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

Weekend Preview: Big East showdown headlines an interesting slate of games

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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

*(NOTE: Lines are not posted for Saturday or Sunday games as of publication. Spreads referenced are via Kenpom.com)

No. 11 XAVIER at No. 19 SETON HALL (-1), Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

The only game this weekend featuring two teams that are currently ranked in the top 25, Xavier and Seton Hall square off in a battle of programs trending in opposite directions. Now that Trevon Bluiett has rediscovered his shooting stroke, the Musketeers have reeled off back-to-back wins, including a beatdown of then-No. 25 Creighton. Seton Hall, on the other hand, lost by a combined 37 points at Marquette and Creighton in the last 11 days and struggled with a Georgetown team that was down 44 points at home against Villanova.

  • PREDICTION: Xavier’s new starting lineup will be interesting. The Musketeers are much more offensively oriented right now, but Kerem Kanter and Naji Marshall are not exactly known for their defense and physicality. Seton Hall has a big, old, tough and strong front line. I think they get this win they badly needed in front of a packed out. Seton Hall (-1)

No. 14 ARIZONA (-5) at STANFORD, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBS)

First place in the Pac-12 is on the line as 5-1 Arizona squares off with 5-1 Stanford. And yes, you read that correctly. In their last five games in league play, the Cardinal have swept the LA schools at home, the Washington schools on the road and beaten Arizona State in their place. Now they get the best team in the Pac-12. Stanford is healthy and playing the best basketball they’ve played in a long, long time.

  • PREDICTION: If Stanford is getting five points at home I am all over the Cardinal. The problem is that I don’t think they will be. KenPom’s projections don’t factor in that Stanford is healthy and hot. I think the line will be closer to Stanford (-2), and I would still probably take them. Stanford (-5)

FLORIDA at No. 18 KENTUCKY (-3), Sat. 8:15 p.m.

This matchup is fascinating. Two teams that still have quite figured things out that play polar opposite styles of basketball. Florida is loaded with quick, veteran guards that fire up threes. Kentucky is loaded big, athletic forwards that can’t really shoot. Coming off of a loss at South Carolina, I think this game is probably more important for Kentucky, who finally looks like they are going to be healthy.

  • PREDICTION: Can Kentucky overwhelm Florida with their size or will the Gators exploit the mismatches with their guards? That answer really comes down to whether or not the Gators get hot from deep. I’m going to guess that they will since they have a tendency to show up in big games. Florida (+3)

WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO WATCH?

  • No. 1 Villanova (-17) at UConn, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (CBS): The big question in this game for me, beyond “Will UConn lose by enough for UConn to fire Kevin Ollie on the spot?”, is whether or not Villanova is the elite team in college basketball that we swear doesn’t exist. Villanova (-17)
  • No. 7 Wichita State (-1) at Houston, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPNU): The Shockers have turned into a defensive liability out of nowhere, and on Saturday they will be traveling to visit a Houston team that badly needs this win. Wichita State (-1)
  • No. 4 Oklahoma (-3) at Oklahoma State, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN): Trae Young hasn’t been right for a couple of weeks, and now he gets a rival on the road. Is this the game that he figures it out? Oklahoma (-3)
  • BAYLOR at No. 10 KANSAS (-8), Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN): Kansas has actually had some issues at home this season, more than they’ve had on the road. Baylor tends to play the Jayhawks tough. Is this a letdown spot after that massive win at West Virginia? Kansas (-8)

No. 10 Jayhawks back on top of Big 12 with fresh approach

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The hallmarks of Kansas under Bill Self over the years have been inside-outside post play and gritty defense, the kind of in-your-shorts man-to-man that leaves opponents gasping for air.

That trusted formula has produced 13 straight Big 12 championships.

But if the No. 10 Jayhawks are going to break a tie with the UCLA teams of the 1960s and ’70s for the most consecutive conference titles, their formula will look quite different this season: They are going to pour in 3-pointers, race around the court and simply outscore their foes.

“I do think you can get tougher. I do think you can get harder. I do think you can become more competitive and learn how to compete as you go,” Self said, “but the reality of it is we’re not changing right now playing four guards. Our second-best rebounder is 6-foot-5, 180 pounds. We’re not changing that. We’re not changing our next-best rebounder weighs 200 pounds. We’re not changing that fact.

“We’re playing four really average-sized guards,” Self said. “We’re not going to change that.”

So, best to adapt to it.

It helps that those four guards — Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman — form one of the best backcourts in the nation. Graham is a do-everything floor general, Mykhailiuk one of the best sharpshooters in the nation, Vick the most athletic of the bunch and Newman is capable of getting to the rim with as quick of a first step as anybody in the league.

It also helps that they’re experienced: Graham and Mykhailiuk are seniors with three title rings on their fingers, Vick is a junior and Newman is a third-year sophomore who redshirted last season.

Together, they’ve led the Jayhawks (15-3, 5-1) to four consecutive wins, including road wins over then-No. 16 TCU and sixth-ranked West Virginia. They’ve pushed Kansas back to the top of the league standings headed into Saturday’s game against Baylor, and back into the discussion of a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament when the bracket is revealed in about six weeks.

In other words, they have Kansas right where it is accustomed to being.

But the route has been much different, and that was evident in the Jayhawks’ comeback victory over the Mountaineers on Monday night. Graham and Mykhailiuk combined for 20 of their final 26 points, most of them on 3s and pull-up jumpers — each of them knocked down three from beyond the arc.

The comeback in years past would have featured a big man such as Darrell Arthur or Thomas Robinson in the post, or an elite guard such as Frank Mason III going right to the rim.

Different styles, even if the results have been the same.

“I think we assume some things because of the past,” Self said. “You look at the past, I mean, Landen Lucas was tough. We’re not replacing him with the same toughness. Josh Jackson was a monster. He was an assassin. We’re not replacing him with the same type of mentality. Certainly, you can’t match Frank’s mentality in that area. Which is OK. We were so spoiled with that in the past.”

Those past teams may have had bruising big men, tough guard play and pure scorers all over the floor, and they may have been one of the best defensive teams in the country. But they also had deficiencies, and in many cases, they are the same areas where this year’s team excels.

The Jayhawks have already hit 195 shots from beyond the arc, tops in the Big 12, and are shooting 41 percent from that range. They are among the league leaders in assists and shooting percentage, numbers that help to offset the fact that Kansas ranks ninth out of 10 teams in the league in rebounding.

“We’re going to be scrappy, tough. We got to do a way better job of rebounding, obviously,” Graham said. “But yeah, basically we’ve just got to get way tougher, like I’ve been saying.”

That toughness could get a boost now that Silvio De Souza, a five-star prospect from Florida’s IMG Academy, has been cleared to play. He graduated in December and promptly joined the Jayhawks, and Self is hopeful the big man will be up to speed by the time February rolls around.

It could get another boost if Billy Preston, another five-star prospect, is ever cleared. The school and NCAA have been looking into the ownership of a car he was driving on campus last fall.

In the meantime, the Jayhawks head into their game against the Bears on Saturday riding a win streak, winning high-scoring affairs thanks to 3-pointers and an offensive flair.

“We don’t have the same team we’ve had in the past,” Self said, “and we have to understand that.”

TCU PG Jaylen Fisher to miss rest of season following knee surgery

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FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU point guard Jaylen Fisher had surgery Thursday to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season for the No. 24 Horned Frogs.

Fisher got hurt Tuesday, the second time in less than six months he injured a knee in practice. He had surgery after a meniscus tear in his left knee in early August.

The sophomore guard missed the team’s trip to Australia after the previous surgery, but was ready for the regular season. He averaged 12.1 points and was fifth in the Big 12 with 5.4 assists while playing the first 17 games. He had a career-high 22 points in an overtime loss Saturday at No. 4 Oklahoma, and he made 11 of 20 shots from 3-point range his last four games.

Fisher will need three to four months of recovery.

“I feel bad for him. We all feel bad for him,” coach Jamie Dixon said.

Even with his knee locked in a bent position and having to use crutches, Fisher attended TCU’s 96-73 home win over Iowa State on Wednesday night. He sat in a chair near the TCU bench.

Bracketology: Searching for No. 1 seeds

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That search for No. 1 seeds?  It may take a while.  We have some very good basketball teams.  But, at least to this point, we’re absent that handful of elite teams we’ve seen in recent years.  So if you’re writing teams on seed lines – including the top line – you might want to use a pencil.

Kansas is squarely back in the race after beating West Virginia in Morgantown.  And keep eye on North Carolina, too.  The Tar Heels are quietly putting together the type of profile that Selection Committee members traditionally like.  They currently own the No. 1 overall SOS (strength of schedule) in the nation, and have six wins over “tourney” teams in today’s bracket update.

Here’s the latest:

UPDATED: January 19, 2018

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • LSU vs. SMU | Midwest Region
  • Texas AM vs. UCLA West Region
  • ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T | East Region
  • FLA GULF COAST vs. JACKSON ST | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION

EAST Boston                           MIDWEST – Omaha     
Pittsburgh Detroit
1) VILLANOVA 1) PURDUE
16) NC A&T / ROB MORRIS 16) FL GULF CST / JACKSON ST
8) Louisville 8) Miami-FL
9) Georgia 9) Providence
San Diego Boise
5) RHODE ISLAND 5) Arizona State
12) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 12) NEW MEXICO ST
4) Ohio State 4) CINCINNATI
13) BUFFALO 13) LOUISIANA
Dallas Nashville
6) Tennessee 6) TCU
11) Notre Dame 11) LSU / SMU
3) Texas Tech 3) Clemson
14) VERMONT 14) WILLIAM & MARY
Nashville Wichita
7) Michigan 7) Florida
10) Missouri 10) Butler
2) North Carolina 2) KANSAS
15) IONA 15) MONTANA
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Atlanta
Charlotte Charlotte
1) Duke 1) VIRGINIA
16) PENNSYLVANIA 16) BUCKNELL
8) Texas 8) SAINT MARY’S
9) Arkansas 9) Marquette
Boise Dallas
5) Seton Hall 5) Michigan State
12) Texas AM / UCLA 12) MISSOURI STATE
4) Wichita State 4) AUBURN
13) BELMONT 13) E. TENNESSEE ST
San Diego Detroit
6) Creighton 6) Gonzaga
11) WESTERN KENTUCKY 11) NC State
3) ARIZONA 3) Xavier
14) S.F. AUSTIN 14) WRIGHT STATE
Wichita Pittsburgh
7) NEVADA 7) Kentucky
10) Alabama 10) Florida State
2) Oklahoma 2) West Virginia
15) CS-FULLERTON 15) RADFORD

NOTES on the BRACKET: Villanova is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Purdue, Virginia, and Duke

Last Four Byes (at large): Florida State, Missouri, NC State, Notre Dame

Last Four IN (at large): LSU, Texas AM, SMU, UCLA

First Four OUT (at large): Washington, Houston, Baylor, Boise State

Next four teams OUT (at large): Syracuse, Maryland, USC, St. Bonaventure

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Louisville, Florida State, Miami-FL, Notre Dame, NC State

SEC (9): AUBURN, Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, LSU, Texas AM

Big East (7): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Seton Hall, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Butler

BIG 12 (6): KANSAS, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU, Texas

Big 10 (4): PURDUE, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan

Pac 12 (3): ARIZONA, Arizona State, UCLA

American (3): CINCINNATI, Wichita State, SMU

West Coast (2): SAINT MARY’S, Gonzaga

Atlantic 10 (1): RHODE ISLAND

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Missouri State (MVC), Iona (MAAC), Western Kentucky (C-USA), Louisiana (SBELT), Penn (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), S.F. Austin (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Fullerton (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), William & Mary (CAA), Radford (BSO), North Carolina A&T (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Jackson State (SWAC)

New coach, healthy star push Buckeyes to unexpected heights

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State’s elimination from the Big Ten tournament by lowly Rutgers last March showed the depths to which Buckeyes basketball had fallen in a just few short seasons.

First-year coach Chris Holtmann showed his players video cuts of that debacle before Sunday’s game, the first against the Scarlet Knights since the tournament. Ohio State then went out and routed Rutgers 68-46 .

On Monday the Buckeyes cracked the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in nearly three years. On Wednesday night they beat Northwestern to improve to 7-0 in the Big Ten — matching the number of conference wins they had all of last season.

Ohio State, 16-4 overall, is tied for first place in the conference with No. 3 Purdue and has forced its way into the NCAA Tournament conversation. Holtmann is the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven Big Ten games.

Who would have thought?

The Buckeyes missed the tournament for the second straight season last year. The loss of three of the top four scorers, transfers and a thin recruiting class led to a gloomy forecast for 2017-18. Thad Matta , who oversaw the rebuilding of Ohio State basketball in his 13 seasons, was fired and Holtmann, who had success at Butler, was brought in.

Holtmann managed to pull some pieces together but Ohio State lacked depth, especially at point guard. The coach did his best in the preseason to keep expectations low for what looked like another lost season.

He’s still trying to temper expectations, but the Buckeyes haven’t yet taken the lumps that he or anybody else were sure would come.

“Any coach that, through a third of the season, went undefeated would have to say they’re surprised,” he said. “I just think fortunately our team in general has played well and our really good players have led the way with that, both at home and on the road.”

None of those players has been better than Keita Bates-Diop , who missed all of the Big Ten schedule last season with a left leg injury that required insertion of a steel rod in his shin. He didn’t play again after Jan. 5 and not much went right for the Buckeyes after that.

Averaging 19.8 points per game, the 6-foot-7 forward has earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the past two weeks in a row.

Jae’Sean Tate, last year’s leading scorer, again is a major contributor. Point guard C.J. Jackson is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game. Freshman Kaleb Wesson, 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, is providing needed bulk inside while averaging 11.2 points per game. His brother Andre, a sophomore, missed all of the summer and the first few weeks of fall practice with an illness but is contributing again.

Center Micah Potter, slowed by ankle injury this season, stepped up with a season-high 13 points on Wednesday as Northwestern applied pressure on Bates-Diop and Tate.

And Andrew Dakich, a graduate transfer who was a bit player for three years at Michigan, has been a bulldog at guard. His career high 11 points against Maryland Jan. 11 included three 3-pointers at the end of the first half that helped propel the Buckeyes to a 91-69 blowout. He is 12 of 18 for the season from 3-point range.

Holtmann, with an emphasis on defense and proper response to adversity, continues to publicly promote the theme that his team can’t possibly keep scoring at this pace and having this kind of success.

Don’t tell his players, though.

“I think it’s been all about approach,” Tate said. “Our approach every day in practice, our approach pregame. We always say we were picked (to be) one of the last teams in the Big Ten. We’re going to continue to play with that chip on our shoulder.”