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Bubble Banter: Colorado, Dayton the day’s biggest winners

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There are 11 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.


Dayton: The Flyers are suddenly in a great position to earn a bid after they went into Saint Louis and knocked off the Billikens on Wednesday night. We wrote about them here.

Arkansas: All of a sudden, the Razorbacks look like they’re the third-best team in the SEC, and the only team not named Florida or Kentucky to feel comfortable about their NCAA tournament standing as of today. They’ve now won six straight games — including one in Rupp Arena — and have just a single, one-point loss since February 1st. They have four top 50 wins, are 9-8 against the top 100 and only have a single ugly loss on their resume. The SEC is bad enough, however, that Arkansas probably can’t afford to lose to the likes of Alabama, who they play this weekend. But they’re in good shape.

Colorado: The Buffaloes moved to 7-6 without Spencer Dinwiddie in the lineup, picking up a win over sputtering Stanford in Palo Alto. Their final game of the regular season is at Cal, which means that the Buffs are probably in a position to withstand a loss. They have five top 50 wins, terrific computer numbers and a win over Kansas. What’s going to determine their standing is how the committee views their performance post-Dinwiddie.

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers won at Indiana, which was a step in the right direction but it wasn’t a stamp on their ticket to the dance. Not yet. They’re 3-7 against the top 50 and have three ugly losses. Wisconsin heads to Lincoln on Saturday. Win that, and we’ll talk.

Tennessee and Missouri: The Vols put a whipping on Auburn at Auburn while Missouri needed a couple of beneficial whistles down the stretch to handle Texas A&M at home. But that doesn’t matter as much as the fact that both teams were able to land a win, which leaves them in the same position: needing a win when they square off in Knoxville this weekend. Both teams are currently sitting in the realm of the Last Four In.

Utah: The Utes are still in the conversation after beating Cal on the road on Wednesday. They have five top 50 wins, they’re 6-8 against the top 100 and they still have a chance to land another quality road win at Stanford this weekend. The problem? They played no one outside of the league. Their non-conference SOS is 346th, which just brutalizes their computer numbers. They will still have some work to do in the Pac-12 tourney even with a win over the Cardinal.


Stanford: The Cardinal are suddenly in a bad spot. They beat UCLA two weeks ago, which put them in a terrific spot to earn a bid down the stretch of the season. But they’ve lost three in a row since then and are suddenly looking at the possibility of playing their way out of the dance. They have four top 30 wins and just one bad loss, but their record against the top 100 is now just 6-10. They’re probably still avoiding the First Four, but they need to be Utah this weekend to avoid a potentially messy situation in the Pac-12 tournament.

Cal: Not a good night for the Bay Area Pac-12 schools. Utah had one road win on the season before Wednesday, and the Utes picked off Cal in Haas Pavilion. The Bears have now lost eight of their last 12 games, they’re 4-8 against the top 50 (although they did beat Arizona) and they lost a pair of games to sub-100 teams. In other words, Cal is in a bad, bad spot. They host Colorado on Saturday. Lose that game, and the Bears could very well head into the Pac-12 tournament on the wrong side of the bubble.

Saint Joseph’s: The Hawks had a chance to lock up a bid with a win at George Washington, but they weren’t able to get it. GW is a top 30 team, and a loss on the road to a top 30 team certainly doesn’t hurt St. Joe’s profile. They’ve got four top 50 wins (including VCU and UMass, who are both in the top 25), but they didn’t do much outside of the league. They get La Salle at home this weekend. It would behoove Phil Martelli to win that game.

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.

No. 24 Cincinnati beats George Washington 61-56

Troy Caupain
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NEW YORK (AP) Troy Caupain scored 16 points, including the go-ahead three-point play with 1:38 to play, and No. 24 Cincinnati beat George Washington 61-56 on Saturday in the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic.

The fact the game came down to a three-point play was ironic as both teams took 22 3-point attempts and there were times it seemed a 3-point shooting broke out.

Caupain’s traditional three-point play gave the Bearcats (7-0) a 55-54 lead. After a missed 3 by the Colonials (6-1) Octavius Ellis, who chosen the tournament MVP, scored on a tip-in. Patricio Garino scored on a drive for George Washington with 29 seconds left.

The Colonials let the Bearcats pass the ball around and they finally fouled when Ellis touched the ball with 14 seconds to play. Ellis, a 56 percent free throw shooter, clinched his MVP award by making both for a 59-56 lead. Two free throws by Caupain with 6.1 seconds left capped the scoring.

Farad Cobb and Kevin Johnson both had 11 points for the Bearcats while Ellis had nine points and seven rebounds.

Garino had 15 points for George Washington, Tyler Cavanaugh had 13 and Joe McDonald 11.

The Colonials finished 11 of 22 from 3-point range, not bad for a team that came in shooting 27.9 percent (29 of 104) from there. The 50 percent doesn’t look so good when you consider the Colonials made five of their first six 3-point attempts and were 8 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half. They went 16:42 between 2-point field goals but led 30-27 at halftime.

The Bearcats were 7 of 22 from 3-point range but their advantage came at the free throw line where they were 10 of 12 compared to George Washington’s 3 of 4.


George Washington: The Colonials beat Tennessee in the opening round and they were 3 of 15 on 3s. … George Washington was off to its best start since it was8-0 in 2005-06. … The Colonials finished 10 for 34 from 2-point range.

Cincinnati: The win gives the Bearcats a 13-1 all-time record against George Washington and this was their sixth straight. The last win came on Jan. 31, 1976. … Cincinnati is 7-0 for the fourth time in the last six seasons. … The Bearcats are 51-8 in and have won 24 of 25 in November under coach Mick Cronin. They have won 49 straight games when scoring over 60 points. The 60th point against the Colonials came with 6.1 seconds to play.


George Washington hosts Seton Hall on Wednesday.

Cincinnati hosts Butler on Wednesday.