Bracketology: Florida in driver’s seat for overall No. 1 seed

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With its victory over Kentucky – and Arizona’s loss at Oregon – the Florida Gators are in the driver’s seat for the overall No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.  Regardless, the Gators will be the top seed in the South Region with opening round games in nearby Orlando.  The remaining No. 1 seeds as we begin Championship Week: Arizona (West), Wichita State (Midwest) and Villanova (East).

At this point, the first three No. 1 seeds appear to be locked-in.  Which leaves us one spot for three or four teams.  At least that’s how it appears today.  The contenders include Villanova (as noted above), Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Virginia is still in the hunt, but its journey became much tougher after Sunday’s loss at Maryland.  Achieving a No. 1 seed with eight losses would be something new, but few teams in history have played Kansas’ schedule.  If Michigan wins the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines would have a legitimate argument.  They possess a higher number of NCAA-level wins than Villanova – due to the strength of the Big Ten as compared to the Big East.  Wisconsin’s non-conference performance – with victories over Florida and Virginia – would help the Badgers’ case if they find the winner’s circle in Indianapolis next Sunday.

MOREFlorida, Wichita State are still sitting atop NBCSports.com’s Top 25

We’ll be updating the bracket every day this week as automatic qualifiers arrive and conference tournaments continue.  Teams that have clinched automatic berths are listed in ALL CAPS – with the exception of teams like BYU and UCLA.

The bubble remains a work in progress.  Nebraska grabbed a spot after beating Wisconsin on Sunday. Xavier, Tennessee, and BYU join the Huskers at the First Four in Dayton.  It’s a big week for those teams and several others who are just above the last four at-larges.  We’ll have to see how it plays out.

Teams in CAPS represent the projected AUTOMATIC bid based on current standings with RPI as a tiebreaker for teams with the same number of losses. Exceptions are made for teams that use an abbreviation (UCLA, BYU, etc).

Several new bracketing principles were introduced after last year’s tournament. You can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Nebraska vs. Tennessee | Midwest Region
  • Xavier vs. BYU | South Region
  • Alabama State vs. Wofford | East Region
  • Weber State vs. COASTAL CAROLINA | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

SOUTH – Memphis                       WEST Anaheim
Orlando San Diego
1) Florida 1) Arizona
16) Robert Morris 16) Utah Valley
8) Kansas State 8) George Washington
9) Arizona State 9) Gonzaga
Spokane San Diego
5) Ohio State 5) Oklahoma
12) BYU / Xavier 12) Toledo
4) Louisville 4) Michigan State
13) S.F. Austin 13) North Dakota State
Buffalo San Antonio
6) New Mexico 6) Baylor
11) Dayton 11) Stanford
3) Syracuse 3) Creighton
14) Boston University 14) MERCER
Milwaukee Raleigh
7) VCU 7) Memphis
10) SMU 10) Saint Joseph’s
2) Wisconsin 2) Virginia
15) UC-Irvine 15) Stony Brook
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Buffalo St. Louis
1) Villanova 1) WICHITA STATE
16) Wofford / Alabama State 16) Weber State / CO CAROLINA
8) Oklahoma State 8) Kentucky
9) Iowa 9) Oregon
Spokane Orlando
5) North Carolina 5) Texas
12) Louisiana Tech 12) HARVARD
4) San Diego State 4) Duke
13) Delaware 13) Iona
San Antonio Raleigh
6) Massachusetts 6) Saint Louis
11) Arkansas 11) Tennessee / Nebraska
3) Iowa State 3) Cincinnati
14) EASTERN KENTUCKY 14) Georgia State
Milwaukee St. Louis
7) Connecticut 7) UCLA
10) Colorado 10) Pittsburgh
2) Michigan 2) Kansas
15) Wright State 15) NC-Central

NOTES on the BRACKET: Florida remains the overall No. 1 seed followed by Arizona, Wichita State, and Villanova.

Last Five teams in (at large): Stanford, Nebraska, Xavier, Tennessee, BYU

First Five teams out (at large): California, Georgetown, Minnesota, Missouri, St. John’s

Next five teams out (at large): Providence, Southern Miss, Green Bay, Florida State, Illinois

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 12 (7): Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (6): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, Oregon, Colorado

Atlantic 10 (6): Massachusetts, VCU, Saint Louis, George Washington, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton

Big Ten (6): Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska

ACC (5): Duke, Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

American (5): Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee

Big East (3): Creighton, Villanova, Xavier

Mountain West (2): New Mexico, San Diego State

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU

Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State

Conference Automatic Qualifiers … Louisiana Tech (C-USA), EASTERN KENTUCKY (Ohio Valley), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Boston University (Patriot), North Dakota State (Summit), Wright State (Horizon), Wofford (Southern), Utah Valley (WAC), Iona (MAAC), Stephen F. Austin (Southland), Toledo (MAC), MERCER (A-Sun), HARVARD (IVY), UC-Irvine (Big West), Delaware (Colonial), Stony Brook (American East), Weber State (Big Sky), NC-Central (MEAC), COASTAL CAROLINA (Big South), Robert Morris (NEC), Alabama State (SWAC)

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas dunks on 2 Butler defenders

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Creighton did not get off to the best of starts Tuesday night, trailing by as many as 20 points with Butler making eight of its first 12 three-pointers.

Junior guard Khyri Thomas did his best to provide a spark, driving the lane and then dunking on two Butler defenders.

Thomas’ dunk sparked a 12-4 run to end the half, trimming the Bluejays’ deficit to a slightly more manageable 12 points.

Rival fans fired up over placement of UNC national title signs

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When sports teams win championships, one of the benefits received is usually the placement of signs along major highways that honors said achievement. This is what the North Carolina Department of Transportation did in honor of North Carolina winning the national title. But according to the News & Observer some rival fans are none too pleased with the placement of two of these signs.

The two signs in question were placed on Interstate 40 in Raleigh, with one (which is visible to those driving east) being just three miles away from NC State’s home arena. For those driving westbound on I-40, there’s a visible sign at the Wake-Durham county line.

According to the News & Observer, the signs were placed at those spots in order to grab the attention of passengers deplaning at nearby Raleigh-Durham International Airport. But even with that being the case, someone had to know that the placement of the signs would not go over well with the fan base that calls Raleigh home.

In November, North Carolina’s request for eight signs to be erected across the state in acknowledgement of the men’s basketball team’s achievement was approved by the North Carolina Board of Transportation. A sign placed along I-85 also drew criticism, as some believed it to be too close to the Charlotte (formerly UNC Charlotte) campus. That sign would ultimately be moved to a spot close to the South Carolina state line.

And given the reactions to the signs along I-40, one has to wonder if the locations of those two signs will change as well.

The differences between the NCAA’s Louisville and North Carolina rulings

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One of the questions that I have been asked the most since news broke that the NCAA had upheld a ruling that Louisville would have to vacate four seasons worth of wins, including a trip to the Final Four and a National Title, was why what Louisville did was significantly worse than the two decades of academic fraud that had occurred at North Carolina.

UNC, if you’ve forgotten, was not punished at all by the NCAA for the scandal involving paper classes that helped keep football and basketball players eligible.

And the reason for that is really quite simple: The NCAA made an active decision that they would not be in the business of determining what does and what does not constitute academic fraud. In April of 2014, the Division I Legislative Council clarified academic misconduct rules, saying “academic standards and policies governing misconduct are the responsibility of individual schools and their accreditation body,” and that “the membership’s position that it is a school’s responsibility to decide whether or not misconduct involving current or future student-athletes or school staff has occurred.”

The thinking here makes sense.

The NCAA is not an organization that is designed to determine whether or classwork is legitimate. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of accrediting agencies. Those rules are bigger than the NCAA. What they couldn’t have predicted, however, was that a university as prominent and as well-respected as the University of North Carolina would a hit to their academic respectability to protect their athletic department. UNC said that the fraudulent classes weren’t, you know, fraudulent. That’s why the NCAA tried North Carolina as an extra benefits case.

Put another way, the Committee on Infractions for the UNC case could not determine that the “courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” because they weren’t. They were created by a rogue professor. The athletic department found out those classes existed. Student-athletes took advantage of a fake class the way the rest of the student body at-large did. The fake classes were not created specifically for those student-athletes.

That distinction is critical, because it represents the difference between the scandal falling under NCAA jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the agency tasked with accrediting the University of North Carolina as something other than a diploma mill.

With Louisville, there really was no debate about whether or not this was an NCAA issue. A member of a college basketball team’s coaching staff was providing student-athletes and prospective recruits, some of whom were under the age of 18, with lap dances and sexual favors that he paid for. That is the definition of extra benefits in the NCAA rulebook, and the egregiousness of what occurred — strippers, hookers, underage recruits, etc. — is why Louisville was hit so hard.

The NCAA is stupid and illogical and I hate so much about it, but I find it hard to fault them for the way either of these cases played out.

Penny Hardaway acknowledges links to college programs

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One of the most fascinating subplots to this year’s college coaching carousel is what will happen with Penny Hardaway.

A Memphis basketball legend, Penny is currently the head coach of the powerhouse Memphis East high school while running a Nike-affiliated AAU program aptly named Team Penny. Combined, those rosters include an absolutely ridiculous amount of talent. James Wiseman, who may just be the best player in the Class of 2019, plays for both East and Team Penny. Another five-star prospect in the Class of 2019, D.J. Jeffries, also plays for Team Penny while his cousins — Jonathan and Chandler Lawson, the younger brothers of former Memphis and current Kansas players Dedric and K.J. — play for East.

There’s a real debate about whether or not those teams would be able to beat the Memphis Tigers basketball team.

As in the University of Memphis.

That’s where things are in that city.

Which is why Penny Hardaway has been linked to a job that isn’t even open yet. It’s why his name is mentioned when discussing whether or not Ole Miss should hire him to replace Andy Kennedy. We’re talking about a guy with more than a decade of experience in the NBA that can, in theory, bring with him the kind of talent that you would expect to see on a roster like Kentucky or Duke. It would only make sense for the likes of Memphis and Ole Miss to kick the tires.

What if he says yes?

And, according to an interview he gave to SEC Country, it sounds like Penny would, at the very least, listen.

“It’s a huge compliment for any college to even think about wanting me to come in. I feel like I bring a lot to the table even though I haven’t coached college,” he told the site on Monday. “I feel like my NBA experience and the coaches I’ve had over the years, I’ve learned enough to be a head coach in college. But I’m really enjoying this right now and coaching these guys.”

If Louisville vacates the 2013 national title, does Michigan win the national title?

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Louisville lost their appeal, meaning that for the first time in college basketball history, a Division I program is going to have to take down a national title banner.

The details are pretty straight-forward: If one of the three enrolled student-athletes or 15 recruits that the were determined by the NCAA to have received “adult entertainment and/or sex acts” from strippers and sex workers played in any game from Dec. 2010 through July 2014, when Louisville staffer Andre McGee was paying for girls to come around Louisville’s Billy Minardi Hall, then that game is to be vacated from the Louisville record books.

That includes 123 regular season games and 15 NCAA tournament wins.

That also includes the 2012 Final Four and the 2013 National Title.

What does that mean? How does a program vacate records and titles?

Well, they can no longer do anything to officially reference winning that title. Banners come down. Record books must be changed. For all intents and purposes, Louisville must never again acknowledge that their run to the national title — which included Kevin Ware breaking his leg in the Elite 8 against Duke, a marvelous comeback in the Final Four against Wichita State and one of the most exciting halves of basketball in NCAA tournament history as Luke Hancock and Spike Albrecht went shot-for-shot — took place.

It doesn’t, however, mean that Michigan, whom Louisville beat in the national title game, won the 2013 National Championship.

This not like the Olympics. A silver medal does not turn to gold when the official winner is ruled a cheat. Michigan still lost that game in the eyes of the NCAA. Louisville did not forfeit the win. They just … also lost.

There is no winner.

Officially speaking, as of today, no one won the 2013 national title.