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Bubble Banter: Oklahoma State back in the mix, N.C. State continues their run

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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.

WINNERS

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 115, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: Out): The Cowboys are back in the mix! The Cowboys had lost three in a row and seven of their last ten games before going into Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday and knocking off Kansas. Combine that with a win over Oklahoma at home and a win over Florida State on a neutral and that’s three Quadrant 1 wins, two of which came over top 15 teams. Seven of their nine losses are against Quadrant 1 teams as well, and they don’t have any bad losses. They still have quite a bit of ground to make up, but in the Big 12, they’ll have chances to do just that.

ALABAMA (RPI: 41, KenPom: 62, NBC seed: 9): Alabama landed a massive, 20-point win at Florida. It’s the fifth Quadrant 1 win for the Crimson Tide, who had put together quite an array of victories. They’ve beaten Auburn (5), Rhode Island (8) and Oklahoma (11). But this matters because it is a Quadrant 1 win on the road. It is just their second true road win of the season. The other was LSU.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 43, KenPom: 90, NBC seed: 10): Washington may have just played their way into the NCAA tournament thanks to a sweep of the Arizona schools this weekend. On Saturday night, they beat Arizona at the buzzer.

MISSOURI (RPI: 35, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: Play-in game): For the second straight game, Missouri landed themselves a Quadrant 1 win, this time knocking off Kentucky at home. The Tigers now have five Quadrant 1 wins, including three of which that came on the road. The win over Kentucky looks better on an NCAA tournament résumé than it does in real life, but it should be enough to slide Missouri that much closer to playing their way off the bubble. Missouri entered this week having lost three in a row and six of their last nine.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: 9): The Wolfpack have now won three in a row and six of their last eight games, a stretch that has included wins over Duke, Clemson and at North Carolina, after blowing out Notre Dame at home. Kevin Keatts has four Quadrant 1 wins, including three over top ten teams, They are probably comfortably in the tournament as of today, but a poor non-conference SOS (271) is something of a concern.

BUTLER (RPI: 26, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): The Bulldogs did what they needed to do by knocking off DePaul at home. Wins over Villanova and Ohio State at home plus a blowout win at Marquette gives Butler three Quadrant 1 wins. They don’t have a single loss that isn’t a Quadrant 1 loss. They are in a very good spot right now.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 36, KenPom: 61, NBC seed: 10): The Friars added another Quadrant 1 on Saturday, going into Milwaukee and knocking off Marquette. They now have five Quadrant 1 wins and eight wins in the top two Quadrants. Throw in the fact that five of their remaining eight games are at home, and the Friars look like they’ll be able to cruise into the NCAA tournament.

UCLA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bruins are working their way back into the bubble picture, and they’ve put themselves in a position where they’ll have an opportunity to win the games they need to win to get in. Beating USC at home helped — UCLA only has one Quadrant 1 win and now three Quadrant 2 wins — but it’s just the start. Five of their last seven games are on the road, including Arizona, Arizona State and USC.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 58, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: Out): Beating Georgia at home isn’t a game-changer for Ben Howland’s club, but it is another Quadrant 2 win. They only had two of those before today, along with just a single Quadrant 1 win. They’ve now won three in a row after losing five out of six. That pesky non-conference SOS (310th) may be their downfall.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 40, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: First four out): The Broncos picked up an overtime win at home against UNLV (163) on Saturday. They needed that, mainly because they don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and cannot afford any more bad losses; believe it or not, Iowa State on a neutral is Boise State’s worst loss. They might need to win out and beat Nevada at home if they want to get in with an at-large.

TEXAS A&M (RPI: 31, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Aggies won a game that they needed to win, beating South Carolina at home on Saturday. I say they needed to win it because they’ve now won two in a row heading into the toughest stretch of their season: at Auburn, Kentucky, at Missouri, at Arkansas. The Aggies already have four Quadrant 1 wins and three more Quadrant 2 wins. Splitting that four game stretch would put them into really good position down the stretch of the season.

HOUSTON (RPI: 48, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 11): The Cougars added their fourth Quadrant 1 win of the season on Saturday, as they went into Orlando and picked off a UCF team that has been obliterated by injury. The Cougars are right on the edge, however. Three of their four Quadrant 1 wins could easily fall to Quadrant 2 — Arkansas (28) and Wichita State (29) at home, UCF (70) on the road — which means that they still have some work to do.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 20, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 12): MTSU couldn’t afford a loss at Charlotte (309). They didn’t lose at Charlotte.

LOSERS

SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 60, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: First four out): The Gamecocks were absolutely smoked on the road by Texas A&M in a game between two teams right on the edge of the bubble’s cut-line. This is the third-straight loss for South Carolina, and their next four games are rough: at Arkansas, Florida, at Tennessee, Auburn. We’ll know by the end of that run if they’re going to the tournament.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 62, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 11): The Hokies missed out on a chance to protect their home court on Saturday, losing out on a Quadrant 1 win by losing to Miami. The Hokies have one of the toughest remaining schedules. They have four games against top RPI five teams and six games against top RPI 20 teams: at Virginia, at Duke, Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami. There are plenty of chances left.

GEORGIA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: First four out): Georgia is not all that far away, but they have not really done anything to help themselves in recent weeks. A loss at Mississippi State is a Quadrant 1 loss, but it is also their sixth loss in the last eight games. They have two Quadrant 3 losses that they need to make up for, and this is not going to get the job done. With five Quadrant 1 games left — including three at home — Mark Fox will still have a few chances to stave off that hot seat.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 55, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: First four out): The Golden Eagles blew another chance to land a quality win at home this week, as Providence beat them in Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon. They have now lost four in a row, including three straight games at home. Five of their next six games are on the road, and as of today, Marquette has just two Quadrant 1 wins and only six wins that are not Quadrant 4. They are in a very, very difficult spot.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Next four out): The Orange missed out on a chance to land a win over the No. 1 team in the RPI, losing at home to Virginia. The Cuse have good underlying numbers, but they just don’t have the quality wins to back those numbers up at this point. They are 0-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents now.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 28, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: 10): The Razorbacks lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling at LSU to drop to 15-8 on the season. Mike Anderson’s team should still feel pretty good about themselves. They are 3-6 against Quadrant 1 teams with two more Quadrant 2 wins. Perhaps more importantly, for a team that plays much better at home than on the road, they play five of their last eight in Fayetteville including their three toughest opponents left.

USC (RPI: 39, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 10): Losing at UCLA doesn’t really hurt USC. It’s a Quadrant 1 loss and those can be forgiven. Where it hurts is that the Trojans held a double-digit lead in the second half and gave it away. There are only so many Quadrant 1 wins available in the Pac-12. They can’t waste opportunities.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 48, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Next four out): The Hilltoppers couldn’t afford a loss to anyone not named Middle Tennessee State. They lost to UT-San Antonio.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 66, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: Last four in): Losing at West Virginia is not exactly ideal. But West Virginia has lost five of their last six games and needed to make a statement. Sometimes you run into a buzzsaw, Bruce Weber.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 77, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: Out): The Fighting Irish were smoked at N.C. State on Saturday. They will no longer be featured in this space until they land a win or two of note. Or until Bonzie Colson makes a return.

OREGON (RPI: 89, KenPom: 88, NBC seed: Out): We can probably count Oregon out after they lost by 35 points at Stanford.

No. 18 Rhode Island wins first outright Atlantic-10 title

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KINGSTON, Rhode Island (AP) — At the end of the celebration, Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley was the last one to cut down the net at the basket in front of his team’s bench.

He climbed up a ladder, snipped the final strings and put it around his neck to the roars of the crowd, a small symbol for a program that has finally reached the top of the Atlantic-10’s regular season.

Jeff Dowtin scored 20 points, E.C. Matthews added 18 and No. 18 Rhode Island wrapped up its first outright A-10 regular-season title with an 81-56 victory over Dayton on Friday night.

“Just to be able to enjoy it with our fans, who have amazingly supported since I’ve been here through the climb,” said Hurley, in his sixth season with URI. “To be able to enjoy those types of moments.”

Jared Terrell had 17 points to help the Rams (22-5, 15-1) win for the 18th time in 19 games. It was their second straight after their school-record 16-game winning streak was halted by St. Bonaventure last Friday night.

In 1980-81, the Rams tied Duquesne for a share of the conference title, their only other regular-season A-10 championship.

When the game ended, blue and white confetti — the school colors — and streamers fell from the ceiling. Terrell climbed the scorer’s table, waving to the crowd.

“It was just a great feeling to embrace it with the fans,” Farrell said. “To experience this for the first time, it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Added Matthews: “It was just to give it back and show them we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Hurley said to the crowd over a microphone: “Let’s bring down this net baby, what do you say?”

Jalen Crutcher led the Flyers (13-15, 7-9) with 12 points.

“I think the cumulative effect of their pressure, I think took its toll,” Flyers coach Anthony Grant said. “Give them credit — they did a good job defensively and got it going in the second half.”

Rhode Island shot 64.3 percent in the second half and Dayton only 27.3, including missing all 10 of its 3-point attempts.

Playing for their first conference regular-season title in school history already had the sellout crowd fired up, but it picked up to a notch at the end of 7-0 spurt early in second half when Hurley walked onto the floor, waving for more noise when Dayton called timeout after the Rams went up 46-38 with 16:08 to play.

Following the timeout, URI continued its stifling, man-to-man defensive pressure and took charge with an 11-4 spurt that was capped by Matthews’ 3-pointer from the left wing that pushed its lead to 15 with 13:17 to play. The Rams had two easy breakaway baskets off turnovers in the spree.

They pushed it to 72-46 on Dowtin’s 3 with just over five minutes to play, sending Hurley to the floor again waving after another timeout.

In the opening half, the Flyers shot 58.3 percent and led most of the way despite nearly hitting their per-game average with 13 turnovers before URI closed by scoring nine of the final 11 points to take a 36-34 edge into intermission.

TURNOVER MAKERS

The Rams entered the game as one of the best in the nation, creating 16.38 turnovers per game. Dayton came in committing just 13.6 per, but finished with 22.

HOME SWEET HOME

The Rams improved to 15-0 in the raucous Ryan Center, tying the school-record for most home wins in a season. They also did it in 1987-88 when the program advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tourney.

“We wouldn’t have been able to win this championship without the absolute electric atmosphere that has been created here all year long,” Hurley said.

ROAD WOES

Dayton fell to 1-9 on the road this season.

BIG PICTURE

Dayton: The Flyers were hoping to spoil the party by winning their third straight game to reach .500 in league play.

Rhode Island: The Rams are certainly playing the rest of the regular season and conference tourney, looking for a better seed in a probable selection to NCAA Tournament – even if they don’t win the postseason A-10 tournament.

VIDEO: No. 16 Buckeyes keep title hopes alive with thrilling win at Indiana

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson relied on sheer instincts Friday night.

Instead of going with the Buckeyes’ designed final play, he changed it on the fly.

When Jackson finally got control of the pass in the closing seconds of double overtime, he faked another pass and spotted up for a 25-footer and that silenced Indiana’s crowd with 1.7 seconds left and gave No. 16 Ohio State an 80-78 victory.

“You dream of playing in buildings like this when you’re younger and just to have one of these moments is unbelievable,” Jackson said after scoring 13 points.

This wasn’t just another win for the Buckeyes (24-7, 15-3 Big Ten), either.

They needed this one to have any hope of claiming a share of the conference crown in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season. They still need No. 2 Michigan State to lose Sunday at Wisconsin.

And on a night Ohio State dealt with foul trouble and fatigue, Jackson’s brilliant switcheroo was exactly what Ohio State needed.

“We ran a similar action for Jae’Sean Tate at the end of the first OT or whatever it was, and we didn’t execute that real well. The presence of mind to get the shot up,” Holtmann said, shaking his head. “I think CJ may prefer to take a 25-footer rather than get it in a little deeper.”

He didn’t have much of a choice.

With both teams out of timeouts and Indiana clinging to a 78-77 lead after Juwan Morgan’s layup with seven seconds to go, the Buckeyes pushed the ball up the floor.

But rather than look for the trailing Tate or star forward Keita Bates-Diop, Jackson did the natural thing.

“I just felt like I had the best look we were going to get with the time left,” he said.

All the Hoosiers could muster was a half-court heave from Robert Johnson that came up well short at the buzzer.

Bates-Diop had 24 points and tied his career-high with 14 rebounds. Tate finished with 12 points, five rebounds and six assists.

Indiana (16-14 9-9) was led by Juwan Morgan with 18 points and Johnson, who had 17 in what could be his final game at Assembly Hall.

“Really disappointed for our fans and our seniors in particular,” coach Archie Miller said. “I thought we did enough at the end and we just had a breakdown at the end to contest the shot.”

But from the moment Indiana took a 61-59 lead on Josh Newkirk’s layup with 3:54 left in regulation, it was a cliffhanger.

Neither team scored after Indiana’s Justin Smith made two free throws left with 2:18 in regulation.

Neither team led by more than two in the first overtime, which ended tied at 70.

And neither led by more than one in the second overtime — until Jackson’s knocked down the long 3.

KEY STATS:

Ohio State: Kam Williams scored 15 points and Kaleb Wesson had 12 before fouling out. … Bates-Diop also finished with four blocks in 45 minutes. … Four of the Buckeyes’ starters played at least 40 minutes. … Ohio State had a 41-35 rebounding edge.

Indiana: Smith had 16 points for Indiana. … Josh Newkirk added nine points and six assists with only one turnover. … The Hoosiers scored only four points during over a stretch of 9:50 in the first half and missed their first seven shots to start the second half. … Indiana committed 12 turnovers and was 13 of 23 at the free-throw line.

HE SAID IT

“Rest,” Holtmann said when asked what his team needs now. “They are exhausted. We just rode some guys because we had too. Jae’Sean Tate literally couldn’t function, that’s why I called one of those timeouts. He couldn’t move. He (Bates-Diop) needs rest in the worst way.”

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: No, the Buckeyes aren’t going into the conference tournament with the momentum they had hoped. And they may not get even a share of the league crown they craved. But they will be one of the top three seeds and they’ll have a few days to get things fixed.

Indiana: Fans who watched the Hoosiers season opening loss to Indiana State may not have recognized the team they saw Friday night. Indiana has progressed steadily all season, understands what coach Archie Miller expects and have learned how to challenge everyone.

Report: FBI wiretaps shows Sean Miller discussing payment for Deandre Ayton

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Sean Miller was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for his freshman star Deandre Ayton, according to a report from ESPN.

The conversations that were intercepted were between Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former runner for ex-NBA agent Andy Miller, in which the pair discussed a $100,000 payment that would ensure Ayton’s commitment to and enrollment with Arizona.

According to ESPN, when asked by Dawkins if he should work through former Arizona assistant coach Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson to finalize a deal, “Miller told Dawkins he should deal directly with him when it came to money.”

Richardson was fired by Arizona after he was caught up in the original FBI complaints in September. He had worked for Miller for 10 years at Xavier and Arizona. He was alleged to have accepted $20,000 in bribes to steer players to Dawkins and another financial advisor.

Ayton committed to Arizona in September of 2016. He is currently averaging 19.6 points and 10.9 boards for No. 14 Arizona and is considered by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

There has been speculation all season long that Arizona’s ties to this investigation could cost Miller his job.

CBT Podcast: Michael Porter Jr. is back, Duke and Kentucky might be back, Allonzo Trier’s gone

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Fun episode today. Rob Dauster was joined by one of the up-and-coming stars at ESPN, Dalen Cuff, to talk through the changes that Duke and Kentucky have made in recent weeks and whether or not that changes our perception of those teams moving forward. They also discussed Trae Young’s regression as well as the root of their soccer fandom, and all of that happened roughly 90 minutes before news broke that Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. was cleared by doctors to play while Arizona’s Allonzo Trier was once against ineligible for a positive PED test, so Travis Hines of NBC Sports jumped on the podcast to talk through all of that. The rundown:

OPEN: Should Michael Porter Jr. play this season?

10:05: Did Allonzo Trier get screwed by the NCAA?

16:55: Why did Dalen Cuff sully his name by becoming an Arsenal fan?

26:20: Why has Duke been better without Marvin Bagley III?

34:05: Is Jarred Vanderbilt the key to unlock Kentucky’s potential?

39:25: Have you changed your outlook on Duke or Kentucky in the long-term?

43:45: Texas Tech losing Keenan Evans was a bummer.

48:00: So let’s talk about this Trae Young slump.

Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky respond to report connecting players to agent payments

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Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky are the three most visible programs that have had their program connected to today’s report from Yahoo Sports that linked current players to potential NCAA violations involving ex-NBA agent Andy Miller and a former employee, Christian Dawkins.

According to the report, the mother of Duke freshman Wendell Carter had lunch with Dawkins at a Longhorn Steakhouse where Dawkins spent $106 on the meal. The parents of Michigan State sophomore Miles Bridges are alleged to have received a mean with $70 from Dawkins as well as a $400 cash advance. Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox or a member of his family is listed as receiving a meal from Dawkins, although his father has already denied that this happened.

All three programs have denied wrongdoing.

“Duke immediately reviewed the matter and, based on the available information, determined there are no eligibility issues related to today’s report,” read a statement released by Duke AD Kevin White.

“We are aware of the report in Yahoo! Sports,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. “While we will cooperate with any and all investigations, we have no reason to believe that I, any member of our staff or student-athlete did anything in violation of NCAA rules.”

“I have no relationship with Andy Miller or any of his associates,” John Calipari’s statement read. “Neither my staff nor I utilized any agent, including Andy Miller or any of his associates, to provide any financial benefits to a current or former Kentucky student-athlete. We will cooperate fully with the appropriate authorities.”

Cal also said in a press conference that he believes Knox will play on Saturday against Missouri.