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

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AP Photo/Phil Sandlin

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)

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.