Memphis leaves Big Dance bubble; who’s still sweating?

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One day until Selection Sunday and we still have some unanswered questions.  Here’s the latest bubble update through 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, including Memphis’ thrilling comeback win over UTEP in the Conference USA title game.

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: Saturday, March 12 | 1:15 p.m. ET

Automatic Bids (14): UNC-Ashville (Big South), Morehead State (OVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Indiana State (MVC), Butler (Horizon), Wofford (Southern), Arkansas Little Rock (Sun Belt), Gonzaga (West Coast), Memphis (C-USA) Old Dominion (Colonial), Oakland (Summit), St. Peter’s (MAAC), Long Island (NEC), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Bucknell (Patriot)

Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (29): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (7): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (23): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (8): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Colorado State, Memphis, Washington State
  • Joining the Bubble: None
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through 1:00 p.m. ET on March 12.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (25-7 | 14-3) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 141 | – The Spiders closed with 10 wins in 12 games – their only losses to Xavier and Temple. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and a victory over VCU is looking better again. Because the Spiders suffered lopsided losses against Xavier and Temple in their regular-season meetings, do they need to beat one of them in the A-10 tournament? We’ll see. Today’s matchup with Temple could be huge.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: Florida State | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (20-12 | 10-8) | RPI:58 | SOS: 38 | – BC ended its season with a lopsided loss to Clemson. Highlights are an early win over Texas AM and a sweep of Virginia Tech. Lowlights are a 1-8 mark vs. Top 50 teams, plus a home loss to Yale. Eagles have 7 Top 100 wins, but four of those are VT and Maryland. It’s going to be a long wait until Sunday night.
  • Clemson (21-10 | 10-7) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 72 | – The Tigers rolled over BC Friday and into the ACC semis. The victory also gave Clemson a sweep of Boston College – for what it’s worth. The Tigers may still have work to do. Their best win is Florida State and they are 1-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams. Up next is North Carolina – the type of marquee win the Tigers lack. Outside the ACC, Clemson’s best win is Charleston. They do have 9 Top 100 wins, but that can sometimes be deceiving. Clemson has losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina to go along with hiccups against NC State and Virginia.
  • Virginia Tech (21-10 | 11-7) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 86 | – Beating Florida State Friday was a must. Now, the Hokies get another shot at Duke. Do they need it? Will be a close call. Beating the Blue Devils would probably secure it. The Hokies entered the ACC Tournament squarely on the cutline and continue to hover. Besides Duke, the Hokies beat Florida State twice, plus have a win over Penn State. Being swept by Boston College and losing their only game to Clemson are concerns. They were also swept by Virginia, lost at Georgia Tech, and are 4-6 in true road games. VT is 2-4 vs. the Top 50 and 8-7 vs. the Top 100.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s West Virginia, Cincinnati | Should Be In: Marquette | Bubble: None
 
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (19-13 | 9-10) | RPI: 46| SOS: 16 | – The Illini blew a lead on Michigan and bowed out in their first Big Ten tournament game. While the general feeling is the Illini will make it, their outlook would have been more solid with a second win over the Wolverines. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State. Down the stretch, however, Illinois went 5-7 in its last 12 games. Strong SOS numbers and 11 Top 100 wins are a plus. The loss at UIC is a major sore point – along with a loss at Indiana.
  • Michigan State (18-13 | 11-9) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 9 | The Spartans made a statement by pounding Purdue Friday night and certainly helped their case. Next is Penn State; the Lions may need one more to stay in the bracket. MSU is hoping its strong SOS will be rewarded; we’ve seen it in the past. The Spartans are just 5-12 vs. Top 50 teams, but 10-12 vs. the Top 100. They are 15-13 vs. the Top 200. MSU might be able to absorb a loss to PSU, but it’s hard to move the Spartans completely off the bubble. Maybe by tonight.
  • Michigan (19-12 | 10-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 17 | Michigan played well down the stretch and rallied to beat Illinois Friday afternoon in Indy. Thanks to Clemson’s surge, the Wolverines have 5 Top 50 wins at the moment and may very well have played themselves in. Next up is Ohio State. Find a way to beat the Buckeyes and any doubts will end. Outside the league, Michigan’s best win is at Clemson, although they did beat Harvard at home. In the Big 10, Michigan swept Michigan State and Penn State. Their only “bad” loss was at Indiana in early January.
  • Penn State (18-13 | 11-9) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 5 | The Nittany Lions staved off elimination by beating Indiana Thursday and then upset Wisconsin Friday night in a low-scoring game. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State) to go along with a second win over the Badgers. The Lions are a 3-8 on the road – which could still be a problem. Despite a solid SOS, PSU’s best non-conference victories are Fairfield and Duquesne. Will that be a factor? Plus, they lost at Virginia Tech. They are 4-9 vs. the Top 50 and 9-12 vs. the Top 100.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas AM, Missouri, Kansas State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado
  • Colorado (20-13 | 10-9) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 47 | – Beating Kansas State for a third time may be enough to push – and keep – Colorado in the Field of 68. But given their no-show in non-conference play (No. 323 SOS), we can’t take the Buffaloes off the bubble. CU lost to Georgia and New Mexico, along with three sub-100 RPI losses (San Francisco, Oklahoma, Iowa State). The big upside is an 8-10 mark vs. the Top 100 including a win over Texas.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State, UNLV | Should Be In: None | Bubble: New Mexico
  • New Mexico (20-12 | 9-8) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 77 | – The Lobos made a strong surge to close the season, but will probably fall a bit short after losing to BYU in the Mountain West semis. Yes, the Lobos beat BYU twice and Colorado outside the league, but UNM’s non-conference SOS (No. 255) is still a problem. UNM is 5-8 vs. the Top 100
PAC 10
Locks: Arizona | Should Be In: UCLA, Washington | Bubble: USC
  • USC (19-14 | 11-9) | RPI: 67 | SOS: 39 | – Credit the Trojans for making a late charge. USC piled up some solid wins (Texas early and at Tennessee included), but they also have 6 sub-100 RPI losses – including 3 sub-200 losses (TCU, Oregon State, Bradley). They were also swept by Oregon. Such a high number of bad losses – throughout the season – will probably keep USC a little short. How Selection Committee members view the information remains to be seen.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (21-12 | 10-8) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 40 | – Losing to Alabama a second time doesn’t help, but Georgia has one big advantage on other bubble teams – no bad RPI losses. Of their 11 losses, 9 came to teams ranked 35 or higher in the RPI. Outside the league, Georgia beat Colorado but lost to Xavier and Temple. Georgia isn’t safe, but their profile isn’t that much different than Marquette’s. If the Committee gives Marquette credit for “good” losses, they have to do the same for Georgia, right? The Bulldogs non-conference slate is slightly better, too.
  • Alabama (21-10 | 13-4) | RPI: 77 | SOS: 127 | – What will the Selection Commitee do with Alabama? That’s a big topic of debate. After rallying to beat Georgia a second time, Alabama has 13 SEC wins – including Kentucky and at Tennessee. Outside the SEC, Alabama’s profile is very questionable – and could be why the Tide still need another win over Kentucky to stay in the field. Their non-conference SOS ranks No. 283 and the Tide’s best non-league win is Lipscomb. They also have early losses to Iowa and Seton Hall.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason, Old Dominion | Bubble: Missouri State, Memphis, UAB, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Missouri State (25-8 | 17-4) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 125 | – Long wait coming up for the Bears who lost to Indiana State in the finals of the MVC tournament. With no Top 50 wins and just a 3-6 mark vs. the Top 100, Missouri State has to hope the Selection Committee values an outright MVC regular season title. Odds aren’t promising, given the current bubble situation.
  • UAB (22-7 | 12-5) | RPI: 30 | SOS: 79 | – UAB finished early than hoped after losing in the C-USA quarterfinals to East Carolina. The Blazers ended with a regular-season C-USA title, but an 0-4 mark vs. Top 50 teams. UAB did beat VCU and has a host of mid-level wins against league teams. Will that be enough with a 9-5 road record? Being swept by Memphis won’t help. Like Missouri State, the Blazers may come up just short.
  • VCU (23-11 | 14-7) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 86 | – VCU rallied to beat Drexel and then upset George Mason in the CAA tournament, but fell short in the title game with Old Dominion. The Rams have a neutral-court win over UCLA and also won at Wichita State in the BracketBuster. VCU is 3-5 vs. the Top 50 and 8-8 vs. the Top 100. A loss at UAB could come into play. Has VCU done enough? It could depend on how other bubble teams perform.
  • St. Mary’s (23-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 99 | – The Gaels lost to Gonzaga in the WCC title game and now have an anxious wait until Selection Sunday. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga in the regular season. The rest of the resume is light, however, (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 3-6 vs. the Top 100). A home loss to Utah State could also pose a problem. In an interesting note, SMC beat Weber State Friday to end its season.
  • Utah State (28-3 | 16-1) | RPI: 18 | SOS: 123 | – The Aggies thoroughly dominated the WAC and may very well have done enough. Still, with a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those being Long Beach State (No. 86) – we can’t assume USU is a lock. Only thing left for USU is beating Boise State in the WAC final – thus erasing any concerns.

“I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says after bump from official

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Tennessee 63-58 loss to Texas A&M wasn’t without some controversy.

In the final seconds of the game, official Mike Nance appeared to bump into Vols coach Rick Barnes, who was standing stationary on the sideline, and the two exchanged words.

“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they are going to look at that,” Barnes said after the game about the incident, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I believe they will look at this game and take it apart. I just think they will do that. That shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form. I would like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing.”

Nance was headed to the monitor to review a call when the bump occurred, and Nance appeared to ask Barnes if the coach initiated the contact.

“Coach (Bob) Knight told me a long time ago that in a game officials are going to miss seven to nine or 10, 11, 12 calls,” Barnes said. “He kept going up every year. He said, ‘You just hope things aren’t egregious at any point in time.'”

Coach K screams at Duke fans, defending Jeff Capel

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In one of the stranger things that we’ve seen in college basketball this season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went off on the Cameron Crazies for what he believed was a shot they were taking at former Duke player Jeff Capel.

The crazies were chanting, “Jeff Capel sit with us.” Coach K thought he heard something else.

Check out the video:

After the game, Coach K acknowledged that he misheard what the fans said, adding that he will apologize for the mishap.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “But I’d rather make a mistake for the protection of my guy.

“I love Jeff. I erred on that side. I just hope the ACC doesn’t fine me like they did [Mike] Brey.”

He ended the back and forth with this: “Jeff can sit with me anytime.”

 

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

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It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble): Utah State absolutely could not lose at Wyoming (299) on Tuesday, and they didn’t. The Aggies have neutral site wins over LSU (25) and Florida (37), which is enough to keep them in this discussion despite road losses at Boise State (102), UNLV (130) and Air Force (184). They make the trip to Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State (2) on Saturday, and that feels like a must-win for Utah State at this point.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out): The Boilermakers dropped to 11-10 on the season with a 70-63 loss at Rutgers (23) on Tuesday night. That means Purdue has dropped five of their last seven games. They’re 2-7 against Quad 1 opponents with a 29 point win over Michigan State (8), but there are a lot of losses on their resume already and the Big Ten is a bear.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): The Hokies did themselves no favors by losing at Miami (106) on Tuesday night. In the last three days, they’ve suffered their two worst losses of the season. The Hokies also have a non-conference SOS that ranks 341st, which eliminates much of their margin for error. The good news? They still have pair of Quad 1 wins — including Michigan State (10) on a neutral — and four of their five Quad 1 and 2 wins came away from home. It’s not all bad.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Hoyas lost their third straight game on Tuesday night and have now dropped six of their last eight. Making things worse is that they were up by 13 points on Butler (9) late in the first half. This was their best chance to land an elite win this season. They still get Villanova (14) and Seton Hall (12) at home, but the biggest issue with Georgetown’s tournament chances is that they are trending in the wrong direction with just seven scholarship players.

Virginia upends No. 5 Florida State, 61-56

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Remember back to the season’s opening night? Nearly three months ago? That was when Virginia embarrassed Syracuse in a 48-34 win. That game foretold a lot of the season up to this point for the Cavaliers. Their title-defending team would have the defense that’s defined Tony Bennett’s program while the offense, well, that would be a bit of a struggle. What it did not predict was more Quad 1 wins, as the Cavaliers, despite a dominating defense, failed to rack up another such victory after that season-opener.

Until Tuesday.

Virginia injected some life into its NCAA tournament hopes with a 61-56 win over fifth-ranked Florida State in Charlottesville to pick up a critical victory in an ACC that offers far fewer marquee opportunities than in years past.

The victory was exactly what Bennett’s team needed to help buoy that resume before the start of February. January was extremely rough on them with a 3-4 mark before the win over the Seminoles put them at .500 for the month. With only four chances left against the ACC’s best of FSU, Duke and Louisville, beating the Seminoles at home may not have been an absolute-must for the Cavs, but it sure makes it a lot easier to chart a path to the tournament now, even if it’s still a rocky road, than if they had dropped the game.

Point guard Kihei Clark scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime, changing the game offensively for the Cavaliers with his dribble penetration into the middle of the Florida State defense. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his ability to get into the teeth of the defense – creating some buckets and free throws for himself and chances for his teammates – provided just enough lift for the offensively-challenged team. His beautiful reverse layup with a minute left gave Virginia a lead it would not relinquish as it closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine boards for Virginia while Braxton Key had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The loss stops a 10-game winning streak for the ‘Noles, who led for most of the game but could not ever find any meaningful separation. Devin Vassell had 17 points to lead Florida State, which had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but missed both 3-point attempts horribly. If Virginia can surge a little in the season’s final month, this win won’t be much more than a missed opportunity for the Seminoles, but if it proves to just be a blip on the radar for Virginia, Florida State may have done some damage to its seed line Tuesday.