
12) NORTH DAKOTA ST 12) BELMONT
4) Virginia 4) Duke
13) IONA 13) DELAWARE
Buffalo San Antonio
6) Connecticut 6) Louisville
11) Tennessee / Dayton 11) St. John’s
3) Villanova 3) Wisconsin
14) WESTERN MICHIGAN 14) UC-IRVINE
St. Louis San Antonio
7) Massachusetts 7) Oklahoma
10) Missouri 10) California
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): Saint Joseph’s, Tennessee, Providence, Baylor, Dayton

First Five teams out (at large): Minnesota, Georgetown, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Arkansas

Next five teams out (at large): LSU, Oregon, Richmond, Indiana State, Florida 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

Atlantic 10 (6): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, Geo Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton

Big Ten (5): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin

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

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

Big East (5): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, Providence, St. John’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), High Point (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Alabama State (SWAC)

UT-Arlington dominates, upsets No. 12 St. Mary’s

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on  in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
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UT-Arlington made a statement on Thursday night, completely dominating No. 12 Saint Mary’s in a 65-51 upset win in a true road game in Moraga.

Back in October, I ranked both the Gaels and the Mavericks in the top-5 of my Mid-Major Power Rankings. Saint Mary’s was the obvious top choice, one of the nation’s most efficient offenses that returned Emmett Naar and Jock Landale. UT-Arlington, ranked fifth, served as a dangerous opponent. The Mavs had defeated Ohio State and Memphis in 2015, but their season was derailed once Kevin Hervey, a player with serious pro potential, tore his ACL.

With five starters back, including Hervey, who is just now getting back to 100 percent, UT-Arlington looks every bit the part of a March Cinderella.

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead and forced the Gaels to play out of character. Saint Mary’s had only committed a season-high 14 turnovers before the midway point of the second half. The Gaels, who entered shooting 40 percent from three as a team, was held to 8-of-27 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.

UT-Arlington did an incredible job of closing out on shooters. And it didn’t matter the matchup, at times we saw Hervey, a 6-foot-9 junior, come out and run a guard off the 3-point line. While those statistics mentioned above show up in the box score, the amount of deflections don’t. The Mavericks used its length and athleticism to get their hands everywhere on the defensive end of the floor, making it difficult to find good looks.

In the first half, UT-Arlington controlled the glass. Saint Mary’s found more success in that department after halftime, as Kevin Clark’s offensive putback capped an 11-2 run, which cut the deficit to 52-41. However, the Mavs were able to counter each time the Gaels threatened, never letting the lead get to single digits.

Aside from the struggles the typically-efficient Saint Mary’s offense had, the Gaels struggled to keep UT-Arlington guards Erick Neal and Kaelon Wilson out of the lane, whether it be on a high ball screen or a handoff. Saint Mary’s never seemed to have a help-side defender there to protect the rim. Neal had 13 points and eight assists (five turnovers), while Wilson had 10 points off the bench. Hervey had a game-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

UT-Arlington is winners of eight straight after losing three straight. One of those wins includes a double-digit win over Texas in Austin. The Mavericks are the clear-cut favorite to win the Sun Belt. Come Selection Sunday, I’d say plenty of at-large teams would not like to be paired up with Scott Cross’ team.

Iowa cruises past No. 25 Iowa State

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 20:  Head coach Fran McCaffery of the Iowa Hawkeyes reacts in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 20, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Iowa picked up a major win on Thursday night, defeating in-state rival No. 25 Iowa State, 78-64, in a contest the Hawkeyes thoroughly dominated.

Let’s put it this way: the Hawkeyes have played four top-100 teams, according to kenpom. In those games, all losses by the way, their defense has surrendered 91 points to Seton Hall, 74 points to a Virginia team that plays at the slowest tempo in the country, 100 points to Memphis and 92 points to Notre Dame.

On Saturday, on the same floor Iowa demolished the Cyclones, its defense allowed 98 points in a loss to Nebraska Omaha.

This is exactly the sort of win Fran McCaffery and Co. needed to right the ship as we inch closer and closer to conference play.

When the Cyclones went to their bench in the first half, Nick Baer sparked a 10-0 run which helped set the tone for the remainder of the half. Iowa State went without a field goal for more than six minutes during that span.

Iowa kept Iowa State from getting out and running, holding the Cyclones to zero fast break points through the first 20 minutes and limiting them to only 36 percent from the floor as a team. Iowa, on the other hand, shot 47 percent, including 59 percent in the first half, which led to a 15-point halftime lead.

Peter Jok torched Iowa State to the tune of 23 points (4-of-7 from distance).

Monte Morris was held in check with 10 points, while Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas shot a combined 4-of-13 from three (they each hit a three with less than three minutes to play and the outcome all but decided).

Iowa State’s offense is becoming a bigger concern. Just like against Gonzaga, the Cyclones dug a first-half hole they could shoot out their way of. And like last week’s overtime loss to Cincinnati, they struggled from beyond the arc.

Iowa landed a marquee win it needed, while its rival headed home with questions to answer after losing three of four.

 

Alabama wing sidelined due to weight loss

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 29: Head coach Avery Johnson of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at HP Field House on November 29, 2015 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Alabama junior wing Nick King will not be with the team for Sunday evening’s matchup against No. 24 Oregon in Eugene.

According to Rainer Sabin of the AL.com, Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said King undergoing a series of tests after losing more than 10 pounds in less than a week and a half.

Johnson told reporters that he is “very concerned” and estimates that as of now King will be sidelined for “a week or two.”

King, who played his first two seasons at Memphis, has appeared in all seven games for the Crimson Tide, averaging 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.

Damonte Dodd out with MCL sprain

COLLEGE PARK, MD - FEBRUARY 13: Melo Trimble #2 and Damonte Dodd #35 of the Maryland Terrapins react to a call as Alex Illikainen #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on in the second half at Xfinity Center on February 13, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. Wisconsin won 70-57.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Maryland could be without the services of starting center Damonte Dodd for the remainder of the non-conference slate, the team announced on Wednesday.

Dodd suffered a MCL sprain in his left knee during practice earlier this week. The injury caused him to miss Wednesday’s 76-56 win over Howard. He will not be available for matchups with St. Peter’s and Jacksonville State. The Terrapins then close out the non-conference slate at Charlotte on Dec. 20 before opening up Big Ten play a week later.

Dodd has started in six of seven games he’s appeared in this season. He’s averaging 5.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. Michael Cekovsky started in place of Dodd on Wednesday night. Ivan Bender, who returned to the lineup against Howard after missing the previous contest, should also see an increase in minutes with Dodd sidelined.

Federico Mussini goes coast-to-coast, beats buzzer with and-1

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Chris Mullin the head coach of the St. John's Red Storm gives instructions to Federico Mussini #4 during the game against the  Xavier Musketeersat Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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St. John’s capped the first half with a 6-0 run.

Sophomore guard Federico Mussini went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer, and draw the foul, as the Johnnies went into the break up 42-33 on city rival Fordham.

The 6-foot-4 guard had gone cold during a five-game stretch, but since Thanksgiving he’s scored in double figures in four consecutive games, including on Thursday night.