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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

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.

Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

3 Apr 2000: Mateen Cleaves #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates on the floor as he holds up the trophy after winning the NCAA Men''s Finals Four Game against the Florida Gators at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76.
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.

A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.

But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.

Coaches Poll: Villanova takes the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats yells to his team in the first half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.

The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

  1. Villanova (28)
  2. UCLA (1)
  3. Kansas (1)
  4. Duke (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Baylor
  7. Kentucky
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Saint Mary’s
  12. Virginia
  13. Louisville
  14. Xavier
  15. Butler
  16. West Virginia
  17. Wisconsin
  18. South Carolina
  19. Purdue
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Notre Dame
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

AP Poll: Defending champion Villanova is the new No. 1

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Hart
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The defending national champs are back at No. 1.

Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.

  1. Villanova (57 first-place votes)
  2. UCLA (2)
  3. Kansas
  4. Baylor
  5. Duke
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Louisville
  12. Saint Mary’s
  13. Xavier
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Butler
  17. Purdue
  18. Wisconsin
  19. South Carolina
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Cincinnati
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State