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Bubble Banter: Houston, California with big chances

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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. This is where the seeds listed below are from. 

This post will be updated throughout the night.

WINNERS

Middle Tennessee State (RPI: 32, KenPom: 46, No. 10 seed): Somehow the Blue Raiders dug themselves a 19-1 hole against a 6-23 FIU team at home. They also managed to find a way to win that game, meaning that MTSU is not going to have to find a way to explain a loss to a team ranked 343rd in the RPI. That would not have been something the Selection Committee wanted to hear. So this is where we stand with the team that orchestrated arguably the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history last season: They have two top 50 wins (UNC Wilmington and Vanderbilt) and four total top 100 wins. They’re 26-4 on the season and they steam-rolled their way to the outright Conference USA title. They also have three sub-100 losses to their name and, should they lose in the CUSA tournament, they will have a fourth.

To be frank, that’s very similar to the profile that Wichita State had last season, when they were given a spot in a play-in game as an at-large. The difference? The Shockers were ranked in the top 10 in KenPom. MTSU is 46th, which means the bottom-line is simple: Don’t leave this up to the Selection Committee.

LOSERS

Cal (RPI: 51, KenPom: 47, first four out): Cal lost at Utah on Thursday night, meaning that the Golden Bears have now dropped four of their last five games, with the only win in that stretch coming against an abysmal Oregon State team. Cal has just one top 50 win, no top 30 wins and four top 100 wins. They have to be Colorado over the week, and they probably need to win a game over Arizona, UCLA or Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament to truly feel comfortable.

Houston (RPI: 53, KenPom: 39, next four out): The Cougars had a chance to put themselves in the bubble conversation with a win at No. 18 Cincinnati. That didn’t happen.

 

VIDEO: Steve Alford on the DP Show

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford joined the Dan Patrick Show to talk about what makes Lonzo Ball college basketball’s top talent, as well as whether or not Bryce Alford is a better shooter than he was.

LaVar Ball: ‘Lonzo is going to be the first one drafted with his own brand’

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LaVar Ball has spent recent weeks generating as many headlines as his star-bound son, UCLA star Lonzo.

Whether it was saying Lonzo is better than Steph Curry or walking back comments that his son will only play for the Lakers, the surest bet in sports right now is that if you put a live microphone in front of LaVar Ball, he’s going to say something that people pay attention to.

Here’s the latest, from an interview he did with ESPNLA’s ‘Mornings with Keyshawn, Jorge and LZ’.

“They’re kicking in the door, but they’re shocked at what I’m telling them,” the eldest Ball said. “I said, ‘I’m not looking for no endorsement deal. I’m looking for a marketing and distribution deal.’ Branding. The only person doing that is (Michael) Jordan with Nike. That’s what we’re for. If Lonzo doesn’t sign with Adidas, Nike, or Under Armour, guess what – I’ll sign the Big Baller Brand. We already got our own brand. Triple Bs. Lonzo is going to be the first one drafted with his own brand. That don’t happen.”

The Big Baller Brand that LaVar mentions is the family’s apparel company. The logo is ‘Triple Bs,’ for the three Ball brothers. You’ll notice, not uncoincidentally, that every time LaVar appears on camera, he’s decked out in this gear.

No. 3 UCLA’s TJ Leaf sprains left ankle against Washington

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Freshman forward T.J. Leaf sprained his left ankle five minutes into No. 3 UCLA’s 98-66 win over Washington on Wednesday night.

The freshman forward stepped on the foot of a Huskies player as they battled for a rebound. Leaf stayed down until he was helped up by two staff members. He limped off with help and went straight into the locker room.

“It was just a sprained ankle so it’s not a bad one,” head coach Steve Alford told reporters after the game, adding later that there were no broken bones, “but we’ll have to see what the next 48 hours look like.”

He is averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Bruins.

Dayton holds off late VCU rally to claim Atlantic 10 title

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DAYTON, Ohio — Kendall Pollard and Kyle Davis each grabbed clutch defensive rebounds and were perfect in four tries at the free-throw line in the last 16 seconds as Dayton held off a challenge from VCU for a 79-72 win in the battle for the Atlantic 10 Conference championship and top seed into the conference tournament.

Charles Cooke and Scoochie Smith scored 20 points each for Dayton, which never trailed, led by as many as 14 in the second half and ends the regular season on a nine-game win streak. Davis added 12 points and seven rebounds, Pollard 11 points and five boards for the Flyers (24-5, 15-2).

JaQuan Lewis converted a 3-point play for VCU (23-7, 13-4) that made it a two-point game with three minutes to go. After each team missed from the field, Pollard and Davis made two each at the line and Smith 1 of 2 — all fouled after grabbing defensive rebounds (27 of Dayton’s 33 boards).

Mo Alie-Cox led VCU with 20 points, Justin Tillman added 18 with 10 rebounds and Lewis scored 15.

Dayton seniors Davis, Smith, Pollard, Cooke and Jeremiah Bonsu have won a program-record 101 wins.

Barry scores 14, No. 12 Florida handles Arkansas 78-65

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Canyon Barry scored 14 points, his best game since injuring an ankle two weeks ago, and No. 12 Florida handled Arkansas 78-65 on Wednesday night.

Kasey Hill, KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza added 12 points apiece for the Gators, who bounced back from their first loss in 10 games and clinched the No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament next week.

Florida (24-6, 14-3) controlled the game much of the night, building a double-digit lead early, extending it to as many as 16 in the first half and then holding on after the break.

Arkansas (22-8, 11-6) made it close midway through the second half, cutting the lead to 51-45 on Trey Thompson’s straightaway jumper. But the Gators responded with clutch shot after clutch shot to make it a 14-point game again. Barry hit a driving layup out of a timeout, Devin Robinson followed with a 3-pointer from the wing and then Keith Stone completed a three-point play.

Jaylen Barford led the Razorbacks with 18 points. Moses Kingsley added 17 points and nine rebounds. Arkansas had won five straight and 10 of 13.

Coach Mike Anderson’s biggest issue was his team allowing the Gators, who improved to 9-1 at home this season, to shoot 51 percent from the field.

Stone finished with eight points, his best performance since mid-January. Florida had another comeback outing from Gorjok Gak, who missed the previous seven games because of a sprained foot. He had two points and two rebounds in 8 minutes.

But Barry was the story. The senior swingman got one of the largest ovations on Senior Night – Barry, Hill, center Schuyler Rimmer and forward Justin Leon were honored – and he delivered.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas: Despite the loss, the Hogs are still having their best season in years. With a victory in the regular-season finale. Arkansas would have 12 conference wins for the fifth time in program history and just the second time in the last 22 years (2014-15). The Razorbacks also have 22 regular-season wins for the second time in the last 22 years.

Florida: The Gators need Hill, Barry and Stone to continue to play like they did against Arkansas. Hill and Barry make the offense go, and Stone provides a defensive presence in the middle and another 3-point threat on the other end.

UP NEXT

Arkansas: The Razorbacks end the regular season Saturday against Georgia at Bud Walton Arena, where they have won five of their last six.

Florida: The Gators wrap up the regular season at Vanderbilt on Saturday. Florida has lost three of its last four against the Commodores, including a home loss in January that helped better focus coach Mike White’s team and sparked a nine-game winning streak.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25