Rob Dauster

Associated Press
AP

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Six top ten teams are in action

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Southern Illinois at No. 21 Wichita State, 9:00 p.m.

There are six top ten teams in action tonight, but five of them are at home and none of them will be squaring off against a team that could currently be considered likely to get an at-large bid. What’s that mean? Well, simply put, that SIU’s visit to Wichita State is the most intriguing game of the night. The Salukis have been one of the sneaky-good teams in the MVC this season, but I’m not sure anyone is going to be able to give the Shockers any kind of a fight in Wichita these days.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Notre Dame will be paying a visit to Coral Gables tonight to take on No. 17 Miami at 7:00 p.m., which will feature a fun matchup between Angel Rodriguez and Demetrius Jackson.
  2. Creighton is probably good enough to be an NCAA tournament team this season, but thanks to a series of crippling close losses, they’re on the outside looking in. That’s what makes tonight’s game at No. 3 Villanova so important.
  3. No. 4 Maryland looks to make it three straight wins as they pay a visit to Nebraska.
  4. No. 23 Arizona will be looking to bounce back from a tough weekend in which they lost at home to Oregon. It will start will a visit to Washington State tonight.
  5. The Atlantic 10 bubble picture is fascinating, and three of the teams with tournament aspirations from the conference will be in action tonight: Saint Joseph’s hosts. St. Bonaventure, George Washington hosts Davidson and VCU visits La Salle.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Penn State at No. 5 Iowa, 7:00 p.m.
  • St. John’s at No. 6 Xavier, 6:30 p.m.
  • Kansas State at No. 7 Kansas, 9:00 p.m.
  • Boston College at No. 9 Virginia, 7:00 p.m.

NEW PODCAST: Bleacher Report’s C.J. Moore joins to talk Kansas, Kentucky and more

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C.J. Moore, who covers college basketball for Bleacher Report, joined me on the podcast today.

C.J. lives out in Kansas and probably knows the Jayhawk program better than anyone in college basketball media, so we definitely spent quite a bit of time talking about Kansas, Wayne Selden and just how good this team can be.

We also dove into a discussion about Kentucky, Providence and whether or not we can actually get back to trusting Duke or Indiana this season. It’s good stuff.

As always, you can listen to the podcast by clicking “play” on the Soundcloud player embedded below. Or you can do so through either iTunes or Stitcher if you so choose. Thanks for listening!

Butler assistant Emerson Kampen’s six-month old son dies from genetic disease

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As if things weren’t already bad enough for the Butler program after the passing of former player Andrew Smith last month, another member of the Bulldog family lost his life this week.

Emerson Kampen IV, the son of Emerson Kampen, a former teammate of Smith’s and an assistant coach on Chris Holtmann’s staff, died as a result of Leigh’s Disease on Monday. Holtmann made the announcement on Tuesday night, after Butler’s win over Georgetown.

The team dedicated the win to the Kampen family.

BUBBLE BANTER: Georgetown-Butler in a critical bubble clash, Duke’s road test

Roosevelt Jones
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
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This post will be updated throughout the night.

Georgetown (KenPom: 57, RPI: 71) dug themselves a massive hole at the start of the season.

In addition to a pair of close losses to Maryland (in College Park) and Duke (in NYC), the Hoyas lost to Radford, Monmouth and UNC Asheville at home. That’s a pretty big hole they were going to have to dig themselves out of, but things looked promising as Big East play kicked off. Georgetown won five of their first seven games in the league, with the only two losses coming at much-better-than-their-RPI Creighton and at home against league favorite Villanova. Throw in a win at Xavier, which may be one of the five best RPI wins we see this season, and it looked like the Hoyas had turned a corner.

But then they lost at UConn, needed a wild comeback to beat Creighton and home and lost to Providence in a game that wasn’t quite as close as the 73-69 final would indicate. That’s where Georgetown was when they entered Indianapolis on Tuesday night. They left is an uninspiring loss to Butler (KenPom: 48, RPI: 65), who needed the win just as badly as the Hoyas.

Butler, you see, was heading in the opposite direction. The Bulldogs entered the final week of January with an excellent win against Purdue on a neutral court, another solid win at Cincinnati … and that’s about it. The strength of their profile was centered around the fact that they hadn’t lost to anyone that wasn’t a top 25 team.

Then they lost to Creighton, whose RPI is 102.

And they lost to Marquette, whose RPI is 119.

And suddenly, like Georgetown, Butler was on the outside looking in, according to the latest NBC Sports Bracketology.

That’s what made this game so important. For both teams. It wasn’t simply the fact that they needed wins added to their profile, it’s that another loss to a marginal (yes, marginal, that’s what you are when your RPI is outside the top 60) team may not be something that they could survive.

Nothing says “the bubble” quite like talking about how avoiding bad losses is just as important as collecting good wins.

Anyway, the bottom-line is this: Butler just landed the kind of confidence-boosting win that a 3-6 Big East team badly needed while Georgetown’s slide continued. But at the end of the day, both teams still get one more shot at Xavier and Villanova apiece. Winning those two games could erase a lot of the ugly.

WINNERS

  • Syracuse (KenPom: 42, RPI: 35): The Orange got taken to overtime, but they were able take care of business against Virginia Tech. The Orange are in a pretty good spot right now, especially when you consider that their 4-5 stretch without Jim Boeheim will be evaluated the same way the committee evaluates a team when they’re missing a good player.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 50, RPI: 83): The Tigers picked up a road win over Wake Forest, which is exactly the kind of win that can help a team with an RPI that is Struh. Guh. Ling. The Tigers played the 335th-best non-conference schedule and they have a pair of sub-150 losses on their profile already. Those are the kind of things that are computer profile killers. The good news? They have six top 50 wins and will still get a shot at Notre Dame and Virginia at home.
  • Duke (KenPom: 19, RPI: 27): Let me be clear: Duke is not on the bubble yet. But the Blue Devils’ best wins are against VCU and Indiana, and even with a win at Georgia Tech on Tuesday, they are 9-6 against the top 100. Here’s the other part of it: in their last nine games, Duke gets Louisville twice, North Carolina twice, Virginia at home, Florida State at home and Pitt on the road. Considering that the Blue Devils had lost four of their last five and were defending about as well as a bad JV team, it’s reasonable to expect Duke to have some losses coming on the horizon. They need to make sure they take care of business in their winnable games.
  • No. 22 Indiana (KenPom: 25, RPI: 50): Indiana picked up a nice win at Michigan on Tuesday night, a win they needed for the same reason that Duke needed to win. Michigan is a top 50 road win on Indiana’s résumé now, and with a so-so profile as it is and five of their last seven games coming against Purdue, Michigan State, Maryland and Iowa, the Hoosiers don’t have too much margin for error. This win certainly helps.
  • LSU (KenPom: 59, RPI: 79): The Tigers picked up a win at Auburn, meaning that they avoided a loss to Auburn. Because that’s about all that win is worth for the Tigers.
  • San Diego State (KenPom: 60, RPI: 52): Put simply, based on who they have left on their schedule and who they have already lost to, I don’t think the Aztecs can lose a game and still get an at-large bid. They won on Tuesday.

LOSERS

  •  No. 25 South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 29): The Gamecocks lost at Georgia on Tuesday, making their bubble standing even more precarious. To be clear: they’re probably not in danger as of today. But their best win, for RPI purposes, is Alabama. Their non-conference schedule was terrible. Their next five games: at Texas A&M, LSU, Kentucky, at Missouri, Florida. We’re going to know a lot more about this team in about two and a half weeks.
  • Michigan (KenPom: 32, RPI: 31): The Wolverines have two great wins — Maryland and Texas, which keeps getting better and better — without a bad loss to their name. That said, they have just one other quality win, meaning they’re 3-6 against the top 100. Losing to Indiana isn’t a killer by any stretch, but it certainly didn’t help their cause.

 

Ben Bentil hurts ankle, Kris Dunn struggle as No. 11 Providence loses to DePaul

Providence guard Kris Dunn (3) walks to the other end of the court after missing a 3-point shot in the closing seconds of the team's NCAA college basketball game against DePaul on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Rosemont, Ill. DePaul won 77-70. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The headline is going to read that No. 11 Providence lost to DePaul, and for anyone that is even remotely aware of DePaul’s recent history as a basketball program, you’ll understand why that is an issue.

Let’s put it like this: No one is college basketball is happier about the struggles that St. John’s is having than the Blue Demons, because it means they’re no longer the running joke of the Big East.

Doesn’t mean they’ve actually gotten much better under Dave Leitao, which is why the 77-70 win that they just landed over the Friars is such a big deal.

It also comes with an asterisk: Ben Bentil injured his right ankle midway through the first half, tried to return to play on it and couldn’t. He sat on the bench for most of the second half as DePaul somehow managed to hold onto their lead despite doing everything they could to let Providence make a run. Bentil’s presence is critical for the Friars; he’s the leading scorer in the Big East, after all.

Cooley announced after the game that Bentil was undergoing x-rays on the ankle, but had no update as to the severity of the injury.

But his absence also drives home the fact that Providence has such a minuscule margin for error when it comes to their Big Two. They can’t afford to have Bentil or Kris Dunn get injured and miss a significant amount of time. They can barely afford to have one of them have an off-night given just how inconsistent the rest of their starting lineup has been.

On Tuesday night, Dunn finished 5-for-20 from the floor for just 14 points. He also missed two critical 1-and-1 front-ends down the stretch of the second half.

That would qualify as an off-night.

And when you combine an off-night for Dunn with an injured ankle for Bentil, this is what you get.

A loss to DePaul.

Mercer guard Jibri Bryan shot and killed in parking lot

Mercer's Langston Hall and Jibri Bryan (34) walks off the court after the second half of an NCAA college basketball third-round tournament game against Tennessee , Sunday, March 23, 2014, in Raleigh. Tennessee Won 83-63. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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A senior guard on Mercer’s basketball team was shot and killed on Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of a convenience store in Macon.

Jibri Bryan, a sixth-year senior for the Bears, was found in the driver’s seat of his car having been shot in the head. According to the Macon Telegraph, the entire incident was captured on video by the security cameras of the Flash Foods where the shooting took place.

“Jibri Bryan was a special young man who was a great contributor to our team and did everything that was asked of him,” Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said in a statement released by the school. “He was important to us in every way. I loved him and cared about him from the very first time he was on our campus. We grew to be very close over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his special family.”

Bryan started 35 games last season and was a member of the Mercer team that upset Duke in the 2014 NCAA tournament. He averaged 7.8 points last season but saw action in just six games this season due to injury trouble.

“First and foremost, my heartfelt sympathy goes out to the Bryans,” Mercer athletic director Jim Cole said in a statement. “The Mercer athletic family is deeply saddened by Jibri’s passing. Jibri was always cheerful and greeted everyone in the department with a smile. He will not only be missed by his basketball family but by all of us in the University Athletic Department.”