Bubble Banter: 16 teams with most on the line during Championship Week

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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.

THE MID-MAJORS (PLUS THE BONNIES)

SAINT MARY’S (RPI: 43, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 10): The Gaels did themselves absolutely no favors on Monday night when they lost in the semifinals of the WCC tournament. Now they are going to spend every day until Selection Sunday hoping that every single team you see on this list loses their first game. That is a miserable was to spend the week before Selection Sunday. Saint Mary’s has two Quadrant 1 wins and two Quadrant 3 losses, but the only really notable win to their name is beating Gonzaga in Spokane. The more I look at résumés, the more I think that the Gaels are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): The Blue Raiders did themselves absolutely no favors when they lost to Marshall at home in their season finale. That one might be the killer, considering that the only Quadrant 1 wins that MTSU has are at Murray State and at Western Kentucky. That said, they did win at Vanderbilt and lost to Auburn, Miami and USC by a combined 14 points. At the very least, they need to get to the CUSA title game. They also are on track to play Marshall, the only team to beat them in league play and who swept them, in the semis if seeds hold.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 21, KenPom: 63, NBC seed: 9): I think the Bonnies are in better shape to withstand a loss before the Atlantic 10 title game than Saint Mary’s was in the WCC. The Bonnies have three Quadrant 1 wins and seven wins in the top two Quadrants. Their losses are worse — At home to Niagara? Gross. — but if they can get to the semifinals they’ll have. Lose in the finals to URI and I think the Bonnies are in.

Jeffrey Carroll (John Weast/Getty Images)

THE BIG 12

BAYLOR (RPI: 61, KenPom: 33, NBC seed: First four out): The Bears looked like they were going to be able to coast into the tournament after winning five straight late in the year, and then they turned around and lost three of their next four games. With just a 2-9 record on the road and a 7-13 mark against the top two Quadrants, Baylor has some work to do. The good news? They did beat Kansas by 16 points, and they get West Virginia in their Big 12 opener. That’s something of a play-in game.

TEXAS (RPI: 48, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 11): Texas has one of those profiles where there isn’t much that is great but there really aren’t any negatives. They’ve lost 13 games, but their “worst” loss was either at Oklahoma State or at home against Baylor or Kansas State. They’ve won five Quadrant 1 games and three more in Quadrant 2, but their best win is against TCU and their best road win is at Oklahoma. The Longhorns get Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament opener, and a loss there would be an absolute killer.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 62, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 11): Kansas State’s profile looks a lot like that of Texas: 3-7 against Quadrant 1, 6-3 against Quadrant 2, no bad losses, not great wins. The big difference is that the Wildcats have three more wins and a non-conference SOS that ranks in the 320s. The Wildcats get TCU in the quarters to open up the Big 12 tournament. I think that is a play-in game for them.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 88, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: First four out): Oklahoma State is not all that close to the cut-line just yet, but with five Quadrant 1 and a 9-13 record against the top two Quadrants — including a sweep of Kansas, a win over Texas Tech and a win at West Virginia — the Pokes have landed some impressive wins. Since they still have group to make up, I think the only way to get this thing done is to beat Oklahoma in the opening round and pick up their third win over Kansas in the quarters. There’s a very real chance that OSU will be the Big 12’s ninth tournament team if things break right.

Bobby Hurley (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

THE PAC-12

ARIZONA STATE (RPI: 59, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): The truth is that Arizona State should be in, and it really shouldn’t be a question. The problem is that after starting the season 12-0, the Sun Devils lost 10 of 18 games in the Pac-12. There is no team in the country that has two wins as good as Xavier on a neutral and Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, but if the Sun Devils lose to Colorado in their Pac-12 opener, they’ll have lost five of their last six games with the only win coming against Cal. If enough other bubble teams win a few games this week, this could end up being very embarrassing.

UCLA (RPI: 36, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bruins have a trio of really impressive wins: Kentucky on a neutral, at Arizona in the only game they played, at USC. They are 8-8 against the top two Quadrants, although they do have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. I’m higher on UCLA than most, and as long as they can beat the winner of Stanford-Cal and get to the Pac-12 semifinals, I think they’re in with enough room to avoid getting stuck in a play-in game.

USC (RPI: 34, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): There are two issues with USC’s résumé in my mind: They lack elite wins (their four Quadrant 1 wins are Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, at Utah and at Oregon) and they have a brutal loss to Princeton at home, although that did come without a couple of rotation players. USC certainly needs to beat the winner of Washington-Oregon State in the quarterfinals, and I’d recommend getting past Utah/Oregon/Washington State in the semis to avoid a stressful Selection Show.

Collin Sexton (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

THE WEIRD ONES

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 69, KenPom: 27, NBC seed: Out): We can pretty much throw Notre Dame’s resume out the window. Here’s what you need to know: At full strength, with a healthy Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, they beat Wichita State in the Maui Invitational. They also lost to Ball State at home and Indiana on a neutral. Without him, they stunk, but Bonzie is back and the Irish almost won at Virginia over the weekend. I think they’d need to win three games — Pitt, Virginia Tech and then Duke — to have a shot at an at-large, but if they get that done, I think they would have a real chance.

ALABAMA (RPI: 58, KenPom: 53, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Crimson Tide looked like they were definitely headed to the NCAA tournament, potentially as a top six seed, after a win over LSU on Feb. 13th. They’ve since lost five straight to fall to 17-14 on the season and 8-10 in the SEC. The catch is that all five of those losses were to top 40 teams and four of them came against Quadrant 1 opponents. They are 9-12 against the top two Quadrants with wins over both SEC co-champions (Auburn and Tennessee) as well as a win over Rhode Island and an 18-point win at Florida. One of their two Quadrant 3 losses came in a game where they were left with just three players against a Minnesota team that was in the top 25 at the time. It’s just a weird, weird profile. At the very least, they have to beat Texas A&M in the 8-9 game. They might be able to survive a loss to Auburn in the quarters.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 42, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): The Friars have wins over two of the top three teams in the RPI — Villanova and Xavier — at home. They’re also 8-9 against the top two Quadrants. In theory, that should be enough. The problem? They have three Quadrant 4 losses. The rest of the RPI top 50 has three Quadrant 4 losses combined. I’m not even going to pretend to know what to make of that, so I’m just going to say that they have to beat Creighton on Thursday if they are serious about dancing.

Tyus Battle (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

THE REST

SYRACUSE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): Two important things happened this week for the Orange: They beat Clemson on Saturday and Miami won their fourth-straight one-possession game to climb into the top 25 in the RPI; the Orange won at Miami. A 6-10 mark against the top two Quadrants isn’t great, neither are road losses to Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, but the Orange will get North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament if they beat Wake Forest on Wednesday. Two wins and they’re in.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Next four out): Everything about Louisville’s résumé is just so blah. They have three Quadrant 1 wins, but they came at Florida State, at Virginia Tech and at Notre Dame. They have no bad losses but they are 4-12 against the top two Quadrants. They really, really, really needed that win over Virginia. Alas. If the Cards can take care of Florida State on Wednesday, they’ll have a shot at Virginia in the quarters. They need those two wins to have a chance.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Golden Eagles looked dead in the water for a while before winning four of their last five games to get back into the mix. They have four Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-10 mark against the top two Quadrants with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. This is a pretty standard bubble profile. Beat St. John’s on Wednesday and Villanova on Thursday and they’re in. That simple.

 

Top-ranked Houston grinds out 53-48 win over Saint Mary’s

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FORT WORTH, Texas – J’Wan Roberts scored 15 points, Marcus Sasser added 13 and top-ranked Houston held on to beat Saint Mary’s 53-48 on Saturday night.

The Cougars (8-0) won twice in their first week as the No. 1 team since the final poll of the 1982-83 regular season, when Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon led high-flying Phi Slama Jama.

Logan Johnson scored 17 points and Aidan Mahaney had 14 for the Gaels (6-3), who lost their third in a row following a 6-0 start.

Houston was the favorite to win it all in the second of three consecutive trips to the Final Four nearly 40 years ago, but lost to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in one of the iconic championship games.

Coach Kelvin Sampson’s first top-ranked team is coming off trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight the past two seasons.

For the third straight year, the postseason path will start at Dickie’s Arena, where Sampson likes to bring his team during the regular season as prep for the American Athletic Conference tourney.

This victory in the Battleground 2k22 series improved the Cougars to 9-0 in the arena near downtown Fort Worth, where they have won AAC tournament titles each of the past two years.

Saint Mary’s whittled a 12-point deficit to a single possession when Mahaney hit a 3, and he made it a three-point game again at 46-43 with another from long range.

Roberts answered by backing down for a short jump hook before Sasser converted a three-point play to put the Cougars up 51-43.

Houston broke a 17-all tie with a 14-3 run to finish the first half, with Saint Mary’s going 1 of 11 from the field in that stretch against the vaunted Cougars defense. Both teams shot 37%.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: Facing the No. 1 team isn’t foreign to the Gaels, who play in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga. St. Mary’s is 2-7 against the Zags when they have the top ranking, with one of the victories coming last season.

Houston: The Cougars had no trouble in their debut with the No. 1 ranking, blowing out Norfolk State 100-52 at home Tuesday. A disciplined and tournament-tested opponent for the second game was just the threat Sampson’s club figured it could be.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary’s: Missouri State at home Wednesday.

Houston: North Florida at home Tuesday.

Clowney, No. 11 Alabama recover to beat South Dakota St

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman Noah Clowney’s breakout game – 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal – helped No. 11 Alabama recover from blowing a 20-point lead and beat South Dakota State 78-65 on Saturday night.

Clowney shot 8 of 17, including 5 of 12 on 3s, in his highest-scoring game of the season.

“We’ve encouraged him to shoot it, I’m glad he did,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “His senior year of high school, he started out pretty poorly from 3 then shot it 40% after that, so I kind of referenced that.”

Alabama (7-1) led 37-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. South Dakota State (3-6) rallied to go ahead 51-50 on Alex Arians’ 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.

Nimari Burnett’s foul shot a minute later put the Crimson Tide ahead for good at 54-53. Alabama used a 9-0 run to pull away.

Mark Sears scored 19 points and Brandon Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide

Alabama made 14 of its first 26 shots to build a big lead before it slipped away.

“I’m not going to call them mature, we still have some room to grow,” Oats said. “Our guys have to understand, no matter who we’re playing, even if their record isn’t great, they’re Division I basketball players, they’re good teams. Last year, we had issues with this going down the road.”

Charlie Easley and Arians each scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits. Zeke Mayo added 12 points and Matt Dentlinger contributed nine rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Sears continues to be a force at home for Alabama. In Alabama’s last three home games – wins over Liberty, Jacksonville State and South Dakota State – he has scored 22, 18 and 19 points, making at least three 3-pointers in all three games. Alabama’s next home game comes against a Memphis team that already has two wins over SEC competition.

SECOND HALF SPRING

South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson noticed that in Alabama’s first two home games, Longwood and Liberty both trailed by fewer than 10 points at halftime before losing by 21 and 36 points, respectively. He viewed the first five minutes of the second half as critical in both instances, seeing an Alabama team using the home environment to its advantage.

Henderson stressed to his team that it had to win those five minutes to have a chance. Down 42-35 at the break, it did, and ultimately took the lead.

“They really increase the pressure, they try to play a little faster, they get downhill and they really spray it,” Henderson said. “I thought we were getting some 50-50 balls, I thought we were playing with some confidence. There’s been a lot of schools to come in here and have a good first half and it ends up being a 30- or 40-point game.”

UP NEXT

South Dakota State stays on the road to face Montana on Tuesday.

Alabama takes a weeklong break before its second game against the current No. 1 team in the nation, this time a road game against Houston on Saturday. The Crimson Tide beat former No. 1 North Carolina in its first shot at the top-ranked team, winning 103-101 in four overtimes on Nov. 27.

Rutgers beats No. 10 Indiana for sixth straight time, 63-48

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With the clock winding down in the final minutes, Rutgers fans didn’t hesitate in letting No. 10 Indiana how they felt about the Hoosiers’ rating.

Chants of “Who’s Your Daddy” and “Overrated” were shouted with glee at the Indiana bench after the team was knocked from the unbeaten ranks.

Make no mistake, Rutgers (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) owns Indiana (7-1, 0-1) on the basketball floor these days.

Freshman guard Derek Simpson scored 10 straight points in a game-deciding run and Rutgers beat Indiana for the sixth time in a row and ninth time in 10 meetings, 63-48 on Saturday.

“As far as Indiana goes, I feel we just know the focus of this team,” said Rutgers senior Caleb McConnell, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. “It gives us an advantage because we had beaten them five times in a row. We went in trying to execute our game plan and we did it again.”

Simpson scored all 14 of his points in the second half as Rutgers made coach Mike Woodson’s first visit to “The Banks” unpleasant.

“We got to make shots from the perimeter,” said Woodson, whose team shot 30.4% from the field, including 6 of 21 from long range. “But we just got out-toughed tonight. I thought, I mean, from the beginning to the end, I mean, we couldn’t rebound the basketball with him. I thought that was the difference in the ballgame and that was the cushion that they needed.”

Miller Kopp scored a season-high 21 points for Indiana . Star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who faced a packed in defense, was held to 13 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late.

Jackson-Davis said Indiana just didn’t play well.

“I don’t necessarily say that it’s a bad matchup for us because I think defensively we’re still good,” he said. “But at the same time, our offense just wasn’t clicking tonight.”

The win was coach Steve Pikiell’s 14th over a ranked team since taking over a struggling Rutgers’ program in 2016-17. As usual, defense was at the center of its win.

The Hoosiers’ point total was a season low. They were averaging 87.1 points and were coming off a win over North Carolina.

Indiana played poorly in the first half in falling behind 31-24. The Hoosiers opened the final 20 minutes with a 13-4 spurt, taking two-point leads on baskets by Xavier Johnson and Kopp.

McConnell hit a 3-pointer to put Rutgers ahead for good and then Simpson took over, hitting a layup, a jumper, a 3-pointer and a big scoop shot for a 47-37 lead. His final point in the run came when Johnson hit him in the face in the offensive zone and a flagrant foul was eventually called. He made 1 of 2 free throws.

“I still have have much more to do and I am going to keep working and we’re going to keep working as a team,” Simpson said. “It was a fun game, and it really got loud. My ears are still ringing right now.”

MULCAHY RETURNS

Rutgers senior starting guard Paul Mulcahy returned to the lineup after missing four games with a shoulder injury. He came off the bench early in the first half and played almost 24 minutes, scoring six points and handing out four assists.

MISSING

Indiana starting guard Jalen Hood-Schifino did not play because of a back problem. He was averaging 8.7 points. Starting forward Race Thompson, who was averaging 7.3 points, was scoreless on 0 for 4 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Indiana: This was poor performance by the Hoosiers. They are bound to take a tumble.

Rutgers: This was a big win for Rutgers, which was coming off a road loss at Miami. They are 6-0 at home.

UP NEXT

Indiana: Conference home opener against Nebraska on Wednesday.

Rutgers: At No. 25 Ohio State on Thursday.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.