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.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.