BUBBLE BANTER: Florida’s big win, Butler in some real trouble following loss

(Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)


Florida (Kenpom: 26, RPI: 25) wasn’t in a bad position to earn themselves an at-large bid entering this weekend. In fact, most bracket projections have them slotted somewhere around the 8-9 games. The issue with Florida’s profile was that the Gators didn’t have any marquee wins. They beat Saint Joseph’s, a team with great computer numbers that may not actually be a top three team in the Atlantic 10. They also picked wins over LSU, Georgia, Auburn and at Ole Miss, all of which are, as of Saturday, top 100 wins.

On Saturday, the Gators not only beat No. 9 West Virginia, they blew the Mountaineers out in the O-Dome. Scoring difference is irrelevant when it comes to the RPI, but it matters in KenPom’s formula — which the committee is slowly but surely paying more attention to — and it matters for perception. We didn’t know what to think of the post-Billy Donovan Gators. Great computer metrics only mean so much when you lose to the five best teams you play. A dominating win over a top ten team is a good way to make a statement.

  • South Carolina (KenPom: 46, RPI: 28): The Gamecocks improved to 18-2 overall with a win over Alabama on Saturday, but here’s the crazy thing about their profile: that win over Alabama is their best win of the season, at least in terms of the RPI. South Carolina now has one top 50 win. One. They play at Texas A&M and get Kentucky and Florida at home. That’s it. Frank Martin is going to have to land two of those wins to feel safe, assuming South Carolina doesn’t get upset.
  • Syracuse (KenPom: 33, RPI: 41) picked up a home win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, a win that moved the Orange to 7-7 against the RPI top 100. The Orange have some quality wins this season — Texas A&M, at Duke, Notre Dame — and if it wasn’t for that horrid loss to St. John’s, this group probably wouldn’t need to be mentioned here.
  • Florida State (KenPom: 44, RPI: 43): The Seminoles have a stronger profile than I realized: Three RPI top 50 wins, including Virginia and at Florida, and no RPI sub-100 losses. A weak non-conference schedule means that games like Clemson at home, which Florida State won on Saturday, are critical; their margin for error is minimal.
  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 42, RPI: 54): The Pirates picked up a win against Creighton on Saturday meaning that they are still looking like they’re land right on the cut-line. Barring a loss to Marquette, St. John’s or DePaull, Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament status is going to get decided by the last week of February, when they get Providence and Xavier at home.
  • Kansas State (KenPom: 39, RPI: 42): The Wildcats knocked off Ole Miss, which is critical because it’s exactly the kind of game that they cannot afford to lose at this point. K-State’s profile is interesting: They’re 0-8 against the RPI top 25 but those are their only eight losses this year. They have one top 50 win (over Texas Tech, who is 29th in the RPI) and they beat Georgia and Ole Miss. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row. They have six more games against the top teams in the Big 12, so they’ll have chances. They need to start capitalizing on them.
  • UCLA (KenPom: 67, RPI: 58): The Bruins are only winners in the sense that they didn’t lose to Washington State … again. It’s tough to know what to make of UCLA’s profile at this point, but with nine games left and all of them against teams ranked in the top 60 of the RPI, what their profile looks like now is irrelevant. They need to start piling up the wins.
  • San Diego State (KenPom: 74, RPI: 59): The Aztecs kept their bubble hopes alive by beating UNLV, but with just one top 50 win, one sub-300 loss and no teams in the MWC ranked in the RPI top 50, it’s going to be tough to put together a profile worthy of that at-large bid.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 40, RPI: 79): Like SDSU, Gonzaga avoided a loss that could have been a killer. Their status as an at-large team still hinges on whether or not they can beat SMU at SMU next month.
  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 20, RPI: 38): The Gaels avoided a bad loss, meaning that they’re still in the same boat. They’re going to have better computer numbers than the Zags come Selection Sunday, but they only have two RPI top 100 opponents left, and neither of them are in the top 75.


Butler (KenPom: 38, RPI: 60) is suddenly in a very worrisome position in terms of their bubble standing. Prior to last weekend, the reason to be bullish on the Bulldogs was that they didn’t have a bad loss on their résumé, with all five of their losses at the time coming against RPI top 25 teams. Throw in the neutral court win over Purdue and a win at Cincinnati, and there was enough in their profile to slot them in favorable at-large position.

Fast forward two weeks, and Butler has dropped roadies to Creighton and Marquette. Granted, winning on the road is a difficult thing to do in league play, but for a team that has just one top 50 win, losing to teams with sub-90 RPIs is risky business. Here’s the other concern: Butler only has two games left against the top three teams in the conference: they play Xavier at home on Feb. 13th and visit Villanova a week after that. They do get Seton Hall and Georgetown twice apiece, so it’s not like Butler’s schedule is devoid of good wins, but if they can’t land a win against Providence or Xavier, they are likely going to be heading into the Big East tournament with quite a bit of work left to do to get an at-large bid..

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 31, RPI: 56): The ‘Dores lost at Texas, which isn’t exactly the kind of loss that will hurt a résumé. Hell, a road game against an RPI top 25 opponent might actually bump their RPI up a bit. The missed opportunity hurts — Vandy is 2-7 against the top 50, albeit without a sub-100 loss — but the way this group played is perhaps more concerning. For a team with a potential first round pick at the point and at center, a slew of shooters and a coach with the reputation of Kevin Stallings on the offensive end of the floor, Vandy managed just 16 first half points and will likely slide out of the KenPom top 100 in offensive efficiency. This group is trending towards the cut-line. Are they actually going to be good enough to pick up the wins they need? They get Texas A&M twice, Kentucky at home and Florida on the road. My guess is they need at least two of those.
  • Georgetown (KenPom: 53, RPI: 70): The Hoyas missed another opportunity to land a quality win on Saturday, falling to Providence by four at home. Georgetown has one of the best wins any team will land this season — at Xavier — but with just four top 100 wins and loss to UNC Asheville and Radford, this group needs to start landing some of the marquee wins. The good news? They’ll have plenty of chances.
  • St. Joseph’s (KenPom: 49, RPI: 32): Like South Carolina, the Hawks have a terrific record (18-3) but no real substance in their profile. They’ve lost to the three best teams they’ve played and can count Princeton and Temple as their best wins. A visit from Dayton next month is looking like a must-win.
  • LSU (KenPom: 63, RPI: 74): Losing to Oklahoma is a killer for LSU. not because a loss to the No. 1 team in the country hurts their profile, but because a win over the nation’s No. 1 team — a win that LSU would’ve had until Buddy Hield went crazy — would have put the Tigers on the right side of the bubble.
  • Creighton (KenPom: 35, RPI: 93): The Bluejays are a better team than their at-large profile says, but moral victories don’t get factored into the NCAA tournament selection process. Creighton lost to Seton Hall on Saturday, and having lost four games by one possession this season, the Bluejays cannot afford to lose winnable games.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 52, RPI: 81): The Tigers lost at Florida State, which isn’t exactly a killer considering that FSU is a top 50 RPI team right now. Clemson has an interesting profile: Six RPI top 50 wins but two RPI sub-150 losses. The biggest issue? A non-conference strength of schedule of 335.
  • Stanford (KenPom: 96, RPI: 50): The Cardinal are another one of these teams with just enough good wins to keep them in the picture because they don’t have a bad loss on their résumé. Losing at Utah certainly doesn’t qualify as a bad loss, but if Johnny Dawkins’ club is going to go dancing, they need to start landing some of these quality wins. Right now, they’re 2-9 against the top 50.
  • Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 52): The Beavers lost at Arizona, meaning that they are without a bad loss this season. Barring a loss to Washington State next month, they’ll end the season without a sub-100 loss. The problem? They’re just 4-8 against the RPI top 100.


NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.