Bubble Banter: Who will earn a bid to the Big Dance?

1 Comment
source:
AP Photo

There are three days left until Selection Sunday. Every morning from now until the bracket comes out, we’ll help you get caught up on the happenings with impact on the bubble from the night before.

Our latest bracket projection can be found here.

(This post will update throughout the day)

WINNERS

Florida State: The Seminoles picked up a win in their first game in the ACC tournament, knocking off Maryland in a game that will go down as their sixth top 100 win of the season. Florida State entered the day a good distance on the wrong side of the bubble, and a win over Maryland isn’t going to change that. But it does give them a chance to pick up a win over Virginia tomorrow. That may not get them in, either, but beating the ACC regular season champs would get them some hope on Selection Sunday.

Providence: The Friars survived a furious comeback by St. John’s and an awful night from Bryce Cotton to advance into the semifinals of the Big East tournament where they will take on Seton Hall. That’s good and bad news. Beating the Pirates will be easier than beating Villanova, but that now means that if Providence doesn’t make the finals, they won’t be dancing. The problem? A win on Friday won’t necessarily lock up a bid, either. If I’m the Friars, I don’t settle for anything less than the automatic bid.

MORE: Get to know all of the NCAA Tournament’s automatic bids here.

Missouri: The Tigers did everything they could to try and lose to Texas A&M, but despite blowing leads in regulation and in overtime while having both Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson foul out, they got the win. Beating Texas A&M doesn’t do much for the Tigers’ resume, however. But it does give them a chance to beat Florida, and a without a win over the Gators, Missouri is going to have a long, stressful Selection Sunday, as a middling RPI and just two top 50 wins is not going to be easy to overcome.

Dayton: The Flyers entered Thursday on the right side of the bubble, and they will likely stay there (for now) after knocking off Fordham in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. They are 9-6 against the top 100 right now, and while they do have three sub-100 losses, those three top-20 wins look really, really good. Dayton may even be able to survive a loss to St. Joseph’s in Friday’s quarterfinal.

Pitt: The Panthers blew out Wake Forest in their first-ever ACC tournament game, advancing to face North Carolina in the quarterfinals on Friday. Win that game, and Pitt is probably in the dance. Lose, and they’ll be sweating out Selection Sunday. They have just one top 50 win (Stanford) and six top 100 wins. North Carolina would be, by far, their best win this season.

Xavier: The Musketeers survived Marquette on Thursday, putting themselves in a position to clinch a bid with a win over Creighton on Friday. The Musketeers are 22-11 on the season with three top 50 wins — including Creighton and Cincinnati — and a 9-8 record against the top 100. The three sub-100 losses are a red flag, but they have enough good wins that they might be able to survive a loss to the Bluejays.

Stanford: The Cardinal picked up the win that they needed on Thursday, pounding Arizona State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. They have five top 50 wins, an 8-11 record against the top 100 and not a single ugly loss on their resume. They should be safe.

Minnesota: The Gophers knocked off Penn State on Thursday which puts them into a position where Friday’s date with Wisconsin will be a play-in game for them. Win that they’re probably in. A loss, however, will make things interesting. The Gophers are currently 20-12 overall with three top 50 wins and six top 100 wins, but they’re just 6-10 against the top 100. Their strength of schedule is in the top 10, but they have a couple of sub-100 losses. In other words, it’s very bubbly, and losing to Wisconsin will probably leave them sitting squarely on the cutline.

Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have slowly but surely climbed their way into the at-large conversation. Their RPI is in the mid-30s, but they have just one top 50 win and three top 100 wins to go along with two sub-100 losses. To be frank, I can’t see Southern Miss jumping the teams in front of them if they lose in the Conference USA tournament. It’s likely auto-bid or bust.

Colorado: The Buffaloes were probably safe entering today’s game with Cal. They beat Cal. They’re just that much safer now. Enjoy the dance, gents.

RELATED: Is your team in the field of 68? Check our latest Bracketology

LOSERS

Iowa: Tell me: why is Iowa a lock to get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament? After losing 67-62 to Northwestern in the first round of the Big Ten tournament the Hawkeyes are 20-12 overall with an RPI that will likely fall below 50 once the numbers get updated. They’re 4-8 against the top 50 and 6-11 against the top 100 with the one loss to Northwestern coming to a sub-100 team. If that’s not enough, Iowa’s non-conference SOS ranks 182nd nationally. They are probably safe, but by no means is this team a lock right now. I would not be surprised if they ended up in Dayton.

Making Iowa’s case all the more interesting is that they are actually top 20 in KenPom’s rankings. This is a good basketball team that, unfortunately, choked away too many close games early in the season and simply played too poorly late in the year.

SMU: The Mustangs lost to Houston in the opening round of the AAC tournament. Now we have to ask: is this team really a lock to dance? They have just four top 100 wins, but all four are top 30 wins. They are 23-10 on the season with three losses to sub-150 teams. Their non-conference SOS is 291st. SMU is going to be rooting hard against some of the other bubble teams out there.

Cal: The Bears lost to Colorado on Thursday, putting them in a really tough spot. Entering the day, Cal was the first team out, according to our Dave Ommen, and this loss certainly doesn’t put them in a better position. The Bears have four wins against the top 50 — which includes a win over Arizona — but they are now 4-10 against the top 50 and just 8-12 against the top 100. 13 losses is a high number.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks suffered just a brutal loss to South Carolina in the SEC first round on Thursday, one that will likely keep them on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. We went more in depth here.

St. John’s: The Johnnies nearly came all the way back from 15 points down again Providence but couldn’t quite finish it off. They were on the wrong side of the bubble entering the day, which means Steve Lavin’s club is NIT-bound.

Utah: The Utes needed to beat Arizona to get back into the conversation. They lost. And it was never close. Enjoy the NIT.

No. 23 Furman tops Charleston Southern 77-69, stays unbeaten

Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Leave a comment

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — No. 23 Furman took another step in its remarkable early-season journey, one coach Bob Richey expects will benefit his team the rest of the way.

The perfect Paladins (11-0) used a late run to pull away from Charleston Southern for a 77-69 victory Tuesday night in their first-ever home game as a Top 25 team.

Richey felt the jitters of his young team before the game, the desire to show the home crowd their rise was legitimate.

“The fear of if we lose, does all this go away,” Richey said. “And I think that’s normal for a young player — ‘Man, we want to keep this going.'”

Noah Gurley scored 17 points, and Alex Hunter and Andrew Brown had 16 points apiece to lead Furman in a game where leading scorer Jordan Lyons had zero points.

“We’ve got to continue to keep our pulse on these players,” Richey said. “We’ve got to continue to help them out.”

So far, so good.

The Paladins have been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises with their school-record run to start the season — a stretch that included defeating defending national champs Villanova and a second Final Four team from last year in Loyola-Chicago.

It took a late charge to break away from the Buccaneers (4-5).

Charleston Southern trailed 54-52 on Dontrell Shuler’s layup with less than 10 minutes left. After that, the Paladins went on a 14-4 run. Tre Clark had four points during the surge and when Gurley nailed a 3-pointer with 5:51 to go, Furman was up 68-56.

Charleston Southern could not respond and college basketball’s feel-good story of the season remained on track.

Lyons, averaging 20.2 points a game, missed all seven of his shots.

Matt Rafferty had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Furman.

“We’ve got to stay even-keeled,” Hunter said. “That’s something we’ve been practicing every day.”

Deontaye Buskey and Duncan LeXander had 13 points each for Charleston Southern.

Buccaneers coach Barclay Radebaugh said his team made too many mistakes to hang in at the end.

“You can’t do that against a team like Furman,” he said.

Furman, which joined the AP Top 25 last week for the first time in school history, had to wait another week — and make it through road wins at Elon and South Carolina Upstate — before it could celebrate its achievement on its home court. And it looked like the Paladins would have plenty to cheer about after they used a 17-8 run midway through the opening period to build a 26-18 lead.

But Furman went cold after that, missing seven straight shots as the Buccaneers of the Big South Conference tightened things up.

BIG PICTURE

Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers are nearing the end of a brutal opening stretch with seven of their first 11 games on the road. Those have included losses at Florida, Middle Tennessee and Marquette. Charleston Southern’s run ends with games at North Florida and Clemson in the next week. Radebaugh hopes the time away from home toughens the Bucs for Big South play.

Furman: The Paladins looked edgy in their first home appearance as a ranked team. They looked ready to take charge with a 51-42 lead before helping Charleston Southern’s comeback with four straight turnovers. Furman probably won’t win many games where Lyons struggles as he did against the Bucs.

STREAKING PALADINS

Furman is off to its most consecutive wins since winning 11 in a row in 1979. That’s back when the Paladins were one of the Palmetto State’s most successful teams, going to six NCAA Tournaments between 1971 and 1980. Furman has not played in the tournament since then.

RICHEY’S START

Richey was grateful to Radebaugh, who hired Richey as a 23-year-old and gradually gave him control of the Bucs’ offense. “Without Barclay, I wouldn’t be here today,” Richey said.

UP NEXT

Charleston Southern is at North Florida on Saturday.

Furman finishes a two-game homestand by hosting UNC Wilmington on Saturday.

Penn ends No. 17 Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak with 78-75 victory

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Villanova’s 25-game Big 5 winning streak is over.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats fell to Penn, 78-75, at the Palestra on Tuesday to see its undefeated run among its Philadelphia counterparts come to an end after six years.

It’s also an end to the six-game winning streak coach Jay Wright’s team has enjoyed since losing back-to-back games to Michigan and Furman last month.

Issues persisted on the defensive end for the Wildcats as they fell on a night they shot 50 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from 3-point range. The Quakers bested that by converting 51.1 percent of their shots overall and 43.8 percent of their 16 attempts from distance.

Villanova had put some distance between itself and the shellacking it took courtesy of Michigan and the OT lost to Furman, but it continues to be clear that while still a top-25 caliber team, Wright’s squad this year looks to be well short of the teams that celebrated national championships in 2016 and 2018. Eric Paschall was expected to step into the void from losing so many players to the NBA off last year’s title-winner, but he took just five shots against Penn and has been generally inconsistent all season. Five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly can’t even got on the floor. That leaves Collin Gillespie and Phil Booth, who combined for 39 points Tuesday, carrying a bigger burden than would be ideal.

The Wildcats are likely ultimately going to be fine – they lost to a good team Tuesday – but unless they can get more from especially Paschall it’s hard to see them elevating themselves to a Final Four contender.

That’s the weight of expectation after two titles in three years.

We knew the Big East championship wasn’t going to be Villanova’s to simply waltz to, but the top-half of the league continues to look incredibly tightly grouped together without mich separation.

Penn, meanwhile, looks a real threat in the Ivy, as was evident in the Quakers’ win over Miami last week. The win over Villanova only solidifies their status.

AJ Brodeur and Antonio Woods both scored 16 points against the ‘Cats as Penn led by as many as 12 points on the night, but still had to survive a Booth attempt from 3 at the buzzer to finally end Villanova’s supremacy over Big 5 hoops.

Iowa State could get Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young back this weekend

David Purdy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s been sort of a bizarre start to the season for Iowa State. For starters, the Cyclones enter the season not coming off an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 2011 after a 14-18 campaign last season snapped a program-record six-straight tourney streak. Coach Steve Prohm then suspended two players, including preseason all-Big 12 honorable mention center Cameron Lard, for the month of November for rules violations. The Cyclones also lost starting big man Solomon Young to a groin injury and then star guard Lindell Wigginton to a sprained foot.

Despite all that, Iowa State started the season 7-1 (including two wins at the Maui Invitational) before a loss at rival Iowa last week.

Now with an 8-2 record and having not only survived November but largely thrived with a reduced roster, the Cyclones are nearing full strength.

Wigginton, who averaged 17 points and shot 40 percent from 3 as a freshman, and Young, a two-year starter, could return as soon as Saturday and almost assuredly before the Cyclones’ Big 12 opener against Oklahoma State on Jan. 2.

“It’s where we thought it would be the whole time,” Prohm said of the duo’s timeline Monday, according to the Ames Tribune. “When we do halfcourt live segments Wednesday, if everything stays status quo the way it is right now, they’ll be able to go in the halfcourt.

“Not up and down, but they’ll go live contact in the halfcourt, and then evaluate them from there. Whether they suit up or not on Saturday, I couldn’t give you an answer on that right now.”

Prohm said both players could be in uniform against Drake on Saturday, but would not necessarily be available for big minutes, if at all. Wigginton, who went through the NBA pre-draft process last spring before announcing his return the day of the NCAA deadline, is expected to nearly immediately return to a major role.

Young, though, will be an interesting case. The Cyclones’ frontcourt is a crowded one with Prohm seemingly committed to playing four guards extensively and current starter Michael Jacobson, a Nebraska transfer, averaging a surprising 14.8 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 62.4 percent from the floor. With Jacobson, Lard and Young all soon available, Prohm will have a juggling act for minutes or reconfigure his lineup to play big, with the former seeming more likely than the latter.

Mark Few: NCAA prez Mark Emmert ‘needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions’

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
1 Comment

Count Mark Few as one looking for the NCAA to shorten its timeline when it comes to potential discipline for schools ensnared by the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The Gonzaga coach is also calling out NCAA president Mark Emmert by name in his plea to speed things along and make teams who may have violated NCAA rules accountable.

“I’m disappointed. I don’t think this is something the NCAA needs to take their time on,” Few said, according to Yahoo Sports. “There’s teams out here who are competing for Final Fours and national championships and they don’t need to stall this thing out.

“They need to make decisions and roll with it. I think that’s on Emmert. Emmert needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions.”

Emmert said last week that schools who were implicated by the FBI’s investigation, including by information that was made public in October’s court proceedings that involved three guilty verdicts, would not face potential punishment until after this season with the NCAA investigation extending beyond the Final Four.

New NCAA rules allow it to use testimony and evidence presented in those trials, but how the NCAA will apply those rules – will it simply accept anything mentioned under oath? – remains unclear. The NCAA, though, has committed to handle things methodically, as it so often does to the frustration of many a coach. It’s not exactly surprising, though, that the NCAA is in no hurry to drop sanctions on prominent schools – programs like Kansas, Auburn, Creighton, LSU, Louisville and Miami – in the middle of a season. Such a move would dominate discussion of the sport and upend seasons in an unprecedented manner. Intraseason discipline, especially something like a postseason ban, against some of the country’s top programs would be almost guaranteed to invite ugly legal challenges.

It’s not exactly a courageous rationale, but it is pragmatic. It also is the least likely to affect the bottom line, which is usually the best spot to place your bet when trying to determine the NCAA’s course of action.

Providence guard to miss at least a month with foot injury

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rough news for Providence on Tuesday morning, as the school announced that freshman guard A.J. Reeves will miss the next four-to-six weeks with an unspecified foot injury.

Reeves, a native of Roxbury, Ma., has averaged 14.2 points this season while shooting 45 percent from three. He’s been the best freshman in the Big East and one of the best weapons for a talented Friar team that has yet to truly figure themselves out.

“It’s unfortunate that A.J. has to go through this as he has been having a very productive start to his college career,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “However, he is a great person and will use this time to get better and he will continue to support the team.”