Bracketology: Kansas leads final march to Selection Sunday

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March is here. Madness awaits.  The next ten days will be filled with hope, excitement, and anxiety as teams and fans await their 2017 NCAA Tournament bracket on Selection Sunday.  Between now and then, we still have several things to sort out.  Here’s what we know:  Kansas, fresh off yet another Big 12 title, sits atop the bracket, followed closely by Villanova.  Both the Jayhawks and Wildcats look fairly entrenched on the top line.  The other two spots remain in play.  Will Gonzaga hold on?  Will a Pac-12 team make a jump to the one line?  Can North Carolina survive the ACC tournament and keep its perch in the South?

Each of those story lines should be fun to watch.  And we haven’t even talked about the bubble.  Illinois, Wake Forest, and Kansas State all helped themselves Wednesday.  USC and California are trying to hold on and state their case.  Xavier continues to struggle, its NCAA outlook now unclear.  Next week’s conference tournaments loom large for final seeding and selection.  If a few bid stealers emerge,  hold on.

UPDATED:  March 2, 2017

Note: Now that conference tournaments have begun, teams in ALL CAPS will represent automatic bids as they are earned.

Regarding bracketing principles, can read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com. For example: teams from the same conference may now meet before a Regional final, even if fewer than eight teams are selected. The goal is to keep as many teams as possible on their actual seed line.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Wake Forest vs. USC | Midwest Region
  • Illinois vs. Seton Hall East Region
  • MT. ST. MARY’S vs. NC-CENTRAL | East Region
  • UC-IRVINE vs. NEW ORLEANS | Midwest Region

BRACKET PROJECTION …

MIDWEST – Kansas City              EAST New York  
Tulsa Buffalo
1) Kansas 1) Villanova
16) New Orleans / UC-Irvine 16) NC Central / Mount St. Mary’s
8) South Carolina 8) Miami
9) Michigan State 9) Arkansas
Orlando Buffalo
5) Cincinnati 5) Minnesota
12) UT-Arlington 12) UNC-Wilmington
4) Florida State 4) Virginia
13) Vermont 13) Monmouth
Milwaukee Indianapolis
6) Iowa State 6) SMU
11) Wake Forest / USC 11) Seton Hall / Illinois
3) Butler 3) Louisville
14) Belmont 14) Akron
Salt Lake City Tulsa
7) Virginia Tech 7) Maryland
10) Wichita State 10) VCU
2) Arizona 2) Baylor
15) South Dakota 15) Florida Gulf Coast
WEST – San Jose SOUTH – Memphis
Salt Lake City Greenville
1) Gonzaga 1) North Carolina
16) North Dakota 16) Texas Southern
8) Northwestern 8) Dayton
9) Marquette 9) Michigan
Orlando Milwaukee
5) Notre Dame 5) West Virginia
12) Nevada 12) Illinois State
4) Florida 4) Purdue
13) Princeton 13) Valparaiso
Greenville Indianapolis
6) Wisconsin 6) Saint Mary’s
11) Xavier 11) Syracuse
3) Duke 3) Kentucky
14) East Tennessee State 14) Winthrop
Sacramento Sacramento
7) Creighton 7) Oklahoma State
10) Mid Tennessee State 10) Providence
2) Oregon 2) UCLA
15) CSU-Bakersfield 15) Bucknell

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kansas is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Villanova, North Carolina, and Gonzaga.

Last Four Byes (at large): Wichita State, Providence, Syracuse, Xavier

Last Four IN (at large): Seton Hall, USC, Wake Forest, Illinois

First Four OUT (at large): Kansas State, Rhode Island, California, Georgia Tech

Next four teams OUT (at large): Vanderbilt, Georgia, Houston, Iowa

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (10): NORTH CAROLINA, Louisville, Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Wake Forest

Big 10 (8): PURDUE, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois

Big East (7): VILLANOVA, Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Xavier, Seton Hall

Big 12 (5): KANSAS, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (4): OREGON, Arizona, UCLA, USC

SEC (4): FLORIDA, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas

Atlantic 10 (2): DAYTON, VCU

American (2): SMU, Cincinnati

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Missouri Valley (2): ILLINOIS STATE, Wichita State

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Monmouth (MAAC), Middle Tennessee State (C-USA), UT-Arlington (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), North Dakota (BSKY), Valparaiso (HORIZON), New Orleans (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Akron (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), UNC-Wilmington (CAA), Winthrop (BSO), NC-Central (MEAC), North Dakota State (SUM), CSU-Bakersfield (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), Texas-Southern (SWAC)

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.