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Bubble Banter: UCLA headlines a big night for the Pac-12 bubble teams

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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 Thursday 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.

WINNERS

UCLA (RPI: 57, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: First four out): UCLA landed what is easily their biggest win of the season on Thursday night, as they went into the McKale Center and knocked off No. 13 Arizona in the only matchup that the two Pac-12 powerhouses are going to play this season. For a team on the outside of the bubble picture at the start of the day, I cannot overstate the importance of this win. It’s only UCLA’s second Quadrant 1 win of the season, with the other being an underwhelming Kentucky team. This doesn’t probably doesn’t guarantee the Bruins a trip to the NCAA tournament, but it sure will get them closer to the right side of the bubble.

ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 8): The slide may have ended for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils came back late to beat USC at home. I don’t think that Arizona State is actually in danger of missing the NCAA tournament yet, but they might have been with a loss considering their next two games were against UCLA and Arizona.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: 9): The Cardinals won a game they couldn’t afford to lose, beating Georgia Tech at home by 23 points. The Cards biggest issue right now is that they just don’t have enough good wins. They only have one Quadrant 1 win and two Quadrant 2 wins. Five of their last six games are Quadrant 1 opponents, and three of them — North Carolina, at Duke, Virginia — are elite wins. They’ll have chances to get it done.

HOUSTON (RPI: 38, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: Play-in game): Houston added another Quadrant 2 win to their profile on Thursday night, as they knocked off SMU at home. The Cougars have a gaudy record, a 3-2 mark against Quadrant 1 teams and a 6-4 record against the top two Quadrants. The biggest issue right now: How did this team lose to Drexel?

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 22, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 12): With just one Quadrant 1 win to their name and a loss to a Quadrant 3 team already this season, the Blue Raiders can probably not afford another regular season loss if they want an at-large bid. They beat Rice (319) on Thursday.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 51, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Out): At this point, Western Kentucky’s at-large hopes seem dim at best. Yes, they beat Purdue, but wins over SMU and at Old Dominion are no longer Quadrant 1 wins. Throw in five Quadrant 3 losses, and yikes. They must win out — including at Middle Tennessee State — and lose to Middle in the Conference USA tournament if they want an at-large.

LOSERS

SMU (RPI: 71, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: First four out): It’s time to start getting a little worried about SMU’s chances of getting into the NCAA tournament. They’ve now lost two in a row, three of their last four and six of their last nine games this week. If we’re being fair, those last two losses came without Shake Milton. But in a league where just three Quadrant 1 games remain for a team that only has two Quadrant 1 wins and three Quadrant 2 wins, that’s a concern. SMU is 7-9 against non-Quadrant 4 teams.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 33, KenPom: 89, NBC seed: 10): Fresh off of a weekend where they swept the Arizona schools, Washington tripped down to Oregon on Thursday night and promptly gotten taken behind the woodshed to the tune of a 25-point beating. This is only a Quadrant 2 loss for the Huskies, one that might become a Quadrant 1 loss if the Ducks make a late run this season, but that’s not what Mike Hopkins needed, not when there are no more Quadrant 1 games left on the schedule.

USC (RPI: 44, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): USC whiffed on landing their third Quadrant 1 win of the season on Thursday night, as they went into Tempe and blew a late lead against Arizona State. The Trojans would have been tied for first place in the Pac-12 with a game at Arizona. The Trojans are probably on the right side of the bubble right now — losing at a top 50 team doesn’t hurt — but there is one glaring hole on their résumé: They lost to Princeton (178) on a neutral. That’s a Quadrant 4 loss. This would have helped a lot.

VIDEO: Duke’s Trevon Duval posterizes North Carolina

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We’ve been trying to tell you about how athletic Trevon Duval is, how special he can be as a dunker and as a leaper, and for the first time this season, Duval showed it off on Thursday night.

Check this dunk out:

Colorado State expected to part ways with Larry Eustachy

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Colorado State is expected to part ways with head coach Larry Eustachy, sources confirmed to NBC Sports.

Eustachy has been on paid administrative leave since Saturday, which came days after the University opened up an investigation into the culture that the coach has created within his program and his conduct and behavior towards his team.

His associate head coach, Steve Barnes, has been in the interim role in the days since.

According to the Denver Post, the decision is the result of the school determining that Eustachy violated a zero tolerance mandate that he was given after an investigation into this same issue back in 2013-14. That investigation found that Eustachy verbally and emotionally assaulted the players on his roster. The athletic director at the time recommended that Eustachy be fired, but he was overruled by the university president, who is still with the school.

One source told NBC Sports that the sticking point would end up being whether or not the school could fire Eustachy for cause. His contract has a significant buyout — according to the Post, more than $3 million — and Colorado State is not a school that can flush money like that away. A violation of that zero tolerance policy is believed to be enough to fire him for cause.

Sources told NBC Sports that South Dakota’s Craig Smith and Drake’s Niko Medved, both former CSU assistant coaches under Tim Miles, are two names that will be involved in the search for a replacement.

Colorado State is 10-16 this season and 3-10 in the Mountain West, easily the worst season that Eustachy has had in Fort Collins. He made the 2013 NCAA tournament but has yet to be back. Last year, the Rams went 24-12 and 13-5 in the MWC. In 2003, Eustachy lost his job as the head coach at Iowa State after photos of him drinking with and kissing students at Kansas State and Missouri were made public.

Auburn’s leading scorer Bryce Brown could miss time with shoulder injury

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There is a chance that Auburn’s leading scorer, junior guard Bryce Brown, could miss time with a shoulder injury that he suffered late in the first half of a loss to Texas A&M on Wednesday night.

The injury is to his right shoulder and being described as a strain. Auburn held him out of Thursday’s practice, and the program is awaiting a diagnosis from the medical staff. Pearl told reporters that Brown’s shoulder was “pretty tight”.

Brown has been one of college basketball’s breakout stars this season, averaging 16.6 points while shooting 41.5 percent from three. If he does miss time it would be a major blow to a team that is clinging to a one game lead in the SEC title race.

The No. 8 Tigers travel to Georgia to play on Saturday afternoon.

Report: Undercover agent involved in FBI corruption investigation accused of misconduct

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An undercover FBI agent has been accused of the misuse of government money on gambling, food and drinks, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, and there is some concern that the agent will no longer be allowed to be a witness in the cases he was a part of, including the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

According to the report, the undercover agent played a role in setting up a number of the assistant coaches that were arrested in September. He posed as a business partner of Marty Blazer, the FBI’s cooperating witness in the case, to make the coaches believe he was helping to funnel money to them in exchange for the business those coaches could steer his way one their players turned pro. He was allegedly involved in the sting operation in Las Vegas in July, detailed in the criminal complaints that were made public in September, but then appeared to drop out of the investigation.

It is unclear yet whether or not this will compromise the prosecution of the people that have already been arrested and charged.

This week, former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person and an Atlanta suit-maker named Rashan Michel both had trial dates set for February of 2019.

Next week, a judge will hear arguments as to whether or not to dismiss charges against some of the defendants based on the notion that no laws were broken and that the charges only work to criminalize NCAA amateurism rules.

Mooring scores career-high 31, UNLV tops No. 23 Nevada 86-78

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RENO, Nev. (AP) — UNLV coach Marvin Menzies was proud of his team’s ability to withstand Nevada’s runs in front of a packed house.

Jovan Mooring scored a career-high 31 points with six 3-pointers, Shakur Juiston had 19 points and 12 rebounds and UNLV beat No. 23 Nevada 86-78 on Wednesday night in a Governor’s Series matchup to snap the Wolf Pack’s 16-game home winning streak.

“They understand you’re not going to be successful unless you can sustain runs and respond to runs,” Menzies said.

Mooring, more often than not, proved to be the stopper of any Nevada rally, hitting a circus shot and converting a three-point play. His basket with 1:13 left put the Rebels ahead 82-78 and closed the door on the Wolf Pack.

“He’s been in this rivalry and knows what it means,” Menzies said. “This is his third time playing. He played with some passion. He made shots. He took too many circus shots, but he makes those shots. Defensively, he played well.”

Nevada coach Eric Musselman said having Caleb Martin out with an injury was difficult, but the team struggled in several areas.

“Guys had opportunities tonight and didn’t step up,” Musselman said. “Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, didn’t rebound the ball well enough.”

This is the third time this season that the Wolf Pack has entered the Top 25 only to lose its first game after becoming ranked.

Jordan Johnson added 11 points for UNLV (17-7, 6-5 Mountain West), which outrebounded Nevada 45-32.

Jordan Caroline had 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Nevada (20-5, 9-2). Lindsey Drew added 17 points and Cody Martin and Kendall Stephens each scored 16.

Stephens capped an 8-0 run with a 3-pointer to tie it at 78 with 2:08 to go, but Nevada missed its final five shots. Brandon McCoy and Mooring combined to score the final eight points with six straight free throws.