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College Basketball’s Best Wing Forwards

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There are so many good wings in college basketball this year.

And to be frank, the “wing” spot is a tough one to define. For us, the definition is fairly simple: Players that you cannot simply classify as a guard, but that unequivocally are not big men. 

Miles Bridges is the perfect example. He’s certainly not a guard, at least not in the college games, but the idea of listing him alongside the likes of Tyler Davis or Ethan Happ just doesn’t work. 

Where this gets complicated is with the likes of, say, Trevon Bluiett or Deng Adel or Troy Brown. It’s almost as if the idea of positionless basketball makes it difficult to clearly identify players as a certain position.

Almost.

Which is why we give this disclaimer: We used four positions to rank players – lead guards, off guards, wings and big men. If your favorite player isn’t on this list, he’s probably slotted in a different position.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men

1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State

Simply put: Bridges is the best player in college basketball this season. He’s back for a sophomore season after averaging 16.9 points and 8.3 boards while shooting 38.9 percent from three as a freshman. He’s a freak-of-nature athlete and a rarity in the sense that he actually embraces playing on a college campus. He wants to here. That’s why he passed up being a top ten pick to make a run at winning a national title.

As Tom Izzo says, Bridges is a “weirdo“.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

But it’s not going to be that simple for Bridges. He’ll be playing a new position as a sophomore. Last year, he was forced to play the majority of his minutes at the four, as Michigan State couldn’t keep any of their big men healthy and Bridges – who checked in at 6-foot-7, 240 pounds last season – is the perfect small-ball four. He can bang with the big boys and he can torch those same players when they try to guard him on the perimeter.

This year, he’s going to be playing the three. He’s not going to be guarding bigs, he’s going to be guarding wings. He’s not going to be defended by power forwards, he’s going to draw an opponent’s best perimeter defender. There are going to be different reads he has to make, different instincts and skills he has to utilize, different places that he is going to be getting shots within the Michigan State offense.

That doesn’t mean that Bridges is going to be worse this year. Far from it. It just means that his role is going to be … different, and how he handles that change will affect whether Michigan State is national title good or just the favorite in the Big Ten.

2. Michael Porter, Missouri

There may not be a more talented player in college basketball this season than the potential No. 1 overall pick Michael Porter. At 6-foot-10, Porter has the size of a big man, the perimeter skills of a guard and the athleticism of a ten-time NBA all-star. He’s a freak, and while I hesitate to compare him to Kevin Durant as a player, I think there is the potential that the kind of season that he has for Missouri mirrors that of Durant’s freshman year.

But for me, the big question for Porter – and, frankly, for Missouri – is going to be where he ends up playing. The way that the Missouri roster is constructed, Porter is probably going to end up playing the three. That’s what happens when two big men are among the five best players on a team coached by a guy that loves playing two bigs together. I’m not convinced that is the best place for him to play, not against college players and not when he still hasn’t fully developed those perimeter skills.

At the very least, I expect Porter will be able to do what Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz could not: Get to the NCAA tournament.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri Athletics

3. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

Anyone that watched Xavier’s run to the Elite 8 in last year’s NCAA tournament knows just how good Bluiett can be when he gets it going. He’s a walking bucket playing on a team that needs someone to carry the lion’s share of their offensive production. Bluiett will enter this season as a heavy favorite, alongside Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, to win the Big East Player of the Year award. Hell, he could have made a push for that award last season had he not hurt his ankle.

Bluiett is a good bet to be the Big East’s leading scorer this season, and if Xavier is truly going to make a push to win the conference this year, it will be because Bluiett grew into an all-american.

4. Deng Adel, Louisville

Adel is going to test out just how complicated can a season get for a player.

Let’s start with what’s happening on the court. After spending his freshman season banged up, Adel was thought by many to be a breakout candidate as a sophomore, and to a point, he actually was. He was very good down the stretch of last season, although that growth was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Donovan Mitchell was awesome.

This was supposed to be Adel’s year to because the superstar for this team, to show NBA teams why he’s worthy of a contract, but a wrench got thrown into those plans when Rick Pitino was fired as a result of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops. Now, instead of playing for one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport, Adel will be looking for make that improvement under the tutelage of a 32-year old first-time head coach.

Let’s see how this plays out.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Deng Adel (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men

5. Vince Edwards, Purdue

Edwards has quietly been a productive, versatile and vital cog in the Purdue machine over the course of the last two seasons. He’s a multi-positional defender that makes threes and distributes the ball with an efficiency that should make stat-heads swoon. He’s not really cut out to be a star, but he was quietly much more effective last season than O.G. Anunoby, an in-state rival that got all of these accolades last preseason.

Anunoby is off to the NBA after an injury-plagued season, meaning that it is time for Edwards to get his due. With Caleb Swanigan gone, he’ll have to shoulder more of the offensive load this season, but assuming that Carsen Edwards can develop into a go-to guy offensively for the Boilermakers, Edwards should prove to NBA teams why he has value as a role player.

6. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

I’m torn on Knox when it comes to ranking him on this list.

On the one hand, the kid is a terrific talent. He’s a top ten prospect in a very good class with the tools and the athleticism to make him an intriguing player in the eyes of the NBA. But to me, he’s more of a power forward with some perimeter skill than he is a small forward at this point in his development. In other words, the role I see him playing in his career is as a small-ball four, a guy that should be tasked with getting to the glass and being a switchable defender all while taking advantage of the slow-footed power forwards that will try to keep him in front at the other end.

But on this Kentucky team, Knox will likely never play that role, not with the amount of front court talent John Calipari has at his disposal and the lack of depth available in the back court. This, to me, has the feel of Kentucky trying to fit Trey Lyles into the lineup as a three when that role just wasn’t quite right for his skill-set.

It will be interesting to see how that will play out for Knox, who picked perimeter playing time at Kentucky over a more natural small-ball four role that he could have played at Duke or North Carolina.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Troy Brown, Jon Lopez Nike

7. Troy Brown, Oregon

It’s going to be fascinating to see how Oregon head coach Dana Altman opts to use Brown this season, because he’s never really had a play of Brown’s ilk at his disposal. Brown is something of a 6-foot-6 point forward, an uber-versatile wing that isn’t exactly a scorer and isn’t exactly a shooter but that can handle the rock in ball-screen actions and is capable of creating off the bounce, for himself and for his teammates. Think P.J. Dozier, a former South Carolina player that is now on a two-way contract with Oklahoma City.

Altman’s never really had a guy like that at Oregon. He’s had a lot of guys that were tweeners, but they were either score-first forwards (Dillon Brooks) or freak athletes that work as switchable defenders (Jordan Bell, Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin). Brown will be a different kind of player on a team that returns essentially just a single relevant guy from last year’s Final Four team. Altman is as good as anyone at finding a way to make new rosters fit together, and I’m exciting to see how he decides to utilize Brown’s talent.

8. Bennie Boatwright, USC

Boatwright was a guy that I expected to be something of a breakout star as a freshman, and to a point he was. He averaged 15.1 points in 27 minutes, shooting 36.4 percent from three on the season. But he also missed roughly half the season with knee issues. He’s healthy now, and that is a major reason why I think that USC has a shot to be a Pac-12 title contender and a Final Four team this year.

There’s a reason they call him Bennie Buckets, and we’re going to see it this season.

9. Jeff Carroll, Oklahoma State

No one benefitted more from Brad Underwood’s one season at Oklahoma State than Jeff Carroll, who went from a no-name role player on a mediocre team to a 17-point scorer and a 44-percent three-point shooter on a tournament team. Now, with Jawun Evans in the professional ranks and Underwood at Illinois, it is going to be Carroll who carries the water as new head coach Mike Boynton looks to navigate his first season as a head coach, wading into the Big 12 with the stench of an assistant coach fired after being arrested by the FBI hanging over the program.

10. Justin Jackson, Maryland

Jackson is one of the guys that I think will have a breakout 2017-18 season. I don’t think it’s crazy to project him as a potential top 20 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, the ability to make threes and the skill-set to play the three or the four. Players like him at the future of the NBA.

The big question is going to be how much of that shines through this season at Maryland. There’s a changing of the guard for the Terps, as Melo Trimble is off to the NBA and a sophomore class that includes Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter takes over. Jackson put up some massive games as a freshman, but consistency was an issue. How will that play out this year?

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview
Justin Jackson (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  • 11. Amir Coffey, Minnesota: Coffey is such an important piece for what Minnesota does. He’s a multi-positional defender with offensive versatility that takes some of the play-making pressure off Minnesota’s backcourt.
  • 12. Jacob Evans, Cincinnati: As much as everyone wants to talk about Cincinnati’s front court, there’s a line of thinking that Evans may actually be the best player on the Bearcat roster. He did lead them in scoring as a sophomore.
  • 13. Mustapha Heron, Auburn: A former five-star recruit lured to Auburn by Bruce Pearl, Heron is going to be asked to carry the water for a Tiger team that has the pieces to make a run to the NCAA tournament this season.
  • 14. Mikal Bridges, Villanova: We’ve been waiting for Bridges to make a leap as a player for a couple years now, and that has not yet happened. But even without it, he’s still been effective for the Wildcats thanks to his length, defensive prowess and ability to score from the perimeter.
  • 15. J.P. Macura, Xavier: With all the attention that Trevon Bluiett gets, Macura has flown under the radar. But he is a talented, versatile player that led Xavier through some difficult stretches last season. He is a tough kid that isn’t going to back away from a challenge.
Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 
Top Lead Guards| Top Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men
Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview
  • 16. Kelan Martin, Butler: The big thing with Martin this season is going to be consistency. He has the ability to score 25 points in a half on any given night, but he can turn into something of a gunslinger that hunts shots at the detriment to his team’s offense. How will new Butler head coach Lavall Jordan handle that?
  • 17. Jordan Caroline, Nevada: Caroline is probably the most talented player in the Mountain West this season. He had some explosive performances last season, and with Nevada losing two of their top three scorers, he’ll be asked to do much more on that end of the floor.
  • 18. Theo Pinson, North Carolina: This may be something of a reach for a guy that has never proven to be a consistent scorer, but his playmaking and the fact that Roy Williams can slot him at the four in need-be makes him incredibly valuable. I think he has a big senior season.
  • 19. Chandler Hutchison, Boise State: If Caroline is the most talented player in the league, Hutchison may be the best. He’s my pick to win Mountain West Player of the Year.
  • 20. Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech: Okogie is a name you need to familiarize yourself with. He averaged 16 points in the ACC as a freshman and made the cut for the U19 World Cup, a team coached by John Calipari, over kids Cal was recruiting.

Illinois outlasts No. 9 Penn State

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Ayo Dosunmu scored 24 points and Illinois snapped a four-game losing streak with a 62-56 victory over No. 9 Penn State on Tuesday night.

Kofi Cockburn added 14 points for the Fighting Illini (17-9, 9-6 Big Ten), who led most of the way and ended Penn State’s eight-game winning streak.

The win also snapped Illinois’ six-game losing streak against Penn State.

NBC SPORTS BRACKETOLOGY

Lamar Stevens scored 13 points for the Nittany Lions (20-6, 10-5), who entered with their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 since they were No. 9 at the same point of the 1996 season.

Izaiah Brockington added 10 points for the Nittany Lions, who trailed 30-26 at halftime and by as many as nine points with 5:35 to play.

Penn State got a pair of free throws from Seth Lundy that cut its deficit to 58-56 with a minute left, but Dosunmu iced it with a layup 30 seconds later.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCOREBOARD

It was back-and-forth early as teams swapped the lead five times in the first. The Illini controlled play for 9:06 and Griffin gave them their biggest lead of the half when he hit a 3-pointer, drew a foul and hit the ensuing free throw to put the Illini up 21-16 with 8:54 before halftime.

Penn State used an 8-1 run, capped by a steal and dunk by Lundy, to retake the lead 4:22 later.

But Illinois got eight straight points from Dosunmu before a put-back by Giorgi Bezhanishvili to go up 30-26 at the break.

THE BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini needed a win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, and getting Dosunmu back certainly helped. The sophomore guard had missed Saturday’s loss at Rutgers after suffering an injury to his left knee is a win over Michigan State on Feb. 11. Despite their recent shooting woes, they looked confident against a strong Penn State defense that’s been nearly flawless at home.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions entered the evening a game behind Maryland in the hunt for the Big Ten’s top seed. There’s still plenty of time for them to recover and make up ground.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Hosts Nebraska on Monday.

Penn State: Visits Indiana on Sunday.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

All-out brawl mars the end of Jackson State-Prairie View A&M game

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After a chippy end to Prairie View A&M’s 70-61 win over Jackson State on Monday night, several players were involved in a fight that came after the buzzer sounded and knocked over fans sitting courtside.

The skirmish started during the handshake line, when Jackson State’s Dontelius Ross appeared to take exception to something that was said by Prairie View’s Darius Williams. He was initially held back, but the melee continued elsewhere on the floor.

Here is another angle of the brawl:

Monday’s Things To Know: Kansas is ready for Baylor, UNC drops another heartbreaker

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Monday was a slow night for college basketball, but we did get a couple of fun finishes around the country.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. NORTH CAROLINA’S HEART-BREAKING SEASON CONTINUES

No team in the country has suffered more soul-crushing losses than the Tar Heels have this season.

Remember when they lost to Virginia Tech in double-overtime? Remember when they lost to Clemson in the Dean Dome for the first time ever because Roy Williams forgot to tell his team to foul up three? What about the time they lost to Boston College because Brandon Robinson sprained his ankle while “fouling” a three-point shooter with 17 seconds left? We all remember the collapse against Duke, but did you see Tomas Woldetensae’s game-winning three for Virginia on Saturday?

And if that wasn’t enough, the Tar Heels lost at Notre Dame on Monday night when Nate Laszewski hit a three with 1.8 seconds left for a 77-76 win in South Bend.

That is now six straight losses for the Tar Heels, if you’re scoring at home. Four of the six are one possessions losses. They lost by six at Florida State in a game they led by eight late in the first half, too. They are really not all that far away from being a team with a pretty good record, but as it stands, they are now going to finish the season under .500.

It’s been a tough, tough season for the Tar Heels.

2. ZACH FREEMANTLE SAVES XAVIER

Zach Freemantle, a freshman forward for the Musketeers, scored four points in the final 10.4 seconds as Xavier landed a key win at St. John’s on Monday night.

The Musketeers are still fighting for a spot in the NCAA tournament. They do have some room to spare right now, but if they can find a way to win out during the regular season, the Musketeers will have a shot of climbing up past the 8-9 game. They’ve now won four of their last five games.

3. DEVON DOTSON SHOWS OUT AS KANSAS IS FINDING A RHYTHM OFFENSIVELY

Kansas has picked a great time to get hot.

On Saturday, the Jayhawks put up 87 points — the most points they have scored in regulation against a high-major opponent this season — in a 17 point win over Oklahoma on Saturday. They shot 11-for-22 from three in that game.

On Monday, they Jayhawks put up 91 points after shooting 12-for-27 from three against Iowa State. Marcus Garrett scored 24 points on Saturday. Devon Dotson scored 29 points on Monday.

Why is this important?

Because the Jayhawks play No. 1 Baylor in Waco on Saturday. When these two teams last faced off, the Bears beat the Jayhawks 67-55 in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. They’ll be ready for the rematch.

Bubble Watch: Breaking down every team in at-large conversation

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It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble watch.

The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. This does not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.

Dave’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:



ACC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Duke (NBC: 2), Florida State (NBC: 2), Louisville (NBC: 4)

VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 11): Tomas Woldetensae hit a three with a second left on the clock to beat North Carolina (95) in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Wahoos are now 17-7 overall with a 7-6 mark against the top two Quads thanks to this win. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but just one of them — Florida State (15) at home — is a surefire Quad 1 win to go along with a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (143). Perhaps the biggest issue is that UVA has just two potential Quad 1 wins left on their schedule. They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use a win over Duke (6) or Louisville (7) next month. But as of today they are in a pretty good spot.

N.C. STATE (NET: 61, NBC: First four out): The Wolfpack landed their third Quad 1 win of the season by going into the Carrier Dome and picking off Syracuse (69) on Tuesday night, but they followed that up with their third Quad 3 loss, a 71-68 loss at Boston College (143). N.C. State has just one win over a top 50 team — a home win over Wisconsin (33) — but they do have those three Quad 1 road wins. Three Quad 3 losses weigh things down quite a bit, but if they’re going to get to the NCAA tournament, they can earn it this week when they host Duke (6) and Florida State (14).


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 8)

WICHITA STATE (NET: 46, NBC: 10): The Shocker shook off a recent three-game losing streak with back-to-back impressive wins against the bottom of the AAC. They have beaten VCU (52) and Oklahoma (47) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just three potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — the Shockers need to get hot, and soon. I think they need to win two of at Cincinnati (51), at SMU (67) and at Memphis (60)

MEMPHIS (NET: 59, NBC: NExt four out): The Tigers are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak after losing yet another nailbiter at UConn (71). They’ve now lost their last three games by a total of 11 points, one of which came in overtime. In total, they have lost five of their last eight and seven of their last 12 games, and they are playing without D.J. Jeffries, their second-leading scorer. They have more Quad 3 losses (two) than Quad 1 wins (one) and the two best teams that they have beaten on the season are on the bubble. I don’t think this ends well for Memphis.

CINCINNATI (NET: 48, NBC: Play-in game): Cincinnati avoided disaster by beating East Carolina in overtime on Sunday. It’s their third straight overtime game: they beat Memphis (60) and home and lost at UConn (71). They’ve won seven of their last eight games and nine of their last 11, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are two major problems with Cincinnati’s resume right now: They don’t have an elite win and the best win available to them during league play is at Houston (29) in two weeks. They do have a pair of Quad 1 wins and an 8-5 mark against the top two Quads, but with three Quad 3 losses to their name, there is still some ground for them to makeup if they want to feel comfortable. They need to keep on winning, but the Bearcats are probably in the NCAA tournament as of today. My gut says they do enough to get there.


ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)

VCU (NET: 42, NBC: Off the bubble): The Rams are in a terrible spot after losing three of their last four games, including a blowout loss at Richmond (45) on Saturday. Ig they do not beat Dayton (5) on Tuesday next week, than discussing the rest of their resume will not matter. They will not be a tournament team. We’ll talk Wednesday.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 34, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home on Saturday. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (219) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton (5) at home in March.

RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: Play-in game): The Spiders picked up a win in the toughest game they have left on their schedule, beating VCU (52) by 18 points at home. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are a longshot. I cannot see how they are going to be able to get enough wins to stay on the right side of the cutline without a win over Dayton (5). But stranger things have happened, and they could end up getting another shot at the Flyers in the Atlantic 10 tournament.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 5), Texas Tech (NBC: 8), Oklahoma (NBC: 9)

No one on the bubble.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

Top 9: Seton Hall (NBC: 3), Villanova (NBC: 3), Creighton (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 4), Marquette (NBC: 6), Xavier (NBC: 9)

GEORGETOWN (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): Without question, the biggest bubble winner the week is Georgetown, who landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (20). There are two major problems with Georgetown’s NCAA tournament profile: The first is that they already have ten losses, but some of that is explainable: They are 5-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 9-10 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. They have played 19 games against top 75 teams. That’s a lot of good games, and a 9-10 record against them is hardly a bad thing. The other issue was a lack of elite wins, but they already had a win over Creighton (13) in their back pocket, and now they can add a road win over a top 20 team to the mix.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Maryland (NBC: 2), Penn State (NBC: 4), Michigan State (NBC: 5), Iowa (NBC: 6), Ohio State (NBC: 6), Illinois (NBC: 7), Michigan (NBC: 7), Wisconsin (NBC: 8), Rutgers (NBC: 9)

INDIANA (NET: 63, NBC: 10): Indiana is 16-9 on the season and 6-8 in the Big Ten, which is not ideal. Neither is their 1-6 record on the road. But the Hoosiers do have four Quad 1 wins and are sitting at 6-9 against the top two Quads without a single loss to a team that ranks outside the top 50. They’ve beaten three top 20 teams at home. Indiana fans are losing their minds, but they are in a better spot right now than they realize. Beating someone other than Nebraska (175) on the road would certainly make a different.

PURDUE (NET: 33, NBC: FIRST FOUR OUT): The biggest issue currently facing Purdue after losing at Ohio State (18) is that they now have 12 losses on the season, including a pair of Quad 3 losses, and the rest of their schedule is absolutely brutal. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 17-15 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 3-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-10 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.

MINNESOTA (NET: 40, NBC: Off the bubble): After blowing a late, eight point lead to Iowa (28) at home, the Gophers have lost four of their last five and five of their last seven games. They are 4-10 against Quad 1 opponents and sit at 6-12 against the top two Quads. Their 12-11 record on the season is certainly a problem, but their “worst” loss is DePaul (67) at home. The biggest red flag with Minnesota is that they have just one win away from home on the season — at Ohio State (15). They need to start winning, but they are in a place where getting hot for two weeks will be enough to get them up as high as a No. 8 seed. But they need to start winning now.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 4), Colorado (NBC: 5), Arizona (NBC: 7)

USC (NET: 49, NBC: 10): I think USC is in a pretty good spot after sweeping the Washington schools in LA this week and doing so without Onyeka Okongwu. They only have two Quad 1 wins, but they are 8-6 against the top two Quads. The home loss to Temple (106) is not ideal, but it is survivable. They should be OK as long as they don’t do anything stupid down the stretch.

STANFORD (NET: 37, NBC: NEXT four out): The Cardinal lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night at home against Arizona (8). It was their seventh loss in the last eight games. They have an ugly Quad 3 loss to Cal (155) and just two total Quad 1 wins. Stanford will have chances down the stretch, but should we actually trust them to take advantage of those chances?

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 50, NBC: 10): The Sun Devils won their fifth straight game on Saturday night, winning at Cal (155) three days after they beat Stanford (37) on the road, their fourth Quad 1 win. They’re now 4-6 against Quad 1 opponents with three of those wins coming on the road. They are 7-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents and their “worst” loss is a Quad 2 loss at Washington State (107). Should I mention that they are tied for the lead in the Pac-12 with four other teams? Arizona State is in a good spot right now.


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 4), Auburn (NBC: 4), LSU (NBC: 7), Florida (NBC: 9)

ARKANSAS (NET: 48, NBC: Next four out): The Razorbacks fell at the buzzer on Saturday when Mississippi State’s (53) Abdul Ado tipped in a missed shot with less than a second left. They ave now lost four straight games, are sitting with a 4-9 recorded against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (36) and at Indiana (63). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 53, NBC: First four out): Abdul Ado made the biggest player of the year for the Bulldogs, tipping home a game-winning bucket with less than a second left on the clock in a 78-77 win at Arkansas (48) on Saturday. The enormity of this win cannot be overstated. For starters, Mississippi State only had one Quad 1 entering the day, and adding a second Quad 1 win means they now have the same number as their Quad 3 losses. But the bigger issue is that MSU’s schedule down the stretch features precisely one top 65 opponent. This was their last chance at a good win for their resume until the SEC tournament, and they got it.

ALABAMA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): The Crimson Tide picked up an enormous win on Saturday, as they knocked off LSU (29) in Tuscaloosa for their second Quad 1 win of the season. Alabama is now 14-11 overall and while their 6-10 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents is solid, a 3-6 mark on the road, a home loss to Penn (153) and just two Quad 1 wins is not a good sign. At this point, I think Alabama needs to win out during the regular season for the simple fact that their schedule is not all that strong. But they have a shot if they do.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): Suddenly, South Carolina is in the mix for the bubble. They are 7-7 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents with a trio of Quad 1 wins — Kentucky (24), at Arkansas (48), at Virginia (55). They do have a Quad 3 loss — Boston (152) — and a Quad 4 loss — Stetson (290) — so they do have some more work to do. With a schedule that includes a pair of games against Mississippi State and dates with LSU and at Alabama, they’ll have a chance to build.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 7), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 9)

UTAH STATE (NET: 41, NBC: Play-in game): After beating Fresno State, the Aggies have won four in a row and seven of their last eight games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as three weeks ago. Wins over LSU (27) and Florida (38) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 40, NBC: 11): The Panthers lost at Loyola (94), which is hardly a bad loss, especially in the MVC, but I’m not sure that it is a loss they can afford. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (66) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (151) and Illinois State (203) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large, and even then, it will be tough.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 41, NBC: 11): ETSU has a win at UNCG (61) and a win at LSU (27). With a 20-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman (73) in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that will be a bit of a longshot. They went 2-0 this week.

Top of AP poll steady as Baylor, Kansas set collision course

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A new college basketball AP Poll has been released, and Baylor and Kansas just keep winning, setting up a monumental showdown Saturday between the top-ranked Bears and No. 3 Jayhawks that could help decide not only the Big 12 title but the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament.

The two teams were separated once again by Gonzaga in the latest college basketball poll from The Associated Press on Monday. The Bears (23-1) had 48 first-place votes from the 63-member media panel, while the Bulldogs (26-1) had 14 first-place nods and the Jayhawks (22-3) had the only remaining first-place vote.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

“The best we could be right now is being the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. We’re No. 2,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team beat West Virginia and Oklahoma last week. “The reason we’re not No. 1 is Baylor beat us on our home floor. They deserve it. I’m not looking at it like we haven’t done as well as our record because we’re in second place. I’m looking at it like we played pretty good that day and got beat by a better team, and now we have a chance to get them back.”

The Bears and Jayhawks both have business to handle before they collide on Saturday, though. Kansas got a visit from Iowa State to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night while Baylor will be visiting Oklahoma on Tuesday night.

If both win, it would set up one of the biggest games in the history of the Ferrell Center.

“I think it’s a tribute to the players, their belief,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “We’ve been operating under joy … (and) focusing one game at a time and we’ll keep doing that.”

San Diego State (26-0) remained the nation’s last unbeaten team and was No. 4 in the latest poll, while Dayton (23-2) climbed one spot to fifth after wins over Rhode Island and Massachusetts and a rough week for then-No. 5 Louisville.

“I told our team, `Let’s get greedy. Let’s play for perfection,”‘ Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “If we’re this close, we might as well play for a perfect regular season. … Let’s do something special.”

That’s exactly what the Flyers are trying to do, too.

“We’re trying to win a national championship,” Dayton guard Jalen Crutcher said. “We feel like that there’s no team in the country we can’t beat. We feel like we can go and win a national championship, and we talk about that a lot.”

The Cardinals lost to Georgia Tech and Clemson to plummet all the way to No. 11, but they weren’t the only ranked team to lose to an unranked foe on Saturday. Auburn fell at Missouri, Seton Hall lost to Providence, Butler lost at Georgetown, Illinois lost at Rutgers, Houston fell at SMU, Texas Tech fell at Oklahoma State and LSU was beaten on the road by Alabama.

Throw in then-No. 14 West Virginia’s loss to Baylor and nine ranked teams were beaten. Eight lost to unranked opponents, the most in a single day this season.

“This week wasn’t a good week for us,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “The teams we’re playing are too together and we’re not right now. It’s unfortunate, but it happens sometimes and my job is to keep our team on course and get better.”

The Penn State Nittany Lions moved up into the No. 9 spot, tying the school’s highest ranking ever in the AP Poll era.

Here is the full college basketball AP Poll:

1. Baylor
2. Gonzaga
3. Kansas
4. San Diego State
5. Dayton
6. Duke
7. Maryland
8. Florida State
9. Penn State
10. Kentucky
11. Louisville
12. Villanova
13. Auburn
14. Oregon
15. Creighton
16. Seton Hall
17. West Virginia
18. Colorado
19. Marquette
20. Iowa
21. Butler
22. Houston
23. BYU
24. Arizona
25. Ohio State

Others receiving votes: Texas Tech 92, Michigan State 87, Michigan 83, LSU 55, Rhode Island 39, Virginia 32, Cincinnati 14, Stephen F. Austin 14, Illinois 12, Northern Iowa 9, Utah State 8, Rutgers 6, Florida 6, East Tennessee State 5, Saint Mary’s 4, Tulsa 3, Richmond 3, SMU 2, New Mexico State 2, Wright State 1, Arizona State 1

More AP college basketball: http://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25