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North Carolina’s Williams likely out for the year

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Roy Williams told reporters after No. 10 North Carolina’s 97-73 win at N.C. State that sophomore guard Kenny Williams will likely be out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury that requires surgery.

The injury is not an ACL, Roy said, but it should keep him off of the court for four-to-six weeks, and at this point in the season, four-to-six weeks takes us to the start of the NCAA tournament.

The good news for UNC is that both Isaiah Hicks and, more importantly, Theo Pinson played on Wednesday, but losing Williams means that the Tar Heels will be without one of their best perimeter shooters and a guy that Roy Williams said is the teams best perimeter defender.

Williams was averaging 6.2 points this season.

Bubble Banter: Four critical bubble battles, Arkansas’ big chance

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The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see below come from.

This story will be updated throughout the night. 

WINNERS

Arkansas (RPI: 45, KenPom: 57, play-in game): The Razorbacks were the biggest winner of the night, and it’s not really close. For starters, they picked up a win at South Carolina, a top 25 road win that (finally) gives a little substance to their résumé: a top 25 road win. That should help Arkansas counteract the fact that they’ve lost to both Missouri and Mississippi State. But more to the point, it may be what saves Mike Anderson’s job. It’s no secret that he’s got some pressure on him, and getting into the NCAA tournament should be enough to ease that pressure. This win might be what does that for Arkansas.

Seton Hall (RPI: 44, KenPom: 55, play-in game): The Pirates started off the biggest week of their season in terrific fashion, picking off No. 20 Creighton at home. They follow that up with home games against Villanova and Butler. Split those two games and they should be dancing.

Minnesota (RPI: 22, KenPom: 39, No. 9 seed): Minnesota is just about off the bubble, having landed a last-second win over Indiana at home on Wednesday night. They have strong computer numbers, a handful of quality wins and nothing in the way of a bad loss.

Oklahoma State (RPI: 30, KenPom: 20, No. 8 seed): Like Minnesota, Oklahoma State is very close to playing their way out of the bubble picture, at least for the time being, as they added another quality win at TCU on Wednesday.

Wichita State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 16, play-in game): This is the deal for the Shockers: As long as they don’t lose to anyone other than Illinois State the rest of the season, they’ll probably be in the NCAA tournament. But given that their only top 100 win is league rival Illinois State, it’ll be hard for them to make up for a bad loss to anyone else in the league. They beat Southern Illinois tonight.

Miami (RPI: 52, KenPom: 36, No. 10 seed): Playing without JaQuan Newton the Hurricanes were still able to get themselves a win at home over fellow bubble-dweller, Georgia Tech. Even without Newman, this was still a win that the Hurricanes should get, but it is a nice confidence boost to be able kick off a three-game stretch where they won’t have their point guard to get a win.

Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 44, No. 12 seed): The Redbirds knocked off Missouri State on the road by one points on Wednesday, meaning that their dream of getting an at-large bid should they lose in the MVC tournament is still alive.

Iowa State (RPI: 55, KenPom: 26, No. 8 seed): The Cyclones won at Kansas State on Wednesday night, a win that probably is enough to get them off the bubble for the time being. If they can beat TCU and Oklahoma State at home, they should lock up their bid.

LOSERS

Rhode Island (RPI: 41, KenPom: 43, next four out): The Rams may have just buried themselves on Wednesday night, losing at home to Fordham in a game where they managed all of 43 points. I guess that heart-breaking loss to Dayton on Friday hurt a little more than we realized.

Indiana (RPI: 88, KenPom: 49, next four out): Indiana has now lost six of their last seven games after losing at the buzzer to Minnesota. They’re 15-12 on the season, and they’re not going to the NCAA tournament.

Kansas State (RPI: 48, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed): The bad news for the Wildcats is that they’ve lost ten games after falling to Iowa State on Wednesday night and they have just three top 100 wins. The good news? They have no sub-100 losses and one of those three wins is at Baylor, who is No. 1 in the RPI. I’d recommend going 4-1 down the stretch if the Wildcats don’t want to feel like they need to win a game in the Big 12 tournament to get a bid.

Georgia Tech (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, play-in game): The Yellow Jackets whiffed on a chance to land a road win over a top 50ish opponent when they lost at Miami, who was playing without JaQuan Newton. In most years, they’d be out of it by now, but the bubble is weak enough that the Yellow Jackets are still very much in the mix.

TCU (RPI: 38, KenPom: 40, No. 10 seed): It’s too early to say that TCU is in trouble, but this is a team with just two top 40 wins (Illinois State and at Kansas State) and five top 100 wins in total. They don’t have any bad losses to their name, but they need to start adding some depth to their profile. It won’t be easy, as their next two games are at Iowa State and at Kansas.

No. 19 South Carolina loses second straight home game

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Sindarius Thornwell has been playing the best basketball of his career for No. 19 South Carolina, and that didn’t change on Wednesday night, as he finished with 27 points, four boards and three assists against Arkansas.

Thornwell is now averaging 33.0 points over the last three games, yet the Gamecocks are just 1-2 in those three games with both losses coming at home.

On Wednesday, it was Arkansas who beat South Carolina in Columbia, doing so after Alabama did the same thing last week in four overtimes, and both games played out more or less the same way. South Carolina dug themselves a big first half hole because their offense consisted of Thornwell and nothing else, and despite a wild rally late in the second half, they were unable to close out the win.

This doesn’t exactly kill the South Carolina tournament profile – they’re no where near the bubble – but it has effectively ruined their chances of winning the SEC regular season title. The Gamecocks were all alone in first place when they lost to Alabama. They’re now a game behind both Florida and Kentucky.

This is not something that Frank Martin appreciated. By the end of Wednesday night’s game, he had lost his suit jacket, his tie and his shirt was untucked.

Hopefully he takes that anger out on the game-film and figures out a way for the Gamecocks to be better than they have been this season on the offensive end of the floor.

LaVar Ball on son Lonzo: ‘He going to be better than Steph Curry’

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LaVar Ball has never been shy of stating his affinity and his belief in his sons’ basketball ability, and he backed that up today in an interview with TMZ, who asked him about people comparing his son to the likes of Jason Kidd and Steph Curry.

“You gotta compare somebody to something, but you can’t compare my boy to nobody,” he said. “They try. I’ll tell you this. They say he’s like Jason Kidd. But he’s taller than Jason Kidd. He jumps better than Jason Kidd. He longer than Jason Kidd. He got a better shot than Jason Kidd. How you comparing him?”

And what about Steph? Will he be as good as the unanimous MVP?

“Heck no! He going to be better than Steph Curry,” Ball said. “Steph Curry’s really good, but my son is young, he got time to go. And you only consider him good because he won a couple of championships. What if he didn’t win no championships? He made some shots at the right time. But I’ll tell you what, he’s not as young as my boy.”

“You won’t be able to say it until my boy finishes his career. Then they’ll look back and think, ‘Man, how did LaVar know all this?'”

I don’t even know what to make of all of that.

But I do know this: LaVar is setting up Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo for an insane level of expectation. They may live up to it, but part of me wonders what happens if they don’t.

Florida’s John Egbunu out for the season with knee injury

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Florida announced on Wednesday that John Egbunu will be out for 10-12 months after suffering an ACL tear in Tuesday night’s win at Auburn.

Egbunu is averaging 7.8 points, 6.6 boards and 1.5 blocks for the Gators, who are sitting in first place tie in the SEC with Kentucky and South Carolina.

This is a brutal blow, as Egbunu is a shotblocker and a defensive menace that anchors the nation’s fifth-best defense. He is a piece they could not afford to lose.

NC State’s Mark Gottfried faces turmoil over job status

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It started with a report from WTVD in Raleigh on Monday night.

Mark Gottfried, the head coach at N.C. State since 2011, will be fired at the end of the season. He was lucky to survive Wake Forest’s 88-58 beatdown of the Wolfpack on Saturday, the report said. Next came a story from the Sporting News, who reported via a source that the process of reaching out and gauging the interest of candidates has already begun. Next up was ESPN saying that Gottfried’s tenure with the Wolfpack would come to an end if he doesn’t right the ship and make a run late in the season.

Gottfried has been to four NCAA tournaments and two Sweet 16s. But he went 16-17 last season and could end up with a worse record this year despite adding Dennis Smith Jr., Omer Yurtseven, Terry Henderson and Torin Dorn. His contract only plays him $760,000 a year for the next three years, a more than manageable sum.

As a source told NBC Sports, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

“Right now, our focus and my focus with our team is getting it ready to play against North Carolina and at the same time, I still believe in our team,” Gottfried said when facing the media on Monday afternoon. “I believe we’ve shown at times how good we can be and my hope is we can turn this around and figure out how to get into the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in sixth years. That’s where I am; that’s where I am personally.”

“Mark Gottfried remains our head coach, and we are all focused on our next opponent,” added Fred Demarest, N.C. State’s senior associate athletic director. “To suggest we have reached out to any other coach is both incorrect and blatantly irresponsible.”

All of this is happening as N.C. State gets ready to host North Carolina, a team that beat them by 51 points in the Dean Dome earlier this season.

What a time to be a Wolfpack fan.

Frankly, none of this is all that uncommon. This is how the process works. Dozens of programs around the country are doing the exact same due diligence as we speak. Someone connected to the university – maybe a booster, maybe a decision maker in the athletic department – reaches out to the agent or a friend of a coach they may be interested in pursuing to see whether or not it would be worth their time to do so. They do it now so that details can be worked out if there is a point in time where a chance is going to be made.

Time is of the essence in these matters. The longer you wait to make a change, the more likely it is that the guy you want will have found a job. The longer it takes to make a hire, the worse it looks for the university. Did they whiff on the guy they wanted? Do people keeping telling them no? Did Gary Williams badmouth the AD to everyone within shouting distance?!?

The difference here is that it is all playing out in the public’s view.

The Wolfpack have unquestionably underperformed this season. They have the talent to be a top six team in the ACC. They have the talent to get to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. They’re 14-12 overall, 3-10 in the ACC and, as Wake Forest’s Keyshawn Woods put it, “We knew if we got up early on them, they was going to quit.”

Gottfried has turned around disappointing seasons before, it’s something of his M.O., but it shouldn’t shock you that N.C. State is preparing for what appears to be the inevitable.