Bubble Banter: The SEC-Big 12 Challenge is a big chance for a number of teams

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.


N.C. STATE (RPI: 70, KenPom: 74, NBC seed: First four out): The Wolfpack will go down as Saturday’s big winner, as they landed a road win over North Carolina, who is currently 5th in the RPI. Kevin Keatts’ club now has wins over Duke (1), Clemson (6) and Arizona (15), the latter of which came on a neutral floor. Losses to UNC Greensboro at home and Northern Iowa on a neutral floor are not ideal — both are Quadrant 3 losses — but I challenge you to find any program with four wins as good as N.C. State’s four wins.

ALABAMA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 58, NBC seed: 11): Alabama added another excellent win to a profile that already looks like it is strong enough to earn the Crimson Tide an at-large bid as they knocked off Trae Young and Oklahoma on Saturday. Alabama now has three Quadrant 1 wins — which could become four if Texas A&M rights their ship — and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss. The big concern? Alabama’s five-best wins all came at home. They’ve only beaten BYU (69) and Memphis (107) on a neutral and LSU (84) on the road. They still have work left to do, but as of today, the Tide are in a really good spot.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 54, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 10): Is there a hotter team in the country than Kansas State right now? The Wildcats have won four games in a row — including Oklahoma (9) and TCU (16) — and it would be six if Barry Brown hadn’t missed a game-winner at Kansas. The Wildcats have just two Quadrant 1 wins right now, and the combination of a non-conference strength of schedule that ranked 344th (before Saturday’s win over Georgia) and a home loss to Tulsa (122) keeps Kansas State less safe than they feel like they should be.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 77, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: Next four out): Has anyone had a better week than Virginia Tech? Six days ago, they were barely in consideration for an at-large bid. Now, after beating North Carolina on Tuesday and winning at Notre Dame (60) on Saturday, they now have four Quadrant 1 wins. They’ll need more with a non-conference SOS of 319, but seven of their last nine games come against RPI top 20 teams.

TEXAS (RPI: 41, KenPom: 39, NBC seed: 9): The Longhorns took care of business at home on Saturday afternoon against an Ole Miss (75) team that is better than their 11-10 record would indicate. With four Quadrant 1 wins and nothing worse than a Quadrant 2 loss to their name, the Longhorns are in a great spot. The Big 12 is a bear, which means that there are going to be plenty of chances for big wins … and more than a few opportunities to take a loss.

UCLA (RPI: 65, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: Out): I think the Bruins are closer to the NCAA tournament than they are getting credit for right now, but it’s really going to come down to the next two weeks: USC (38), at Arizona (15), at Arizona State (42). I think they need to win at least two of those games.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 8): The Seminoles picked up a Quadrant 1 win on Saturday, knocking off Miami (14) at home in overtime. That’s the third Quadrant 1 win that FSU has to their name. Throw in a 16-5 record with four Quadrant 1 losses and a Quadrant 2 loss, and Leonard Hamilton’s club is in a really good spot. The one thing to keep an eye on: Their non-conference SOS is 308th. That’s bad enough that it could be the difference between a couple seed lines.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 22, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 9): The Razorbacks landed a home win over Oklahoma State (79), which isn’t a great win. The Hogs are 15-6 on the season now, and their toughest remaining games on the schedule are at home. They’re in a good spot.

BUTLER (RPI: 29, KenPom: 35, NBC seed: 9): Butler smoked St. John’s, which is relevant for one reason and one reason only: Losing to St. John’s would be bad, as would losing to DePaul or Georgetown at home.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): Boise State did not lose at Air Force (239). Their only chance of getting an at-large is to win out, which includes Nevada (18) at home.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: First four out): Syracuse beat Pitt. Pitt is terrible. A loss could have been a killer for the Orange because they don’t have much in the way of good wins. Buffalo (26) at home is the only Quadrant 1 win, and Georgetown (163) is their only road win.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: 11) and WESTERN KENTUCKY (RPI: 47, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Next four out): The Conference USA foes both won on Saturday. WKU has the better win while Boise State doesn’t have losses that are nearly as bad. I honestly don’t think either ends up being an at-large bid by the end of the year.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 63, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: Out): I think Nebraska is drawing dead tight now. They don’t have a top 100 win away from home, they don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and they only play one top 100 team the rest of the season. Congrats on beating Iowa (139), though.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 74, KenPom: 79, NBC seed: Out): The Bulldogs landed themselves a nice win at home on Saturday, knocking off Missouri (40). They have so much more work to do, however. MSU has just one win away from home — Southern Miss (194) on a neutral — and just two top 85 wins.


TEXAS A&M (RPI: 31, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: First four out): There really is no shame in losing at Kansas, like the Aggies did on Saturday. The bigger issue is that they have now lost seven of their last nine games and have not won on the road since picking off USC (38) on Nov. 26th. The good news? None of their losses are terrible, and a win over West Virginia (21) on a neutral and that win at USC will both age well.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 60, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: Next four out): The Irish lost their fifth straight on Saturday. They’re now 12-8 on the season with three sub-100 losses, only one of which is a Quadrant 2 loss. Six of their last ten games are on the road. They need Bonzie Colson back.

SOUTH CAROLINA (RPI: 52, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Gamecocks wasted a great opportunity to add another Quadrant 1 win to the résumé, as they blew a late lead at home against Texas Tech. The good news for Frank Martin’s club is that those wins over Kentucky and at Florida aren’t going anywhere, and they will have plenty of chances to add to their profile in SEC play.

LSU (RPI: 84, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: Next four out): The Tigers are in the midst of a three-week stretch that will determine their tournament chances. They started it with a blowout loss at Auburn (7), their fourth loss in five games. Their next five games: at Tennessee (12), Arkansas (22), at Florida (37), Ole Miss (75) and at Alabama (33).

GEORGIA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: First four out): The Bulldogs were in a great spot three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve lost five of their last six games to drop to 12-8 on the season, not a good thing when you’ve lost to San Diego State (121) on a neutral and at UMass (184). They’re not all that far from the cut line right now, but this thing is trending the wrong way.

MISSOURI (RPI: 40, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Play-in game): Losing at Mississippi State on Saturday certainly didn’t help matters for the Tigers, but that’s not devastating. That’s a Quadrant 1 opponent, and Mizzou has three Quadrant 1 wins and two more Quadrant 2 wins. The biggest issue? That neutral court loss to Illinois, a Quadrant 4 loss.

UTAH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 70, NBC seed: Out): Already well on the wrong side of the bubble, Utah lost at Arizona, which is their last game against an elite team this season. They are going to need to win games in the Pac-12 tournament to have a chance.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 79, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: Out): Losing at Arkansas (22) is hardly a bad loss. But with just two Quadrant 1 wins and one other Quadrant 2 win and a non-conference SOS of 322 (before the game at Arkansas), they have ground to make up.

BAYLOR (RPI: 86, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: Out): The Bears can certainly play their way back into contention, but after losing at Florida on Saturday, they’ve lost five of six and seven of nine. They have a lot of ground to make up.

IOWA STATE (RPI: 81, KenPom: 100, NBC seed: Out): As of today the Cyclones are in a tough spot. Beating Tennessee at home would have helped; they lost by 23. But there are eight Quadrant 1 wins left on their schedule. It would be a helluva, but there is a road to get there.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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