Chris Mack

Bubble Banter: Xavier misses out on a big win

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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. 

Xavier finished up their regular season on Thursday night, and it wasn’t a happy occasion.

The Musketeers lost to Villanova at home, their second straight defeat, their fourth loss in the last seven games and their seventh loss in their last 12 games. They have a pair of top 15 wins, beating Cincinnati by 17 and knocking off Creighton last week, but they were swept by No. 145 Seton Hall and lost to No. 177 USC in the Bahamas.

The Muskies are 8-8 against the top 100, but they’ve been hurt by the fact that Tennessee, Providence and Georgetown have all fallen out of the top 50 in recent weeks.

Is that an NCAA tournament profile?

RELATED: Which bubble teams missed the cut in our latest bracket projection?

Maybe. It’s certainly not strong enough to be considered a lock, which is why Xavier’s season will come down to their performance in the Big East tournament. Regardless of how the final weekend plays you, the Musketeers will get a first round game against another one of the Big East’s bubble teams, and they simply cannot afford to lose it. Even then, a loss in the Big East semifinals would likely leave Xavier sweating out Selection Sunday.


Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs have a win at Oklahoma and a 25-6 record with their worst loss coming during the two month stretch when Raheem Appleby was out with an ankle injury. But they’ll need quite a bit of credit for playing without Appleby, as their RPI is weak and they have just four top 100 wins.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles earned a share of the Conference USA regular season title on Thursday night. They have a strong RPI (35) and a gaudy record (23-5), but with just one top 50 win and four top 100 wins to go along with a pair of sub 100 losses, USM will want to earn an automatic bid if they want in.

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.