Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton keeps Providence on the right path with win over Seton Hall

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Providence and Seton Hall got off to a slow start offensively, combining for three points in the first four-plus minutes of Friday night’s game in Newark.

In the second half, the Friars leader, Bryce Cotton, caught fire, scoring 17 of his 24 in the second half as PC won its second straight Big East game with a 74-69 win over the Pirates.

Cotton was one of four Friars in double figures with Kadeem Batts following with 14 points, 11 rebounds and LaDontae Henton and Tyler Harris with 13 and 11, respectively. Seton Hall, playing without Fuquan Edwin, was led by Sterling Gibbs with 20. Gene Teague added 17 and grabbed 12 boards.

This win doesn’t pad the Friars resume by any means. But Providence did avoid a ugly late-season loss, and remain on the right side of the bubble for the moment. Two weeks ago, PC lost what would have been a marquee victory over Villanova, as Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats out of the Dunkin’ Donut Center with a double overtime victory.

That loss meant Providence had little room for error in the team’s last four regular season games, three of which were on the road. And so far, the Friars have rallied off back-to-back victories. Those wins were over two of the three worst teams in the Big East, though, the Friars next two games will be much more difficult.

Marquette heads to Villanova on Sunday before heading to Providence on Tuesday. Currently the Golden Eagles half a game ahead of the Friars in the conference standings. Providence ends the regular season, in Omaha, taking on Doug McDermott and Creighton. The Bluejays are undefeated at home this season.

Providence is looking for the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2004. Plenty of teams are in the same position as PC, toeing the line between tournament team and NIT bound, and some have leapfrogged the Friars this week. Arkansas swept Kentucky on Thursday night. The Razorbacks moved into the projected First Four, and Providence went from Dayton to the First Five Teams Left Out in the latest College Basketball Talk Bracketology.

March begins at midnight, giving Providence 16 days to strengthen its case and hear its name called as one of 68 teams on Selection Sunday.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.

AP POLL: Villanova climbs to No. 1 in the country.

Jay Wright
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Like the Coaches Poll, Villanova found themselves No. 1 in the AP Poll during the regular season for the first time in the history of the program.

And like the Coaches Poll, there isn’t much in the way of a consensus when it comes to who is the No. 1 team, as there are six teams that received No. 1 votes in the poll this week.

[NEW PODCAST]

[LATEST BRACKETOLOGY]

The biggest shock to me?

The No. 1 team in the NBC Sports Top 25, Iowa, received just 11 first place votes and is ranked fourth in the AP Poll.

They were ranked fifth in the Coaches Poll.

Can we get Fran McCaffery the love they deserve?

Here is the rest of the AP Poll:

1. Villanova (20-3, 32 first-place votes)
2. Maryland (21-3, 13)
3. Oklahoma (19-3, 7)
4. Iowa (19-4, 11)
5. Xavier (21-2)
6. Kansas (19-4, 1)
7. Virginia (19-4, 1)
8. Michigan State (20-4)
9. North Carolina (19-4)
10. West Virginia (19-4)
11. Oregon (18-4)
12. Miami (FL) (18-4)
13. Louisville (19-4)
14. Iowa State (17-6)
15. Texas A&M (18-5)
16. SMU (20-2)
17. Arizona (19-5)
18. Purdue (19-5)
19. Dayton (19-3)
20. Providence (18-6)
21. Baylor (17-6)
22. Kentucky (17-6)
23. USC (18-5)
24. Texas (16-7)
25. Wichita State (17-6)

DROPPED OUT: No. 22 Indiana, No. 25 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 USC, No. 24 Texas