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Bubble Banter: Seton Hall, Michigan State and Georgia with massive opportunities Saturday

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The up-to-date NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see below come from.

This post will be updated to reflect results throughout the day. 

WINNERS

Wichita State (RPI: 46, KenPom: 13, play-in game): The Shockers blew out a Northern Iowa team that had won eight of their last nine games and sat in third place in the Missouri Valley on Saturday. The Shockers are now 25-4 on the season, but their best non-league wins are over Oklahoma and at Colorado State, neither of which are top 100 wins. Their only top 100 win is Illinois State. The Shockers will be an interesting case come Selection Sunday, but as long as the only loss they take down the stretch of the season Illinois State in the MVC title game they should be just fine.

Marquette (RPI: 82, KenPom: 42, first four out): Marquette was the Big East’s big winner on Saturday, as they mowed down Xavier by 22 points to add a top 25 win to their profile. They are now 16-10 overall with one horrible loss but three top 25 wins and eight top 100 wins in total, including a couple on the road. I think they’re going dancing if they can win three of their last four games.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 28, KenPom: 20, No. 8 seed): Oklahoma State’s profile, outside of the computer numbers, is very similar to Marquette’s after their win over Oklahoma on Saturday night. A handful of really good wins, a bunch of losses and only one truly bad loss. They should be fine if they can get two more wins before the start of the Big 12 tournaments.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 53, No. 10 seed): The Razorbacks continue to build on their win at South Carolina last week as they handled Ole Miss at home on Saturday pretty easily. Mike Anderson’s club is going to be in the NCAA tournament if they can avoid doing anything dumb down the stretch, but given that this is the team that lost at Missouri earlier this season, there’s very little guarantee that will happen.

Miami (RPI: 47, KenPom: 35, No. 11 seed): Miami picked up a massive win over Clemson on Saturday, and not because the Tigers are some awe-inspiring win, it’s because the schedule down the stretch for the ‘Canes is brutal: at Virginia, Duke, at Virginia Tech, at Louisville. Win two and they’re in. Win one, and they’re going to probably have some work to do in the ACC tournament.

Dayton (RPI: 29, KenPom: 33, No. 8 seed): The Flyers kept themselves in a really strong position by beating St. Bonaventure on Saturday. The Flyers are 21-5 on the season and sitting in first place in the Atlantic 10, but they don’t have a single top 50 win on the season. Those 10 top 100 wins are nice, but with a loss to UMass – sub-150 – also on their résumé, the Flyers have less room for error than you may think.

Middle Tennessee (RPI: 35, KenPom: 45, No. 11 seed): The Blue Raiders kept themselves in at-large contention with a win at Marshall on Saturday. Here’s their issue: they have wins over UNC Wilmington (on a neutral), at Belmont, at Ole Miss and over Vanderbilt. That’s good. They’ve also lost to UTEP (289th in the RPI) and two more sub-125 teams. My advice to Kermit Davis: don’t test the committee.

Kansas State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 29, No. 10 seed): How weird is the bubble this year? Kansas State, who has just three top 100 wins, is 17-10 overall and 6-8 in the Big 12, is in the tournament with some room to spare even before their win at Texas on Saturday.

Tennessee (RPI: 44, KenPom: 43, bubble): The Vols beat Missouri, which is significant only because it means they didn’t lose to Missouri, which would have been a season-ender. I’d strongly recommended Tennessee win all of their remaining regular season games.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LOSERS

Wake Forest (RPI: 36, KenPom: 34, next four out): The Demon Deacons are running out of chances after losing at Duke on Saturday in a game where they missed a layup that would have given them the lead with less than a minute left. Wake doesn’t have a bad loss to their name, but they also don’t have much in the way of impressive wins. A win at Duke would have changed that. A win over Louisville next will will as well. Wake may need to win that if they really want to have a chance.

Michigan State (RPI: 40, KenPom: 54, No. 9 seed): The Spartans lost a game at Purdue, which hurts. Losing Eron Harris to a knee injury is a bigger loss.

Georgia (RPI: 48, KenPom: 51, next four out): Georgia lost a winnable game to Kentucky despite 36 points from J.J. Frazier. They’ve had some hard-luck losses in league play, and it’s probably going to keep them out of the NCAA tournament at this point. The bigger news? They may have lost Yante Maten to a knee injury.

TCU (RPI: 49, KenPom: 40, play-in game): The Horned Frogs missed out on a terrific opportunity to add to their tournament profile as they lost at Iowa State on Saturday evening. This loss isn’t a killer, but it does put TCU in a position where they likely will need to win their final three games of the season, assuming they lose at Kansas.

Texas Tech (RPI: 83, KenPom: 37, next four out): The Red Raiders badly needed a win at West Virginia on Saturday. They took the Mountaineers to double overtime before losing. This is what Texas Tech’s remaining schedule looks like: Iowa State, at Oklahoma State, Texas, at Kansas State. Win three of those and they should be OK.

Seton Hall (RPI: 39, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed): The Pirates whiffed on a chance to lock up a tournament bid on Saturday, losing at home to No. 2 Villanova. If they can take care of business this week at home against Xavier, Seton Hall should feel pretty good about their chances.

Clemson (RPI: 53, KenPom: 36, play-in game): Clemson is now 14-12 on the season and 4-10 in the ACC, but since they play in the ACC, Saturday’s loss at Miami isn’t a killer for them. They’ll still be a good win or two from being back on the right side of the bubble by next week. That’s how weak the bubble is this season.

Virginia Tech (RPI: 32, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): A win at Louisville on Saturday would have put the Hokies in the tournament. Losing at Louisville? They’re a top ten team. You’re supposed to lose there.

 

Seven identified after threats made against referee John Higgins following Kentucky Elite Eight loss

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College basketball referee John Higgins received threats to his home and business in late March after some controversial calls in North Carolina’s win over Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

Seven people have now been identified for making threats against Higgins, according to an Associated Press report. The FBI’s Omaha, Nebraska field office said that information on the seven people will be referred to authorities in their jurisdictions.

An investigation over the last few months helped find the culprits, as the Omaha-based Higgins received emails, phone calls and voicemails to his personal home and roofing company following Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament departure. Wildcat head coach John Calipari might have ignited some of the anger in Kentucky fans by criticizing the officiating following the North Carolina loss.

“Based on the investigation’s findings, our office has determined that no local charges will be filed and that pursuit of any criminal charges would be best served by deferring to authorities in the appropriate jurisdictions,” Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The length of the investigation was drawn out due in part to the large volume of potential evidence requiring analysis, and the multi-jurisdictional issues arising from the multiple states in which the communications originated.”

Polikov also said that at least two media outlets were exposing and promoting Higgins’ contact information.

“This information has been referred to the Federal Communications Commission for further investigation of the potential violations related to applicable federal communications regulations,” Polikov said.

Higgins received about 3,000 phone calls at his office in the two days following the game. Sheriff’s investigator Matt Barrall told the AP that an estimated 75 percent of the calls were from Kentucky area codes.

The roofing business that Higgins owns was also flooded with bad online reviews and negative star ratings, causing his Google rating to fall while also forcing Higgins to take down the Facebook page for his business.

Beilein still upbeat after Michigan loses another to NBA

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — For a major program, Michigan is a somewhat unlikely candidate for this kind of NBA-induced attrition.

The Wolverines have fielded some very good teams under John Beilein, but they haven’t been relying on prospects expected to jump to the pros as soon as they can.

“We’re not depending all our success on one-and-dones,” Beilein said. “Given that, our numbers right now are extraordinary.”

Beilein was referring to the number of players Michigan has sent to the NBA, particularly as early entrees. The Wolverines lost D.J. Wilson to the draft this offseason with two years of eligibility remaining, and now they’ll go through the familiar process of trying to replace a key player who turned pro.

The most significant early exodus occurred in 2013 and 2014, when Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary all went pro before their eligibility was up. Michigan won a lot of games with those players, reaching the Final Four and Elite Eight those two years, but their development made them attractive to NBA teams and shortened their college careers.

Wilson’s rise followed a similar pattern. He averaged only 2.7 points per game in 2015-16, and then increased to 11.0 this past season and became Michigan’s leading rebounder. His efforts helped Michigan win the Big Ten Tournament and reach the Sweet 16, and now he’s off to the NBA draft. The entire sequence of events would have seemed highly improbable a year ago.

The Wolverines won’t receive much sympathy from their Big Ten opponents, especially since Michigan will still have big man Moe Wagner, who tested the NBA waters but ultimately decided to stay in school. The 6-foot-11 Wagner averaged 12.1 points last season and shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range, showing huge improvement in much the same way Wilson did.

After losing senior point guard Derrick Walton, it will be interesting to see how Michigan’s offense operates if Wagner becomes even more of a focal point. When Beilein was at West Virginia, the Mountaineers achieved success behind center Kevin Pittsnogle, whose skill set and 3-point shooting ability was at least somewhat similar to Wagner’s.

“We’re not going to put him in that category yet,” Beilein said. “Let’s just say, having a big man who can shoot the ball like that changes a lot of things.”

Michigan was also able to add a new point guard recently in Jaaron Simmons, a graduate transfer from Ohio. Simmons is eligible immediately in 2017-18 and will move up from the Mid-American Conference to the Big Ten.

“A lot of the mid-majors are having this happen to them, and I don’t like it at all, but the fact is if Jaaron doesn’t come here, he ends up probably somewhere else in the Big Ten,” Beilein said. “He’s just fundamentally so sound. He’ll be here this summer. Just as a person, I just wanted to coach the kid after spending an hour with him — just the leadership, the desire to win.”

Simmons could help the Wolverines withstand the loss of Walton, and Beilein indicated he could serve as a bit of a mentor to players like point guard Xavier Simpson, who is entering his sophomore season.

“We went all-in with (Simmons), knowing we had that scholarship,” Beilein said. “We felt that was a huge need for us, is to just have a little bit more experience in the backcourt next year.”

Follow Noah Trister on Twitter @noahtrister

LaVar Ball having ‘zero’ interaction with UCLA team bodes well for next season

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With the NBA Draft looming in less than a month, the biggest talking point has been just how much of an impact LaVar Ball is going to have on his son, Lonzo’s, NBA career.

It’s a question worth asking given the, ahem, outspoken nature of the eldest Ball.

But in the collegiate ranks, that’s a question that’s been asked about UCLA regarding next season. While Lonzo and LaMelo, who is finishing up his sophomore season in high school, are the stars that get the majority of the attention, there is another Ball brother that will be enrolling at UCLA next season: LiAngelo.

LaVar has already said that he expect Gelo to be a one-and-done player, which may not jibe with how good Gelo actually is. He’s not Lonzo and he’s not LaMelo. He’s not a dynamic athlete or a lead guard. He’s a 6-foot-5, 200 pound shooter with limitless range but limited upside. There’s a reason Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect.

What’s going to happen when UCLA, a top 15 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25, doesn’t give Gelo Lonzo-esque minutes or shots next season? How will LaVar handle it if his second son is coming off the bench for the Bruins?

Steve Alford doesn’t seem concerned about it, telling a reporter from the LA Times that LaVar was “never at practice, never called me” and was around the team “zero.”

“I think all parents probably should know that moving on to the collegiate level anyway,” Alford said. “It’s not high school, it’s not AAU. Your son’s on scholarship; your son’s at UCLA getting an incredible opportunity academically and athletically.

“Playing time, shots, that kind of stuff — we don’t entertain some of those phone calls anyway. I never had any issues at all with LaVar.”

It will be interesting to see if that continues next season.

The Bruins have a chance to be pretty good. Maybe not quite as good as last season, maybe not a Pac-12 title favorite or even the best team in LA — USC is loaded — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them end up as a top four seed in the NCAA tournament with Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh returning and Jaylen Hands headlining the recruiting class.

Will LaVar be able to handle UCLA’s success if it comes at the expense of his son’s?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.