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Bubble Banter: St. Joseph’s, Xavier, Minnesota celebrate big wins

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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 NBCSports.com’s latest bracket here.

Dayton (RPI: 54, KenPom: 64) went to Philly and got worked over by St. Joseph’s (RPI: 38, KenPom: 57) on Tuesday in a key bubble game. Both the Flyers and the Hawks entered the night sitting right around the bubble’s cut line, and that probably’s won’t change much after the 26-point win.

Dayton has a stronger resume than you realize. They have two top 30 wins and are 7-6 against the top 100. Their issue is three losses to teams sitting outside the top 100. The good news? With homes games left against UMass and Richmond and a road trip to a Saint Louis team that will have already clinched a league title, Archie Miller’s club has three chances to earn quality wins that will put them on the right side of the bubble.

The Hawks have a fairly similar profile. The win over Dayton moved St. Joe’s to 6-6 against the top 100, which includes top 25 wins against UMass and VCU. They only have two losses to teams outside the top 50, against LSU and at Temple, which is a bad loss on paper but doesn’t look as awful when you factor in the fact that it was a rivalry game.

Phil Martelli’s club has three more games against top 100 competition, heading to St. Bonaventure and GW while hosting La Salle. They probably need to win two of the three and avoid a loss in their first game in the Atlantic 10 tournament to truly feel comfortable.

THE REST OF TUESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION

  • Minnesota (RPI: 48, KenPom: 49) picked up a huge win, knocking off Iowa at home. It’s their fourth top 50 win and sixth top 100 win. The Gophers are still sitting right around the cutline, but a win at Michigan on Saturday would change that.
  • Xavier (RPI: 60, KenPom: 44) beat St. John’s (RPI: 52, KenPom: 37) in a game between Big East bubblers. It was a huge win for Xavier, who is now 7-7 against the top 100. They have just one top 50 win (Cincinnati), but they get home games against Creighton and Villanova still. The Johnnies are in a bit of a tougher spot. They’re 5-9 against the top 100, and while the win over Creighton is nice, they missed out on chances to improve their resume the last week. They cannot afford a loss to Marquette or DePaul.
  • Missouri (RPI: 45, KenPom: 61) is in a tough spot after a loss at Georgia. The Tigers were already sitting close to the bubble’s cutline, and another loss to a team with an RPI outside the top 65 — their seventh — certainly doesn’t help. They do have eight top 100 wins, but only one top 50 win. The Tigers cannot afford another loss before the league tournament.
  • Georgia (RPI: 88, KenPom: 81) is still a long way from being on the bubble even after Tuesday’s win over Missouri but … they can dream, right? Win out, which would include roadies against Arkansas and LSU, and make the finals of the SEC tournament — which would include a win over Kentucky or Florida — and who knows? No one else seems to want to win their way in.
  • Kansas State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 43) avoided what would have been a damaging loss at Texas Tech with a late rally. It’s their second Big 12 road win, although both have come against the bottom two teams in the conference.
  • Clemson (RPI: 67, KenPom: 47), barring some kind of miracle, is done after losing at Wake Forest.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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