Rob Dauster

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Bubble Banter: Michigan, Providence and Rhode Island land massive wins

Leave a comment

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see listed below come from. This post will be updated throughout the day. 

WINNERS

Michigan (RPI: 51, KenPom: 27, No. 9 seed): Congratulations, Michigan. After smacking around Purdue the Wolverines are locked into a bid.

Providence (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, play-in game): We always talk about how frustrating it is that no one seems to play their way onto the bubble and then into the NCAA tournament, but I think Providence has done just that. They erased a late, 12-point deficit in a win over Marquette on Saturday afternoon, their fourth straight win on the season. All four came against likely tournament teams, meaning the Friars five top 50 wins, ten top 100 wins and games left against DePaul and St. John’s. But they also have already lost to DePaul, St. John’s and Boston College. The margin for error is thing, but as of today, I think they’re going to end up being in.

Rhode Island (RPI: 47, KenPom: 55, next four out): The Rams landed a massive win on Saturday, picking off VCU at home in a game URI absolutely had to win. They now have a pair of top 25 wins and four total top 100 wins, which I’m not sure is enough to make up for the two sub-100 losses on their résumé. The Rams have two landmines left on their schedule, so for my money, URI is going to have to win land a win over either VCU or Dayton in the league tournament to have a real chance.

Wichita State (RPI: 44, KenPom: 12, No. 10 seed): The Shockers took down Missouri State on the road, meaning that they are going to head into the Missouri Valley tournament having just a single league loss to their name. This team’s status hasn’t changed in weeks: They have just one quality win and none of their non-league wins have turned out to be all that impressive, but they are No. 12 according to KenPom.com. That may be enough to get them in, but Gregg Marshall probably shouldn’t test that theory out.

Illinois State (RPI: 35, KenPom: 43, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds did what they needed to do, knocking off Northern Iowa on the road to enter the MVC tournament with just the one league loss to Wichita State. If those two programs play each other in the title game, there’s a good chance the MVC could end up with two tournament teams.

Vanderbilt (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, next four out): A blowout win over Mississippi State sets Vandy up for a season-changing week: They play at Kentucky and host Florida. The ‘Dores probably need to win both, considering they already have 13 losses on the season — including one to Missouri — and will take another loss in the SEC tournament, but the chance is there. Two wins, get a bid.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): The Razorbacks, on the other hand, should feel pretty good about their spot on the bubble right now after winning at Auburn on Saturday. I’m not quite ready to call them a lock just yet, but I think one more win somewhere — at Florida, Georgia, first SEC tournament game — gets it done.

Indiana (RPI: 100, KenPom: 46, bubble): The Hoosiers are somehow still in the mix after beating Northwestern at home on Saturday night. This is according to people that are the best in the business at doing this. Personally? I’m not sure there’s much the Hoosiers can do to turn this thing around.

Seton Hall (RPI: 48, KenPom: 57, play-in game): Seton Hall beat DePaul. A loss to DePaul would have likely sent them to the NIT. Go 1-1 next week (Georgetown, at Butler) and Seton Hall is dancing.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LOSERS

TCU (RPI: 53, KenPom: 43, first four out): TCU lost a heart-breaker at home to West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, airballing a wide-open, buzzer-beating three that would have gotten the Horned Frogs a win that could have put them on the right side of the bubble. At this point, with just two top 50 wins and five top 100 wins, TCU is going to have to win out and do some work in the Big 12 tournament to have a chance. They simply do not have enough quality wins to make up for their 12 losses, and beating Kansas State and Oklahoma won’t change that.

VCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 42, No. 9 seed): VCU lost at Rhode Island on Saturday, which is not a bad loss and certainly isn’t going to keep VCU out of the tournament. What it does, however, is reduce their margin for error. For my money, the Rams need one more win this season to lock up a tournament bid.

Kansas State (RPI: 59, KenPom: 30, play-in game): Playing a game that more-or-less had their NCAA tournament lives on the line, Kansas State went into Norman and lost by 30 points to a bad Oklahoma team that doesn’t have their star point guard after he tore his ACL. That’s not a good look, is it?

Marquette (RPI: 68, KenPom: 31, No. 10 seed): Marquette had a chance to just about lock up a bid at Providence, leading by 12 down the stretch. But they game that game away, meaning that their bid is going to be earned next week, when they get Xavier on the road and Creighton at home. A split should probably be enough — they have three top 30 wins, including Villanova, and seven top 100 wins — with just one bad loss.

Clemson (RPI: 61, KenPom: 37, next four out): The Tigers have lost five games by one or two points and 11 games by six points or less after losing at home to Florida State on Saturday. They had their chances to earn an at-large bid, and frankly, are probably good enough to have done so. But if they’re going to get into the NCAA tournament, they’re going to have to get an automatic bid.

Pitt (RPI: 63, KenPom: 66, next four out): The Panthers probably needed to win at home against North Carolina to put them in real contention. As of now, they very likely need to get the automatic bid.

No. 6 Oregon wins another nail-biter, 75-73 over Stanford

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
1 Comment

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Oregon survived its Bay Area trip by the slimmest of margins.

Jordan Bell scored on a putback with 14 seconds left to give the sixth-ranked Ducks their second straight nail-biting victory in a rare Bay Area sweep as Oregon beat Stanford 75-73 on Saturday.

“It stresses Coach out,” guard Dylan Ennis said. “It shows us that we can just get gritty, get down and get the win. … Hopefully if we’re down like that again we can fight back and do the same thing.”

Bell’s game-winner followed Dillon Brooks’ last-second, tiebreaking 3-pointer three nights earlier at California to give Oregon (26-4, 15-2 Pac-12) its second sweep of its conference Bay Area rivals since 1976. The other came two years ago.

Tyler Dorsey scored 15 points to lead Oregon, while Brooks added 14.

“It’s been a tough road trip for us, two close games,” coach Dana Altman said. “That’s life on the road. We found a way.”

Reid Travis had 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for the Cardinal (14-14, 6-10), but committed a turnover on the final possession to end any comeback hopes on senior day that honored Christian Sanders, Marcus Allen and Grant Verhoeven.

“There’s a little extra when you see guys like Christian, Marcus and Grant shedding tears when they’re getting called up,” Travis said. “It’s the last time they get to compete on this court. … Just looking at that, there’s no choice but to be motivated.”

Stanford trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half but battled back to tie the game five times in the second half. But it took until that fifth equalizer for the Cardinal to take their first lead since being up 9-8 early in the first half.

Travis’ jumper in the lane made it 71-69 with less than 3 minutes left but the lead was short-lived as Brooks hit a jumper at the other end to tie it.

The game was tied at 73 when the Ducks managed four offensive rebounds on one possession before finally converting on Bell’s shot with 14 seconds left. It capped a wild sequence that started when Ennis shot an airball on a 3-pointer. Payton Pritchard caught the ball in the air and shot it to the rim before the shot clock expired. Bell was there to put back the second miss for the game-winner.

“It was going so fast I don’t even know what happened,” Altman said.

Travis lost the ball in the paint at the other end to seal the victory for Oregon.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks capped a 7-1 February with just their second road sweep of the conference season as they peaking at the right time of year. Their only loss in that span came on a late 3-pointer by Lonzo Ball in an 82-79 loss at UCLA. Oregon has one more road game left to finish the regular season at last-place Oregon State, and remains in contention for a Pac-12 title and a top two seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford: The Cardinal were unable to follow up home wins against California and Oregon State when faced by tougher competition from the Ducks. That has been an issue all season for Stanford, which fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents.

THEY SAID IT

“Something hit my elbow. It might have been the wind, but I don’t shoot airballs on game-winners.” – Ennis.

POUND THE BOARDS

Oregon had just eight rebounds for the entire first half before getting the four offensive boards on the final possession of the game. The Ducks were outrebounded 37-25 for the game but were outscored by only four points on second-chance opportunities.

CEREMONIAL DAY

Stanford also held a halftime ceremony for former coach Mike Montgomery, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this past November. Montgomery is the winningest coach in school history with 393 of his 677 wins coming for the Cardinal.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Stanford: Visits Colorado on Thursday.

Shamet’s 23 points leads Wichita State to share of MVC title

Peter Aiken/Getty Images
1 Comment

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) Landry Shamet scored a career-best 23 points as No. 25 Wichita State clinched at least a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title for a fourth straight season with an 86-67 victory over Missouri State on Saturday.

The title is the fifth in six seasons for the Shockers (27-4, 17-1), who have won 12 straight games and appear well on their way to a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

Shamet finished 9-of-12 shooting, 5 of 8 from 3-point range, while topping his previous best of 20 points – set against South Dakota State in December. Shaq Morris added 20 points for Wichita State, which has won 14 straight games over the Bears (16-15, 7-11), while Conner Frankamp had 14 points.

Dequon Miller led Missouri State with 19 points, while Alize Johnson had 18 points and 12 rebounds.

The Shockers led by as many as 10 points in the first half before Missouri State cut the lead to 50-46 early in the second half. However, Wichita State followed by hitting five of its 11 3-pointers for the game during a 20-8 run that pushed the lead to 70-54 and put the game out of reach.

Shamet hit four of his 3-pointers in the second half for the Shockers, who added to the school record for 3-pointers in a season (274) they set in a win earlier in the week against Evansville.

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers entered The Associated Press poll for the first time in a year this week, and they aren’t going anywhere yet after wins over Evansville on Tuesday and Saturday’s win over Missouri State. The real question for Wichita State is whether its late-season surge is enough for the school – rated 44th in the NCAA’s RPI ratings – to have already secured an NCAA Tournament berth, if it doesn’t win the MVC Tournament next week.

Missouri State: Johnson’s double-double was the 16th of the season for the 6-foot-9 junior. Despite outrebounding Wichita State 33-31, though, the Bears were able to improve on an 80-62 loss to the Shockers in Kansas on Feb. 9, allowing Wichita State to shoot 54.1 percent (33 of 61) in the win.

UP NEXT

Both teams next play at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis from March 2-5.

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

No. 11 Kentucky rallies past No. 13 Florida 76-66

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Not satisfied with making perimeter jumpers, Malik Monk drove to the basket to create numerous opportunities at the free throw line and found openings to feed his Kentucky teammates.

The freshman guard wasn’t aware until afterward of how many points he had piled up, but he knew that they helped the 11th-ranked Wildcats earn their most important victory this season.

Monk scored 30 of his 33 points in the second half, Bam Adebayo added 18 points with 15 rebounds and Kentucky rallied past No. 13 Florida for a 76-66 victory Saturday to take over the Southeastern Conference lead.

“I didn’t know about that until after the game,” said Monk, who made 10 of 11 free throws and five 3-pointers along with a team-high five assists. That contribution definitely came in handy as point guard De’Aaron Fox missed the game with a knee contusion.

“I was just playing, but it was crazy,” Monk added. “I was way more patient in the second half than I was in the first half.”

While another week remains in SEC play for both teams, the Wildcats (24-5, 14-2) took an important step toward clinching the regular season title by twice rallying from eight points down to win the pivotal matchup. And they can thank Monk for making it happen as he scored 14 points during an 18-10 run that tied the game at 55 with 9:54 remaining.

The high-scoring Monk ended up with the most points in one half by a player under coach John Calipari, who was also taken aback by the outburst.

“Oh, he got 30 in a half?” Calipari said. “No wonder when I got on him about a couple of bad shots, he looked at me like I was crazy.”

Adebayo also overcame a slow start with 12 second-half points after grabbing 11 boards to rally Kentucky.

The 6-foot-10 freshman followed Monk’s key stretch with six straight points before Monk added seven more in between lobbing a pass to Adebayo for a 70-60 lead with 4:04 left. Monk sandwiched two free throws around layups by Isaiah Briscoe and Adebayo, points that proved critical in thwarting rally attempts by the Gators (23-6, 13-3).

Kentucky shot 64 percent in the second half to avenge a 22-point loss to Florida earlier this month. The Wildcats also outrebounded the Gators 48-30 with Adebayo grabbing 15 for the second straight game.

KeVaughn Allen had 24 points and Justin Leon added 13 for Florida, which had won nine straight. Devin Robinson had nine points and 11 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators had several chances to make things hard on Kentucky away but didn’t succeed, letting a 12-point lead slip away in the first half before letting a couple of second-half edges slip away. Several cold stretches didn’t help but rebounding was telling in this rematch as they were beaten on the glass after owning the boards 54-29 in the first meeting in Gainesville three weeks ago.

Most difficult was stopping Monk, who seemed to have answer for every defense they tried to contain him.

“We had a couple of options that did a good job on him in Gainesville,” coach Mike White said. “We just didn’t do quite as good of a job (in Lexington), especially down the stretch.”

Kentucky: The Wildcats started raggedly without Fox but clawed back throughout thanks to Monk’s scoring. Others chipped in big on the glass, as Derek Willis had nine rebounds, Briscoe eight and Dominique Hawkins six. They succeeded despite committing 16 turnovers, but only four after halftime.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky’s gutty win could move the Wildcats back into the Top 10.

ON A ROLL

Adebayo posted his second straight double-double and has 40 points and 30 rebounds the past two games. He’s the first with consecutive double-doubles since Tyler Ulis did so last March.

“My confidence just keeps building,” said Adebayo, who also had a career-best 15 rebounds at Missouri.

FOUL TROUBLE

Four Gators had four fouls, including guards Kasey Hill and Allen.

UP NEXT

Florida: The Gators host Arkansas on Wednesday night.

Kentucky: Hosts Vanderbilt on Tuesday night in its home finale.

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

Malik Monk scores 30 in second half to lead No. 11 Kentucky past No. 13 Florida

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The reason why No. 11 Kentucky is still a national title contender, the reason why no one will ever be able to say that this team cannot get to a Final Four regardless of how much they have struggled over the course of the last month of the season, is Malik Monk.

He’s also the reason why that run isn’t all that likely.

Simply put, he’s college basketball’s single-most unstoppable force, and, once again, he showed us all why on Saturday. Monk scored 30 of his 33 points after halftime and added six assists as the Wildcats outscored No. 13 Florida 32-14 in the final 13 minutes of a 76-66 win that put them in the driver’s seat for the SEC regular season title.

The Gators and the Wildcats entered Saturday tied for first in the league at 13-2. Florida was able to jump out to early leads in both halves, but it was Kentucky that took control down the stretch. Much of that credit goes to Monk, whose shooting brought an energy to Rupp Arena that we haven’t seen in a while and brought on an effort defensively that doesn’t always show up when Kentucky takes the floor.

For a while during the second half, Kentucky looked like the team that we saw early in the season despite the fact that De’Aaron Fox wasn’t playing due to a knee bruise. Their athletes were flying around defensively, they were getting out and running in transition, they were throwing down crazy dunks. That’s the way they played in November and December, when they were scoring in the 90s on a nightly basis and beating teams like Arizona State by 46 points.

That coincided with the time that Monk caught fire.

It’s not just energy that he brings. It’s not just the confidence you see Kentucky’s players get when he’s draining 30-footers like they’re free throws. When he’s scoring, it opens everything up for them on the offensive end of the floor. He’s a shooter with gravity, dragging defenders with him, and he’s a willing and capable enough passer to be able to find open teammates when he puts the ball on the floor. That Kentucky was able to put this kind of a run on a very good Florida team tells you all you need to know about how dangerous they can be.

But here’s the issue: to get to a Final Four, Kentucky, who seems likely to end up around a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, is going to have to beat three really good teams in a row. To win a national title, they’re going to have to do it five straight times. Can Monk catch fire for three straight weeks?

Since the start of the new year, Monk has scored at least 20 points in consecutive games just once — one of those games was a lost at Tennessee — and it’s probably worth noting that the best win Kentucky has in a game where Monk finished below his season scoring average is probably Arkansas at home.

There are a couple of x-factors here, the most obvious of which is De’Aaron Fox getting back to full strength. Between rolled ankles, bruised knees and illnesses, Fox just hasn’t looked like himself for a month. When he’s right, he can be a difference-maker, as can Bam Adebayo, who went for 18 points and 15 boards against a Florida team playing without John Egbunu. He had 22 points and 15 boards against Missouri on Wednesday, and has been playing his best basketball of the season the last couple of weeks.

It should go without saying that Kentucky is better when those two are better. It reduces their reliance on one player doing something that, statistically, is not all that likely.

But they aren’t what makes Kentucky dangerous.

That’s Monk.

He’s good enough that he can literally carry Kentucky to a win over anyone.

But unless Kentucky can find a way to be consistently good on the nights where the inconsistently great Monk isn’t, it’s hard to imagine them making a run to Phoenix.

No. 10 Duke falls at Miami behind Bruce Brown’s 23 points

Chet Strange/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 10 Duke is back to not being back again, right?

The Blue Devils went down to Coral Gables on Saturday afternoon and lost 55-50 to Miami. It’s their second consecutive loss, coming just three days and 1,500 miles after the Blue Devils lost at Syracuse.

That’s the kind of week that will probably convince people that the Blue Devils were, in fact, fraudulent all along.

And frankly, that’s a pretty dumb way to view what’s happened to Duke over the course of the last four days.

Because here’s the truth: Duke lost by five points on the road in league play to a team that’s currently sitting as a No. 8 seed in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection and in a game where they were only favored by one. They lost on the same floor that North Carolina lost on by 15 points earlier this month to a team that is now tied with them in the ACC standings. They lost that game playing without their starting point guard, Grayson Allen, who sat out with an ankle injury. And playing without their starting point guard, the Blue Devils scored just .794 points-per-possession in a game where Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum combined to shoot just 10-for-36 from the floor.

That’s not a bad loss.

Neither is losing on the road to a Syracuse team that is just a game behind them in the ACC standings on a banked-in, buzzer-beating 23-footer in a game where Allen shot like he was shaving points in a game where he tried to battle through the ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup on Saturday. For what it’s worth, the spread in that game was Duke winning by three.

The point here isn’t to makes excuses for Duke.

The point is that taking a pair of close road losses in conference play while battling through some injuries does not a bad team make.

The ACC is a bear this year. North Carolina is the only team in the conference that doesn’t have at least five league losses with more than a week left in the regular season, and they might be the best team in college basketball. We knew this heading into the season, and it’s proven to be true. Everyone took their lumps in league play, and Duke was no different.

I’m not here to tell you what you should think of Duke. Personally, I think that a team with Allen, Kennard and Tatum that defended the way they defended today can win a national title. If you think their lack of depth, post presence and interior defense cannot win six games in March, there’s some validity to that.

What I am here to tell you is that these last four days should not change your opinion of them.

Winning on the road in league play is hard, and Duke learned that the hard way this week.