Bubble Banter: Monster day for teams on the cutline

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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)

WINNERS

Pitt: Pitt got the big win that they needed, knocking off North Carolina in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. That is easily the Panthers’ best win on the season and just their second top 50 win. With a 7-8 record against the top 100 and just two losses to teams outside the top 25, Jamie Dixon’s club should feel pretty good regardless of what happens on Saturday.

VIDEO: Watch the Atlantic 10’s top seed fall at the buzzer.

St. Joseph’s: In what probably amounted to a play-in game in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, Langston Galloway hit a step-back three with ten seconds left and the Hawks knocked off Dayton 71-67. It’s the Haws’ fifth top 50 win, moving them to 8-8 against the top 100 with a low-40s RPI and just a single sub-100 loss. Phil Martelli’s club should be safe right now.

Tennessee: The Vols did what Arkansas couldn’t: avoid a resume-killing loss by beating South Carolina. Tennessee will advance to take on Florida in the SEC semifinals. A win there would lock up a bid. A loss, however, and things get dicey. Tennessee is 7-7 against the top 100 with a 35-point win over Virginia, but they also now have four sub-100 losses thanks to UTEP’s slide. I think they’ll be OK with a loss to Florida, but a win would certainly makes things easier.

Providence: The Friars entered the day as one of a handful of teams sitting on the bubble’s cutline, which means that they simply could not afford losing to Seton Hall in the Big East semifinals. They beat the Pirates, but since Seton Hall has had a massively disappointing season, it’s a win that does nothing for the Providence resume. If they don’t win the automatic bid on Saturday night in the Big East title game, they are going to be sweating it out on Selection Sunday.

N.C. State: It’s been a while since N.C. State was actually in the bubble conversation, but after they beat Syracuse in the ACC quarterfinals, we have to put them there. The Wolfpack still have some work to do, and it starts with hoping that Duke beats Clemson and then taking out the Blue Devils on Saturday night. If that happens, than we can take a closer look at where Mark Gottfried’s boys stand.

LOSERS

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers blew an 18-point lead and lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals on Friday, putting themselves in a position where Selection Sunday is going to be a stressful affair. They have four top 50 wins — including Wisconsin and Michigan State on the road — and an 8-9 record against the top 100, but with three sub-100 losses and 3-10 record on the road, Nebraska is anything but safe. They may end up being a First Four team.

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers were on the outside looking in entering Friday, according to our Dave Ommen, and they got run off the floor by Wisconsin in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Minnesota will still have an outside chance of getting some good news on Selection Sunday, but as of right now things don’t look promising.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles resume was largely built around the fact that they have a great RPI. But with just one top 50 win and only a 3-4 record against the top 100 after a loss to Louisiana Tech on Friday, USM is out of the conversation.

Dayton: The Flyers were on the wrong end of a close call in a loss to St. Joe’s in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, but that’s not the kind of loss that will hurt their resume all that much. Dayton was a No. 10 seed entering the day in our latest bracket. The Flyers have four top 30 wins, a 10-7 record against the top 100 and an RPI of 39. Even with three sub-100 losses, the Flyers should be OK on Sunday, but they may be headed for a home game in Dayton in the First Four.

Xavier: The Musketeers had a chance to lock up a bid to the tournament on Friday when they squared off with Creighton in the Big East semifinals, but the Musketeers couldn’t come through. The good news? The Musketeers put themselves in a good enough spot that they should be able to survive the loss thanks to the fact that so many of the other teams below them lost on Friday as well. Xavier is 9-9 against the top 100 with a pair of elite wins over Cincinnati and Creighton, which should be enough to survive losses to three sub-100 teams.

Florida State: The Seminoles lost to Virginia in the first ACC quarterfinal of the day, putting them in a precarious situation when it comes to earning an at-large bid. The loss certainly doesn’t hurt their resume, but the issue is that they may not have done enough to get into the dance in the first place. As of this morning, our Dave Ommen had Florida State as the last team in the dance, and most other bubble projections place the Seminoles squarely on the bubble’s cutline. The problem? A number of other teams on the cutline are still playing in their league tournaments. Providence, Minnesota, Tennessee, Dayton, Saint Joseph’s. Florida State has an RPI in the low-50s, a 3-9 record against the top 50 and six top 100 wins. Will that be enough?

Missouri: The Tigers got smoked in the second half by Florida, as the Gators closed out a 72-49 win with a 34-13 surge. The Tigers are now in the same spot as Florida State. A loss to Florida doesn’t destroy their resume, but it doesn’t improve it, either. And as of this morning, the Tigers were on the wrong side of the cutline, according to Dave Ommen. They have just two top 50 wins and a 7-9 record against the top 100 with a pair of sub-100 losses on their resume as well. Will that be enough? I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that.

Deandre Ayton eligible to play for Arizona

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Arizona announced on Saturday afternoon that Deandre Ayton will be eligible to play the rest of the season. The Wildcats play at Oregon on Saturday night.

On Friday night, ESPN reported that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of Ayton.

The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller. According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

Miller will not be coaching for Arizona tonight.

“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement. “I continue to fully support the University’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”

McDuffie leads No. 13 Wichita State past SMU 84-78

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DALLAS — Markis McDuffie scored a season-high 26 points off the bench, including nine during the first four minutes of the second half, to lead No. 13 Wichita State to an 84-78 win over SMU on Saturday.

The Shockers (23-5, 13-3 American Athletic Conference) have won six straight games and are one-half game behind first-place Cincinnati. Wichita State will host Cincinnati on March 4 in the regular-season finale for both teams.

SMU (16-13, 6-10) lost for the sixth time in seven games since leading scorer Shake Milton (18 points per game) was sidelined with a hand injury.

McDuffie added to Wichita State’s 37-35 halftime lead on the first possession of the second half with a midcourt steal leading to a three-point play. A 10-1 run put the Shockers ahead 56-43 with 12:18 to play, and they led by as many as 17 points.

McDuffie, a junior forward, led Wichita State in scoring last season but missed this season’s first 11 games because of a stress fracture. He has primarily been a reserve since returning.

Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 28 points. McMurray has topped the Mustangs in scoring in five of the past six games.

Shaquille Morris had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Wichita State. Landry Shamet returned after missing the Shockers’ previous game because of illness and scored 10 points in 27 minutes, playing only eight first-half minutes because of foul trouble.

Because of injuries and NCAA-mandated scholarship limitations, SMU played with seven scholarship players on Saturday and has had seven or fewer during its past seven games.

Wichita State failed to pull away during the first half despite a 21-12 rebounding advantage. The Mustangs shot 45.4 percent during the half and the Shockers 41.4 percent, both hitting six 3-pointers.

Wichita State got even for one of its two home losses this season, 83-78 on Jan. 17.

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers are 8-2 in true road games this season with one to play. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, they lead Division I in road wins (48) and road winning percentage (.857). They avoided a conference opponent’s sweep of a two-game season series for the first time since 2012-13 (Evansville, Missouri Valley).

SMU: The Mustangs opened the season 12-3, including wins over then-No. 2 Arizona and then-No. 14 USC, but have since gone 4-10. SMU will finish with a losing league record after winning the AAC last season at 17-1.

UP NEXT

Wichita State will visit UCF on Thursday.

SMU hosts Houston in its final home season of the season on Wednesday.

Shareef O’Neal decommits from Arizona

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Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has decommitted from Arizona following the latest in the FBI scandal.

Considered a five-star prospect on Rivals, the 6-foot-9 Shareef becomes one of the best available prospects in the country in the Class of 2018.

Arizona head coach Sean Miller was reportedly caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to secure the services of freshman Deandre Ayton. The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, who is a focal point in the FBI’s investigation.

Recruiting has taken a major hit for Arizona over the last several months as the program lost five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and now O’Neal due to scandal.

Sean Miller’s contract with Arizona pays him $5 million more if he’s fired for cause

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Following a bombshell report from ESPN on Friday night that Sean Miller is caught on a wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for superstar recruit Deandre Ayton, the Arizona head coach will not be coaching the Wildcats on Saturday night when they play at Oregon.

It seems as if Miller’s tenure in Tucson is coming to an end, which puts the University into a weird position. According to ESPN, the way that Miller’s contract is written, if he is fired for cause, he will receive twice as much money in a buyout — $10.3 million vs. $5.15 million — as he would receive if he was not fired for cause.

The reason for this?

According to Forbes, it appears to simply be a mistake that was made by Arizona when drafting the contract. In a section titled “Termination by University Without Cause; Liquidated Damages”, the contract states clearly that he’ll be entitled to receive 50 percent of his base salary for each year left on his contract. But in the section discussing what happens if Miller is fired FOR cause, the contract reads that “the University’s sole obligation to Coach shall be the payment of his Base Salary” for each year left on the contract.

His full base salary.

No agent in their right mind is going try and sneak something like that into a contract with a school because no school is going to be dumb enough to agree to put a clause like that in the contract. It is, quite literally, an incentive to break rules in order to get fired for cause.

What does that mean?

Well, Miller is probably not going to be fired for cause.

And if he is, he’ll double the amount of money that he’ll have to toss into his bank account while he figures out what the next move for him will be.

No. 19 Tennessee tops Ole Miss 73-65

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OXFORD, Miss. — Admiral Schofield scored 23 points, Jordan Bowden scored 15, Lamonte Turner scored 13 and No. 19 Tennessee earned a 73-65 win over Mississippi on Saturday.

The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) jumped out to a 29-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and held off a rally by Ole Miss in the second half to earn the key road victory.

Neither team shot well from the floor with Tennessee shooting 39 percent and Ole Miss shooting 34 percent.

The Rebels (12-17, 5-11) struggled from long distance. Ole Miss shot 4 percent (1-for-23) from three-point range. Terence Davis, who was 1 for 7 on 3s, connected in the second half.

Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 17 points, Bruce Stevens scored 14 and Davis finished with 13.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: With Saturday’s win, the Vols remained behind No. 12 Auburn and in second place in the league.

Mississippi: The Rebels enter the final week of the season with an attempt to grab momentum heading into the SEC Tournament and the offseason.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will travel to Mississippi State on Tuesday before closing out the regular season at home against Georgia next Saturday.

Mississippi: Ole Miss travels to Kentucky on Wednesday and will host Vanderbilt on Saturday in the regular-season finale.