Manhattan’s returnees look to build on the achievements of last season’s senior class

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Manhattan’s Steve Masiello (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

When it comes to sports, for as much as we like the spontaneity of the events, many are also fans of the storyline. And when it comes to the NCAA tournament, one of the usual storylines is that of the smaller school that takes advantage of its opportunity on the big stage. Whether its an upset victory or a valiant fight to the bitter end, that program becomes (for the time being) a fan favorite and the head coach, if young enough, is labeled the next “rising star” in the business.

In making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004, the Manhattan Jaspers looked to fit the bill, playing an uptempo, attractive brand of basketball led by a passionate coach in Steve Masiello, who both played for and coached under Rick Pitino. Led by seniors Rhamel Brown, George Beamon and Michael Alvarado the Jaspers gave Louisville a run for its money before falling short, and shortly thereafter Masiello came to an agreement to take over as the head coach at South Florida.

The familiar storyline seemed to fit Manhattan … until it didn’t.

A background check revealed that Masiello hadn’t completed his bachelor’s at Kentucky, resulting in USF pulling its offer off the table and many wondering how Manhattan would handle the situation. The school gave Masiello the opportunity to take care of the situation, reinstating him once that was accomplished. But what about the players? To say that the situation was a roller coaster for them would be an understatement, as they went from having a coach to seeing him prepare to move on, only to have him return amidst controversy.

They simply made the best of the situation, applying some of the lessons learned during a three-year process in which Manhattan went from winning six games in the season prior to Masiello’s arrival to reaching the NCAA tournament in March.

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“In every situation I think you have to find the positive and learn from things, good, bad or indifferent,” Masiello told NBCSports.com earlier this month. “The one thing that really hits home is that I deal with 18, 19, 20 and 21-year old men every day, and something I did at that age could have cost me my career. I’m thankful that it didn’t. So I’m constantly preaching to my players that the decisions they make today can affect them at 35, 40, 45 (years of age). It’s a great lesson of accountability in that everything we do there are consequences.

“We’ve really put a microscope on it from a preaching standpoint,” Masiello continued. “What we want our culture to be, how we hold ourselves accountable, how we view ourselves and putting ourselves in the best position to be successful at all times. I think it was a great lesson to learn from my mistake, and make yourself better because of it.”

What also helped the players was the fact that they had veteran leaders capable of shepherding them through that period, and that includes the three seniors (Alvarado, Beamon and Brown) who exhausted their college eligibility in March. At a point in time when most seniors would be focused solely on what their next step would be, whether it’s moving into the work force or playing professionally, those three helped the remaining Jaspers stay on task with the goal being to make sure that the work put forth to rebuild the program didn’t go to waste.

“I give a lot of credit to the seniors, who helped me a lot both on and off the court,” senior forward Emmy Andujar told NBCSports.com. “Especially with the leadership role that I’ll have to take on this year.”

And while the losses of Alvarado, Beamon and Brown are big, Manhattan returns multiple contributors from last year’s rotation. From a leadership standpoint one player in particular, senior guard RaShawn Stores, is expected to be the “influencer.” Stores is the classic case of a player who’s overlooked by the uninitiated, with the focus on statistics resulting in some not understanding his impact on the team. As a junior Stores accounted for 4.9 points and 1.9 assists per game, but it’s the intangibles he brought to the locker room that were so valuable to the Manhattan program. And that isn’t expected to change at all, with his head coach noting that the team will go as far as Stores can lead them.

“As much credit as I want to give those three seniors, and they deserve it all, we had a lot of guys who were big pieces of the puzzle. We bring a lot back,” Masiello noted. “As for RaShawn, I’ve said for the last two years that we go as he goes. When he’s in a good place and feels good about himself, this team is a different team. RaShawn Stores has a greater impact on this team than I do, and I’ve said that for years because he’s such a great leader and guys follow him.

“I can be in a great place, but if RaShawn’s not I know the team’s going to struggle. It’s my job to make sure RaShawn Stores is in a good place because of the impact he has on this program.”

Players such as Andujar, Shane Richards and Ashton Pankey will be asked to take on greater responsibility on both ends of the floor in light of Manhattan’s personnel losses as well. Richards was one of the best freshmen in the MAAC in 2012-13, and he followed up that debut season with a solid sophomore campaign. Richards led the Jaspers in made three-pointers (77), scoring 8.3 points per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. The goal for Richards heading into his junior season is easy to see when looking at his numbers from a season ago, but it’s a goal that can be tough to reach for a player who was most productive as a jump shooter.

Richards will need to expand his offensive game in order to help Manhattan account  for the perimeter scoring provided by Alvarado and Beamon, and that’s something he’s worked to do this offseason. Of Richards’ 203 field goal attempts in 2013-14 183 were three-pointers, and he made just 35 percent of his attempts inside of the arc (7-for-20). Similar splits aren’t expected from Richards this season, and his progression will be something to keep an eye on as Manhattan works to navigate a difficult non-conference schedule.

source: AP
Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards will be key players for Manhattan. (AP Photo)

“You’ll probably see the biggest jump in Shane Richards,” Masiello said. “He’s by far the most improved player (on our team); I love Shane, but I don’t recognize him now. His mind is in a great place, he’s really confident and he’s put in a lot of work on his game. He’s doing a lot more things that he hasn’t done before on the basketball court; he’s become more than just a spot-up shooter.”

As for Andujar, his versatility is one trait that should serve the Jaspers well in 2014-15. The senior has been a steady player throughout his time at Manhattan, averaging 8.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest last season. Shooting just over 53 percent from the field, Andujar also ranked second on the team in assists, and his passing ability from the forward spot can help Manhattan attack opposing defenses from multiple areas of the floor. But after starting just five games a season ago, Andujar’s had to prepare for a greater role in advance of his final campaign.

“Being more vocal on the court and getting quicker,” Andujar noted when asked what he worked to improve upon this offseason, and he also made note of his need to be a little more aggressive offensively. That plays into his coach’s desire to see a more consistent Andujar in 2014-15, as noticeable stretches of single-digit scoring nights were occasionally broken up by a double-figure night (he scored 28 in a home win over rival Iona in February).

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Andujar’s one of three players expected to lead the way in the front court for Manhattan, with Pankey and Cincinnati transfer Jermaine Lawrence being the others. Pankey was solid in his first season after transferring in from Maryland, averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Yet while he’ll be asked to step forward from a productivity standpoint, and the same can be said for Lawrence, they can’t get into the mindset of having to play the way Rhamel Brown did. Brown averaged 10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game as a senior, winning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in each of his last three seasons. He brought a different set of skills to the table than either Pankey or Lawrence.

And in the eyes of Masiello, while new players will look to earn the minutes left open by Brown’s departure there’s no replacing a player of his caliber.

“I don’t think you’re going to be able to account for Rhamel Brown,” Masiello stated. “He was one of the best big men in college basketball bar none, and I don’t think anyone realized how good he was. He was extremely underrated. That being said, what Ashton and Jermaine bring I don’t know if Rhamel could’ve brought so we’ll be different in that sense. Doesn’t mean we’ll be better or worse, I think you’ll see a different team.

“Jermaine and AP can affect the game in a lot of ways, and that’s what I really like about this team. This team will be different than teams I’ve had here in the past, but I think this team has a ceiling higher than any team I’ve had here.”

The scenario in front of Pankey and Lawrence is, in a sense, similar to what the entire program faces as it approaches the start of the 2014-15 season. Ten players played an average of at least 11.9 minutes per game last season, and given Manhattan’s style of play that should once again be the case with senior Donovan Kates and sophomores Rich Williams and Tyler Wilson back with four freshmen joining the program. Yet even with this being the case, this is a group different than any that Masiello has coached during his time at Manhattan.

Many of the available players having the combination of size and athleticism that can help the Jaspers in games against major conference opposition. Both Pankey and Lawrence are 6-foot-10, and in total Manhattan has six players who are at least 6-foot-8; last year’s team had just two (Pankey and 6-foot-10 Carlton Allen) with the 6-foot-7 Brown serving as the stalwart in the middle. Yet while some of the tangible characteristics have changed, Manhattan’s path to sustained success will continue to include the intangibles that resulted in the program’s turnaround.

While Masiello and his staff certainly deserve credit for the fact that Manhattan is in a position where the goal of extended success is undoubtedly attainable, the seniors who left this past spring shouldn’t be forgotten either. Not only did Alvarado, Beamon and Brown go through the full process of helping to rebuild the Manhattan program, winning just six games as freshmen, they also stepped forward at a point in time when uncertainty surrounded the program. And their efforts haven’t been forgotten in Riverdale, where the latest group of veterans hopes to build on what that trio was able to accomplish.

March Madness 2020: Conference tournament brackets, schedules

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It’s time for the 2020 conference tournament brackets and the 2020 conference tournament schedules to be unveiled.

You know why?

Because it’s time for March Madness 2020!

Below, you will find an image that details every 2020 conference tournament schedule, and as you scroll down you will find each and every 2020 conference tournament bracket.

Make sure that you are ready for the madness.

(Click on the photo chart to enlarge and view all of the 2020 conference tournament schedules.)

To download a full graphic with all of the March Madness games, click here.

Below you will find a link to every one of the 2020 conference tournament brackets.

ACC

  • DATES: March 10-14
  • LOCATION: Greensboro, N.C.
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET and SCHEDULE

AMERICAN

  • DATES: March 12-15
  • LOCATION: Fort Worth, Texas
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 3:15 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

AMERICA EAST

  • DATES: March 7, 10, 14
  • LOCATION: Campus sites
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 11:00 a.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

ATLANTIC 10

  • DATES: March 11-15
  • LOCATION: Brooklyn
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 1:00 p.m., CBS
  • BRACKET

ATLANTIC SUN

  • DATES: March 3, 5, 8
  • LOCATION: Campus sites
  • TITLE GAME: March 8, 3:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

BIG EAST

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: New York
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 6:30 p.m., FOX
  • BRACKET

BIG SKY

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: Boise, ID
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 8:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • BRACKET

BIG SOUTH

  • DATES: March 3, 5, 6, 8,
  • LOCATION: Campus sites
  • TITLE GAME: March 8, 1:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

BIG TEN

  • DATES: March 11-15
  • LOCATION: Indianapolis
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 3:30 p.m., CBS
  • BRACKET

BIG 12

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: Kansas City
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 6:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

BIG WEST

  • DATES: March 12-14
  • LOCATION: Anaheim
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 11:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

COLONIAL

  • DATES: March 7-10
  • LOCATION: Washington DC
  • TITLE GAME: March 10, 7:00 p.m., CBSSN
  • BRACKET

CONFERENCE USA

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: Frisco, Texas
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 8:30 p.m., CBSSN
  • BRACKET

HORIZON LEAGUE

  • DATES: March 3, 5, 9, 10
  • LOCATION: Indianapolis
  • TITLE GAME: March 10, 7:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

IVY LEAGUE

  • DATES: March 14-15
  • LOCATION: Cambridge, Mass.
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 12:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

MAAC

  • DATES: March 10-14
  • LOCATION: Atlantic City, NJ
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • BRACKET

MAC

  • DATES: March 9, 12-14
  • LOCATION: Campus sites, Cleveland
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

MEAC

  • DATES: March 10-14
  • LOCATION: Norfolk, Va.
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 1:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

MISSOURI VALLEY

  • DATES: March 5-8
  • LOCATION: St. Louis
  • TITLE GAME: March 8, 2:00 p.m., CBS
  • BRACKET

MOUNTAIN WEST

  • DATES: March 4-7
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas
  • TITLE GAME: March 7, 5:30 p.m., CBS
  • BRACKET

NEC

  • DATES: March 4, 7, 10
  • LOCATION: Campus sites
  • TITLE GAME: March 10, 7:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

OHIO VALLEY

  • DATES: March 4-7
  • LOCATION: Evansville
  • TITLE GAME: March 7, 8:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

PAC-12

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 10:30 p.m., FS1
  • BRACKET

PATRIOT

  • DATES: March 3, 5, 8, 11
  • LOCATION: Campus sites
  • TITLE GAME: March 11, 7:30 p.m., CBSSN
  • BRACKET

SEC

  • DATES: March 11-15
  • LOCATION: Nashville
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 1:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

SOCON

  • DATES: March 6-9
  • LOCATION: Asheville, N.C.
  • TITLE GAME: March 9, 7:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

SOUTHLAND

  • DATES: March 11-14
  • LOCATION: Katy, Texas
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

SUMMIT

  • DATES: March 7-10
  • LOCATION: Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • TITLE GAME: March 10, 9:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

SUN BELT

  • DATES: March 7, 9, 11, 14-15
  • LOCATION: Campus sites, New Orleans
  • TITLE GAME: March 15, 2:00 p.m., ESPN2
  • BRACKET

SWAC

  • DATES: March 10, 13-14
  • LOCATION: Birmingham, Alabama
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 6:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • BRACKET

WAC

  • DATES: March 12-14
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas
  • TITLE GAME: March 14, 11:00 p.m., ESPNU
  • BRACKET

WCC

  • DATES: March 5-7, 9-10
  • LOCATION: Las Vegas
  • TITLE GAME: March 10, 9:00 p.m., ESPN
  • BRACKET

Best Bets: Maryland-Michigan State, Auburn-Kentucky highlight a loaded weekend slate

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Saturday’s lines have not yet been put out by the fine folks running sportsbooks. Until they are, we will be using projections from KenPom, Torvik and Haslametrics to analyze Saturday’s games.

No. 24 MICHIGAN STATE at No. 9 MARYLAND, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Maryland 70, Michigan State 67
  • TORVIK: Maryland 69, Michigan State 68
  • HASLAM: Maryland 68, Michigan State 67

The biggest knock on this Maryland team has been their inability to start games well, which is ironic given the fact that the last time these two teams played, the Terps needed a miracle, 14-0 run in the final three minutes to avoid losing a game they led by 15 points in the first half.

I cannot imagine the Terps finding a way to dig a hole like they did against Minnesota on Wednesday, or Ohio State on Sunday, or Northwestern, or Indiana, or Illinois in either of the games they played against the Illini. Gameday will be in town! It will be an 8 p.m. tip! They will be getting the Scott Van Pelt bump! All the narratives!

I expect that, combined with some of the issues that Michigan State has had this season, to push this line up past Maryland (-3), and that makes me want to bet on the Spartans. I know, I know, maybe I just can’t quite Michigan State, but with Rocket Watts, Marcus Bingham and Malik Hall starting to play better, it’s allowed Aaron Henry to focus on being more than just a third-scorer. I also think Xavier Tillman should be able to shut down Jalen Smith the way he shut down Luka Garza in the second half on Tuesday night.

BEST BET: I’m going to stay away from this game unless I can get Michigan State at (+4.5) or higher.

No. 15 AUBURN at No. 8 KENTUCKY, Sat. 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Kentucky 73, Auburn 68
  • TORVIK: Kentucky 73, Auburn 67
  • HASLAM: Kentucky 73, Auburn 68

This is such a weird matchup between two teams that have been brutally inconsistent. Auburn has been depantsed on the road too many times to feel comfortable betting them in this spot, but Kentucky’s shooting splits — they are significantly better from beyond the arc away from home than they are in Rupp — makes terrified to wager on them when they are laying six or seven points. I will not be on a side in this game unless the line just gets complete out of hand in either direction.

BEST BET: My favorite bet here is going to be the under, especially if the total creeps up past 143.

ARIZONA at UCLA, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Arizona 71, UCLA 67
  • TORVIK: Arizona 70, UCLA 66
  • HASLAM: Arizona 69, UCLA 64

First and foremost, there is no way in hell that this line opens at UCLA (+4). The Bruins are the hottest team in the country. They beat Arizona in Tucson. They have won six in a row, ten of their last 12 and are coming off of a win over Arizona State to take over first place in the Pac-12 race. This game will be played in Pauley Pavilion, which was rocking on Thursday night against the Sun Devils. Arizona is the team that is actually UCLA’s rival, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that Mick Cronin and Sean Miller hate each other from their time as rival head coaches in Cincinnati.

I also think it’s important to point out that the metrics have tended to overvalue Arizona this season while UCLA — who ranks outside the top 75 in all metrics — has been playing like a top 35 teams over the last six weeks.

Should I mention that Arizona’s Josh Green will not be playing in this game?

BEST BET: I will be checking this line early and often to see if I can snag the UCLA moneyline while they are getting points. I would probably take the Bruins all the way up to (-1).

No. 13 SETON HALL at MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:30 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM: Marquette 75, Seton Hall 72
  • TORVIK: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 73
  • HASLAM: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 73

I’ve said over and over against that I hate betting on Marquette games because it feels like I am betting on whether or not Markus Howard is going to have himself a day. And I know the numbers. Last season, in three games against the Pirates, Howard averaged just 17.7 points while shooting 21.4 percent from the floor and 21.7 percent from three. In their first matchup this season, Howard finished with 27 points, but it took an 8-for-22 shooting night to get there. Quincy McKnight has been his kryptonite.

That said, this does feel like a sell-high spot for the Pirates. They are coming off of back-to-back home wins and, prior to that, had developed a bit of a habit for slow starts. The last time they played a road game Providence led 34-9 before Seton Hall finally decided to play.

And I think it is worth noting that this will be Howard’s senior night. He’s going to be gunning.

BEST BET: If you can find a player prop for Markus Howard shot attempts, take the over. And if there was ever a time to bet on Howard finding a way to have a blow-up game, this is it. I like Marquette (-3).

No. 19 MICHIGAN at No. 23 OHIO STATE, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM: Ohio State 71, Michigan 67
  • TORVIK: Ohio State 70, Michigan 66
  • HASLAM: Ohio State 70, Michigan 65

This is such a weird matchup. Prior to Wisconsin lighting up Michigan on Thursday night, I would have said that this was a battle between the two Big Ten teams that were playing the best basketball in the league. I think the matchup here actually favors Michigan, to a point. Ohio State plays a gapping defense, which means that they are going to try and prevent penetration by sacrificing open threes. The way that Wisconsin beat Michigan on Thursday night was to stick to shooters in the corner and allow Zavier Simpson to try and win a game by himself. He had 32 points, and Michigan shot just 10 threes on the night, the fewest they’ve attempted in a game since John Beilein’s first season.

On the other hand, Michigan is really good at running teams off of the three-point line, and Ohio State shoots a ton of threes. Put it all together, and if we like the matchup for the defenses on both sides of a rivalry game that will be the second matchup between the two teams on the season, the best bet seems to be obvious.

BEST BET: The total looks like it will be somewhere around 136.5. The first game was 61-58. Hit that under.

No. 16 PENN STATE at No. 18 IOWA, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (BTN)

  • KENPOM: Iowa 78, Penn State 75
  • TORVIK: Iowa 78, Penn State 77
  • HASLAM: Iowa 78, Penn State 75

I love this spot for Iowa. For starters, it’s the ideal spot play that we look for. Penn State is coming off of a home win that they maybe didn’t deserve — they blew a big lead to Rutgers and needed a three with 12 seconds left for a one point win that prevented a three-game losing streak — and will not have to go on the road to play an Iowa team that is coming off of a road loss to Michigan State. Now throw in that the Nittany Lions did not have an answer for Luka Garza the first time these two teams squared off, and all signs point to the Hawkeyes.

BEST BET: I’ll be on Iowa up to about (-4.5).

No. 7 DUKE at VIRGINIA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM: Duke 62, Virginia 58
  • TORVIK: Duke 60, Virginia 58
  • HASLAM: Duke 63, Virginia 58

UCLA is my favorite bet of the day. Virginia is my second-favorite bet of the day. As it currently stands, Duke is a top eight team in the metrics and Virginia is more of a borderline top 50 team. But over the course of the last month, the Wahoos have gone 8-1 and are playing as the 31st best team in college basketball. During that same stretch, Duke, who has lost two of their last three games, is playing like the 28th-best team in the country.

As far as the matchup is concerned, I think that Virginia has the size inside to be able to limit Vernon Carey’s effectiveness, and their Pack-Line defense forces opponents to have to settle for jumpers over the top of the defense, and Duke’s shooting is not exactly a strong-suit.

BEST BET: I will be on the Virginia side here without a doubt. If the line is +2.5 or below, I will be on the UVA moneyline. If it’s +3 or above I will take the points.

Bubble Watch: Breaking down every team in at-large conversation

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It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.

The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. This does not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.

Dave’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:



ACC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Florida State (NBC: 2), Duke (NBC: 3), Louisville (NBC: 4)

VIRGINIA (NET: 51, NBC: 9): Virginia won for the fifth straight time on Wednesday, blowing a huge lead at Virginia Tech (84) before Kihei Clark saved the day with a buzzer-beating win. They only have three Quad 1 wins and a 10-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (10). They’re getting closer to a spot where they can afford a slip-up, but picking up one of those elite wins should do the trick and get them dancing.

N.C. STATE (NET: 57, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack fell to 17-11 on the season as North Carolina (94) finished off a season sweep with an 85-79 win in Chapel Hill. N.C. State has a weird resume. They are the proud owners of three Quad 3 losses as well as four more losses to sub-70 teams on the road. That’s not good. But they beat Duke (6) by 22 points in Raleigh, which is just one of their five Quad 1 wins. They are 8-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents on the season. It’s worth noting that Markell Johnson, N.C. State’s best player, did not play in one of the three Quad 3 losses — Georgia Tech (78) — so that will be something to monitor for the Selection Committee.


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 9)

WICHITA STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): Wichita State bounced back from a tough loss at Cincinnati (53) by knocking off Temple (110) at home. The Shockers likely will not feel comfortable on Selection Sunday regardless of how things play out. They have a pair of low-end Quad 1 road wins, they have beaten VCU (60) and Oklahoma (49) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just one potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — and with just a single top 50 win on the season, I think the Shockers are going to have an uncomfortable Selection Sunday. The fact that they are 8-7 against the top two Quads without a bad loss is something of a saving grace at this point.

MEMPHIS (NET: 62, NBC: Next four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, and losing at SMU (81) on Tuesday night is certainly not going to help anything. They are still alive after landed a critical win over Houston (23) at home over the weekend, but Memphis still only has a pair of Quad 1 wins compared to three Quad 3 losses. Memphis is also playing with D.J. Jeffries right now, which complicates matters as well. They end their season like this: at Tulane (172), Wichita State (48), at Houston. I think they need to win all three at this point.

CINCINNATI (NET: 53, NBC: 12): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (127). They bounced back and beat Wichita State (48) at home on Saturday, which gives Cincinnati an eighth win over Quad 1 and 2 opponents. As of this very moment, Cincinnati has just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses, all of which came to teams sitting outside the top 100. They’re in a bad spot right now, and with just one more potential Quad 1 win on their resume, I’m not sure just how much they’ll be able to do to fix it. Beating Houston (23) on the road next Sunday has become a must-win.


ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 40, NBC: Play-in game): Disaster almost struck for the Rams on Wednesday, as they went into Fordham (272) and barely avoided what would have been a devastating loss. They’re now 20-7 overall with just one Quad 1 win, but they are 7-6 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (234) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton (5) at home in March.

RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: First four out): The Spiders avoided disaster at George Washington (190) on Wednesday. Richmond had their five-game winning streak snapped on the road against St. Bonaventure (113), which is not a bad loss in real life but is a bad loss on an NCAA tournament resume. The Spiders only have one truly terrible loss to their name — Radford (162) got them on a neutral court — but with only three Quad 1 wins and a 4-6 record against the top two Quads, their margin for error is completely gone.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 6), Texas Tech (NBC: 9)

OKLAHOMA (NET: 49, NBC: 10): The biggest winner of the week was, without question, Oklahoma. The Sooners picked up a fourth Quad 1 win of the season with an impressive, 65-51 win over Texas Tech (20). It snaps a three-game losing streak that had dropped Oklahoma to 17-11 on the season and sets them up for a massive trip to West Virginia (17) on Saturday, who they beat at home earlier this month. They are now 17-11 on the season and are sitting with a 4-9 record against the top Quad and nine total wins against the top two Quads. It’s also worth noting they only have two road wins on the season — at Texas (65) and at North Texas (89).

TEXAS (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Longhorns won their third straight game on Monday night, as they beat No. 20 West Virginia (17) despite playing without Jericho Sims, Gerald Liddell and Jase Febres. Suddenly, a team that we had all written off is right back in the mix, as the Mountaineers are a top 20 team in the NET and the kind of elite win that Texas was sorely lacking on their resume. As it stands, the Longhorns are sitting at 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big 12. They have three Quad 1 wins, Monday night’s win as well as roadies at Purdue (37) and Oklahoma State (70), and a 5-11 mark against the top two Quads without a bad loss to their name. Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech (20) is going to be the make or break game. It’s not a win-and-you’re-win type deal, but I do think that taking a loss to the Red Raiders would mean that the Longhorns will have to beat one of the Big 12’s top four teams in the conference tournament to have a realistic shot at getting to the dance.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

Top 9: Creighton (NBC: 2), Seton Hall (NBC: 3), Villanova (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 7), Marquette (NBC: 7)

XAVIER (NET: 42, NBC: 10): The Musketeers shook off a loss to Villanova (12) at home on Saturday by knocking off DePaul (75) on Tuesday night. The best thing about this Xavier team’s resume is that they really have not taken all that many bad losses. Their worst loss of the season came at Wake Forest (104), which is a Quad 2 loss. It’s the only team ranked outside of the top 35 in the NET that Xavier has lost to. They only have three Quad 1 wins — and two of them are at St. John’s (73) and at DePaul (75) — but they do have a win over Seton Hall (17) in Newark, which helps quite a bit. I personally think that Xavier has to do more work that it looks like. They are just 3-9 against Quad 1 opponents, and that could drop to 1-9 if St. John’s and DePaul fall outside the top 75. With games at Georgetown (58), at Providence (50) and Butler (21), they’ll have three more chances to land Quad 1 wins. I think Xavier probably should win two of those to really feel comfortable.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 50, NBC: Play-in game): The Friars are now the official owners of the strangest resume in college basketball. On Friday, Marquette (24) paid a visit to The Dunk and lost. Providence has now won three straight games and have now won five of their last seven. All five of those wins are Quad 1 wins, and they include a road win over Butler (21), home wins against Creighton (8) and Seton Hall (15), and Saturday’s win against Marquette. The Friars now have seven Quad 1 wins. If you only look at wins, Providence is like a five seed.

The problem is the losses. There are 12 of them, and some of them are really, really bad. Providence lost to Charleston (145) and Long Beach State (298) on neutral courts, at Northwestern (177) and to Penn (144) at home. That’s two Quad 3 losses and two Quad 4 losses. It’s wild that the Friars are even in the conversation with all of that garbage on their resume, but they very much are.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): The Hoyas are now sitting at 15-13 overall with a 5-10 record in the Big East and games left at Creighton (8) and against Villanova (12) at home. They have four Quad 1 wins and nine wins against the top two Quads, but they are just 4-11 against Quad 1 opponents. I think they need to win out during the regular season to get an at-large bid.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Maryland (NBC: 2), Penn State (NBC: 4), Michigan (NBC: 5), Ohio State (NBC: 5), Michigan State (NBC: 5), Iowa (NBC: 6), Wisconsin (NBC: 6), Illinois (NBC: 7), Indiana (NBC: 9)

RUTGERS (NET: 34, NBC: 10):  The Scarlet Knights have one of the weirder resumes on the bubble right now after losing at Penn State (25) on Wednesday. They’re 17-11 overall and they are 9-9 in a Big Ten that is as deep as any league I can remember. They have three Quad 1 wins, just one Quad 3 loss and a 7-10 mark against the top two Quads. Eight of their ten losses are to Quad 1 opponents. They played a tough non-conference schedule, and they have some really impressive home wins. The problem? They’ve only won a single game outside of the RAC this year, and that came at Nebraska (189), who is the worst team in the Big Ten. Their season finishes with Maryland (9) and at Purdue (35). Rutgers has some work left to do, and I really think they will want to win both to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

PURDUE (NET: 35, NBC: Off the bubble): Purdue snapped a four-game losing streak when they knocked off Indiana (56) at home on Thursday night. They’re sitting here with a 15-14 record and a 4-11 mark against Quad 1 opponents and an 8-13 record against the top two Quads. They do actually have some pretty good wins, but the issue Purdue is currently facing is the the number of losses, including a Quad 3 loss to Nebraska (189). The most losses an at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot, and I think they need to win their last two regular season games and at least one game in the Big Ten tournament to have a real shot at this.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 4), Colorado (NBC: 5), Arizona (NBC: 7), Arizona State (NBC: 8)

UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: Play-in game): The Bruins are making a push to get into the NCAA tournament. After a weekend where they completed a sweet of the mountain schools — the toughest road trip in all of college basketball — the Bruins knocked off Arizona State (45) on Thursday to take over first place in the Pac-12. They have won six in a row and 10 of the last 12. They now own a sweep of Colorado (22), they won at Arizona (9) and while they do have a Quad 3 loss — Hofstra (114) — and a Quad 4 loss — Fullerton (261) — the Bruins are now sitting on five Quad 1 wins, three of which came against top 15 teams, two on the road. The metrics don’t love the Bruins, but this win will help and if the metrics love Arizona and Colorado this much, it should mean quite a bit that UCLA was able to beat them. Their resume isn’t quite as weird as Providence’s, but both of these teams are going to give the Selection Committee a headache on Selection Sunday.

With games left against Arizona and USC (44), the Bruins will have the chances to play their way in. It’s wild to think that we’re here after the way the season started, but we are.

USC (NET: 44, NBC: 10): The Trojans snapped a two-game losing streak with a home win over Arizona (11), which is exactly what Andy Enfield’s team needed. They now have four Quad 1 wins and are sitting with a 9-8 against the top two Quads with an 8-7 mark away from the Galen Center, including five road wins. The home loss to Temple (111) is not ideal, but it is survivable. The Trojans still get Arizona State (45) and UCLA (76) at home. I think they’re still in a pretty good spot, but it’s not going to be comfortable if they don’t win at least one of those two games to finish out the regular season.

STANFORD (NET: 30, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal are now on a three-game winning streak after beating Utah (88) at home. They are just 3-5 against Quad 1 opponents, 6-8 against the top two Quads and have a Quad 3 loss — at Cal (136) — to their name, but they are playing well at the most important time of their season. They still get Colorado (12) at home and Oregon (19) on the road, so there will be chances to improve their resume, but the Cardinal will need to capitalize on those to feel good on Selection Sunday.


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 3), Auburn (NBC: 4), LSU (NBC: 8), Florida (NBC: 8)

ARKANSAS (NET: 41, NBC: Next four out): Arkansas won the second straight game with Isaiah Joe back on Wednesday, working over Tennessee (69) in Fayetteville. They have a pair of Quad 1 wins and a 5-10 mark against the top two Quads, but the more important record is this: They are now 17-5 on the season with a healthy Isaiah Joe. It will be very interesting to see how the selection committee handles Arkansas.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Mississippi State significantly dinged their at-large chances by losing at Texas A&M (117) on Saturday. That’s the third bad loss on their resume, and with a win at Florida (32) and a sweep of Arkansas (41) the only notable accomplishments to date, the Bulldogs find themselves in a tough spot. Saturday’s win against Alabama (39) at home on Tuesday helps, but that’s only a Quad 2 win. The Bulldogs have just two Quad 1 wins to date. What’s worse is that they only get one more Quad 1 opportunity in the regular season, and that’s a game at South Carolina (64).

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 64, NBC: Next four out): The Gamecocks snapped a two-game losing streak and avoided disaster by beating Georgia (90) in overtime at home on Wednesday. With just one Quad 1 opportunity left on their schedule — at Alabama (39) on Saturday — I think Frank Martin’s club needs to win out to get in, and even that might not be enough.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 6), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 8)

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, NBC: 11): After wiping the floor with San Jose State (280), the Aggies have won six in a row and nine of their last ten games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as five weeks ago. Wins over LSU (29) and Florida (33) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can feel comfortable about getting in without beating San Diego State (5) in the MWC tournament.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 39, NBC: 11): The Buccaneers survived a trip to Wofford (151) on Wednesday night. ETSU has gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (60) and a win at LSU (33). With a 22-4 record and a Quad 4 loss to Mercer (197) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lose to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 46, NBC: 11): Northern Iowa took care of business against a bad Evansville team on Wednesday. UNI has a win at Colorado (22) and they beat South Carolina (64) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads with a pair of Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is a road game in league play — but I’m not sure they have done enough to beat out some of these power conference teams.

Bracketology: UCLA makes a case for an at-large

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Here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

With just over two weeks until Selection Sunday, this year’s Selection Committee is once again going to have some challenging resumes to dissect.

Today’s Case Study is UCLA.

Relegated to a rebuilding year after a sluggish 6-6 start, the Bruins have won six straight games (7 of 8 overall) in the Pac-12 and enter today tied with Oregon atop the league standings. That’s important, because should the Bruins end in a tie – or win an outright regular-season title – it would add a profile component the Committee values.

Back to the most recent stretch, UCLA’s streak includes road victories at Arizona and Colorado, and a home win last night over Arizona State.  In all, UCLA’s profile now includes five Quadrant 1 wins (including the aforementioned two Top Tier Quad 1 road wins) and four wins against likely NCAA teams.

Much like Providence, the Bruins are squarely back in the at-large picture.  Whether they remain is still in question.  They have work to do.  The NCAA’s NET isn’t overly fond of UCLA, but the Bruins are in a similar place to St. John’s (NET 72) a year ago – and the Johnnies went to Dayton, too.

Anyway, here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology. If you’re looking for the NBC Sports Bubble Watch, it can be found here.



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

UPDATED: February 28, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
MIDWEST REGION Rhode Island vs. UCLA
WEST REGION Providence vs. Wichita State
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. SIENA
MIDWEST REGION ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis SOUTH – Houston                    
Omaha St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) Baylor
16) ROB MORRIS / NC A&T 16) PV-AM / SIENA
8) Saint Mary’s 8) Florida
9) Houston 9) Indiana
Sacramento Omaha
5) Michigan 5) Colorado
12) UCLA / Rhode Island 12) CINCINNATI
4) Auburn 4) Penn State
13) NORTH TEXAS 13) VERMONT
Albany Greensboro
6) Wisconsin 6) Iowa
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Utah State
3) Villanova 3) KENTUCKY
14) COLGATE 14) BOWLING GREEN
Greensboro Tampa
7) Butler 7) Illinois
10) USC 10) Xavier
2) MARYLAND 2) FLORIDA STATE
15) WRIGHT STATE 15) LITTLE ROCK
EAST – New York WEST – Los Angeles
Sacramento Spokane
1) SAN DIEGO ST 1) GONZAGA
16) E. WASHINGTON 16) RADFORD
8) Arizona State 8) LSU
9) Virginia 9) Texas Tech
Cleveland Spokane
5) Ohio State 5) Michigan State
12) LIBERTY 12) S.F. AUSTIN
4) Louisville 4) OREGON
13) YALE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Tampa
6) West Virginia 6) BYU
11) EAST TENNESSEE ST 11) Providence / Wichita St
3) SETON HALL 3) Duke
14) HOFSTRA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Cleveland St. Louis
7) Marquette 7) Arizona
10) Rutgers 10) Oklahoma
2) DAYTON 2) Creighton
15) BELMONT 15) UC-IRVINE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Rhode Island Stanford Arkansas
Oklahoma Providence NC State Memphis
Rutgers Wichita State Richmond South Carolina
Utah State UCLA Mississippi State Texas

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

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
Pac 12 (6)
Big 12 (5)
SEC (4)
ACC (3)
West Coast (3)
American (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

OK, how good are you guys at NCAA tournament bracketology?

Not too bad. Our bracketologist, Dave Ommen, is sitting atop the ranks for the bracket matrix, which cobbles together everyone who does this for a living. So yeah, we’re on our game.

When do conference tournaments begin?

Conference tournaments — when teams can earn automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament — begin on Tuesday, March 3. Most of the league tournaments for that week are mid-major and low-major schools (though those can often be the most exciting games to watch).

There is a full schedule for all 32 conference tournaments here, though check back with us later on for previews for all those tournaments, recaps and highlights from the buzzer-beaters and many dunks for the start of March.

When do Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament begin?

Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament is on March 15 (about 4 pm ET), while the games begin a couple days later. The First Four is on March 17 and 18, while the craziness of Round 1 starts on Thursday, March 19.

The Final Four, held in Atlanta this year, starts on Saturday, April 4. The National Title Game is Monday, April 6.

Thursday’s Things To Know: UCLA leads the Pac-12 and Wisconsin wins at Michigan

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Thursday night got weird on the west coast, as the Pac-12 seems to only get drunker and drunker as the season goes on.

1. UCLA IS IN FIRST PLACE IN THE PAC-12 RACE

One of the wildest stories in college basketball this season is that of the UCLA Bruins.

Just two months ago, UCLA lost at home to Cal St. Fullerton, a team that ranks in the bottom 100 in college basketball on every metric that we use to measure these things. It was the second time this season that the Bruins had lost a game to a mid-major opponent in Pauley Pavilion. It dropped UCLA to 7-6 on the season as the calendar turned, which was the same record on the same date that got Steve Alford fired a year prior.

And that wasn’t even the low point!

As of January 15th, UCLA was under .500 on the season. That’s what happens when you start league play by losing three of your first four games. Since starting the season 8-9 and starting Pac-12 play 1-3 and having half of the known world question whether or not he was the right hire for UCLA to make, Mick Cronin has reeled off 10 wins in 12 games. He’s swept Colorado in the last six weeks. He’s won at Arizona. And on Thursday night, the Bruins got a three from freshman Jaime Jaquez with 0.6 seconds left on the clock to knock off Arizona State, who was all alone in first place in Pac-12 entering the night.

I was bullish on UCLA entering the season, but I’ll be honest: I did not think that there was any chance that they could be two games away from winning a Pac-12 title.

But here we are.

2. THAT WASN’T THE ONLY INSANITY OUT WEST

Arizona had a chance to move into a first-place tie with a win at USC on Thursday night, but they weren’t able to get that done thanks to a double-double from Onyeka Okongwu and a 3-for-14 shooting performance from Nico Mannion. The Wildcats shot just 28 percent from the floor and 3-for-26 from three on the night.

And Colorado? They had the same opportunity, but they slept-walked through a half at Cal and ended up losing by 14 points. The only team other team that won with a chance to play their way into first place in the league was Oregon, who beat up on Oregon State despite the fact that they were playing without Chris Duarte.

As it stands, the Ducks and the Bruins are tied for first place. Arizona State is a half-game out in the win column while Arizona and Colorado are a game off the pace.

3. OH, AND WISCONSIN MIGHT BE GOOD AGAIN

The Badgers went into the Crisler Center and beat up on Michigan, who had a healthy Isaiah Livers at their disposal. D’Mitrik Trice had 28 points and Aleem Ford and Micah Potter both chipped in with 18 in the 81-74 win.