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Bubble Banter: All of tonight’s bubble action in one spot

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To see the latest NBC Sports bracket projection, click here. The seedings listed below are from this bracket. 

WINNERS

Syracuse (RPI: 90, KenPom: 55, bubble): Wins over Wake Forest and Florida State last week put Syracuse back into the conversation. Adding a win over another bubble team in N.C. State on the road helps, too. It’s the first true road win for the Orange. They still have a lot of work to do to make up for the losses to UConn, St. John’s and Boston College, but if this team has figured it out – and if John Gillon keeps doing what he did on Wednesday – Syracuse has the horses to make a run at this. They play four games against Virginia, Duke and Louisville the rest of the year and three of them come at home.

Indiana (RPI: 79, KenPom: 40, No. 7 seed): The Hoosiers avoided what would have been a disastrous loss at home against Penn State, taking home a thrilling, triple-overtime win despite playing without James Blackmon Jr., who is dealing with a “lower leg injury”. Indiana is in a weird spot. They have two phenomenal wins over Kansas and North Carolina, but both of those wins came with O.G. Anunoby in the lineup; he’s out for the year with a knee injury. Without Anunoby, they haven’t been overly impressive, and they still have to play a monster schedule down the stretch: five of their remaining eight – and four of their final five – games are on the road, and they play Purdue twice and at Wisconsin.

TCU (RPI: 49, KenPom: 42, play-in game): The Horned Frogs picked up a critical road win on Wednesday, going into Manhattan and knocking off Kansas State in overtime. It’s their first road win over a team not named Texas and just their fourth top 100 win of the season. The biggest obstacle for TCU right now is a lack of quality wins. If they can simply protect their home court the rest of Big 12 play, they should be in a good spot on Selection Sunday.

VCU (RPI: 31, KenPom: 45, play-in game): VCU is in a tougher spot than they are used to being in. After beating just one top 50 opponent in the non-conference – Middle Tennessee State – the Rams are playing out a conference slate in a league that isn’t exactly loaded with marquee wins. With losses to Davison and Fordham already, it would behoove VCU to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.

Clemson (RPI: 41, KenPom: 31, first four out): Clemson had a rough start to ACC play, but the computers love them. After beating Georgia Tech – a better win than you may realize – on Wednesday, they now have eight top 65 wins to go with three top 35 wins, two of which came on the road.

Arkansas (RPI: 29, KenPom: 52, No. 8 seed): The Razorbacks are in a pretty good spot right now. They have a pair of top 50 road wins and, sitting at 17-5 on the season, have just one bad loss, at home to Mississippi State. Beating Alabama at home, another top 100 win, certainly helps their cause.

Wichita State (RPI: 78, KenPom: 20, first four out): The Shockers avoided what would have been an awful loss to Drake, coming back from eight points down in the second half to win. I don’t think Wichita State can afford another loss in league play and still be able to get an at-large bid.

Illinois State (RPI: 37, KenPom: 38, No. 10 seed): The Redhawks are in a slightly better position than Wichita State, but the fact remains that the Missouri Valley has the look of a one-bid league this season. It would behoove ISU to lose to no one other that the Shockers.

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23: Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for a dunk as time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

LOSERS

N.C. State (RPI: 61, KenPom: 81, No. 11 seed): The Wolfpack landed a massive win at Duke last Monday that thrust them back into the discussion for an at-large bid. They backed that up by getting dropped by 25 points at Louisville and blowing a 17-point second half lead and losing to Syracuse at home. The loss to Louisville is one thing. Dropping a winnable game against an underperforming Syracuse team? That one is going to hurt.

Kansas State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed): The Wildcats looked like a safe bet to dance two weeks ago, and they looked like one of the nation’s most underrated team when they were 15-4 on the season with a pair of losses due to tough-luck calls in the final seconds. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row to bubble teams and now sit here in early February with just two wins over the RPI top 125.

Texas Tech (RPI: 71, KenPom: 41, No. 11 seed): The quickest way for a Big 12 team to kill their standing on the bubble is to lose to Texas. Texas Tech … lost to Texas. That’s not a good look for a team with just three top 50 wins.

Marquette (RPI: 53, KenPom: 32, No. 9 seed): Marquette beat Creighton on the road and Villanova at home in back-to-back games to put themselves in a position were comfortably on the right side of the bubble. They followed that up with a home loss to Providence and, on Wednesday, a 14-point loss at St. John’s. Back to the bubble it is.

Miami (RPI: 62, KenPom: 33, bubble): Miami fell at home to No. 15 Florida State tonight. It wasn’t the most flattering performance – they lost by 18 – and it will help folks to forget that they’re just four days removed from dominating North Carolina at home. But a loss to a top 15 team anywhere is never going to be a big deal, but missing out on an opportunity to get a win like that at home does make their margin for error in a conference as tough as the ACC just that much more difficult.

Seton Hall (RPI: 42, KenPom: 58, No. 11 seed): The Pirates had a chance to land a really nice road win over Xavier, who was playing their first game without Edmond Sumner. Seton Hall has just two top 100 wins. Later this month, they play three straight home games against Villanova, Creighton and Xavier. Winning two of those would be ideal.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 60, KenPom: 71, No. 11 seed): The Yellow Jackets missed out on a chance to bolster their résumé on Wednesday, losing at Clemson, but a road loss to a top 50 team isn’t going to hurt anyone.

Virginia Tech (RPI: 39, KenPom: 51, No. 8 seed): It’s hard to be too critical of anyone for losing at No. 9 Virginia.

 

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”