Bubble Banter: Saturday’s winners and losers

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There are 15 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.

(This post will be updated throughout the day)

WINNERS

Oklahoma State: The Pokes beat Kansas, which should just about lock up a bid.

Xavier: We wrote about the Musketeer’s here.

Dayton: The Flyers landed a massive win on Saturday, hanging on to knock off UMass at home in a game they desperately needed. Dayton had played their way back into bubble contention at losing four straight games in January, but with three sub-100 losses on their resume, a 3-5 record against the top 50 wasn’t enough. Based on the RPI, UMass is now Dayton’s best win on the season. Don’t be surprised to see the Flyers hosting a game in the First Four when brackets are re-released on Monday.

Tennessee and Missouri: The Vols notched their eighth top 100 win on Saturday by blowing out Vanderbilt. Tennessee was out the tournament as of today, according to our Dave Ommen, and beating Vanderbilt certainly doesn’t change that fact. The Tigers, on the other hand, were in the dance, and they handled their business against Mississippi State. Tennessee’s finale against Missouri could end up being a play-in game.

Arkansas: There was no hangover for the Razorbacks, as they followed up a win at Kentucky by knocking off Georgia, who was third in the SEC, at home. The Razorbacks are looking like they will end up sitting right around the cutline on Selection Sunday, meaning that any loss that they suffer will hurt.

Baylor: The Bears bounced back from a loss to Texas this week by beating Texas Tech in Waco on Saturday. It’s their fifth win in the last six games and likely keeps Scott Drew’s team on the right side of the bubble as we head into the final week of the regular season. The Bears host Iowa State and visit Kansas State next week. I’d suggest at least a split.

Pitt: The Panthers won in overtime at Notre Dame, which means that Pitt is still comfortably in the NCAA tournament for now. Jame Dixon will be dancing as long as they don’t do anything silly like lose to N.C. State or Clemson.

Oregon: The Ducks followed up Thursday night’s win at UCLA by knocking off USC on the road. At this point, they are probably safely in the tournament, but with Arizona and Arizona State coming to Eugene next week, two straight losses and an early exit in the Pac-12 tournament could put them into an ugly position on Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs knocked off Saint Mary’s in impressive fashion in Moraga. That’s a good win. But the Zags are still in a precarious position should they lose early in the WCC tournament. They have one top 50 win (BYU) and two sub-150 losses. An 8-4 record against the top 100 does look good, however.

St. Joseph’s: The Hawks keep themselves in a good spot with their 17th win in the last 20 games, this one coming on the road against St. Bonaventure. It’s their seventh top 100 win this season. Split George Washington on the road and La Salle at home and St. Joe’s should be dancing.

Nebraska: The Huskers bounced back from a loss to Illinois last week to knock off Northwestern at home on Saturday. It was a loss Tim Miles’ team couldn’t afford. Right now, they are probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but they have two key games next week to change that. Beating Indiana at Indiana is important, but picking up a win at home over Wisconsin in the season finale would likely lock up a tournament bid.

BYU: The Cougars avoided getting tripped up at San Diego on Saturday, meaning that they will head into the WCC on a four-game winning streak and having won eight of their last nine game. They probably need to make a run to the title game simply because an earlier exit will likely result in an ugly looking loss.

Utah: The Utes are a perfect example of why it’s important to play a tough non-conference schedule. Their win over Colorado on Saturday was their fourth top-35 win. They have just one loss outside the top 80. But they’re not all that close to a bid thanks to their atrocious non-conference schedule. They need to win at Cal and at Stanford next weekend to have a chance.

West Virginia: The tournament hopes of the Mountaineers’ are a bit of a pipe dream at this point, but they knocked off TCU on Saturday which means that, with wins at Oklahoma and over Kansas to close out the regular season, WVU will have a chance. It’s a long shot, but they still have a shot.

LOSERS

Colorado: The Buffaloes dropped a potentially costly game at Utah. It was their second straight loss after winning five of six, and with road trips to Stanford and Cal next week, that streak could realistically get extended to four straight losses. That could be a problem, as Colorado is going to be judged based on what they’ve done since Spencer Dinwiddie went down with an ACL injury. One win next week should be enough.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers couldn’t build on a massive win over Iowa during the week, falling at Michigan on Saturday evening. Minnesota finishes their season next Saturday at home against Penn State. With a 3-8 record against the top 50, including a win over Wisconsin, and a 6-10 record against the top 100 — along with two sub-100 losses — Rick Pitino’s club looks like they might need to do some damage in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe.

Cal: The Bears didn’t have much fun on their trip to the Arizona schools, getting worked by both the Wildcats and, on Saturday, the Sun Devils. They’ve lost three of their last four and are now just 3-8 against the top 50. They have a nice win over Arizona, but that’s balanced out by a pair of sub-100 losses. They get Utah and Colorado at home next week. One would help. They might want both to feel safe.

LSU: The Tigers had a chance to pick up a statement win at Florida, but they got smacked around for 40 minutes. It’s their fourth loss in the last six games, and they simply have too many bad losses and no more chances for good wins. LSU looks destined for the NIT.

Richmond: If getting blown out by George Mason didn’t cost the Spiders an at-large bid, getting blown out by Rhode Island did.

N.C. State: I’m not even sure that the Wolfpack were still technically on the bubble, but after losing by 15 to Miami at home, they’re now on that ‘auto-bid or bust’ game plan.

Games left to be played:

  • 7:00 Iowa State at Kansas State
  • 10:00 Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s

No. 2 Michigan State matches largest comeback in a decade with 27-point rally over Northwestern

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Michigan State overcame a 27-point deficit on Saturday afternoon to beat Northwestern, 65-60, for a memorable Big Ten road win. It’s the biggest comeback win in Big Ten history while also matching the largest college basketball comeback of the last decade.

Trailing by 22 points at halftime and by 18 points with 14 minutes left, the comeback for the Spartans was slow and methodical at first, as Michigan State’s defense slowly suffocated the Wildcat offense.

And when the jumpers started falling with a Josh Langford (eight points) three with a little over 13 minutes left, the Spartans made their big push.

Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston was a major catalyst in the comeback for Michigan State as he buried multiple top-of-the-key threes and pull-up jumpers to help give the Spartans a new-found confidence. Winston finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as he came through in a major way in the second half. With star Miles Bridges (eight points) battling foul trouble in the second half, Winston and other Michigan State role players stepped up in a big way. Big man Nick Ward grinded to 15 points and a lot of key stops on the defensive end. Matt McQuaid knocked down some big shots while taking a charge and playing well on both ends. Jaren Jackson had the go-ahead three-point play to finally give the Spartans their first lead.

This was a team comeback in which Michigan State (26-3, 14-2) used the sum of its parts to slowly dismantle Northwestern. It was one of the more impressive comebacks in recent memory. Doing commentary for Fox, Steve Lavin said this was one of the biggest one-half swings in his 30 years of being around Division I basketball.

While beating Northwestern isn’t some sort of monumental achievement this season, Michigan State didn’t have a huge comeback win this season. The biggest deficit that the Spartans had overcome to win this season was only 13 points. Now we know that Michigan State is capable of making a comeback from a very large deficit as they showed they’re capable of coming through with the offensive firepower. And Bridges, the team’s leading scorer, only had two field goals.

This is the Michigan State we’ve wanted to consistently see this season. Michigan State getting stops is nothing new. The Spartans held Northwestern scoreless for over 11 minutes at one point in the second half as the Wildcats were brutal shooting the ball in the first half. But if Michigan State’s offense gets rolling like that because of balanced inside/outside contributions from role players? That’s the Spartans everyone keeps hoping will show up in March.

No. 23 Oklahoma loses fifth-straight, Trae Young at risk of missing NCAA tournament?

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Trae Young has hit the freshman wall, and there are few signs that he is ready to break through to the other side.

Let’s start with the good news, I guess: In today’s 77-66 home loss to a Texas team that entered the day tied for eighth in the Big 12 standings, Young finally snapped his streak of 20 missed three-pointers. After starting off Saturday 0-for-4 after missing all nine of his threes at Texas Texas and his last seven threes at Iowa State, Young hit three of his last six triples.

He also made all nine of his free throws, extending that streak to nearly 30 consecutive makes, while scoring 26 points and committing fewer than four turnovers in a game for the first time since December 8th.

Those are all good things!

The problem, however, is that they came in Oklahoma’s fifth straight loss, their sixth loss in the last seven games and their eighth loss in their last ten games. The Sooners have been dreadful for more than a month, and it’s not going to get any easier; they play at Kansas on Monday.

The question “why?” is pretty simple, too. Young is struggling and the rest of the pieces on the roster just have not been good enough to be able to pick up the slack. Brady Manek is a spot-up shooter that has struggling shooting the ball. Kameron McGusty went from being a player that looked like a potential all-Big 12 guy last season to Just A Guy this season. Christian James hasn’t been bad, and Jamuni McNeace and Khadeem Lattin hold their own in the paint, but by and large Young’s supporting cast has not been providing enough support while Young has been in this slump.

The question of whether or not Oklahoma can turn this around is not quite so simple unless you know the reason for Young’s struggles. Has he simply found himself in a place where the grind of a full season of college basketball and two months of Big 12 play — a league where every team has a good-to-great player at the point — has worn him down physically and mentally, or has the blueprint for how to beat the Sooners become too prevalent?

Or is it all of the above?

If Young is gassed, that’s an issue that, in theory, can be solved.

If the Sooners, are a flawed roster that cannot function or win games when opponents sell out to stop their superstar freshman, that isn’t as easy to deal with. Rest can solve the former. You’re not solving the latter, you’re not bring more talent into the program, while Young is still on campus.

At 16-10 overall and 6-8 in the Big 12, Oklahoma still looks like a pretty safe bet to reach the NCAA tournament. For starters, they were listed as a No. 4 seed just six days ago when the Selection Committee unveiled their first iteration of the top 16 seeds. They also have six Quadrant 1 wins and no bad losses to their name. Their won-loss record is a casualty of the Big 12 meat-grinder.

But that doesn’t mean they are safe. If they finish up the Big 12 season going 1-3 — which is feasible given how they’ve played the last month and their remaining opponents: at Kansas, Kansas State, at Baylor, Oklahoma State — then they’ll be 7-11 in the league. No one in more than 25 years has reached the NCAA tournament with a league record four games under .500.

The Sooners aren’t doomed yet.

But it is time for them to figure their issues out.

PHOTOS: Miami, Syracuse wear shirts honoring Florida shooting victims

Photo via Mike Waters, Syracuse.com
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Syracuse is playing in Miami on Saturday, the first game that the Hurricanes have played at home since the shooting at Parkland, Florida’s, Stoneman Douglas High School.

Both teams wore warmup shirts honoring the victims of the shooting prior to the game:

Parkland and Coral Gables are about 50 miles apart, but both towns are suburbs with the same Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area.

St. John’s guard Lovett to leave school, turn pro

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Marcus Lovett announced on Saturday morning that he will be leaving St. John’s to pursue a professional career.

This decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Lovett, who averaged 14.9 points through the first seven games of the season, was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury despite reports that he was healthy enough to play.

According to the New York Post, Lovett was not even enrolled in school for the spring semester.

Lovett spent three seasons in New York with the Johnnies and played less than a year and a half.

Yale’s Makai Mason expected to play vs. Harvard

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For the first time since the 2016 NCAA tournament, Yale basketball fans are going to have a chance to see Makai Mason play for the Bulldogs.

A star point guard that is already committed to play for Baylor as a grad transfer in 2018-19, Mason missed all of the 2016-17 season and the 2017-18 season to date with a series of foot injuries.

As a sophomore, Mason averaged 16.0 points and 3.8 assists for the Bulldogs as they won the Ivy League and knocked off Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed. He had 31 points in that win.

The Elis are currently 5-4 in the Ivy League after beating Dartmouth on Friday night. With Mason back in the fold, they seem like a safe bet to get to the Ivy League tournament and a contender to win it all.

The way that Ivy League rules are written, players are not allowed to redshirt, even if they are injured for the season. Since Mason was in classes as a junior, during the season that he missed, this year is the last year that he would be allowed to play for an Ivy League program.