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

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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.

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.