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Bracketology: Kansas returns to top line

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The roller-coaster ride along the No. 1 seed line continues.  This morning, we welcome back Kansas.  The Jayhawks’ rally against West Virginia, combined with Auburn’s loss at South Carolina, inched KU back to the top line.  With three weeks to go, Virginia and Villanova look like good bets to hold their top-seed positions.  The next two spots – occupied today by Xavier and Kansas – are a little more in question.

Various seed line groupings are closely bunched, meaning fluidity remains in the middle and lower ends of the bracket.  A lot of bubble teams won over the weekend, picking up notable wins along the way.  The proverbial stretch run is upon us.

Here’s the latest ..

UPDATED: February 19, 2018

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Washington vs. St. Bonaventure | East Region
  • Syracuse vs. Baylor Midwest Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. SAVANNAH ST | South Region
  • FL GULF COAST vs. NICHOLLS | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION

SOUTH Atlanta    EAST – Boston                               
Charlotte Pittsburgh
1) VIRGINIA 1) VILLANOVA
16) SOUTHERN / SAVANNAH ST 16) FL GULF CST / NICHOLLS
8) Providence 8) Florida State
9) Florida 9) NEVADA
Boise San Diego
5) Ohio State 5) West Virginia
12) LOUISIANA 12) St. Bonaventure / Washington
4) Tennessee 4) GONZAGA
13) E. TENNESSEE ST 13) BUFFALO
Dallas Wichita
6) Alabama 6) Kentucky
11) MID TENNESSEE 11) Kansas State
3) Texas Tech 3) CINCINNATI
14) CHARLESTON 14) VERMONT
Detroit Nashville
7) Texas AM 7) Creighton
10) NC State 10) TCU
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) North Carolina
15) WRIGHT STATE 15) WAGNER
WEST – Los Angeles MIDWEST – Omaha
Wichita Detroit
1) KANSAS 1) Xavier
16) PENNSYLVANIA 16) UNC-ASHEVILLE
8) Miami-FL 8) Oklahoma
9) Seton Hall 9) Virginia Tech
San Diego Boise
5) Michigan 5) RHODE ISLAND
12) NEW MEXICO ST 12) LOYOLA (CHI)
4) ARIZONA 4) Wichita State
13) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 13) BELMONT
Dallas Pittsburgh
6) Houston 6) Missouri
11) Texas 11) Baylor / Syracuse
3) Clemson 3) Purdue
14) BUCKNELL 14) RIDER
Nashville Charlotte
7) Arizona State 7) Arkansas
10) Saint Mary’s 10) Butler
2) AUBURN 2) Duke
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA 15) MONTANA

NOTES on the BRACKET: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Villanova, Xavier, and Kansas

Last Four Byes (at large): Butler, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State, Texas

Last Four IN (at large): Washington, Baylor, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse

First Four OUT (at large): UCLA, LSU, Louisville, Marquette

Next four teams OUT (at large): USC, Utah, Georgia, Notre Dame

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech, NC State, Syracuse

SEC (8): AUBURN, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, Texas AM, Arkansas, Florida

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor

Big East (6): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Creighton, Providence, Seton Hall, Butler

Big 10 (4): MICHIGAN STATE, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan

Pac 12 (3): ARIZONA, Arizona State, Washington

American (3): CINCINNATI, Wichita State, Houston

Atlantic 10 (2): RHODE ISLAND, St. Bonaventure

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Middle Tennessee (C-USA), Louisiana (SBELT), Pennsylvania (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Nicholls (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Santa Barbara (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Charleston (CAA), UNC-Asheville (BSO), Savannah State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Florida State rallies from 18-point second-half deficit to beat No. 11 Clemson in OT

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Florida State rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half on Wednesday night to come back and knock off No. 11 Clemson with a 81-79 overtime win.

The Seminoles found themselves down by 12 points at halftime and 18 points with 18 minutes left as they made a furious comeback to secure one of their biggest wins of the season.

Forcing 21 Clemson turnovers, Florida State (18-8, 7-7) survived an ugly perimeter-shooting night to somehow pick up the win. Even though the Seminoles never led in this game until just over a minute left in overtime, Leonard Hamilton’s team showed a significant amount of fight by grinding its way back into this game.

Phil Cofer paced the Florida State offense with 17 points — all in the second half — while guard Trent Forrest made some key shots down the stretch to finish with 16 points. The Seminoles were only 5-for-20 from three-point range for the game, but they still managed to fight back thanks to their ability to force turnovers and attack the basket.

This is arguably the best win of the season for Florida State — considering all of the circumstances. Not only did the Seminoles pick up a key win over a conference opponent, but they also did so in a game where they didn’t play particularly well. Florida State had no business winning this game based on how they played for the first 24 minutes and they still picked off the No. 11 team in the country. While Florida State was likely a bubble team with a loss on Wednesday, now they’re feeling a lot better about making the Field of 68 after a win over the Tigers.

Clemson (20-5, 9-4) is all but out of the ACC regular season race following Wednesday night’s loss as they are now three games behind Virginia in the loss column. This loss comes as a major disappointment for the Tigers. Not only did Clemson blow a huge lead on the road against an ACC opponent, but they also had a chance to earn another solid road win for NCAA tournament seeding purposes.

While seemingly every ranked team in the country has been losing to unranked opponents over the past few weeks, Clemson had a chance to extend its four-game winning streak while continuing to make a positive impression on the committee. Now, the Tigers are searching for multiple answers after squandering Wednesday night’s winnable game.

Marcquise Reed led Clemson with 24 points, but he also finished with five turnovers, as he was one of a handful of Tiger players who didn’t adjust well to Florida State’s pressure. Point guard Shelton Mitchell also took an elbow to the head late in the game as he had to be helped off of the floor. It looked like Mitchell might have had a concussion as it was scary to see his reaction to the play.

It’ll be fascinating to see how Clemson responds to this loss. The Tigers have to host Duke for its next contest and another game with Florida State looms at the end of February. If Mitchell is out for any period of time, then Clemson could struggle mightily against good competition. Even if Mitchell is back, Clemson needs to address some turnover issues before its next game.

No. 2 Virginia rallies in second half, stays unbeaten in ACC

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Virginia’s Tony Bennett realizes his team has a huge target on its back. His second-ranked Cavaliers dodged a big upset Wednesday night, rallying in the second half to beat Florida State 59-55 and remain unbeaten in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The target is only going to get bigger.

Not only is Virginia (23-1) the third team since 2000-01 to win its first 12 ACC games — joining North Carolina (2000-01) and Miami (2012-13) — but after No. 1 Villanova’s 79-75 loss to St. John’s , the Cavaliers have a chance to take over the top spot in the rankings for the first time since the week of Dec. 21, 1982, with a win over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

“That stuff is great. The fan’s get excited but we are in a good quest and race right now,” Bennett said.

Virginia trailed 32-22 at halftime but bounced back by hitting 5 of 10 3-pointers and making all six of its foul shots in the second half. They also committed only one turnover after halftime and held the Seminoles without a field goal for the final 9:01.

The Seminoles (17-6, 6-6) shot 40 percent from the field for the game (18 of 45) and made only two of their last 12.

“They were hitting tough shots and slipping a lot of ball screens in the first half,” said Kyle Guy, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half. “We knew their pressure might wear down. When you see that defense for 40 minutes we are going to eventually get our way.”

Devon Hall led the Cavaliers with 17 points and Ty Jerome added 15.

Virginia’s only lead in the first half was 4-3 on a Hall layup. It would be tied at 9 before the Seminoles went on an 11-4 run. They would lead by as many as 11 (29-18) on Christ Koumadje’s alley-oop dunk off CJ Walker’s assist with 5:54 remaining, but that would be FSU’s last field goal of the half.

“The pack line, it’s definitely hard,” said Phil Cofer, who had nine points. “They’re backing up so much that you don’t know whether it’s a good shot or a bad shot. That’s what kind of messed us up a little bit.”

The Cavaliers regained the lead for good with 7:39 remaining when a De’Andre Hunter dunk made it 48-47 and started an 11-2 run. The Seminoles got within 57-55 when M.J. Walker, who had a team-high 10 points, made a free throw but Virginia put it away on two Hunter free throws.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers allowed 32 points in the first half, which ended a string of 15 straight regular-season conference games where they held an opponent under 30 points in the first 20 minutes. It also tied a season high for points allowed in the first half (they allowed 32 against VCU on Nov. 17, 2017).

Florida State: The Seminoles have dropped six straight against Top 5 teams. Their last win came against then-No. 4 North Carolina in the ACC Tournament final in 2012.

LETDOWN

Florida State’s Terance Mann, who was averaging 15.9 points in conference play, was just 1 of 4 from the field and scored a season-low three points. It also ended a string where he scored in double figures in nine straight games.

RARE AIR

It is the first time since 1980-81 that the Cavaliers have won their first 12 conference games. It is the 13th time in conference history that a team has started 12-0. No team has gone only 18-0 and only Duke in 1998-99 was able to go 16-0.

HE SAID IT

“If there’s one thing about the ACC, you can’t have a pity party. You got to learn from your shortcomings. I thought we put ourselves in a pretty good position against a very good basketball team and came up short,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.

UP NEXT

Virginia: Hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Cavaliers won the first meeting 78-52 on Jan. 3.

Florida State: Travels to Notre Dame on Saturday. The Seminoles are looking for their first win in South Bend, Indiana, in their fourth trip.

Louisville snaps No. 23 FSU’s 28-game home win streak

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Deng Adel scored 16 points and Louisville rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat 23rd-ranked Florida State 73-69 on Wednesday night and snap the Seminoles’ 28-game home winning streak.

Ray Spalding added 15 points for the Cardinals (12-4, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who made six 3-pointers in the second half. Ryan McMahon, who scored 11 points, had three 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes, including one that gave the Cardinals the lead and another with 59 seconds remaining that pushed the lead to 71-66.

Louisville trailed 45-32 at halftime but steadily stormed back as the Seminoles missed five of their first six from the field in the second half and committed six turnovers in the first 6 minutes. A 3-pointer by Adel with 9:04 remaining tied it at 55 before the Cardinals took their first lead with 4:55 left on a 3 by McMahon.

Terance Mann tied a career high with 25 points and Braian Angola added 18 for Florida State (12-4, 1-3), which blew a 17-point, first-half lead. It is Florida State’s first loss at home since an 86-80 loss to Georgia Tech on Feb. 17, 2016.

Florida State scored the first nine points and was up 11-2 before the Cardinals scored nine straight points to tie. Things would remain close for most of the half until the Seminoles went on a 16-2 run to take a 45-28 lead with 1:36 remaining. The Cards would score the final four points of the first half to trail 45-32 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals trailed 14-0 in last year’s game and were never able to climb back before losing 73-68. This time they were able to steadily climb back and get its first road win of the season in four attempts.

Florida State: The Seminoles are 10 of 48 from beyond the arc in their last two ACC games after going 26 of 61 in their first two.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Florida State: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

No. 4 Duke outlasts No. 24 Florida State

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Duke used a late push to outlast No. 24 Florida State on Saturday afternoon as the No. 4 Blue Devils raced to a 100-93 ACC home. Despite battling foul trouble, cold perimeter shooting and an inconsistent defensive effort, Duke made enough plays down the stretch to finish off the pesky Seminoles.

Freshman big man Marvin Bagley III had a ridiculous outing with 32 points and 21 rebounds to pace the Blue Devils while freshman point guard Trevon Duval (16 points) made a lot of key plays on both ends of the floor to close out the game.

1. Duke’s offense can still put up ridiculous numbers despite cold shooting

Duke put up 100 points against a top-20 defense while only shooting 8-for-30 from three-point range.

The Blue Devils never seemed to get comfortable from beyond the arc on Saturday. We’ve seen stretches this season where Duke goes cold from three-point range. You also have to factor that the Blue Devils had only played one game since Dec. 9 and rust might have been at play.

But despite the cold shooting, Duke’s offense still got rolling and looked unstoppable at times. Offensive rebounding was the huge key for Duke’s sustained offensive success on Saturday. Bagley (11 offensive rebounds) and fellow freshman Wendell Carter Jr. (seven offensive rebounds) seemingly cleaned up every Duke miss as the Blue Devils had 23 offensive rebounds.

Considering that the Seminoles have a lot of depth while Duke is mostly trotting out the same five players and that sustained effort on the glass from the Blue Devils is very impressive.

If Duke is making perimeter looks, good luck stopping this team. But even if they’re not finding consistent success with the deep ball, this offense still has many other ways to beat you. It’s part of the reason Duke has the highest ceiling of any team in the country.

2. Duke’s defense is still a work-in-progress

One of the major developments to track for Duke this season has been its inconsistent defense. Saturday saw more ups and downs from the Blue Devils as this team is still trying to find its defensive identity.

Giving up 93 points to the Seminoles is a bit of an eye-opener. But this game was also played at a very fast pace with players like Phil Cofer (28 points) and Braian Angola (23 points) getting red-hot during certain stretches to carry the Florida State offense.

Duke’s defense still looked shaky at times — especially contesting perimeter jumpers from hot shooters — but they put together a strong final few minutes to secure this win. Florida State missed its final six shots to end the contest as the Blue Devil defense came through when it mattered most. Four starters were playing with four fouls for Duke but that didn’t seem to compromise much of the group’s intensity during the final stretch. Carter did a nice job of taking a key late charge and a rejuvenated Duval seemed to be flying all over the perimeter.

The Blue Devils still have issues with good perimeter shooting and teams who can take either Bagley or Carter away from the basket. But as long as Duke can defend in stretches like they did to close on Saturday, their offense can generally take care of the rest.

3. Just how good is Florida State?

We know Florida State is pretty good. At least we think they’re pretty good. The Seminoles were one of the final teams to remain unbeaten this season and they own an impressive road win at Florida. That’s also easily the most impressive win that Florida State has at this point.  A road win at Rutgers is arguably Florida State’s second best win. They have recent losses to Oklahoma State and now to the Blue Devils.

So how good is Florida State? It’s seriously very hard to answer that question at this point in the season. We can likely pencil this group into the NCAA tournament, for now, but where do the Seminoles rank in the ACC pecking order? Going toe-to-toe with Duke on the road is encouraging but Florida State also hasn’t done a whole lot yet when it comes to quality wins.

Cofer finished with a career-high 28 points on Saturday, as he has elevated his play to another level over the last several weeks. Angola is also capable of taking over a game on the offensive end if he gets rolling with the jumper. And although Terance Mann only attempted six field goals against Duke (a staggeringly low number for a team’s leading scorer against a top-five opponent) he’s also a noted offensive presence who was shooting over 63 percent from the floor entering Saturday’s game.

Florida State has weapons. They have depth. They have athleticism. Now comes the time when the Seminoles need to start winning games against quality competition. The next stretch will be key for Florida State. The Seminoles now get a chance to face North Carolina and Miami the next two games — two top-15 teams. Florida State needs to win one of those games to stay in the ACC race, otherwise they risk starting league play at 0-3 and putting themselves in a major hole.

Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac declares for 2017 NBA Draft

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Florida State freshman forward Jonathan Isaac has declared for the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10 Isaac was a five-star prospect out of high school as he averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. One of the most versatile defenders in the country, Isaac could protect the rim (1.5 blocks per game) and also switch out to the perimeter and cover smaller wings as well (1.2 steals per game). Also showing a solid skill level, Isaac shot 50 percent from the field, 34 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line.

That kind of versatility is what Isaac is banking on in the NBA Draft as he’s expected to be a top-15 pick. If Isaac can prove that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter then teams could be intrigued by him as a matchup nightmare in the front court.