Rob Dauster

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Bubble Banter: It’s a big day for the Big Ten

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see below come from.

WINNERS

Northwestern (RPI: 40, KenPom: 32, No. 8 seed): Northwestern is dancing. Period.

Virginia Tech (RPI: 45, KenPom: 54, No. 10 seed): The Hokies landed a terrific résumé win on Sunday night, beating in-state rival Virginia to give them a second elite win on the season. With a pair of top 15 wins, seven more top 100 wins and no losses outside the top 100, the Hokies should be in the tournament with room to spare as of Monday morning.

Michigan (RPI: 73, KenPom: 31, play-in game): The Wolverines certainly helped themselves on Sunday, completing a sweep of Indiana with a win at Assembly Hal. It adds a top 100 road win to their résumé, but it also gives them a decided advantage or another conference rival that is trending towards that bubble cutline. If it comes down to Indiana and Michigan, how can you picked the Hoosiers given that they lost twice to the Wolverines?

Wichita State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 16, play-in game): The Shockers landed a win over Loyola-Chicago on Sunday, which keeps them in the conversation for an at-large bid. They still have just one top 100 win, and that came against Illinois State.

LOSERS

Indiana (RPI: 78, KenPom: 42, No. 10 seed): I told you last week that Indiana was going to miss the NCAA tournament. I lay out the entire argument here. On Sunday, the Hoosiers lost one of their two remaining home games. They’ve now lost five out of six since O.G. Anunoby got hurt, and four of their last five games are on the road. Sorry IU fans. You’re not going to be happy about this.

 

No. 9 Arizona holds on for 62-57 win over Cal

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Kobi Simmons scored 13 points, Dusan Ristic added 12 and No. 9 Arizona stretched its home winning streak to 20 games with a 62-57 victory over California on Saturday night.

Arizona (23-3, 12-1) learned earlier Saturday that it is currently a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region after the NCAA Tournament selection committee released its preliminary rankings. The Wildcats capped the day by holding off a solid team fighting for an NCAA spot despite an off night by leading scorer Allonzo Trier.

Kadeem Allen added 11 points and Arizona held Cal’s Ivan Raab to four points and four rebounds.

Cal (18-7, 9-4) has made a big push into the NCAA Tournament bubble, stretching its winning streak to five games with a 15-point win over Arizona State on Wednesday.

The Bears kept it close against Arizona, but were never able to make a big run after the Wildcats built a nine-point halftime lead.

Jabari Bird led Cal with 19 points.

Arizona bounced back from a lopsided loss to then-No. 13 Oregon by outlasting Stanford 64-67 on Wednesday night in a closer-than-expected game that left coach Sean Miller frustrated over this team’s defense.

The Wildcats were better at guarding the ball against Cal and led 34-25 at halftime behind Simmons’ 10 points, including two on a turnaround runner to beat the shot clock buzzer.

Arizona did it without getting a point from Trier and Lauri Markkanen, their top two scorers.

Raab was limited to two points in six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. The Bears then had to play the second without point guard Charlie Moore because of a hip injury.

Cal managed to hang around even without its floor leader, pulling within 43-39 midway through the second half. Bird helped keep the Bears close in the second half, but Arizona never let Cal pull any closer.

Trier was held scoreless until the final minutes, when he made 3 of 4 free throws to close out Arizona’s win.

BIG PICTURE

Losing on the road to a Top 10 team should not hurt Cal, especially since the Bears managed to keep it close.

Arizona took care of its business at home against a solid team, which should keep the Wildcats in the top 10.

UP NEXT

Cal plays rival Stanford on Friday in its only game next week.

Arizona plays at Washington State on Thursday, then heads to Washington on Feb. 18.

No. 5 Oregon rallies to beat Southern California 81-70

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dillon Brooks scored 21 points before fouling out, Tyler Dorsey added 19 and No. 5 Oregon repelled a couple of second-half threats to beat Southern California for the 14th straight time, 81-70 on Saturday night.

The Ducks (22-4, 11-2 Pac-12) salvaged a split in Los Angeles after losing at 10th-ranked UCLA by three points.

Oregon’s winning streak is its longest ever against the Trojans and the Ducks’ longest winning streak against any Pac-12 opponent.

Chimezie Metu scored 16 points, and Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart had 15 points each for USC (21-5, 8-5), which had its five-game winning streak snapped.

The Trojans took their first lead on Jordan McLaughlin’s 3-pointer early in the second half. He sidestepped a flying Dylan Ennis and made the shot from in front of his team’s bench. Shaqquan Aaron scored off his own offensive rebound and Boatwright had a three-point play that gave USC a 50-46 lead.

Brooks picked up his fourth foul during a 22-8 run that restored Oregon’s lead to 68-58. He capped the spurt with four straight points after Dorsey sandwiched 3-pointers around a trey by Chris Boucher.

Brooks fouled out with 3:28 remaining and the Ducks ahead 68-63. Dorsey stretched their lead to six on a 3-pointer before Stewart’s 3-pointer drew the Trojans to 71-68. Jordan Bell’s layup and another 3-pointer by Dorsey to go with two free throws by Ennis restored the Ducks’ lead to 78-68.

The Ducks completed a season sweep of the Trojans, who were handed their first loss of the season by Oregon at home on Dec. 30.

The Ducks controlled the start of the game and built an 11-point lead. The Trojans closed the half on a 16-7 run to trail 35-33 at the break.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks held on to second place in the Pac-12 behind ninth-ranked Arizona. With third-place UCLA set to host last-place Oregon State on Sunday, the Ducks needed a win to give themselves some breathing room.

USC: The Trojans began a stretch Saturday night in which they play Oregon, at No. 10 UCLA on Feb. 18 and at No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 23. They’ve already played Oregon twice and will be playing the Bruins and Wildcats a second time. All three opponents are among the top teams in the country in winning percentage.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Hosts Utah on Thursday in a rematch of a game won by the Ducks 73-67 last month.

USC: Visits No. 10 UCLA on Feb. 18, giving the Trojans a week to prepare for the rematch with their crosstown rival. They upset the Bruins 84-76 at home last month, extending their winning streak to four straight in the matchup.

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

No. 1 Gonzaga remains undefeated with impressive win at No. 20 Saint Mary’s

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Przemek Karnowski scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Johnathan Williams III added 17 points as No. 1 Gonzaga remained undefeated on the season with a 74-64 win at No. 20 Saint Mary’s on Saturday evening.

Gonzaga jumped out to an early 10-point lead and led by as many as 15 points late in the second half. The Gaels had a couple of runs in them but they never got within five points in the second half.

Nigel Williams-Goss had 14 points for Gonzaga while Jock Landale finished with 24 points and nine boards for Saint Mary’s.

Here are four things to take away from that game:

1. Gonzaga is probably going to go undefeated: It seems incredibly unlikely that the Zags will lose at some point during the rest of conference play. They have yet to play a game in league play that was kept in the single digits. They won by ten at BYU. They beat Saint Mary’s by 23 at home before Saturday’s win. They play three of their last four games at home.

Put simply, if the Zags can get passed Saint Mary’s, a legitimate top 25 team, why should we expect that San Diego and Pacific will be able to make things interesting?

What that means is that Gonzaga’s success in the WCC tournament will likely carry some weight for them heading into the NCAA tournament. In today’s bracket reveal, Gonzaga was given a No. 1 seed, but they were ranked as the fourth No. 1 seed, meaning that any slip-up in a conference where everyone other than Saint Mary’s is looked at as a bad loss is the kind of thing that can cost them dearly when the first -place team in the ACC is a No. 1 seed.

The Zags have earned a No. 1 seed and, barring some kind of insanity down the stretch of the season, I fully expect them to get it come Selection Sunday.

2. The reason Gonzaga can win it all is that this is Mark Few’s best defensive team: The discussion of whether or not this is Gonzaga’s best team usually centers around whether or not this group is better than the team that featured Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos in 2013, and there are some worthwhile points to be made on either side. What’s inarguable, however, is that this is the first time that Mark Few has had a team that ranks in the top five in defensive efficiency. As of Saturday, Gonzaga was fourth nationally in KenPom’s offensive and defensive efficiency metric. Prior to this season, the best finish Gonzaga’s ever had in KenPom’s defensive rankings was 18th.

The irony there is that the biggest concern about this team is their defense. Saint Mary’s was able to expose one of the issues early on in the game: the ability of Przemek Karnowski to defend in ball-screens. The Zags opened up a double-digit lead early in the first half, but the Gaels were able to fight back and tie the game as they exploited that very aspect of Gonzaga’s defense.

The other issue is with the back court. As well as Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins have played this season, what happens when they have to go up against one of the nation’s elite back courts, one that includes, say, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk or Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.

We won’t get an answer about whether that’s truly the case until the NCAA tournament, but to date, this has not cost Gonzaga a game.

3. Yes, Gonzaga can win it all: I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this at this point, but I do. That’s what happens when you play in the league Gonzaga plays in and you have the tournament success that Gonzaga has had. The same things were said about Bo Ryan and Wisconsin before they got to their first Final Four in 2014. The same things were said about Jim Calhoun before he beat Gonzaga in 1999 and got to a Final Four. Eventually, the same things are going to be said about Sean Miller.

That’s how it works with fans. That’s the danger of a sport where the champion is determined by a single-elimination tournament involving college kids.

But trust me when I tell you that this Gonzaga team can win it all. They have size. They have depth. They have balanced scoring. They have two point guards that can play together and can both makes threes. They have an elite coach in Few. They are elite defensively. They rank No. 1 in KenPom, a predictive metric that is supposed to determine who would win in a game played on a neutral court.

The most important thing about this team, however, is consistency. Everyone else in college basketball has slipped up at some point this season, many more than once. Gonzaga? They haven’t been tested in months despite playing road games against Saint Mary’s and BYU. I’m not saying this team will be the one to do it – never make a guarantee before March Madness – but there is no doubt in my mind that they’re good enough to.

4. Saint Mary’s looks like they’re good, but what have they done to prove it?: Gonzaga’s best win this season is at Dayton in a game where Dayton, who is not a lock to make the NCAA tournament as is, was short-handed. Their second-best win? Beating a young Nevada team at home in their season-opener. After that, they beat BYU … and that’s it. The Gaels don’t have another top 100 win, according to KenPom.

They do, however, have two losses to the Zags by an average of 16.5 points. They also have a 14-point home loss to UT-Arlington, and they still have to play at BYU this season.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Saint Mary’s is on the bubble this season, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that this team can afford to slip up down the stretch. 22-3 is 22-3, but that record wouldn’t look nearly as impressive with losses to, say, BYU and Santa Clara.

VIDEO: North Dakota State’s Khy Kabellis hits miracle shot … in own basket

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North Dakota State guard Khy Kabellis hit the shot of the year.

The problem?

It went into his own basket. Check this out:

The good news for Kabellis is that it didn’t cost the Bisons a win.

The bad news? He’s never going to hear the end of it.

The only time I can ever remember seeing something like this was Kentucky’s James Young back in 2014:

Ex-Syracuse big man Fab Melo dies in Brazil

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Former Syracuse center Fab Melo died on Saturday in his home in Brazil.

He was 26 years old.

“He was a really good kid, and it’s not fair that he will be defined by one thing, a 10-page paper,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN. “He worked his tail off to become a really good player, and was a nice kid.”

“We don’t know the cause yet. It’s so hard right now, so hard to believe. It’s a sad, sad day.”

The cause of death is not yet known, although it is believed that Melo died in his mother’s house, according to ESPN.

Melo played two seasons for the Orange before becoming the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft by the Boston Celtics. The paper that Boeheim is referring to was part of the investigation into academic impropriety within the Syracuse program that resulted in the self-imposed NCAA tournament ban during the 2014-15 season.