Bryce Cotton

Bubble Banter: Who will earn a bid to the Big Dance?

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There are three 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.

(This post will update throughout the day)


Florida State: The Seminoles picked up a win in their first game in the ACC tournament, knocking off Maryland in a game that will go down as their sixth top 100 win of the season. Florida State entered the day a good distance on the wrong side of the bubble, and a win over Maryland isn’t going to change that. But it does give them a chance to pick up a win over Virginia tomorrow. That may not get them in, either, but beating the ACC regular season champs would get them some hope on Selection Sunday.

Providence: The Friars survived a furious comeback by St. John’s and an awful night from Bryce Cotton to advance into the semifinals of the Big East tournament where they will take on Seton Hall. That’s good and bad news. Beating the Pirates will be easier than beating Villanova, but that now means that if Providence doesn’t make the finals, they won’t be dancing. The problem? A win on Friday won’t necessarily lock up a bid, either. If I’m the Friars, I don’t settle for anything less than the automatic bid.

MORE: Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Missouri: The Tigers did everything they could to try and lose to Texas A&M, but despite blowing leads in regulation and in overtime while having both Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson foul out, they got the win. Beating Texas A&M doesn’t do much for the Tigers’ resume, however. But it does give them a chance to beat Florida, and a without a win over the Gators, Missouri is going to have a long, stressful Selection Sunday, as a middling RPI and just two top 50 wins is not going to be easy to overcome.

Dayton: The Flyers entered Thursday on the right side of the bubble, and they will likely stay there (for now) after knocking off Fordham in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. They are 9-6 against the top 100 right now, and while they do have three sub-100 losses, those three top-20 wins look really, really good. Dayton may even be able to survive a loss to St. Joseph’s in Friday’s quarterfinal.

Pitt: The Panthers blew out Wake Forest in their first-ever ACC tournament game, advancing to face North Carolina in the quarterfinals on Friday. Win that game, and Pitt is probably in the dance. Lose, and they’ll be sweating out Selection Sunday. They have just one top 50 win (Stanford) and six top 100 wins. North Carolina would be, by far, their best win this season.

Xavier: The Musketeers survived Marquette on Thursday, putting themselves in a position to clinch a bid with a win over Creighton on Friday. The Musketeers are 22-11 on the season with three top 50 wins — including Creighton and Cincinnati — and a 9-8 record against the top 100. The three sub-100 losses are a red flag, but they have enough good wins that they might be able to survive a loss to the Bluejays.

Stanford: The Cardinal picked up the win that they needed on Thursday, pounding Arizona State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. They have five top 50 wins, an 8-11 record against the top 100 and not a single ugly loss on their resume. They should be safe.

Minnesota: The Gophers knocked off Penn State on Thursday which puts them into a position where Friday’s date with Wisconsin will be a play-in game for them. Win that they’re probably in. A loss, however, will make things interesting. The Gophers are currently 20-12 overall with three top 50 wins and six top 100 wins, but they’re just 6-10 against the top 100. Their strength of schedule is in the top 10, but they have a couple of sub-100 losses. In other words, it’s very bubbly, and losing to Wisconsin will probably leave them sitting squarely on the cutline.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have slowly but surely climbed their way into the at-large conversation. Their RPI is in the mid-30s, but they have just one top 50 win and three top 100 wins to go along with two sub-100 losses. To be frank, I can’t see Southern Miss jumping the teams in front of them if they lose in the Conference USA tournament. It’s likely auto-bid or bust.

Colorado: The Buffaloes were probably safe entering today’s game with Cal. They beat Cal. They’re just that much safer now. Enjoy the dance, gents.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology


Iowa: Tell me: why is Iowa a lock to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament? After losing 67-62 to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tournament the Hawkeyes are 20-12 overall with an RPI that will likely fall below 50 once the numbers get updated. They’re 4-8 against the top 50 and 6-11 against the top 100 with the one loss to Northwestern coming to a sub-100 team. If that’s not enough, Iowa’s non-conference SOS ranks 182nd nationally. They are probably safe, but by no means is this team a lock right now. I would not be surprised if they ended up in Dayton.

Making Iowa’s case all the more interesting is that they are actually top 20 in KenPom’s rankings. This is a good basketball team that, unfortunately, choked away too many close games early in the season and simply played too poorly late in the year.

SMU: The Mustangs lost to Houston in the opening round of the AAC tournament. Now we have to ask: is this team really a lock to dance? They have just four top 100 wins, but all four are top 30 wins. They are 23-10 on the season with three losses to sub-150 teams. Their non-conference SOS is 291st. SMU is going to be rooting hard against some of the other bubble teams out there.

Cal: The Bears lost to Colorado on Thursday, putting them in a really tough spot. Entering the day, Cal was the first team out, according to our Dave Ommen, and this loss certainly doesn’t put them in a better position. The Bears have four wins against the top 50 — which includes a win over Arizona — but they are now 4-10 against the top 50 and just 8-12 against the top 100. 13 losses is a high number.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks suffered just a brutal loss to South Carolina in the SEC first round on Thursday, one that will likely keep them on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. We went more in depth here.

St. John’s: The Johnnies nearly came all the way back from 15 points down again Providence but couldn’t quite finish it off. They were on the wrong side of the bubble entering the day, which means Steve Lavin’s club is NIT-bound.

Utah: The Utes needed to beat Arizona to get back into the conversation. They lost. And it was never close. Enjoy the NIT.

Utah grabs important commitment from four-star center

DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Head coach Larry Krystkowiak of the Utah Utes shouts in the first half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 19, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Utah landed an important player for its future on Sunday as four-star center Branden Carlson pledged to the Utes.

The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center is great commitment for Utah as he’s regarded as the No. 113 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals. Carlson’s development is going to be especially intriguing because he won’t play for Utah until the 2019-20 season because of a two-year LDS mission out of high school, according to’s Josh Gershon.

Since Carlson needed to add strength and weight, that should give him a little more time to bulk up before college begins. Utah also has freshman center Jayce Johnson just entering the program — another four-star center — so that spaces the two big men out by a few years.

Head coach Larry Krystkowiak has done a nice job developing big men, specifically Jakob Poeltl, and it appears to be paying off on the recruiting trail.

Tar Heels ready for Final Four push after title-game loss

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts on the bench against the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina won’t have a difficult time finding motivation this season.

The memories of losing in the NCAA championship game on a last-second 3-pointer to Villanova still sting more than six months later. It was the crushing final play in a 33-win season that saw the Tar Heels go from a preseason No. 1-ranked team questioned about its toughness to a group that matured enough to sweep the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament titles before reaching the Final Four.

There are enough veteran returnees for UNC to have the potential to do it again, driven by the memory of coming so oh-so-close to cutting down the nets in April.

“Every time I turn around and look up at the banners, where the national championship banners are,” junior Joel Berry II said, “sometimes it hurts me that we don’t have the 2016 national championship up there. So it’s just motivation to me.”

Some Tar Heels, including Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, still haven’t watched film from the loss.

“I thought we had a great, great year but it’s just like somebody pulls your heart out and taunts you by shaking it in front of you,” Williams said. “But you’ve got to get over it.”

The Tar Heels (33-7, 14-4 ACC) have some big holes with the losses of four-year starter Marcus Paige – the guy UNC looked for when it needed a big shot – and Associated Press all-American Brice Johnson inside. But they return six of their top eight scorers while adding a top-10 recruiting class.

Berry is the top returning scorer (12.8 points), while fellow junior Justin Jackson (12.2) and senior big man Kennedy Meeks are returning starters. The Tar Heels also return ACC sixth man of the Isaiah Hicks, now likely to earn a promotion into the starting lineup.

On the bench, senior Nate Britt provides backcourt depth along with junior Theo Pinson – out indefinitely with a broken bone in his right foot – and sophomore wing Kenny Williams III.

The Tar Heels also will get help up front from McDonald’s All-American Tony Bradley Jr., who headlines a wing-heavy recruiting class.

Some other things to know about the Tar Heels this season:

PINSON’S INJURY: Pinson’s injury during a recent practice, announced Friday, has the potential to be a big blow. The versatile swingman is the team’s top defender, a good passer and a leader with a knack for keeping up team morale .

BERRY IN CHARGE?: Berry looks like the top candidate to take Paige’s role as the guy to entrust with taking the big shot. He was the team’s best outside shooter (38 percent from 3-point range) and led the team in assists, steals and free-throw percentage. And in a sign that Berry could be ready for a leap, he upped his game by averaging 13.7 points and shooting 50 percent in six NCAA Tournament games – ending with 20 points against Villanova.

HICKS’ FOUL TROUBLE: Keeping Hicks on the floor last season was a challenge, including twice in the final 10 games when he picked up four or five fouls in fewer than 10 minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward brings scoring and rebounding, and he was the team’s defensive player of the game eight times – third most on the team behind Paige and Berry. The Tar Heels need him out there this year with fewer frontcourt options.

JACKSON’S GROWTH: Jackson has good size on the perimeter and has been a complimentary scorer through his first two seasons. The Tar Heels need him to become a consistent scorer now in a leading role, especially when it comes to improving his 29-percent shooting from behind the arc last year. He’s an unselfish player and has occasionally seemed content to blend into the background, but the Tar Heels are tougher to stop when he’s playing assertively .

THE ROOKIES: The 6-foot-10 Bradley, a native of Bartow, Florida, will have a shot at immediate minutes for a team with only Meeks and Hicks returning to the frontcourt. The rest of that recruiting class brings depth on the wing with Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods and Shea Rush.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at and the AP’s college basketball site at

Coaches pick Cincinnati to win American Athletic Conference

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 24:  Gary Clark #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats shoots the ball against the Tulane Green Wave at Fifth Third Arena on January 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) American Athletic Conference coaches have picked Cincinnati to win the league title this season.

The Bearcats edged UConn in the poll, which was released Monday at the conference’s annual media day.

Cincinnati received 95 points and six first-place votes, while UConn claimed the other five and finished with 94 points.

Cincinnati guard Troy Caupain and Memphis’ Dedric Lawson were chosen as the league’s preseason co-players of the year.

Caupain is joined on the preseason conference first team by teammate Gary Clark, Lawson, SMU forward Ben Moore and Houston guard Damyean Dotson.

UConn guard Alterique Gilbert was projected as the league’s top rookie, the fourth straight season a Huskies player has been chosen for that honor.

SWAC Preview: Will Texas Southern get back to the NCAA tournament?

Texas Southern forward Derrick Griffin (23), left, blocks the shot of Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5), right, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 72-59. (AP Photo/Rod Aydelotte)
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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the SWAC.

Texas Southern ripped through the league last year before seeing its NCAA bid chances evaporate with a loss to Southern in the SWAC tournament, but coach Mike Davis has conference player of the year Derrick Griffin back and committed to hoops after being dismissed from the football program, making the Tigers a favorite in the league once more.

Paris Collins returns to lead Jackson State after their third-place finish from a year ago.Chance Franklin is also back after putting up 12.3 points per game for the Tigers, who lost the SWAC title game a year ago by a single point to Southern.

The Jaguars will be looking for big contributions from Tre’lun Banks and Jared Sam, their top two returnees from last year’s NCAA tournament team. They’ll be needed in a big way to offset the losses of Christopher Hyder, Adrian Rodgers and Shawn Prudhomme.

Alcorn State was the regular-season runner-up last season, but is down four senior starters from the group and the Braves are ineligible for postseason play due to APR scores.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON SWAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derrick Griffin, Texas Southern

The two-sport star is down to one after getting dismissed from the Texas Southern football team this fall, but he’s back for hoops following a year in which he averaged 13.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.


  • Paris Collins, Jackson State: Averaged 13 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season.
  • Marcus Romain, Mississippi Valley State: The 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 18.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
  • Tommy Armstrong, Alabama State: Armstrong returns to power an Alabama State team that won eight of its last 11
  • Trelun Banks, SouthernShot 36.4 percent from 3-point range while scoring 12.4 points, grabbing 2.8 rebounds and dishing out 2.2 assists per game.



1. Texas Southern
2. Jackson State
3. Southern
4. Alabama State
5. Alcorn State
6. Prairie View A&M
7. Mississippi Valley State
8. Alabama A&M
9. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
10. Grambling State

Defending champion Oregon picked to repeat as Pac-12 winner

Dana Altman
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Defending Pac-12 champion Oregon is picked to repeat as the regular-season conference winner.

The Ducks received 23 first-place votes from a panel of 27 media members covering the conference, the Pac-12 announced Friday at its media day. Oregon returns four starters from last season’s team that won a school-record 31 games and earned a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, led by junior forward Dillon Brooks, who averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Arizona received four first-place votes and was picked second, with UCLA third.

The Pac-12 sent a conference-record seven teams to the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Commissioner Larry Scott expects to announce next month the conference’s plans regarding games played in China. Last year, the Pac-12 began a two-year commitment opening the season in China with Washington beating Texas. On Nov. 11, Stanford will play Harvard in Shanghai.