Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners

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There are eight 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.

Our latest bracket projection can be found here.

WINNERS:

Oregon: I’m not sure if Oregon was still on the bubble entering Saturday’s date with No. 3 Arizona, but they sure aren’t after knocking off the Wildcats in Eugene.

St. John’s: The Johnnies picked up a double-overtime win at Marquette that they absolutely couldn’t afford to lose. It’s their sixth top 100 win and just their second away from home. But with just one top 50 win on their resume (Creighton), an RPI of 64 and two sub-100 losses, Steve Lavin’s crew is going to have some work to do in the Big East tournament if they still want to dance.

Tennessee: In a matchup that was billed as a de-facto NCAA tournament play-in game, the Vols jumped all over Missouri, pounding the Tigers 72-45. With the win, Tennessee improves to 7-7 against the top 100, but they have just two top 50 wins and four sub-100 losses. In other words, this victory certainly does not lock up a bid for Tennessee. They need to win at least one game, and maybe two, in the SEC tournament to avoid sweating out Selection Sunday.

MOREBrowse through all of our conference tournament previews

Stanford: The Cardinal entered Saturday having lost their last three games after knocking off UCLA, and they nearly lost to Utah, surviving a one-point win after blowing a big second half lead. But a win is a win, and this win should be enough to keep the Cardinal in the NCAA tournament for now. They have four top 50 wins, six top 100 wins and just one loss to a sub-100 team that came on the road in league play. Winning their first game in the Pac-12 tournament would make Selection Sunday much less stressful.

Pitt: How lucky are the Panthers? They scored five points in the final 2.4 seconds — a Lamar Patterson three and a short jumper from Josh Newkirk after Clemson turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds — to force overtime before pulling away from Clemson to land a much-needed road win. It’s the sixth top 100 win for the Panthers, although their best win on the season is still No. 47 Stanford. It’s an empty profile, and beating Clemson isn’t going to change that, but with six of their eight losses coming to top 25 foes — and the other two coming against top 75 opponents — Pitt is still in a pretty good spot. Perhaps more than any other team on the bubble, Pitt cannot afford a loss in the first round of their conference tournament.

Cal: The Bears quite simply had to beat Colorado at home on Saturday, and while it took overtime to get the job done, Mike Montgomery’s boys got the win they needed. It’s their fourth top 50 win — which includes their win over Arizona — and improves their record against the top 100 to 7-11. Their work isn’t done yet, however. The Bears probably don’t want to risk losing their opener in the Pac-12 tournament.

BYU: The Cougars handled their business against LMU in the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament, meaning that they no longer are at risk of suffering a loss to a sub-100 opponent. A win over San Francisco would push them to 8-6 against the top 100 with wins against Texas, Stanford and Gonzaga. Getting to the finals should be enough, although they may be able to withstand a loss in the semifinals.

WATCH: Doug McDermott’s scores 3,000th point, career-high on Senior Night

Dayton: The Flyers have won nine of their last ten games, including wins over UMass, Saint Louis and, on Saturday, Richmond to close out the season. Dayton now has an 8-6 record against the top 100, an RPI in the top 50 and four top 50 wins, which is enough to get them on the right side of the bubble as of today. Avoid a bad loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament, and the Flyers will likely host a game in the First Four.

Gonzaga: The Zags survived a battle from Santa Clara in the WCC’s quarterfinals, advancing when David Stockton hit a driving layup with 1.4 seconds left. The win was important for Gonzaga because their profile is not all that strong. They’re 8-4 against the top 100, but have just a single top 50 win and two losses to teams ranked outside the top 150.

West Virginia: A win over Kansas gets the Mountaineers back into the conversation, but with just a 5-12 record against the top 100 and 14 losses on the season, this group still has a lot of work to do. They might need a run to the finals of the Big 12 tournament.

LOSERS:

Georgetown: The Hoyas entered Saturday afternoon as one of a handful of teams sitting right on the bubble’s cutline but with a chance to go into Philly and knock No. 6 Villanova, a potential No. 1 seed. It didn’t go well. Georgetown got smoked, meaning that they’ll enter the Big East tournament with a 17-13 record and an 8-10 mark in the Big East. The Hoyas have three top 25 wins and five top 50 wins, but they were swept by Seton Hall this season and lost to Northeastern back in November. Here’s the bigger concern: all of a sudden, the Hoyas are looking at a situation where they will have 14 losses on Selection Sunday if they don’t win the Big East’s automatic bid. That’s a lot of losses.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks suffered their second loss to a sub-100 team, getting blown out on the road by Alabama on Saturday. Throw in Kentucky’s recent collapse, and all of a sudden their profile doesn’t look quite as strong. They have four top 50 wins — including one at Rupp — and are 8-8 against the top 100.

Missouri: The Tigers were one of a handful of teams sitting on the bubble’s cutline entering Saturday. They badly needed a win over fellow bubbler Tennessee on Saturday, and instead they went out and lost by 27. Missouri is now 7-8 against the top 100, but their only top 50 wins are against Tennessee and UCLA. The good news for Missouri is that this loss doesn’t hurt their profile all that much. Losing to an RPI top 50 team on the road isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like the Vols, they have work to do in the SEC tournament if they want to dance.

Providence: Losing at Creighton on Doug McDermott’s Senior Night is not a knock on a team’s resume, so this loss doesn’t make the Friars worse off as they head into the Big East tournament. The issue is that they lost an opportunity to land a marquee win, which would have made Selection Sunday so much less stressful. As it is, the Friars probably need a win or two at the Garden to feel comfortable. They’re 6-10 against the top 100 with a notable home win over the Bluejays, a bad loss to Seton Hall and a mediocre RPI (55).

Utah: The Utes had a chance to beat Stanford on the road on Saturday, but they ended up losing by one after being unable to get a shot off on their final possession. Utah had four top 50 wins and a 6-9 record against the top 100, but with their non-conference SOS checking in at 346th, they needed this win to have a real shot of earning an at-large bid.

Green Bay: The Phoenix are talented. Kiefer Sykes is as athletic as point guards come and Alec Brown is an NBA prospect. But Green Bay lost to Milwaukee in the Horizon semifinals, putting them in a position where they’re likely headed to the NIT. They’re 24-6 overall with a win over Virginia, but they have just four top 50 wins and three losses to sub-150 teams. Such is the life of a mid-major.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles were a good way off of the bubble’s cut line entering the day. At this point, they are probably going to need to win the automatic bid to dance.

Colorado: The Buffaloes have a strong enough profile to dance, but the concern is how it will be weighed in their time without Spencer Dinwiddie. They had a shot to beat Cal in regulation and in overtime at the buzzer, but failed to do so. Most projections have Colorado in the dance and missing the First Four.

Bubble games still to be played:

  • 9:00 Santa Clara at Gonzaga

VIDEO: De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo inconsolable after Elite 8 loss

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Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox, the two freshmen on Kentucky’s roster that aren’t Malik Monk, were sitting next to each other in the locker room following Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina on Sunday night, and the Wildcat stars were inconsolable.

As weird as this may sound, and as tough as that video is to watch at times, I love it. The problem with one-and-done kids is that it, at times, feels like they’re mercenaries, that they are players that are strictly in college because they have to be, because they can’t make millions in the NBA yet.

Fox and Adebayo certainly do fall into that category, but it doesn’t come with the typical shortcomings.

They clearly care about their school, about their teammates and about that loss.

I’ve grown cynical, I guess, and while I’ll readily admit that video was too tough for me to watch in its entirety, it is refreshing to see just how much they care.

Even if they are only making a seven month stop over in Lexington.

VIDEO: Kentucky, UNC fans react to insane finish to Elite 8 game

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The finish last night between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky was one of the greatest and most exhilarating endings to a basketball that we’ve seen in the NCAA tournament.

It was capped by Luke Maye answering Malik Monk’s jumper with a jumper of his own, sending the Tar Heels to the Final Four for the second straight season.

That’s a roller coaster of emotions to go through in 10 seconds, and perhaps no one embodies that more than the dude in the No. 11 jersey here:

(Does anyone know him? Can we confirm he’s OK?)

Anyway, that emotion was nothing compared to what the Kentucky team went through. De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo were inconsolable in the locker room after the game:

North Carolina fans, however, were just a little bit happier:

Like his career, Frank Martin has built South Carolina from the ground up

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NEW YORK — It was after he finished watching South Carolina cut down the Madison Square Garden nets, after he had spent the better part of 30 minutes giving interviews on the court, after he was spotted by the CBS cameras, with a fist raised and tears pooling under his eyes, that the enormity of what he had just witnessed hit Darius Rucker.

“Gosh,” he said to everyone and no one in particular as he left the arena floor and made his way through the bowels of the Garden, “I can’t believe that just happened.”

The ‘that’ that Rucker, South Carolina’s most famous and, quite possibly, biggest fan, was referring to was a 77-70, come-from behind win over No. 4 seed Florida that jettisoned the seventh-seeded Gamecocks through the Elite 8 and into the Final Four. Prior to this season, the Gamecocks hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years. They had been to four NCAA tournaments in the previous 43 seasons, and they had never won back-to-back tournament game.

As in not ever.

“We’re in the Garden, watching the Gamecocks play to go to the Final Four,” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that ten years ago I’d have told you that you were on crack.”

That’s the program that Frank Martin inherited in 2012, when he left Kansas State following a falling out with his athletic director, John Currie. Like South Carolina, Kansas State was hardly considered a destination job when Martin was at the helm, but he was able to build off of a foundation created by Bob Huggins. Martin had been to four NCAA tournaments in five years with Kansas State when he made the decision to leave. Nothing is more important to Martin than loyalty. “He’s always had a core group of people that he’s counted on,” his agent, Bret Just, said, and Currie was not one of those people.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came during the 2012 NCAA tournament. Kansas State was a No. 8 seed, squaring off with No. 1 seed Syracuse when Martin was informed by Currie that Jamar Samuels, one of his best players, would not be allowed to suit up. The school had stumbled upon information that Samuels had received a wire transfer for $200 from his AAU coach, and he was going to be suspended.

And that was that.

Martin was off to South Carolina.

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“It was a situation where we had to go,” associate head coach Matt Figger, who has been with Martin for the last decade, said, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest or smartest decision to leave. Most understood why Martin had to make the change that he made — he was offered a hefty raise and he had the chance to leave a place of employment where he did not get along with his boss — but it wasn’t as if Martin was climbing the ladder. If anything, South Carolina was a step backwards, as Martin took over a program with less pedigree and with a significant building job in front of them.

“I didn’t really know until I got into it. It was a much different deal. It looked easier on the surface than what it really was,” Figger said. “The best players transferred. Bruce Ellington, he’s with the 49ers now, he was the one guy that we could trust and he played football half the year. Couple of the guys that were the holdovers, I don’t think they believed in what our vision was. After a year, some of them left.”

“We had to start this from scratch.”

The process was slow in the early stages. Martin replaced Darrin Horn, who had won just 10 games and finished dead last in the SEC in his final season on campus, and didn’t post a .500 record until his third season in Columbia. Even then, that team went just 17-16. He won 15 SEC games in his first three years combined. After a late season swoon cost South Carolina a shot at the 2016 NCAA tournament, there was speculation that another year without a trip to the Big Dance could spell the end of Martin’s time with the Gamecocks.

“It was hard!” Martin’s wife, Anya, said. “You see he’s losing his hair. It’s all turning white. It was tough in the beginning. I had to ask him a couple of times, ‘Why here?’”

The easy answer is that it wasn’t Kansas State, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Martin is not a man that is afraid of a challenge. He’s not intimidated by a job that isn’t easy to do, not when you come from where he’s come from, when you’ve coached on the path that he has coached.

Martin got his first job when he was 12 years old, working at a Dairy Queen to help his mom pay the bills when his dad walked out on them. His coaching career started a year after he graduated high school, when he was just 19 years old.

“I tore my ACL the year before,” Martin said, “and my high school coach asked me to come help him, because the kids in the neighborhood respected me so much.”

He was nothing more than an assistant with the team at Miami Senior High School, helping out when and where he could, when the head coach of the JV team didn’t show up for work one day. Shakey Rodriguez, a legend in the Miami High School basketball community, told Martin he would be coaching that day, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“By his second season,” Martin’s mother, Lourdes, beaming as she held back tears of joy, said, “he was 22-0.”

Even as Martin was coaching, he was still working on the side, most famously as a bouncer in Miami’s nightclub scene. He needed a degree, so he took night classes at Miami-Dade College before enrolling part-time at FIU. His future was capped if he didn’t graduate.

“He made it out,” she added, holding on to her grandson to steady herself as the moment washed over her. “He had many, many jobs, and then God was up there and blessed him.”

Martin would go from the high school ranks to Northeastern, taking a paycut just to get his foot in the door. He spent four years as an assistant and met his wife — “My wife turned me down seven times to go out on a date,” he said. “Seven. Seven. And the day she made the mistake of going out on a date with me, I never let her go.” — before moving on to Cincinnati, where he joined forces with Bob Huggins, spending two seasons with the Bearcats before following Huggins to Kansas State. He replaced Huggins as Kansas State’s head coach a year after joining the program and just seven years after he joined the collegiate coaching ranks. He would take the Wildcats to more NCAA tournaments in his five seasons at the helm than they had been to in the previous two decades combined.

“Frank’s never steered away from a challenge as long as I’ve known him,” Anya said. “He’s overcome any obstacle in his way, just ‘I’m going to make it work.'”

“He’s a builder,” Just said.

And he’s done just that at South Carolina.

“I’m happy as any mom could be,” Lourdes said. “Speechless, but not all the way. I have to talk to him about my air ticket.”

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Martin spoke many times about the dream of leading this team to this moment, but he didn’t always believe that the dream of taking the Gamecocks to the Final Four was a realistic possibility.

“When we beat Duke, Frank said ‘Why not us?’” Figgers said, a motto that had become something of a rallying cry for the Gamecocks during the East Regional. “That’s the first time we really talked about [winning a title].”

The team and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones that never really gave this possibility much thought. College basketball at large — the fans, the media, opposing coaches — all had the same thought: “South Carolina in the Final Four? The same team that put up 86 points in four overtimes against Alabama? Lulz.”

They showed us.

Over and over again.

South Carolina’s star guard Sindarius Thornwell, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the East Region, mentioned in every press conference this weekend that no one paid attention to or respected the program prior to this run. Martin ranted earlier this year about the lack of local media coverage his team gets, particularly when they play on the road.

At this point in the season, most players get burned out of the media attention they get, answering the same questions over and over and over again.

I don’t blame them.

On Sunday evening, after spending 25 minutes up on the dais for a postgame press conference, Thornwell was finally en route back to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he was pulled aside by a television reporter that needed just a couple more minutes of his time.

Thornwell, decked out in a East Regional Champs shirt and hat with the remnants of a net dangling around his neck, didn’t mind.

“You gotta talk a lot,” Thornwell said, “when you win.”

Drake hires Furman’s Niko Medved to be new head coach

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Drake has hired Furman head coach Niko Medved to the same position, the school announced on Sunday.

The 43-year-old Medved has led the Paladins to back-to-back CIT appearances as he’s been the head coach there for four seasons. Also an assistant coach at Minnesota and Colorado State, Medved is a noted recruiter.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity to be the next men’s basketball coach at Drake University,” Medved said in the release. “Drake University’s tremendous reputation partnered with its strong leadership and the thriving Des Moines community make this a special place.  I was born and raised in the Midwest and have so many strong roots in this part of the country.  My family and I can’t wait to get started.”

Medved was named the Southern Conference’s 2017 Coach of the Year for helping lead Furman to the regular-season title in the league.

The Bulldogs are coming off a last-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference as former head coach Ray Giacoletti was relieved of his duties in January. Drake only has one NCAA Tournament appearance since 1971 (coming in 2008) as the Bulldogs have struggled to remain relevant in a tough league.

VIDEO: North Carolina and Roy Williams dance in locker room after advancing to Final Four

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Watching Roy Williams dance never gets old.

The North Carolina head coach is taking his team back to the Final Four next weekend after the Tar Heels outlasted Kentucky in a thrilling South Regional final.

North Carolina is making its 20th appearance in the Final Four as they are going for the second consecutive season.