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

Tumble continues for Oklahoma as No. 8 Kansas cruises to win

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Oklahoma desperately needed a win. Not even necessarily in the classic sense of the term of outscoring your opponent. The Sooners just needed something, anything, positive to build on in a season that’s suddenly crumbling around them.

Unfortunately for Long Kruger and his team, Allen Fieldhouse is not the place to go when you’re in need of a pick-me-up. It’s a place more suited for realizing your worst nightmares.

Eighth-ranked Kansas eviscerated the Sooners in a 104-74 beatdown that not only exposed Oklahoma’s problems but exacerbated them to the point where the NCAA tournament no longer looks to be assured.

Oh, and it set up a potential Big 12 title game in Lubbock later this week with a 13-year streak on the line, but more on that later.

The headline here is that Oklahoma and the man who set college basketball ablaze, Trae Young, look broken. And maybe beyond repair.

Oklahoma has now lost six in a row, tumbling from burgeoning Final Four contender to potential First Four hopeful. Things are spinning out of control fast.

The person who will draw the bulk of the blame, fair or not, is Young. The freshman from Norman North looked like the college basketball’s answer to Steph Curry while carrying his hometown university to a 12-1 start to the year, leading the country in scoring, assists and jaw-dropping plays and performances. The substance of his game matched the style, which was no small feat for a guy who routinely would splash shots from 35 feet out.

He’s been a bit of a disaster during this six-game slide, however. Young is just 11 of 56 (19.6 percent) from 3-point range and 27 of 57 (47.3 percent) from inside the arc during the losing streak. He’s also turned it over 25 times. He’s still distributing at a high-rate, but that’s not enough to offset his shooting numbers. His teammates don’t score it well enough to pick up the slack. They also can’t create for Young. He’s got to do all of it himself – get looks and dole them out.

Young and Oklahoma’s issue runs deeper than just the makes and misses of their offense, though. The Sooners’ defense has become a massive liability. Kansas took a sledgehammer to it and blasted it to smithereens in front of 16,300 witnesses in Allen Fieldhouse and millions more in their living rooms.

The Jayhawks shot 60.9 percent for the game. They made 16 of 29 of their 3-point attempts. That’s 55.2 percent from deep. Nineteen of their buckets came from layups or dunks and averaged 1.444 points per possession.

It was as if the Sooners weren’t there at all, which actually might have been of some consolation to Kruger because that would at least mean no one could see their baffling lack of effort, cohesiveness and pride on the defensive end. It was really a sight to behold for the rest of us, though.

Young is as big of culprit here as anyone. Yes, he carries an incredible offensive burden with a 39.6 usage rate. No one is expecting him to be Jevon Carter, but he has to offer some resistance some of the time. Against the Jayhawks, he died on screens again and again or simply didn’t even put up a fight too often when guarding the ball.

He’s not alone, however, as the Sooners looked disconnected as a unit. They were simply incapable of even slowing Kansas. The Jayhawks got hot, sure, but Oklahoma can’t write this off as just catching a team on a night they couldn’t miss. The Sooners had as much to do with it as anything.

That’s the area that’s got to get fixed. Young may not be able to put up the absurd numbers he did for long stretches earlier this season, but his talent is so immense that it would be foolish to expect this slump to stay this bad for too much longer. Without a superhuman Young, however, they’ve got to get some stops. Without them, Young may join the ignominious list of Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz as pheoms who failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Now, back to that Big 12 title game in West Texas.

Assuming Texas Tech can get in and out of Stillwater with a win over Oklahoma State – potentially without Keenan Evans – the Red Raiders and Jayhawks will be tied atop the Big 12 with matching 11-4 league records with Kansas making the trip to Lubbock.

The Jayhawks, you may have heard, have won 13 consecutive Big 12 regular season championships. It very well could be decided Saturday if there will be a 14th.

After a two-game hiccup of losses at Texas and Iowa State, Chris Beard’s team won seven-straight before falling to a resurgent Baylor on Saturday. They’re undefeated at home and possess one of the country’s best defenses. They’ve been the biggest threat to Kansas’ streak since they knocked off the Jayhawks in Lawrence in January.

The Jayhawks will go into the game with their best offensive performance of the season. Devonte Graham finally looked like he may be the Big 12’s best player – he certainly bested Young – and Svi Mykhailiuk, LeGerald VIck and Malik Newman looked like the more-than-capable secondary options this Jayhawks team desperately needs. Silvio De Sousa even looked serviceable for the first time, putting up 10 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes. Which is also to say nothing of Udoka Azubuike being one of the Big 12’s toughest matchups.

Kansas is a flawed team, but once again the Jayhawks have put themselves in enviable position and appear to be rounding into tip-top form toward the end of February. It’s their conference, and they’ll have the chance this weekend to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma is just trying to stay out of playing Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament. The Sooners sure could use a win. Of any kind.

Bubble Banter: Oklahoma in danger of missing tournament?

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

MIAMI (RPI: 33, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 8): Miami added a fourth Quadrant 1 win on Monday night by going into South Bend and picking off Notre Dame. The Hurricanes are in the conversation as a bubble team for a two reasons — they have a Quadrant 3 loss to Georgia Tech, and they had lost three in a row entering Monday night. What’s interesting with Miami’s profile is that they don’t really have any elite wins. They beat Middle Tennessee State on a neutral. They won at Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Notre Dame. That’s it. Those are their four Quadrant 1 wins. Their profile is probably strong enough to get them in, but I do think there is a world where they get a lower seed than you might be expecting.

MARYLAND (RPI: 54, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: Out): The Terps, who won at Northwestern tonight, seem to be in the mix on most of the places that I go to read about the bubble, and frankly, I just don’t get it. They do not have a Quadrant 1 win. They are 0-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents. In a year where the NCAA Selection Committee showed us just how much they value quality wins already, I’m not sure that they can build a profile that is strong enough to get a bid unless they beat Michigan on Saturday and win a couple of games against the top of the Big Ten in the Big Ten tournament. They’re at least three wins away in my mind. Like I said, I just don’t see it, but I figured it was worth mentioning here on a slow night.

LOSERS

OKLAHOMA (RPI: 36, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 8): Just eight days ago, when the NCAA tournament Selection Committee convened to release an early look at the top 16 seeds for the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma was a No. 4 seed. They were one of the top 16 teams, according to the committee, in an event that will need 36 at-large members to complete it. Going from there to the bubble is a long, long fall, and to be frank, I am not sure that the Sooners are on the bubble yet. Hell, they’re still 16-11 overall even after that embarrassing loss at Kansas. They’re still 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents without a hint of a bad loss to their name. They’ve still beaten USC in LA. They still won at Wichita. They beat Texas Tech. They beat TCU. Hell, they beat Kansas.

For comparison’s sake, our current last team in is Syracuse. They are 18-9 overall and 3-5 against Quadrant 1 with losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.

But we can no longer ignore the fact that this team has hit rock bottom. Tonight was their sixth-straight loss. They have lost seven of eight and nine of 11. They’ve lost eight straight on the road. If the tournament was tomorrow, they would be in the field with some room to spare, but the problem is that there is absolutely no reason for us to assume that they are simply going to be able to get the job done against the teams left on their schedule. It is, admittedly, relatively easy by Big 12 standards — Kansas State, at Baylor, Iowa State — but Big 12 standards are absolutely preposterous.

No one would be surprised if Oklahoma lost two of their last three games — hell, I would be fairly shocked if they found a way to win at Baylor at this point — and if they do happen to lose two of their last three, they’ll enter the Big 12 tournament with a 17-14 record and a 7-11 mark in the league while having to play on the first day of the Big 12 tournament in either the 7-10 or 8-9 game.

If that were to be the case, they would probably have to win two Big 12 games to get to the Big Dance.

Put another way, Oklahoma went from being a No. 4 seed in the first bracket projection to needing to win three games in the next three weeks to avoid having to sweat out Selection Sunday.

It’s crazy how far and fast they’ve fallen.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 68, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: Next four out): The Fighting Irish are in an interesting spot. Their profile is not exactly worthy of an at-large bid. But they’ve also been decimated by injury. Bonzie Colson is still out with a foot injury. So is D.J. Harvey. Matt Farrell and Rex Pflueger have both missed tie with injuries. If Colson can get healthy before the season ends and the Irish can win a couple games at or near full strength, they will have an interesting case to make. I do, however, think that would require winning two of their last three games. One of those three games is at Virginia, so they have their work cut out for them.

Calipari defends Diallo, gives insight into own philosophy

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John Calipari was asked a question about struggling freshman Hamidou Diallo. He ended up giving an answer about his general coaching philosophy.

“Making them be responsible for who they are. In his case, I’m with Hami. He’s trying. He’s working,” Calipari said. “If he’s willing to do that and put in extra work, I’m for him. If you’re playing awful, I may not play you as much, but I’m going to play you and if you’re doing what we’re asking you to do, I’m going to encourage you.

“It would probably be easier when a guy plays poorly to say you’re out and i’m going with these seven I’m just not going to do that.”

Calipari likened the approach to what a well-intentioned parent might say to him about their son who is struggling.

“I would say (a parent) would say, ‘Coach, he’s responsible for himself, but please keep coaching him and let him know you love him and keep being there for him but hold him accountable,’” Calipari said. “‘If he’s not going to listen to you you should not play him. That’s what I think a parent that’s not trying to enable their son (should say).”

On the other hand, Calipari discussed what the opposite of that situation would look like.

“If they’re listening to an enabler, whoever that enabler is, I can’t help you,” he said. “I told you when I walked in the door, this is going to be about the players first and I’m trying to stay that course but they are responsible for themselves.

“If they can’t perform, I’m going to play you but when they’re not performing, you can’t be in there.”

Calipari can oftentimes be full of bluster – it’s an essential part of his Always Be Selling philosophy that’s won the hearts of countless five-star recruits and a national championship. But this looks to be an honest look into the way he views his job and role with his players. Give ultra-talented guys opportunity, but keep them accountable. It’s a simple thought, but one that few execute as well and as consistently as he does.

Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans ‘day-to-day’ with toe injury

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It would appear that sixth-ranked Texas Tech may have avoided its worst-case scenario with star guard Keenan Evans.

The senior is considered day-to-day with a toe injury suffered Saturday in a loss at Baylor, and could play as soon as Wednesday against Oklahoma State, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said Monday.

“It’s going to come down to just pain tolerance and can he move,” Beard said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We all know Keenan is a warrior. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to play. … At the end of the day, just kind of how he reacts to his body.”

Evans is averaging 18.2 points per game for the Red Raiders, and his health is paramount for their attempt to unseat Kansas atop the Big 12. Texas Tech and the Jayhawks are locked in a first-place tie with matching 10-4 league records with four games to play. After the Red Raiders’ trip to Stillwater on Wednesday, they host Kansas on Saturday in a game that very well could decide the fate of the Jayhawks’ 13-year run of conference championships.

While the Big 12 race is certainly front of mind, the fact that Evans is potentially going to be able to play this week is a great sign for Texas Tech. Even if Evans does need to miss a game or two to get his toe fully healthy, the timeline and conditions Beard laid out Monday suggest that he’ll be good to go before the NCAA tournament for a Red Raiders team that certainly is a contender to finish its season in its home state – at the Final Four in San Antonio.

NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system

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The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.

One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.

That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.

Here’s Rasmussen:

“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.

In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.

“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”

Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:

“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally.  I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”

So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.