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Bubble Banter: Vanderbilt is heading to the NCAA tournament

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds listed below come from.

This post will be updated throughout the day.

WINNERS

Vanderbilt (RPI: 43, KenPom: 36, ): Mike White deserves credit for getting two teams to the NCAA tournament this year: Florida, who he coaches, and Vanderbilt, who picked off the Gators for the third time this season on Friday night. Vanderbilt should be in the tournament at this point, even if they are going to have 15 losses to their names if they lose in the SEC tournament. Three wins over Florida speaks for itself, and those losses came was a result of one of the toughest schedules in college basketball this season. I don’t know how dangerous the Commodores will be in the Big Dance, but I do think that, after today, they will be there.

Middle Tennessee State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 51, No. 11 seed): The Blue Raiders took care of business in the Conference USA semifinals, getting themselves to the league title game, where they will play for the right to have a stress-free Selection Sunday. A loss would be very, very interesting, as MTSU doesn’t have a great profile but they have some quality wins and would be 29-5 on the season. They beat UNC Wilmington on a neutral. They beat Vanderbilt by 23. They won at Ole Miss and at Belmont. That’s pretty good. The problem is that a loss in the CUSA title game would mean they have four sub-100 losses, which is the exact number of top 100 wins they have. That’s not a good combination.

Rhode Island (RPI: 45, KenPom: 52, first four out): Rhode Island knocked off St. Bonaventure on Thursday afternoon, putting the Rams in a weird spot. On the one hand, Davidson knocked off top-seeded Dayton in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, which opened up that side of the Atlantic 10 bracket for the Rams. Their path to the title game is unquestionably easier now. The problem? Dayton would have been a significantly better win for their résumé, which currently is only strong enough to put them right on the cut line. They have a better chance of winning the league’s automatic bid now, but they very well may have to if they want to get in at this point.

VCU (RPI: 23, KenPom: 50, No. 10 seed): VCU advanced to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament with a win over George Mason, which probably gets them into the tournament. The only reason the Rams are on this list at this point is that they may not have a strong enough profile to survive a bad loss.

LOSERS

Kansas State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 31, play-in game): The Wildcats blew a 12-point deficit in the second half against West Virginia, which leaves Kansas State in a precarious situation. They have the two wins over Baylor and a handful of other quality wins to their name, but they probably needed to beat West Virginia to really feel comfortable about their chances on Selection Sunday. It’s going to be a sweat, but as of today, I think they’re going to be on the right side of the bubble.

Xavier (RPI: 30, KenPom: 42, No. 11 seed): Xavier lost to Creighton in a nail-biter on Friday night, but the Musketeers should still be OK. Their win over Butler was good and they played well even in a loss to the Bluejays. Xavier’s issue is less their résumé and more whether or not they are the same team that got those wins earlier this year. I think they are.

Cal (RPI: 53, KenPom: 57, first four out): Cal is probably going to miss the tournament after losing to Oregon on Friday night. The Golden Bears have decent numbers and don’t lose to bad teams, but their only quality win came at USC. That’s just not going to be enough to cut it this year, even with this disaster of a bubble.

Georgia (RPI: 48, KenPom: 55, first four out): The Bulldogs are probably going to miss the NCAA tournament. They had a shot to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble with a game against Kentucky today, but the Bulldogs dug themselves an 18-point hole and couldn’t work their way out of it. The NIT beckons.

Indiana (RPI: 70, KenPom: 39, next four out): Indiana had a chance to play their way into consideration with a win over Wisconsin. They lost. For my money, the Hoosiers are out.

Houston (RPI: 49, KenPom: 44, next four out): Houston needed to get to the AAC tournament finals to have any shot at an at-large bid. They lost to UConn in the quarters.

 

Report: Pat Kelsey will not take the UMass job

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Moments before Pat Kelsey was set to be formally introduced as the new head coach at the University of Massachusetts, the school canceled the press conference citing, “unforeseen circumstances.”

According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, the former Winthrop coach has decided not to accept the job.

Virginia’s Thompson to transfer

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Virginia lost another member of its team Thursday.

The Cavaliers announced Darius Thompson will transfer out of the program, a day after the news of Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter’s departures.

“Darius Thompson informed me he has decided to play his final season at another school following his graduation from Virginia,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “Although you never want to see young men transfer, I understand this is part of coaching. Darius, Marial, and Jarred feel it’s in their best interests to pursue other options for the remainder of their college careers.

“I will always appreciate the contributions they made to our program.”

Thompson, who would be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer, began his career at Tennessee before transferring to Charlottesville, where he averaged 5.2 points and 1.8 assists over two seasons. The 6-foot-4 guard shot 44.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from 3-point range last season.

Despite the three defections, Virginia returns a number of pieces that contributed to their 23-11 season.

As we look forward, we have a strong nucleus of players returning,” Bennett said, “and I’m excited for their continued development. As a staff, we are focused on finding student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and all the University of Virginia has to offer.”

Georgetown, John Thompson III part ways

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Georgetown has parted ways with head coach John Thompson III, sources confirmed to NBC Sports.

Thompson has been the head coach of the Hoyas for 13 seasons, going 278-151 during his tenure. He won three Big East regular season titles with the program, the last of which came in 2013, and he reached the 2007 Final Four, but in recent years the program has fallen on hard times.

Georgetown confirmed the news Thursday afternoon.

“For thirteen years, he has been one of the elite coaches in college basketball,” Georgetown president John J. DeGioia said in a statement released by the school. “His performance as a coach has been exceptional, and he has served our community with remarkable distinction and integrity, sustaining our commitment to the academic performance of our students and providing them with the very best preparation for their lives beyond the Hilltop.”

Georgetown is 29-36 over the course of the last two seasons and the Hoyas have missed the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years. They’ve failed to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since that Final Four, losing to five double-digit seeds in their last six NCAA tournament appearances.

Thompson is the son of John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame head coach that built the Hoyas into a national power in the 80s and 90s. The University just invested more than $60 million into a renovation of the team’s practice facility which is now named The Thompson Center.

“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to strengthen our program and maintaining the highest levels of academic integrity and national competitiveness,” DeGioia said. “We will work immediately to begin a national search for a new head men’s basketball coach.

“I remain deeply grateful to John for all that he has done on behalf of Georgetown University.”

The news was first reported by CasualHoya.com.

Jeter to transfer from Duke

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A former five-star recruit is hitting the transfer market.

Chase Jeter, a top-20 talent in the Class of 2015, will transfer from Duke, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore could never really crack the rotation with the Blue Devils, playing less than 500 minutes total over two seasons. He averaged 14.9 minutes in 16 appearances this past season.

“Chase has been an outstanding young man in our program for the last two years,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. “He has been one of our top academic performers since he arrived on campus. Unfortunately, he was held back this season due to injury. We wish nothing but the absolute best for Chase and his family.”

This past season Jeter dealt with a back injury, and he did not play after Jan. 14.

“I have loved my time at Duke, getting a world-class education and competing alongside my brothers every day,” Jeter said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I decided it would be best for me to transfer to a school closer to home. I’ve made long-lasting relationships here and I want to thank my teammates and coaches for the support they’ve given me over the last two years.”

Jeter, a Las Vegas native, chose Duke in the summer of 2014 over Arizona, UNLV and UCLA.

Feeling the love: Men’s hoops squad toast of South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell knew South Carolina fans would be excited about the team’s Sweet 16 appearance. The response since he has been on campus, though, surprised even him.

As Thornwell walked to the student union after class, he couldn’t take more than a couple of steps without students swarming him for selfies or asking for some tidbit about the win against Duke on Sunday.

“We’re trying to embrace the moment,” Thornwell said Tuesday. “But that was wild.”

Everyone on campus, around Columbia and even the state seem to be savoring every minute. It’s understandable, the Gamecocks haven’t been in the Sweet 16 since 1973.

It’s been a wild ride for the Gamecocks (24-10), who some wondered if they’d even get invited to the NCAA Tournament let alone produce one of the signature moments so far with their 88-81 win over the second-seeded Blue Devi ls in the East Region.

Next up is third seeded Baylor (27-7) on Friday night at Madison Square Garden for the chance to advance.

Coach Frank Martin said he’s gotten more than 1,100 text messages about Sunday night’s win and two or three from people wondering, “So I guess you’re not going to respond?” he joked.

“That’s a good problem to have,” he said.

South Carolina is gaining the attention Gamecock fans have recently showered on the football, baseball or women’s basketball programs.

Steve Spurrier, featuring NFL standouts like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney , receiver Alshon Jeffrey and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, won the Southeastern Conference East Division in 2010 and had three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13.

Baseball won back-to-back College World Series under now athletic director Ray Tanner in 2010 and 2011. Thousands turned out for victory parades to the Statehouse when the team returned home.

Most recently, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, led by new U.S. women’s national team coach Dawn Staley, has gained much of the attention with four straight SEC regular season titles. The Gamecocks have led the women’s game in attendance the past three seasons.

Now, men’s basketball is getting some love.

“We’re happy to be part of that,” sophomore point guard P.J. Dozier said.

There was a time when men’s basketball led the way at South Carolina when New York City native Frank McGuire turned a sleepy program into a national power with a pipeline of NYC kids like John Roche, Tom Owens, Bobby Cremins, Brian Winters and Mike Dunleavy Sr.

McGuire led the Gamecocks to the NCAA round of 16 three straight seasons from 1971-73 – there were just 25 schools involved – and his team was considered the cream of the crop in South Carolina athletic circles.

But McGuire’s touch ran out in the mid-1970s and the Gamecocks have struggled for an identity for more than 40 years.

South Carolina won its only Southeastern Conference crown in 1997, but lost in the NCAAs as a No. 2 seed. The Gamecocks returned to the tournament the next season, that time falling as a No. 3 seed.

The Gamecocks high-water mark until now may be the consecutive NIT crowns won by coach Dave Odom in 2005 and 2006.

Martin and these Gamecocks are out to add another level of success to the program.

The fifth-year coach said that being around Spurrier – “Steve calls me every day,” Martin said – Tanner and Staley make him a better leader and give him examples of building winning cultures.

“I’m a big believer in winning leads to winning,” he said.

An emotional Martin, overcome by his team’s Duke win, told the players in the locker room, “Let’s go win this thing.”

He said Tuesday he wanted his players to know that by beating Duke, they proved they’re good enough to play with anyone left in the field.

Thornwell heard that over and over from friends, family and hundreds of new acquaintances he’s made the past 48 hours.

“We’re just having fun,” he said, “enjoying the game, enjoying every moment.”