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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.

 

VIDEO: Wisconsin beats Western Kentucky on controversial blocking call 90 feet from the hoop

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Wisconsin freshman Brad Davison helped the Badgers sneak past Western Kentucky for an 81-80 win on Wednesday night by drawing a blocking call 90 feet from the basket on an inbounds play with two seconds left.

With the game tied at 80 and the Badgers in the double bonus, the blocking foul on Western Kentucky’s Marek Nelson sent Davison to the free throw line to clinch the game. Davison made the first free throw and purposely missed the second to give Wisconsin the one-point win.

Obviously, some smart coaching from Gard (if he called it) and a good play from Davison to elicit the call from the official. But for Western Kentucky to lose like this? On a call like this? That’s a really poor look from the officials, who could have just as easily called this a charge. Or even better, let the play go and settle for a likely overtime between two tied teams.

That referee’s call, on what’s very close to a non-basketball play, decided Wisconsin’s win over the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury was furious over the call and was hoping the officials could check to see if Davison was out of bounds.

Brunson leads No. 1 Villanova in rout of Temple

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Brunson had 22 of his career-high 31 points in No. 1 Villanova’s dominating first half and Omari Spellman scored 27 to help lead the Wildcats to an 87-67 rout of Temple on Wednesday night.

Donte DiVincenzo added 12 points for Villanova (11-0), which won its unprecedented 22nd straight Big 5 game. The Wildcats last lost a contest in the Philadelphia round-robin series to Temple on Dec. 5, 2012. The Big 5 also consists of La Salle, Saint Joseph’s and Penn.

The Wildcats, who moved into the top spot in the rankings for the third straight season this week, looked like the best team in the country in a dominating opening 20 minutes.

With his dad Rick – a former Temple standout and current assistant coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves who played nine seasons in the NBA – sitting two rows behind the Villanova bench, Brunson led the way.

The 6-foot-2 junior point guard made 8 of 10 shots, including 5 of 7 3-pointers, and added four assists while controlling the opening 20 minutes.

The performance surely impressed Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown and Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons, who were among the sellout crowd of 10,206 at Temple.

Quinton Rose scored 27 points for the Owls (6-3), who began the week No. 11 in the RPI rankings. It was the third straight season Temple played Villanova as a No. 1, and the Owls fell to 2-18 all-time against No. 1-ranked opponents.

The Temple student section was fired up in the pregame, hoping to help the Owls end Villanova’s Philadelphia dominance, but the Wildcats gave them little for which to cheer.

The Wildcats scored the first seven points as Temple came out cold, missing its first five shots and committing three turnovers.

And Villanova went from there.

The Wildcats took their biggest lead of the half on DiVincenzo’s 3-pointer that made it 25-5 with 11 minutes left before the break. And the lead reached 20 again on Brunson’s 3-pointer that made it 28-8 44 seconds later.

Temple rallied by scoring the next 13 points over 3 1/2 minutes to pull within 28-21 on Josh Brown’s jumper with 6:45 left before the break.

But Villanova continued making shots and Brunson, appropriately, finished the first-half scoring with a 3-pointer with 47 seconds left that gave the Wildcats a 46-29 lead.

Villanova shot 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from the arc in the opening 20 minutes.

The second half was a mere formality.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: The Wildcats likely will hold the top spot in the rankings for at least another week, as they will take nine days off for exams before returning to the court. They will next play a nonconference game against Hofstra, the program Wildcats coach Jay Wright led before coming to Villanova, on Dec. 22 before beginning Big East play on Dec. 27 at DePaul.

Temple: The Owls host another Philadelphia school, Drexel, on Saturday and then play at Georgia on Dec. 22 before starting American Conference play on Dec. 28 against Tulane. The Owls will be looking for their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and will need a high finish in the conference to get there.

UP NEXT

Villanova: After a break for exams, the Wildcats play Hofstra on Dec. 22 in Uniondale, New York.

Temple: Hosts Drexel on Saturday night.

___

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Louisville files lawsuit against former head coach Rick Pitino

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The University of Louisville has filed a lawsuit against former head coach Rick Pitino, seeking monetary damages, including money the school will lose from vacated NCAA tournament wins from 2012-2015.

According to a report from Jason Riley of WDRB, the school is claiming that since Pitino is the active wrongdoer and not the University. “To the extent the University is obligated to pay financial penalties to the NCAA, the University is entitled to indemnity from Mr. Pitino for the total amount of the penalties, if any, and any other resultant consequential damages, including the costs and attorneys’ fees associated with the compliance investigation and defense of this action,” the lawsuit read.

The university is also going after “any bonuses and other compensation wrongly paid” to Pitino, according to the suit.

This Louisville lawsuit runs counter to Pitino’s breach-of-contract suit that he filed in late November in which he claimed that he was owed more than $35 million left on his contract. Louisville dismissed Pitino “for cause” as the school has maintained that Pitino isn’t owed anything.

Based on the back-and-forth lawsuits, this sounds like it’s just getting started as we’ll likely hear a lot more from both sides in the coming months. Never shy to publicly respond to anything, it’ll be interesting if Pitino speaks or if he’s told to stay quiet until anything is required in court.

NCAA committee hears final Louisville appeal as they try to keep title banner

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Louisville had their final day in court on Wednesday as they made a last-ditch appeal to the NCAA Infractions Committee to try and save their 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title.

Neither Rick Pitino nor Tom Jurich, who were both fired by Louisville in the wake of this fall’s FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball, were in attendance.

An interim president and interim athletic director were present for the University as they tried to push back against the ruling the NCAA came down with this summer. If you’ve forgotten: The Cardinals were hit with a slew of recruiting restrictions, sit on probation and must pay back a bunch of money they won in forfeited NCAA tournament games due to a former staffer’s efforts to provide strippers and sex workers to players and recruits over the course of four years. The vacated wins are the result of players that were retroactively ruled ineligible for receiving what the NCAA is deeming impermissible benefits participating in those games.

Louisville also initially self-imposed violations, including a 2016 postseason ban that was implemented in February of that year.

Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal has all the details here, but we know what the story is at this point.

Louisville’s argument is centered around the money. Essentially, they are saying that value of the transactions in question – the amount of money that was spent by former assistant Andre McGee – was small enough that the players involved would have been able to pay back what was owed had the violations been discovered in real time. The NCAA’s argument is even simpler: We’ve never seen something like this, so precedence does not matter in this case.

A final ruling is not expected until at least January.

College Basketball Futures Watch Part I: Alabama through Louisville

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Over the course of the next three days, we at College Basketball Talk will be cruising through the best, the most surprising and the most disappointing teams in college basketball.

As of today, how should we view the 45 most interesting teams in the country based on preseason expectation? 

Are we more confident in them? Less confident? Still unsure?

We used five different labels here to help define how we feel about each of the 45 teams mentioned:

  • Bet The Mortgage
  • Raise
  • Check
  • Fold
  • Get Your Stuff And Go Home

Today, we go through everyone from Alabama to Louisville.

Let’s get into it.

ALABAMA: Fold

Collin Sexton is awesome. He’s fun to watch, he’s efficient and he puts massive pressure on defenses. Still, the Tide may just not have enough to be a true contender in the SEC. Losses to Minnesota, UCF and Arizona suggest that Avery Johnson’s group isn’t strong enough past Sexton. (Travis Hines)

ARIZONA: Raise

It hasn’t been pretty early for Arizona, especially with that 0-3 run in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Yet despite the issues this team needs to address, most notably its defense – especially when DeAndre Ayton and Dusan Ristic are on the court at the same time – Arizona has one of the best 1-2 tandems in Ayton and Allonzo Trier. Ayton’s damn near unstoppable offensively, as he can score inside and out which makes him an absolute handful for just about any team Arizona faces. And for all the talk of Trier’s shot selection last season, he’s been one of the most efficient players in the country. After taking six of his seven shots from three and attempting just two free throws in the win over Texas A&M, Trier managed to earn 16 free throw attempts with just six official shots from the field against Alabama. The return of Rawle Alkins gives Arizona a consistent peripheral offensive option moving forward, and I think Sean Miller will be able to turn this group into an adequate defensive unit. (Raphielle Johnson)

ARIZONA STATE: Raise

I still have questions about the Sun Devils when it comes to their defensive chops, especially with just two front court players who are 6-foot-9 or taller (Vitaliy Shibel and DeQuon Lake) and opponents rebounding just over 30 percent of their misses on the season. But if you have good guard play, and experienced at that, this can cover up a lot of issues in the college game. As their hashtag says the perimeter unit of Tra Holder, Shannon Evans II, Remy Martin and Kodi Justice is #Hard2Guard, and they all play with a chip on their shoulders that Bobby Hurley had during his own playing career. And there aren’t many teams around that have two wins as good as Arizona State’s over Xavier and Kansas on their resume. I believe in this group, and I’ll believe even more if they can improve the defense (and rebounding). (RJ)

Tra Holder (David Becker/Getty Images)

ARKANSAS: Check

The Razorbacks have my attention. They blew out UConn, they beat Minnesota soundly, they handled Oklahoma, they have a talented crop of veteran guards. But they also got smoked at Houston and beaten by North Carolina again. Mike Anderson’s teams have a tendency to be great at home and miserable on the road. Before I make any sweeping proclamations about this Arkansas team, let’s see what they can do on the road during league play. (Rob Dauster)

BAYLOR: Fold

A lot of the Bears’ early-season success has been predicated on a defense that has really kept opponents in check. Is it sustainable though? Baylor is keeping opponents to 29.7 percent from 3-point range and an effective field goal percentage of 44.9. Those would all be the best numbers of a Scott Drew team in recent years – dramatically better than many of his teams. I’m skeptical that Baylor can keep up this pace. (TH)

CINCINNATI: Check

It’s easy to be optimistic about a team with a top-five defense but Cincinnati hasn’t defeated anybody of relevance this season. Losing to Xavier and Florida, the Bearcats’ best win came over Mississippi State this week. Cincinnati can get balanced scoring on certain nights but on others they have to win in rock fights. Let’s see them beat somebody good before we commit more to them. (Scott Phillips)

CREIGHTON: Check

There are things to like about the Bluejays. They have a great offense and own solid wins over Northwestern, Nebraska and UCLA. But Creighton has also fallen to better teams like Baylor and Gonzaga and they’re still the Big East’s fourth best team at this point. Are they truly any kind of contender or just a tournament team? (SP)

Grayson Allen (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

DUKE: Check

So I think I’m the only person covering college basketball that is worried about Duke right now. That might mean I’m an idiot. It might also mean I’m a genius. But here are my concerns, which I laid out in this column in more depth a couple of weeks ago:

  • They don’t play defense all that well. Boston College’s guards looked like all-americans running something as simple as pick-and-rolls every possession.
  • They don’t seem to want to play all that hard until they’re down by 10 points in the second half of a game they shouldn’t be losing.
  • Trevon Duval is talented but he’s not the best decision-maker we’ve seen at the point guard spot. When he goes to the bench, it forces Grayson Allen to play on the ball, which is not his best position.
  • Allen, as a result, has become a streaky shooter that seems to be a little too reliant on the jumper.
  • As a team, Duke is a little too reliant on their jumpers for a team that is not loaded with great shooters.

Maybe I’m reading too much into a young team going through some growing pains, but considering that Duke is, quite literally, the favorite to win the title in Vegas, let’s wait before we put any more money in the middle. (RD)

FLORIDA: Raise

The Gators had their issues last week. They lost at home to in-state rival Florida State. They lost at home to Loyola-Chicago. That came after they blew a 17-point lead to Duke. None of those things are a good look for a top five team, and they took a hit in public perception as a result. I think that reaction may have swung the pendulum too far. They showed an impressive amount of toughness in their win over Cincinnati, and I have faith that Mike White will be able to figure this thing out. Plus, John Egbunu’s return is looming. This isn’t a top five team, but they’re better than being a borderline top 25 team. (RD)

FLORIDA STATE: Raise

A surprising 9-0 start has Florida State in the top 25 after they smoked Florida on the road. Food for thought: Everyone freaked out about Arizona State’s 10-point win on the road against a top five team, so why didn’t they freak out about the Seminole’s 17-point win on the road against a top five team? Junior Terance Mann has breakout potential in the ACC and Braian Angola can put up numbers across the board. This team is intriguing. (SP)

GONZAGA: Bet The Mortgage

Despite having a lot of holes to fill from last year’s national runner-up team the Bulldogs are off to an 8-2 start with the only losses coming against Florida (in double overtime) and Villanova. Josh Perkins has done a good job of running the show, the perimeter rotation has both athleticism and talent, and the front court doesn’t lack for bodies with Johnathan Williams III leading the way. Player such as Perkins, Williams, Killian Tillie and Silas Melson were part of last season’s rotation so this isn’t an inexperienced team by any stretch; they’ve simply got a decent number of players who are getting used to more significant roles than what they had in the past. Add in the presence of Mark Few, and Gonzaga has what it takes to once again play deep into the NCAA tournament. (RJ)

IOWA STATE: Check

Steve Prohm’s team had a brutal start to the season, losing at Missouri and at home to Milwaukee, but a move to put Nick Weiler-Babb at point guard has energized the Cyclones and has them on a seven-game winning streak. Still, none of those seven wins are against impressive opponents. They topped Boise State without Chandler Hutchison on a neutral and a spiraling Iowa team at home. We just don’t know enough yet about the Cyclones to see which way their season will go. (TH)

KANSAS: Raise

The Jayhawks have lost back-to-back games, but they’re still immensely talented and coached by Bill Self. Kansas’ roster was always flawed, but it’s not something that can’t be overcome with some tweaks – and the potential arrival of Silvio De Sousa next semester. Kansas remains the team to beat in the Big 12, and the reinforcements are (hopefully, in the case of Billy Preston) on the way. (TH)

Devonte’ Graham, Kevin Knox (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

KENTUCKY: Raise

Frankly, I still have no idea what to make of this Kentucky team. They haven’t really been tested beyond playing Kansas, and that Kansas team, as it would turn out, is not as good as we thought they were. They are still flawed – having one point guard that can score but can’t guard and another that can guard but can’t score is going to be endlessly frustrating – but they are also flying totally under the radar right now. If we’ve learned anything through the first month of the season, it’s that no one outside of Michigan State and Villanova appear to actually be great. There is no third-best team in the country right now, best that I can tell. So why can’t it be Kentucky? (RD)

LOUISVILLE: Fold

Prior to the season, reasonable minds could disagree about the status of the Louisville program in the post-Pitino era. There still was talent on the roster, and that talent was old enough that, in theory, they could coach themselves. But that hasn’t exactly worked out. Shockingly, replacing one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time with a 32-year old interim in his first season as a head coach is not easy. Louisville will probably make the NCAA tournament still, but I can’t see them being a contender for much of anything this season. Cut your losses now. (RD)