Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bubble Banter: It’s a busy night for bubble teams

Leave a comment

Here is the latest NBC Sports Bracketology. This is where the rankings you see below are from. This post will be updated throughout the night. 

WINNERS

Northwestern (RPI: 50, KenPom: 37, No. 9 seed): The Wildcats are dancing. Thanks to the play of the year. Check this out.

Wake Forest (RPI: 45, KenPom: 33, first four out): Northwestern may not even be the biggest winner of the night, as the Demon Deacons landed a win that they desperately needed, picking off No. 8 Louisville at home. Wake Forest is now 18-12 on the season and 8-9 in the ACC with a game left at Virginia this weekend, but what make this win so important is that Wake literally had just one top 60 win entering Wednesday and no top 35 wins. They’d beaten Miami, Georgia Tech and Pitt. They had a win over Bucknell, at Charleston and at Richmond. That was it. With no bad losses to their name, they just needed to prove that they could actually beat the big boys. This doesn’t lock them into a bid, but now a win at Virginia Tech probably would. If not, a win or two in the ACC tournament would. I can promise you this: Wake won’t be one of the first four out tomorrow morning.

Marquette (RPI: 69, KenPom: 32, No. 10 seed): The Golden Eagles are getting closer and closer to punching their ticket to the dance. With a game left at home against Creighton, Steve Wojciechowski’s team is now sitting with four top 30 wins — including a win over Villanova — and nine top 100 wins with St. John’s being the only bad loss in their 11 losses. Beating Creighton should be enough, although avoiding a loss to DePaul, St. John’s or Georgetown in the Big East tournament would be sensible. One thing to watch for with Marquette: Will the committee take into account that three of their four best wins came when the opponents (Xavier twice and Creighton) had lost their star point guard to a torn ACL?

Illinois (RPI: 56, KenPom: 64, first four out): The Illini have made a remarkable run down the stretch of the season, winning their fourth in a row on Wednesday night as they knocked off Michigan State at home on Senior Night to get to 18-12 on the season and 8-9 in the Big Ten with a game left at Rutgers. John Groce’s club has just one top 40 win — VCU on a neutral — but they have five top 50 and 10 top 100 wins. They’re right there with everyone else on the bubble, and while they still have quite a bit of work left to do — I’d say they need to win at least two more game, preferably three, to really feel comfortable on Selection Sunday — the fact that they are even close is impressive.

Georgia (RPI: 52, KenPom: 52, next four out): The Bulldogs are still in the NCAA tournament mix after beating Auburn at home on Wednesday. The Bulldogs have to beat Arkansas in Fayetteville to have a real chance on Selection Sunday. While Georgia has no sub-105 RPI losses and nine top 100 wins, they have no top 45 wins to their name. Even with a win at Arkansas, they probably need to win a game or two in the SEC tournament. But after Yante Maten went down with a knee injury two weeks ago, no one thought that this team would even be in this position right now. So there’s always a chance, especially if J.J. Frazier keeps doing what he’s done the last four games, averaging 31.3 points.

Kansas State (RPI: 67, KenPom: 36, first four out): The Wildcats landed a nice win at TCU that will help them — top 100 road wins are always good — but I think that Kansas State isn’t in quite as good of a position as some may think. They have just three top 30 wins and, after tonight, five top 100 wins. Yes, four of them came away from home, and that is a good thing, but that’s an impressive lack of quality wins for a committee that showed us during the bracket reveal they are valuing wins quite heavily.

USC (RPI: 38, KenPom: 67, play-in game): At this point, here’s what USC cannot do: They cannot lose to either of the Washington teams at home this week, and they cannot lose to anyone in the Pac-12 tournament not named UCLA, Arizona or Oregon. Even then, I would recommended that they probably beat one of those three teams if they really want to go into Selection Sunday without the stress of wondering if your name isn’t going to get called. The Trojans have two top 20 wins this season but just a total of five top 100 wins and a 1-6 record against the other top five teams in the conference.

Rhode Island (RPI: 41, KenPom: 53, play-in game): Rhody won a game that they couldn’t lost at Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday. They play another game they can’t lose on Saturday against Davidson at home. Basically, URI cannot afford to take a loss unless it’s against either VCU or Dayton in the A-10 tournament, and even then, they really lack quality wins. They have two top 25 wins but just four total top 100 wins.

LOSERS

Xavier (RPI: 26, KenPom: 40, No. 10 seed): Xavier, man. They needed their own separate post.

Arkansas (RPI: 28, KenPom: 44, No. 9 seed): The Razorbacks missed a chance to lock up a bid by winning at Florida on Wednesday. They are still pretty safe, but I do think they would do well to win one more game, whether it is against Georgia at home this weekend or in the SEC tournament opener.

VCU (RPI: 23, KenPom: 46, No. 9 seed): The Rams are still probably safe, but after losing at Dayton three days after they lost at URI, VCU is still in a spot where I think they need one more win, whether it is over George Mason at home this weekend or in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament next week.

TCU (RPI: 58, KenPom: 41, next four out): The Horned Frogs are probably out after losing at home to Kansas State on Wednesday. They’re now 6-11 in the Big 12 with just two top 65 wins.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
1 Comment

Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Leave a comment

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.

South Carolina fans raise money to send “Gamecock Jesus” to Final Four

1 Comment

South Carolina fans are sending one of their most recognizable compatriots to represent them this weekend.

Gamecock Jesus is heading to the Final Four.

South Carolina super fan Carlton Thompson is following the Gamecocks to Glendale as his fellow fans have raised over $7,500 to send the man known as “Gamecock Jesus” to Arizona for the team’s Final Four meeting with Gonzaga on Saturday night.

Thompson’s long hair, beard and presence at South Carolina games, even in lean times, earned him his nickname and apparently a following fervent enough to foot the bill for quite the trip.

“I’ve always dreamed it would be like this,” Thompson said last week about fan support at Gamecock games to the Post and Courier. “For years and years, it was so sparse with the crowds at the games. But once they started winning, the crowds started coming.”

Thompson is a 63-year-old VA hospital nurse, and has been attending South Carolina games for nearly 50 years.

Maryland’s Melo Trimble declares for the NBA Draft

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Melo Trimble’s career as a Maryland Terrapin is coming to an end. The junior guard is declaring for the NBA Draft and will sign with an agent.

“I am confident and excited to pursue an opportunity to play in the NBA,” Trimble said in a release. “I am proud of what my teammates and I were able to accomplish these past three seasons at Maryland. I developed many great relationships and friendships and together we able to create some very special moments for Maryland basketball. I want to thank Coach Turgeon for all of his support. He always believed in me. He challenged me and really helped in the development of my overall game. I am a more complete basketball player because of Coach Turgeon and the coaching staff. To stay at home and attend the University of Maryland is the best decision that I ever made and it was truly special to play in front of my family, friends and our amazing fans. Maryland will always be home.”

There was no better winner in college basketball the last three years than Melo. He changed the trajectory of Mark Turgeon’s program, winning 79 games in three years and ending his career 30-8 in games decided by six points or less. As a junior, Trimble and the Terps earned a No. 6 seed to the NCAA tournament, but they lost in the first round to Xavier. It was the only time in Trimble’s career that he didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

“Melo Trimble is a winner,” Mark Turgeon said on twitter. “Humble, hard-working, dedicated. Words can’t express what he’s done for our program. Always #StayMelo!”