Bubble banter: Ole Miss among those trying to crash the dance


The bubble reached new heights and depths on Friday.  That leaves us with about 11 spots up for grabs.  We have potential party crashers in Conference USA (Marshall), SEC (Ole Miss), and Atlantic 10 (St. Bonaventure/Massachusetts).  The Pac-12 will have an upset winner, too – with Arizona and Colorado in the championship game.   Then there’s NC State, which can greatly improve its position by beating North Carolina in the ACC semis.

Here’s your latest and final bubble update.  Selection Sunday is just one day away.

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.

RPI data is for games played through Friday, March 9. Records reflect games through Friday, March 9.

UPDATED: Saturday, March 10 | 11:45 a.m. ET

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

Automatic Bids (31): Murray State (OVC), Belmont (A-SUN), UNC-Asheville (Big South), VCU (Colonial), Loyola-Md (MAAC), Creighton (MVC), Harvard (IVY), Western Kentucky (Sun Belt), South Dakota State (Summit), Detroit (Horizon), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Lehigh (Patriot), Montana (Big Sky), Davidson (Southern)

  • Projected Locks (32): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (5): These teams are in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (28): Teams projected to be under consideration for at-large selection.
  • Spots Available (11): Estimated number of openings after Automatic Bids, Locks, and Should Be Ins are considered.
  • RPI and SOS: RPI and SOS data are updated through games completed on Friday, March 9.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Temple | Should Be In: St. Louis | Bubble: Dayton, St. Joe’s, Xavier
  • Dayton (20-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 79 | SOS: 67 | – The Flyers have eight Top 100 RPI wins, including victories over Temple, Alabama, and Xavier. The Flyers have also beaten Ole Miss and Minnesota. But troubling losses – particularly defeats to sub-200 RPI teams Miami-OH and Rhode Island really hurt UD’s profile. A loss to Xavier in the A10 quarterfinals and a sinking RPI will probably push the Flyers into the NIT.
  • St. Joe’s (20-13 | 9-7) | RPI: 70 | SOS: 54 | – St. Joe’s stayed in the bracket for a while thanks to good non-conference wins over Creighton and Drexel. They also beat Temple. But a loss to St. Bonaventure in the A10 quarterfinals – their second defeat to the Bonnies in two weeks – probably drops SJU below the cutline.
  • Xavier (29-11 | 10-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 45 | – Non-conference wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue, and Cincinnati continue to help the Muskies. And a come-from-behind win against rival Dayton in the A10 quarterfinals keeps XU in the picture. Xavier is 8-10 vs. the Top 100 which actually looks pretty good these days compared to other bubble teams. A victory over St. Louis in the A10 semis likely seals it for the Musketeers.
Locks: Duke, North Carolina, Florida State | Should Be In: Virginia | Bubble: Miami-FL, NC State, Virginia
  • Miami-FL (19-12 | 9-7) | RPI: 59 | SOS: 43 | – Miami has a huge win at Duke and a victory over Florida State at home. But they are just 3-11 vs. Top 100 teams. They have also lost Durand Scott to indefinte suspension. That could work against the Canes. So will a quarterfinal loss to Florida State. Miami isn’t dead-in-the-water, but they will most likely need help. On a side note, the Canes were swept by NC State.
  • NC State (22-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 32 | – The Wolfpack have a season sweep of Miami and a neutral court win over Texas. But a 1-7 mark vs. the Top 50 remains troubling – although Virginia and Miami are in the 50-60 range. NC state is 6-9 vs. the Top 100. The Wolfpack are right on the cutline at the moment. If they find a way to beat North Carolina in the ACC semis that would probably be enough. If the Wolfpack fall short, it may very well depend on how those final few spots shake out.
Locks: Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, Cincinnati | Should Be In: Connecticut | Bubble: Seton Hall, South Florida, West Virginia
  • Seton Hall (20-12 | 8-10) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 44 | – The Pirates ended their season with a loss to Louisville in the second round of the Big East tournament Wednesday night. That’s 3 losses in 4 games – including dropped games to Rutgers and DePaul. Victories over VCU, St. Joe’s and Dayton will help, along with wins over Georgetown, Connecticut, and West Virginia. SHU finished 7-9 vs. the Top 100. That may keep SHU as one of the 37 best at-large teams, but these are anxious moments.
  • South Florida (19-12 | 12-6) | RPI: 44 | SOS: 24 | – USF completed its season with an overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Big East quarters. Despite 12 regular-season Big East wins, only two were against Top 50 opponents (Louisville, Cincy). Outside the BE, the Bulls managed to beat Cleveland State, that’s about it. USF ended 5-8 on the road and just 6-10 vs. the top 100. They lost to Penn State and Auburn.
  • West Virginia (19-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 14 | – The Mountaineers fell in overtime Wednesday to Connecticut and the wait continues. With victories over Kansas State and Miami-Fla outside the conference, the Mountaineers likely still have an inside track to a bid. They finised 9-11 vs. Top 100 teams and beat Georgetown, Cincinnati and South Florida in the Big East. A top 20 SOS will help. WVU had five losses to Top 35 RPI teams by a total of 11 points.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Northwestern
  • Northwestern (18-13 | 8-10) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 18 | – The Wildcats ended their season with a 1-10 mark vs. Top 50 teams and a 5-12 mark vs. Top 100 teams. NW has a marquee win over Michigan State and a bubble win over Seton Hall. The loss to Minnesota in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney will be hard to overlook, however. Close losses help Northwestern, but it’s looking less likely they will be enough to warrant an NCAA at-large bid.
BIG 12
Locks: Baylor, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Texas
  • Texas (20-13 | 9-9) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 19 | – The Longhorns beat Iowa State for a second time to give them 4 wins against Top 50 opponents. A strong SOS is helping, but like many other bubble teams, the Horns have a troubling mark against the Top 100 (4-11). Texas did not beat any of the Big 12’s best teams. The Longhorns’ best out-of-conference wins are UT-Arlington and UCLA. Tense times in Austin.
Locks: Memphis | Should Be In: Southern Mississippi | Bubble: Central Florida, Marshall
  • Central Florida (20-10 |10-6) | RPI: 55 | SOS: 76 | – We’ll leave the Knights on the at-large board, but they have certainly fallen off the pace and are probably done. They were blown out by Memphis in the C-USA tourney. A 3-7 mark vs. Top 100 teams isn’t helping.
  • Marshall (19-9 |10-6) | RPI: 61 | SOS: 89 | – The Herd’s win at Cincinnati keeps looking better, and Marshall also handily beat fellow bubble team Iona. That said, UM may still need to beat Memphis and win the league’s auto bid. Beating Southern Miss in the semis improved Marshall to 4-4 vs. the Top 50. A Top 10 non-conference schedule will also be noticed.
Locks: Wichita State, Creighton | Should Be In: None | Bubble: None
  • Creighton won the automatic bid and ensured that the MVC will be a two-bid league.
Locks: UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (19-11 | 8-6) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 5 | – The Rams have beaten UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico at home, and their power numbers are very strong, if not slightly inflated. The concerns are a 3-9 road record – CSU’s best road win is UTEP (No. 158) – and nothing out of conference other than a win over Montana. Losing to SDSU in the semifinals leaves the door open for Colorado State to be squeezed.
PAC 12
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington
  • Arizona (22-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 73 | SOS: 115 | – The Wildcats ended their regular season with a horrible loss at Arizona State but managed to reach the Pac-12 title game against Colorado. With a weak 1-3 mark vs. Top 50 teams, a runner-up finish may not be enough. Arizona’s best non-conference win is New Mexico State.
  • California (24-9 | 13-5) | RPI: 36 | SOS: 83 | – With nine (9) Top 100 wins, Cal continues to have the best at-large resume of the Pac-12 group. At the same time, the Bears are 0-3 vs the Top 50 and have not beaten a team that would be at at-large team in the NCAA as of this update.
  • Colorado (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 71 | SOS: 81 | – The Buffaloes’ profile is improving among the Pac-12 contenders. If that means much. Colorado has beaten Cal twice (after winning late Friday in the Paac-12 tourney), Oregon twice, and Washington once. Like everyone else here, however, there’s nothing outside the league. So CU’s best bet is to win the automatic bid.
  • Oregon (22-8 | 13-5) | RPI: 64 | SOS: 94 | – A loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 quarters probably ended the Ducks’ at-large hopes. Oregon finished 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 5-8 vs. the Top 100.
  • Washington (21-10 | 14-4) | RPI: 54 | SOS: 83 | – The Huskies will present an interest test case for the committee. They won the outright Pac-12 title. Historically, leaving out the Huskies would be rare, given the league’s stature as a BCS conference. But this is a historically bad year for the Pac-12, and Washington is 0-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-8 vs. the Top 100. Neither of those inspire confidence as an at-large selection.
Locks: Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Alabama | Bubble: Mississippi State, Mississippi, Tennessee
  • Mississippi State (21-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 74 | SOS: 71 | – The Bulldogs ended their season with a surprising loss to Georgia in the SEC’s first round. But with 7 Top 100 wins (7-9), and a non-conference win over West Virginia, MSU might be able to survive a very bubbly profile. Still, MSU (2-4 vs. Top 50 teams) is certainly in danger of being squeezed.
  • Mississippi (21-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 66 | – The Rebels are alive in the SEC tourney and have moved onto the bubble after a win over Tennessee on Friday. A 1-6 mark vs. Top 50 teams is an issue, and a 6-11 mark vs. the Top 100 looks like a half-dozen other teams. A win over Miami-Fla could help some, but Ole Miss probably has to upset Vandy to have a realistic at-large chance.
  • Tennessee (17-14 | 10-6) | RPI: 84 | SOS: 31 | – How the Committee evaluates the arrival of Jarnell Stokes in early January will be a major factor for the Vols. That said, Friday’s loss to Ole Miss drops UT’s RPI into very dangerous territory. There’s also 14 losses overall. The Vols beat Florida twice, and topped Vandy and Connecticut. But a 3-11 mark away from home is concerning.
Locks: St. Mary’s, Gonzaga | Should Be In: None | Bubble: BYU
  • BYU (23-8 | 12-4) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 99 | – BYU failed in its attempt to beat Gonzaga a second time and finished 1-4 vs the Zags and St. Mary’s. If the Cougars miss the NCAAs that will be one reason why. Their best non-conference victories are Nevada and Oregon. Good wins, but perhaps not enough to make an NCAA bid hold up. BYU is a team that could easily be squeezed if bids get tight. Their resume is complete. It will be a long wait until Selection Sunday.
Locks: None | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Drexel, Iona, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Oral Roberts
  • Drexel (27-6 | 16-2) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 213 |The Dragons may prove to be the ultimate “eye test” team for this year’s Selection Committee. Drexel had won 19 straight games before losing in the CAA championship to VCU. They were also the outright regular-season champions of the Colonial. Strictly by the numbers, Drexel finished 1-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 4-3 against the Top 100. While they lost to St. Joseph’s and Virginia, Drexel beat Cleveland State by 20 on the road. All the Dragons can do now is wait and hope a few other things fall their way.
  • Iona (25-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 144 | – The Gaels ended their season by losing to Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals. Now, it’s a long wait until Selection Sunday. Iona has to hope that wins over Nevada and St. Joseph’s hold up and that a few things go their way. The Gaels finished 1-1 vs. the Top 50 and 5-3 vs. the Top 100. Losses to sub-200 teams Siena and Hofstra may ultimately doom Iona to the NIT.
  • Long Beach State (21-8 | 15-1) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 130 | – The 49ers nearly completed a perfect Big West season. And while early wins over Pittsburgh and Xavier help, they aren’t as strong as once thought. LBSU played the No. 1 non-conference schedule but went 0-6 vs. Top 50 teams and just 2-7 vs. the Top 100. Several close losses will help, but how much?
  • Middle Tennesse State (24-6 | 14-2) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 181 | – The Blue Raiders’ chances are very slim after losing in the Quarterfinals of the Sun Belt tournament. Their best wins are Ole Miss, Akron and Belmont. But they ended the season with back-to-back losses to Western Kentucky and Arkansas State (both sub-200 teams). MTSU ended 0-1 vs. Top 50 teams.
  • Oral Roberts (27-6 | 17-1) | RPI: 50 | SOS: 191 | – ORU beat Xavier, Missouri State, and Akron (BracketBusters) in non-conference play, although XU was without several players. But a loss to Western Illinois in the league tournament semis puts a damper on the Eagles’ at-large hopes. They finished 0-2 vs. Top 50 teams and just 3-3 against the Top 100. ORU has to hope a dominate season in the Summit is enough.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.