BUBBLE BANTER: The AAC and Pac-12 with some key bubble clashes

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Selection Sunday is now less than a month away, and while Wisconsin (KenPom: 36, RPI: 46, Bracket Matrix Seed: 9) has managed to play their way back onto the bubble — a place they weren’t anywhere near as recently as three weeks ago — I’m not sure that the Badgers are quite as safe as some bracket projections would make them out to be.

The issue isn’t the wins that Wisconsin has landed this season.

During their recent seven-game winning streak, Wisconsin knocked off Indiana and Michigan State at home, getting over the hump on Saturday with a 13-point win at Maryland. In total, that gives Wisconsin four top 50 wins — they also won at Syracuse in December — and an 8-6 record against the top 100 after they fell at Michigan State on Thursday.

The problem for Wisconsin is their losses.

As of today, they have three sub-100 losses, and those sub-100 losses are likely to stay sub-100 losses unless Northwestern and Marquette make a run late in the season. The Badgers also lost to Milwaukee, but the real stunner here is the season-opening loss to Western Illinois at the Kohl Center. WIU is … 252nd in the RPI. I know, that happened four months ago, and I know it came when Bo Ryan was still in charge, but we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.

And that’s to say nothing of their remaining schedule: Wisconsin still has Michigan at home and Iowa and Purdue on the road. They also have to play at Minnesota, who just beat Maryland at home tonight.

The Badgers have a shot to get this thing done.

But it’s not going to be as easy as some may think.

WINNERS

  • UConn (KP: 24, RPI: 45, BM: 8): The Huskies landed a critical win on Thursday, knocking off SMU at the XL Center and picking up one of their best wins of the season. With a win over SMU and a win at Texas to go along with a 7-7 record against the top 100, no losses outside the top 70 and solid schedule strength numbers, the Huskies are in pretty good shape right now.
  • Tulsa (KP: 47, RPI: 51, BM: Next Four Out): The Golden Hurricane added a needed-top 100 win to their résumé on Thursday, knocking off Cincinnati in overtime. Tulsa still has some work to do, and with just one more top 100 opponent left on their schedule, they may need to win out and get a win or two in the league tournament.
  • Wichita State (KP: 14, RPI: 50, BM: 10): The Shockers beat Missouri State at home, meaning their at-large hopes are still alive. But like I said last week, I’d strongly advise against another loss.
  • Gonzaga (KP: 29, RPI: 59, BM: 12) and Saint Mary’s (KP: 42, RPI: 70, BM: First Four Out) both won, setting up a play-out game on Saturday between the two teams.
  • Stanford (KP: 112, RPI: 74, BM: N/A): The Cardinal’s slim chances of getting into the NCAA tournament as an at-large team remain as they avoided the landmine loss of Washington State.

LOSERS

  • Cincinnati (KP: 28, RPI: 60, BM: 11): The Bearcats whiffed on a chance to land a top 50 road win against Tulsa on Thursday night. It’s not a loss that’s going to drastically change their bubble standing. They still have a few chances to land quality wins, as they host both UConn and SMU. I’d recommend winning both.
  • UCLA (KP: 53, RPI: 63, BM: N/A): The Bruins lost to Utah at home on Thursday, which would, in theory, end their at-large hopes. Except UCLA plays four of their last five games against teams in the top 35. They probably need to win all four — and then beat Stanford as well — but this thing isn’t quite over yet.
  • Washington (KP: 70, RPI: 61, BM: First Four Out): The Huskies lost at home to Cal on Thursday, a loss that hurts quite a bit because it was their best remaining chance to land a quality win. Beating Stanford at home won’t do much for them and I’m not sure if the Huskies can go to Oregon or Oregon State and get a win. The good news for Washington is that they do have three excellent wins on their profile: Texas, Colorado and USC. That alone is not going to be enough to get them in.

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.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.