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Bubble Banter: Carnage in the Big 12 is great news for the league’s bubble-dwellers

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For the most up-to-date bracket projection, click here. This is where the seedings listed below are from. 

WINNERS

The Big 12: Depending on how you look at it, Saturday was either a day full of carnage of the best day of the year for the conference. The three top teams in the league all lost at home. That’s bad. But those losses all came to teams that were on the bubble and, as of now, probably are going to end up in the NCAA tournament. That’s good, right?:

  • Iowa State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 28, No. 9 seed): The Cyclones just played their way off the bubble. Iowa State went into Phog Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas. That will be, at worst, one of the top three wins in college basketball this season. It may be the best. Iowa State was already in a pretty good spot. They’re not a lock to dance yet – there’s still a lot of basketball to be played – but as long as they don’t do anything stupid the rest of the season, they’ll be getting an at-large bid.
  • Kansas State (RPI: 49, KenPom: 29, play-in game): The Wildcats played their way out of bubble contention for the time being as they went into Waco and knocked off No. 2 Baylor. For a team that entered the day just 2-7 against the RPI top 100, picking up a road win over a top ten team is a pretty big deal. As of today, the Wildcats are comfortably in the tournament.
  • Oklahoma State (RPI: 33, KenPom: 23, No. 11 seed): Continuing with the theme of the day, the Cowboys picked up a road win over West Virginia, their fifth consecutive win and the fourth time in that span where the Pokes beat a team that will likely be in the NCAA tournament. Three of those four wins were on the road. Pretty impressive turnaround for a team that lost their first six conference games.

Syracuse (RPI: 83, KenPom: 53, bubble): It’s hard to imagine that there will be a bigger bubble winner today than the Orange*, who landed a come-from-behind win to knock off the same No. 9 Virginia team that they came from behind to beat in the Elite 8 last season. The Orange have now won four straight games, with home victories over Florida State and UVA in that run, and suddenly, a team that looked like they were out of the running for an at-large bid is suddenly very much in the mix. As of today, I think the Orange are still on the wrong side of the bubble. They have the three worst losses of any team in contention right now – Boston College, UConn and St. John’s, all of whom are outside the RPI top 125 – and they only have one win in a games that came on the road or on a neutral court.

*(Looks really dumb after Iowa State’s win at Kansas the Big 12 went insane.)

SYRACUSE, NY - JANUARY 28: Tyler Roberson #21 of the Syracuse Orange dunks the ball against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half at the Carrier Dome on January 28, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

Seton Hall (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, first four out): The Pirates picked up a really nice road win in overtime, knocking off Georgetown, a fellow bubble-dweller. The Pirates are quietly playing themselves into the NCAA tournament. Four of their five best wins came on the road or on a neutral, and they still get Creighton, Butler and Villanova at home later this month.

Wichita State (RPI: 78, KenPom: 21, first four out): The Shockers vaulted themselves into a tie for first place in the Missouri Valley with a 41-point win over Illinois State. The Shockers are likely going to be right there on the cut line come Selection Sunday.

Miami (RPI: 71, KenPom: 44, first four out): The Hurricanes added a nice road win to their résumé by picking off another bubble-dweller in N.C. State. Miami landed a nice win over North Carolina last weekend, but that’s really all there is to their profile at this point. Hurricane fans are going to be rooting for the Wolfpack to figure it out down the stretch; beating a bad team on the road doesn’t mean much. Beating a top 75ish team on the road does.

TCU (RPI: 39, KenPom: 34, play-in game): The Horned Frogs did what they had to do, beating Texas to avoid that black mark on their profile. TCU’s two best wins are against Illinois State and at Kansas State. They’re going to have to beat one of the elite in the Big 12 to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

Texas Tech (RPI: 85, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Red Raiders kept themselves in a good spot on the bubble with a win over an 8-14 Oklahoma team on Saturday. Chris Beard’s club still has some work to do to make up for a slow start in Big 12 play.

Minnesota (RPI: 23, KenPom: 42, No. 11 seed): The Gophers landed a nice win at Illinois to end an ugly, five-game losing streak. I still think the Gophers, who have four top 50 wins, two of which came on the road, and eight top 100 wins, are more comfortably in the tournament that a No. 11 seed.

Wake Forest (RPI: 30, KenPom: 33, next four out): The Demon Deacons worked themselves ever closer to the cut line on Saturday, picking up a win they badly needed to get at home against Georgia Tech. Wake is still without a top 50 win, but with four top 50 road games left and a home date with Louisville, Danny Manning’s club will have plenty of chances to play their way into the tournament.

Marquette (RPI: 67, KenPom: 37, No. 10 seed): The Golden Eagles kept their spot on the right side of the bubble as they went into Chicago and knocked off DePaul.

VCU (RPI: 32, KenPom: 47, No. 9 seed): VCU won when a technical foul was called with 0.4 seconds left at St. Bonaventure because the fans stormed the court before the game was over. Instead of losing in regulation they won in overtime. If VCU ends up on the cut line come Selection Sunday, remember this day.

USC (RPI: 27, KenPom: 59, No. 8 seed): USC swept a road weekend for the first time in Andy Enfield’s tenure with the program as they won at Washington State on Saturday. The Trojans have now won four in a row and are trending in the right direction.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 9: Head coach Richard Pitino of the Minnesota Golden Gophers reacts against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the first round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 9, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Illinois defeated Minnesota 85-52. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Head coach Richard Pitino (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

LOSERS

Georgia Tech (RPI: 65, KenPom: 74, No. 10 seed): The Yellow Jackets fell at Wake Forest on Saturday, a loss that doesn’t look as bad on paper as it probably sounds in your head. I’m not even sure this loss would drop them a seed line right now.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): The Redbirds were obliterated on Saturday at Wichita State, losing by 41 points. On the one hand, that’s gross. On the other, this loss came with MiKyle McIntosh available. He averages 13.5 points. If the committee takes that into account, this loss may not hurt them as much as you’d think. Might this have been a best-case scenario for the Missouri Valley?

Tennessee (RPI: 34, KenPom: 35, play-in game): The Vols may be the biggest loser on the bubble today. Not only did they watch four teams near or behind them in the standings land wins over top ten teams, but they blew a 19-point lead on the road and lost to a bad Mississippi State team. Ouch.

Arkansas (RPI: 25, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): The Razorbacks probably didn’t cost themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament by losing at Missouri on Saturday, but they certainly didn’t make the job they have in front of them any easier. Missouri snapped a 13-game losing streak with the win. Gross.

Michigan (RPI: 60, KenPom: 32, No. 10 seed): The Wolverines’ résumé took a hit on Saturday as they lost at home to Ohio State. It’s hardly a killer for Michigan, not when they have five games left against top 50 opponents, but with just one top 50 win under their belt, making the margin for error smaller isn’t doing themselves any favors.

Georgetown (RPI: 52, KenPom: 56, first four out): The Hoyas put themselves back into the conversation for an NCAA tournament bid last week, as they beat Creighton and won at Butler. Losing to Seton Hall at home in overtime is going to hurt, not because it’s an awful loss but because that was a quality résumé win that they A) needed to make up ground and B) didn’t get.

Valpo (RPI: 61, KenPom: 81, No. 12 seed): The Crusaders got smacked around on Saturday at Green Bay, who is a title contender in the Horizon. All things consider, it’s not an awful loss by any stretch, but it is the kind of loss that Valpo’s profile may not be able to handle. I’m not sure that they can get an at-large at this point.

Middle Tennessee State  (RPI: 41, KenPom: 48, No. 8 seed): MTSU blew a double-digit lead on the road against 8-14 UTEP as they lost their first game of the CUSA season. As of now, I would guess the Blue Raiders have a good enough profile to get them into the NCAA tournament, but that is going to continue to drop compated to the rest of the field.

N.C. State (RPI: 82, KenPom: 87, next four out): The more N.C. State plays, the more their win at Duke looks like a total fluke. The Wolfpack dropped to 14-10 overall and 3-8 in the ACC with a loss to Miami at home. I don’t think their season is going to get turned around.

 

Cal promotes assistant Wyking Jones to head coach

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Cal will promote interim head coach and former assistant coach Wyking Jones to head coach, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. The story was first reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRagSports.com

A native of Inglewood, California, Jones has been an assistant coach for the Golden Bears for the past two seasons as he replaces former head coach Cuonzo Martin, who departed to take the Missouri job. This promotion comes as a bit of a surprise for some since Jones has never been a head coach at the Division I level.

Jones has spent 15 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level at places like Cal, Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount — where Jones spent his playing career.

Helping Louisville to the Final Four in 2013, Jones is a respected coach and recruiter who gets a great opportunity for his first head coaching job at the Division I level with Cal.

The Golden Bears made the NCAA tournament last year but finished 21-13 this season as they missed making the field of 68. Sophomore big man Ivan Rabb has already declared for the NBA Draft and it will be interesting to see what kind of roster Jones gets to work with right away.

One of the reasons Jones might have been retained is to help Cal keep its solid five-man recruiting class from bolting. While the Golden Bears don’t have any five-star talents coming in, it is a solid foundation for the program’s future led by a four-star guard in Jemarl Baker.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.

Alabama loses Nick King, Brandon Austin to transfer

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Alabama is losing a pair to transfer as junior Nick King and sophomore Brandon Austin are planning to transfer, according to a release.

The 6-foot-7 King is expected to graduate and be eligible to play anywhere right away as a graduate transfer while the 6-foot-5 Austin will likely have to sit out a season before playing.

King started his career at Memphis but transferred to Alabama. A former starter at small forward, King played the first seven games of the season until a lung infection shut down his season. He averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game before shutting it down.

A former top-50 recruit from the Class of 2013, King will look to jumpstart his career elsewhere during his final season of college basketball.

Austin only appeared in six games and played a total of 44 minutes this season as he also dealt with injuries like an early bone bruise.

The Crimson Tide are bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country next season as their freshmen could see a lot of playing time. So it comes as no surprise that players like King and Austin would transfer to assure more playing time.

Candidates Georgetown could target for head coach

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Georgetown moved on from head coach John Thompson III after 13 years at the helm on Thursday as the move sent shockwaves throughout college basketball.

The Thompson family has been a major institution for Georgetown basketball, dating back to the ’70s when John Thompson Jr. was head coach. So this new hire for the Hoyas will be a fascinating process.

Here’s a list of some early names that could be involved with Georgetown.

Tommy Amaker, Harvard — With a successful tenure at Harvard that at one point included four NCAA tournament bids in a row, Amaker has won at his latest job while coaching at an elite academic institution.

Put together with previous stops at Seton Hall and Michigan and Amaker has run a big-time program while also winning at an Ivy League school. Leaving Harvard might be tough though when Amaker is beginning to recruit at a national level at the program.

Jamion Christian, Mount St. Mary’s — Five years at Mount St. Mary’s has produced two NCAA tournament appearances for Christian as the 34-year-old would represent a bold, young hire for Georgetown.

Also an assistant coach for a season at VCU under Shaka Smart, Christian has recruited in that area before and he’s regarded by many as one of the bright, young head coaches in a low-major league. Coming from Smart at VCU, it should come as no surprise that Christian plays an uptempo system and presses on defense.

It would be a bit risky for Georgetown to hire someone as young as Christian but he also has the kind of enthusiasm to lead the tough rebuild that the Hoyas potentially face.

Nathan Davis, Bucknell — After leading Bucknell to the NCAA tournament in only his second season as a Division I head coach, Davis is someone to keep an eye on for the future.

The Washington D.C. native has quickly established himself as a potential young star in the coaching ranks but he also might be too inexperienced to take one of the Big East’s prestige positions. As a Division I head coach for only two seasons, Davis hasn’t faced the pressure of the high-major level at any of his previous coaching stops. Davis certainly deserves credit for his Division III coaching success and Final Four appearance with Randolph-Macon (Bo Ryan was pretty good in DIII before moving to Division I) but that’s a long way from the Big East.

Davis would have to prove that he’s capable as a coach and recruiter at the Big East level and he would be a risk if hired by the Hoyas.

Patrick Ewing Sr., Charlotte Hornets assistant  — The Hall of Fame center and Georgetown alum would be an intriguing name. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that the Hoyas are considering Ewing as a potential head coach.

This wouldn’t just be a Chris Mullin at St. John’s type of scenario where Mullin had no coaching experience before taking the job. Ewing has been grinding as an NBA assistant coach for the past 15 years in the hopes of getting an NBA head coaching job. Georgetown represents an unique opportunity for Ewing to rebuild his former program and his son, Patrick Ewing Jr., would potentially work for him.

Recruiting would obviously be a major question mark but Ewing has the playing and coaching pedigree to be a wild card in this.

Dan Hurley, Rhode Island — The Rams finally broke through and made the NCAA Tournament in Hurley’s fifth year as head coach this season as Rhode Island made the second round before falling to Oregon in a close game.

Of the coaches on this list, the Rams have recruited a lot of top-100 prospects and futures pros like E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, so we know that Hurley knows how to navigate elite recruiting.

As the son of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley and younger brother of Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, Dan Hurley comes from a long line of basketball coaches. He’s made Rhode Island one of the premier programs in the Atlantic 10. Although he’s only made one NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons as a head coach, Hurley has things trending in the right direction.

Shaka Smart, Texas — This isn’t likely going to happen but Georgetown is at least going to call. Since Smart was so successful at nearby VCU before taking the Texas job, the Hoyas are going to see if he’d be interested in returning to the area after this season’s disappointing last-place Big 12 finish.

If this Georgetown coaching position had been made available two years ago, before Smart had taken the Texas job, then it would have been intriguing to see where things might stand between the two. But now that Smart has at least four, four-star prospects entering Texas next season, while returning most of the current roster, he has a chance to build from this season’s last-place finish.

VIDEO: Why did the NCAA ban dunking in 1967?

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With UCLA playing in the Sweet 16 tonight, it’s a fitting time to bring up the story of the time that the association banned dunking.

It was in 1967, and it was because there was a kid named Lew Alcindor (who would change his name to Kareem Abdul Jabbar) at UCLA who led the Bruins to a 30-0 record and a national title.

And just think, that rule change, which lasted until 1976, kept some of the game’s greatest dunkers from showing what they could really do in college. Imagine David Thompson rattling rims, rather than his assortment of finger-rolls and layups. Dr. J soared at UMass, but never like Dr. J really could. And so on.

So as you’re watching the rest of the NCAA tournament, thank the rule-makers who brought the dunk back. We’re better for it.