Bracketology: Overtime pays off for Arkansas, Oregon

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It was quite a night for a couple of bubble teams.

With March knocking on the door, road wins for Arkansas and Oregon pushed the Razorbacks and Ducks into the Field of 68 – they are paired against each other in a First Four matchup in Dayton.  Missouri and Minnesota are the other at-large participants in today’s Opening Round games. The revolving door, known as the 2014 bubble, continues to churn.

Nothing new at the top of the bracket: Florida, Arizona, Wichita State, and Syracuse retain No. 1 seeds.  In fact, there weren’t many changes – other than some regional adjustments – to the first quadrant (Top 4 seeds).  St. Louis did drop a seed line, with surging North Carolina now the final No. 4 seed (No. 16 on the s-curve).

Iowa continues to slide a bit, having lost three straight and 4 of 6 games.  The Hawkeyes are not in any danger of missing the NCAA Tournament at this point, but they are at risk of finding themselves in the 7-9 seed range without reversing course.  A rather weak non-conference schedule isn’t helping: Iowa’s best non-league wins are Xavier, UTEP, and Notre Dame.

Buckle up for a busy weekend of college hoops.  Championship Week is right around the corner.

UPDATED: February 28, 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)

  • Arkansas vs. Oregon Midwest Region
  • Missouri vs. Minnesota South Region
  • ALABAMA STATE vs. UTAH VALLEY East Region
  • WEBER STATE vs. HIGH POINT Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

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

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

Last Five teams in (at large): Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Missouri, Oregon, Minnesota

First Five teams out (at large): Providence, Tennessee, Georgetown, Richmond, Dayton

Next five teams out (at large): Nebraska, LSU, Florida State, St. John’s, Marquette

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (7): Arizona, Colorado, UCLA, California, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

Big East (3): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier

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

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Southern Miss (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), Harvard (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)

Jordan Mathews three sends No. 1 seed Gonzaga past No. 4 West Virginia

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Jordan Mathews hit a three with less than a minute left and West Virginia missed a pair of threes on the final possession of the game as No. 1 seed Gonzaga won a dogfight, 61-58, over No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Mathews, who finished with 13 points on the night, spent 4:30 on the bench before checking into the game right before hitting the eventual game-winning three.

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for lay-in, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is definitely the star, but Bell and Dorsey could round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford ended practice on Thursday by drilling a half-court shot on the first attempt.

According to the Associated Press, this has been a season-long battle between the UCLA coaching staff and the players.

“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”

No. 3 seed UCLA is set to play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Memphis. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 97-92, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 3.

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to enter NBA draft

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is entering the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-4 junior made his announcement on Instagram on Thursday and also informed the school of his decision. He did not say whether he intends to hire an agent, a move that prevent him from returning to school.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 10.6 points per game this season and averaged 4.8 assists, which was sixth in the conference. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6-to-1 was third in the ACC.

The All-ACC defensive team selection helped Florida State (26-9) reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Seminoles advanced to the second round before a 91-66 loss to Xavier.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 12.4 points in his three seasons with the Seminoles and is the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Rutgers guard Corey Sanders to enter NBA Draft

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rutgers sophomore guard Corey Sanders is entering the NBA draft.

In making the announcement Thursday, the university said Sanders will not sign with an agent.

Sanders will be able to attend workouts scheduled by NBA teams and will be eligible for invitation to the league’s combine next month. Players have until 10 days after the combine to remain in the draft or return to school, as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Sanders started 31 of 33 games this season, averaging 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Sanders needs to make an informed decision on his future.

“My dream has always been to play in the NBA,” Sanders said. “I look forward to determining where I am in that journey.”

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.