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.

WINNERS

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.

LOSERS

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.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.