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Bubble Banter: Indiana seems more like than not to miss the NCAA tournament

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LOSERS

Indiana (RPI: 76, KenPom: 41, No. 10 seed): I’ll lock in my prediction now: Indiana is going to miss the NCAA tournament.

As of today, we have them as a No. 10 seed in our bracket, but losing at home to No. 16 Purdue on Thursday night was a killer. The Hoosiers are now 15-10 on the season and just 5-7 in the Big Ten, but the more important record is this: They are now 2-4 since O.G. Anunoby went down with a season-ending knee injury last month. So the team that beat Kansas on a neutral and roughed up North Carolina in Assembly Hall? That team isn’t the team that is currently taking the floor for Indiana.

Here’s the bigger issue for the Hoosiers: Four of their last six games are on the road, including trips to Minnesota and Purdue. On the one hand, that does mean there are opportunities out there for the Hoosiers to add to their profile, but keep in mind that they’re 0-3 in road games since Anunoby’s injury.

Are they actually good enough to get those wins?

If you think they are, you probably think they’ll end up in the NCAA tournament.

WINNERS

UNC Wilmington (RPI: 42, KenPom: 55, No. 12 seed): The Seahawks kept themselves in the mix for an at-large bid by beating James Madison at home. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: I don’t think that UNCW is going to be able to get into the tournament with an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, so I would strongly recommend winning the automatic bid in the CAA.

Valparaiso (RPI: 69, KenPom: 94, No. 12 seed): Valpo picked up a home win over a mediocre at best Cleveland State team. This is one of the issues with being the Crusaders at this point. They didn’t win the games they needed to win in non-conference play to get them on the right side of the bubble, and every bad team they play in the Horizon hurts those RPI numbers.

Middle Tennessee (RPI: 44, KenPom: 51, No. 11 seed): Despite a 20-4 record, I just really cannot see a team with three sub-100 losses – including one to a team that ranks 298th in the RPI – will have a chance to get an at-large bid, but beating Old Dominion tonight at least keeps them in the conversation.

Wichita State (RPI: 66, KenPom: 17, play-in game): The Shockers don’t have a single bad loss to their name. They also only have one top 100 win and don’t play another top 100 team unless they get Illinois State in the MVC tournament.

 

CBT Podcast: Why Your Favorite Team Sucks

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Brian Snow of Scout.com joined the podcast today for our annual “Why Your Team Sucks” podcast, where we go through and dissect the weaknesses of each one of the national title contenders.

In addition, we talk about VCU winning two games despite trailing with 0.4 seconds left and the Olean bus thief.

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

Police: Drunken bus driver stranded Saint Louis basketball team

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The Saint Louis University men’s basketball team lost a game to St. Bonaventure – and then its bus.

The Billikens walked out of the arena Wednesday night following the team’s 70-55 loss to the Bonnies, and their bus was nowhere to be found, said New York State Police Trooper James O’Callaghan. The driver, later identified as 56-year-old Linda Edmister of Gasport, New York, had taken off.

While authorities searched for the bus, the players sat in the arena. The team posted pictures on Twitter of players talking on their cellphones, playing cards and napping.

“Just chilling in the Reilly Center while we try to find our missing bus,” the team tweeted.

State police said the bus was eventually stopped in Randolph, about 40 miles from the arena. Troopers said they were able to find it through GPS on an item left on the bus. School officials said the item was head coach Travis Ford’s iPad.

“I’m not sure where their destination was after that. But yeah, it definitely wasn’t Randolph,” O’Callaghan said.

Troopers charged Edmister with driving a commercial vehicle while intoxicated. Police say her blood alcohol content was 0.22 percent, more than five times the limit for commercial drivers, 0.04 percent.

It couldn’t be learned if she has a lawyer who could comment on the accusations. The Associated Press also left a message for her employer.

As for the team, it later posted an update on Twitter thanking the St. Bonaventure staff for helping out.

O’Callaghan said police don’t believe Edmister was drunk when she drove the team to the arena. He said troopers don’t know exactly when she left the campus or why. The game ended around 9:30 p.m. Edmister was pulled over shortly before 11 p.m., troopers said.

Another bus took the Billikens to Randolph so the team could retrieve their possessions from the first bus. They were then taken to the airport in nearby Bradford, Pennsylvania, for the return flight, which arrived in St. Louis around 3 a.m. local time.

Wawrow reported from Buffalo.

Duke-North Carolina Preview: Small-ball vs. front court strength will determine this game

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The debate will rage on as long as the four programs involved are among the nation’s elite.

Which is the better rivalry: Kentucky vs. Louisville or Duke vs. North Carolina?

Kentucky-Louisville is clearly the more vitriolic of the two. The hatred between those two fan bases runs deep, and a win in the one game they play annually is the kind of thing that can save an otherwise disappointing season and provides year-long bragging rights. Those games always end up being the dogfights that set the tone for the commonwealth’s internal war.

But Duke-North Carolina will always be the “better” rivalry in my eyes, for two reasons.

1. They play home-and-home every year, meaning that we get a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and a game in the Dean Done each and every season.

2. But more importantly, those games carry more meaning. Duke and North Carolina are always going to be competing for ACC titles, and more often than not, these games will play some role in who will be the ACC’s regular season conference champion and who, if anyone, will get the No. 1 seed that so often comes out of the conference.

That’s not different this season.

North Carolina is going to head into Cameron on Thursday evening sitting all alone in first place in the ACC regular season standings. Florida State and Virginia are a game off the pace while Duke is sitting tied with Syracuse and Louisville two games in back of the Tar Heels in the loss column. Put another way, Duke’s hopes of making a miracle run to the ACC regular season title will come to an end with a loss at home to the Tar Heels.

And while it seems crazy to think that the Blue Devils, who went through more issues during the month of January than any team in college basketball, could win the ACC title, it’s not that far-fetched, is it?

Duke made a fundamental change to the way that they play three games ago. They’re fully embracing small-ball. Jayson Tatum starts at the four. He plays near all of his minutes at the four. Amile Jefferson starts at the five, Harry Giles III spells him when he needs a rest and Marques Bolden’s time as a contributor for Duke seems to be over, at least for the time being. This puts Duke in a position where they can play Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Tatum together while still having another floor-spacer on the floor, and this has made them a nightmare to defend.

The key to that lineup, however, is Tatum. More specifically, the key to that lineup is Tatum’s ability to defend and to rebound the ball. He’s going to be outsized by just about every opponent that Duke faces, and if he is able to keep from getting run over by bigger, more physical post players while holding his own on the glass – he had 14 rebounds last week against Notre Dame – this four-out, one-in look will be lethal for Duke.

That’s where Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks come into play. They may not be the best front line in the country, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger, more experienced pair anywhere in college hoops. Throw in Tony Bradley, and that trio averages 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. They post 33 points and 20 boards combined per game and will give Tatum by far his toughest challenge to date.

Justin Jackson has been sensational for UNC this season, by far their most consistent perimeter player. He’s turned into a 39.3 percent three-point shooter and a go-to scorer that’s unafraid to take and able to make big shots. There’s an argument to make for him as the ACC Player of the Year. But he’s not the guy that makes the UNC offense go. That’s Joel Berry II, who has been equal parts terrific and inconsistent this season. When he’s on, the Tar Heels are as good as anyone in the country, but he’s been prone to dreadful games. He was 0-for-8 from the floor with a technical foul in the loss at Miami. He was 3-for-13 from the floor in both the losses at Georgia Tech and Indiana.

UNC certainly needs him to show up, but he’s not UNC’s x-factor.

Theo Pinson is.

An athletic defender that can rebound and provide another playmaking presence, Pinson is the perfect counter to Duke’s myriad of soon-to-be NBA wings. He can guard Tatum, he can guard Allen and he can guard Kennard, but he’s also dealing with a foot injury that just won’t go away and it’s unclear yet if he’s going to play.

PREDICTION: While the matchup with the bigger Tar Heels worries me, I think Duke is going to win this game because A) Cameron and B) if Pinson is out or banged up, I’m not sure how UNC slows down all those perimeter weapons. Give me Duke (-2.5).

Trier’s 22 help No. 9 Arizona escape with win over Stanford

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Stanford is the only Pac-12 school that hasn’t beaten Arizona in coach Sean Miller’s eight seasons in Tucson.

The Cardinal sure came close on Wednesday night.

Allonzo Trier scored 22 points and made 12 of 12 from the free-throw line, helping the No. 9 Arizona escape with a 74-67 victory.

Trier got his biggest offensive output since he returned to the team six games ago. This was his first start of the season.

“I’m just pretty much getting going,” Trier said. “I’m doing my best. Each game though is just more experience for me and allows me to get more comfortable with my teammates out there.”

Lauri Markkanen emerged from a three-game shooting slump to make a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats the lead for good, 70-67, with 1:40 to go.

Trier added two free throws with 23.7 seconds to go.

Arizona (22-3, 11-1 Pac-12) led most of the game but never by more than 12 points.

Reid Travis led Stanford (12-12, 4-8) with 26 points.

“We showed ourselves that we can play against anyone in the country if we’re playing hard,” he said, “so although the loss hurt, it is definitely something that’s going to fuel us going into the next couple of games.”

Arizona beat the Cardinal by 39 at Stanford on Jan. 1, but Stanford was coming off a big win over Utah.

“I think our guys expected to win,” Cardinal coach Jerod Haase said. “We put ourselves in position, and all we talked about all night was trying to get ourselves in position in the last four or five minutes. I think our guys made a lot of plays, but at the end of the day we couldn’t seal it.”

Rawle Alkins added 12 points and Chance Comanche had 11 for the Wildcats, who won the game at the free-throw line, going 25 for 29 to Stanford’s 9 for 12. The Wildcats made their last 19 free throws.

Marcus Allen scored 15 points and Dorian Pickens had 12 for Stanford, which lost to Arizona for the 15th straight time.

Arizona looked to have a hangover from its 85-58 loss at Oregon last Saturday, a blowout defeat that snapped the Wildcats’ 15-game winning streak.

Miller was in a cranky mood afterward, mainly because of poor defense and rebounding.

“When you let teams get 17 second-chance points, it really puts a lot of pressure on your ability to win,” Miller said. “The other thing is we have a number of players that can’t guard their man.”

Stanford never led after the game’s first eight minutes but stayed close with the inside domination of Travis. The Cardinal tied it twice late, the last time at 67-67 on Allen’s layup with 1:56 to go.

After Allen started the second half with two free throws to cut the Arizona lead to 35-34, the Wildcats scored the next eight – a 3-pointer and driving layup by Alkins, followed by Kadeem Allen’s 3 – to put Arizona ahead 43-34.

Simmons’ free throw with 11:22 to play gave the Wildcats their biggest lead at 50-38. But Arizona went 7:32 without a field goal before Dusan Ristic’s rebound basket put Arizona up 61-57 with 5:18 left. Comanche’s two free throws padded the lead to 63-57 with 4:51 to go.

Stanford caught up with an 8-2 spurt, tying it at 65 when Pickens made a 3-pointer with 2:23 to play. Trier’s two free throws made it 67-65 before Allen got free inside after an offensive rebound and scored to tie it for the final time.

POOR MARKKMANSHIP

Markkanen’s big 3 was his second field goal in nine tries. He was 2 for 7 on 3-pointers.

Overall in his last three games, Markkanen is 4 for 20 from the field, 3 for 13 on 3s.

Miller said he thought Markkanen’s confidence was shaken and the big field goal at the end should help restore that. He was more concerned that the 7-foot freshman had just three rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Stanford is obviously improving and will be no pushover down the stretch. Arizona stayed atop the Pac-12 standings but the Wildcats have some work to do to fix their recent issues.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal look to avenge a home loss to Arizona State with a rematch against the Sun Devils on Saturday night in Tempe.

Arizona: The Wildcats go for a Bay Area sweep when they host California on Saturday night.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

Long Island college basketball player accused of rape

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STONY BROOK, N.Y. (AP) A Long Island college basketball player from California is accused of raping a minor.

Stony Brook University police Chief Robert J. Lenahan tells Newsday that Blair Mendy faces rape, sexual misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child charges.

The 22-year-old Stony Brook sophomore from San Jose is expected to be arraigned Thursday. It’s unclear if he has a lawyer who can comment.

Lenahan on Wednesday provided no other details on the case.

Mendy’s father tells Newsday that he can’t believe the charges. He says he taught his son to be a gentleman, treat ladies well and to always make the right choices.

The newspaper says Mendy has played in two games with the Stony Brook Seawolves this year.