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After beating No. 20 Florida, South Carolina exemplifies SEC’s weird year

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Wes Myers finished with 22 points, four assists and four steals and Chris Silva added 18 points and 12 boards as South Carolina knocked off No. 20 Florida in Gainesville, 77-72.

It’s the second time in eight days that Frank Martin’s Gamecocks have won a game that will be a Quadrant 1 win come Selection Sunday; last Tuesday, South Carolina erased a 14-point second half deficit in the final 10 minutes in a win over then-No. 18 Kentucky.

And suddenly, a South Carolina team that lost Sindarius Thornwell, P.J. Dozier, Duane Notice and Justin McKie from a Final Four team that entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 7 seed is firmly in the mix to make a return trip to the 2018 NCAA tournament.

That, frankly, is shocking.

The truth is that the teams currently on the bubble are all going to have fairly hideous résumés at this point in the year. We’re barely two-third of the way through the season and not even halfway through conference play. And with the majority of the major conferences playing unbalanced schedules, it’s not a surprise that some of those teams haven’t been able to stockpile quality wins yet.

It is also important to note here that the the relative weakness of some other leagues — with the Pac-12 and Big Ten looking like they’ll combine for seven bids, and the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West looking like they’ll struggle to avoid one-bid status — means that there are going to be spots available.

And the SEC looks like it will be the biggest beneficiary.

The conference is weird this year. I don’t know if there is a team in the league that I would feel comfortable betting on to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, but thanks to South Carolina’s resurgence, there are now 11 members of that league that are in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid. Kentucky is nowhere near a lock to get to the NCAA tournament. Auburn looks like they’re going to win the league despite losing two of their three best players prior to the start of the season. Texas A&M, who still may be the team with the best chance of making a deep run in March, is quite literally tied for last place in the conference standings.

Which brings me back to South Carolina.

I think you can very easily make the argument that, should the Gamecocks continue on the path that they are currently on an earn a trip to the NCAA tournament, the job Frank Martin has done this season is more impressive than the job he did last season. And trust me, I’m not overlooking the fact that he took South Carolina — who had been to four NCAA tournaments since 1974 prior to last season — to the Final Four.

But …

They were a No. 7 seed. That played what amounted to home games the first weekend. Then got the benefit of a bracket that opened up because Wisconsin upset No. 1 seed Villanova. You can only beat who is in front of you and yes, they took out No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Baylor, but getting to the Final Four with that kind of a draw and two NBA players on the roster is one thing.

Losing those two NBA players, losing two more seniors, losing a former top 100 prospect (Temarcus Blanton) to a career-ending injury and losing two more key rising sophomores (Rakym Felder, Sedee Keita) and still getting back to the NCAA tournament is another.

I always think that great coaching over the course of an entire season is more impressive than getting hot for a few weeks in March.

But here is the wildest part of the SEC to me. Knowing what we know about South Carolina and Frank Martin, I still don’t think that he would end up being in the top two for SEC Coach of the Year. I think Bruce Pearl is the runaway winner while Will Wade, who may get LSU into the NCAA tournament, is right there. Hell, if Cuonzo Martin can keep Missouri on the right side of the bubble after losing Michael Porter Jr., he may deserve a spot in the top three.

If you could have predicted that all of that was going to happen, you are Biff Tannen and please tell me who is going to win the Super Bowl.

I could use a nice little payday.

Bubble Banter: All of Wednesday’s relevant bubble action in one place

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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 Wednesday night.

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.


SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 57, KenPom: 80, NBC seed: Out): In the last eight days, the Gamecocks went from being a team nowhere near the bubble to being a team with a real shot of finding themselves in the NCAA tournament. It started with a win over Kentucky (15) at home. It continued on Wednesday with at Florida (25). That gives them three Quadrant 1 wins, no loss worse than a Quadrant 2 loss and no home loss worse than Missouri (37). The best part? Every opponent left on their schedule is ranked in the top 80.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Next four out): The Orange added another Quadrant 2 win on Wednesday night, beating Boston College in the Carrier Dome. They now have six of those, a number that will go to seven if Virginia Tech (76) gets into the top 75. The problem? No Quadrant 1 wins. They’ll have six chances to land one the rest of the way. I would guess they need two, maybe three, or them to feel good.

USC (RPI: 40, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Trojans are quietly one of the hottest teams in the country. If it wasn’t for a half-court buzzer beater at Stanford, they would have won eight straight games after getting their revenge against the Cardinal on Wednesday. They’re second in the league in defensive efficiency during Pac-12 play. The problem? There isn’t one Quadrant 1 win in that streak. USC’s two best wins right now are Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State on a neutral court. They get Cal at home this weekend, then have a three-game stretch where they are at UCLA (61), at Arizona State (32) and at Arizona (20). USC probably wants to win two of those.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 67, KenPom: 65, NBC seed: Out): Nebraska is in a very difficult situation when it comes to their NCAA tournament hopes. They don’t have a Quadrant 1 win to their name — their best win is a home win over Michigan (38) and they don’t one top 100 win away from home — and they don’t play another Quadrant 1 game. None of their remaining opponents are top 50 teams. One one (Maryland) is top 85, and the only other top 100 opponents they have left (at Minnesota, Indiana) will bounce in and out of the top 100. They are going to need to beat someone in the Big Ten tournament.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 33, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): Boise State whipped up on a team at the bottom of the Mountain West. The names don’t matter, mainly because there are only three teams in the league that are top 100 in the RPI. I’d feel much better about the Broncos if they had managed to win at Wyoming (73) or Nevada (13); they lose by a combined seven points. Boise currently does not have a Quadrant 1 win. If they do not beat both Nevada and Wyoming in the final month of the season, they are probably NIT bound.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 85, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: First four out): The Wolfpack tried really hard to ruin their NCAA tournament chances, as they trailed Pitt by 10 late in the second half. They would go on to win, meaning that the dream is still alive. Home wins over Duke (1) and Clemson (6), plus a neutral court win over Arizona (20) gives the Wolfpack three great wins.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 9): Florida State is in a good spot right now. They are 15-5 on the season with four of those five losses coming away from home and all of them either Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 opponents. They beat Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Beat Miami (21) on Saturday and they’ll be off this list for the time being.


MISSOURI (RPI: 37, KenPom: 36, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Tigers missed out on a great chance to land an elite win, losing by 18 at home to Auburn. Right now, Cuonzo Martin’s team has three Quadrant 1 wins — Tennessee (14) at home, at UCF (59) and South Carolina (57) — and every game they play the rest of the season would be, at worst, a Quadrant 2 win. They’ll have chances to build.

STANFORD (RPI: 91, KenPom: 97, NBC seed: Out): The Cardinal were much more interesting before Arizona (20) snapped their five-game winning streak. After Wednesday’s loss at USC (40) it might be time to move them out of consideration for the time being. The qualifier here: Stanford has had a bunch of injuries and roster issues, something the selection committee considers.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 44, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 10): Marquette had a shot to really improve their profile on Wednesday night, playing at Xavier. They lost by 19, which is hardly a bad loss; Xavier is 4th in the RPI right now. The Golden Eagles are in pretty good shape right now. They have two Quadrant 1 wins (Seton Hall, at Providence) and six games left against teams ranked in the top 36. Marquette’s next three games are critical: They get Villanova (2), Butler (26) and Providence (36) at home.

BOSTON COLLEGE (RPI: 63, KenPom: 77, NBC seed: Out): The Eagles lost at Syracuse, a Quadrant 1 opponent, which is only problematic in the sense that they now have eight losses on the season. The Eagles have a weird profile: Just one Quadrant 1 win, only three top 150 wins (all at home) and their best win away from home was La Salle (172) on a neural; at Hartford (241) is their only road win. But … they beat Duke, who is No. 1 in the RPI. That will keep them in the mix for a while.

TEMPLE (RPI: 45, KenPom: 91, NBC seed: Out): Neutral court wins over Auburn and Clemson keeps Temple in the conversation, but a 10-10 record and a sweep at the hands of Cincinnati — including a 33-point loss Tuesday night — might be the end of it.

Report: Louisville loses NCAA appeal

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Dan Dakich is a lot of things.

A color commentator for ESPN. A radio host in Indianapolis. A former Indiana head coach.

And, apparently, a college basketball news breaker.

On his radio on Wednesday, Dakich reported that Louisville’s appeal to the NCAA over the sanctions levied against them for the stripper scandal has been denied. He said that Louisville will have to vacate the wins for those seasons — including taking down the 2013 title banner — and that they will have to repay as much as $15 million in funds received from the NCAA tournament in those seasons.

Dakich has gotten some news right in the past. He also said that Steve Alford was a done deal to become Indiana’s next head coach and insinuated that Marvin Bagley III was heading to UCLA. So keep that in mind before taking this report as gospel.

This scandal — not the one that cost Rick Pitino his job, mind you — also resulted in Louisville self-imposing a ban for the 2016 NCAA tournament.

Whether or not the school will face additional punishment over their recruitment of Brian Bowen, whose father was alleged to have been paid more than $19,000 for Brian’s enrollment at Louisville, is yet to be known.

Villanova loses Phil Booth to broken hand

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For the third time this season, Villanova has lost a key rotation player to a broken hand.

This time it was Phil Booth, a 6-foot-3 redshirt junior that is averaging 11.6 points, 3.3 boards and 3.2 assists while shooting 42 percent from three. He fractured a bone in his right (shooting) hand.

“All of us are disappointed for Phil,” stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “He is one of our captains and the respect for him among his teammates is off the charts. Phil is as mentally tough a player as we have had in our program. We know he’ll come back better and stronger from this.”

Previously, Collin Gillispie and Jermaine Samuels both broke bones in their left hand. Gillispie has returned to action, and should see a bump in minutes with Booth out, but Samuels is still sidelined.

Booth missed last season with a knee injury.

Donte DiVincenzo is expected to slide into the starting lineup without Booth.

Bill Self takes blame for Oklahoma loss after ‘bad decision’

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Bill Self told reporters after No. 5 Kansas lost to No. 12 Oklahoma that is was a “bad decision” to leave 41% free throw shooter Udoka Azubuike in the game to get intentionally fouled down the stretch.

With Kansas leaded the Sooners 78-74 and less than four minutes left on the clock, Lon Kruger opted to intentionally foul Azubuike four times in a stretch of five possessions. Azubuike missed six straight free throws – including two front-ends of a one-and-one – as Oklahoma went on a game-ending, 11-2 run. The final score was 85-80.

“It was on me, for this game,” Self said. “If I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would’ve done it differently.”

Self’s thinking was clear: Kansas cannot afford to have Azubuike off the floor in critical minutes of big games, and he wanted to show his guy that he has confidence in him. The question now is whether or not the way this played out will crush Azubuike’s confidence in future games.

“It was obviously the wrong thing to do to win this game,” Self said. “Hopefully it doesn’t hurt him moving forward. I’ve always been a big believer that you send a bad message to somebody when you don’t have confidence in him. Especially when you know he’s going to have to play every big minute late in the season against good competition.”

Bubble Banter: Five SEC bubble teams were in action Tuesday night

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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 Monday night.

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.


ARKANSAS (RPI: 29, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 10): Arkansas is a notoriously bad team away from home, but they managed to buck that trend on Tuesday and beat Georgia in double-overtime in Athens. With a win over Oklahoma on a neutral, Tennessee at home and Georgia on the road, Mike Anderson’s club has three Quadrant 1 wins. A home loss to LSU doesn’t look great, but the Razorbacks are in a good position for the stretch run, especially since …

LSU (RPI: 89, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Next four out): … the Tigers continue to play themselves closer and closer to the bubble. They have swept Texas A&M, won at Arkansas and beat Michigan on a neutral, giving them four Quadrant 1 wins. The problem is that two of their seven losses came to teams ranked outside the top 125 and six of their wins came against opponents outside the top 200. LSU’s next six games may end up being what determines their postseason outcome: at Auburn (8), at Tennessee (12), Arkansas (29), at Florida (23), Ole Miss (91), at Alabama (24). Four top 25 opponents on the road, and a fifth top 30 opponent at home. That’s a brutal stretch.


PROVIDENCE (RPI: 37, KenPom: 54, NBC seed: 8): The Friars had a chance to set themselves up in perfect position to get a bid when they went into Philly to take on No. 1 Villanova. It didn’t quite work out that way — they lost by 20. The Friars are still in a good spot, as their win over Xavier looks great, one of three Quadrant 1 wins on their résumé. A home loss to Minnesota looks much worse today than it did when it happened, and falling at UMass was not good. But with six Quadrant 1 games left, the Friars are still in a good spot.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 83, KenPom: 62, NBC seed: Out): The Pokes blew a chance to land an elite road win on Tuesday, wasting a 12-point halftime lead against Texas Tech. Mike Boynton’s club has two Quadrant 1 wins, their worst loss is at Baylor (No. 90) and every team they play from here on out is a top 100 opponent. they’re on the outside right now, but getting hot down the stretch will change things.

ALABAMA (RPI: 24, KenPom: 53, NBC seed: 9): Alabama fell at Ole Miss on Tuesday night, but that loss is hardly a killer. With wins over Rhode Island (9) and Auburn (8), plus a win over Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide are in a good spot. But with nine of their last 11 games coming against top 40 opponents, including eight in the top 30, this thing could end up spiraling.

TEXAS A&M (RPI: 28, KenPom: 30, NBC seed: 10): The Aggies are going to be tough to project because of how weird their roster situation has been this season. They have some great wins (West Virginia on a neutral, at USC) and their only two losses to teams outside the top 25 are against LSU, the latter of which came on Tuesday. A trip to Kansas this weekend is massive.

GEORGIA (RPI: 48, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: 10): Georgia took a rough loss at home against Arkansas in double-overtime on Tuesday, a game that would have been a nice Quadrant 1 win for the Bulldogs. The good news for Georgia is that Saint Mary’s, Marquette and Alabama have all been playing well enough that they currently have three Quadrant 1 wins. The biggest concern here may actually be losses to San Diego State and UMass, both of which are Quadrant 3 losses.