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Bubble Banter: No. 15 Saint Mary’s has worrisome profile after loss to San Francisco

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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 Thursday.

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.


HOUSTON (RPI: 21, KenPom: 23, NBC seed: 11): After beating Cincinnati on their home floor on Thursday night, the Cougars are pretty close to a lock. They have now won four in a row and six of their last seven, including Wichita State and the Bearcats at home. They are 4-2 against Quadrant 1 opponents with a 20-5 mark on the season, more than enough to get the committee to overlook the fact that they have a loss to Drexel at home and Tulane on the road on their résumé. 

PENN STATE (RPI: 73, KenPom: 28, NBC seed: Out): Suddenly, the Nittany Lions are interesting. Sitting at 18-9 overall and 8-6 in the Big Ten, Penn State has now won four in a row and six of their last seven games, a stretch that is bookended by their only two Quadrant 1 wins of the season — at Ohio State and, on Thursday, a blowout win over Ohio State at home. With two Quadrant 1 games and a Quadrant 2 game left on their schedule, the Nittany Lions are suddenly in the conversation, although a pair of Quadrant 3 losses certainly doesn’t help their case. 

UCLA (RPI: 52, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): There are two things that can break your back in the Pac-12: losing at home to Cal and losing at home to Oregon State. UCLA avoided the latter on Thursday night, knocking off the Beavers in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA’s bid is going to be earned in their last three games, which are all Quadrant 1 opponents: at Utah, at Colorado, at USC. With just two Quadrant 1 wins and a Quadrant 3 loss, I think UCLA needs to go 2-1 in that stretch. 

USC (RPI: 42, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: First four out): The Trojans snapped a three-game losing streak by knocking off Oregon at home. Like UCLA, USC’s tournament hopes are pinned on the trip to the Mountain Schools next weekend. Right now, Andy Enfield’s club has just two Quadrant 1 wins, a 6-8 mark against the top two Quadrants and a Quadrant 4 loss at home to Princeton. It’s not pretty. 

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 27, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: 12): The only way I can see Middle Tennessee State getting an at-large bid to the tournament is if they win out and lose to Western Kentucky in the CUSA tournament title game. Otherwise, they’re just another mid-major team with one Quadrant 1 win and more than one Quadrant 3 loss. 


SAINT MARY’S  (RPI: 28, KenPom: 17, NBC seed: 6): Saint Mary’s suddenly has one of the most interesting NCAA tournament profiles in the country. As it stands, the Gaels have played just a sincere Quadrant 1 game: at Gonzaga. They won that game. But they also lost to Gonzaga at home in a blowout to go along with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses — at San Francisco and Washington State on a neutral. The committee taught us something when the top 16 seeds of the bracket was revealed last weekend: They value winning. They prioritize quality wins over just about anything. That’s why Kansas was the No. 6 overall seed. That’s why Oklahoma was a No. 4 seed. It’s why Xavier has come close to lock status for the top seed line. Wins against quality teams are important, and Saint Mary’s has just one of them. They’re just 4-2 against the top two Quadrants. For my money, the Gaels are still a tournament team, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend that their profile is strong enough to take a loss in the WCC tournament — particularly to someone not named Gonzaga — and still be at-large worthy. 

TEMPLE (RPI: 38, KenPom: 82, NBC seed: Next four out): Temple had a chance to give themselves the boost they needed to get onto the right side of the bubble. But they blew a 14-point lead at Wichita State, losing what will go down as a bad loss only because it didn’t have to be a loss. The Owls do have three Quadrant 1 wins, but they also have four Quadrant 3 losses. I think they have to beat Houston at home this weekend to have a real chance. 

WASHINGTON  (RPI: 53, KenPom: 103, NBC seed: 10): The Huskies really did look like they were in line to make a run to the NCAA tournament after beating Arizona and Arizona State at home. But after losing to Utah at home on Thursday night, they’ve now dropped three in a row, none of which were Quadrant 1 games. Those four Quadrant 1 wins are going to help them out, but they need to start winning again, and soon. 

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.