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College Basketball Top 25: The pressing question for every team in our preseason rankings

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As we get ready for the Fourth of July holiday, we at College Basketball Talk will be rolling through the pressing questions for every team in the top 25.

Today, we take a look at the teams ranked in the top ten. 

On Monday, we dove into the teams ranked 11-25

What is the question that we will need answered for the best teams in college basketball next season?

1. KANSAS JAYHAWKS

  • DOES KANSAS HAVE TOO MANY PLAYERS?

The best news for Jayhawks fans heading into the 2018-19 season is that, for the first time in three years, they actually have a roster that will fit the way that Bill Self loves to play. They have players that can bully defenders at the rim. They have a power forward with the potential to be an all-american and the ability to score in the low- and mid-post. They have plenty and shooters and scorers on the wings, and they have two point guards that are going to be fighting for the right to be named starter.

The problem, however, is that of the 13 scholarship players on the roster, 12 of them deserve playing time. Is David McCormack going to be able to get minutes behind Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa (assuming De Sousa can actually play)? If Dedric Lawson is going to be an all-american, how many forward minutes are going to be available for Mitch Lightfoot and K.J. Lawson, especially with LaGerald Vick, Marcus Garrett and Sam Cunliffe back in the fold? If Quentin Grimes ends up being the best perimeter player on the roster, as some project him to be, who is going to have to sacrifice their minutes to get him on the floor? At least at the point, Charlie Moore and Devon Dotson splitting minutes should be easy math.

The most difficult part of Bill Self’s job next season is probably going to be the massaging of egos.

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2. GONZAGA BULLDOGS

  • ARE WE READY TO TRUST JOSH PERKINS?

Gonzaga was perhaps the biggest winner of the early entry period, as the Zags brought back both Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie who, along with transfer Brandon Clarke, make up what appears to be the best frontcourt in college basketball next season. Zach Norvell, who was dominant at times as a freshman, is back, as is Corey Kispert, who is ready to take a step forward even if it’s as a player more than as a producer. The only position where there is a real concern with this Gonzaga team is at the point, which is the most important position on the floor in the college game.

That is where Perkins resides. At one point considered a top 25 prospect in the country, Perkins has had a good career with the Bulldogs. This past season, as a redshirt junior, he averaged 12.3 points and 5.1 assists. Going against defenses in the WCC, Perkins is better than fine; he’s the best the conference has to offer. But we’re not talking about the Zags winning their league. We’re talking Final Fours and national titles here, and Perkins’ effectiveness as a decision-maker and a creator against the best of the best is where the doubt lies. If Perkins plays like a fifth-year senior that already has national title game experience, the Zags look like a good bet to get back to their second Final Four in three years.

3. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

  • WILL KENTUCKY HAVE TO SACRIFICE TALENT TO GET SHOOTING ON THE FLOOR?

The more I look at this Kentucky roster, the more I like this group. For my money, there is a clear-cut top four next season with Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky all having an argument to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Adding Reid Travis, a bully and fifth-year senior that can score in the post and hit the glass, should help improve what is still a very young roster; only in Lexington is a team with five freshmen, four sophomores and one senior considered old.

My concern with this group as of now is spacing. For my money, Coach Cal’s best five next season will include Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson, Travis, P.J. Washington and one of Immanuel Quickley, Quade Green and Tyler Herro. Travis attempted 62 threes in four seasons at Stanford, with 61 coming last year. He’s a career 29 percent three-point shooter. Washington’s issues with shooting is why Kentucky was knocked out of last year’s tournament in the Sweet 16 and why Washington is still on campus and not an NBA roster. Hagans is an athlete, a defender and a competitor known for his ability to get to the rim, not his shooting. The same can be said for Johnson.

Quickley is a capable shooter, Green is probably slightly better and Herro is known for his stroke, but is one shooter on the floor going to be enough to create spacing? Maybe, but that doubt is why I have them a tick below Kansas and Gonzaga heading into the year.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

4. DUKE BLUE DEVILS

  • DOES DUKE HAVE THE SHOOTING TO GO FULL SMALL-BALL?

I am all the way here for college basketball moving more towards small-ball, position-less basketball built on playing with pace and space. Watching Villanova batter everyone in their path with a barrage of threes last season was amazing. Basketball at its best, and on paper, Duke looks like a team poised to follow in those footsteps. Tre Jones, Tyus’ tougher little brother, will handle the point while Marques Bolden looks like he’ll finally get a chance to be Duke’s first-team center. But beyond that, the Blue Devils have wings on wings on wings.

R.J. Barrett, the nation’s No. 1 recruit and the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Cam Reddish, a potential top three pick. Zion Williamson, the viral superstar of the prep ranks that is tough and athletic enough to play some five for Duke despite standing just 6-foot-5. Even sophomore Alex O’Connell and junior Javin DeLaurier fit into that conversation. The problem, however, is that small-ball relies on the ability of those smaller players to be able to space the floor. Villanova was arguably the best three-point shooting team we’ve ever seen in the collegiate ranks. Golden State is so deadly because they have arguably the three best all-around shooters in the NBA on their roster.

This Duke team is not exactly known for their shooting. Zion is not a shooting threat. Neither is DeLaurier. Barrett is more of a slasher (although he’s spent time this offseason working with Drew Hanlen) while Reddish is thought of as a scorer more than a shooter. Even Jones, who can shoot, is at his best when he can turn a corner and get downhill. I love what Duke is trying to do, but I wonder whether or not they have the shooting to make it all work flawlessly.

5. VILLANOVA WILDCATS

  • CAN ‘THE VILLANOVA WAY’ SURVIVE THE KIND OF TALENT EXODUS COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S ELITE DEAL WITH?

The narrative with this Villanova program the last three years is that they have built something out of nothing, growing players no one wanted into collegiate superstars. And while there is validity to their ability to develop players within their ranks, the truth is that the Wildcats landed a bunch of guys that a lot of very good teams wanted, made them better and built an absolute juggernaut, one that put three players in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, a list that doesn’t include the 33rd pick, Jalen Brunson, last year’s consensus National Player of the Year.

And now Nova will head into the 2018-19 season with a young roster that is missing two guys that would have been all-americans had they returned to school as we all thought they would in February. It begs the question: Can the Villanova machine keep running if their best players head to the league earlier than expected? I think that it will, but that is under the assumption that Villanova’s freshmen — specifically Jahvon Quinerly and Cole Swider — come in and contribute major minutes immediately while their sophomore class — Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillispie — take a step forward. I’ll bet on Jay Wright finding a way to make it happen.

6. NEVADA WOLF PACK

  • HOW MANY BODIES IS TOO MANY BODIES?

Eric Musselman was going to have a difficult time trying to find a way to get every deserving player on his roster meaningful minutes before he found out that both Caleb and Cody Martin, the former an all-american candidate and the latter an all-MWC first-team player, were returning to school. Now, he’s looking at a situation where he had to run off two players that would have had an impact — Ehab Amin, who is now at Oregon, and Josh Hall, who hit the shot that sent Nevada to the Sweet 16 — just to get down to 13 scholarship players.

The Martin twins are going to play 30-plus minutes again this season. Jordan Caroline probably will as well, and I can’t imagine a scenario where Jordan Brown, a top 15 recruit, isn’t playing heavy minutes. That doesn’t leave much burn to go around. There are going to be players that sat out a season to transfer to Nevada that are going to spend this year glued to the bench. Nevada might be better off fielding two teams in the MWC this season.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

7. TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS

  • HOW WILL THE VOLS ADJUST TO BEING THE HUNTED?

Tennessee was one of the best stories in college basketball last season, and if it wasn’t for the years that Tony Bennett and Bruce Pearl produced, Rick Barnes would have been the runaway favorite to win National Coach of the Year. Tennessee was picked 13th in the SEC Preseason poll. They won a share of the league’s regular season title and they return essentially everyone from that team, including SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams.

No one expected that last year. No one will be caught unprepared this year, and that has tripped teams up in the past. Take Northwestern. One of the most under-discussed storylines from last season was Northwestern going from their first NCAA tournament to the preseason top 15 back to lovable loser in the span of about four weeks at the start of the season. They couldn’t handle the target on their back. That will be the key for Tennessee as we head into next season.

8. VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

  • WILL DE’ANDRE HUNTER BE ABLE TO PLAY THE FOUR?

The wording here is the key. The question isn’t whether or not Hunter is capable of playing the four at the college level. We know he is. The question is whether he will be able to given the way this Virginia roster is coming together. With Devon Hall and Nigel Johnson graduating, suddenly there is a complete lack of back court depth. Ty Jerome is still there, as is Kyle Guy, and they will be fine. Beyond that, the Wahoo back court consists of incoming freshman Kihei Clark and Kody Stattmann, neither of whom are thought of as immediate impact players, and sophomores Marco Anthony and Francesco Badocchi. Anthony played 13 games. Badocchi did not play.

That matters because Hunter’s ideal position is as a four. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He has the strength to guard bigs and the quicks to defend on the perimeter. He can make threes and attack defenders in isolation. He’s a prototype small-ball four, and that fact was never more evident than when UVA got torched by UMBC playing four guards. But if Bennett cannot trust one of those four young guards to play major minutes, Hunter is going to be slotted in at the three, and while the likes of Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff and Jack Salt will be very good in the frontcourt, I’m just not sure that playing big is the optimal lineup for Virginia.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

9. KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

  • WHICH KANSAS STATE IS THE REAL KANSAS STATE?

This may seem like a silly question for a team that came within one win of getting to the Final Four, but it is important to remember here that the Wildcats entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed, reached the Sweet 16 by becoming the only No. 9 seed to ever beat a No. 16 seed and lost to a team from the Missouri Valley by 16 points to go home.

But they also beat Kentucky and Creighton during that run, doing so despite the fact that their best player and a potential all-american, Dean Wade, was on the bench with an injury. So, again, I ask you: Which Kansas State is the real Kansas State? The one that struggled with their perimeter shooting, couldn’t get a rebound if their life depended on it and finished the regular season with a 21-10 record? Or is it the one that played — and defended — with so much heart in the tournament, making a deep run despite the fact their their best player was on the bench?

Admittedly, I am smitten with this team, and I’m sure my ranking will be the highest that you see them this offseason. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, not if the Kansas State from last March shows back up again.

10. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

  • DOES ROY WILLIAMS HAVE THE POINT GUARD HE NEEDS?

Every one of Roy Williams’ best teams have had elite point guard play. In 2005, it was Ray Felton. In 2009, it was Ty Lawson. In 2016 and 2017, it was Joel Berry II. Remember, the Tar Heels turned a corner in the 2015-16 season, winning the ACC, the ACC tournament and getting to the national title game, when Berry took over the reins as the program’s point guard from Marcus Paige.

This year, point guard duties are going to fall to Seventh Woods, Rechon Black and Coby White, the latter of whom in a five-star prospect known more for his ability to score than anything else. The other pieces are there. Luke Maye is a National Player of the Year contender. Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little are plenty good enough on the wings. UNC’s three sophomore bigs will be able to handle the five. It’s that point guard spot that will determine just how good these Heels are.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: The top three remain unchanged

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

We talked about this a bit on Friday’s podcast, but I want to put it into print form.

One of the narratives of this season is that there are no great teams in college basketball. It was one of the biggest storylines back in November and December as so many of the teams that we thought would be really good this season went through struggles, and the fact that we rolled through seven No. 1 teams in the AP poll only drove that point home.

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

Now that we’re in mid-February, things have started to shake themselves out, and what we’ve learned is that early in the season we just didn’t actually know who the best teams in the sport were. Now that we do, there are some teams that have started to gain separation on the field. It’s pretty clear that Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State are the heavy favorites to earn the four No. 1 seeds, and that point is driven home by the fact that the only loss any of those teams have suffered since Christmas came when Kansas played Baylor. Duke is rolling. Maryland is rolling. Dayton is rolling. Up until this past week, Louisville and Auburn were rolling, too.

Put it all together, and as of today, it’s pretty clear who the best teams in the country are, and it’s made doing a top 25 every week much easier than it has been in the past. I haven’t had to think all that hard about the top ten in about six weeks. I will say, that has been nice. Doing a top 25 every week can be a drag.

Having said all that, while there are some great teams in the context of this season, I don’t think that there are any teams here that we are going to be talking about as one of the best college basketball teams of *enter arbitrary cut-off point here.*

Part of the reason I say that is the lack of NBA talent on these rosters. Take, for example, the 2018 Villanova team that won the title. For my money, they are the best college basketball team that I have seen since I started doing this, and four of the five guys that started on that team are now starting in the NBA. That doesn’t include Omari Spellman, either.

Or how about this: Compare this Gonzaga team to last year’s Gonzaga team. Last year, they had two first round picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, a top 40 pick in Zach Norvell and an All-American point guard in Josh Perkins. All of them were upperclassmen. This year’s team is really good, but their best NBA prospect — Killian Tillie — can’t stay healthy and their second-best NBA prospect — Joel Ayayi — was enough of a question mark entering the season that Mark Few felt the need to go out and recruit two grad transfers to provide insurance at his position.

Don’t get me wrong, this Gonzaga team is very, very good.

And when compared to the rest of the country this year, we can probably call them great. The same can be said about Baylor, and Kansas, and maybe even San Diego State.

But as much fun as they have been to watch this season, putting them in the same conversation as the great teams from past season is a step too far.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25

  1. BAYLOR (23-1, Last Week: 1)
  2. GONZAGA (26-1, 2)
  3. KANSAS (22-3, 3)
  4. DUKE (22-3, 5)
  5. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-0, 7)
  6. DAYTON (23-2, 8)
  7. MARYLAND (21-4, 10)
  8. FLORIDA STATE (21-4, 6)
  9. PENN STATE (20-5, 19)
  10. LOUISVILLE (21-5, 4)
  11. AUBURN (22-3, 11)
  12. KENTUCKY (20-5, 12)
  13. OREGON (19-6, 13)
  14. SETON HALL (18-7, 9)
  15. VILLANOVA (19-6, 15)
  16. CREIGHTON (20-6, 21)
  17. WEST VIRGINIA (18-7, 14)
  18. IOWA (18-8, 16)
  19. COLORADO (20-6, 20)
  20. MICHIGAN (16-9, 24)
  21. HOUSTON (20-6, 17)
  22. ILLINOIS (16-9, 18)
  23. MARUQETTE (17-7, 23)
  24. BYU (21-7, NR)
  25. OHIO STATE (17-8, NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 BYU, No. 24 Michigan
DROPPED OUT: No. 22 LSU, No. 25 Michigan State

Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville’s a mess, Seton Hall’s messier, Maryland rallies, Baylor rolls

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It was yet another wild Saturday in college basketball, complete with crazy comebacks, top ten upsets and a career-high from the best defender on Kansas.

Here is everything you need to know from a fun day of college hoops.

1. LOUISVILLE IS A TOTAL MESS RIGHT NOW

No. 5 Louisville eliminated any and all chance that they might end up being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday this week. After suffering what we all thought was going to be their worst loss of the season on Wednesday, losing at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals came out on Saturday and … made five first half field goals at Clemson?

Louisville trailed 31-14 at the break. They shot 15.6 percent in the first half. They were down by as many as 21 points to a team that entered the afternoon 12-12 on the season. Both Josh Pastner and Brad Brownell entered this week on the hot seat, and if they do keep their jobs this season, one of the reasons why will be that they beat Louisville this year. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

The crux of the issue seems to be Jordan Nwora, who was benched at the start of Saturday’s game after being benched down the stretch on Wednesday. He did not score his first points until late in the second half, when the game was already out of reach, and is now 2-for-11 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three in the last two games. He’s scored a total of seven points during that stretch.

So much for that All-American season.

“I don’t have all the answers right now,” head coach Chris Mack. “I just don’t. It’s my job. We’ll watch film. I’m going to have a lot of one-on-one conversations, and we’ll figure out a way to be better against Syracuse on Wednesday.

“It looks like we’re not playing for anything. Really frustrating. But it’s my job to figure it out, and I’ve failed so far.”

The fact of the matter is that this is not a talent issue for Louisville. It’s not a coaching problem, it’s not a problem with their scheme, or their personnel, or anything of the sort. The Cardinals has all the pieces that they need to get this thing right. I’m not ready to sell on them just yet.

2. SETON HALL IS, TOO

The only team in the country that had a worse Saturday that Louisville was No. 10 Seton Hall. The Pirates lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling behind by 25 points in the first half at Providence before rallying to cut the lead to two in a 74-71 loss.

Seton Hall lost at home to Creighton on Wednesday — a game where they gave up 87 points — and pulled the same stunt at home against Xavier just two weeks ago, falling behind by 22 points in the first half before rallying and making the final score respectable.

The Pirates are still sitting in first place in the Big East standings, but they have to play at Marquette and Creighton and still host Butler and Villanova before the Big East tournament starts. A league title is certainly a possibility, but given how tough their remaining schedule is, I’m not sure they are even the odds on favorite.

That’s what makes this stretch so baffling.

Seton Hall is playing for a regular season title and three times in five games they aren’t even close to ready to play?

“We have some guys with bad attitudes right now to be perfectly honest with you,” Kevin Willard said in his postgame radio interview. “When you have a bad attitude and you’re pouting and complaining that you’re not playing enough time yet your team is 10-2, you have issues.

“It’s amazing to me that, when we lost to Xavier I saw a team that bounced back and was hungry to go to Georgetown and get it. When we lost to Creighton the other day and we played terrible (in practice), and I’m sitting in practice and I’m thinking, I’ve got a guy moody that doesn’t want to go through practice who hardly played. I have another guy who played 25 minutes that can’t make a shot and didn’ have a rebound. I have another guy that got embarrassed defensively.

“I will make sure of it, come in 20 minutes that there will be a very large correction . . . The bench is going to get shortened. Either you’re going to show up and play or you’re not. I’m really disappointed in a few guys who, either they regain their focus or I’ll just play six.”

Willard did not name the grumpy-gus, but it’s worth noting: Myles Cale was a starter last year and played just seven minutes against Providence. Ike Obiagu played just five. Anthony Nelson played just two. Draw your own conclusions.

3. BAYLOR IS THE BEST BECAUSE THEY CAN LOSE A KEY PIECE AND STILL ROLL

MaCio Teague is Baylor’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points. He’s one of their better three-point shooters and the best guy on the roster not named Jared Butler at creating his own shot. He did not play on Saturday against the second-best defensive team in the country in West Virginia, and it did not matter.

No. 1 Baylor rolled to their 22nd consecutive win, knocking off the No. 14 Mountaineers, 70-59, in a game that they led by 28 points in the first half.

And that, more or less, sums up everything that you need to know about this Baylor team. They are good enough, and balanced enough, that they can lose their second-leading scorer, a critical piece to their offense, and not even miss a beat against one of the nation’s very best teams.

4. THERE’S NO REASON TO DOUBT MARYLAND ANYMORE

If you are still among the doubters that does not believe that Maryland is capable of getting to a Final Four and winning a national title, what else do the Terrapins need to prove?

On Saturday, Maryland went into the Breslin Center and knocked off Michigan State, 67-60. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half and used a 14-0 run over the course of the final three minutes of the game to escape with a win. They are now 11-3 in the Big Ten, a game in front of Penn State and three games in front of the rest of the field in first place in the conference, and sitting on an eight-game winning streak. During that streak, they have won at Illinois, at Indiana and, on Saturday, at Michigan State.

Jalen Smith has played like an All-American over the course of the last six weeks. Aaron Wiggins is starting to re-discover his shooting stroke. Darryl Morsell has done all of the little things. Most importantly, Anthony Cowan has continued to play the role of the closer. He scored the final 11 points for Maryland on Saturday, including banging home three threes in the final two minutes.

So tell me.

If you are still one of the people that doubts Maryland, why?

And short of actually getting to Atlanta, what can they do to prove it to you?

5. YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO GUARD MARCUS GARRETT

Entering Saturday, Marcus Garrett hadn’t made a three since January 14th. He had shot just a single three in the month of February. In his last 14 games, he was 3-for-17 from three, combined.

On Saturday, Oklahoma decided to defend No. 3 Kansas by using whoever was “guarding” Garrett to double-team Udoka Azubuike.

Garrett responded by scoring a career-high 24 points, making six threes and handing out seven assists. The Jayhawks rolled, 87-70.

6. PATRICK EWING SHOULD BE THE BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR

I don’t think that there is any way that Ewing will win the National Coach of the Year award because one of Scott Drew, Brian Dutcher or Anthony Grant has that covered.

He should, however, win the award for Big East Coach of the Year. Think about everything that this Georgetown program has gone through this season. They had two players transfer out of the program in December, a decision that led to NBC Sports breaking the news that one of those two players had accusations of assault and harassment hanging over his head, and that two more members of the team — both of whom would later leave the program — were involved as well.

That’s when the injuries started. Mac McClung has missed five games — including Saturday’s visit to DePaul — with a lingering foot issue. Omer Yurtseven did not play on Saturday, either, meaning that the Hoyas were down to just five scholarship players.

And they went into Indianapolis and knocked off No. 19 Butler, giving them an elite win and putting them in a position where they have a bit of room to spare when it comes to getting to the NCAA tournament.

It makes no sense.

And yet, here we are.

7. TEXAS HAS QUIT ON SHAKA SMART.

The Longhorns took on Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and got absolutely humiliated, 81-52, in a game that more or less locked Texas out of the NCAA tournament.

As one longtime Big 12 beat writer put it, “that was the worst Big 12 performance I’ve seen since a winless TCU team.”

Yikes.

8. AUBURN LOST WITHOUT ISAAC OKORO

The Tigers went into Missouri and got dropped, 85-73, playing without Isaac Okoro, who is their best player.

He was out with a hamstring injury that shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup for too long.

9. ILLINOIS LOST WITHOUT AYO DOSUNMU

The Illini lost at Rutgers, which is, apparently, the most difficult place in the country to play. Dosunmu did not play after hurting his knee against Michigan State.

10. FLORIDA STATE WON WITHOUT DEVIN VASSELL

The Seminoles needed a late rally to do it, but they held off Syracuse, 80-77. Devin Vassell didn’t play, and we don’t really know why.

Bubble Banter: Georgetown lands massive win over No. 19 Butler

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

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

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 55, NBC: First four out): Without question, the biggest bubble winner of the day is Georgetown, who landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (12). There are two major problems with Georgetown’s NCAA tournament profile: The first is that they already have ten losses, but some of that is explainable: They are 5-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 9-10 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. They have played 19 games against top 75 teams. That’s a lot of good games, and a 9-10 record against them is hardly a bad thing. The other issue was a lack of elite wins, but they already had a win over Creighton (19) in their back pocket, and now they can add a road win over a top 15 team to the mix. My guess would be that they slide up to a 10 seed when Dave updates our bracket on Monday morning.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 51, NBC: First four out): Abdul Ado made the biggest player of the year for the Bulldogs, tipping home a game-winning bucket with less than a second left on the clock in a 78-77 win at Arkansas (43) on Saturday.

The enormity of this win cannot be overstated. For starters, Mississippi State only had one Quad 1 entering the day, and adding a second Quad 1 win means they now have the same number as their Quad 3 losses. But the bigger issue is that MSU’s schedule down the stretch features precisely one top 65 opponent. This was their last chance at a good win for their resume until the SEC tournament, and they got it.

ALABAMA (NET: 39, NBC: Off the bubble): The Crimson Tide picked up an enormous win on Saturday, as they knocked off LSU (27) in Tuscaloosa for their second Quad 1 win of the season. Alabama is now 14-11 overall and while their 6-10 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents is solid, a 3-6 mark on the road, a home loss to Penn (177) and just two Quad 1 wins is not a good sign. At this point, I think Alabama needs to win out during the regular season for the simple fact that their schedule is not all that strong. But they have a shot if they do.

VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 11): Tomas Woldetensae his a three with a second left on the clock to beat North Carolina (95) in Chapel Hill. The Wahoos are now 16-7 overall with a 6-6 mark against the top two Quads thanks to this win. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but just one of them — Florida State (14) at home — is a surefire Quad 1 win to go along with a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (145). Perhaps the biggest issue is that UVA has just two potential Quad 1 wins left on their schedule. They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use a win over Duke (6) or Louisville (7) next month.

FLORIDA (NET: 38, NBC: 10): Florida blew out Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. Whoop dee doo. Florida’s resume is more or less built on a home win over Auburn (13) and a neutral court win over Xavier (44). They are 5-9 against the top two Quads without a Quad 3 or 4 loss, but this is still not a very strong resume. With two games left against Kentucky (24) and a home date with LSU (27), the Gators are not as comfortable is it may seem, but they will have chances to improve.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 34, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (236) 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 at home in March.

RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Spiders picked up a win in the toughest game they have left on their schedule, beating VCU (42) by 18 points at home. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead. I cannot see how they are going to be able to get enough wins to jump six or seven teams that play in tougher leagues with a schedule that includes a bunch of bad teams. But stranger things have happened, and they could end up getting another shot at Dayton (5) in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

UTAH STATE (NET: 46, NBC: First four out): After beating Fresno State, the Aggies have won four in a row and seven of their last eight games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as three weeks ago. Wins over LSU (27) and Florida (38) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

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

… AND LOSERS

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 35, NBC: 11): The Panthers lost at Loyola (102), which is hardly a bad loss, especially in the MVC, but I’m not sure that it is a loss they can afford. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (66) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (148) and Illinois State (202) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago (102) in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large, and even then, it will be tough.

TEXAS (NET: 71, NBC: Off the bubble): Texas lost their fourth straight game on Saturday. It was their seventh loss in nine games. They were beaten by 29 points by an Iowa State (80) team that didn’t have Tyrese Haliburton. The dream is over.

VCU (NET: 42, NBC: Next four out): The Rams are going to find themselves in a very tough spot after getting worked over at Richmond (55) on Saturday. They have now lost two in a row and three of their last four games, and if they do not beat Dayton (5) on Tuesday next week, than discussing the rest of their resume will not matter. They will not be a tournament team. We’ll talk Wednesday.

PURDUE (NET: 29, NBC: 10): The biggest issue currently facing Purdue after losing at Ohio State (23) is that they now have 12 losses on the season, including a Quad 3 loss at Nebraska (167), and the rest of their schedule is absolutely brutal. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 19-16 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 4-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-11 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.

ARKANSAS (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Razorbacks fell at the buzzer on Saturday when Mississippi State’s (51) Abdul Ado tipped in a missed shot with less than a second left. They ave now lost four straight games, are sitting with a 4-9 recorded against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (39) and at Indiana (58). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back.

STANFORD (NET: 33, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night at home against Arizona (9). It was their seventh loss in the last eight games. They have an ugly Quad 3 loss to Cal (155) and just two total Quad 1 wins. Stanford will have chances down the stretch, but should we actually trust them to take advantage of those chances?

TENNESSEE (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Vols fell to 14-11 on the season when they lost at South Carolina (66) on Saturday. That’s the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Vols, who still have some chances to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble but have enough work left to do that this is the last time you will see them in this space unless they get hot.

No. 11 Auburn falls at Missouri without Isaac Okoro

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson each scored 28 points and Missouri beat No. 11 Auburn 85-73 on Saturday night.

Smith and Pinson repeatedly drove into the lane and scored for Missouri (12-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference). Kobe Brown added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Austin Wiley led Auburn (22-3, 9-3) with 22 points and 10 rebounds, J’Von McCormick added 21 points and Samir Doughty scored 16. Auburn made just 1 of 17 3-point attempts.

Smith and Pinson combined to score 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half. Pinson freed himself with a crossover dribble and sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-32 lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Missouri’s foul trouble mounted early in the second half, with Pinson and Mitchell Smith each picking up their fourth in the first eight minutes.

Momentum swung back to Missouri when Auburn’s Devan Cambridge was ejected with 10:01 remaining. He was called for Flagrant 1 and 2 fouls on the same play. Cambridge pulled Missouri’s Javon Pickett down and then stepped on his leg while he was sitting on the court. Pickett and Dru Smith combined to make 3 of the 4 free throws. Missouri got possession of the ball, and Torrence Watson hit a 3-pointer. The total damage from the play was six points, giving Missouri a 62-46 lead.

Two minutes later, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was hit with a technical and had to be restrained by assistants. He was angered when McCormick was called for a foul while trying to get around a screen. Auburn couldn’t get the deficit below 10 points the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers are showing signs of a late-season surge. After beating Arkansas in overtime on Feb. 8, they led 25th-ranked LSU on the road for most of the game Tuesday before losing 82-78. The victory over Auburn was Missouri’s first win over a ranked team in five tries this season.

Auburn: Freshman star Isaac Okoro, who injured his hamstring Wednesday against Alabama, didn’t make the trip to Missouri. Okoro averages 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. He was replaced in the starting lineup by fellow freshman Allen Flanigan, who finished with five points and six rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri: Host Mississippi on Tuesday.

Auburn: At Georgia on Wednesday.

Cowan closes game on 11-0 run as No. 9 Maryland beats Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Anthony Cowan scored 11 of his 24 points in the final two-plus minutes, helping No. 9 Maryland beat Michigan State 67-60 with a strong finish Saturday night.

The Terrapins (21-4, 11-3 Big Ten) scored the final 14 points of the game after trailing by seven with 3:24 left. Cowman had the last 11 points on three 3-pointers and two free throws.

The Spartans (17-9, 9-6) trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and by eight early in the second half before making a surge to take the lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he gave Jalen Smith enough space to make a 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining to start Maryland’s game-closing run. Tillman caught the wrath of coach Tom Izzo after making the mistake on defense.

Smith finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Cassius Winston had 14 points for the Spartans.

DRAWING A ROAR

Michigan State’s new football coach, Mel Tucker, fired up fans during the first half in a timeout break. The crowd roared again during halftime when Michigan State honored its 2000 national championship team.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: With eight straight wins, the Terrapins have a one-game lead over No. 13 Penn State in the conference standings.

Michigan State: The team is simply struggling, losing four of five games and two straight at home.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Terrapins may move up a little in the poll. The Spartans became the first preseason No. 1 to drop out of the poll since Kentucky did it during the 2013-14 season and they will be unranked for at least another week.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Hosts last-place Northwestern (6-18, 1-13 Big Ten) on Tuesday night.

Michigan State: Plays at Nebraska (7-18, 2-12) on Thursday night.