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

(Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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WINNERS

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.

LOSERS

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.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.

Nance scores 21 as North Carolina survives Syracuse, 72-68

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Pete Nance scored 21 points, capped by a dunk with 19 seconds left that put North Carolina in front for good as the Tar Heels pulled out a hard-fought, 72-68 battle with Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Joe Girard hit from beyond the arc to put Syracuse up, 68-66 with 1:28 left, but after Nance hit the first of two free throws to get North Carolina within one, he missed the second free throw and in the scramble to gather in the rebound, the ball caromed toward the end line and Girard dove to save it. Instead, he flicked the ball right to Nance, who dunked for the lead.

Judah Mintz tried to drive the lane for a go-ahead layup but was called for an offensive foul that was upgraded to a flagrant foul. North Carolina took possession and Caleb Love converted three straight free throws to put the game away.

Armando Bacot scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds with four assists for North Carolina (15-6, 7-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Love finished with 15 points and five assists.

Girard hit 4 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 18 points to lead Syracuse (13-8, 6-4). Mintz scored 17 points and had three steals and Chris Bell hit 3 of 5 from deep and finished with 15 points.

North Carolina has a week off before playing host to Pitt on Feb. 1. Syracuse plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Green Bay fires Will Ryan after 11th straight loss

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay fired Will Ryan three days after the Phoenix suffered their 11th consecutive loss.

Ryan, the son of former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, posted a 15-61 record in 2 1/2 seasons. Freddie Owens, who had been an assistant coach on Ryan’s staff, will be interim head coach for the rest of the season.

“UW-Green Bay is committed to continuing its legacy as an outstanding Division I athletics program in the future, and Phoenix men’s basketball needs to help lead the way as we work to elevate all of our programs and be a shining light for this region and beyond,” athletic director Josh Moon said in a news release announcing the move.

Moon thanked Ryan and his family for their contributions to the program and said that “we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Stadium first reported Ryan’s firing.

Green Bay dropped to 2-19 overall and 1-9 in the Horizon League with a 72-38 home loss to Robert Morris.

Ryan was hired by Green Bay after going 14-13 in his lone season as the head coach at Division II program Wheeling (West Virginia). Green Bay went 8-17 in Ryan’s debut season and finished 5-25 last year.

Ryan had taken over for Linc Darner, who went 92-80 and posted a winning record in four of his five seasons.