Pitt v Syracuse

Bubble Banter: Is Pitt still an NCAA tournament team?

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There are 12 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.

Just for kicks, I’m going to give you a profile of a bubble team. You tell me if you think they’re tournament-worthy:

  • 22-8 overall
  • RPI: 46
  • 5-8 vs. top 100
  • 1-6 vs. top 50, with no wins better than vs. No. 40
  • Non-Con SOS: 243rd

That’s Pitt after they lost to N.C. State at home on Monday night (but before the loss is reflected in their RPI, which means they could end up dropping out of the top 50). The Panthers have literally done nothing of note this season, feasting on a weak non-conference schedule before notching just four top 100 wins in ACC play. Their best win of the season came against Stanford on a neutral floor.

Is that strong enough to be considered a lock for the tournament? Well, let’s just say they may want to avoid losing at Clemson on Saturday or in the first round of the ACC tournament.

Here’s the comforting fact for the Panthers: losing at home to N.C. State, a top 75 team in the RPI, is their worse loss of the season. Dayton is the first team out in Dave Ommen’s bracket update from Monday morning. Their RPI is 49, and while they’ve beaten three teams with better RPIs than Pitt has, they’ve also lost to three teams outside the top 130, including to USC at home.

Pitt’s resume is empty, but there are a lot of unimpressive resumes this season. The question becomes this: do you value good wins or a lack of bad losses more?

MONDAY’S BUBBLE ACTION: After landing a massive win over Creighton on Saturday, Xavier (RPI: 46, KenPom: 41) looked like they had played their way off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament.

Monday night changed that.

For starters, the Musketeers suffered their third sub-140 loss of the season as they were significantly outplayed in a 71-62 loss at Seton Hall. That drops Xavier to 20-10 overall and 10-7 in the Big East with their last game of the regular season being a visit from Villanova. Lose to Villanova and drop a game early in the Big East tournament, and all of a sudden Xavier is in real danger of winding up on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. That’s what happens when your three top 50 wins are outweighed by three ugly losses.

Here’s the bigger concern, however: Matt Stainbrook, Xavier’s starting center, leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, went down in a heap after injuring his left knee. The status of the injury won’t be known until tomorrow, but it seems very unlikely that Stainbrook will be back any time soon.

After looking like they had locked up a bid, Xavier is right back in danger of heading to the NIT.

  • N.C. State (RPI: 72, KenPom: 91) still has a lot of work left to do, but they’re not out of the picture just yet after that win at Pitt.
  • Oklahoma State (RPI: , KenPom: 27), for my money, has locked themselves into a bid after following up the win over Kansas by beating Kansas State. One more win — which would either be at Iowa State or in the first round of the Big 12 tournament — should convince everyone else.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.