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Bubble Banter: Four critical bubble battles, Arkansas’ big chance

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see below come from.

This story will be updated throughout the night. 

WINNERS

Arkansas (RPI: 45, KenPom: 57, play-in game): The Razorbacks were the biggest winner of the night, and it’s not really close. For starters, they picked up a win at South Carolina, a top 25 road win that (finally) gives a little substance to their résumé: a top 25 road win. That should help Arkansas counteract the fact that they’ve lost to both Missouri and Mississippi State. But more to the point, it may be what saves Mike Anderson’s job. It’s no secret that he’s got some pressure on him, and getting into the NCAA tournament should be enough to ease that pressure. This win might be what does that for Arkansas.

Seton Hall (RPI: 44, KenPom: 55, play-in game): The Pirates started off the biggest week of their season in terrific fashion, picking off No. 20 Creighton at home. They follow that up with home games against Villanova and Butler. Split those two games and they should be dancing.

Minnesota (RPI: 22, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): Minnesota is just about off the bubble, having landed a last-second win over Indiana at home on Wednesday night. They have strong computer numbers, a handful of quality wins and nothing in the way of a bad loss.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 30, KenPom: 20, No. 8 seed): Like Minnesota, Oklahoma State is very close to playing their way out of the bubble picture, at least for the time being, as they added another quality win at TCU on Wednesday.

Wichita State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 16, play-in game): This is the deal for the Shockers: As long as they don’t lose to anyone other than Illinois State the rest of the season, they’ll probably be in the NCAA tournament. But given that their only top 100 win is league rival Illinois State, it’ll be hard for them to make up for a bad loss to anyone else in the league. They beat Southern Illinois tonight.

Miami (RPI: 52, KenPom: 36, No. 10 seed): Playing without JaQuan Newton the Hurricanes were still able to get themselves a win at home over fellow bubble-dweller, Georgia Tech. Even without Newman, this was still a win that the Hurricanes should get, but it is a nice confidence boost to be able kick off a three-game stretch where they won’t have their point guard to get a win.

Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 44, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds knocked off Missouri State on the road by one points on Wednesday, meaning that their dream of getting an at-large bid should they lose in the MVC tournament is still alive.

Iowa State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 26, No. 8 seed): The Cyclones won at Kansas State on Wednesday night, a win that probably is enough to get them off the bubble for the time being. If they can beat TCU and Oklahoma State at home, they should lock up their bid.

LOSERS

Rhode Island (RPI: 41, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Rams may have just buried themselves on Wednesday night, losing at home to Fordham in a game where they managed all of 43 points. I guess that heart-breaking loss to Dayton on Friday hurt a little more than we realized.

Indiana (RPI: 88, KenPom: 49, next four out): Indiana has now lost six of their last seven games after losing at the buzzer to Minnesota. They’re 15-12 on the season, and they’re not going to the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State (RPI: 48, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed): The bad news for the Wildcats is that they’ve lost ten games after falling to Iowa State on Wednesday night and they have just three top 100 wins. The good news? They have no sub-100 losses and one of those three wins is at Baylor, who is No. 1 in the RPI. I’d recommend going 4-1 down the stretch if the Wildcats don’t want to feel like they need to win a game in the Big 12 tournament to get a bid.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, play-in game): The Yellow Jackets whiffed on a chance to land a road win over a top 50ish opponent when they lost at Miami, who was playing without JaQuan Newton. In most years, they’d be out of it by now, but the bubble is weak enough that the Yellow Jackets are still very much in the mix.

TCU (RPI: 38, KenPom: 40, No. 10 seed): It’s too early to say that TCU is in trouble, but this is a team with just two top 40 wins (Illinois State and at Kansas State) and five top 100 wins in total. They don’t have any bad losses to their name, but they need to start adding some depth to their profile. It won’t be easy, as their next two games are at Iowa State and at Kansas.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.