Checking up on the bubble

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West Virginia 72, No. 8 Notre Dame 58: West Virginia was on the right side of the bubble coming into today, but knocking off the Irish helps solidify their standing and gives the ‘Eers some room for error down the stretch. West Virginia is now 8-6 in the Big East, but three of their last four games come against ranked teams. As long as WVU avoids a slip-up against suddenly scrappy Rutgers, they will get to .500 in the league, which should be enough to earn a bid.

As for Notre Dame, their road struggles continue. They are now 3-5 in true road games, with all five of their losses coming by at least double digits. The wins came at South Florida, DePaul, and Pitt, a team that Mike Brey has discovered the secret to beating. The Irish have done enough that they should still end up being a top four seed, but this won’t help quiet the doubters saying the Irish are going to be overseeded.

Michigan State 61, Illinois 57: This was a huge win for Michigan State. They came in losers of six of their last eight games, but they looked like a different team in their last two games. Illinois has been struggling as well, so the magnitude of this win isn’t what you would normally expect from a matchup of these two programs in February, but it is important nonetheless. The Spartans simply need wins at this point. The real test will come next week at Minnesota and against Purdue.

For Illinois, the loss is just as important. Like Michigan State, Illinois simply needs to start stockpiling wins. They have lost seven of their last 11 now, and are now 17-10 on the season and 7-7 in the Big Ten. Making matters worse, they have now lost five of their last six on the road. The struggles of both the Illini and the Spartans have been will publicized. Michigan State looks like they are on the right track in terms of turning it around. Illinois? They better show up ready to play when they travel to Ohio State and Purdue.

No. 25 Utah State 75, St. Mary’s 65: This game was essentially dubbed the play-out game. With the win, Utah State finally has beaten a top 90 team, but one win over a WCC opponent is not generally enough to earn an at-large bid. The Aggies are probably in precarious enough position that it would behoove them to win the WAC Tournament. As far as St. Mary’s is concerned, the Gaels have now lost two straight games, including at San Diego, who is a sub-300 team in the RPI. The Gaels have a bit of a stronger resume than Utah State does, so they can better absorb the loss, but this is still a dangerous spot for them to be in. The game against Gonzaga next week is now the most important game of their entire season. It also doubles as a chance for the Gaels to win the WCC outright.

No. 19 UNC 48, BC 46: It was an ugly game, but BC’s defense sparked a late run that got them the ball with a chance to win. Unfortunately, Reggie Jackson’s three rimmed out, and while this loss won’t be a knock on BC’s resume, it certainly is a missed opportunity. The Eagles are firmly on the bubble, as there is that much on their resume beyond wins over Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. A road win against a top 25 team could have pushed them over the hump.

Georgia 69, Tennessee 63: The Bulldogs picked up a huge win on Saturday, going into Thompson-Boling Arena and knocking off the Vols. Georgia was in a dangerous spot if they lost this game. They had blown a couple of chances late in games earlier in the season, and with road trips left against Florida and Alabama, there was a distinct possibility that the Bulldogs could finish the season at .500 in SEC play. Georgia still has work to do, but they can feel much better about their chances for dancing with this win.

UNLV 68, Colorado State 61: This might have been the biggest bubble game of the day. UNLV desperately needed this win. Coming in they had five losses in the MWC, with all five coming to BYU, SDSU, and Colorado State. There was no chance that they could get swept by the top three teams in the conference and still earn an NCAA bid. They still have plenty of work left to do even with this win, however. A win over SDSU or BYU in the MWC Tournament would be a good way to start. For Colorado State, this loss all but guarantees that the Rams will miss the NCAA Tournament if they cannot knock off SDSU or BYU. The good news? The Rams get another shot at both during the regular season.

Virginia 61, Virginia Tech 54: Big loss for the Hokies, who have now been swept by the ‘Hoos. Tech has had a couple of bad road losses this year, losing to Georgia Tech and BC in addition to UVa, but they are also 17-8 on the year and, including this loss, have won 13 of their last 17 games. VT is also undefeated at home in ACC play, and if they can pull off an upset of Duke in Blacksburg next week, the Hokies will be fine.

Alabama 69, Arkansas 56: The Crimson Tide has plenty of wins like this. If ‘Bama truly wants to be considered a serious at-large candidate, they need to beat a couple of teams from the SEC East while cleaning up against their divisional opponents. Their early losses have put them in a huge hole in terms of their RPI, but a strong finish can erase those memories.

Texas Tech 78, Baylor 69: Baylor is in big time trouble. They’ve now lost to Texas Tech at home and Oklahoma in league play, they have no quality wins outside Texas A&M, and they are at .500 in league play. The good news? They play Missouri, Texas A&M, and Texas down the stretch, so there are opportunities to play their way in.

Nebraska 70, No. 3 Texas 67: We’ve already discussed what this loss means for the ‘Horns, but it was also significant for the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is now the Cincinnati of the Big 12. They have a nice record, they have no bad losses, but they didn’t have a marquee win until today. Expect Nebraska to break into some bubble watches this week.

Gonzaga 70, San Francisco 53: The Zags are probably still on the wrong side of the bubble, but this was still an important win. They move a game in front of the Dons for second place in the WCC, and with a game next week against St. Mary’s, there is still a chance for them to win a share of the WCC regular season title.

No. 17 Texas A&M 67, Oklahoma State 66: The Cowboys have their backs against the wall, to the point that they can barely be considered on the bubble after this loss. That changes if they can win at Kansas on Monday, then win out in the Big 12. That only gets them to .500 in league play, however.

Rice 67, Memphis 52: The Tigers are all but out of the at-large conversation at this point, even if they can win the C-USA regular season title.

George Mason 77, Northern Iowa 71: This is another nice win for the hottest team in the country. They still cannot afford another conference loss simply because the rest of their opponents are not very good, but this team is getting very close to being an at-large lock.

Cincinnati 93, Providence 81 OT: The Bearcats are not winning pretty — they blew a 16 point second half lead today — but a win is a win. Cincy gets Georgetown twice, UConn, and Marquette in their last four games. They would be smart to win two of those games.

Marquette 73, Seton Hall 64: The Golden Eagles are now back to .500 in league play, but they are still in big trouble. With the number of close losses to good teams that Marquette has racked up, they are still alive. But they probably need to win three of their last four games, including getting a win at UConn.

Butler 79, Illinois-Chicago 52: Believe it or not, the Bulldogs are still on the bubble. This is a long way from what you would call a resume win, but its a win that Butler had to have.

Florida State 84, Wake Forest 66: The Seminoles should win this game without Chris Singleton, but the impressive offensive numbers? Much of that was the result of garbage time.

Kansas State 77, Oklahoma 62: The Wildcats weren’t as impressive as they were in their win over Kansas, but this is a game they absolutely couldn’t afford to lose.

Missouri Valley: Missouri State was crushed by Valpo. Wichita State lost at home to VCU. Indiana State lost at home to Morehead State. Northern Iowa blew an early lead to George Mason at home. This is a one bid league, folks.

Dayton 64, Duquesne 63: The Dukes were a long shot to get an at-large bid as it is, and losing this game — which knocks them two games off the A-10 pace — ends that hope.

UAB 63, UCF 58: UAB actually has a top 40 RPI. They don’t have — and won’t get — any great wins this season, but if they win out they will have a chance at earning a bid.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

New Mexico State suspends player after shooting

Nathan J. Fish/Sun News/USA TODAY NETWORK
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State’s athletic director says power forward Mike Peake has been suspended indefinitely from the team in connection with last month’s fatal shooting of a student from a rival university.

That game was canceled along with the Dec. 3 rematch in Las Cruces.

Mario Moccia also told reporters that neither he nor the school could comment on Peake’s enrollment status as a student. The 21-year-old Peake has not been charged in the Nov. 19 pre-dawn shooting on the University of New Mexico’s campus in Albuquerque hours before the host Lobos were to play the Aggies.

“Mike is suspended from our basketball team until the completion of the university’s investigation and the investigation of the proper authorities,” Moccia said. “When those investigations will be complete, I can’t say.”

State police investigators said 19-year-old Brandon Travis conspired with two other UNM students and a teenage girl to lure Peake onto campus.

The subsequent shootout left Travis dead at the scene and Peake hospitalized with a leg wound that has required several surgeries.

A brawl at an Oct. 15 UNM-NMSU football game in Las Cruces was a precursor to the shooting, police said.

First-year NMSU men’s basketball coach Greg Heiar was not made available to talk to media until 10 days after the shooting.

He expressed his condolences for Travis and his family and said he took full responsibility for the actions of multiple players who sneaked out of the hotel on that morning of the game.

But NMSU officials had not spoken publicly about any specific discipline for Peake related to the shooting.

“If there is criticism over this decision, I am in a position to take it on myself,” Moccia said. “I’ve known this player for years and I know what kind of person he is. I didn’t feel a need to rush to judgment. I wanted to give the investigation time to play out before making any decisions.”

Peake, a 6-foot-7 junior from Chicago, played one season at Georgia before transferring to Austin Peay. He joined New Mexico State in 2021 and averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds last season, helping the Aggies reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No. 18 Gonzaga withstands scare from Kent State for 73-66 win

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SPOKANE, Wash. – Drew Timme scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and No. 18 Gonzaga closed the game on an 11-0 run to rally past Kent State 73-66 on Monday night.

The nation’s longest home win streak was extended to 69 games but not without a major scare by the Golden Flashes. Kent State led 66-62 with 3:38 left after Miryne Thomas’ 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs tightened on the defensive end and got a handful of big plays offensively to hold off the Flashes.

Julian Strawther added 14 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:19 left that started Gonzaga’s decisive run. Timme’s spinning basket in the lane with 2:29 left gave Gonzaga (6-3) the lead, and he added a key defensive play blocking Sincere Carry’s layup attempt at the other end.

Timme was fouled and split free throws with 1:55 left, but Malachi Smith grabbed the offensive rebound and his three-point play gave the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead. It was Smith’s first basket of the game.

“(Timme) was heroic. He wasn’t really looking for the ball much early and wasn’t demanding it . he was splitting the defense and scoring in a variety of ways like he does,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “To end up with 17 boards is monster and we needed every one of them.”

Nolan Hickman added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs, who held a 43-30 advantage on the boards. It was just the second home game inside the McCarthey Athletic Center for Gonzaga and first since Nov. 7 against North Florida.

Thomas led Kent State (6-3) with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Malique Jacobs added 11 points and Carry, who was averaging 18.5 points per game, was held to 10.

“I think in the second half we moved the ball well, we got some turnovers, got some easy shots and was able to give us a lead playing a great team and great program. . Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it off. Give them a lot of credit for that,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said.

Kent State nearly pulled off a surprising upset on the road for the second time in two weeks but couldn’t withstand Gonzaga’s late surge. Kent State led No. 1 Houston by one-point with less than a minute to go nine days ago in Houston but couldn’t make the plays in the closing seconds to finish off the upset in a 49-44 loss.

“Coach Few has told us all week that this is a great team that could go to the Sweet 16. . We knew what they were capable of and we weren’t taking them lightly and we knew it was going to be a dog fight,” Strawther said.

JERSEY RETIRED

Kelly Olynyk’s No. 13 jersey number was retired in front of a sellout crowd. Olynyk played for Gonzaga from 2009-13 and led the Bulldogs to its first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while earning first team AP All-American status as a senior.

“You’re almost speechless,” Olynyk said. “It’s just such an honor, especially with the names that you’re up beside. They’re unbelievable players.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Golden Flashes lost their third game of the season and their second against a ranked opponent. Kent State has three non-conference games left before beginning Mid-American Conference play at home against Western Michigan.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from a one-point loss to No. 12 Baylor last week with the win. All three of Gonzaga’s losses are to teams ranked in the top 12 of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT:

Kent State: At Cleveland State on Saturday.

Gonzaga: Host in-state rival Washington on Friday.

Preseason No. 1 North Carolina drops out of AP Top 25

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston and Texas remain firmly entrenched atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, while preseason No. 1 North Carolina has dropped out entirely after a fourth straight loss.

The Cougars earned 37 of 62 first-place votes in the poll, extending the program’s first stay at No. 1 since the “Phi Slama Jama” days in the 1980s for another week. Houston (8-0) beat Norfolk State and Saint Mary’s in its first week at the top.

“I don’t dwell on it,” coach Kelvin Sampson said last week about the No. 1 ranking. “We’re not running around here pushing our chest out, thinking we’re something we’re not.”

The Longhorns received 14 first-place votes. No. 3 Virginia got three votes and No. 4 Purdue got the remaining eight.

Connecticut (9-0) climbed to No. 5, the program’s highest ranking since early in the 2011-12 season. Other than the top five, there are three other teams in the AP Top 25 that entered Monday undefeated (No. 11 Auburn, No. 13 Maryland and No. 23 Mississippi State).

SWIFT FALL

North Carolina is only the sixth team to go from preseason No. 1 to unranked since at least the 1961-62 season, most recently with Michigan State during the 2019-20 season.

Of that group, the Tar Heels had the swiftest exit from the poll to start the season (four weeks) excet for UCLA in 1965-66. The Bruins fell out of the poll after just three weeks back when only 10 teams were ranked.

Ranked No. 18 last week, the Tar Heels (5-4) l ost their fourth straight game over the weekend at Virginia Tech while playing without banged-up big man Armando Bacot. They appeared on a single ballot this week from the 62-member panel that votes on the AP Top 25.

“I told them also that I’m not panicked, I’m not any of that,” coach Hubert Davis said afterward. “I’m convinced we’re going to be a great basketball team by the end of the season.”

Last year’s Tar Heels were on the bubble to even make the NCAA Tournament well into February in Davis’ debut season. They went on a final-month tear all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Kansas.

THE TOP TIER

Kansas climbed to No. 6, followed by three Southeastern Conference teams in Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. For the Volunteers and Crimson Tide, it marked their first appearances inside the top 10 this year. Arizona rounded out the top 10, falling six spots after a loss at Utah.

RISING

No. 13 Maryland had the biggest jump of the week, vaulting nine spots after wins against Louisville and Illinois last week in the Terrapins’ first year under Kevin Willard. That marks the program’s highest ranking since pushing into the top 10 during the 2019-20 season.

Tennessee was next up with a six-spot climb, while No. 11 Auburn rose four spots.

In all, 13 teams climbed from last week.

SLIDING

Creighton had the week’s biggest fall, tumbling 14 spots to No. 21 after losing at Texas and at home to Nebraska last week.

No. 12 Baylor fell six spots after a loss to Marquette, though the Bears responded by beating Gonzaga on Friday in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA championship game won by Baylor.

The Zags, now No. 18, fell four spots to their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 20 on Christmas Day in 2017.

In all, four teams slid from last week.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top three, No. 25 Ohio State remained in place after a tough loss at No. 15 Duke last week.

WELCOME

No. 23 Mississippi State and No. 24 TCU were the new additions to the poll, with the Bulldogs (8-0) earning their first AP Top 25 ranking under first-year coach Chris Jans since January 2019.

The Horned Frogs were ranked 14th and 15th, respectively, in the first two polls before falling out for two weeks.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

In addition to UNC, Michigan State (No. 20) fell out after losses to Notre Dame and Northwestern.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The SEC led the way with six ranked teams, including No. 16 Kentucky. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had five ranked teams, followed by two each for the Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big East conferences.

The American Athletic, West Coast and Mountain West conferences each had one.

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer tops women’s AP Top 25 appearances

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer stands atop The Associated Press women’s basketball poll with the most appearances all time, breaking a tie with the late Pat Summitt.

VanDerveer’s Cardinal remained No. 2 behind top-ranked South Carolina, giving her 619 weeks with one of her teams in the AP Top 25: 592 weeks with Stanford and 27 with Ohio State when she was in charge of that program. Summitt’s 618 weeks in the poll all came with Tennessee.

The Hall of Fame coach downplayed the achievement.

“Fortunate to be here for 36 years. We have great players and have been successful,” VanDerveer said. “I don’t pay attention to (records). People bring it up and I’m like `OK, great.”‘

Louisville fell out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2016, a span of 127 weeks. That was the fifth longest active streak. The Cardinals (5-4) started the season ranked seventh and have struggled to find consistency this year, dropping their last two games to Ohio State and Middle Tennessee.

They are the third preseason top 10 team to fall out of the poll, joining Texas (this week) and Tennessee (last week). Before this year, only 10 preseason top 10 teams had fallen out of the rankings at some point during the year since the AP Top 25 became a writers’ poll in 1994-95.

Even more rare has been a preseason top five school dropping out. Only five teams had done that prior to this year and none before January. Tennessee was the last to do it, starting the 2015-16 season at No. 4 before falling out of the rankings Feb. 22.

Now Texas and Tennessee are both out before the New Year.

“Two factors are at play here. One of them is more parity with more good teams,” said Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star, ESPN analyst and Top 25 voter. “The other factor at play is the transfer portal. I think those three teams all have multiple players who start who weren’t in their program a year ago. It’s a reflection that you can’t just assemble teams and right away expect them to be good. I think all those teams will in the poll by the end of the season.”

Ohio State moved up to No. 3 after, the Buckeyes’ best ranking since Nov. 30, 2009, when they also were third. Indiana and Notre Dame round out the top five.

UConn fell three spots to sixth with Virginia Tech seventh, the best ranking ever for the school. North Carolina and N.C. State were tied in eighth and Iowa State is 10th.

RANKED RAZORBACKS

Arkansas (10-0) vaulted into the poll at No. 21. The Razorbacks have a difficult month ahead with games against No. 18 Creighton and a tournament in San Diego that has Oregon, South Florida and Ohio State.

“I do think we know a lot about our team,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said.

He was also happy his team made the poll as every sports team on campus that has played this year has been ranked, including football, men’s basketball, soccer and cross country.

“We didn’t want to be the team that stops that streak,” he said..

FALLING LOUISVILLE

The Cardinals had been ranked ever week since Jan. 11, 2016. That was the same season they started the year at No. 8 before falling out on Nov. 30, the earliest a top 10 team had fallen out of the poll until last week. Things got better for Louisville as the Cardinals finished that regular season 24-6 and went 15-1 in the ACC.

HISTORIC WEEK

With Louisville, Texas and Tennessee all out of the Top 25, it marks only the second time in the poll’s history that none of those three teams were ranked. The only other time was the first-ever poll in 1976.

COMING AND GOING

Oklahoma and Kansas State also returned to the Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 23 and No. 24. Marquette dropped out after losing to Seton Hall.

Northwestern beats No. 20 Michigan State in Big Ten opener

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Boo Buie scored 20 points and Northwestern beat No. 20 Michigan State 70-63 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Chase Audige added 15 points and Ty Berry had 13 for Northwestern (6-2), which ended a two-game losing streak.

“Needless to say, this was a huge win for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “Coming off our performance in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, where we lost badly on our home floor (to Pittsburgh), I was really pleased with our resolve the past couple days.”

Mady Sossoko and A.J. Hoggard each had 12 points for Michigan State (5-4) and Joey Hauser added 10. The Spartans have lost two in a row, falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week.

Hoggard cut Northwestern’s lead to 64-63 with 46 seconds left. After a timeout, Buie scored on a layup with 23 seconds left.

“We got out-toughed,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Northwestern took the lead late in the first half on a layup by Buie and never relinquished it, leading by as many as nine points.

“We put (the loss to Pittsburgh) under the rug,” Buie said. “We turned the page, just like we do with any win or loss. The season is so long you can’t get caught up on one single game. Just like tonight. We’re super happy with the win, but after tonight it’s over. You can’t dwell on things.”

The Wildcats went 21 of 24 on free throws, while the Spartans were 9 of 12.

“I was concerned about a knockout punch early,” Collins said. ‘I knew they would be revved up after the Notre Dame loss. They hit us early and got a seven-point lead, and then we settled down.”

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11

Michigan State: At Penn State on Wednesday night.