Bubble Banter: Pitt, N.C. State get huge wins while Cincinnati, Georgia, GW take bad losses

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(This post will be updated throughout the day.)

All it took was one absurd offensive performance for Pitt to go from an NCAA tournament pipe dream to one of the most interesting bubble teams heading down the stretch.

The Panthers shot 66.1 percent from the floor and 8-for-15 from three as they smacked around No. 12 North Carolina at home on Saturday, a win that gives Jamie Dixon’s club the kind of marquee victory to anchor a tournament profile.

READ MORE: Friday’s updated tournament bracket

The Tar Heels entered the day as a top ten team in the RPI, and while that will likely drop a bit after this loss, it still means that the Panthers now have a pair of top 50 wins. They’re 17-9 overall and 6-6 in the ACC, and on the surface, that’s plenty to put them into the conversation.

Here’s the problem — that’s pretty much all there is on their resume. Pitt has just one other top 100 RPI win (3-7 overall, although Georgia Tech and Kansas State are Nos. 101 and 102, respectively), which will make it difficult for the committee to overlook a pair of sub-150 losses to Hawaii and Virginia Tech.

The Panthers play four of their last six regular season games on the road, but they only play one of the ACC’s top five teams, a trip to Virginia on Monday night. Beating UNC was as close to a must-win as you can get at this point in the year, and while it only moves them closer to the bubble’s cut line, it gives the Panthers a puncher’s chance at getting into the dance.

Here’s the rest of today’s bubble action:

WINNERS

  • N.C. State: The Wolfpack were one of the next five out in our latest bracket, which was posted on Friday, and that was before they went into the Yum! Center and knocked off the Cardinals on Saturday. This was a win that N.C. State absolutely had to get after they struggled in a four-point loss to Virginia at home. The Wolfpack don’t have the prettiest resume — they’re 15-11 overall and below .500 in the ACC — but they have a top five strength of schedule and wins over Duke and Louisville, the latter of which came on the road. Now 7-10 against the top 100, the only “bad” loss for N.C. State came at Wake Forest, which looks worse on paper than it is in real life. As of today, N.C. State is probably a tournament team, but barely.
  • Michigan State: The Spartans were on the right side of the bubble entering Saturday, but they were not as safe as you might expect a Tom Izzo team to be. Losing at home to Illinois certainly didn’t help matters, but the Spartans bounced back this weekend by knocking off No. 23 Ohio State. It moves Sparty to 8-4 in the Big Ten and gives them a third top 50 win and a 6-7 record against the top 100.
  • St. John’s: The Johnnies landed a massive win on Saturday, going into Cincinnati and knocking off Xavier. As of Friday morning, St. John’s was barely on the right side of the cut-line, according to our latest bracket, and adding a road win against an RPI top 50 opponent surely will help. The rest of their schedule is tough: at Georgetown, Seton Hall, Xavier, Georgetown, at Marquette and at Villanova. If they go 3-3 in that stretch, they should feel good about getting a bid.
  • Davidson: The Wildcats added another top 100 win to their resume as they went into Philly and knocked off a La Salle team that just won at VCU. Bob McKillop’s club still has some work to do, but they also get a chance to play George Washington twice, at Rhode Island and VCU at home. They’ll have chances.
  • UCLA: The Bruins won one of the first true bubble showdowns of the season on Saturday when they knocked off Oregon in Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins had a rough start to the season, but they’ve turned things around in Pac-12 play. They’re now 7-9 against the top 100 with no embarrassing losses, a win over Utah and a sweep of Stanford. They’ve got work to do still, but if the season ended today, the Bruins would have a good argument for earning one of the final few at-large bids.
  • Dayton: The Flyers took care of business against St. Bonaventure, winning big at home. Despite playing with a shortened bench, Dayton has some breathing room when it comes to the bubble.
  • LSU: The Tigers bounced back from their near-upset of No. 1 Kentucky by going into Knoxville and pounding the Vols, a win that is probably better than it will look on their resume. LSU is still on the right side of the bubble, but they have a tough finishing kick to their season. Five of their last six games are against top 100 opponents. Currently, LSU is 7-4 against the top 100 with four top 35 wins, but they also have three sub-150 league losses.
  • Texas A&M: The Aggies avoided what would have been a second-straight loss at home when Florida was unable to get a shot off at the end of regulation. The Aggies are in a spot where every loss they take gets magnified due to a lack of quality wins on their resume. Billy Kennedy’s club has not beaten a top 50 team this season. They only have three top 100 wins, which includes a win at LSU (currently No. 52 in the RPI). But they also don’t have any bad losses. Their only loss outside the top 65 is Kansas State, who is currently just on the wrong side of the top 100. The other bubble teams cannot make that claim, which is why the Aggies are in the conversation with a lack of quality victories.
  • Temple: The Owls beat East Carolina at home on Saturday, which is notable in that the Owls didn’t pick up a loss against East Carolina. Temple was on the right side of the cut-line entering the day, and this certainly won’t hurt that position.
  • Rhode Island: The Rams beat Saint Louis at home, which means they didn’t lost to Saint Louis at home. Rhody still has plenty of work to do.
  • UMass: The Minutemen avoided what likely would have been an at-large bid crushing loss to Duquesne. Their next two games — at Rhode Island and at VCU — will likely determine their at-large fate.

LOSERS

  • George Washington: The Colonials’ at-large hopes are done. If losing to Duquesne, a teams with a sub-200 RPI, wasn’t bad enough, GW followed that up by whiffing on their final opportunity to land marquee win in league play by getting smacked at home by VCU.
  • Xavier: The Musketeers are a tough team to figure out, but they likely were a tournament team entering the weekend and that probably doesn’t change with a home loss against St. John’s. That said, Xavier cost themselves a chance at picking up a top 50 win at home.
  • Boise State: The Broncos had their eight-game winning streak snapped at Fresno State, dropping them a game off the pace in the Mountain West. More importantly, the loss puts a devastating mark on their NCAA tournament profile. The Bulldogs are No. 232 in the RPI, a blight that simply isn’t compensated for by Boise State’s weak non-conference resume and pair of other sub-125 losses. The Broncos have two top 50 wins and four top 100 wins, meaning they probably need to win at UNLV and at San Diego State to really have a shot at an at-large.
  • Cincinnati: The Bearcats lost on a wild buzzer-beater to Tulane at home, which in itself isn’t a killer loss but it does take away quite a bit of their wiggle room. Cincinnati has four top 35 wins, but they now have two sub-150 losses and three sub-100 losses. Things can get precarious for the Bearcats if they drop another game at Houston, at home against UCF or at Tulane.
  • Georgia: The Bulldogs lost to Auburn (RPI No. 154) at home by one, a loss that, at this point, will probably hurt Georgia’s seeding more than it will hurt their tournament chances. In other words, the Bulldogs are probably still on the right side of the bubble. That said, there are now three sub-100 losses on their resume, including Auburn, which puts Georgia in a tough spot. Their margin for error is much smaller than it was entering the weekend.
  • Colorado State: The Rams lost at San Diego State, which certainly isn’t something that is going to hurt their profile. But it also means that the Rams won’t be able to add anything meaningful to their resume for the rest of the regular season. They don’t play any top 150 teams and only one team in the top 230.
  • Ole Miss: Ole Miss had their six game losing streak snapped at home against Arkansas on Saturday as Jarvis Summers missed a potential game-winning jumper at the buzzer. The missed opportunity to add to their profile will hurt more than the loss itself, meaning the Rebels should still be in pretty good shape. There are a couple of weird losses in their profile — Charleston Southern and TCU — but they have three top 50 wins and six top 100 wins, half of which came on the road.
  • Oregon: Oregon lost at UCLA on Saturday. The Ducks are one of a handful of teams right there on the cut-line, and losing a road game to a team with a top 50 RPI isn’t going to do much to hurt their resume. Missing out on the opportunity to improve their resume is what will hurt the most.
  • Seton Hall: The Pirates are a mess and in the midst of a collapse as the locker room fractures. On Saturday, they lost at Providence. I’m not sure that’s a coincidence.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.