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Bubble Banter: Seton Hall, Michigan State and Georgia with massive opportunities Saturday

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The up-to-date NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds you see below come from.

This post will be updated to reflect results throughout the day. 

WINNERS

Wichita State (RPI: 46, KenPom: 13, play-in game): The Shockers blew out a Northern Iowa team that had won eight of their last nine games and sat in third place in the Missouri Valley on Saturday. The Shockers are now 25-4 on the season, but their best non-league wins are over Oklahoma and at Colorado State, neither of which are top 100 wins. Their only top 100 win is Illinois State. The Shockers will be an interesting case come Selection Sunday, but as long as the only loss they take down the stretch of the season Illinois State in the MVC title game they should be just fine.

Marquette (RPI: 82, KenPom: 42, first four out): Marquette was the Big East’s big winner on Saturday, as they mowed down Xavier by 22 points to add a top 25 win to their profile. They are now 16-10 overall with one horrible loss but three top 25 wins and eight top 100 wins in total, including a couple on the road. I think they’re going dancing if they can win three of their last four games.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 28, KenPom: 20, No. 8 seed): Oklahoma State’s profile, outside of the computer numbers, is very similar to Marquette’s after their win over Oklahoma on Saturday night. A handful of really good wins, a bunch of losses and only one truly bad loss. They should be fine if they can get two more wins before the start of the Big 12 tournaments.

Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 53, No. 10 seed): The Razorbacks continue to build on their win at South Carolina last week as they handled Ole Miss at home on Saturday pretty easily. Mike Anderson’s club is going to be in the NCAA tournament if they can avoid doing anything dumb down the stretch, but given that this is the team that lost at Missouri earlier this season, there’s very little guarantee that will happen.

Miami (RPI: 47, KenPom: 35, No. 11 seed): Miami picked up a massive win over Clemson on Saturday, and not because the Tigers are some awe-inspiring win, it’s because the schedule down the stretch for the ‘Canes is brutal: at Virginia, Duke, at Virginia Tech, at Louisville. Win two and they’re in. Win one, and they’re going to probably have some work to do in the ACC tournament.

Dayton (RPI: 29, KenPom: 33, No. 8 seed): The Flyers kept themselves in a really strong position by beating St. Bonaventure on Saturday. The Flyers are 21-5 on the season and sitting in first place in the Atlantic 10, but they don’t have a single top 50 win on the season. Those 10 top 100 wins are nice, but with a loss to UMass – sub-150 – also on their résumé, the Flyers have less room for error than you may think.

Middle Tennessee (RPI: 35, KenPom: 45, No. 11 seed): The Blue Raiders kept themselves in at-large contention with a win at Marshall on Saturday. Here’s their issue: they have wins over UNC Wilmington (on a neutral), at Belmont, at Ole Miss and over Vanderbilt. That’s good. They’ve also lost to UTEP (289th in the RPI) and two more sub-125 teams. My advice to Kermit Davis: don’t test the committee.

Kansas State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 29, No. 10 seed): How weird is the bubble this year? Kansas State, who has just three top 100 wins, is 17-10 overall and 6-8 in the Big 12, is in the tournament with some room to spare even before their win at Texas on Saturday.

Tennessee (RPI: 44, KenPom: 43, bubble): The Vols beat Missouri, which is significant only because it means they didn’t lose to Missouri, which would have been a season-ender. I’d strongly recommended Tennessee win all of their remaining regular season games.

FILE - In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall directs his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Drake, in Des Moines, Iowa. At this time of year college basketball coaches often sound like political candidates looking for votes as they tout their teams' NCAA tournament worthiness. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

LOSERS

Wake Forest (RPI: 36, KenPom: 34, next four out): The Demon Deacons are running out of chances after losing at Duke on Saturday in a game where they missed a layup that would have given them the lead with less than a minute left. Wake doesn’t have a bad loss to their name, but they also don’t have much in the way of impressive wins. A win at Duke would have changed that. A win over Louisville next will will as well. Wake may need to win that if they really want to have a chance.

Michigan State (RPI: 40, KenPom: 54, No. 9 seed): The Spartans lost a game at Purdue, which hurts. Losing Eron Harris to a knee injury is a bigger loss.

Georgia (RPI: 48, KenPom: 51, next four out): Georgia lost a winnable game to Kentucky despite 36 points from J.J. Frazier. They’ve had some hard-luck losses in league play, and it’s probably going to keep them out of the NCAA tournament at this point. The bigger news? They may have lost Yante Maten to a knee injury.

TCU (RPI: 49, KenPom: 40, play-in game): The Horned Frogs missed out on a terrific opportunity to add to their tournament profile as they lost at Iowa State on Saturday evening. This loss isn’t a killer, but it does put TCU in a position where they likely will need to win their final three games of the season, assuming they lose at Kansas.

Texas Tech (RPI: 83, KenPom: 37, next four out): The Red Raiders badly needed a win at West Virginia on Saturday. They took the Mountaineers to double overtime before losing. This is what Texas Tech’s remaining schedule looks like: Iowa State, at Oklahoma State, Texas, at Kansas State. Win three of those and they should be OK.

Seton Hall (RPI: 39, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed): The Pirates whiffed on a chance to lock up a tournament bid on Saturday, losing at home to No. 2 Villanova. If they can take care of business this week at home against Xavier, Seton Hall should feel pretty good about their chances.

Clemson (RPI: 53, KenPom: 36, play-in game): Clemson is now 14-12 on the season and 4-10 in the ACC, but since they play in the ACC, Saturday’s loss at Miami isn’t a killer for them. They’ll still be a good win or two from being back on the right side of the bubble by next week. That’s how weak the bubble is this season.

Virginia Tech (RPI: 32, KenPom: 49, No. 9 seed): A win at Louisville on Saturday would have put the Hokies in the tournament. Losing at Louisville? They’re a top ten team. You’re supposed to lose there.

 

No. 10 North Carolina blows out reeling No. 14 Virginia

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Justin Jackson scored 18 of his 20 points in the first half, adding six assists and four boards as No. 10 North Carolina made a statement on Saturday night with a 65-41 win over No. 14 Virginia in the Dean Dome.

Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks combined for 23 points and 15 boards as well, as UNC led by as many as 27 points in the second half.

The story of this game was UNC’s defense … or Virginia’s offense, depending on how you look at it.

The Cavaliers shot just 27.8 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-20 from three. Their bench provided nothing – they were 2-for-17 from floor – and that wasn’t much better than the starters – guards London Perrantes and Devon Hall combined to shoot 3-for-17 from the field. As a team, Virginia scored .683 points-per-possession.

How much of that was a result of North Carolina giving Virginia fits and how much was simply the Wahoos struggling?

Some credit has to be given to North Carolina, a team that has had their issues on that end of the floor this season. They were torn apart by Duke, which wouldn’t be all that bad if they weren’t lit up by Miami, Pitt and Notre Dame in recent weeks as well. With the offensive weapons this group has, they don’t need to be great defensively, but they have to be better than they’ve been.

On the other hand, this is a Virginia team that we knew was going to struggle to score this season. They don’t have a star like they’ve had in past seasons – Malcolm Brogdon ain’t walking through that door – and London Perrantes hasn’t been up to the task of carrying the load offensively. Losing Austin Nichols at the start of the season certainly didn’t help matters.

This is now back-to-back games where Tony Bennett’s squad has had these issues. On Wednesday, in a 10-point loss at home, Virginia managed all of 44 points in the first 38 minutes before they scored a flurry of points once Duke had the game in hand.

The result here is that Virginia has more or less found themselves out of the mix for the ACC regular season title. They’ve lost three in a row and five of their last seven, and frankly, it’s time to wonder just how far this team can go in the NCAA tournament.

Here’s the question that Virginia fans need to ask themselves: Were these last two games simply a result of Duke and North Carolina, a pair of title contenders, hitting their stride, or is Virginia just a team that needs to win games in the low-50s to have a chance?

Michigan State’s Eron Harris stretchered off with right knee injury in loss at Purdue

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As if Michigan State’s season hadn’t been difficult enough, it appears that the Spartans have likely lost Eron Harris for a significant period of time.

Down by 20 late in the second half at Purdue, Harris’ leg bent a direction that it’s not supposed to bend after an awkward landing under the basket. Michigan State termed it a “right knee injury”. After the game, Tom Izzo said that Harris “badly sprained” the knee.

(WARNING: The video below is not only graphic, but the mics picked up Harris screaming in pain afterwards, including some NSFW words. This is not a pleasant video to watch.)

Harris, a senior from Indiana, was stretchered off the floor. According to reporters at the game, Harris’ teammates, including Miles Bridges, were in tears on the floor. Michigan State has already dealt with a series of injuries this season. Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling were lost for the year before the season began while Bridges missed a number of games with an ankle injury.

Harris is a fifth-year senior. He was averaging 11.1 points on the year.

The No. 16 Boilermakers would go on to win the game 80-63 behind 24 points, 15 boards and five assists from Caleb Swanigan, their Player of the Year candidate. That’s just the fifth time this season that a player has recorded that stat line. Isaac Hass added 18 points for the Boilermakers, who totally overwhelmed Michigan State on the interior.

The win give Purdue sole possession of first place in the Big Ten for the day. Wisconsin and Maryland, who are both a half-game back, square off tomorrow in Madison.

Mitchell leads No. 8 Louisville past sharp Virginia Tech

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville’s 1,800th victory was one for the books.

On a day when both teams were so hot from the field that Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams changed shirts at halftime, Donovan Mitchell scored 26 points to lead the eighth-ranked Cardinals past the Hokies 94-90 on Saturday.

Both Mitchell, a sophomore guard, and the Cardinals’ inside game stood out.

Mitchell connected on his first six shots, including three 3-pointers en route to going 8 for 13 from the field and 5 of 7 from the beyond the arc. He led an effort that saw Louisville (22-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) shoot 51.5 percent from the field and even better, 12 of 22, from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Cardinals needed that as Virginia Tech (18-8, 7-7) managed to shoot 59.2 percent from the field, including 65.4 percent (17 of 26) from beyond the arc. The Hokies, who set a KFC Yum! Center visitor’s record with their 90 points, also made the most 3-pointers against the Cardinals since they beat West Virginia in the 2005 Elite Eight.

“Every team is going to fight, even the teams who are at the bottom of the ACC are going to fight,” Mitchell said. “Everybody is fighting to make the tournament. We’re going to get every team’s best shot being a ranked team because if they beat a (ranked team) there is a good chance that will get them into the tournament.”

The difference ended up being the 19 extra shots the Cardinals got as they used the glass to their advantage. They outrebounded the Hokies 33-25, with 16 coming on the offensive end. That allowed Louisville to enjoy a 26-3 edge in second-chance scoring.

“I think if we don’t have a hot shooting night, they beat us by 40,” said Williams, wearing the orange Virginia Tech T-shirt he switched to in the second half after he sweated through his dress shirt. “I think the hot shooting night allowed it to be a game.”

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he hated to win solely on offense, but he also knew the Hokies, who played four guards, would present a challenge to the Cardinals. Nonetheless, he expects his team to learn from this win.

“If we don’t start playing better defense we’re all going (on) vacation early,” he said. “You guys are going to be covering someone else. If you’re impressed with that, you’re not watching the game I’m watching. But, that being said, it was a great win.”

Seth Allen led the Hokies with 25 points and Ty Outlaw had 19.

Quentin Snider finished with 19 points and Jaylen Johnson added 16 for Louisville.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: By playing the Cardinals close on the road, the Hokies did little damage to their NCAA Tournament resume, but beating tough teams away from Cassell Coliseum remains a challenge for the Hokies. The last win against a ranked team on the road came against Clemson on Feb. 25, 2009.

Louisville: It wasn’t a pretty effort for the Cardinals, at least not defensively. However, Louisville gutted through another contest with a team many expect to go dancing next month and avoided a potential trap before playing North Carolina next week.

HISTORIC WIN

With the victory on Saturday, the Cardinals became the 10th program in history to reach 1,800 wins. In its 103rd season, Louisville’s record stands at 1,800-897.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

While the performance might do a number on the Cardinals’ top-ranking in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings, it should not do anything to their standing when the next AP poll comes out on Monday. Especially since the Hokies already have wins against both Duke and Virginia this season.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech returns home, where it will face Clemson on Tuesday night.

Louisville travels to North Carolina for Wednesday night in the teams’ only regular season matchup.

Evans scores 17, No. 18 Cincinnati beats Tulsa 80-60

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CINCINNATI (AP) The only thing that Mick Cronin mentioned to his team at halftime was defense. The 18th-ranked Bearcats got the message.

Jacob Evans III scored 13 of his 17 points while Cincinnati took control in the first half, and the Bearcats clamped down defensively in the second half and pulled away to an 80-60 victory over Tulsa on Saturday.

Cincinnati (24-3, 13-1 American Athletic) has won 24 straight on its home court, including a couple of close escapes this season. The Bearcats put this one away early in the second half, limiting Tulsa to two free throws in the first 6:47.

“In the second half, the kids made a concerted effort to do a much better job,” said Cronin, who got his 300th career coaching victory. “They didn’t score a whole lot in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Our defense was way, way better in the second half.”

Kyle Washington added 18 points for Cincinnati while Gary Clark had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Junior Etou scored 22 points for Tulsa (12-14, 6-8) , which has lost a season-high six in a row. The Golden Hurricane were only 6 of 16 from the field in the second half, a reflection of how much the Bearcats took Cronin’s halftime message to heart.

“He’s just worried about our defense and intensity and effort,” Washington said. “He really doesn’t get on us for mistakes. He gets on us for hustle. We make up for it by going 10 times harder.”

Washington had two baskets and a free throw during a 10-point run that put Cincinnati in control late in the first half. Evans made two free throws followed by a steal and a layup as Cincinnati pulled ahead 54-34 early in the second half. The Bearcats led by as many as 27 points.

“We weren’t physical enough to come in here and win that game,” Tulsa coach Frank Haith said.

BIG PICTURE

Tulsa: Offense has been the big issue during the Golden Hurricane’s losing streak. They have been held to 60 points or fewer five times in the six games.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 24-game home winning streak is their third longest at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. They won 41 straight at home from 1997-2000, and 25 straight from 1992-94.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati slipped from No. 11 after its 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12. The Bearcats have won their two games since, including 68-54 at South Florida on Wednesday.

BENCHED

Cincinnati freshman guard Jarron Cumberland didn’t play because of a curfew violation. Cumberland averages 17 minutes and 7.3 points per game. He had scored double figures in three of the previous seven games.

CRONIN AT 300

The Bearcats honored Cronin on the court following his 300th career victory, giving him a commemorative basketball. He’s 231-132 in 11 seasons at Cincinnati.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Cronin said. “I’ve grown up around great coaches. I’ve been around what it takes to win.”

NOT MUCH HELP

Tulsa’s bench contributed only eight points. The Golden Hurricane’s bench had been averaging nearly 24 per game, accounting for 35.7 percent of their points.

UP NEXT

Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane host South Florida on Thursday. They won at South Florida 70-67 on Jan. 21.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats host Memphis on Thursday night. They split their series last season, with each team winning at home.

No. 25 Notre Dame beats NC State in first game for fired Gottfried

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time Notre Dame was in the state of North Carolina, the Fighting Irish were heading home with four straight losses.

This time they’re leaving with momentum and a solid chance to secure a double-round bye in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

V.J. Beachem scored 27 points and hit a career-high seven 3-pointers to help No. 25 Notre Dame beat North Carolina State 81-72 on Saturday, giving the Fighting Irish their fourth straight win to keep them in a crowded race for the top-four finish and the bye that comes with it next month in Brooklyn.

Compare that to two weeks earlier, when the Irish lost 83-76 to North Carolina in Greensboro for their fourth straight loss.

“It seems like a long time ago, I think,” said Steve Vasturia, who scored 11 points. “Obviously that took a lot from us to kind of step up and getting that first win (after the skid) was huge. And you look at us now, we’re in great position, especially with this bye week coming up.”

Notre Dame (21-7, 10-5) faced a tricky scenario, too. N.C. State was playing its first game since the announcement that coach Mark Gottfried is out after the season, adding an extra bit of emotion and the uncertainty of whether the Wolfpack would respond with a last-stand kind of effort.

As coach Mike Brey noted, the Wolfpack won at Duke last month in a sign of its potential.

“I talked to them very openly,” Brey said. “I said, `You know fellas, I think we’re going to get their Duke effort tonight. There’s no more speculation, they’ll rally a little bit I think.”

Notre Dame used a 9-0 run late in the first half to build a double-digit margin, led 41-28 by halftime then pushed it to 23 points from there. The Fighting Irish shot 50 percent and made 13 of 30 3-pointers.

Dennis Smith Jr. scored 16 points for N.C. State (14-14, 3-12), which thrice rallied within seven points late before suffering its seventh straight loss since the Duke win.

This one came two days after the school announced Gottfried won’t return for a seventh season as a once-promising season continued to unravel.

Gottfried heard a smattering of boos during pregame introductions before Wednesday’s 97-73 loss to 10th-ranked rival North Carolina. He heard only cheers Saturday, though there was a smaller crowd that included at least a half-dozen empty upstairs seating sections in PNC Arena.

Notre Dame never trailed after the opening minute, with Beachem in particular finding plenty of room to operate in comfort as the Irish built that big lead then held on late.

“They came out and it’s been a tough couple of days, no doubt about it, tough for them,” Gottfried said. “And that can go either way. But I thought they came out and showed great spirit.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: Notre Dame has won four straight games to regroup from a four-game skid and keep the Fighting Irish in the hunt at the top of the league standings.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack at least fought back from the 23-point deficit to make it close, something the team hadn’t done in five other losses by at least 24 points this season.

BEACHEM’S OUTING

Beachem, a 6-foot-8 senior, finished 10 for 16 from the field and made 7 of 12 3-pointers in 38 minutes.

“Honestly I love playing in this arena,” Beachem said. “This is one of my favorite arenas to play in, and the guys were finding me. Even when they went to that zone, the guys were finding me. And I was just stepping up and shooting the way Coach shows me to.”

FREE THROWS

The Fighting Irish came in leading the country in shooting at the foul line (81.6 percent). They finished just 10 of 12, but made 6 of 7 in the final minute to turn away the Wolfpack’s comeback bid.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish get an eight-day break before hosting Georgia Tech on Feb. 26.

N.C. State: N.C. State visits Georgia Tech on Tuesday.