Bubble Banter: Louisville’s must-win game kicks off a thrilling day of bubble action

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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 Thursday.

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.

WINNERS

EVERYONE!: Nevada, who is a lock for the tournament, was trailing UNLV on the road in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament. They came back to win. If they had lost, the MWC would be sending a team without a shot at an at-large to the dance. In other words, someone’s bubble would have burst.

ALABAMA (RPI: 47, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: Next four out): Alabama landed a thrilling win over Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon, picking off Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon on a buzzer-beater layup from Collin Sexton that may be what ends up getting the Crimson Tide a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide have 14 losses, two of which came against Quadrant 3 opponents, but they also now have six Quadrant 1 wins and a 10-12 record against the top two Quadrants. They’ve beaten both SEC co-champions (Auburn and Tennessee), Rhode Island, Texas A&M at home and on a neutral and won at Florida. Whether or not they beat Auburn on Friday, I think that they are in.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 35, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): Providence landed an enormous win in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as they outlasted Creighton in overtime. The Friars improved to 20-12 on the season with a 10-8 mark in the Big East. More importantly, the win over Creighton is their fifth against Quadrant 1 opponents and puts them over .500 — 10-9 — against the top two Quadrants. The big issue for the Friars is that they have three terrible losses, but even that got better today; because UMass’ RPI has improved enough that they are no longer a Quadrant 4 loss. The Friars still do have two other Quadrant 4 losses, but I should also note here that they’ve beaten both Xavier and Villanova this season and they’ll get another chance against the Musketeers tomorrow. I think they’ve going to be fine.

USC (RPI: 33, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: First four out): The Trojans are another in a long line of teams on the bubble with weird profiles. They have four Quadrant 1 wins and a 9-9 mark against the top two Quadrants, but they also have a disastrous home loss to Princeton (Quadrant 4, albeit missing a few rotation guys) and their best wins are not great. Middle Tennessee State looks like they’ll miss the NCAA tournament. New Mexico State needs to win their automatic bid to have a chance. Sweeping Utah and Oregon is fine, but neither of those teams are likely to be tournament bound. What about this résumé sets it apart from the rest of the bubble?

UCLA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: 11): UCLA knocked off Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday afternoon, a win that should just about get the Bruins into the NCAA tournament field. UCLA is now 8-9 against the top two Quadrants with a trio of pretty impressive wins — Kentucky on a neutral, at Arizona, at USC — and just one bad loss, which came at home against Colorado. A win over Arizona on Friday night might be enough to get the Bruins into the 8-9 game.

BUTLER (RPI: 36, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 9): Butler was close to a lock before playing Seton Hall today. Then they went out and beat the Pirates. The Bulldogs are in.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 50, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 9): I think that Kansas State probably just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a win over TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. They have four Quadrant 1 wins — TCU at home, TCU on a neutral, at Texas and at Baylor — and a 9-10 record against the top two Quadrants with no losses outside of the top two Quadrants. The mitigating factor here is that the Wildcats are ranked in the 320s in non-conference SOS and we know what the Selection Committee thinks of teams that won’t challenge themselves.

LOSERS

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 86, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Cowboys are in some trouble now, and they will be one of the most fascinating cases on Selection Sunday. They are now 19-14 on the season after losing to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, but that was their first loss to the Jayhawks in three games against them this season. Their RPI is an atrocious 86th, but their KenPom numbers are much better. There are no bad losses on their résumé, but there are 14 “good” losses. They have five Quadrant 1 wins — including a sweep of the Jayhawks during the regular season — and nine wins against the top two Quadrants but they also have a non-conference SOS in the 280s. BartTorvik.com gives the Pokes a 34.5 percent chance of getting into the dance, and that sounds about right to me.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 31, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 12): Kermit Davis went out and lost to Southern Miss in the quarterfinals of the CUSA tournament on Thursday night, which is their worst loss of the season and comes on the heels of losing to Marshall in their regular season finale. The Blue Raiders now have two Quadrant 3 losses and a Quadrant 4 loss while their only good wins are at Murray State and at Western Kentucky. They’re in trouble, and likely headed for the NIT.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Golden Eagles could not take down Villanova on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, meaning that they are now going to have to wait out the next three days to see if their name gets called on Selection Sunday. Their résumé is good — four Quadrant 1 wins, 8-12 against the top two Quadrants and just one Quadrant 3 loss — but they don’t have any great wins. They have not beaten an RPI top 25 team this season, although they have won at Seton Hall, Providence and Creighton. It’ll be tight. They are the cut line.

BAYLOR (RPI: 63, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears are in big trouble. They are now 17-14 on the season with just four Quadrant 1 wins and a 7-13 record against the top two Quadrants. They also lost at Iowa State, a Quadrant 3 loss. The good news is that they have a win over Kansas. The bad news is that that probably is not going to be enough to get them in. I would have Baylor behind teams like Oklahoma State, Alabama and Arizona State. They are going to be right there on the cutline.

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): Texas lost to Texas Tech in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, which means that they are going to be sweating out Selection Sunday with the rest of the nation’s bubble teams. As it stands, the Longhorns have five Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-14 record against the top two Quadrants, but their best wins of the season — TCU and Texas Tech — are at home, and their best wins away from home — Butler on a neutral and at Alabama — aren’t quite as impressive as we thought at the time. I think Texas will be in.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Last four in): Louisville, at this point, looks like they are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. There are a lot of reasons why, and I dove into them all in more depth here.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 64, KenPom: 28, NBC seed: First four out): The Irish are in a tough, tough spot now. We went over why this Notre Dame team had to beat Duke last night. I think that, at this point, they are out.

UTAH (RPI: 58, KenPom: 65, NBC seed: Out): The Utes were in the conversation, but they needed to at least get to the Pac-12 tournament title game to have a real shot at an at-large. They lost to Oregon in the quarterfinals.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.