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Things are looking pretty dire for Oklahoma, and the Big 12 could be decided this weekend in Lubbock, Texas.
Eighth-ranked Kansas routed the Sooners, 104-74, to send Lon Kruger’s team to a sixth-straight loss while setting up a potential first-place showdown this weekend with Texas Tech.
Kansas shot 60.9 percent from the floor from the game and hit 16 3-pointers. Devonte Graham had 23 points, Malik Newman 20 and LeGerald Vick 17.
Trae Young continued to struggle, making just 3 of 13 shots to score 11 points while committing five turnovers. He also had nine assists. Oklahoma is quickly sliding into a scary bubble territory as the losses pile up.
The Jayhawks are now a half-game up on Texas Tech for the Big 12 lead. The Red Raiders travel to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State on Wednesday before hosting Kansas on Saturday in a matchup that could very well be a de facto Big 12 title game.
As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.
It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:
- Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
- Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
- Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
- Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus
The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.
MIAMI (RPI: 33, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 8): Miami added a fourth Quadrant 1 win on Monday night by going into South Bend and picking off Notre Dame. The Hurricanes are in the conversation as a bubble team for a two reasons — they have a Quadrant 3 loss to Georgia Tech, and they had lost three in a row entering Monday night. What’s interesting with Miami’s profile is that they don’t really have any elite wins. They beat Middle Tennessee State on a neutral. They won at Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Notre Dame. That’s it. Those are their four Quadrant 1 wins. Their profile is probably strong enough to get them in, but I do think there is a world where they get a lower seed than you might be expecting.
MARYLAND (RPI: 54, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: Out): The Terps, who won at Northwestern tonight, seem to be in the mix on most of the places that I go to read about the bubble, and frankly, I just don’t get it. They do not have a Quadrant 1 win. They are 0-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents. In a year where the NCAA Selection Committee showed us just how much they value quality wins already, I’m not sure that they can build a profile that is strong enough to get a bid unless they beat Michigan on Saturday and win a couple of games against the top of the Big Ten in the Big Ten tournament. They’re at least three wins away in my mind. Like I said, I just don’t see it, but I figured it was worth mentioning here on a slow night.
OKLAHOMA (RPI: 36, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 8): Just eight days ago, when the NCAA tournament Selection Committee convened to release an early look at the top 16 seeds for the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma was a No. 4 seed. They were one of the top 16 teams, according to the committee, in an event that will need 36 at-large members to complete it. Going from there to the bubble is a long, long fall, and to be frank, I am not sure that the Sooners are on the bubble yet. Hell, they’re still 16-11 overall even after that embarrassing loss at Kansas. They’re still 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents without a hint of a bad loss to their name. They’ve still beaten USC in LA. They still won at Wichita. They beat Texas Tech. They beat TCU. Hell, they beat Kansas.
For comparison’s sake, our current last team in is Syracuse. They are 18-9 overall and 3-5 against Quadrant 1 with losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.
But we can no longer ignore the fact that this team has hit rock bottom. Tonight was their sixth-straight loss. They have lost seven of eight and nine of 11. They’ve lost eight straight on the road. If the tournament was tomorrow, they would be in the field with some room to spare, but the problem is that there is absolutely no reason for us to assume that they are simply going to be able to get the job done against the teams left on their schedule. It is, admittedly, relatively easy by Big 12 standards — Kansas State, at Baylor, Iowa State — but Big 12 standards are absolutely preposterous.
No one would be surprised if Oklahoma lost two of their last three games — hell, I would be fairly shocked if they found a way to win at Baylor at this point — and if they do happen to lose two of their last three, they’ll enter the Big 12 tournament with a 17-14 record and a 7-11 mark in the league while having to play on the first day of the Big 12 tournament in either the 7-10 or 8-9 game.
If that were to be the case, they would probably have to win two Big 12 games to get to the Big Dance.
Put another way, Oklahoma went from being a No. 4 seed in the first bracket projection to needing to win three games in the next three weeks to avoid having to sweat out Selection Sunday.
It’s crazy how far and fast they’ve fallen.
NOTRE DAME (RPI: 68, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: Next four out): The Fighting Irish are in an interesting spot. Their profile is not exactly worthy of an at-large bid. But they’ve also been decimated by injury. Bonzie Colson is still out with a foot injury. So is D.J. Harvey. Matt Farrell and Rex Pflueger have both missed tie with injuries. If Colson can get healthy before the season ends and the Irish can win a couple games at or near full strength, they will have an interesting case to make. I do, however, think that would require winning two of their last three games. One of those three games is at Virginia, so they have their work cut out for them.
John Calipari was asked a question about struggling freshman Hamidou Diallo. He ended up giving an answer about his general coaching philosophy.
“Making them be responsible for who they are. In his case, I’m with Hami. He’s trying. He’s working,” Calipari said. “If he’s willing to do that and put in extra work, I’m for him. If you’re playing awful, I may not play you as much, but I’m going to play you and if you’re doing what we’re asking you to do, I’m going to encourage you.
“It would probably be easier when a guy plays poorly to say you’re out and i’m going with these seven I’m just not going to do that.”
Calipari likened the approach to what a well-intentioned parent might say to him about their son who is struggling.
“I would say (a parent) would say, ‘Coach, he’s responsible for himself, but please keep coaching him and let him know you love him and keep being there for him but hold him accountable,’” Calipari said. “‘If he’s not going to listen to you you should not play him. That’s what I think a parent that’s not trying to enable their son (should say).”
On the other hand, Calipari discussed what the opposite of that situation would look like.
“If they’re listening to an enabler, whoever that enabler is, I can’t help you,” he said. “I told you when I walked in the door, this is going to be about the players first and I’m trying to stay that course but they are responsible for themselves.
“If they can’t perform, I’m going to play you but when they’re not performing, you can’t be in there.”
Calipari can oftentimes be full of bluster – it’s an essential part of his Always Be Selling philosophy that’s won the hearts of countless five-star recruits and a national championship. But this looks to be an honest look into the way he views his job and role with his players. Give ultra-talented guys opportunity, but keep them accountable. It’s a simple thought, but one that few execute as well and as consistently as he does.
It would appear that sixth-ranked Texas Tech may have avoided its worst-case scenario with star guard Keenan Evans.
The senior is considered day-to-day with a toe injury suffered Saturday in a loss at Baylor, and could play as soon as Wednesday against Oklahoma State, Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said Monday.
“It’s going to come down to just pain tolerance and can he move,” Beard said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “We all know Keenan is a warrior. He’s going to do everything he possibly can to play. … At the end of the day, just kind of how he reacts to his body.”
Evans is averaging 18.2 points per game for the Red Raiders, and his health is paramount for their attempt to unseat Kansas atop the Big 12. Texas Tech and the Jayhawks are locked in a first-place tie with matching 10-4 league records with four games to play. After the Red Raiders’ trip to Stillwater on Wednesday, they host Kansas on Saturday in a game that very well could decide the fate of the Jayhawks’ 13-year run of conference championships.
While the Big 12 race is certainly front of mind, the fact that Evans is potentially going to be able to play this week is a great sign for Texas Tech. Even if Evans does need to miss a game or two to get his toe fully healthy, the timeline and conditions Beard laid out Monday suggest that he’ll be good to go before the NCAA tournament for a Red Raiders team that certainly is a contender to finish its season in its home state – at the Final Four in San Antonio.
The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.
One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.
That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.
“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.
In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.
“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”
Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:
“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally. I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”
So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.