Weekend preview: Oregon, Belmont, Michigan St. primed to pull upsets

Leave a comment

UPSET SPECIAL: Fri. 10:00 pm: Oregon @ No. 7 Vanderbilt

This sounds silly, right? I mean, Oregon is a team that is only a year removed from a mass exodus from the program stemming from the firing of Ernie Kent and the subsequent, embarrassing 37 day coaching search. But that search was more-than-successful, as Oregon stole Dana Altman away from Creighton. Altman led a team expected of next-to-nothing to seven league wins and the CBI title. And while Oregon lost three of their top four scorers from last season, this year’s team will be better.

Why?

Because Dana Altman cleaned up on the recruiting trail. Not only did he land talented front court transfers in Olu Ashaolu, who averaged 14.2 ppg and 9.4 rpg from Louisiana Tech last season, but he also brought in the troubled big-man Tony Woods, who sat out last season after leaving Wake Forest. Throw in returners EJ Singler (the second leading scorer on the Ducks last season), Jeremy Jacobs and Tyrone Nared, and the Ducks have a really talented front line. Why is this significant? Because Vanderbilt will be without their star center Festus Ezeli, who was suspended for the first six games before spraining knee ligaments, which will keep him out until December.

Oregon is more than just a big front line, however. Jonathon Loyd was a dynamic playmaker in the limited minutes he saw at the point last season. Garrett Sim will once again start in the back court as well, but the x-factor will end up being freshman Jabari Brown. He comes in with quite a bit of hype, but hype doesn’t always yield immediate results. Will he be the kind of big-time scoring threat in his first game that most expect him to be before his career is over in Eugene?

The Ducks are a major sleeper in the Pac-12, but there is legitimate reason for Vanderbilt being in the top ten. Even without Ezeli, this is a group with quite a bit of experience, some capable-to-good big men and a veteran perimeter attack that includes future first round picks John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor. But the Commodores better come out ready to play.

UPSET ALERT:

Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State: We all know about how talented North Carolina is. You don’t need me to tell you that in this space. But for the first time in recent memory, Michigan State heads into the season with almost no expectations. But I like this Spartan team. They have the makeup of the perennially over-achieving teams that Tom Izzo is known so well for. I’m expecting a big year out of Keith Appling, Izzo has had success with modified point guards (see Drew Neitzel), but I also think that Brandon Wood and Branden Dawson are the perfect, tough-minded kind of perimeter players that thrive under Izzo. Draymond Green is going to have to have a big game, and big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are going to need to play up to their potential and not down to their history, but given the unusual conditions of this game, don’t be surprised if a scrappy Michigan State team pulls off the shocker.

Fri. 9:00 pm: Belmont @ No. 6 Duke: Belmont is a very good basketball team. They won 30 games last year and return nine of the 11 players from that team’s rotation. They have a couple of quality back court pieces, headlined by junior Ian Clark, and have two quality big men in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. In fact, I don’t think its crazy to say that Belmont’s posts are better than the three Plumlees. The Bruins run a pressing system that forces turnovers, and with Duke having two combo-guards in their back court — neither Seth Curry nor Austin Rivers is a true point guard — I can see Belmont giving Duke some issues defensively. Most importantly, the Bruins won’t be scared. This is the same program that lost to Duke by one in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Fri. 10:30 pm: Loyola Marymount @ No. 20 UCLA: Last year was a bit of a disaster for LMU as they finished 2-12 in the WCC, but that record doesn’t reflect the amount of talent that is in this program. The Lions struggled keeping their players healthy last season and couldn’t win a close game, going 2-7 in games that were decided by one possession or went to overtime. Even with star Drew Viney out following foot surgery, the Lions have enough size on their front line to matchup with a UCLA team that is headlined by a potentially-injured Reeves Nelson and an overweight Josh Smith. Point guard Anthony Ireland, who really came on strong late in his freshman season, may be the best point guard on the floor on Friday as well. If Nelson doesn’t play, or plays at less than 100%, and Edgar Garibay and Godwin Okojoni can hold their own against the Bruin front line, the Lions, who are a sleeper in a very good WCC, should give the Bruins all they can handle.

Sun. 9:30 pm: George Washington @ No. 24 Cal: Let me say this before I go any further — I am high on Cal. There is a reason that I picked them to finish second in the Pac-12 this season. That said, I’m also a big fan of George Washington. I know they have undergone a coaching change and I know that their 10-6 record and fourth place finish in the A-10 last season was partially the result of an easy league schedule, but this is still a team that returns their entire roster — including all-conference point guard Tony Taylor — and finally gets a healthy Lasan Kromah back.

BEST MATCHUPS:

Fri. 8:00 pm: Bucknell @ Minnesota: This should be one of the better matchups between a high-major and a low-major program this weekend. Bucknell is the consensus favorite to win the Patriot League after returning the majority of their roster from last season. Minnesota has some talent and will definitely have a major athleticism advantage over the Bison, but the Gophers don’t have a true point guard on their roster; freshman Andre Hollins will be sliding over and playing the point this season. If anything, this game will be worth the watch if, for nothing else, to see Mike Muscala, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year, go up against Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson.

Fri. 9:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ West Virginia: This will be a big game for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles bring back essentially their entire roster, headlined by star forward Dominique Morrison, and have a team that is good enough that they can feasibly make a push for an at-large bid if they make enough statements during a tough non-conference schedule. West Virginia is a potential tournament team, but they may be a long way from reaching that potential. Their roster is basically made up of Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and a bunch of freshmen. The Mountaineers are coming off of a loss in an exhibition and reportedly got worked by Xavier in a closed-door scrimmage.

Fri. 9:05 pm: BYU @ Utah State: The rivalries between the Division I programs in Utah is intense, and this game is no different. Utah State fans have been camping out for days to get tickets to the game. Both programs appear to be down this season, but its worth noting that both Dave Rose and Stew Morrill are terrific at developing talent. While, on paper, it appears as if both schools lose a tremendous amount of talent from last season, I feel confident saying that the drop-off both teams experience won’t be as dramatic as most expect. When it comes to rivalry games, record don’t matter. This game is no different.

BEST STORYLINES:

Friday:

7:00 pm: Marist @ No. 2 Kentucky: This will be the first time we get to see Kentucky’s talented freshmen — and a new-and-improved Terrence Jones in a real game, although it won’t necessarily come against “real” competition.

9:00 pm: Wright State @ No. 3 Ohio State: Just how good is the slimmed-down Jared Sullinger going to be? Tonight is our first glimpse.

7:00 pm: Columbia @ No. 4 UConn: With the amount of athleticism on the UConn roster, I feel confident saying that there are going to be some impressive highlights coming out of this game. Also, Andre Drummond anyone?

7:00 pm: Tennessee-Martin @ No. 8 Louisville: Just how good Louisville will end up being this season will likely be a direct result of two things: a) how healthy they are and b) just how good Peyton Siva ends up being.

7:00 pm: Jackson State @ No. 10 Florida: I can’t be the only one curious as to how Billy Donovan is going to split minutes — and shots — between the four talented back court players he has on his roster.

7:00 pm: Albany @ No. 11 Pitt: Any time Ashton Gibbs is playing, I’m watching. Basketball purists should agree.

10:00 pm: Texas Southern @ No. 12 Baylor: Baylor’s first game without Perry Jones and our first glimpse at who will operate the point guard spot for the Bears.

8:00 pm: Towson @ No. 13 Kansas: Towson may lose by fifty, and while most will be focused on just how good Thomas Robinson is, I’m more concerned with a first look at a team that claims Tyshawn Taylor as its leader.

7:00 pm: Morgan State @ No. 15 Xavier: Xavier will be playing this game without Tu Holloway. Could that mean the Musketeers are primed for an upset?

8:00 pm: North Florida @ No. 17 Alabama: The Crimson Tide heads into this season with quite a bit of hype. Will it be justified?

9:00 pm: Mt. St. Mary’s @ No. 21 Marquette: The x-factor for Marquette this season may end up being Davante Gardner. Is the big fella in shape?

11:05 pm: Eastern Washington @ No. 23 Gonzaga: Which Elias Harris shows up this season? The potential lottery pick or the banged-up, out-of-shape player from last season.

10:30 pm: UC Irvine @ No. 24 Cal: Are the Bears really a team that can compete for the Pac-12 title? Or Mike Wilder’s hair?

8:00 pm: SE Missouri State @ No. 25 Missouri: The biggest question in the Big 12: how good will Missouri be without Laurence Bowers?

7:00 pm: Jacksonville @ Florida State: We all know that Florida State is going to be a stalwart defensive team once again this season, but the question is, without Ian Miller, how is this team going to create points?

7:00 pm: Tennessee Tech @ Miami FL: The Hurricanes are playing very shorthanded thanks to injuries and suspensions. Tennessee Tech is good team, led by star Kevin Murphy and the most clutch player in college hoops in Zac Swansey.

7:30 pm: Rhode Island @ George Mason: If only this game could have been played in January, when Billy Baron and Andre Malone are eligible for URI and Andre Cornelius is back from his suspension for GMU.

8:00 pm: Texas A&M-CC @ Oklahoma State: LeBryan Nash. That is all.

9:00 pm: Loyola (IL) @ Illinois: I’m not necessarily in the minority when I say I think that Illinois could be better this year without the headaches that came along with Jereme Richmond and Demetri McCamey.

10:00 pm: Missouri State @ Nevada: A terrific mid-major matchup. Kyle Weems tries to lead a MSU team back to an MVC title with a new roster and coaching staff, while Nevada looks to live up to the talent on their roster.

Saturday:

4:00 pm: Fordham @ No. 5 Syracuse: This should be a blowout, but it will be interesting to see Fordham star Chris Gaston go up against the huge front line of Syracuse. Also: Fab Melo? You showin’ up this year, bro?

4:30 pm: Presbyterian @ No. 6 Duke: Will Presbyterian have a shot with Duke playing two games in two d … yeah, no.

1:00 pm: Kennesaw State @ No. 14 Wisconsin: Kennesaw State knocked off Georgia Tech last year. Can they pull off another upset?

3:00 pm: Butler @ Evansville: Evansville knocked off Butler in Hinkle last year. Can a new-look Butler team return the favor this year? Also: just how good are Butler’s youngsters?

7:00 pm: Northern Iowa @ Old Dominion: Two very good mid-major programs square off in a battle of rebuilding years.

Sunday:

1:00 pm: No. 1 North Carolina @ UNC-Asheville: JP Primm and Matt Dickey gives Asheville a solid starting backcourt.

2:00 pm: Cleveland State @ No. 7 Vanderbilt: No more Norris Cole for Cleveland State.

4:00 pm: Lamar @ No. 8 Louisville: The Pat Knight era at Lamar gets their first true test.

6:00 pm: Rider @ No. 11 Pitt: Remember what I said about Ashton Gibbs?

7:00 pm: Jackson State @ No. 12 Baylor: Quincy Miller enters the collegiate ranks with quite a bit of hype, but he’s also coming off of a torn ACL. Will he be healthy?

6:00 pm: Ball State @ No. 16 Arizona: This will be the third time we get to see Arizona play. They have yet to answer the question marks about the youth in their back court.

4:00 pm: Southern @ No. 19 Texas A&M: Will Billy Kennedy be on the bench?

7:00 pm: Alabama State @ No. 22 Cincinnati: Is Yancy Gates actually in shape? Will Sean Kilpatrick be a star? If both answers are year, the Bearcats have a shot at being very, very good.

7:00 pm: Boston U. @ Texas: Texas kicks off the Myck Kabongo era. Can this freshman point guard carry the Longhorn team?

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

Bubble Banter: It’s that time of year again!

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s getting to be that time of year.

Bubble Banter is back, baby!

Over the course of the next three days, we are going to be diving headlong into bubble chatter right here, breaking down every single team that is on or near the bubble for the NCAA tournament Field of 68. This, of course, is according to our Dave Ommen, who sent me a list of all the bubble teams. Our cut-off, at least for this conversation, is teams that currently sit as a No. 9 seed or better in the most recent bracket that we released.

Why?

Because — with the notable exception of Ohio State — it is difficult to see how any of those teams can end up out of the NCAA tournament before our next bracket projection gets published on Monday.

So, you know, they’re not currently on the bubble.

Anyway, come back throughout the weekend to see who the winners and the losers are and what it means for their standing in regards to the cut line.

WINNERS

PURDUE (NET: 37, NBC: Off the bubble): Purdue’s schizophrenic January continued on Friday with a blowout win over Wisconsin (30) at home. The Boilermakers have lost four of their last six, and the two wins were utterly dominant wins over the Badgers and Michigan State (10). Their 11-9 (4-5) record isn’t pretty, but three Quad 1 wins and just one Quad 3 loss — at Nebraska (165) — is enough to keep them in the mix.

YALE (NET: 60, NBC: 12): The Elis are in this conversation because they don’t really have a bad loss to speak of. Their “worst” loss was a road game at San Francisco (!00), and if North Carolina gets Cole Anthony back, then that loss is not going to look nearly as bad by Selection Sunday. Their problem is a lack of quality wins. They won at Clemson (75), which is barely a Quad 1 win. That’s their only win that didn’t come against Quad 3 or 4 opponents. That’s not going to change in the Ivy. I think they need to win out and lose to Harvard in the Ivy title game to have a real at-large chance.

LOSERS

LEFT TO PLAY

SATURDAY

VCU at La Salle, 12:00 p.m.
PITT at SYRACUSE, 12:00 p.m.
ST. JOHN’S at DEPAUL, 2:00 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH at Boston College, 2:00 p.m.
LSU at TEXAS, 2:00 p.m.
OKLAHOMA at MISSISSIPPI STATE, 2:00 p.m.
RHODE ISLAND at St. Bonaventure, 3:00 p.m.
UNCG at Samford, 3:00 p.m.
AKRON at Ohio, 3:30 p.m.
LIBERTY at Stetson, 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga at EAST TENNESSEE STATE, 4:00 p.m.
N.C. STATE at Georgia Tech, 4:00 p.m.
SMU at MEMPHIS, 4:00 p.m.
TENNESSEE at No. 3 Kansas, 4:00 p.m.
BYU at San Francisco, 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Dayton at RICHMOND, 6:00 p.m.
No. 15 Kentucky at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.
Kansas State at ALABAMA, 6:00 p.m.
Washington State at UTAH, 7:00 p.m.
NOTRE DAME at No. 5 Florida State, 8:00 p.m.
SAINT MARY’S at LMU, 9:00 p.m.
WASHINGTON at No. 23 Colorado, 9:00 p.m.
No. 22 Arizona at ARIZONA STATE, 9:30 p.m.
Colorado State at UTAH STATE, 10:00 p.m.

SUNDAY

VIRGINIA at Wake Forest, 12:00 p.m.
No. 11 Michigan State at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.
Fordham at SAINT LOUIS, 3:00 p.m.
XAVIER at Creighton, 4:00 p.m.
Loyola-Chicago at NORTHERN IOWA, 4:00 p.m.
OHIO STATE at Northwestern, 6:30 p.m.

Best Bets: Previewing Baylor-Florida, Texas Tech-Kentucky

AP Photo/James Crisp
Leave a comment

As always, the Vegas lines are not out for the weekend games, so we will be breaking them down using KenPom, Torvik and Haslametric projections.

FRIDAY

MARQUETTE at No. 13 BUTLER, 9:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • TORVIK: Butler 72, Marquette 66
  • HASLAM: Butler 71, Marquette 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: Butler 70, Marquette 64

In theory, this is an ideal buy-low spot for Butler. They are coming off of three straight losses, the last two of which came on the road. The loss at DePaul was a bad matchup, and the loss at Villanova was a result of Sean McDermott and Jordan Tucker shooting a combined 1-for-12 from three until the final minute of a 15-point loss.

Marquette, on the other hand, is in a prime sell-high spot. The Golden Eagles have won three in a row. Two of them came at home and the third was at Georgetown, a team that is down to just seven scholarship players. Trying to predict the nights that Markus Howard doesn’t score 30-plus is more or less impossible, but I do think that it is worth noting Butler is 12th nationally in defensive three-point field goal percentage and has a couple of quality perimeter defenders they can throw at him.

BEST BET: The logic says to bet Butler here. The problem is that, at Butler (-6) or (-6.5), I don’t think we’re buying Butler low or selling Marquette high. KenPom and Torvik both have the line at (-6) while Haslam has it at (-7). I was hoping to get it at (-5) or lower, which is unfortunate. Either way, if I’m going to be betting this game — which, let’s be honest, is probably going to happen — it will be with Butler.

Oh, and Butler is unveiling Butler IV, their new puppy, tonight. Never fade the puppy play.

SATURDAY

No. 15 KENTUCKY at No. 18 TEXAS TECH, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • TORVIK: Texas Tech 67, Kentucky 64
  • HASLAM: Texas Tech 69, Kentucky 63
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The more I think about this, the more I like the Texas Tech side here. I do think that the Red Raiders have one of the best coaching staffs when it comes to developing and instituting a game-plan. That’s a problem for a Kentucky team that tends to be fairly limited in what they run offensively. Put another way, Kentucky tends to figure out what works for them and run it over and over and over again. Their playbook shrinks as the season progresses, and that’s the kind of thing that Chris Beard and Mark Adams can take advantage of.

This is also a good buy-low spot for Texas Tech, considering that they are coming home off of a loss at TCU.

On the other side of the ball, I do worry about Texas Tech’s ability to create offense. They have struggled on that end, and I don’t think they actually have the front court pieces to be able to pull Nick Richards out of the paint.

BEST BETS: I’ll be curious to see where the line opens up here. I lean Texas Tech at anything (-4) and below, and I hope that the Kentucky effect can push that line much lower. I also will be on the under. If I think Texas Tech will have trouble to score, and Kentucky will have trouble to score, it only makes sense.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line opened at Texas Tech (-4) and has moved to (-4.5). I still like the Tech side here, but I think number I think that under (132.5) is a better bet at this point.

No. 1 BAYLOR at FLORIDA, 6:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • TORVIK: Baylor 65, Florida 63
  • HASLAM: Baylor 65, Florida 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Baylor feels like they’re due for a loss, right?

They needed to erase a 12-point second half deficit at Oklahoma State last weekend. On Monday night, they nearly had Austin Reaves hitting a three in the final seconds to give Oklahoma a win in Waco. And now they are heading back out on the road to take on a Florida team that has been better of late?

Here’s to hoping that this line gets inflated because of the number next to Baylor’s name.

I also believe that the under is in play here. Baylor is one of the nation’s best defensive teams. Florida has not been as good on that end of the floor of late, but they, too, have shown flashes of being able to guard. They also matchup well with the Bears. But more importantly, I don’t believe that either of these teams are going to try and push the tempo. Florida has shown a frustrating determination to play possession by possession this season, while the Bears rank 269th in average offensive possession length.

BEST BET: I’ll be targeting the Florida ML here, particularly if the Gators end up getting points, but taking the under seems like the best play in this game.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This game opened up as a pick-em and, as of 9 a.m. ET, had moved to Florida (-2.5). I know I said I liked Florida in the section above, but this line has moved too much for my liking. I think the value is on Baylor at this number, and I’ll have a little bit on their ML (+120).

But like Texas Tech-Kentucky, this is another spot where the under (130.5) seems like the best play in the game.

No. 8 VILLANOVA at PROVIDENCE, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Villanova 70, Providence 68
  • TORVIK: Providence 70, Villanova 69
  • HASLAM: Villanova 68, Providence 66
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

It’s not going to feel comfortable, but this feels like a good spot to take Providence. Villanova has won five in a row and 11 of their last 12, but their last four games have been played at home. They’ve failed to cover in two of their last three games and are just 1-3 against the spread on the road this season.

Providence has lost back-to-back games on the road, covering the spread in both games, and have covered in six of their last eight games.

BEST BET: I’ll be on the Providence side, but whether I take the Providence ML or take the points will depend on what the line opens up at.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: This line is bouncing between Providence (+2) and (+1.5). I like the Friars at that number, and I’ll be on the ML (+104) myself.

No. 21 ILLINOIS at MICHIGAN, 12:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • TORVIK: Michigan 71, Illinois 68
  • HASLAM: Michigan 71, Illinois 69
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

The logic here is going to be exceedingly simple: Illinois is as hot as any team in the country right now. They’ve won five straight games, including wins at Wisconsin and at Purdue, the latter of which was by 17 points. Michigan, on the other hand, has not been the same team since they lost Isaiah Livers to a groin injury and, since January 1st, they’ve ranked 127th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Torvik.

BEST BET: I’ll be all over the Illinois ML, especially if this line opens up at Illinois (+3).

*SATURDAY UPDATE: Turns out that the line opens at Illinois (+3.5) and moved to (+4). Ride the Illini, and a sprinkle on the ML (+155) seems tasty as well.

TENNESSEE at No. 3 KANSAS, 4:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • TORVIK: Kansas 68, Tennessee 54
  • HASLAM: Kansas 70, Tennessee 50
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Kansas ranks No. 1 nationally in adusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They’re third in Torvik’s rating system. Since Lamonte Turner saw his season come to an end, Tennessee has ranked 251st nationally if adjusted offensive efficiency. The one point guard on their roster, freshman Santiago Vescovi, is averaging 5.0 turnovers per game despite playing just 24.5 minutes — to be fair, he had 21 turnovers in his first three games and has had just nine in the last three.

BEST BETS: I think Kansas rolls here after a week of hearing how bad they are because of Tuesday night’s fight.

*SATURDAY UPDATE: I thought the line would open around Kansas (-14), which means (-13.5) is tasty.

SUNDAY

No. 17 MARYLAND at INDIANA, 1:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Maryland 67, Indiana 66
  • TORVIK: Indiana 67, Maryland 65
  • HASLAM: Maryland 66, Indiana 64
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

Maryland is 1-4 on the road this season. Their one win came at Northwestern in a game where they trailed by 14 points in the first half. The Terps might be the worst road team in the Big Ten, a league where road teams have been terrible this season.

BEST BET: If Indiana is getting points, take the ML. I also will be interested in betting the Indiana first half line. Fade Turgeon is in full effect this weekend.

No. 11 MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA, 3:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • TORVIK: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 71
  • HASLAM: Michigan State 72, Minnesota 70
  • VEGAS IMPLIED SCORE: N/A

This is a tough spot for me. Michigan State has not been great away from East Lansing this season and they are coming off of a road loss at Indiana on Thursday night. That said, their loss came after erasing a 16-point first half deficit in a game where Xavier Tillman missed a wide-open layup that would have forced overtime.

BEST BET: I will be staying away from this game.

Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney is leaving school

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kentucky will be down a five-star recruit for the rest of the season.

Kahlil Whitney, who was the No. 11 prospect in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports’ composite ranking, announced on Friday that he will be leaving the Kentucky program.

“My time at Kentucky has not gone as I had hoped,” Whitney wrote in a statement released on his twitter page, “and I therefore need to make a difficult decision quickly to put myself back in to the best position possible as I continue to develop and work towards my ultimate goal.

“I’ve realized since high school that the business of basketball waits for no one, and sometimes tough choices need to be made in order to progress.”

Whitney was a starter early on in the season for the Wildcats, but he has been relegated to a limited role off the bench since league play started. He’s averaged 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes. In the last seven games he’s averaging just 6.1 minutes.

Whitney’s statement does not mention transferring, but if he did opt to head to a different school, he will not be eligible to play until 2021-22 without a waiver.

Bracketology: The top seeds remain in place

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

It’s been a while since we could say this:  All four No. 1 seeds remained in place between bracket updates: Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State.

Elsewhere, more than a handful of teams still have significant resume questions.  And several current bubble teams have important showdowns this weekend – including key matchups in the Big 12 / SEC Challenge.

On a closing note … remember that the Selection Committee evaluates a team’s entire profile, from beginning to end.  How a team performed in its last ten games is no longer an official criteria (although each Committee member may have his or her own perspective on its importance).  So while Ohio State and Michigan, as examples, have both struggled of late, each team’s early wins remain relevant considerations with regard to team sheet evaluation.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Oklahoma vs. VCU
MIDWEST REGION Minnesota vs. Texas Tech
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ROBERT MORRIS

SOUTH Houston                  WEST – Los Angeles 
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ROB MORRIS
8) USC 8) Wichita State
9) Michigan 9) Arkansas
St. Louis Sacramento
5) Butler 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Marquette
11) Virginia Tech 11) NC State
3) Villanova 3) West Virginia
14) COLGATE 14) LITTLE ROCK
Tampa Spokane
7) Rutgers 7) Indiana
10) Memphis 10) BYU
2) Florida State 2) Oregon
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) WINTHROP 16) MONTANA
8) STANFORD 8) HOUSTON
9) Florida 9) Ohio State
Tampa Cleveland
5) Penn State 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Kentucky 4) DAYTON
13) VERMONT 13) NORTH TEXAS
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Auburn 6) Colorado
11) Oklahoma / VCU 11) Minnesota / Texas Tech
3) Duke 3) LOUISVILLE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO
Albany Cleveland
7) Illinois 7) LSU
10) Saint Mary’s 10) DePaul
2) SETON HALL 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) WILLIAM & MARY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Saint Mary’s Oklahoma Xavier Arizona State
DePaul Minnesota Richmond Alabama
Virginia Tech Texas Tech Georgetown Mississippi State
NC State VCU Rhode Island Tennessee

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (11)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

Duarte’s 30 points leads No. 12 Oregon past USC 79-70 in double OT

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

EUGENE, Ore. — Paying close attention paid off for Oregon’s Chris Duarte.

The junior guard had 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals, and the No. 12 Ducks outlasted Southern California 79-70 in double overtime Thursday night.

“I was watching the point guard’s eyes. I was watching everybody’s eyes. So I knew where they were going to pass the ball,” Duarte said. “So I took that as an advantage.”

Oregon teammate Payton Pritchard added 24 points and seven assists, becoming the first Pac-12 player to reach 1,500 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds. When the achievement was noted on the video scoreboard at Matthew Knight Arena in the second half, the crowd gave the senior guard a standing ovation.

Pritchard is the sixth player in Pac-12 history with 1,500 points and 600 assists, joining Oregon State’s Gary Payton, Arizona’s Damon Stoudamire and Jason Gardner, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin and UCLA’s Tyus Edney.

Oregon (16-4, 5-2) led by 11 in the second half but USC rallied with a 17-2 run to take a 62-58 lead, capped by Jonah Mathews’ 3-pointer with 1:24 left.

C.J. Walker and Pritchard hit consecutive layups to tie it at 62 and send the game to overtime.

Pritchard’s 3-pointer in the first extra period gave the Ducks a 65-64 lead, but Ethan Anderson’s layup and free throw put the Trojans up by two. Duarte made free throws for the Ducks to tie it again, and Mathews and Pritchard both missed shots down the stretch.

Duarte and Pritchard each hit a pair of free throws that gave Oregon a four-point advantage to open the second overtime. Duarte’s 3-pointer put the Ducks up 74-68, and USC couldn’t catch up.

Duarte’s eight steals were one shy of the school record.

“He was the difference in the game,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “No doubt about it.”

Onyeka Okongwu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Trojans (15-4, 4-2).

“You’ve got to take care of the ball. Some ill-timed passes that went to the other guys. We just have to make the right basketball play,” USC coach Andy Enfield said. “Give them credit, they’re a good defensive team.”

It was Oregon’s third overtime game in league play.

Oregon was coming off a 64-61 overtime win at Washington last weekend. The Ducks overcame a 16-point deficit and won it on Pritchard’s 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left. But Oregon lost to Washington State 72-61 last Thursday, resulting in a fall from No. 8 to No. 12 in the AP Top 25.

USC had won nine of its last 10 games and three straight, including last Saturday’s 82-78 overtime victory against Stanford. The Trojans came back from a 21-point deficit in the second half to beat the Cardinal.

The Ducks built an early 15-7 lead after Duarte’s fast-break layup and 3-pointer. Oregon stayed in front, but USC closed to 24-23 on Daniel Utomi’s jumper.

The teams went to the break with Oregon ahead 32-30. Utomi led all scorers with 10 points.

Okongwu’s layup for USC tied it at 32 to start the second half but the Ducks responded with a 10-0 run, capped by Duarte’s jumper off a dish from Pritchard. Okongwu’s dunk ended the Trojans’ scoring drought.

Okongwu made consecutive baskets to pull USC to 56-53, and Matthews tied it with a 3-pointer to top off an 11-0 Trojans run. Pritchard answered with a layup for Oregon.

Freshman forward Chandler Lawson’s layup stretched the Ducks’ lead to 49-38 midway through the second half.

“A lot of things we’ve got to work on. But we got some defensive stops when we needed it, we got some big rebounds when we needed it, and just found a way to win the game,” Altman said. “We’ve been doing that too much, though. We’ve got to find a way to get our offense cranked a little bit.”

Lawson made his first start for the Ducks after he had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Washington. Oregon was without center N’Faly Dante, who was questionable for the game after hurting his knee against the Huskies.

Pritchard was one of just two Division I players averaging at least 19 points, five assists and four rebounds per game, joining Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross.

BIG PICTURE

USC: The Trojans started 4-1 in conference play for the first time since 2016. USC went 5-0 to open conference play in 2002. … Enfield said afterward that this loss stung. “We’ve played a few close games this year. We won three or four close ones,” he said. “We were right there and we lost. It hurts when you lose a game and have a chance.”

Oregon: Pritchard is closing in on Oregon’s career record of 614 assists held by Kenya Wilkins. … Pritchard has won 96 games as a Ducks player, one shy of Oregon’s career leader, Johnathan Lloyd. … Sabrina Ionescu, star guard for the No. 4 Oregon women, was at the game and was interviewed by the Pac-12 broadcast team during the first half.

UP NEXT

USC visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Oregon hosts UCLA on Sunday.