BUBBLE BANTER: George Washington’s critical win, Cincinnati’s bad loss

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that picks up a bigger bubble win today than No. 25 South Carolina (KenPom: 53, RPI: 30), who finally landed a marquee win in the first game they played against a quality opponent this season, beating No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday.

That’s not meant as a shot. It’s meant purely in RPI terms. The Gamecocks have played just one RPI top 50 team this season — Alabama twice, and they split — and the Crimson Tide are 3-6 in the SEC and barely in the top 50. Throw in that horrid non-conference schedule (318th) and what you had was a team with a great record (19-3) and RPI but without any real proof as to how good they are in on-court results.

That’s a problem, which is why this win is so big. Because not only did they beat a top ten team and the SEC favorite, but they did so in College Station, and road wins matter more than home wins in the eyes of the Selection Committee. Frank Martin’s club still has some work to do, but winning on Saturday earned them some margin for error.

The only team that comes close to South Carolina is George Washington (KenPom: 82, RPI: 49). Entering the day, the Colonials’ profile hinged almost totally on a win over Virginia on the fourth day of the season. As the Cavaliers have steadily improved, the win has looked better and better.

The problem is that GW hasn’t done much to add to in. The win over Seton Hall was nice as were wins over Davidson, Tennessee and Duquesne, but they’re not enough to overcome losses to ugly losses to Saint Louis and DePaul. Losing to Richmond at home — who is probably better than their RPI indicates — certainly didn’t do them any favors, either.

On Saturday, George Washington went down to Richmond and knocked off VCU, who, entering the day, was on a 12-game winning streak, undefeated in the Atlantic 10 and sitting in the top 30 of the RPI. That’s not quite what you would call a marquee and it certainly won’t lock the Colonials into an NCAA tournament bid, but if they intend of getting an at-large bid this season, it’s a win they really needed.

WINNERS

  • Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 41): The Beavers landed another huge win for their profile, knocking off Colorado at home, a win that game them their second RPI top 50 win in three days and their fifth of the season. They’re 7-8 against the top 100 with no bad losses. The problem? Wayne Tinkle’s club has done almost all of their damage at home and five of their last seven games are on the road. It’s not going to be easy, but at this point, I’d argue they have the inside track towards an at-large bid. Who had that in October?
  • Florida State (KenPom: 40, RPI: 38): The Seminoles are one of a handful of teams that seem to be trending for the NCAA tournament’s cut-line, and while winning at Wake Forest isn’t much of a game-changer, it is an RPI top 100 win on the road. That’s a nice addition to a résumé for a team headed to the cutline, where the difference in profiles is minimal.
  • LSU (KenPom: 55, RPI: 72): The Tigers are going to be a fascinating case on Selection Sunday. They beat Mississippi State on the road on Saturday to (get this) move into first place in the SEC! The problem? They played a bad non-conference schedule, they have two sub-100 losses and their second-best win (Kentucky is the best) came at Alabama, who is a fluke of the RPI formula. But their worst losses all came when they were at less than 100 percent. They’re at South Carolina and get Texas A&M at home next week. We’ll get answers then.
  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 44): The Pirates landed a nice win over Georgetown at home, giving them another top 100 victory for their profile. Two good wins — and the win over Wichita State is only going to look better and better — and no bad losses with a top 50 RPI is a good combo. That No. 274 non-conference schedule? That means they still had lots of work to do to feel safe.
  • Butler (KenPom: 42, RPI: 61): The Bulldogs landed a must-win at St. John’s on Saturday, setting them up for their most important week of the season. The Bulldogs are right on the cut-line right now. Win at Seton Hall and beat Xavier at home, and they can feel pretty good about getting an at-large bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win after that.
  • Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 57, RPI: 37): Like Temple, the Hawks did well on Saturday to avoid losing to an opponent that could tank their profile. St. Joe’s is in a better spot that Temple right now — they have better computer numbers and now bad losses — but a total lack of quality wins will be an issue on Selection Sunday. They badly need to beat Dayton at home this month.
  • Cal (KenPom: 43, RPI: 39): The Golden Bears added their eighth RPI top 100 win on Saturday, beating Stanford in Berkeley by 15. With three top 35 wins and just one truly bad loss, Cuonzo Martin’s club should feel pretty good about getting a bid as long as they win the games they’re supposed to win down the stretch.
  • San Diego State (KenPom: 68, RPI: 57): The Aztecs needed overtime to beat New Mexico at home, which was huge because SDSU isn’t exactly in a position to lose many games and still be on the right side of the bubble. They’re 10-0 in the Mountain West and may not be an at-large team. That’s where the league is at right now. SDSU has played one RPI top 100 since Dec. 22nd.
  • Temple (KenPom: 92, RPI: 74): The Owls beat Central Florida. It doesn’t do much for their profile, but a loss could have killed their already slim chances of an at-large bid. They get Villanova at home later this month. That’s a must-win.
  • Valparaiso (KenPom: 23, RPI: 36): The Crusaders beat one of the four-worst teams in college basketball on Saturday. Just playing that game is going to hurt their profile. I think the Crusaders are a top 40 teams in college basketball, but they want to make sure they win the automatic bid.
  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 30, RPI: 54): The Gaels avoided losing to San Diego, but the damage may have been done by the mid-week loss to BYU. They have no top 50 wins, no chances to land a top 50 win and some ugly scheduling numbers. I’m not sure they could survive a loss in the WCC tournament.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 35, RPI: 71): Like Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga is in a position where they cannot afford many (any?) losses in WCC play. They beat Pepperdine on the road last night, a tougher road trip than people may realize. The Zags have the added bonus of a roadie against SMU this month. That could be the decisive game for their bubble status.

LOSERS

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 52, RPI: 31): We got a glimpse of what Vanderbilt could be on Thursday, when they beat Texas A&M by 17. We got a glimpse of what they are on Saturday, when they followed that up with a loss at Ole Miss. The ‘Dores are looking like they’re going to end up right there on the cut-line on Selection Sunday.
  • Cincinnati (KenPom: 33, RPI: 65): The Bearcats took a bad loss on Saturday, as they went into Memphis and lost to a team that was blown on by 20 on that very same floor by UConn on Thursday. That’s the first sub-100 loss Cincinnati has, but they still have three more road games against sub-100 teams and just one win over a team ranked higher than 49th in the RPI. That game against SMU at home in the regular season finale may be the difference between the NCAA tournament and a trip to the NIT.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 49, RPI: 73): The Tigers took a loss that will look worse on their profile that it was in real life at Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Tigers have a fascinating résumé: six top 50 wins, three sub-100 losses (two of which are sub-180) and one of the nation’s 15-worst non-conference schedules. For my money, they’re on the outside looking in by a fair margin, as the selection committee has proven they factor in non-conference scheduling heavily.
  • Georgetown (KenPom: 60, RPI: 70): The Hoyas lost the Seton Hall tonight. On the road, to a top 50 opponent, which isn’t a huge deal … except for the fact that it’s their third straight loss and the fourth in five games since winning at Xavier. The one win in that stretch? At home against Creighton in a game where they came back from 12 down in the last two minutes. Given what’s left on their schedule, the Hoyas can still make the tournament. In theory. But it’s becoming less and less likely they’re a team that can actually get those wins.
  • Washington (KenPom: 74, RPI: 51): The Huskies lost to Arizona at home on Saturday, which, in a vacuum, isn’t a terrible loss. It was at home, yes, but it was also to Arizona, an RPI top 35 team. Where it hurts is that Washington is on the bubble, five of their next six games come against top 50 teams and four of those five are on the road. They needed that win because they’re entering the toughest part of their schedule.
  • Stanford (KenPom: 102, RPI: 63): The Cardinal have three top 50 wins, no bad losses and solid strength of schedule numbers. The problem? They’re now 3-9 against the top 50 and 5-10 against the top 100 after losing to Cal. At some point, they have to start collecting wins against the good teams that they’re playing.
  • Colorado (KenPom: 56, RPI: 23): The Buffs lost at Oregon State, but they’re pretty comfortably on the right side of the bubble and this was a road loss to a top 50 opponent. Not a major blow by any stretch.
  • BYU (KenPom: 58, RPI: 54): For some reason, BYU was still in the bubble conversation. They aren’t after losing to Pacific.

 

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

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

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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.