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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.

 

NEXT ONE? Hoops phenom at 13 has college offer, NBA height

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Emoni Bates walks out a front door of Clague Middle School with just inches to spare.

A wide smile tops his 6-foot-7, extra-lean frame. He’s holding a seventh-grade honor society certificate in his right hand. His braces gleam in the afternoon sun.

Meet the best 13-year-old basketball player in America, according to some recruiting services. One of his highlight reels on YouTube has been viewed about 1 million times.

“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Emoni insists in a voice just louder than a whisper, “because if I pay attention to it, it’s just going to get to my head.

“And I don’t want it to get to my head. I just want to play basketball.”

He’s got the pedigree.

Emoni’s father, E.J. Bates, has been around the game most of his life. He picked greens and baled hay as a kid in nearby Milan, Michigan, then developed into a smooth-shooting guard. But he didn’t take school seriously until it was too late. Instead of playing for a basketball power like Kansas and maybe even in the NBA, E.J. wound up going to Kentucky Wesleyan and settling for pro hoops in Switzerland.

E.J. is determined to make sure his son doesn’t make the same mistake. The academics are a sign of that. House rules bar Emoni from picking up a basketball until his homework is done.

Yet E.J. knows when kids are this good this early, distractions roll in like waves. Already, it seems, lots of people want a piece of Emoni. Prep, private and public high school coaches are lining up. Colleges have him on their radar. DePaul took it a step further, offering Emoni a scholarship in late August. Two other much-touted players in the Class of 2022 — Amari Bailey of Illinois and Skyy Clark of California — also have offers from DePaul.

E.J. knows the shoe company bird dogs and other hustlers looking to buy favors are lurking, too. So he and wife Edith, who works for the Red Cross, keep their inner circle very tight.

“I’m his coach to keep the snakes away,” Bates says, sitting on one of Clague’s concrete benches. “We’re not for sale.”

The Bates family has agreed to provide The Associated Press with a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the most coveted basketball prospects in the country for at least the next five years. The periodic series will include video, photos, audio and text updates to track his progress.

Will Emoni stay near his current home to attend a public high school? Or will he take his next step at a private school like Detroit Country Day, like Michigan native Chris Webber?

Will he follow the footsteps of Marvin Bagley III and other five-star prospects, reclassifying to finish high school in three years? Bagley did to play college ball at Duke this coming season — and potentially to get a jump on a pro future.

Will E.J. and Emoni emulate the father-son team of LaVar and Lonzo Ball, grabbing headlines while hawking their own brand at every turn?

No one knows.

E.J. says all options are on the table. But he won’t be loud, unlike LaVar Ball in the lead-up to his son Lonzo being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I don’t have to brag about what we’re doing,” E.J. says. “I let other people do all the talking about how good Emoni is because word of mouth is the best advertising there is.”

A POTENTIAL STAR IS BORN

Emoni James-Wayne Bates was born Jan. 28, 2004, at the University of Michigan hospital. He was on the light side — 6 pounds, 7 ounces — and a little long at 21 inches. Just over a year later, Emoni slept with his head cradled in his left arm and his right wrapped around a black and red basketball. A cherished photo was made.

“He would always sleep with the ball,” his father recalls, holding a framed picture in his Ypsilanti, Michigan, home. “If the ball wasn’t around, he would cry about the ball. Even to this day, he has a mini-ball he keeps with him, which is crazy to me.”

There were more hints. During a second visit to the doctor, E.J., who is 6-foot-4, and Edith, 5-9, asked how tall their son might grow.

“He was off the charts,” E.J. laughs, “so they couldn’t tell us.”

Emoni has shot up 7 inches in the last two years. He’s tall enough right now to play shooting guard at any level. He handles the ball like a point guard and launches 3-pointers like a savvy veteran. He can create his own shot like a wing or drive the lane and dish off to a teammate like another rail-thin former prodigy, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

But adding weight and muscle is an ongoing challenge. He weighs just 155 pounds — not heavy or strong enough to play a dominating inside game that would complement his fluid perimeter skills.

“We try to stuff him full of food at night and hope it sticks,” E.J. sighs.

TEEN CELEBRITY

The Adidas Invitational in Fishers, Indiana, attracts some of the Midwest’s top seventh-grade AAU teams. Inside Best Choice Fieldhouse, talk centers on whether the Bates Fundamentals squad starring Emoni and coached by E.J. can live up to the hype.

“They’ve been hearing a lot about him,” says Bernetta Kelly, watching her son’s Peoria Area Elite team take its shot.

Bates Fundamentals wins 95-44 and Kelly understands why. She approaches Emoni and asks for a photo with her son and his team.

“I’ve seen the best players from Pittsburgh to Vegas the last four years, and he’s been the best in his class,” Peoria coach Zach Martin says. “I told the guys, ‘There are not many times you will be able to say you played an NBA player, but you just did.'”

After another lopsided victory in the two-day tournament won easily by Bates Fundamentals, Emoni walks off the court. A younger competitor darts out of his team’s pregame layup line to slap his hand. Moments later, the excitement follows Emoni out the door.

“Hey, that’s him,” a young boy entering the facility says to teammates.

How does a 10-year-old from Fort Wayne, Indiana, know who Bates is?

“YouTube,” he says.

Duh.

The highlight reel posted last summer had nearly 1 million views before Emoni walked into the doors at Clague for the first time as an eighth-grader. Several other videos have racked up 500,000-plus views in less than one year.

By the spring of 2018, the suspense about where he plans to attend high school may be its own mini-drama. Then a few years later: Which college?

E.J. and Edith hardly need reminding that’s still a long way off. As good as the recruiting services have become at projecting stars, it’s easy to forget the object of all that attention is still just 13. At times, the recruiting experts simply miss.

“It’s always a crap shoot,” E.J. says. “You don’t know what life will deal you. You never know what can happen with injuries, the loss of motivation or pressure getting to be too much.”

Yet fans of two college basketball powers with the inside track can already start thinking about the fall of 2021, when Bates can officially sign a scholarship offer. In quiet moments, Emoni sometimes does, too.

Asked about his favorite programs, the soft-spoken kid doesn’t hesitate to name the early front-runners.

“Michigan State and Kentucky,” Emoni says.

___

Follow the series: https://www.apnews.com/tag/TheKid

___

Follow Larry Lage at http://twitter.com/larrylage

NCAA punishes Pacific men’s basketball for violations

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STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — The men’s basketball team at Pacific has been punished by the NCAA for academic and recruiting violations under former coach Ron Verlin.

The NCAA said Wednesday that Verlin failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance when he violated academic misconduct and recruiting rules to get prospects eligible. He also failed to monitor his coaches and violated NCAA ethics rules when he encouraged others to give false information during the investigation.

The baseball program was also cited because former coach Ed Sprague impermissibly provided an athletic training student with a $16,000 scholarship to help with the housing costs of two baseball student-athletes, including her brother.

Penalties for the school include two years of probation, recruiting and scholarship reductions, a $5,000 fine and a vacation of all games in which ineligible athletes participated.

Memphis lands commitment from 2018 center Connor Vanover

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Memphis picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night as unique center prospect Connor Vanover announced his decision on Twitter.

At 7-foot-2, Vanover brings elite size to the interior for the Tigers and he’s also skilled enough that he was a 43 percent three-point shooter during his stint playing with Pro Skills in the Nike EYBL this spring. Although Vanover needs to add strength and athleticism to adapt to the college level, he simply has size that you can’t teach. Pair that size with an intriguing perimeter jumper and it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Tubby Smith is able to develop Vanover the next few years.

A three-star prospect according to Rivals, Vanover averaged 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game during the spring. Originally from Arkansas, Vanover is spending his senior season of high school ball at prep school powerhouse Findlay Prep.

Bill Self unsure of how long he will continue to coach

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Kansas head coach Bill Self is one of the most decorated college basketball coaches of all time.

Recently inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month, Self has won a record 13 consecutive Big 12 regular-season championships while also claiming a national title for the Jayhawks during his storied career.

But while most legendary coaches in contemporary college basketball have stayed around to coach well into their late 60s or early 70s, the 54-year-old Self doesn’t necessarily see his career playing out that way.

Speaking with ESPN.com reporter Myron Medcalf on Wednesday, Self acknowledged that he’s thinking about potentially retiring once his next contract ends after the 2021-22 season. With five more years left on his current deal, that would mean that Self would be retiring before he would even turn 60.

“I’ve said all along that if I could go to my late 50s, that’d be good for me,” Self said to Medcalf. “Now that I’m getting close to my late 50s, I’m like, ‘Well…’ but my contract runs until I’m 59, so I’ve got five more years left. I definitely want to do that. Then whatever happens after that I’d be happy with whatever. But I don’t want to [coach too late].”

While Hall of Fame coaches like Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (72 years old), Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski (70 years old) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (67 years old) are showing no signs of slowing down, Self acknowledged to Medcalf that coach, and specifically recruiting, has started to take its toll on him.

“With recruiting the way that it is, it just wears you down,” Self said to Medcalf.

With Kansas pursuing so many potential one-and-done prospects over the past few seasons, it means that Self usually has to recruit sizable recruiting classes

Self is certainly entitled to do what he wants with his career and his life but it would be a shame to see one of the game’s greats hang it up at that point in his career. Potentially retiring at that age means that Self won’t chase 1,000 wins or any additional longevity records

Ohio State lands second pledge in two days with 2018 guard Duane Washington

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Ohio State stayed hot on the recruiting trail on Wednesday as the Buckeyes landed a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Duane Washington.

The 6-foot-3 Washington is the second commitment for Ohio State and new head coach Chris Holtmann in the last two days after four-star forward Jaedon LeDee pledged to the Buckeyes on Tuesday.

One of the better shooters in the Class of 2018, Washington averaged 14.9 points per game on tremendous shooting splits (48% FG, 87% FT, 45% 3PT) playing with The Family in the Nike EYBL this spring. A Michigan native who now resides in California, Washington gives Ohio State a much-needed guard commitment in the Class of 2018.

With the Buckeyes needing to fill a lot of scholarships due to roster turnover, Washington is a solid start to their perimeter class. While Washington isn’t likely to play point guard, he can play multiple perimeter spots and should be a solid addition to the Buckeye rotation.