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Seven pressing questions for the Selection Committee

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1. Where is Duke going to get seeded?: The Blue Devils have the look of a No. 1 seed. They just steam-rolled through the ACC tournament, picking up wins over Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in the span on three days. That brings their tally of top 50 wins this season to 13, the most in the country. Eight of those 13 wins came away from Cameron Indoor. They have eight top 25 wins, six of which came away from home. They have four top ten wins, three of which came away from home.

The concern for Duke is their overall record. No No. 1 seed has ever had eight losses to their name before, but it is worth noting that Duke has dealt with as many injuries as anyone in college hoops this season. Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Harry Giles III, Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have all missed time. Considering that Duke is now fully healthy and rolling, will that factor into the committee’s decision-making process? Will that be enough to close the gap between the Blue Devils and North Carolina? Will it be enough to slot Duke over Gonzaga or Arizona?

My guess?

It will not. Duke ends up as the No. 2 seed in the East, setting up a thrilling potential showdown with No. 1 overall seed Villanova.

2. This would mean that Gonzaga has to be the No. 1 seed out west, right?: It should. For all the talk about how weak the conference is that Gonzaga plays in, they’re sitting here on Selection Sunday with six top 25 wins. Arizona, who won the Pac-12 tournament and a share of the Pac-12 regular season title, has just three top 25 wins and five top 50 wins. Five of Gonzaga’s six top 25 wins came away from home, and one of them came against Arizona on a neutral floor, albeit without Allonzo Trier. I just don’t see anyway that you can look at Arizona’s profile and Gonzaga’s profile and think that the Wildcats are more deserving of a No. 1 seed than the Bulldogs.

3. So who, then, is the top-seeded Pac-12 team?: This is still an under-discussed story line as we careen towards the Selection Show. Only one of the three Pac-12 teams is going to end up being slotted in the West Region. The favorite probably has to be Arizona, as the Wildcats won the Pac-12 tournament, a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and a pair of games against UCLA this season, but the Bruins have more — and better — top 10 and top 50 wins, including a win at Kentucky. I would lean towards Arizona getting the No. 2 seed out west because of their wins over UCLA, the fact that the Bruins played a poor non-conference schedule and the way Arizona has looked since Trier returned from his suspension.

The x-factor in that conversation is Oregon, who will be fascinating in their own right. The Ducks won a share of the Pac-12 regular season title and, since Dillon Brooks got healthy, have looked like the best team in the league for long stretches of the season. But Oregon just lost Chris Boucher for the tournament to a torn ACL. Boucher was averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 boards and 2.5 blocks, but Oregon looked fine in their loss to Arizona on Saturday night.

Sean Miller (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

4. How does the committee value the Big East teams?: Villanova should probably end up being the No. 1 overall seed. Butler, who swept Villanova this season, will probably be a top four seed. But beyond that, every other Big East tournament team is fascinating. Creighton made the finals of the Big East tournament despite playing without Mo Watson, who tore his ACL, but the Bluejays are just 7-8 since Watson’s injury. Xavier won two games in the Big East tournament, including a win over Butler in the quarterfinals, but that was their first win over a team not named DePaul since Feb. 4th. They are just 6-7 since they lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL.

But here’s the kicker: the three Big East bubble teams — Seton Hall, Providence and Marquette — all bolstered their résumé with wins over Creighton and Xavier after those injuries. Marquette has four wins over those two teams in the last seven weeks. I don’t think that will be enough to keep those teams out of the tournament, but I do think that it could end up affecting where they get seeded.

5. Where does Wichita State get seeded?: The Shockers are currently, as of this exact moment, ranked eighth on KenPom. Eighth. As in No. 8. In the country. KenPom is widely considered the most accurate metric for ranking teams in college hoops circles, which should tell you just how good this team is. But they haven’t actually done anything during the season to back those numbers up. They only have two top 65 wins on the season, and both of those came against Illinois State, who may not get to the NCAA tournament. How about this for a thought: If Wichita State ends up as a No. 10 seed, they could end up being favored in both the first round and second round game against the No. 2 seed. The current No. 2 seeds in our latest bracket are Kentucky, Arizona, Duke and Oregon. Kentucky is the only one rated above Wichita State on KenPom.

6. Will Syracuse get a bid?: The Orange have quickly turned into one of the most polarizing bubble teams in the country. On the one hand, they have six top 50 wins to their name, including wins over Duke, Florida State and Virginia. On the other hand, all six of their top 50 wins came at home, and they are just 2-11 away from the Carrier Dome this season. The Orange also have lost to Boston College, Georgetown, UConn and St. John’s, the latter of which came at home by 33 points. Their best road win is Clemson, who finished 6-12 in the ACC, or N.C. State, who finished 13th. They lost at Boston College, who finished at the bottom of the conference. Will that be enough?

7. Where will Purdue get seeded?: The Big Ten is going to get seven teams into the tournament and actually rates higher in the metrics than the league did last year, but the reason the league feels down this season is that there just isn’t anyone in the conference that feels like a true title contender. That includes Purdue, the regular season champ who bowed out of the Big Ten tournament in the quarterfinal. The committee showed us during the bracket reveal in February that they didn’t have much respect for the Big Ten, so it will be interesting to see where they decide to slot the Boilermakers.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.

LaVar Ball on Trump’s involvement in bringing son home: ‘Who?’

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The war of words none of us wanted is now upon us.

LaVar Ball downplayed the impact that Donald Trump had in ensuring that his son, LiAngelo, along with two other UCLA players were released from custody and returned to the United States following a shoplifting incident on the team’s trip to China.

“Who?” the eldest Ball told ESPN on Friday night when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

When the players arrived back in Los Angeles, and before they had a chance to speak publicly, Trump had already taken to twitter to complain about the fact that the trio had not yet thanked him. Trump happened to be in China at the same time and, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he reportedly asked for his counterpart’s help in assuring an expedited legal process.

Trump got the thank you that he so desperately needed when UCLA held a press conference announcing that the three players would be suspended indefinitely, but LaVar was not going to let the President have the last word. And you can bet that Trump is not going to let this be the end of it, either, which means that two men that have risen to prominence through their willingness to say the audacious whenever the spotlight is on them will have the floor.

And unless someone has managed to change the passcode on Trump’s cellphone, you can rest assured that this will not be the end of it.

Bridges perfect from 3, No. 5 Villanova blows out Lafayette

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in No. 5 Villanova’s 104-57 rout of Lafayette on Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges’ 4 of 4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent shoot like that, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They’ve been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

SO MANY 3-POINTERS

Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

NO LUCK

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. O’Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

Mykhailiuk helps No. 4 Kansas rout South Dakota State, 98-64

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 27 points, Lagerald Vick finished with 22 and fourth-ranked Kansas routed Summit League favorite South Dakota State 98-64 on Friday night.

Udoka Azubuike added 17 points and Malik Newman had 13 for the Jayhawks (3-0), who shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second half.

By that point, the Jackrabbits (3-1) were staring at a 30-point deficit.

Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin King contributed 12 points and David Jenkins Jr. scored 10 off the bench.

Once again without heralded freshman Billy Preston, the Jayhawks were forced to use the same reduced rotation that managed to top seventh-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. But their perilous lack of depth became crippling in the first half when Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls each.

That forced coach Bill Self to use walk-on Clay Young in the post.

The 6-foot-5 senior turned out to be a bright spot, too, keeping the ball moving on offense and handling the 6-9 Daum inside. The Jackrabbits’ leading scorer at more than 21 points per game had eight on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, when Young spent a good chunk of time covering him.

Nobody could cover Mykhailiuk, though.

The senior from the Ukraine hit his first three shots — the Jayhawks made eight of their first nine — while getting into an easy rhythm. Even on the seemingly rare occasion that his jumper didn’t splash the net, it often rattled around the rim and dropped through to a thunderous ovation.

Several of his baskets came on feeds from Devonte Graham, who didn’t hit a field goal until deep in the second half. He finished with eight points but also had 11 assists and five boards.

PRESTON SITS

Preston went through early warmups but remained on the bench as Kansas investigates an on-campus incident that raised questions about the “financial picture” of the car he was driving. Self declined to discuss the situation other than to say “we’re definitely going to hold him out until we get to the bottom of this.” Self did say he expects a resolution soon.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota State can recover from its thumping in paradise with a trip to the Cayman Islands Classic up next. But their next trip to the Sunflower State figures to be just as tough: They visit No. 6 Wichita State on Dec. 5.

Kansas cruised despite a shortened lineup again, and help is only a month away. Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible for a trip to Nebraska on Dec. 16, and there is a chance five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy enrolls at the semester break.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State plays Wyoming on Monday in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Kansas continues a four-game home stand against Texas Southern on Tuesday night.

No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ray Spalding had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Deng Adel had a game-high 21 points and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Omaha 87-78 on Friday night.

Spalding scored 14 points after halftime, and Adel made 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line to pace the offense for the Cardinals (2-0), who led by 20 early in the second half but didn’t make a field for the last 4:36 of the game.

Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since becoming an NCAA Division I program in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks hung around with a 12-0 second-half run and got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points to keep the lead large enough to stay unbeaten under interim coach David Padgett.

Louisville’s three primary big men — Spalding (6-foot-10), Mahmoud (7-0) and Malik Williams (6-11) — bothered Omaha with their length around the rim. Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks. Williams, a former five-star recruit who made his first career start in place of Mahmoud, had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Spalding blocked three shots, too.

Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Omaha: The Mavericks averaged 83.9 points in their first three games but dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent to go down 40-25 at halftime. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.

Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.

UP NEXT

Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.