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College Basketball’s Impact Freshmen

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

This season’s freshman class isn’t quite as deep as last season’s bunch — which saw a ridiculous group that is already contributing at the NBA level — but the star power at the top of 2017 might actually be better than last season’s guard-heavy group.

While this class is very focused on big men and bigger wings, there are talents at all positions to keep track of. Another interesting wrinkle for this season is some of the new schools that five-star prospects are choosing.

Traditional bluebloods like Arizona, Duke and Kentucky are still cleaning up on five-star talents but some other schools have entered the mix for some of the nation’s best young talent.

Watch out for these 20 names this season, and there will also be plenty of other freshmen to keep tabs on throughout college basketball.

Marvin Bagley III (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

TEN NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW

These are the studs, the best players in the class, the guys that are going to be at the top of draft boards and in the all-american conversation all season long.

Michael Porter Jr., Missouri: Capable of being the best player in the country this season, Porter might be one of the most polished freshman scorers that college basketball has seen over the past several seasons. And unlike a lot of his peers who teamed with other five-star super talents, Porter is going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Tigers this season. Yes, Missouri has some four-star talents like younger brother Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon coming in with Michael, but if the Tigers want to make noise in the SEC then Porter might have to have a Kevin Durant/Michael Beasley type of season to make it happen.

Marvin Bagley, Duke: Even if Porter Jr. has a monster season, the 6-foot-11 Bagley might be the best long-term prospect and No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. A gifted and fluid athlete with a very high skill level for his size, Bagley’s August commitment to the Blue Devils made them the preseason No. 1 team in the eyes of many. Bagley is a double-double machine capable of snaring almost any miss above rim level and his ability to handle the ball and pass makes him deadly pushing off of a rebound. And with elite off-the-floor athleticism, Bagley can make plays around the rim that others can only dream of.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: If exhibition games are any indication, then Ayton should still be considered a potential No. 1 pick and possible All-American. In only 24 minutes against Eastern New Mexico, Ayton had 31 points (13-for-16 FG), 10 rebounds, two blocks and two assists. If Ayton is focused and playing with a high motor, then he is one of the most physically-gifted 7-footers that college basketball has seen in the last decade. With unique touch for a player of his size and athleticism, Ayton can be a special player for Arizona this season if they get him enough touches and keep him engaged. And with the help of another double-double threat in senior big man Dusan Ristic, defenses can’t take a break defending against Arizona’s talented interior scorers. That should wear down a lot of teams this season.

Deandre Ayton (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Collin Sexton, Alabama: Watching Sexton should be a very unique experience this season as head coach Avery Johnson tries to reign in the 6-foot-3 guard’s hyperactive intensity. Sexton is the kind of electric talent who led the Nike EYBL in scoring by a full nine points per game a few years back but he also plays with such energy (both good and bad) that it has to be harnessed correctly or things can go poorly. Thankfully, Sexton has become better about playing in level-headed ways as he’s also capable of getting others involved by drawing in multiple defenders. Sexton should be one of the biggest weapons with the ball in his hands in the country this season. Don’t be shocked to see Sexton among the nation’s leaders in attempted free throws.

Mohamed Bamba, Texas: It will likely only be one season in Austin for this 6-foot-11 center and it’s hard to predict what type of player Bamba can be for the Longhorns. With a 7-foot-8 wingspan and tremendous lateral quickness for his size, Bamba is a completely distinctive prospect because he can do so many uncharacteristic things on the defensive end. Bamba is long enough to challenge and swat at nearly any look while also being quick and instinctive enough to switch onto some wings and shut them down. And offensively, Bamba is also trying to figure out how to use his unique gifts as he can limited on that end because of his developing strength and skill level. Bamba will have to show he’s able to score outside of the paint if he’s going to be a consistent factor on offense. Even with some limitations, Bamba is a scary prospect and one who should help Texas immensely at times this season.

Wendell Carter, Duke: It’s scary to think that Carter could be a top-five pick — even though Bagley is playing in the other frontcourt spot. The 6-foot-10 Carter is another monster on the interior who can impact a game on the glass, score on the block or stop opposing big men one-on-one in the paint. A little bigger and stronger than Bagley, Carter is also underrated from a skills perspective as he’s a gifted passer and solid jump shooter. Watching to see if Carter has any kind of extended range is going to be a major factor early in the season as Duke seeks consistent spacing from anyone besides Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr.

Wendell Carter (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State: The ceiling is the roof for the 6-foot-11 Jackson as he’s skilled enough to shoot 40 percent from three-point range but long and athletic enough to be a menacing rim protector. That’s why Jackson has shot up NBA Draft boards over the past year as he’ll give the Spartans a big man who space the floor. Armed with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Jackson can also be a major impact on the glass and defensively as he should be a great compliment to the bruising low-post game of sophomore Nick Ward. If Jackson has a monster season then Michigan State might have the scariest collection of talent in the country.

Trevon Duval, Duke: Nobody is doubting the physical tools and lead guard skill that Duval can potentially bring to Duke this season. The 6-foot-3 Duval is nearly impossible to contain off the bounce and his slick handles and passing ability is also noted. But Duke needs Duval to tone down his streaks of wild play and make sure that he’s a floor leader who can get others looks in the half court. For all of the talent that Duke has this season, it might be up to Duval to see this team’s true ceiling because he can make things so much easier on everyone else. Duval’s jumper will also be something to watch for as he’s never been consistent in that department. It’s not just that Duval is inconsistent, he can be flat-out bad shooting the ball sometimes. If Duval can handle point-guard responsibilities adequately then Duke won’t have to worry as much about the jumper but how Duval handles having the ball in his hands early is something to monitor.

Kevin Knox, Kentucky: A surprising spring signing for the Wildcats, Knox might have the best upside of a loaded Kentucky recruiting haul. The son of former Florida State receiver Kevin Knox, the younger Knox is a mega-athlete on the wing who is capable of scoring and rebounding at a high level. The 6-foot-8 Knox showed an improving jumper during his senior season and that could be a huge key for his freshman success and Kentucky’s season. Since the Wildcats don’t have a lot of consistent perimeter threats, Knox knocking down jumpers would keep a lot of defenses honest and make the Wildcats very tough to beat.

Lonnie Walker, Miami: Now that it looks like he’ll be fully recovered from a torn meniscus suffered this summer, the 6-foot-5 Walker joins a Miami team with very high expectations. A natural scorer with a developed pull-up game and ability to get to the basket, Walker will have a lot of weapons around him, so he might be an immediate tough cover in the ACC. If Walker can knock down three-pointers on a consistent basis then he’ll continue to generate pro interest as he’s been rising up boards since the spring all-star circuit.

Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky Athletics

FIVE POTENTIAL D’ANGELO RUSSELLS

Here are five players ranked outside the top ten that might play their way onto an all-american team or into the NBA Draft lottery.

Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky: Redshirting the second semester of last season, Diallo has already experienced the highs and lows of practices and preparing for game days. Now the ultra-athletic 6-foot-5 Diallo gets a chance to play under the bright lights of Big Blue Nation. With tremendous athletic gifts and a ridiculous 6-foot-11 wingspan, Diallo could be one of the nation’s elite perimeter defenders this season and he’s also capable of above-the-rim plays that could lead top-ten highlight lists on a nightly basis. If Diallo becomes more consistent scoring away from the rim then he could be a force this season.

Troy Brown, Oregon: Highly-touted since he dominated the LeBron James Skills Academy as a high school freshman, the 6-foot-7 Brown is a very polished wing who can do a bit of everything. Capable of handling the ball, distributing and scoring, Brown has a chance to play a major role for an Oregon team that is losing a lot off of last year’s Final Four team. Brown should be one of the Pac-12’s better offensive players this season.

Trae Young, Oklahoma: It isn’t very often that the Sooners get a local five-star point guard but that is the case for the 6-foot-2 Young. Nobody on this list can match Young’s long-range shooting ability as he has the ability to rise and fire off the dribble from Steph Curry range. While he doesn’t own Curry’s consistency from three-point range (but, really, who does?), the sheer threat of Young knocking down deep jumpers makes him that much more of a threat off the bounce, where he’s a deceptively good floor leader.

Kris Wilkes, UCLA: The Bruins won’t have the magic of Lonzo Ball at point guard this season but they’ll still have a high-octane offense with a lot of weapons. Among the better options for the Bruins will be this 6-foot-8 wing from Indiana as Wilkes is a very good scorer. Very tough to stop in the open floor and also skilled enough to score at multiple levels in the halfcourt, Wilkes is a potential mismatch problem on the wing who is versatile enough to play a few different roles.

Brandon McCoy, UNLV: Coming off of an 11-21 season, the Runnin’ Rebels need this five-star 6-foot-11 center to produce immediately. The McDonald’s All-American is a solid athlete who brings a lot of natural size and ability at center for UNLV. It also helps McCoy that he’ll have two senior guards to get him the ball and some of the nation’s best junior college players joining him in the frontcourt. UNLV will have a lot of new pieces but McCoy will be one of the few freshman asked to produce for them right away.

Mo Bamba (AP Photo)

FIVE MORE NAMES THAT WILL HAVE AN IMPACT IN MARCH:

They may not be the superstars, but these guys will be relevant in the tournament.

Paul Scruggs, Xavier: A rugged two-way guard who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, the 6-foot-3 Scruggs could play his way into more minutes if he’s able to be a threat on offense. Strong at getting in the paint and attacking the basket, Scruggs can play on or off the ball, although he needs to improve the consistency on his perimeter jumper.

John Petty, Alabama: If Alabama envisions themselves as an NCAA tournament team then they’ll likely need a good season from this potent four-star shooting guard. The 6-foot-5 Petty is capable of some big scoring outbursts as he’s equipped with a streaky perimeter jumper and college-ready transition game. Cutting back on bad shots and turnovers could be key for Petty but he’s never had this much talent around him.

Matt Coleman, Texas: Without a point guard last season, the Longhorns struggled to take good shots and generate consistent offense. A true floor leader who has played for some high-level teams during a storied prep career, Coleman is hoping to be the piece that helps fix the Texas offense by making everything easier on everyone else. Coleman’s perimeter jumper needs work, but he’ll get plenty of good looks for others to make up for it.

Rayshaun Hammonds, Georgia: Some serious frontcourt depth means that the 6-foot-8 Hammonds doesn’t have to shine early. But if Hammonds can play like a top-50 prospect, then it gives the Bulldogs one of the best frontcourts in the country as he’ll join senior Yante Maten and junior Derek Ogbeide. Versatility will help for Hammonds as he’s capable of knocking down jumpers while also providing rebounding and defense at multiple positions.

Makai Ashton-Langford, Providence: Jumping late from UConn to Providence, the Friars are thrilled to be gaining such a talented floor general. The 6-foot-3 Ashton-Langford is very poised and does a great job of attacking off the dribble. Ashton-Langford could be a valuable change-of-pace from senior point guard Kyron Cartwright or he might force his way into the lineup if he plays up to his potential.

Demon Deacons stun No. 7 Duke in 2OT

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Brandon Childress shook off an awful shooting start and hit a tying 3-pointer late in regulation to help Wake Forest stun seventh-ranked Duke 113-101 in double overtime on Tuesday night.

Childress missed his first 10 shots before hitting the tying 3 with 15.5 seconds left in regulation. And once the game went into a second extra period, Childress buried another on the first possession to put the Demon Deacons (12-15, 5-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) ahead to stay, sending them to their first win against the Blue Devils in nearly six years.

He finished with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. Childress made six of his last 10 shots and scored 13 points in the two overtimes. Isaiah Mucius came up with a dunk with 14.7 seconds left to finally punctuate a huge victory for Danny Manning’s club.

When it was over, Wake Forest fans stormed the court to celebrate their first win against Duke since March 2014. Childress got carried around the court on shoulders.

It marked the second time in a week the Blue Devils (23-5, 13-4) lost on the road to an unranked instate opponent. They lost by 22 points at North Carolina State last week, ending with another court-storming celebration.

Freshman Wendell Moore Jr. had a season-high 25 points to lead the Blue Devils.

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

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

No. 8 Kentucky holds off Texas A&M

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Immanuel Quickley had a career-high 30 points and made eight 3-pointers, also a career-best, to lead No. 8 Kentucky to its seventh straight win, 69-60, over Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Quickley is the first Kentucky player with consecutive games with at least 25 points since Malik Monk in 2017. The sophomore scored 26 in a win over Florida on Saturday.

Kentucky (23-5, 13-2 Southeastern Conference) was up by 13 and the Aggies hadn’t made a field goal in more than eight minutes when Quenton Jackson ended the drought with a dunk with about 6 minutes to go. That was the start of a 8-2 run by Texas A&M that cut the lead to 57-50 with about 4 minutes left.

Quickley ended the run with a jump shot and hit another 3-pointer after a free throw from Josh Nebo to make it 62-51 with about 90 seconds left to secure the victory.

Wendell Mitchell had 18 points for Texas A&M (14-13, 8-7), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. The Aggies have lost nine straight games to ranked opponents, with their last win against a team in the Top 25 coming on March 18, 2018, when they beat No. 10 North Carolina.

The Wildcats were up by 14 after a 3-point play by Ashton Hagans early in the second half. Texas A&M scored the next eight points, with five from Nebo, to cut the lead to 44-38 with about 14 minutes remaining.

It was Quickley who got the Wildcats going again, making 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to extend the lead to 50-38 about a minute later. Texas A&M’s offense went cold after that and the Aggies managed just four free throws until Jackson’s dunk with six minutes left.

Quickley, who was named the Southeastern Conference player of the week for his work last week, continued his surge Tuesday by outdoing his previous career high of the five 3-pointers he made against Alabama on Jan. 11. It’s his third straight game with 20 points or more and his 17th in a row with at least 10.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Quickley seems to get better every game and is peaking at the right time as conference play winds down and the league tournament approaches. His ability to knock down 3-pointers with ease makes it difficult to slow him and the Wildcats down.

Texas A&M: The Aggies had discovered some offense during their winning streak but had trouble scoring Tuesday when they went long stretches without points in their worst offensive performance of the season. They’ll need to figure out how to be more effective on offense if they hope to close out the season strong.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Hosts Auburn on Saturday after losing to the Tigers 75-66 on Feb. 1.

Texas A&M: Visits LSU on Saturday. The Aggies lost to the Tigers 89-85 in overtime in their first meeting this season.

For more AP college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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: 3)

VIRGINIA (NET: 50, NBC: 9): Virginia won for the fourth straight time on Saturday, knocking off Pitt (100) on the road. They only have three Quad 1 wins and a 9-6 mark against the top two Quads with home dates left against Duke (6) and Louisville (8). They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use three or four more wins before Selection Sunday. But Virginia is starting to play much better, and as of today they are in a pretty good spot to get to the tournament.

N.C. STATE (NET: 52, NBC: 10): The Wolfpack missed out on a chance to land another elite win on Saturday, blowing a halftime lead and losing at home to Florida State (12). The big news was picking up the win over Duke (6) on Wednesday night. It was the fifth Quad 1 win for Kevin Keatts — they’ve also beaten Wisconsin (30) at home and three sub-50 teams on the road — to go along with a 9-7 record against the top two Quads. The biggest problem here is that they have three Quad 3 losses, two of which came at home. Before beating Duke, the Wolfpack lost at Boston College (143). It’s worth noting that Markell Johnson, N.C. State’s best player, did not play in one of the three Quad 3 losses — Georgia Tech (79) — so like Arkansas, this will certainly be something the committee takes into account.


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 9)

WICHITA STATE (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): Wichita State saw their three-game winning streak snapped on Sunday afternoon, losing by three at Cincinnati (53). They have beaten VCU (57) and Oklahoma (54) at home, and they don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just one potential Quad 1 games left on their schedule — all of which are on the road — and without a top 50 win on the season, I think the Shockers are going to have an uncomfortable Selection Sunday. The fact that they are 8-7 against the top two Quads without a bad loss is something of a saving grace at this point.

MEMPHIS (NET: 61, NBC: First four out): Memphis is hanging on by a thread right now, but they are still alive after landed a critical win over Houston (25) at home. Memphis now has a pair of Quad 1 wins, and finally have a win over a team ranked in the top 50. The Tigers have also won at Tennessee (65), beaten Cincinnati at home (53) and beat N.C. State (52) on a neutral. The program? Those three Quad 2 home losses, and the fact that they are playing without D.J. Jeffries, their best perimeter weapon. With three of their last four on the road and a home date with Wichita State (43), Memphis has chances to improve their resume.

CINCINNATI (NET: 53, NBC: 11): The Bearcats shot themselves in the foot on Wednesday, losing at home to UCF (125). They bounced back and beat Wichita State (43) at home on Saturday, which gives Cincinnati an eighth win over Quad 1 and 2 opponents. As of this very moment, Cincinnati has just two Quad 1 wins and four Quad 3 losses, all of which came to teams sitting outside the top 100. They’re in a bad spot right now, and with just one more potential Quad 1 win on their resume, I’m not sure just how much they’ll be able to do to fix it. Beating Houston (25) on the road next Sunday has become a must-win.


ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Dayton (NBC: 2)

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 36, NBC: 10): The Rams did not help themselves by losing at Davidson (76) on Saturday, which isn’t a killer but is a Quad 2 loss. They’re now 19-7 overall with just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-6 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (218) 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: 48, NBC: First four out): Richmond had their five-game winning streak snapped on the road against St. Bonaventure, which is not a bad loss in real life but is a bad loss on an NCAA tournament resume. The Spiders only have one truly terrible loss to their name — Radford (162) got them on a neutral court — but they only have two Quad 1 wins and a 4-6 record against the top two Quads. Their margin for error is completely gone.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 6), Texas Tech (NBC: 8)

OKLAHOMA (NET: 54, NBC: Play-in game): Oklahoma lost again on Saturday, this time at Oklahoma State (67), and I’m having trouble figuring out why they are considered in the tournament safely as a 10 seed. They’ve now lost three in a row and five of their last eight games. They are 16-11 on the season and are sitting with just two Quad 1 wins and a 2-9 record against the top Quad. They do have six Quad 2 wins, but outside of a win over West Virginia (10) at home earlier this month, there really is nothing about this profile that is overly impressive. They certainly belong in the mix, but I think they are in a far tougher spot than the consensus.

TEXAS (NET: 66, NBC: Off the bubble): The Longhorns won their third straight game on Monday night, as they beat No. 20 West Virginia (17) despite playing without Jericho Sims, Gerald Liddell and Jase Febres. Suddenly, a team that we had all written off is right back in the mix, as the Mountaineers are a top 20 team in the NET and the kind of elite win that Texas was sorely lacking on their resume. As it stands, the Longhorns are sitting at 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big 12. They have three Quad 1 wins, Monday night’s win as well as roadies at Purdue (36) and Oklahoma State (69), and a 5-11 mark against the top two Quads without a bad loss to their name. Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech (15) is going to be the make or break game. It’s not a win-and-you’re-win type deal, but I do think that taking a loss to the Red Raiders would mean that the Longhorns will have to beat one of the Big 12’s top four teams in the conference tournament to have a realistic shot at getting to the dance.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

Top 9: Seton Hall (NBC: 3), Villanova (NBC: 3), Creighton (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 6), Marquette (NBC: 7)

XAVIER (NET: 44, NBC: 10): The best thing about this Xavier team’s resume is that they really have not taken all that many bad losses. Their worst loss of the season came at Wake Forest (108), which is a Quad 2 loss. It’s the only team ranked outside of the top 35 in the NET that Xavier has lost to. They only have three Quad 1 wins — and two of them are at St. John’s (69) and at DePaul (72) — but they do have a win over Seton Hall (17) in Newark, which helps quite a bit. I personally think that Xavier has to do more work that it looks like. They are just 3-9 against Quad 1 opponents, and that could drop to 1-9 if St. John’s and DePaul fall outside the top 75. With games at Georgetown (59), at Providence (48) and Butler (23), they’ll have three more chances to land Quad 1 wins. I think Xavier probably should win two of those to really feel comfortable.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 46, NBC: Play-in game): The Friars are now the official owners of the strangest resume in college basketball. On Friday, Marquette (26) paid a visit to The Dunk and lost. Providence has now won three straight games and have now won five of their last seven. All five of those wins are Quad 1 wins, and they include a road win over Butler (20), home wins against Creighton (11) and Seton Hall (17), and Saturday’s win against Marquette. The Friars now have seven Quad 1 wins. If you only look at wins, Providence is like a five seed.

The problem is the losses. There are 12 of them, and some of them are really, really bad. Providence lost to Charleston (142) and Long Beach State (288) on neutral courts, at Northwestern (164) and to Penn (154) at home. That’s three Quad 3 losses and a Quad 4 loss. It’s wild that the Friars are even in the conversation with all of that garbage on their resume, but they very much are.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): This is why Georgetown can’t have nice things. After beating Butler (20) on the road to play themselves onto the right side of the bubble, the Hoyas went out this week and lost to Providence (46) at home and at DePaul (72) on Saturday. They still get Marquette (26) and Creighton (11) on the road, and Villanova (10) at home, so they’re not dead. But they are in a bad spot.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

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

RUTGERS (NET: 33, NBC: 10): The Scarlet Knights have one of the weirder resumes on the bubble right now after losing at Wisconsin (30) on Sunday. They’re 17-10 overall and they are 9-8 in a Big Ten that is as deep as any league I can remember. They have three Quad 1 wins, just one Quad 3 loss and a 7-9 mark against the top two Quads. Eight of their ten losses are to Quad 1 opponents. They played a tough non-conference schedule, and they have some really impressive home wins. The problem? They’ve only won a single game outside of the RAC this year, and that came at Nebraska (183), who is more or less the worst team in the Big Ten. Their season finishes like this: at Penn State (24), Maryland (7), at Purdue (37). Rutgers has some work left to do, and I really think winning one of those two road games will be the most important part.

PURDUE (NET: 37, NBC: Off the bubble): After the Boilermakers lost to Michigan (23) at home on Saturday, they are sitting at 14-14 overall and just 7-10 in the Big Ten. They do actually have a pretty strong resume in regards to the number of good wins that they have, but the biggest issue currently facing Purdue is the number of losses, including a Quad 3 loss. The most losses an 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 5-10 against Quad 1 opponents — three of those five wins vacillate between Quad 1 and Quad 2 — and 7-12 against the top two Quads with a 3-8 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 4), Colorado (NBC: 5), Arizona (NBC: 7), Arizona State (NBC: 8)

UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: First four out): The Bruins are making a push to get into the NCAA tournament. On Saturday, they completed a sweet of the mountain schools — the toughest road trip in all of college basketball — and have now won five in a row and nine of their last 11 games. They own a sweep of Colorado (18), they won at Arizona (9) and while they do have a Quad 3 loss — Hofstra (114) — and a Quad 4 loss — Fullerton (261) — the Bruins are now sitting on five Quad 1 wins, three of which came against top 15 teams, two on the road. The metrics don’t love the Bruins, but today’s win will help and if the metrics love Arizona and Colorado this much, it should mean quite a bit that UCLA was able to beat them. Their resume isn’t quite as weird as Providence’s, but both of these teams are going to give the Selection Committee a headache on Selection Sunday.

With games left against Arizona, Arizona State and USC, the Bruins will have the chances to play their way in. It’s wild to think that we’re here after the way the season started, but we are.

USC (NET: 47, NBC: Play-in game): After sweeping the Washington schools in LA two weeks ago, the Trojans turned around and lost at Colorado (18) and Utah (81) last week. Suddenly, they’re in a bit of a bad spot. They only have two Quad 1 wins and are now 8-8 against the top two Quads with an 8-7 mark away from the Galen Center, including five road wins. The home loss to Temple (111) is not ideal, but it is survivable. The biggest issue may be how tough their remaining schedule is. The Trojans still get Arizona (8), Arizona State (41) and UCLA (76), who is a game out of first place in the Pac-12, at home. I think they’re still in a pretty good spot, but it’s not going to be comfortable if they don’t win at least two more games before Selection Sunday.

STANFORD (NET: 31, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal finally snapped their losing streak by going into Seattle and knocking off Washington (65) to pick up their third Quad 1 win of the season. They followed that up by winning at Washington State (121), which is tougher than it has been in the past. They are just 2-5 against Quad 1 opponents, 6-8 against the top two Quads and have a Quad 3 loss — at Cal (142) — to their name. They still get Colorado (12) at home and Oregon (19) on the road, so there will be chances to improve their resume, but the Cardinal will need to capitalize on those to feel good on Selection Sunday.


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 4), Auburn (NBC: 5), LSU (NBC: 8), Florida (NBC: 9)

ARKANSAS (NET: 45, NBC: Next four out): The Razorbacks snapped a five-game losing streak on Saturday by beating Missouri (87) at home. They have a pair of Quad 1 wins and a 4-10 mark against the top two Quads, but the more important record is this: They are 16-5 on the season with a healthy Isaiah Joe, who returned to action and scored 21 points on Saturday. It will be very interesting to see how the selection committee handles Arkansas.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 56, NBC: Next four out): Mississippi State significantly dinged their at-large chances by losing at Texas A&M (117) on Saturday. That’s the third bad loss on their resume, and with a win at Florida (34) and a sweep of Arkansas (45) the only notable accomplishments to date, the Bulldogs find themselves in a tough spot. What’s worse is that they only get one more Quad 1 opportunity in the regular season, and that’s a game at South Carolina (62).

ALABAMA (NET: 40, NBC: Next four out): The Crimson Tide did what they could on Saturday, blowing out Ole Miss (94) on the road. It’s the fourth road win for Alabama, which is relevant for a team that doesn’t have all that much else going for it. They’re 15-12 overall. They have just two Quad 1 wins compared to a pair of Quad 3 losses. They have no margin of error left.

SOUTH CAROLINA (NET: 63, NBC: Off the bubble): The Gamecocks had a chance to play themselves into a really good spot on Saturday, but they lost to LSU (29) at home. At 16-11 overall with a Quad 3 and a Quad 4 loss, the Gamecocks have plenty of work left to do and not all that many great chances left for wins. They’re in trouble.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), BYU (NBC: 6), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 9)

UTAH STATE (NET: 39, NBC: 11): After beating Wyoming (301), the Aggies have won five in a row and eight of their last nine 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 four weeks ago. Wins over LSU (30) and Florida (33) 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: 46, NBC: 12): Northern Iowa snapped a two-game losing streak on Sunday, beating Southern Illinois (139) and maintaining a hold on first place in the Missouri Valley. UNI has a win at Colorado (18) and they beat South Carolina (63) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads with a pair of Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is a road game in league play — but I’m not sure they have done enough to beat out some of these power conference teams.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 38, NBC: 11): After beating Furman (76) on Wednesday night, the Buccaneers have gotten through the toughest part of their schedule. They have a win at UNCG (62) and a win at LSU (30). With a 22-4 record and a loss to Mercer (197) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lose to only UNCG or Furman in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that might be a bit of a longshot.

Bracketology: Kansas grabs No. 1 overall seed

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Here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Following its win at Baylor, Kansas grabs the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket update.  That said, it’s basically semantics. Kansas continues to lead the Midwest Region and Baylor the South Region.  The margin between the two is more of a 1-A and 1-B approach.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was San Diego State losing at home to UNLV.  For now, the Aztecs hold onto their No. 1 seed in the East.  Maryland could have made a strong case had the Terrapins won at Ohio State on Sunday.  Either way, the door is now open for a Big Ten, Big East, or ACC champion to potentially overtake SDSU. Dayton is squarely in the mix, too.

As for the Bubble, the Providence Friars and UCLA Bruins have both recovered from challenging starts to emerge as serious at-large contenders.

Anyway, here is today’s updated NCAA tournament bracketology. If you’re looking for the NBC Sports Bubble Watch, it can be found here.



The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: February 24, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
MIDWEST REGION Oklahoma vs. USC
SOUTH REGION Providence vs. Wichita State
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. ST. PETERS
MIDWEST REGION ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T

MIDWEST Indianapolis SOUTH – Houston                    
Omaha St. Louis
1) KANSAS 1) Baylor
16) ROB MORRIS / NC A&T 16) PV-AM / ST. PETERS
8) ARIZONA STATE 8) LSU
9) Florida 9) Saint Mary’s
Sacramento Tampa
5) Auburn 5) Colorado
12) NORTHERN IOWA 12) Providence / Wichita St
4) Michigan 4) Penn State
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
St. Louis Albany
6) BYU 6) Iowa
11) Oklahoma / USC 11) Utah State
3) Creighton 3) SETON HALL
14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 14) COLGATE
Greensboro Tampa
7) Wisconsin 7) Marquette
10) Rhode Island 10) Rutgers
2) Duke 2) Florida State
15) BELMONT 15) LITTLE ROCK
EAST – New York WEST – Los Angeles
Sacramento Spokane
1) SAN DIEGO ST 1) GONZAGA
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Indiana 8) Texas Tech
9) Virginia 9) Houston
Omaha Spokane
5) Ohio State 5) Michigan State
12) LIBERTY 12) S.F. AUSTIN
4) KENTUCKY 4) Oregon
13) YALE 13) NORTH TEXAS
Albany Cleveland
6) West Virginia 6) Butler
11) EAST TENNESSEE ST 11) CINCINNATI
3) Villanova 3) LOUISVILLE
14) WRIGHT STATE 14) NEW MEXICO ST
Cleveland Tampa
7) Illinois 7) Arizona
10) NC State 10) Xavier
2) DAYTON 2) MARYLAND
15) HOFSTRA 15) UC-IRVINE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Rutgers Providence Stanford Alabama
NC State Wichita State UCLA Mississippi State
Rhode Island Oklahoma Memphis Arkansas
Utah State USC Richmond Georgetown

Top Seed Line

Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …

Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
Pac 12 (5)
Big 12 (5)
SEC (4)
ACC (4)
West Coast (3)
American (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (2)

OK, how good are you guys at NCAA tournament bracketology?

Not too bad. Our bracketologist, Dave Ommen, is sitting atop the ranks for the bracket matrix, which cobbles together everyone who does this for a living. So yeah, we’re on our game.

When do conference tournaments begin?

Conference tournaments — when teams can earn automatic berths to the NCAA Tournament — begin on Tuesday, March 3. Most of the league tournaments for that week are mid-major and low-major schools (though those can often be the most exciting games to watch).

There is a full schedule for all 32 conference tournaments here, though check back with us later on for previews for all those tournaments, recaps and highlights from the buzzer-beaters and many dunks for the start of March.

When do Selection Sunday and the NCAA Tournament begin?

Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament is on March 15 (about 4 pm ET), while the games begin a couple days later. The First Four is on March 17 and 18, while the craziness of Round 1 starts on Thursday, March 19.

The Final Four, held in Atlanta this year, starts on Saturday, April 4. The National Title Game is Monday, April 6.

Monday’s Things To Know: Florida State rolls, Texas is back?

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There was some action on Monday night in the college basketball world, and we are here to talk you through all of it.

1. FLORIDA STATE’S SECOND HALF DEMOLITION OF LOUISVILLE IS SCARY

Trent Forrest scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and the No. 6 Seminoles used a 42-16 tidal wave over the course of the final 15 minutes to turn a 51-40 deficit into an 82-67 win over No. 11 Louisville.

It was everything that you expect a Florida State team to be during that stretch. They forced turnovers, they switched everything defensively, they dared you to try and beat them in isolation, and they did it all while getting the kind of balanced effort that makes it impossible to key in on a single player. Five guys were in double-figures on Monday night, and that doesn’t include the eight points that Leonard Hamilton’s club got from Anthony Polite off the bench.

This program is a machine.

All they do is produce physical, tough, athletic wings that stand somewhere between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8, guard like their life depends on it and completely by in to what Leonard Hamilton is trying to do.

I would not want to see them in March.

2. TEXAS ISN’T DEAD YET

The Longhorns won their third straight game on Monday night, as they beat No. 20 West Virginia, 67-57, despite playing without Jericho Sims, Gerald Liddell and Jase Febres.

Suddenly, a team that we had all written off is right back in the mix, as the Mountaineers are a top 15 team in the NET and the kind of elite win that Texas was sorely lacking on their resume. As it stands, the Longhorns are sitting at 17-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big 12. They have three Quad 1 wins, Monday night’s win as well as roadies at Purdue and Oklahoma State, and a 5-11 mark against the top two Quads without a bad loss to their name.

Put another way, this team is suddenly very much in the bubble picture.

Now, I still think they have plenty of work to do, and given the fact that neither a road win at Oklahoma or a home win over Oklahoma State is going to change all that much for them, I think Saturday’s trip to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech is going to be the make or break game. It’s not a win-and-you’re-win type deal, but I do think that taking a loss to the Red Raiders would mean that the Longhorns will have to beat one of the Big 12’s top four teams in the conference tournament to have a realistic shot at getting to the dance.

Regardless of what it actually is, the bottom line is pretty simple: Texas needs to keep on winning.

3. KANSAS ROLLS IN FIRST GAME AS NO. 1

The Jayhawks, in their first game as the No. 1 team in the country, did not have any kind of a letdown.

Udoka Azubuike finished with 19 points, 16 boards, three blocks, two assists and hit 7-for-8 from the free throw line in an 83-58 win over Oklahoma State in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.