Rob Dauster

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings reacts to an officials call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

BUBBLE BANTER: The SEC bubble picture will shake itself out tonight

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This post will be updated throughout the night.

WINNERS

  • Vanderbilt (KP: 30, RPI: 62, CBT: Next Four Out): The Commodores completed their sweep of Florida on Tuesday with a win in the O-Dome. It was critical for Vandy to get this one, because they have quite a bit of ground to make up if they want to get onto the right side of the bubble. The good news? Vandy has now won four of their last five, and now they get Kentucky at home on Saturday. Win that, and it’ll be time to take a long look at their profile. As of now, I think they’re probably still on the wrong side of the cut line.
  • Tulsa (KP: 43, RPI: 41, CBT: First Four Out): The Golden Hurricane landed a nice win over Temple at home on Tuesday. It’s not going to be a difference-maker for them, but with two landmine losses left on their schedule, this was a win they needed. I think Tulsa has to win out and then get at least one win in the AAC tournament to really feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.
  • Texas Tech (KP: 32, RPI: 24, CBT: 8): The Red Raiders erased a 12-point halftime deficit to avoid a horrible loss at home to TCU. They’ve now won five straight in Big 12 play and have room to spare in the bubble race. Amazing, isn’t it?

LOSERS

  • Temple (KP: 82, RPI: 58, CBT: 11): The Owls got worked at Tulsa on Tuesday night, putting them into a position where they probably have to win their next four games to get an at-large bid. Temple has some good wins, but they have a lot of losses — including two terrible losses — and, given their spot at the top of the AAC standings, may not play one until the semifinals of the AAC tournament. I’m not sure they can afford another sub-100 loss this season and still get in.
  • Alabama (KP: 70, RPI: 41, CBT: Play-In Game): The Crimson Tide had a golden opportunity to play themselves comfortably onto the right side of the bubble at Kentucky … and the Wildcats ran Avery Johnson’s club out of Rupp Arena. Without a quality win left on their schedule, I’m not sure that Alabama can afford another loss.
  • Florida (KP: 36, RPI: 33, CBT: 9): Losing to Vanderbilt doesn’t drop the Gators out of the tournament field, but given that the loss came at home, it really reduces their margin for error. The best part of Florida’s profile is their computer numbers, and this will hurt them.
  • LSU (KP: 66, RPI: 87, CBT: N/A): The Tigers lost at Arkansas tonight. I guess we can stop talking about them now. Is it time to rest up Ben Simmons for the SEC tournament?
  • Ohio State (KP: 62, RPI: 73, CBT: Next Four Out): The Buckeyes can just about be taken out of consideration after their loss to Michigan State at home on Tuesday. I think they need at least four wins to really have a shot at getting an at-large bid.

 

Roy Williams explains why he doesn’t want to leave North Carolina anytime soon

North Carolina coach Roy Williams reacts in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
(AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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Roy Williams continued to push back against speculation that he could retire amid health concerns and the NCAA investigation that currently envelops the North Carolina athletic department.

“I love this place. If I was going to leave, I’d have left the first day because I knew I wasn’t involved,” Williams told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

This whole ordeal started on Saturday afternoon, before North Carolina beat Miami. Doug Gottlieb, an analyst for CBS Sports college basketball coverage, said on a broadcast that there was speculation in basketball circles that Williams could retire in the Tar Heels win a title. He’s not wrong. Between the investigation and Williams’ health issues — the vertigo is what everyone knows about but his knees aren’t exactly in great condition, either — it would make sense to anyone with a pulse that the 65-year old Williams would ride off into the sunset on a high note.

And that’s precisely why he reacted the way he did after the win on Saturday.

“Think about what we’ve had to do the last three or four years here. We’ve had to put up with more stuff, more negative recruiting, than anytime in my career or any other coaches career that I’ve talked to,” he said. “That’s just something else that we’ve got to answer to. It’s been unbelievable the last three or four years, the negative recruiting because of the stuff going on here that I’ve had to put up with.”

“I don’t want anything else. I don’t need anything else. You want to say something that’s your opinion, that’s fine. But don’t act like you’e got certain information.”

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

You don’t really have to look any further than the kid that killed him in Wednesday night’s loss to Duke: Brandon Ingram. Ingram is from Kinston, North Carolina, the same town that produced former Tar Heels Reggie Bullock and Jerry Stackhouse. But when it came time to pick where to play his, Ingram’s father Donald told the Raleigh News & Observer that looming sanctions “played a big factor” in his son’s decision to turn down UNC.

“We wanted to know that they’re not going to fall into the same situation like Jim Boeheim with Syracuse,” Donald said. “So you don’t want to go into a (situation) that’s already hot. And it played a factor in it.”

Williams also added this, which doesn’t just sound like coach-speak to me.

“With me, I don’t ever want to leave when things are — When I leave, I want it to be in good shape. For me this would have been a very hard time to leave.”

Everything coaches say and do in the media is for recruiting purposes. They’re not talking to reporters. They’re not talking to fans. They’re talking to the players that are considering playing for them.

But this is actually something that I buy.

Williams is part of the Tar Heel family. Dean Smith was his mentor, the first man to give him a college coaching job.

I absolutely believe that he doesn’t want to be the guy that left the UNC program in tatters from NCAA sanctions, in need of someone else to come in and build it back into something elite.

That doesn’t mean that he knows how this whole thing will play out. His health issues or a hammer dropping from the NCAA could eventually change his mind.

I just find it hard to believe he’s planning on jumping ship.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Denzel Valentine continues to close the gap on Buddy Hield

Hield (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) and Valentine (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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Last week, when we published these Power Rankings, I went in-depth on why Buddy Hield’s hold on the National Player of the Year Award is not quite as firm as some may make it out to be.

Denzel Valentine is right there with him.

And, at this point, I think that Tyler Ulis is probably closer than a lot of people may realize to cracking that top two. He still has some work left to do to really be in consideration — and that’s mainly a result of how much he, and Kentucky, struggled earlier in the year — but since the turn of the calendar, Ulis has been sensational.

Anyway, that will be explained a bit more in his blurb below.

To follow along with the countdown, be sure to check out the CBT Facebook page:

No. 25 Texas outlasts Kansas State 71-70

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Isaiah Taylor scored 19 points, including a 3-pointer to all but ice the game with less than a minute to play, and No. 25 Texas held on to beat Kansas State 71-70 on Monday night.

Javan Felix had 11 of his 13 points in the first half and Eric Davis, Jr. finished with 10 points for Texas (18-11, 9-6 Big 12). Connor Lammert had eight points and seven rebounds.

Kansas State (15-13, 4-11) was forced to play catch-up in the second half after falling behind by as many as eight points. When the Wildcats got as close as 66-65 with 1:03 to play, Taylor stepped back and hit a 3-pointer with a defender in his face. Dean Wade later missed a possible game-winning 3-pointer, as the Longhorns escaped with a much-needed conference victory.

Justin Edwards had 20 points and eight rebounds for Kansas State, while D.J. Johnson added 16 points and Wesley Iwundu had 12.

The thrilling finish didn’t entirely tell the story.

Texas stormed out to an early lead before Felix book-ended the period with seven of his 11 first-half points in a 2-minute span to give the Longhorns a 38-35 halftime lead.

Kansas State was fortunate to only trail by three.

At one point, the Wildcats trailed 22-18, with only Edwards and Johnson having made field goals. It wasn’t until the 7:29 mark that assistance came with Carlbe Ervin hit two free throws.

The teams combined for 24 fouls, resulting in a sloppy 20 minutes that lacked any sort of rhythm. Eleven were called against the Wildcats, including one on Dean Wade with 3:35 to play, when the freshman was actually elbowed in the face. The purple-clad fans’ groans grew so loud during the ensuing free throws that the officials went over to the scoreboard to take another look.

Nothing else was called.

Texas clung to its lead throughout the second half, fending off each Kansas State run, including a jumper from Taylor with 3:34 left to stretch a one-point lead back to three. The guard then did it again with 43 seconds remaining, stepping back and hitting the 3-pointer with a defender in his face.

Wade had a chance to be the hero for Kansas State, but his would-be game winner clunked off the front of the rim to end the game.

TIP-INS

Texas: Center Prince Ibeh played just 9 minutes, fouling out with 4 minutes to play in the game. He finished with three points and one field goal.

Kansas State: The Wildcats have lost six conference games by 10 points or less.

UP NEXT

Texas: hosts No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday.

Kansas State: visits No. 17 Iowa State on Saturday.

No. 14 West Virginia ends two-game skid against No. 17 Iowa State

West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) takes a shot over Iowa State guard Matt Thomas (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Feb, 22, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
(AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
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Jaysean Paige netted 34 points and Tarik Phillip added 22 points and six assists as No. 14 West Virginia bounced back from a pair of losses last week to take out No. 17 Iowa State, 97-87.

At this point, it’s fair to say that the Mountaineers are just a horrid matchup for the Cyclones.

On the one hand, Iowa State is not — and, during their resurgence over the course of the last five or six years, has not been — a good defensive team. This group may be worse than any that Fred Hoiberg had, and the Mountaineers took advantage. Paige and Phillip both come off the bench for Bobby Huggins’ team, but those are his two best back court players. On Monday, they both posted career-highs, as the Cyclones didn’t have an answer for either of them.

But there may be a reason for that.

It’s not exactly a secret that Iowa State doesn’t have any depth. It was a major concern entering the year, and that was before they lost Naz Long to a hip issue. Hallice Cooke hasn’t had the impact that he was expected to this season, Deonte Burton didn’t get eligible until midway through the year and that just so happened to coincide with the start of Jameel McKay’s “flakiness” in practice.

They’ve had a five- or six-man rotation all season long, which has undoubtedly taken a toll on the legs of Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris, and never was that more problematic than when they were asked to go up against a West Virginia team that goes ten-deep and has built a system around trying to wear out their opponent with full court pressure.

I feel for Steve Prohm, who is going to bear the brunt of what will amount to a failure of a season in the eyes of his fan base — they entered the year with Final Four expectations and currently sit at 8-7 in the Big 12, which is not something that is going to be easy to swallow in Ames, not when Iowa looks like a top ten team. And I feel for Niang and Morris, who have been two of the most entertaining players in the country to watch this season, because barring some kind of a miracle, this is an Iowa State team whose ceiling feels like the Sweet 16.

One last note on West Virginia: Nathan Adrian has been a really nice spark for them. He’s seen an increase in minutes over the course of the last month, and he’s played with an unbelievable amount of confidence. He’s hitting threes, he’s playing the point on their press and he’s able to guard three different positions. I didn’t see that coming from him.

Davon Reed rescues No. 12 Miami as the Canes land a key bounce back win over No. 3 Virginia

Miami's Davon Reed goes up to shoot against Virginia's Mike Toby during the first half action of an NCAA college basketball game in Coral Gables, Fla., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)
(AP Photo/Gaston De Cardenas)
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No. 12 Miami got the bounce back win they needed.

Just two days after they were embarrassed by North Carolina in Chapel Hill, losing a game by 25 points that they trailed by 38 at one point, the Hurricanes headed back to Coral Gables for a date with No. 3 Virginia. And despite playing with a banged up Sheldon McClellan and JaQuan Newton, Miami pulled out a 64-61 win to move into sole possession of second place in the ACC, just a game behind the Tar Heels.

The hero was Davon Reed, a junior wing that’s averaging 10.5 points this season. He scored 21 points and hit 5-for-6 from beyond the arc for Jim Larrañaga’s club, helping to bail out Miami team on a night where their stars didn’t show up.

Angel Rodriguez is a notoriously inconsistent player, and on Monday night we got a dose of Bad Angel. He was 3-for-10 from the floor with three turnovers and just one assists. Rodriguez did hit a big jumper late and he played some impressive defensive on UVA’s London Perrantes, but the fact that Miami was able to beat a team as good as Virginia with his struggles — and with the ineffectiveness of Newton and McClellan — is unequivocally a good sign for this team.

Another positive was the play on Tonye Jekiri, who has developed into a pretty well-rounded post presence. He’s known more for his interior toughness and ability on the glass, but on Monday night he chipped in with nine points and five assists. Miami can run offense through him, which takes some pressure off of their back court to produce.

Despite the loss, Malcolm Brogdon once again showcased why he’s a favorite for National Player of the Year and trending towards the discussion for first-team All-America. He finished with 28 points on 12-for-18 shooting from the floor. In the second half, as the Cavs worked back from a 10 point deficit (at the pace UVA plays, that’s like a normal team erasing a 15 point lead) Brogdon hit his first eight shots from the floor, the only miss coming on a forced 25-footer with 20 seconds left on the clock.

Virginia drops two games off of the pace in the ACC standings with the loss.