BYU's Tyler Haws (AP Photo)

Bubble Banter: Just how close is Gonzaga to missing the tournament?

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There are 23 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’s latest bracket here.

BYU (RPI: 42, KenPom: 55) knocked off Gonzaga (RPI: 24, KenPom: 27) on Thursday night, setting up an intriguing scenario as we head into the home stretch.

The Cougars pick up their third best win of the season, which should be enough to get them clear of play-in games for now. Barring a loss to Portland or at San Diego — or an opening round exit in the WCC tournament — BYU should be dancing.

Gonzaga, on the other hand, becomes one of the most interesting cases for the selection committee. The Zags are ranked No. 25 and have a top 25 RPI. But their profile is, frankly, lacking. Their only top 50 win this season came against BYU, which will be weighed against a loss at Portland. They are 1-3 against the top 50 and 7-4 against the top 100, with the best win coming at West Virginia.

Here’s the kicker: their last three games of the regular season are at San Diego, at Pacific and at Saint Mary’s.

The Zags are in the tournament as of today, and they are probably in fairly comfortably. But the margin for error is much slimmer than one will realize looking at the name on their jersey and the number next to it.


Nebraska (RPI: 51, KenPom: 59) avoided what they couldn’t afford — a loss at home to Penn State. The Cornhuskers have a sneaky-strong profile, which includes wins over Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan State on the road. I still think they need to get that win over Wisconsin in the season finale to have a real shot.

Stanford (RPI: 48, KenPom: 34) is making a nice, late-season push. They’ve won eight of their last 11 games after knocking off USC. They have four top 50 wins, three of which came on the road. Their two worst losses were both road games in league play. Three of their last five are at home, as well. This team should be dancing.

Saint Mary’s (RPI: 61, KenPom: 65) lost at San Francisco tonight. A top 100 loss on the road wouldn’t be a big deal if the Gaels didn’t have five losses to teams with an RPI of 139 or lower.

Georgetown (RPI: 59, KenPom: 66) lost their second game to Seton Hall this season. Along with a loss to Northeastern the Hoyas are probably on the wrong side of the bubble as of today. But their final four games are Xavier, at Marquette, Creighton and at Villanova. They have a chance to play their way into the tournament.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”