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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

WEEKLY AWARDS: West Virginia shines again, but it’s time to pay attention to Oregon

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) drives past Arizona forward Ryan Anderson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dillon Brooks, Oregon

The Pac-12 may not be as strong at the top as the other power conferences in college basketball, but there may not be a league in the country that is as balanced. There are as many as ten teams that are still in the running for an NCAA tournament bid, and the difference between No. 2 and No. 10 is really not all that drastic.

I say No. 2 because, at this point, I think that the Ducks are the clear-cut best team in the conference. They proved that this week, as they mollywhopped Colorado in Eugene and followed that up with a double-figure win over Utah. Dillon Brooks looked like an All-American on Sunday, putting 30 points and nine assists on the Utes, who had the reputation of being one of the better defensive teams in the conference entering the day.

Brooks’ offensive arsenal is just silly, but his name doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as some of the other stars in college basketball, probably for the same reason Oregon is flying under the radar. They were injured early and suffered a couple of ugly losses early in the year, to UNLV in Las Vegas and at Boise State. But they’ve won six in a row in the league (how about this run: USC, UCLA, at Arizona, at Arizona State, Colorado, Utah) and nine of their last ten. I think Oregon is Final Four good. Let’s see if anyone else picks up on it.

THE ‘ALL THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Brandon Sherrod, Yale: Sherrod broke the NCAA record of consecutive field goals made in Friday night’s win over Columbia, when he scored 25 points and grabbed eight boards. He had made 30 straight shots since January 16th.
  • Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State: Iwundu had 15 points, five boards and five assists in a loss at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but he made this list for the 22 points and seven assists he had in the win over No. 1 Oklahoma, when he also was tasked with guarding Buddy Hield, who he “held” to 23 points.
  • Darryl Reynolds, Villanova: Reynolds had 13 boards in a win over Creighton during the week and followed that up with 19 points and 10 boards in the win at Providence. He entered the week averaging just 2.3 points with a reputation for being little more than the reason that Daniel Ochefu needed to play so many minutes.
  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona: The 31 points and 12 boards at Washington State were nice. The 22 points and 15 boards at Washington were even better. The road sweep that Arizona landed? The best.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: Maybe it’s Virginia’s struggles on the road. Maybe it’s because they’re a “boring” team to watch. Maybe it’s because their pace keeps his numbers down a bit. Whatever the case may be, no one is paying near enough attention to how good Brogdon has been this season. Myself included. He was terrific against in wins against Boston College and at Pitt this week.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: West Virginia Mountaineers

Here we are, the morning after the Super Bowl has ended, and none other than West Virginia is leading the Big 12.

Seriously.

It’s West Virginia.

Not Oklahoma. Not Kansas. Not Iowa State. West Virginia.

And I know what your initial reaction is going to be. “A schedule fluke”, right? Well, no. Not really. The Mountaineers beat Kansas at home. They lost to Oklahoma in Norman on a tip-in by Khadeem Lattin at the buzzer. This week alone they won at Iowa State and beat Baylor in impressive fashion in Morgantown. Bobby Huggins has this team playing some great basketball, and when they’re forcing turnovers, crashing the glass and getting Jaysean Paige to play like an all-Big 12 guard, they’re tough to beat.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Michigan State: The Spartans are back. After seeing Michigan State go into Ann Arbor and work over the Wolverines, I feel pretty comfortable saying that.
  • Louisville: The Cardinals got rocked by the news of their postseason ban, and responded by blowing out Boston College on Saturday. So good for them. The win over North Carolina was nice, too.
  • Texas: The Longhorns kicked off the week by winning at Baylor and followed that up with a better-than-you-think win over Texas Tech.
  • Oregon: Like we mentioned earlier, no one in the country is playing better ball right now than the Ducks.
  • Maryland: The Terps not only picked up a win at Nebraska during the week, but they also held serve against Purdue at home over the weekend, which gave them their second top 50 win of the season.

SET YOUR DVR

No. 10 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 14 West Virginia at No. 7 Kansas, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
No. 5 Iowa at No. 22 Indiana, Thu. 9:00 p.m.
No. 7 Kansas at No. 1 Oklahoma, Sat. 2:30 p.m.
Gonzaga at No. 12 SMU, Sat. 10:00 p.m.
No. 22 Indiana at No. 10 Michigan State, Sun. 1:00 p.m.
USC at No. 23 Arizona, Sun. 9:00 p.m.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY: Oklahoma leads final push toward Selection Sunday

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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With the Super Bowl in our rear-view mirror, eyes turn toward Selection Sunday – apologies to the diehard baseball fans who toss in the start of Spring Training ahead of March Madness.  Anyway, we’re a month away from the annual NCAA Tournament Selection Show and few bracket positions have been secured.  If you’re just joining the college hoops landscape, it’s been that type of season.  Welcome, by the way.

Oklahoma continues to lead the Field of 68, but the No. 1 seed line is far from certain.  At this point a year ago, we pretty much knew that Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Duke would be No. 1 seeds.  This year, we can’t lock anyone into place. Positioning along the top three lines is very much in flux, even if we have a good idea about the contenders.  The bubble is no different.  Strap on your seatbelt; it could be a bumpy ride to the finish.

As a reminder, Louisville self-imposed a post-season ban last Friday, which eliminates the Cardinals from bracket consideration.  SMU did the same before the season.  Thus, two at-large teams will be Dancing on Selection Sunday courtesy of the Cards and Mustangs.  Today, those two teams are Clemson and Saint Joseph’s.  In the Tigers’ case, a solid group of ACC wins (mostly at home) is lifting up non-conference schedule ranked No. 341.  Ultimately, that could cost Clemson a month from now – we’ve seen it before.  When a team goes 7-5 against one of the worst non-conference schedules in the nation, it takes an exceptional conference season to overcome the disparity.

Enjoy your week of college hoops.  You can find the complete Seed List at Bracketville.

UPDATED: February 8, 2016

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid. In the event of a tie in the loss column, RPI is first tiebreaker. Notes: To simulate actual bracket conditions, we’ve used current conference leaders to receive the automatic bid. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (ex: UCLA)

Several new bracketing principles were introduced a couple of years ago. 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)

  • Cincinnati vs. Saint Joseph’s | Midwest Region
  • Clemson vs. George Washington | East Region
  • BUCKNELL vs. WAGNER | Midwest Region
  • HAMPTON vs. TEXAS-SOUTHERN | South Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Louisville MIDWEST – Chicago                            
Oklahoma City Des Moines
1) OKLAHOMA 1) Kansas
16) TX-SOUTHERN / HAMPTON 16) BUCKNELL / WAGNER
8) WICHITA STATE 8) VCU
9) Colorado 9) Syracuse
Raleigh Denver
5) DAYTON 5) Arizona
12) VALPARAISO 12) MONMOUTH
4) Miami-FL 4) Texas AM
13) AKRON 13) ARK-LITTLE ROCK
Spokane St. Louis
6) Providence 6) Baylor
11) SAINT MARY’S 11) Cincinnati / St. Joseph’s
3) OREGON 3) Michigan State
14) UAB 14) NC-WILMINGTON
Brooklyn St. Louis
7) Duke 7) Pittsburgh
10) Seton Hall 10) Washington
2) Maryland 2) Xavier
15) BELMONT 15) NEW MEXICO ST
EAST – Philadelphia         WEST – Anaheim
Brooklyn Des Moines
1) VILLANOVA 1) IOWA
16) NORTH FLORIDA 16) MONTANA
8) CONNECTICUT 8) Florida State
9) Florida 9) SAN DIEGO ST
Providence Spokane
5) Kentucky 5) USC
12) Clemson / Geo Washington 12) CHATTANOOGA
4) Purdue 4) Texas
13) STONY BROOK 13) UC-IRVINE
Providence Denver
6) Notre Dame 6) Utah
11) LSU 11) Gonzaga
3) WEST VIRGINIA 3) Iowa State
14) YALE 14) SO. DAKOTA ST
Raleigh Raleigh
7) Indiana 7) South Carolina
10) California 10) Michigan
2) Virginia 2) NORTH CAROLINA
15) NC-ASHEVILLE 15) S.F. AUSTIN

NOTES on the BRACKET: Oklahoma is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Kansas, Iowa, and Villanova.  Next in line: Virginia, North Carolina, Xavier, Maryland

Last Four Byes (at large): California, Seton Hall, Michigan, Gonzaga

Last Four IN (at large): Cincinnati, George Washington, Clemson, Saint Joseph’s

First Four OUT (at large): Oregon State, Butler, UCLA, Wisconsin

Next four teams OUT (at large): Georgia, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Temple

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): NORTH CAROLINA, Virginia, Miami-FL, Notre Dame, Duke, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Syracuse, Clemson

Pac 12 (7): OREGON, USC, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Washington, California

Big 12 (6): WEST VIRGINIA, Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, Baylor

Big 10 (6): IOWA, Maryland, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Michigan

SEC (5): LSU, Texas AM, Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Providence, Seton Hall

Atlantic 10 (4): DAYTON, VCU, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s

American (2): CONNECTICUT, Cincinnati

West Coast (2): SAINT MARY’S, Gonzaga

Mountain West (1): SAN DIEGO STATE

MAAC (1): MONMOUTH

Missouri Valley (1): WICHITA STATE

ONE BID LEAGUES: UAB (C-USA), Ark-Little Rock (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), Stephen F. Austin (SLND), Chattanooga (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Akron (MAC), North Florida (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), UNC-Asheville (BSO), Hampton (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Stony Brook (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)