BUBBLE BANTER: Vandy’s key win, UCLA in trouble?

(AP Photo/Michael Baker)


Two weeks ago, Vanderbilt (KenPom: 37, RPI: 63) was barely even on the bubble radar. But last Tuesday, the Commodores picked up a win over Florida, an RPI top 25 win, and after losing (in fairly unimpressive fashion) at Texas over the weekend, Vandy went out and beat down Texas A&M on Thursday.

And suddenly, Vanderbilt might be in the tournament as of today.


That’s the difference that two wins of that quality can make. Because if you do the math now, Vanderbilt now has three top 50 wins, six top 100 wins and zero sub-100 losses to go with a top 50 non-conference strength of schedule and three more chances at top 25 wins before the regular season is over. To put it simply, 3-7 against the top 50 looks far better than 1-7 against the top 50.

I’m not saying they’re a lock to dance mind you. (If that’s the way you took it, you probably couldn’t get into Vanderbilt.) They’re very much on the cut line and likely will be until the last week of February; their last three games are at Florida, Kentucky at home and at Texas A&M. That stretch will make or break their bid.

But they went from afterthought to in the mix really, really quickly.

And I promise you, if you’re a No. 6 seed, you do not want to see Vanderbilt in the first round.


  • Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 52): The Beavers landed a huge win over Utah at home on Thursday. The Utes are an RPI top 20 team, and that random foul by Utah’s Brandon Taylor at half court could end up being a difference maker on Selection Sunday. The win over Oregon will look great on their profile all year long, and the Beavers now have four top 35 wins in total, including three top 20. They also have no bad losses, although they are just 4-6 against the top 50 and 5-8 against the top 100. With seven top 100 opponents — including three top 25 — left on their schedule, they still have some work left to do. There are no easy nights in the Pac-12.
  • Cincinnati (KenPom: 33, RPI: 56): The Bearcats avoided what would have been a killer loss to South Florida on Thursday night. Cincinnati’s margin for error is going to be small moving forward. They play just three more top 100 opponents, and only one of them (SMU) is ranked in the top 50. With VCU being their best win and just four top 100 wins in total, the Bearcats are not as safe as Mick Cronin would like them to be.
  • UConn (KenPom: 27, RPI: 57): UConn won at Memphis on Thursday, which sounds a lot more impressive than it is on paper. UConn is currently just 4-6 against the top 100, but they do own a win at Texas that continues to look better and better. They have some awful teams left on their schedule, and with mediocre computer numbers, I think this group could really use a win in one of their two games against SMU.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 35, RPI: 71): Gonzaga avoided what could have been a killer loss to Loyola Marymount on Thursday night. The Zags are just 4-5 against the top 100 with nothing resembling a great win. Call it a gut feeling, but I think their NCAA tournament chances come down to whether or not they win at SMU.
  • USC (KenPom: 30, RPI: 19): USC now owns a sweep of UCLA after knocking off the Bruins in the Galen Center tonight. They have four top 50 wins and are 8-5 against the top 100. Their worst loss of the season? At Oregon State. The Pac-12 is a bear, so the Trojans are going to be tested every night the rest of the season, but at this point, we should feel pretty safe slotting this team in the tournament.


  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 24, RPI: 46): The Gaels lost at BYU on Thursday, which, in a vacuum, is not a bad loss. But we’re not in a vacuum, we’re currently in a world where the Gaels don’t have a top 50 win on their résumé and have won just four RPI top 150 games all season long. With just two top 100 teams left on their schedule, I’m not sure this group can get an at-large bid.
  • Colorado (KenPom: 49, RPI: 23): The Buffaloes got smacked around at Oregon on Thursday, a loss that looked far worse on TV than it does on their NCAA tournament profile; the Ducks are the No. 3 team in the RPI and this game was in Eugene. I think Colorado will end up getting a bid as long as they avoid a total collapse. They’re 6-6 against the top 100 with no sub-50 RPI losses. Add a few more top 100 wins, avoid losing to Washington State, go to the NCAA tournament.
  • UCLA (KenPom: 62, RPI: 68): A loss to USC on Thursday dropped the Bruins to 13-10 on the season. They’re just 2-8 against the top 50, and while they do have seven top 100 wins, they lost to Washington State, who slots in as an RPI sun 150 team. The good news for UCLA? They have a top 30 strength of schedule and finish the season with five top 50 and three more top 100 opponents. They’re talented, and if they get hot, they can beat anyone. And if that happens, they can still churn out a really strong profile. So … when is that run going to start?

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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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.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.