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Bubble Banter: Biggest winners and losers

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January has come to a close, which means that it is officially time for Bubble Banter to make its glorious return. 

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • I’ll update them best that I can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something I missed, if you have an issue with a team I left out or if you want to congratulate me on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit me up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below.
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Baylor, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Alabama, Arizona State, Ohio State, St. John’s.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 40, SOS: 31): TCU is the biggest bubble winner of the day, as they went into Hilton Coliseum and landed their first Q1 win of the season, knocking off Iowa State (13), 92-83. With the win, TCU is now 17-6 on the season and 5-5 in Big 12 play, but until this win, there really wasn’t much of note on their resume. They were 0-5 against Q1 opponents. That’s why they were in one of the play-in games entering the day. That will change with this win.

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 33): If it’s not TCU, then the Tigers are probably the biggest bubble winners of the weekend, as they landed a home win over Virginia Tech (10), their first Q1 win of the season. Everything else on their resume looks good. They don’t have any bad losses and their computer numbers look good, but entering today they were 0-6 against Q1 opponents and 3-2 in Q2 games. They needed quality wins. They got one on Saturday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 78, SOS: 85): Good luck trying to explain Arizona State. After losing by 20 points to Washington State on Thursday night, the Sun Devils turned around and handed Washington their first loss in conference play on Saturday. Arizona State now has a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses, but they also have four Q1 wins — Kansas (18), Washington (25), Mississippi State (27) and Utah State (33). They’re certainly a tournament team right now, but where they fit in the bracket is tough to figure out.

VCU (NET: 48, SOS: 24): The Rams are probably the only hope for the Atlantic 10 to get two bids to the NCAA tournament at this point, and they certainly didn’t hurt their chances on Saturday. St. Bonaventure is down this year but Olean is always a tough place to play … and VCU bulldozed the Bonnies. A win at Texas and the win over Temple on a neutral are the two wins that are really bolstering this resume.

N.C. STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 237): The Wolfpack picked up a win at Pittsburgh on Saturday, which is notable if only because it’s a game that they probably couldn’t afford to lose. Their profile is marginal based on wins — they are 1-6 in Q1 games with a Q3 loss at Wake Forest — and the fact that they played a non-conference schedule that ranks 352nd is going to be a deal-breaker.

SYRACUSE (NET: 49, SOS: 27): Syracuse got a win over Boston College at home on Saturday, which helps them because a loss would have really hurt. The Orange do have a bit of a weird profile, but the truth is this: Their bad losses don’t look as bad as they did at the time, and their win at Duke might end up being the best win in college basketball come Selection Sunday.

TEXAS (NET: 38, SOS: 3): Texas improved to 6-5 in the Big 12 with a win at West Virginia on Saturday. They are now 14-10 on the season, a solid record against one of the best schedules in the country. They do have a couple of bad Q3 home losses, but they’ve beaten North Carolina (8) on a neutral, Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) at home and Kansas State (30) on the road. They’re in a good spot, and with their next four games all winnable — Kansas State (30), Oklahoma State (76), at Oklahoma (36), at Baylor (32) — they can keep improving on that resume.

SETON HALL (NET: 66, SOS: 28): The Pirates found a way to beat Creighton (55) at home on Saturday, but they are not in a great spot. They are 2-5 against Q1 and 6-2 against Q2 with two Q3 losses. That’s about par for the course for bubble teams. The differentiator is their neutral court win over Kentucky (5).

UCF (NET: 46, SOS: 91): The Knights won at SMU on Sunday, adding another Q1 win to their profile. They are now 4-2 against Q2 opponents, but they still have not beaten a Q2 team in two tries. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this is the profile of a mid-major program right now. With two games left against Cincinnati and a trip to Houston, UCF will have three shots are an elite Q1 in, and I think they probably want to get two to really feel good about their chances on the bubble.

BELMONT (NET: 62, SOS: 145): The Bruins won their seventh straight on Saturday, beating Morehead State on the road. With a sweep of Lipscomb, a win at UCLA and a win at Murray State, Belmont has an interesting profile, but with three Q3 road losses already this season, I don’t think they can take another loss that isn’t in the OVC tournament and have a real shot at an at-large.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 31, SOS: 206): Lipscomb took care of business at home against Jacksonville, setting up what should be their toughest test between now and an Atlantic Sun regular season title: a home date with Liberty (58). This will be their last chance in the regular season to add to their Q2 win total. As it stands, they are 4-4 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, with a win at TCU and a win at SMU.

WOFFORD (NET: 29, SOS: 126): Wofford smoked Western Carolina. If they win out during the regular season, they should be an at-large team.

BUTLER (NET: 57, SOS: 26): The Bulldogs kept themselves in the bubble conversation as they landed their second Q1 win of the season at Georgetown (72). This is hardly a difference-maker, as the Hoyas are one losing streak away from falling outside the top 75 and off the Q1 line, but this does had some depth to Butler’s profile. Their at-large bid will be determined by games at St. John’s, at Villanova and at Marquette in the last month of the season.

LOSERS

DAVIDSON (NET: 59, SOS: 108): The Wildcats can just about put their at-large hopes on ice after they went into Amherst and lost to a bad UMass team (224) that was playing without Luwane Pipkins, who is their best player and one of the most dangerous scorers in the Atlantic 10. Davidson does not have a Q1 win, they will not play another Q1 game the rest of the regular season and they now have two Q3 losses and a Q4 loss to their name.

INDIANA (NET: 47, SOS: 35): The Hoosiers have now lost back-to-back home games since they went into East Lansing and beat Michigan State, and I think we’ve finally reached the point where we have to stop overlooking Indiana’s good wins. On Sunday, they lost at home to Ohio State, dropping to 13-11 overall and 4-9 in the Big Ten. They do have four Q1 wins — including at Michigan State (8), Louisville (15) and Marquette (21) — but they are now 4-8 against Q1 with three more Q2 losses. This is precisely the kind of resume that should be overlooked in order to get a mid-major team like Wofford or Lipscomb in to the tournament.

ARIZONA (NET: 70, SOS: 57): The Wildcats seemed to be well on the wrong side of the bubble entering Saturday, and that was before they took on a 14-point home loss to Washington State (197). The Wildcats now are just 1-4 against Q2 and 2-5 against Q2 with a 14 point Q4 loss. They play four of their last seven games on the road, they have just one more potential Q1 win on their schedule — at Oregon (71). Arizona is auto-bid or bust.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 35, SOS: 12): The Sooners have seen their season go off the rails. After entering league play with an 11-1 record, the Sooners have now lost four in a row to drop to 3-8 in the Big 12. At this point, the Sooners are not a tournament team.

CREIGHTON (NET: 55, SOS: 8): For the seventh time in their last ten games, the Bluejays took a loss, this time coming at Seton Hall. They are now 12-11 on the season, 4-7 in the Big East and 2-9 against Q1 opponents. Those two Q1 wins are Clemson (43) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72).

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 122): Utah State’s seven-game winning streak came to an end in San Diego on Saturday night, as the Aggies lost to San Diego State. This is their second Q3 loss on the season, and combined with just a 3-4 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents and no wins better Saint Mary’s (45) on a neutral floor, it’s going to be a big ask to get an at-large if they don’t beat Nevada on March 2nd. Even with a win in that game, they might not have enough.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 40, SOS: 47): I wasn’t going to write about the Johnnies here because they entered the day as a No. 9 seed, but getting whipped at home by a bad Providence team earns a mention. St. John’s has a weird profile. They have five Q1 wins — including a sweep of Marquette — but with home losses to Georgetown, DePaul and now Providence, nothing is given. And it is worth noting that the DePaul loss came without Shamorie Ponds while today’s loss came with Mustapha Heron out of the lineup.

NEBRASKA (NET: 36, SOS: 99): The Cornhuskers lost their seventh straight on Saturday night, falling at Purdue. Maybe I’m late on this, but it’s time to take them out of consideration until something changes.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 47): After the Gators knocked off Ole Miss ten days ago, we said that their NCAA tournament bid can be earned during a three-game stretch where they played Kentucky, at Auburn and at Tennessee. After getting blown out in Knoxville, the Gators went 0-3 in that stretch and 12-11 overall and 1-9 in Q1 games. That’s not ideal.

ARKANSAS (NET: 60, SOS: 36): The Razorbacks fell at South Carolina on Saturday, which certainly isn’t a killer for them, but when you are firmly on the bubble — as Arkansas is — any chance to land a Q2 win is going to help. The Razorbacks have just a single Q1 win, at LSU last Saturday.

TEMPLE (NET: 50, SOS: 42): The Owls lost at Tulsa on Saturday by 18 points, a result that sounds worse than it looks on a resume — the Golden Hurricane are a top 100 team, so this is a Q2 loss. Temple has just one Q1 win (Houston at home) but they are 6-6 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost to Penn (88) at home. The biggest issue for the Owls at this point is the lack of quality opponents left on their schedule.

No. 1 goes down … again; Texas Tech upsets No. 1 Louisville

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NEW YORK — It was the fourth time it’s happened in the first five weeks of the season, the third time it’s happened against an unranked team and the second time that Madison Square Garden played host to the carnage.

The No. 1 team in the country lost.

On Tuesday night, in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic, No. 1 Louisville lost to the unranked Texas Tech, 70-57. That’s the same Texas Tech that arrived in New York City on a three-game losing streak — against Iowa, Creighton and DePaul — and who was forced to play with leading scorer Jahmi’us Ramsey, who missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury.

Davide Moretti led the way for the reigning national runners-up, finishing with 18 points, while freshman Terrence Shannon chipped in with 13 of his own and Chris Clarke added seven points, 12 boards and six assists.

As we have become accustomed to under head coach Chris Beard, Texas Tech won with their defense. They held Louisville to 34 percent shooting for the game. The Cardinals were 3-for-17 from three. They turned the ball over 19 times and made 18 field goals. It was, to be frank, as bad as it sounds.

Texas Tech does this to teams. They take you out of what you want to do offensively. The Red Raider coaching staff scouts as well as any staff in the country — in the first half, with their defense right in front of them, they were calling out Louisville’s sets as Louisville was calling their plays. — and this put Louisville in an impossible spot. They couldn’t get good shots out of their offense because Texas Tech wouldn’t let them, but with a point guard situation that is can be flatteringly called a work in progress, they didn’t have anyone that could create offense.

Texas Tech forces you to make plays.

Louisville doesn’t have anyone that can do that.

And it showed.

Penn State upsets No. 4 Maryland

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Penn State used five double-figure scorers and played consistently hard on both ends of the floor as the Nittany Lions stunned previously-unbeaten No. 4 Maryland with a 76-69 Big Ten win on Tuesday night.

Losing by 30 on the road to Ohio State in their last conference game, Penn State displayed impressive intensity on the defensive end, limited turnovers on the offensive end and received plenty of help for star senior Lamar Stevens when he wasn’t having his best game. For the second straight season, Penn State upset a ranked Maryland team on its home floor as the Nittany Lions proved they’ll be a tough out at home all season.

Penn State (8-2, 1-1) received double-doubles from both Stevens (15 points, 10 rebounds) and big man Mike Watkins (15 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) as the duo did a ton of damage on the interior. The Nittany Lions also had double-digit scoring efforts from Myreon Jones (14 points), Izaiah Brockington (14 points) and Myles Dread (10 points). With 19 assists and only eight turnovers, Penn State’s offense did an outstanding job of running clean sets and getting good looks from multiple players.

This is a quality win for the Nittany Lions early in the Big Ten portion of the schedule. It gives an unproven team a major boost of confidence — particularly beating a top-five team on a night where Stevens was only 5-for-13 from the floor. The Ohio State road loss shows Penn State still has a long way to go to be considered any kind of major threat. But Pat Chambers’ team is at least balanced and feisty enough to be a really tough out at home this season. A few more wins like this could put Penn State in the NCAA tournament picture with the kind of schedule they’ll play in the Big Ten this season.

But the major story here is the loss for Maryland. Because the Terps have some concerning trends they need to address.

Early in the season, Maryland (10-1, 1-1) has made a habit of falling behind early. It happened multiple times in an early-season tournament. And it’s now happened in back-to-back Big Ten games against Illinois and Penn State. While Maryland has been able to overcome slow starts all season with talent and comeback wins, a bad start came back to really bite them on Tuesday.

Trailing by 10 at halftime, Maryland tried to make second-half runs to stay with Penn State. Ultimately, the Terps were derailed by inconsistent offense, sloppy and careless turnovers (Penn State had 17 points off turnovers in the first half) and an inconsistent effort on the inside.

Maryland’s offense had 20 turnovers to only nine assists for the game as the Terps never seemed to figure out the proper way to run its offense. Alternating between senior Anthony Cowan Jr. (16 points) and sophomore Eric Ayala (15 points) initiating offense, both guards had too many bad passes and unforced errors for a team with Big Ten title aspirations.

It’s very clear that Maryland has the talent to compete with nearly any team in the country. Even on an off night, the Terps made this a one-possession game against a balanced Big Ten team with some veteran players. But Maryland can’t have these kinds of unforced errors if they see themselves making a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

That mainly falls on Cowan. A few of his turnovers were stunningly bad for a senior floor leader. Getting stripped 35 feet from the hoop and throwing lazy passes for interceptions and easy layups can’t happen for Cowan. There’s just too much talent on offense for Maryland to be giving away points in close games.

The good news for Maryland is that there is plenty of time to correct some of these mistakes. Cowan can limit the mistakes. The offense will likely play better and more together. But Maryland’s slow starts are a trend to keep an eye on as it has been a factor for them in multiple games this season.

Bracketology: Cardinals, Buckeyes sit atop latest bracket projection

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At the quarter-turn of our race to Selection Sunday, the Louisville Cardinals lead Ohio State by a nose for the No. 1 overall seed.  Close behind are Michigan, Kansas, Gonzaga and Maryland.  The Buckeyes and Wolverines are the surprise entries among that group, although both have earned their positions with impressive performances out of the gate.

While the first turn provides a quick glance at the Field, we still have three-quarters of the race to run – including a daunting backstretch and the turn for home known as conference play.  Those grueling furlongs tend to separate the pretenders and contenders.

Early brackets are notoriously fluid; margins between teams are thin. Early projections also tend to produce some quirkiness – especially related to conference balance.  Keep those things in mind.  By next month we could see a lot of changes.

UPDATED: December 10, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Iowa State vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Georgetown vs. Oregon State
MIDWEST REGION  SACRED HEART vs. PRAIRIE VIEW AM
WEST REGION MONTANA vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis EAST – New York                       
St. Louis Cleveland
1) LOUISVILLE 1) OHIO STATE
16) NC-AT / SACRED HEART 16) RADFORD
8) West Virginia 8) VCU
9) Penn State 9) Texas
Sacramento Sacramento
5) Arizona 5) SAN DIEGO STATE
12) WESTERN KENTUCKY 12) UNC-GREENSBORO
4) Kentucky 4) Washington
13) LIBERTY 13) YALE
St. Louis Greensboro
6) MEMPHIS 6) Villanova
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Iowa St / Arizona St
3) DAYTON 3) TENNESSEE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) VERMONT
Albany Greensboro
7) Florida 7) Seton Hall
10) DePaul 10) Indiana
2) Maryland 2) Duke
15) HOFSTRA 15) COLGATE
WEST – Los Angeles SOUTH – Houston
Omaha Cleveland
1) KANSAS 1) Michigan
16) MONTANA / PV-AM 16) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
8) Stanford 8) LSU
9) Marquette 9) Colorado
Albany Omaha
5) Michigan State 5) North Carolina
12) BOWLING GREEN 12) NORTHERN IOWA
4) Virginia 4) Baylor
13) BELMONT 13) S.F. AUSTIN
Tampa Tampa
6) Purdue 6) Auburn
11) Oklahoma 11) Georgetown / Oregon St
3) BUTLER 3) Florida State
14) RIDER 14) GEORGIA STATE
Spokane Spokane
7) Utah State 7) Xavier
10) Creighton 10) Connecticut
2) GONZAGA 2) OREGON
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) NEW MEXICO STATE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Creighton Georgetown Iowa Arkansas
Connecticut Arizona State Wichita State Virginia Tech
Saint Mary’s Oregon State NC State Houston
Oklahoma Iowa State Richmond Oklahoma State

Top Seed Line
Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …
Big East (8)
Big Ten (7)
Pac 12 (7)
BIG 12 (6)
SEC (5)
ACC (5)
West Coast (2)
American (2)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.