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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.

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.

Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

3 Apr 2000: Mateen Cleaves #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates on the floor as he holds up the trophy after winning the NCAA Men''s Finals Four Game against the Florida Gators at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76.
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.

A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.

But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.

Coaches Poll: Villanova takes the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats yells to his team in the first half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.

The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

  1. Villanova (28)
  2. UCLA (1)
  3. Kansas (1)
  4. Duke (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Baylor
  7. Kentucky
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Saint Mary’s
  12. Virginia
  13. Louisville
  14. Xavier
  15. Butler
  16. West Virginia
  17. Wisconsin
  18. South Carolina
  19. Purdue
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Notre Dame
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

AP Poll: Defending champion Villanova is the new No. 1

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Hart
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The defending national champs are back at No. 1.

Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.

  1. Villanova (57 first-place votes)
  2. UCLA (2)
  3. Kansas
  4. Baylor
  5. Duke
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Louisville
  12. Saint Mary’s
  13. Xavier
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Butler
  17. Purdue
  18. Wisconsin
  19. South Carolina
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Cincinnati
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State