Rob Dauster

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, center, reacts after a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
(AP Photo/Sam Craft)

BUBBLE BANTER: Just how costly is South Carolina’s loss to Missouri?

1 Comment

This post will be updated as games come to a close.

It’s hard to fathom just how far South Carolina (KenPom: 53, RPI: 26, Bracket Matrix Seed: 7) has fallen in the last four days, both in the eyes of the general public and in bracket projections.

On Friday, the Gamecocks were sitting at 21-3, playing Kentucky with first place in the SEC and a top 25 ranking on the line. Fast forward four days and Frank Martin’s club was obliterated at home by the Wildcats — who played the last 37 minutes without head coach John Calipari — and dropped a road game to Mizzou just hours after the Tigers announced that starting point guard Wes Clark had been dismissed.

That’s bad.

Bad enough that it’s time for us to start talking about the Gamecocks as a bubble team once again.

Here’s the deal with South Carolina: Their record is still impressive (20-5) but a non-conference schedule strength that ranks in the low-300s puts that into perspective. They do have eight top 100 wins, but their best wins are at a reeling Texas A&M, against Alabama and Tulsa on a neutral court. That’s not exactly overpowering, especially when you factor in that they now have a pair of ugly league losses.

The good news for South Carolina is that the bubble is weak enough right now that it’s hard to imagine them falling beyond the 8-9 game in bracket projections. But with three games left against sub-100 competition, it would behoove the Gamecocks to snap out of this funk after two games.

WINNERS

  • Pitt (KP: 60, RPI: 41, BM: 9): Pitt didn’t lose at home against Wake Forest despite their best efforts to do so, going to double-overtime against a team that has just one win in ACC play this season. That’s relevant because Pitt really has two strengths on their profile: they won at Notre Dame and they only have one truly bad loss to their name, which came at home to N.C. State. I’m not sure the Panthers are quite as safe as their Bracket Matrix seeding would lead you to believe.
  • Butler (KP: 47, RPI: 64, BM: 12): The Bulldogs took care of business at home against Creighton, setting them up for the most important game of their season on Saturday: at trip to Philly to take on Villanova. The Bulldogs are firmly on the bubble and, with a loss on Saturday, will likely be headed straight for the cut-line. A win doesn’t lock them into an at-large by any means, but if they can avoid anything stupid the rest of the year, it would likely get them onto the right side of the bubble come Selection Sunday.
  • Florida (KP: 34, RPI: 32, BM: 8): The Gators added a nice, top 100 road win to their profile on Tuesday when they went into Athens and knocked off Georgia. Florida has just a pair of top 50 wins to date, but their sterling computer numbers have them comfortably in the NCAA tournament as of today.
  • VCU (KP: 39, RPI: 56, BM: 11): The Rams avoided a bad loss at home to Rhode Island on Tuesday, which would have been the kind of loss that would have put them on the wrong side of the bubble in bracket projections. VCU has a trio of tricky rivalry-ish games coming up, as they host Richmond, visit former CAA foe George Mason and then head to Foggy Bottom to take on George Washington in what could end up being a bubble elimination game. The Rams need to stockpile the wins.

LOSERS

  • Michigan (KP: 48, RPI: 51, BM: 9): The Wolverines lost at Ohio State on Tuesday night, a loss that is far from a killer for their résumé but one that certainly doesn’t help them lock up an at-large bid. The Buckeyes have an RPI in the mid-80s which, as things currently stand, makes them the worst loss that Michigan has taken this season. And while John Beilein’s club has landed some nice wins — Maryland, Purdue, Texas — that’s basically it for top 100 wins. (N.C. State is currently 98th.) They’re still in a good spot right now, but bolstering that profile would certainly be beneficial.
  • Georgia (KP: 82, RPI: 65, BM: N/A): Georgia still doesn’t have any bad losses and they still have one of the nation’s best non-conference scthedules, but with just three top 100 wins to their name, they’re currently headed for the NIT. I don’t think they can take another loss and still be tournament bound.
  • Vanderbilt (KP: 28, RPI: 54, BM: Next Four): The ‘Dores blew a 17 point lead in the final 14 minutes and lost to Mississippi State. This is just a brutal loss for a Vanderbilt team that was likely already on the wrong side of the bubble.
  • Creighton (KP: 42, RPI: 81, BM: N/A): The Bluejays lost at Butler, meaning that, if they have any real chance of getting an at-large bid, they probably need to win out and get at least one win in the Big East tournament.
  • Ole Miss (KP: 84, RPI: 85, BM: N/A): The Rebels lost at Texas A&M on Tuesday, which is the end of their at-large hopes. There just aren’t enough potential quality wins left on their schedule.

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Has Buddy Hield really locked this thing up?

Hield (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) and Valentine (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Hield (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) and Valentine (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Leave a comment

Buddy Hield is the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award as of today, and anyone that would tell you otherwise is just making the argument for the sake of arguing.

Because there’s really no justification for anyone else being picked over him.

Why?

In bullet form:

  • A recent “slump” (he’s 14-for-37 from three in the last four games) has dropped his season-long three-point shooting to 49.8 percent; he’ll get back above 50 percent if he hits his next three. For comparison’s sake, only two players have shot better than 50 percent from two, 50 percent from three and 90 percent from the free throw line for a full season: Matt Kennedy of Charleston Southern (’13-’14) and Salim Stoudamire of Arizona (’04-’05). Kennedy averaged 3.2 3PAs and 8.5 FGAs that year. Stoudamire averaged 6.6 3PAs and 11.6 FGAs. Hield? He’s taking 16.1 FGAs and 8.5 3PAs.
  • Hield is averaging 4.21 threes made per game. Only three major conference players have bested that in the last 21 seasons: Michigan State’s Shawn Respert (’94-’95), Virginia’s Curtis Staples (’96-’97) and Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson (’13-’14). Respert shot 47.4 percent from three. Staples shot 39.0 percent. Henderson? 34.2 percent.
  • He’s averaging 25.6 points this season, which is second nationally and the fifth-most of any major conference player since 1994-95, behind only J.J. Redick(’05-’06), Doug McDermott (’13-’14), Michael Beasley (’07-’08) and Kevin Durant (’06-’07).
  • Hield’s also been at his best in the biggest moments. There was the 46 points in the No. 1 vs. No. 1 game in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. There were the 21 second half points in the win at LSU. There was the comeback he led at Iowa State and against Kansas on Saturday (we’ll forget about that missed free throw for now). There was the late-game takeover and game-winning three against Texas last Monday. Big performances in big moments is the reason that the Sooners look to be headed for a No. 1 seed line on Selection Sunday.

So yes, Hield is the favorite for the award.

But I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that the race is over for two reasons:

1) Hield is the nation’s most ruthless spot-up shooter in the same way that Oklahoma has become the best three-point shooting team in the country. But jump shots can be fickle, and at the end of a long season, one where Hield is averaging 37.3 minutes in 13 games since the turn of the calendar, it’s not outlandish to think that could eventually catch up to him. It may not be a coincidence that he’s shooting “just” 37.8 percent from three the last four games, and that’s before you factor in that four of his last six games are on the road, including the long and tiring trip to Morgantown.

2) Denzel Valentine has been damn good this season as well, and if it wasn’t for an ill-timed surgical procedure on his knee, people may not have forgotten about that. Valentine missed four games with the injury, and those four games were bookended by the four or five worst — or least productive — games that Valentine has turned in this season. That’s nearly 30 percent of the regular season that was affected or wiped away by this knee procedure.

And if you want to use that as an excuse for why Valentine should be excluded from the Player of the Year race, then that’s your prerogative, even if it is somewhat silly. Because he’s still on pace to average 19.5 points, 7.7 boards and 7.1 assists, which is something that hasn’t been done since at least 1994-95. Hield’s not the only one that’s having a statistically historical season.

There’s more.

He’s played his best in Michigan State’s biggest games as well. Remember the 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists he had against Kansas in the Champions Classic? I do. I also remember that he scored 21 of those 29 points in the second half and helped erase an 11 point deficit with less than 10 minutes left. Or what about when he led Michigan State back from down 13 points against Louisville, scoring 11 of his 25 points in the final 5:06 of a game the Spartans didn’t lead until their were less than seven minutes left.

That was in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which is kind of a big deal, no?

Just this past week, Valentine had 27 points, 10 assists and eight boards in a one-point overtime loss at Purdue. He had 15 of those points and seven of those assists in the second half as Sparty rallied back from an 18-point deficit. On Sunday, he went for 30 points and 13 assists in a win over Indiana that was a nationally televised game on CBS.

The point is this: in any other year, Denzel Valentine would be the favorite to win National Player of the Year, injury or no injury. He’s still got some ground to make up, but acting like he’s out of the race already is premature.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top ten:

Baker gets 100th win; Wichita St. tops New Mexico St. 71-41

Wichita State's Ron Baker, left, and Fred VanVleet sit on the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. Wichita State won 74-48. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
1 Comment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Ron Baker scored 13 points to move up Wichita State’s career scoring list and the Shockers beat New Mexico State 71-41 Monday night in a rare February non-conference matchup.

Baker moved into 12th place in program history with 1,503 points. He also became the fifth Shocker to reach 100 career wins.

Fred VanVleet added 12 points with seven assists for Wichita State (19-7), which rebounded after having its 43-game home winning streak come to an end last Saturday. The Shockers forced 20 turnovers and held the Aggies to 16-of-40 shooting.

Conner Frankamp nailed a deep 3-pointer with two seconds left before halftime to extend Wichita State’s lead to 37-24.

Pascal Siakam recorded his 22nd double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds for New Mexico State (18-9), which had its nine-game winning streak halted.

The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 28 but it was postponed when winter weather caused travel issues for the Aggies.

Selden leads No. 2 Kansas to 94-67 win over Oklahoma State

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) celebrates at a timeout during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016. Seldon scored 24 points in the game. Kansas defeated Baylor 102-74. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Leave a comment

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Wayne Selden Jr. scored 18 points, Landen Lucas added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and second-ranked Kansas rolled to a 94-67 victory over Oklahoma State on Monday night.

Perry Ellis shrugged off a sluggish start to finish with 15 points, and Frank Mason III had 14 for the balanced Jayhawks (22-4, 10-3 Big 12), who avenged a surprising loss to the Cowboys last month.

Oklahoma State (12-13, 3-10) led much of the first half, fell behind by 18 early in the second, then trimmed their deficit to 62-56 with about 11 minutes to go. But the Jayhawks caught fire down the stretch, pulling away for a lopsided victory over coach Bill Self’s alma mater.

The Jayhawks finished the first half on a 30-9 run. They finished the second on a 32-11 run.

Jeff Newberry scored 19 points and Jeffrey Carroll had 13 for the Cowboys, who again played without leading scorer Jawun Evans. The freshman has been sidelined since hurting his right shoulder Feb. 3.

The Jayhawks looked as if they were still reveling in Saturday’s road win over No. 3 Oklahoma in the early minutes, struggling through turnovers and a jumble of poor shots to dig a deep hole.

Oklahoma State made it seem even bigger by sticking to coach Travis Ford’s game plan of slowing down the game. Whenever the Cowboys pulled down a rebound, Ford would stomp on the floor and remind his team to maintain the kind of plodding pace that equals the playing field against a more talented opponent.

Eventually, all that talent on the Kansas bench took over.

With the Cowboys leading 25-17, Selden drove along the baseline and rose up for a dunk between two defenders. The play instantaneously energized the crowd in Allen Fieldhouse, and when Anthony Allen’s turnover led to a runout and 3-pointer by Devonte Graham – off a nifty feed from freshman forward Carlton Bragg – the Cowboys were quick to burn a timeout.

It did little good as the Jayhawks pulled ahead a few minutes later on Selden’s 3-pointer, and then finished the half with Brannen Green’s buzzer-beating 3 for a 47-34 advantage.

The lead swelled to 18 points early in the second before Oklahoma State went on a run of its own, trimming its deficit to 61-54 at the under-12 timeout. But the Jayhawks answered with a coldly efficient 10-0 to regain control, and they waltzed the rest of the way to their sixth straight win.

TIP-INS

Oklahoma State: Tavarius Shine had 11 points. … The Cowboys were outrebounded 45-27 and outscored 17-3 on second-chance points. … Evans had 22 points in the Cowboys’ win over Kansas last month.

Kansas: Greene finished with 11 points. Graham had 10. … The Jayhawks were 11 of 21 from beyond the arc. … Kansas has won 37 straight at Allen Fieldhouse.

UP NEXT

Oklahoma State plays Texas Tech on Saturday night.

Kansas visits Kansas State on Saturday night.

Malcolm Brogdon makes ACC POY bid in No. 7 Virginia’s win over N.C. State, Cat Barber

Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon (15) shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Charlottesville, Va., on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. Virginia won 73-53. (AP Photo/Ryan M. Kelly)
(AP Photo/Ryan M. Kelly)
Leave a comment

The story line entering Monday night’s tilt between No. 7 Virginia and N.C. State was that it would be a chance for Cat Barber to state his case as the ACC’s Player of the Year.

The combination of playing on Big Monday and going up against one of the nation’s best defensive teams was the perfect opportunity for a kid that entered the game averaging 31.6 points in his last seven games to showcase that ability on a national stage.

Instead, it was Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon that looked deserving of winning the award. He finished with 22 points and five assists while holding Barber to just 14 points on 4-for-11 shooting to go along with five turnovers in a 73-53 drubbing in Charlottesville. This came after Brogdon was the guy to slow down Brandon Ingram in the second half against Duke on Saturday.

He’s as good as any perimeter defender in the SEC.

And he’s averaging 17.8 points on the team that averages the fewest possessions in college basketball.

That’s why Barber is going to have a difficult time gaining traction as a candidate for the conference player of the year award. It’s not because he’s having a poor season; he’s been terrific, even if N.C. State has been one of the biggest disappointments in the conference, if not the country. The other candidates in the league are just so strong.

For my money, Brogdon is the favorite as of today. He can shut down 6-foot-9 wings and 6-foot point guards and is one of the most efficiency scorers in the league. Then there’s Brice Johnson, who is averaging 16.4 points and 10.0 boards for the team that is currently sitting at first place in the league. And you can’t forget Grayson Allen, who’s averages of 20.6 points, 4.7 boards and 3.7 assists might be comparable to Barber’s numbers if he wasn’t playing alongside Ingram, who has turned into one of the ACC’s most lethal offensive weapons in ACC play.

Barber’s having a fantastic season, one that is on par with Erick Green’s 2013 campaign, when he was named ACC Player of the Year on a last place Virginia Tech team. In a vacuum, he’s probably playing well enough to win the award despite being on a .500 basketball team.

But this isn’t in a vacuum.

It’s in a league where Johnson, Allen and, specifically, Brogdon all reside.

And if tonight taught us anything, it’s that Brogdon is currently the best player in the conference.

Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud to miss the rest of the season

Virginia Tech forward Zach LeDay (32) has a shot blocked by Louisville forward Anas Mahmoud (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. Louisville won 91-83. (AP Photo/Don Petersen)
(AP Photo/Don Petersen)
Leave a comment

Anas Mahmoud will be out for the rest of the season after spraining his ankle in practice on Monday, the school announced.

Mahmoud is a 7-foot-1 center from Egypt and one of the most intriguing prospects on the Louisville roster. His production this season has been minimal — he’s averaging just 3.4 points, 3.1 boards and 1.4 blocks in 14 minutes — but the potential is there. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s skilled and he’s just a sophomore.

Louisville has six games left this season.

The Cardinals are ineligible for the NCAA tournament after self-imposing a postseason ban.