Bubble Banter: Big wins for LSU, Xavier, Texas; why is Indiana in trouble and Georgia safe?

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Yogi Ferrell (AP Photo)

(This post will be updated as the games are completed.)

Let’s have a conversation about Indiana, shall we?

The Hoosiers have now lost eight of their last 12 games after falling at home to Michigan State on Saturday afternoon. They’re 19-12 overall, 9-9 in the Big Ten and headed for a first round Big Ten tournament game that they simply cannot afford to lose.

And to think, just six weeks ago, they were tied for first place in the conference and ranked in the top 25, fresh off of a 19 point win over Maryland.

At this point, I don’t think it’s fair to slot the Hoosiers on the wrong side of the bubble. I know that their win over Maryland was fluky and at home, but they smacked around the Terps, and that’s one of four top 40 wins they have. They’re 8-11 against the top 100 and their only bad loss came on the road against a Northwestern team that is better than their record would indicate.

Indiana’s profile is far from perfect, but when you put them up against Texas A&M, Tulsa, Texas, Davidson, Temple, BYU and the rest of the bubble, they actually look fairly strong.

That might change if the Hoosiers lose to, say, Northwestern in their Big Ten opener. The Hoosiers certainly aren’t safe.

But the sky hasn’t completely fallen just yet.

READ MORE: Latest Bracketology

WINNERS

  • LSU: The Tigers picked up a massive, massive win on Saturday, going into Bud Walton Arena and knocking off No. 18 Arkansas, which is one of the better road wins that you’ll come across for any bubble team this season. The win just about locks LSU into an NCAA tournament bid. They can still get tripped up by one of the league’s bottom-feeders in the SEC tournament, but even with another loss to a sub-150 team, LSU might be OK. They now have five top 50 wins, with the Arkansas win being their best on the season. They do have five losses to teams ranked outside the top 90, but it is really hard to argue with 12 top 100 wins.
  • Xavier: Creighton had a shot to win it at the buzzer, but the how is much less important than the what: Xavier won in Omaha, and now the Musketeers look like a good bet to get a big to the Big Dance on Selection Sunday. They have five top 50 wins and nine top 100 wins, but with four sub-100 losses on their profile, avoiding a loss to DePaul, Creighton or Marquette in the Big East tournament will be critical.
  • Texas: The Longhorns picked up a vital win over Kansas State in Austin to close out the regular season. Bear in mind, beating the Wildcats is not a “good” win, but the Longhorns’ profile is only bubble-worthy because they don’t have any bad losses. Their worst loss of the season came to Stanford at home, and the Cardinal were legitimately considered a potential top-two team in the Pac-12 at the time. With just two wins over top seven Big 12 teams and just a 3-11 record against the top 50, Texas needs all the help they can get right now. Their work is not done yet. They need at least one win in the conference tournament.
  • Temple: The Owls completed their sweep of UConn, beating the Huskies in Philly on Saturday. It’s a win they needed, but it remains to be seen if they have done enough to get into the tournament. Temple has just two top 50 wins and six top 100 wins, but they beat Kansas by 25 points. Only having one bad loss is a good thing, and they did win 10 of their last 12, but Temple is just 1-5 against the top three teams in the league.
  • Georgia: The Bulldogs won at Auburn, and the consensus seems to be that will be enough to get Georgia into the Big Dance. I don’t understand that. Like Texas A&M, the Bulldogs don’t have any great wins. They’ve beaten two NCAA tournament-caliber teams, winning at Texas A&M and sweeping Ole Miss. But they also have four bad losses — South Carolina twice, Georgia Tech and Auburn. At 20-10 overall, I just don’t see how Georgia has a markedly better profile than, say, Indiana. Feel free to explain that one to me.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers landed a key win over Illinois, one that strengthens their position on the bubble. They don’t have any great wins — their best is either Iowa at home or BYU on a neutral floor — but they are 9-9 against the top 100, which would be enough if they hadn’t lost to North Florida and Gardner-Webb at home in December. As it stands, they probably want to win at least one game in the Big Ten tournament to feel safe.
  • N.C. State: The Wolfpack landed a convincing win over Syracuse, one that will further solidify their NCAA tournament standing. I don’t want to say definitively that N.C. State is in the NCAA tournament, but with their trio of great wins — Duke, at North Carolina, at Louisville — and their strength of schedule, Mark Gottfried’s club should be able to rest easy on Selection Sunday Eve barring an awful loss in the ACC tournament.
  • Davidson and Boise State: The Wildcats and the Broncos avoided hurting themselves on Saturday. Davidson smacked around Duquesne and Boise beat Fresno State. Those wins don’t help their profiles outside of the fact that losses to sub-200 teams would have been killers. Both are still in the same spot they were at the start of the day: probably in right now, but with work to do to lock themselves into a bid.
  • Colorado State: The Rams won at Utah State, meaning, like Davidson and Boise State, they’re still on the right side of the bubble with work to do.
  • BYU: The Cougars avoided what would have been a disastrous loss to Santa Clara in the WCC semifinals, a loss that they could not afford as one of the teams on the bubble’s cut-line. I still think they need to get to the finals of their conference tournament and, at worst, lose to Gonzaga.
  • Miami: The best thing that you can say about Miami’s win over Virginia Tech is that they didn’t lose to Virginia Tech. The Hurricanes are still on the wrong side of the bubble with some ground to make up in the ACC tournament.
  • Michigan State: I’m not sure if the Spartans were actually in trouble, but winning at Indiana locks up their bid.
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LOSERS

  • Every bubble team: Illinois State upset No. 8 Wichita State, meaning the Redbirds will be playing for the Missouri Valley’s automatic bid. Bid thief!
  • Texas A&M: The Aggies lost to Alabama at home on Saturday, meaning that they are now staring down the barrel of a potential trip to the NIT. The only NCAA tournament team that the Aggies have beaten is LSU, who they swept (and who beat Arkansas today), and while they’re 21-10 on the season, losing to Alabama at home — No. 90 in the RPI — is their worst loss of the season. My opinion of A&M can be read in full right here. I haven’t changed it at all.
  • Ole Miss: The Rebels lost at home to Vanderbilt on Saturday evening, dropping Ole Miss ever closer to the cut line. For now, they’re probably safe, but it means that their margin of error in the SEC tournament is just that much smaller. Also working against the Rebels: three ugly non-conference losses to TCU, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern.
  • Stanford: The Cardinal were in big trouble entering the day, but the good news was that they were playing at Arizona, meaning they had a terrific chance to land a great win. They didn’t. Arizona blew them out, putting Stanford in a position where they have to either win the automatic bid or beat the Wildcats in the Pac-12 tournament to have a chance.
  • Illinois: The Illini really needed to win at Purdue on Saturday, but despite dominating the first 15 minutes in Mackey Arena, they head back to Champaign knowing they have some work to do in the Big Ten tournament. The Illini have a pair of great wins — Maryland at home and Baylor in a neutral floor — but they’re 5-11 against the top 100 with a loss to Nebraska. I’d have them among the first four out right now.
  • Oklahoma State: The Pokes lost at No. 20 West Virginia, and while that, in and of itself, doesn’t kill the Cowboys, they are now 8-10 in the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost five of their last six games, and while they’re 3-8 against the top 25, they’re 5-1 against the rest of the top 100. The concern? You have to factor all of that in with three sub-100 losses on their resume. I think they’re safe, but I’d strongly recommend winning a game in the Big 12 tournament.
  • Kansas State: The Wildcats had an outside chance of getting an at-large bid, but that went out the window with their loss at Texas on Saturday.
  • Pitt: The Panthers lost to Florida State today. They were already on the wrong side of the bubble, and this ensures that they will need to win the ACC’s automatic bid to go dancing.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan St snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats BC 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.

Miles Kelly leads Georgia Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.

FIRING UP THE CROWD

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.

UP NEXT

Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.