Bubblicious weekend for Hokies, Huskies, Wildcats and Spartans

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Ahead of a huge college hoops weekend, our bubble looks much the same, with a few exceptions.  Chances are we’ll be moving a few teams up and off the bubble by Sunday night.  Others may be leaving the at-large picture. 

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.

UPDATED: Friday, February 25

Automatic Bids (31): None decided | Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (18): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Some of these projected locks may become automatic qualifiers should they win their conference tournament.
  • Should Be In (10): While not yet locks, these are teams in good position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (34): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates, or those whose profiles are not yet complete enough to be considered as Should Be In as of the this update.
  • Spots available (14): Number of available openings for the bracket based on spots reserved for automatic qualifiers, projected locks, and teams projected as Should Be In at this update.
  • Leaving the Bubble: None
  • Joining the Bubble: Colorado
  • Below is a conference breakdown of the bubble picture
Atlantic 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Temple, Xavier | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (21-7 | 10-3) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 130 | – Not much has changed for the Spiders. Their win over St. Bonaventure at home holds them steady. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and wins at Dayton and over VCU are okay, too. Richmond can’t afford a loss at Charlotte or St. Joseph’s before a final home date with Duquesne. It may still take a run to the A-10 tournament final depending on what happens around them.
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (16-11 | 6-7) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 16 | – BC has lost 6 of 8 to fall under .500 in ACC play – not an acceptable position given their 1-5 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams. The Eagles aren’t dead, but the loss at home to Miami on Wednesday adds a lot of pressure to their last three games – at Virginia, at Virginia Tech, and home to Wake. Another loss would put BC in a deep hole entering the ACC Tournament. The early non-conference win over Texas AM is nice, but that’s the only notable moment outside the ACC.
  • Clemson (18-9 | 7-6) | RPI:65| SOS: 85 | – The win at Miami-FL keeps Clemson on the bubble ahead of a must-win vs. Wake Forest. Then it’s off to Duke before a home date with Virginia Tech. The Tigers have to beat both the Deacons and Hokies. The game at Duke is the Tigers’ last chance to post a marquis win, but winning that one doesn’t seem likely. Other than a home win over Florida State, the resume is very average. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina.
  • Florida State (19-8 | 9-4) | RPI: 52 | SOS: 100 | – Overall, Florida State is in decent position, but with an injury to Chris Singleton, questions remain. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 227), could still spell trouble if FSU stumbles down the stretch. The Seminoles are just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams, but they do have a win over Duke. They also beat Baylor in Hawaii, but that hasn’t proven as beneficial thanks to Baylor’s struggles. Finishing third in the ACC standings will likely be enough. At this point, that still looks promising. Seeding on the other hand is taking a hit. FSU seems destined to be in the 8 to 10 range.
  • Virginia Tech (18-8 | 8-5) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 111 | – The win at Wake on Tuesday was window dressing for a closing three-game stretch that will make or break the Hokies. It starts with a visit from Duke this weekend. BC arrives after that ahead of a trip to Clemson. Both have their own spots on the bubble. Being swept by Virginia could still prove problematic for the Hokies – who are one of the last few teams “in” Friday’s bracket. Va. Tech is clinging to a wins over Florida State, Penn State, and a sweep of Maryland as its best assets. If that seems concerning, it is.
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s | Should Be In: West Virginia | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette
  • Cincinnati (22-6 | 9-6) | RPI: 35 | SOS: 87 | – The win at Georgetown gave UC’s profile a huge boost. It also guarantees the Bearcats at least a 9-9 finish in the Big East. It was also UC’s fourth Top 50 RPI win (Xavier, St. John’s, Louisville, G’town). While the albatross of a horrible non-conference schedule (No. 281) still lingers, the Bearcats have done enough within the Big East to lessen its impact. One more win may be enough for UC to secure a spot. The only real danger at this point is a free fall that would include a first-round exit in New York.
  • Marquette (17-11 | 8-7) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 27 | – Just like Cincy, Marquette got its marquis road victory by winning at Connecticut on Thursday. The victory ended a season full of close road losses. The Golden Eagles are 4-10 vs. Top 25 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. Now, it’s important that Marquette doesn’t lose ground. Up next is a home date with Providence, followed by Cincinnati. MU closes at Seton Hall. The Eagles may still need to win two of those games to feel confident heading to the Big East Tournament in New York. At the same time, an overall weak bubble is helping the Golden Eagles’ cause.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (17-11 | 7-8) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 11 | – Not that Illinois should have won at Michigan State or Ohio State, but getting one would have really helped. With a trip to Purdue still on the docket, it’ll be critical for the Illini to win remaining home games against Iowa and Indiana. Losing either of those would be problematic. Finishing 9-9 in the Big 10 might be enough without a bad loss in the Big 10 tournament, but the Illini won’t be comfortable on Selection Sunday. Adding a win over Purdue would make it a lot easier down the stretch. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. The losses at Indiana and UIC are sore points.
  • Michigan State (15-11 | 8-7) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 5 | The Spartans have won 3 of 4 and seem to be regaining a bit of momentum. The win at Minnesota was especially important for a team that’s seeking a new identity since the dismissal of Korie Lucious. Michigan State is 5-8 vs. Top 50 teams, which is helping. Can MSU get to 10 league wins? That might be what it takes to feel safe. Up next is a visit from Purdue, followed by Iowa. MSU closes at Michigan.
  • Michigan (16-12 | 7-9) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 21 | While there’s not a lot to love about the Wolverine’s profile (2-9 vs. Top 50 teams), they have won 6 of 9 and were a last-second banked-in three pointer at the buzzer from beating Wisconsin. Of course, close only counts so much, and Michigan needs another quality win or two. That starts with a trip to Minnesota on Saturday before a home date with Michigan State. The Wolverines probably need both. A really week bubble continues to help. Much like Marquette, Michigan has several close losses and a solid strength of schedule.
  • Minnesota (17-10 | 6-9) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 32 | The Gophers’ have lost 6 of 7 since the injury to Al Nolan and without his return Minnesota is on the verge of elimination. The Selection Committee has to evaluate the current squad, and the results aren’t favorable. Up next is home date with Michigan, followed by a trip to Northwestern. Then it’s back home to Penn State. The Gophers probably need to win all three unless they play to make a long run at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
  • Penn State (15-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 6 | Surprisingly, Penn State gained a lot of bubble ground with its win at Northwestern. For one, it was the Lions’ second road win. It also moved them back to .500 in league play. Penn State has four solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota). That’s a lot more than several other teams at the cutline. The flip side is that PSU was swept by Michigan and is still just 2-8 in road games. Up next is a visit from Ohio State, followed by a trip to Minnesota. A split would keep PSU in the conversation heading to the Big 10 Tournament.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM | Bubble: Kansas State, Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (16-10 | 6-7) | RPI: 83 | SOS: 65 | – The Bears fell back on the wrong side of the bubble after losing at home to Texas Tech. They followed it up with a lopsided loss at Missouri. With a 1-4 mark vs. Top 50 teams and just 4 Top 100 victories, Baylor has some serious issues with its resume. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 209. This team is talented enough to make a run, and that’s what it’s going to take. It starts with a home game vs. Texas Am. Then it’s off to Oklahoma State and home to Texas. It might take all three, plus a win in the Big 12 Tournament to make and stay in the Field of 68.
  • Kansas State (18-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 28 | SOS: 7 | – Winning three straight has actually put the Wildcats in decent shape. Obviously, the win over Kansas was a life-saver, but the win at Nebraska was important, too. Next up is a home game with Missouri followed by a trip to Texas. K-State is still just 1-6 vs. Top 10 teams, but has 8 Top 100 wins. A good strength of schedule also helps. A potential downside is that K-State was swept by Colorado – we’ll see if that comes into play – should the Buffaloes make a late charge. Winning 2 of 3 to close would put the Wildcats in good shape heading to post-season play.
  • Colorado (16-11 | 6-7) | RPI: 85 | SOS: 81 | – Sure, the power numbers – particularly the Buffaloes RPI – are weak. But we have to consider Colorado because they have four quality wins – including a sweep of Kansas State. Outside the Big 12, a non-conference SOS ranked No. 323 is major stumbling block. It’ll take a strong finish to overcome such a meaningless pre-conference slate. It starts with a home game against Texas on Saturday, followed by a trip to Iowa State. The season-ender is at home vs. Nebraska. Getting to 9-7 would keep the Buffaloes in the at-large discussion.
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (17-9 | 8-5) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 36 | – The Rams are running out of chances after falling at BYU on Wednesday. CSU’s best wins are UNLV and Southern Miss. It’ll probably take a win at San Diego State on March 5 to stay in the at-large picture – assuming the Rams avoid an upset at the hands of Air Force or Utah. CSU is 2-5 vs. the Top 50 and 4-7 vs. the Top 100. Early losses to Sam Houston and Hampton wont’ help.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Arizona | Bubble: Washington, Washington State, UCLA
  • Washington (18-8 | 10-5) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 64 | – The Huskies would feel alot more secure had they swept Arizona, but a one-point loss in Tucson is nothing to worry about. What’s important is winning out. Washington closes with three at home (Wash St. UCLA, USC). Win all three and the Huskies should be plenty safe on Selection Sunday. Drop more than one and it could be a very nervous week during the Pac-10 Tournament if they lose early.
  • Washington State (17-10 | 7-8) | RPI: 87 | SOS: 102 | – Being swept by Arizona and Arizona State knockes WSU to the very edge of bubble consideration. Overall, WSU is just 1-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 5-7 vs. Top 100 teams. Next up is a trip to Washington – now a must-win for the Cougars if they want to remain in the at-large picture. In reality, the Cougars need to win their remaining three Pac-10 games. Odds are not looking good.
  • UCLA (20-8 | 11-4) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 50 | – Having won 7 of 8, the Bruins are good position with a second-place standing in the Pac-10. They can tie Arizona with a win Saturday at Pauley Pavillion. Victories over St. John’s and BYU are solid, although UCLA is still light on quality wins (2-4 vs. Top 50 teams). RPI and SOS numbers are good, but not outstanding. The Bruins’ only real blemish is an early defeat to Montana. After Arizona, the Washington schools come to LA. Winning 2 of 3 down the stretch should be enough.
Locks: Florida | Should Be In: Kentucky,Vanderbilt, Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (18-9 | 7-6) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 30 | – The Bulldogs’ win at Tennessee was huge because it moved them up the SEC East standings and added another Top 50 win to a resume in need of quality wins. After leading at halftime, Georgia couldn’t close the deal at Florida. Not a big deal, although the Bulldogs would feel better with a few more wins. South Carolina and LSU visit next. It would be best if the Bulldogs avoided an upset. The finale is at Alabama. Winning out would be Georgia in good position before the SEC Tournament.
  • Alabama (19-8 | 11-2) | RPI: 78 | SOS: 139 | – How much wiggle room Alabama has depends largely on how the Committee views a dominant performance in the SEC West. The Tide’s closing games are at Ole Miss, at Florida and home to Georgia. Winning two of those would be a a good idea. Whether the Committee will overlook the Tide’s poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish. If they close out the SEC West by multiple games and win a couple of games in the SEC tournament, odds of an at-large bid should be pretty good.
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: NONE | Bubble: Butler, Cleveland State, Missouri State, Wichita State, Old Dominion, George Mason, VCU, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (19-9 | 12-5) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 80 | – Butler has won 6 straight and could still earn the Horizon League’s top seed if Milwaukee loses this weekend and the Bulldogs handle Loyola. Not that a title would bump the Bulldogs into the bracket, but it would mean home games in the conference tournament. A win over Florida State in Hawaii could still help, but the victory over Washington State is fading some. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – that’s holding Butler back. Getting to the Horizon League final would probably put BU right on the cutline.
  • Cleveland State (21-7 | 12-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 107 | – With a home loss to Milwaukee Thursday it’s down to this. Win their last game and reach the Horizon League Tournament final. Anything less ends the Vikings’ hopes.
  • Missouri State (22-7 | 14-3) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 138 | – The game with Wichita State on Saturday is huge. Beating the Shockers a second time would give Missouri State an outright MVC title and keep the chance for at-large bid alive. The Bears’ best non-conference win is Pacific. With only 1 Top 100 RPI victory (Wichita St), there just isn’t enough heft on the Bears’ resume to compete with other bubble teams.
  • Wichita State (22-6 | 14-3) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 108 | – The Shockers have to win at Missouri State this weekend and try to capture the MVC title. That’s all that’s keeping the Shockers on the bubble. After that, it’ll take a visit to the MVC conference tourney final to stick around. WSU is only 1-4 vs. the Top 100 and their best win is Tulsa.
  • Memphis (21-7 | 9-4) | RPI: 32 | SOS: 40 | – Having swept Southern Miss and UAB, the Tigers have the inside track to a No. 1 seed in the Conference USA Tournament. Memphis also has a road win at Gonzaga that’s starting to look better again. A recent loss to Rice is cause for concern, however, as The Tigers’ were blown out in their prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. Memphis needs to win out and capture the regular-season C-USA title. Hard to see all three Memphis, UAB, and Southern Miss staying the bracket. The conference tournament might decide who goes and who stays.
  • UAB (19-7 | 9-4) | RPI: 34 | SOS: 52 | – Despite being tied atop Conference USA, the Blazers would fall behind Memphis in the at-large pecking order (swept by Memphis this season). The only solution to that is winning an outright C-USA title. The process includes road trips to Houston and Southern Miss. As the Blazers have lost to So. Miss once, another loss would eliminate them from any realistic at-large consideration. UAB is 0-5 vs. Top 50 teams but 7-6 vs. the Top 100. Their only bad loss is at Arizona State in November – so that’s somewhat a plus. UAB is right on the cutline.
  • Southern Mississippi (18-6 | 9-4) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 99 | – The Eagles have won 6 of 7 to climb into a three-way tie atop Conference USA. Finding a way to win the outright C-USA title would be USM’s best hope. The Eagles have a win at California and did win at UAB. After a trip to Central Florida, the Eagles host UAB in what could be a C-USA elimination game. USM is still just 1-3 vs. Top 50 teams – although 6-5 vs. the Top 100. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 240. So. Miss, a lot like UAB and Memphis, sits right on the cutline. All three won’t be staying. Time to see who survives.
  • Old Dominion (23-6 | 13-4) | RPI: 26 | SOS: 57 | – ODU finishes with a home game vs. William and Mary. Avoid a major upset and the Monarchs will be moving off the bubble. Things are looking good.
  • VCU (21-9 | 12-5) | RPI: 58 | SOS: 115 | – The Rams need to beat James Madison at home on Saturday in preparation for the Colonial Tournament. Good wins over Old Dominion, UCLA, and Wichita State are helping. There is an ugly loss at Georgia State, plus losses to Northeastern and South Florida. Overall, VCU is 3-4 vs. the Top 50 and 6-6 vs. the Top 100. Making the CAA semifinals might bring the Rams close. Beating ODU or George Mason in the tourney would be ideal.
  • George Mason (23-5 | 14-2) | RPI: 21 | SOS: 65 | – Avoiding a horrible loss at Georgia State on Saturday locks up a two-game margin in the CAA. Given the Patriots’ overall profile, that should be enough to move them into the Field.
  • Gonzaga (19-9 | 10-3) | RPI: 63 | SOS: 79 | – Gonzaga has won 7 of 8 and moved above the immediate cutline after winning at St. Mary’s in OT on Thursday. The ‘Zags also have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor. The Zags’ home loss to Memphis could still hamper the Bulldogs’ at-large chances, but a strong non-conference strength of schedule bodes well. A 1-5 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is still troubling but a 7-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps.
  • St. Mary’s (20-7 | 10-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 121 | – The Gaels are a perfect examply of why we don’t rush to move teams off the bubble. St. Mary’s has lost three straight and could lose the WCC title chase if they don’t rebound vs. Portland on Saturday. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. But the rest of the resume is light (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-6 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would currently fall behind Gonzaga.
  • Utah State (24-3 | 12-1) | RPI: 18 | SOS: 109 | – Huge win for the Aggies at St. Mary’s. It gave USU a legitimate Top 100 RPI win and would likely push the Aggies ahead of St. Mary’s in the at-large pecking order. Even so, we can’t say USU has locked up an at-large yet. They need to win their last three WAC games and complete a dominant league run. Then, avoid an early flameout in the league tournament.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.