Bubble Banter: Just how close is Pitt to the bubble?

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There are 18 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.

Pitt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 18) beat Boston College on Wednesday night. Not all that convincingly, but they won, which is more than we can say about the Panthers in recent weeks. Pitt had lost three straight games and five of their last seven. The only wins? In overtime at Miami and in double-overtime against Virginia Tech at home.

Suffice to say, Jamie Dixon’s club hasn’t been blowing people away.

So here’s where Pitt stands as of today. They have one top 50 wins, which came against Stanford on a neutral court. They have five more top 100 wins, none of which came against teams that are going to be in the NCAA tournament without a miracle. Six of their seven losses came against RPI top 20 teams, with the other coming to Florida State at home over the weekend.

In simpler terms, Pitt’s entire resume is built around the fact that they don’t have anything truly awful on their resume. They’re a No. 9 seed in our latest bracket, which means they have some wiggle room. But they won’t have a chance to land a marquee win until the ACC tournament, meaning that a loss at Notre Dame, against N.C. State at home or at Clemson would really hurt.

As crazy as it sounds, Pitt probably needs to lose two more regular season games to enter the ACC tournament on the wrong side of the bubble. That’s incredible for a team that has three single-digit wins over the dregs of the ACC since January 25th.

THE REST OF WEDNESDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION

Winners

  • Arizona State (RPI: 32, KenPom: 37) played their way into the dance with a win over Arizona two weeks ago, but road losses to Utah and Colorado put them in a position where their margin of error was getting thinner. A beatdown of Cal is a good way to right the ship.
  • LSU (RPI: 68, KenPom: 62) beat Texas A&M on Wednesday, a loss they couldn’t afford to take. On Saturday, they visit Florida. That’s a win the Tigers have to get to remain in contention.
  • Tennessee (RPI: 56, KenPom: 26) had lost four of their last six, but reversed that trend with a win at Mississippi State. The Vols are currently sitting right on the cut line, and with just one top 50 opponent left, any loss would be a massive blow.

Losers

  • Richmond (RPI: 46, KenPom: 70) got blown out by George Mason. The Spiders are now on the wrong side of the cut line. This is the worst timing to take a sub-150 loss.
  • Nebraska (RPI: 47, KenPom: 57) had their five game winning streak snapped at Illinois on Wednesday. It’s not a killer blow — road losses to top 100 opponents aren’t horrible — but the Huskers had a slim margin of error. They probably can’t afford another loss.
  • Cal (RPI: 52, KenPom: 55) missed an opportunity when they lost at Arizona on Wednesday. They are 6-8 against the top 100 with three top 50 wins — including Arizona — and two sub-100 losses. They’re at Arizona this weekend and host the mountain schools next week.
  • Baylor (RPI: 40, KenPom: 41) lost at Texas, which isn’t a crushing blow. They had played their way out of the First Four prior to Wednesday. Five top 50 wins are nice. A chance to pick off Iowa State and Kansas State on the road are as well.
  • Stanford (RPI: 42, KenPom: 33) lost at Arizona State on Wednesday, which isn’t a brutal blow. They’re probably still comfortably in the tournament. Four top 50 wins, a 6-9 record against the top 100 and no sub-100 losses is a lot better than some other bubble teams.

LaVar Ball having ‘zero’ interaction with UCLA team bodes well for next season

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With the NBA Draft looming in less than a month, the biggest talking point has been just how much of an impact LaVar Ball is going to have on his son, Lonzo’s, NBA career.

It’s a question worth asking given the, ahem, outspoken nature of the eldest Ball.

But in the collegiate ranks, that’s a question that’s been asked about UCLA regarding next season. While Lonzo and LaMelo, who is finishing up his sophomore season in high school, are the stars that get the majority of the attention, there is another Ball brother that will be enrolling at UCLA next season: LiAngelo.

LaVar has already said that he expect Gelo to be a one-and-done player, which may not jibe with how good Gelo actually is. He’s not Lonzo and he’s not LaMelo. He’s not a dynamic athlete or a lead guard. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200 pound shooter with limitless range but limited upside. There’s a reason Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect.

What’s going to happen when UCLA, a top 15 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, doesn’t give Gelo Lonzo-esque minutes or shots next season? How will LaVar handle it if his second son is coming off the bench for the Bruins?

Steve Alford doesn’t seem concerned about it, telling a reporter from the LA Times that LaVar was “never at practice, never called me” and was around the team “zero.”

“I think all parents probably should know that moving on to the collegiate level anyway,” Alford said. “It’s not high school, it’s not AAU. Your son’s on scholarship; your son’s at UCLA getting an incredible opportunity academically and athletically.

“Playing time, shots, that kind of stuff — we don’t entertain some of those phone calls anyway. I never had any issues at all with LaVar.”

It will be interesting to see if that continues next season.

The Bruins have a chance to be pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as last season, maybe not a Pac-12 title favorite or even the best team in LA — USC is loaded — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them end up as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning and Jaylen Hands headlining the recruiting class.

Will LaVar be able to handle UCLA’s success if it comes at the expense of his son’s?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.