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Michigan Men vs. The Villanova Way: How do Beilein and Wright churn out so many pros?

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We are all of seven months — and just one full week of basketball season — removed from Villanova cutting down the nets for its second title in three years, but heading into Wednesday’s title game rematch between No. 8 Villanova and No. 18 Michigan at the newly renovated Finneran Pavilion, the rosters couldn’t look more different today than they did on that Monday night in San Antonio.

Five of the 10 players who started that title game have moved on, and that doesn’t include Donte DiVincenzo or Duncan Robinson. Five of the seven players who are off to the professional ranks were drafted with eligibility remaining. Six of the seven are currently collecting NBA paychecks, and the seventh — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — is on a G League roster with the likes of Bonzie Colson, Kobi Simmons and Billy Preston.

The fact that this is the most anticipated game of the college basketball season since the Champions Classic despite the utter lack of incoming one-and-done talent on either roster tells you all you need to know about the teams involved.

There’s a saying in basketball circles: You don’t develop pros, you recruit pros.

For the majority of the college basketball landscape, that sentiment holds true, but there are few that buck the trend. Virginia’s one. Wichita State is another. None have been more consistent or more successful at turning players that weren’t considered pro prospects entering school into NBA players by the time they leave than the Wolverines and Wildcats.

“I go to both of those places,” a Western Conference executive told NBC Sports this month. “I like what you get out of a Michigan guy, and I like what you get out of a Villanova guy.”

“John Beilein and Jay Wright are two of the most fundamental coaches that exist in college basketball,” he added. “The beauty is that they know who they are, what they do and what works for them. They don’t try to fit square pegs into round holes.”

And while the results are the same, the method behind the madness — the process — couldn’t be more different.


John Beilein and Trey Burke(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The narrative surrounding John Beilein’s ability to develop NBA players is that they tend to end up being busts.

You can’t draft a player out of Michigan, that line thinking goes, because you never know what you’re actually getting in that player. This is largely a result of the respect people have for Beilein as a basketball coach; I’ll get to that in a minute.

That narrative was essentially the result of three high-profile players that Michigan sent to the NBA who failed to live up to the hype that came as a result of their college success and the expectation of where they were picked.

Trey Burke was the National Player of the Year as a sophomore, leading Michigan to the national title game before getting selected with the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. His career stalled toward the end of his tenure in Utah, and after a failed stint in Washington, Burke got a much-needed reboot with the Knicks in the G League. At 26 years old and past the distractions that plagued him early in his career, he’s a part-time starter and currently outperforming another former lottery pick, Frank Ntilikina. That’s not bad for a player who was a borderline top 100 recruit coming out of Columbus, Ohio, who was passed over by Ohio State for a player named Shannon Scott.

Then there’s Nik Stauskas, another player that the consensus had on the wrong side of the top 100 recruiting rankings that went to Michigan and became a lottery pick within two years. The first four years of his NBA career were spent as a rotation piece on teams that were tanking, but he’s managed to carve out a role for the Trail Blazers this season.

If there is a player that’s truly emblematic of the reputation that Beilein’s Michigan players have, it’s probably Mitch McGary, who was a borderline five-star prospect that nearly went one-and-done after shining during Michigan’s run to the 2013 title game. He returned to school, where a back injury limited his sophomore season and a positive marijuana test forced him to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. He was the 21st overall pick, but was out of the league within two years thanks to another positive test and is now a competitive bowler.

While it’s true that three of the most highly publicized players that have come through Ann Arbor did not end up being NBA All-Stars, focusing on a couple of players that are still in the league despite failing to outperform their draft position is to miss the forest for the trees: Two of the three were never considered pros before they got to Michigan, and none of the three would have been in a position to leave school after two years if it wasn’t for what happened under Beilein’s tutelage.

That is the narrative that should be focused on.

Since Beilein arrived at Michigan in 2007, 13 of his players have reached the NBA. Ten of those 13 have come in the last six years, and just four of the 13 were top-40 prospects, according to Rivals. Glenn Robinson III is the only player Beilein has sent to the league that was a surefire pro regardless of where he spent his college days.

Tim Hardaway Jr. might have been the son of basketball royalty, but he was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He’s now in his sixth season in the NBA, averaging a career-high 23.2 points for the Knicks. Caris LeVert only ended up at Michigan after reopening his recruitment when John Groce was hired away from Ohio, and he was on his way to being one of the breakout stars in the NBA before Monday night’s gruesome foot injury. (Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be as bad as it looked.) D.J. Wilson was a late-bloomer from California that was ranked outside the top 120, according to 247 Sports Composite ranking. Beilein’s ability to identify and develop talent goes beyond just the players that reached the NBA: Spike Albrecht picked Michigan over Appalachian State, while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was ranked 434th in his high school class, committing to Michigan after visiting Rice.

No one, however, defines Beilein’s ability to identify and develop talent like Duncan Robinson.

Robinson is one of the few transfers that Beilein has brought into his program, but he’s no ordinary transfer. Any excuse to tell his story is a good one: Completely overlooked in high school, Robinson found his way to Williams, a Division III powerhouse, where he was a star for the Ephs as a freshman. His head coach at Williams was Mike Maker, a former Beilein assistant, who accepted the job as the Marist head coach. When Robinson decided it was time for him to leave as well, Maker made the call to Beilein, and Robinson was on his way to being a Michigan man.

A little more than four years later, and Robinson is on a two-way contract, bouncing between the G League and the Miami Heat’s roster.


Duncan Robinson (Will Newton/Getty Images)

Everything changed for Villanova six seasons ago.

Just three years removed from a trip to the 2009 Final Four, the program had bottomed out. It was 2012 and Villanova had just finished up the worst year under Wright since he took over the program in 2001. The Wildcats were 13-19 with a 5-13 mark in the Big East and totally lost. Wright had stopped recruiting the players he thought fit the style he wanted to coach and the culture that he wanted to build, and instead focused on — what else? — recruiting rankings.

Once the program had a Final Four to their name, they were able to get in the mix with some more highly-regarded players, and instead of focusing on whether or not that player fit within his program, he asked himself a simple question: “He’s a great player? All right, good.”

Villanova wasn’t evaluating players. They were recruiting with buckshot. Get in the mix with every five-star they could. Go after every four-star in and around Philly, New York and D.C. Amass all the talent they could, and figure it out from there. It’s a method that works — to varying degrees of success — for a number of programs around the country.

It didn’t work for Villanova.

Wright knew he had to change, and, as he detailed to NBC Sports last year, he knew that change meant two things: Recruiting kids with a certain mindset, and recruiting kids with a certain skill-set.

As one coach that has gone up against Villanova on the recruiting trail put it: “They’re targeted.”

They look for tough, gritty kids, players that have a chip on their shoulder and that are accepting of the fact that they are going to be asked to play a role early and often in their career. One of the defining characteristics of the program is that the players are expected to play hard and tough first, or they’re not going to play.

The rest can be figured out from there, which is where skill-set — and Wright’s coaching magic — kicks in.

Wright is one of the founders of the small-ball revolution in college basketball. Savvy basketball fans will remember the teams that featured Randy Foye and Allan Ray fondly. What they may not remember is that team was forced into playing four guards because Curtis Sumpter tore his ACL twice in the span of seven months.

He saw the success that was possible by creating mismatches with over-skilled and under-sized players, and overtime, the methodology started to change.

“Versatility now is what we look for,” Wright said. “We used to use the word ‘tweener’. Now we use the word versatility. Multi-positional.”

Josh Hart (Harry How/Getty Images)

Take a guy like Josh Hart. In high school, he was a 6-foot-4 guard that played like a power forward. Physical, tough, defensive-minded and lacking any and all touch on the offensive end of the floor. So Wright pulled him out of Georgetown’s backyard, taught him how to play the space-and-pace brand of basketball that is so prevalent in the NBA and Hart is now on a guaranteed contract, earning seven-figures while playing alongside LeBron in LA.

Donte DiVincenzo’s rise wasn’t all that dissimilar. He was a terrific athlete in high school that needed his skill sharpened. Mikal Bridges had the physical tools, but he was a twig that needed to learn how to be a multi-dimensional player on the offensive end. Omari Spellman was big and skilled with three-point range, but he was well over 300 pounds.

“He polishes those stones up better than the other guys,” a member of an Eastern Conference team said.

The key, according to Ryan Arcidiacono, a member of Villanova’s 2016 national title team and a current point guard for the Chicago Bulls, is two-fold.

On the one hand, Wright does everything he can to make his offense positionless. They don’t split up into guards and bigs to do skillwork. The point guards work on posting up and the big men work on making threes and attacking closeouts.

One of Wright’s favorite sayings, Arcidiacono said, is, “‘You’re a basketball player. We have guards and we have forwards but everyone needs to be able to handle the ball and make a shot.'” The program only runs about five plays. What Wright teaches are “concepts,” which is a fancy way of saying he teaches his guys how to play — shoot, pass and dribble — and how to understand the game. Their entire offense is predicated on the simplest fundamentals of basketball: Get two defenders guarding the ball, make the right pass, create a closeout and make a play.

The other part is the person that Wright targets. “He does a great job of getting guys that buy into ‘we before me,'” Arcidiacono said. Sometimes they’re five-star guys like Jalen Brunson. Sometimes it’s the local kid that grew up a Villanova fan, like Arcidiacono and DiVincenzo. The result is a culture within the program that now allows Wright to go out and bring in a more talented player that might have some knucklehead tendencies; the rest of the program can prop him up.

And that is one of the biggest reasons that Villanova has become one of the leading producers of NBA role players in the college ranks. Eight Villanova players have reached the NBA in the last three years. Eric Paschall will almost assuredly make that number nine come June’s draft, and there are a handful of other pieces on that roster — Cole Swider, Jahvon Quinerly, Jermaine Samuels, Phil Booth — that have a shot of joining him there.

When you get a Villanova player, you know what you’re getting: a team-first guy that can shoot, knows how to play the game, will play hard, will accept a role and will defend his ass off, even if his physical tools make him a below-average defensive player.

What’s not to like?


Donte DiVincenzo guarded by Duncan Robinson (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Like Jay Wright, John Beilein’s offense is based entirely off of the spacing that comes with loading the court with shooters.

Unlike Wright, however, his offense is not known for the freedom that it gives players.

Quite the opposite, actually.

“Beilein’s offense is like the Princeton and motion on steroids,” a rival Big Ten coach said. “It’s organized, it’s structured and it’s quirky.”

Suffice to say, Michigan’s playbook is much bigger than just five plays. Villanova’s players have more freedom than just about anyone. Michigan’s players will ride the pine if they’re not executing precisely what Beilein wants run.

Where Beilein thrives is finding ways to make the offense fit the talent on his roster. Before Michigan, his offense could have been confused with the Princeton offense. There were two-guards on the floor at all times. There were back-cuts and plenty of screens and, of course, shooters everywhere. Remember the days of Kevin Pittsnoggle? Beilein was doing those same things at Richmond, when he knocked off No. 3-seed South Carolina in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament, and at Canisius, and Le Moyne, and Erie CC before that.

But has he started to land better talent at Michigan, and as the game started to change around him, he adapted. Trey Burke was a terrific ball-screen point guard, so in 2013, Beilein surrounded Burke with three sharpshooters and put Burke in ball-screen after ball-screen after ball-screen. With Stauskas, and then LeVert, Beilein knew he had players that thrived as off-the-dribble jump-shooters, so he tailored his offense to getting them those shots. When he once again had a roster filled with sharpshooting big men, he rode D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner to Big Ten tournament titles and, in 2018, a Final Four.

As it turns out, Wagner is German for Pittsnoggle.

“He’s always tinkering with his stuff on the day-to-day” Robinson said. “Within a season, as the it goes along, he gets a much better understanding of who he has on his team. That’s why they always play their best basketball at the end of the season. He figures out what exactly he has at his disposal.”

“He has always done a really good job with his offense. The screening, the spacing, giving his guys a chance to maximize their skill-set,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “You have to ask the question: Is the role you’re projecting him for in the NBA going to match the one he played at Michigan? Will he be optimized in the NBA?”

Michigan does make players better. There’s not real argument against that, even if Beilein isn’t batting 1.000. The strength and conditioning program at Michigan is second-to-none. Players leave that program in the best possible physical condition, to the point that some kids regress athletically when they get to the NBA.

Beilein is also fanatical about birthdays and targeting late-bloomers. Did a kid grow three inches during the summer before his senior season? Get him. Will he turn 18 years old when he’s already on a college campus? Get him. Is the kid not getting recruited because he weighs 135 pounds soaking wet? Get him.

“John Beilein is one of the five best evaluators I’ve ever seen in college basketball,” a longtime high school scout told NBC Sports. “Everyone is young for their grade. Their first year is a redshirt, or a basketball redshirt. Look at how much guys improve after their freshman season.”

In other words, it’s not a fluke.

Beyond that, Beilein has such precise understanding of the way his offense runs and the way that he wants to play that he can see things during a game that others miss. There’s a reason that Michigan has a rule that they won’t extend an offer to a player unless Beilein has seen them play in person.

“He just knows what he wants,” Robinson said. “You watch a game with him and there will be a kid you think is dominating. Then there’s another kid, maybe he’s skinnier or younger, and he’ll do something that catches coach’s attention. There are certain actions, things about being a basketball player and knowing how to play, that [Coach] will notice. He has an eye for that stuff.”

“He picks those guys for his program.”

Robinson would know.

When he committed to Williams after a prep year at Phillips Exeter Academy, he had exactly one scholarship offer from the Division II ranks. That’s how he ended up at Williams.

And Beilein not only saw him as a weapon in the Big Ten, he turned him into an NBA player.


Nik Stauskas (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The good news for Beilein and Wright is that Wednesday night’s tip is early.

The game starts at 6:30 p.m. ET.

That should leave plenty of time for the pair to shower up, get some dinner and find a TV to watch Josh Hart and the Lakers square off with Nik Stauskas and the Trail Blazers.

It will be a little bit more difficult, however, to catch Glenn Robinson III’s Pistons visit Kyle Lowry’s Raptors, or for Wright to see Arcidiacono take on Boston, or for Beilein to see Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s 8 p.m. ET tip as the Knicks visit Oklahoma City.

The DVR can get pretty full, pretty quick.

No. 5 Kentucky hands No. 1 Tennessee first SEC loss in dominant fashion

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This time, Kentucky made sure that it didn’t come down to a controversial call.

The No. 5 Wildcats used a 14-0 to open the second half, pushing a 37-31 halftime lead to 20 points as they cruised to a 86-69 win over No. 1 Tennessee in Rupp Arena on Saturday night. They were led by 23 points from P.J. Washington, who outplayed Tennessee’s all-american Grant Williams and staked his claim to the title of the SEC’s best player.

Keldon Johnson added 19 points for Kentucky, hitting three first half threes that helped lead Kentucky to an early double-digit lead.

This is the first loss in SEC play for Tennessee, who had not lost a game since they fell to Kansas in overtime in the title game of the Preseason NIT way back on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The win keeps Kentucky within a game of first place in the league standings. No. 21 LSU, who beat Kentucky in that controversial finish, is now tied with Tennessee for first in the SEC title race after they beat Georgia on Saturday night.

Here are three things we can take away from Saturday night’s top five battle:

1. THIS IS KENTUCKY’S CEILING GAME

We have been talking about the fact that Kentucky is good enough to get to the Final Four and win a national title for a couple of months now, but this game is the first time that was have seen them on the floor make a statement of this magnitude.

There are reasons to be concerned about just how good Tennessee is — and we’ll get to that — but there’s no doubt that they are one of college basketball’s best teams.

And Kentucky absolutely took them behind the woodshed.

P.J. Washington was living his best life and doing so while going up against the man we all thought was the favorite for SEC Player of the Year in Grant Williams. He finished with 23 points on a cool 9-for-12 fro the floor to go along with five boards, two steals and two blocks. He was a major reason that Tennessee could not find a way to get their offense flowing through Williams.

Keldon Johnson was just as good. He got hot early in the game, which helped the Wildcats shake off some early jitters and jump out to a double-digit lead, and looked every bit the part of a floor-spacer that is a threat to score off the bounce. Tyler Herro didn’t shoot the ball all that well, but he did finished with 13 boards and three assists while Ashton Hagans did his usual — pestering defensive to go along with nine points and seven assists.

Even Nick Richards gave Coach Cal terrific minutes, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the play of Reid Travis. He finished with just 11 points, eight boards and a pair of blocks, but he did the job that Kentucky needed him to do, helping to wear down Tennessee’s frontcourt with his bulk.

It’s not all that surprising to see Kentucky come out and win a game like this given what happened on Tuesday night, but the way in which they won should let you know that these Wildcats are going to be a very real threat in March.

(AP Photo/James Crisp)

2. THIS RESULT HAD A LOT TO DO WITH MATCHUP

Tennessee wants to pound the ball in the paint as much as anyone in college basketball. There are only 20 teams in the country that get a higher percentage of their scoring off of two-point field goals and just 21 that get fewer points off of threes. It makes sense when you think about it: Their best player is Grant Williams, their second-best player is Admiral Schofield and those guys earn their keep because they are tougher, stronger and more physical than just about anyone that they come across. They are the nation’s second-most efficient offensive, according to KenPom, without making threes because of the way that their bigs are able to use their strength to their advantage, both in the post and when creating space for drivers.

The problem Tennessee ran into on Saturday night was that they faced off with a team that could match them inch for inch and pound for pound in the post. This was never going to be an ideal matchup for the Vols, but the way it played out sealed their fate.

And perhaps the most surprising thing about what happened on Saturday night is that it was Kentucky, not Tennessee, that was the bully.

The Vols are old, they are tough, they have a roster full of guys that look like they would thrive in the WWE and they’ve won an SEC title already. They were playing a team that is essentially all freshmen and sophomores, and it was the younger guys that treated their elders like little brother. Kentucky was the team that kept knocking Tennessee to the floor. Kentucky was the team that kept getting every loose ball. Kentucky was the team that was able to shake off physical play and continue to execute.

To think that this is the same team that rolled over and died against Duke three months ago is wild.

3. THE CONCERNS ABOUT TENNESSEE’S TALENT ARE REAL

Tennessee isn’t going to blow you away with their talent. They aren’t a one-and-done factory that is stacked with future NBA superstars. They do have some guys that will earn paychecks at the next level, but the truth is that much of the reason that the Vols have been as successful as they have the last two years comes down to effort, execution and intelligence.

That issue was at the forefront on Saturday night.

Tennessee wasn’t getting enough out of their frontcourt on Saturday night, and they needed their guards to step up and carry them. Lamonte Turner finished 2-for-11 from the floor. Admiral Schofield had 17 points, but it took him 18 shots to get there. Jordan Bowden was just 1-for-7 from the floor. Jordan Bone finished with 19 points and six assists, but 11 of those 19 points and four of those six assists can after Tennessee trailed 62-38 with 12 minutes left in the game.

Not everyone has a frontcourt as good as Kentucky’s, and Kyle Alexander is not going to be in foul trouble every game, but this was a perfect example of why there are concerns about whether or not this team can win six in March.

Waters, Smart lead No. 19 LSU over Georgia, 83-79

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ATHENS, Ga. — Tremont Waters scored 20 points, Ja’vonte Smart added 19 and No. 19 LSU won its fourth straight game, holding off Georgia for an 83-79 victory Saturday night.

The Tigers (21-4, 11-1 Southeastern Conference) are off to their best start in league play since the 1981 Final Four team was 11-0. They never trailed after Smart’s 3-pointer midway through the second half, but Georgia stayed close and didn’t allow LSU to lead by more than eight the rest of the way.

LSU was down six midway through the first half, but went on a 17-2 run to take a 31-22 lead on Skylar Mays’ layup. Georgia remained in the game, thanks in part to a sixth straight sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum making it tough on the Tigers.

Nicolas Claxton finished with 17 points and Rayshaun Hammonds had 13 for Georgia (10-15, 1-11). The Bulldogs have lost six straight in their first season under coach Tom Crean.

TIP-INS

LSU: The Tigers keep finding ways to win on the road. They sneaked out of Rupp Arena this week with an upset victory on Kavel Bigby-Williams’ last-second tip-in against Kentucky, and they’ve won three times in overtime. It’s a big turnaround after LSU lost its final seven SEC road games last season and dropped nine in a row away from Baton Rouge before starting league play this year. The Tigers are 7-0 on the road in the SEC for the first time since 1981.

Georgia: In 24 SEC halves played this season, the Bulldogs have been outscored 20 times. … Crean went with a three-guard starting lineup, sitting forward Derek Ogbeide and guard Teshaun Hightower in favor of Turtle Jackson, Jordan Harris and walk-on redshirt senior Christian Harrison. … The Bulldogs have struggled all season off the dribble and in giving help, so Crean mostly used a 2/3 zone in hopes to jump-starting the defense. It didn’t help much as LSU, the SEC’s best free-throw shooting team, still made it to the rim to draw fouls and score 18 points from the foul line.

R.J. Barrett’s triple-double, Zion Williamson’s 32 points lead No. 2 Duke past N.C. State

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DURHAM, N.C. — RJ Barrett had Duke’s first triple-double in 13 years, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the second-ranked Blue Devils’ 94-78 victory over North Carolina State on Saturday night.

Zion Williamson scored 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting and Tre Jones added 13 to help the Blue Devils (23-2, 11-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their ninth straight.

Barrett became the fourth Duke player with a triple-double and the first since Shelden Williams in January 2006. He completed it in the final minute, hitting Williamson for a layup that put Duke up 90-74.

Duke overcame 19 percent shooting from 3-point range by building a 44-26 rebounding advantage and scoring 22 points off N.C. State’s 12 turnovers.

Markell Johnson had 16 points and 10 assists, Torin Dorn scored 17 points and C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (18-8, 6-7), who had their two-game winning streak snapped.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack played like a team that believed it could beat Duke — because they had, winning each of the last two meetings — and kept coming up with an answer when the Blue Devils tried to pull away. But their struggles to keep Duke from scoring in the paint — the Blue Devils had 58 points there — kept them from their first three-game winning streak in the series since 1987-88.

Duke: The Blue Devils didn’t need a rally in this one, unlike their victory at Louisville four nights earlier in which they stormed back after trailing by 23 with less than 10 minutes left. They kept one neighborhood rival at arm’s length all night — though they never really delivered a knockout blow — and now they can focus on a bigger one: No. 8 North Carolina, which comes in Wednesday night.

IN THE SEATS

There was even more buzz inside Cameron Indoor Stadium for this one, with boxer Floyd Mayweather sitting directly behind the Duke bench and next to former Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook. Among the handful of other NBA players in attendance was Minnesota’s Tyus Jones, the older brother of the current Duke point guard, and Phoenix’s T.J. Warren, a Durham native and former N.C. State star who was in the stands with NBA All-Star Weekend taking place 2 hours away in Charlotte.

WATCH: No. 21 Iowa stuns Rutgers on wild buzzer-beater

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Joe Wieskamp finished with just nine points, but he somehow managed to hit the biggest shot of the game, banking in a three from the deep corner with 0.2 seconds left on the clock as No. 21 Iowa beat Rutgers, 71-69, in Piscataway.

The shot that Rutgers hit to take the lead on the Hawkeyes was equally as impressive, as Geo Baker found a way to roll home a three with just 3.3 seconds left on the clock, which put the Scarlet Knights up 69-68.

Jordan Bohannon led the way with 18 points and five assists for the Hawkeyes, who improved to 20-5 on the season and 9-5 in the Big Ten. They are still two games out of first.

Bubble Banter: All of the weekend’s bubble action in one spot

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There is not just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Buffalo, Alabama, Baylor, Syracuse, St. John’s, Auburn, Washington and TCU.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners finally snapped a five-game losing streak by going into Fort Worth and picking off TCU, 71-62. I still think that the Sooners are in a tough spot as it stands, but they now how four Q1 wins and just one loss to a team outside the top 35 in the NET — at West Virginia (115), a Q2 loss. A 4-8 mark against Q1 is not great, and neither is their 16-10 record or 4-9 mark in the Big 12, but OU does have three more shots at Q1 wins, and that doesn’t count Texas at home. Their bid is in their hands.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 60): The Golden Gophers got screwed on a bad foul call in the final seconds of a loss on Wednesday night, which cost them a Q1 win. They bounced back by absolutely humiliating Indiana at home, a win that won’t carry quite as much weight on Selection Sunday but that will keep the Gophers heading in the right direction. I personally think Minnesota is in really good shape right now given their win at Wisconsin and a win over Washington on a neutral. The 3-7 record in Q1 games isn’t ideal, but their worst loss is only a Q2 loss at Boston College. They close the season like this: Michigan (8), at Rutgers (118), at Northwestern (72), Purdue (11), at Maryland (21). If they go 3-2 in that stretch, they’re dancing, and 2-3 might even be enough to get the job done.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 43): The Gators are not going to let us quit them. They picked up their best win of the season on Saturday, going into Tuscaloosa and pounding Alabama (45). That’s just Florida’s second Q1 win of the season. They are now 2-9 against Q1 opponents with a Q3 home loss to South Carolina in the mix. Their 14-11 overall record is not good, and their metrics are floated by the fact that they’ve played a lot of good teams close. Mike White’s team still has some ground to make up, but with two games against LSU (14) and a trip to Kentucky (6) on the schedule, they’ll have chances.

NEBRASKA (NET: 40, SOS: 70): I just can’t quit you, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers won their second straight game on Saturday, adding another Q2 win by picking off Northwestern (72) at home. I know that they lost seven straight earlier this year, but the Huskers are now 8-11 in Q1 and Q2 games with a pair of Q1 road wins. That’s enough to keep them in the mix, and with a schedule that is just absolutely brutal in the final three weeks of the season — at Penn State (70), Purdue (11), at Michigan (8), at Michigan State (7), Iowa (28) — they’ll get five more chances to notch Q1 wins.

WOFFORD (NET: 28, SOS: 167): Wofford absolutely beat the brakes off of the second-best team in the SoCon, UNC Greensboro. They won by 30 points. It’s not a Q1 win because it’s at home, but it is their fourth Q2 win to go along with a 2-4 mark against Q1. As long as the Terriers avoid losing at Chattanooga and at Samford, they are an at-large team in my mind. A 15-0 league record against a conference with more top 60 NET teams than the Pac-12 deserves to get in.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 67): Arizona State has one of the strangest resumes in college hoops this season. They are 4-1 in Q1 games and have another Q2 win at UCLA (107). But they’ve lost four Q3 games — Princeton (90), Utah (101), at USC (145), at Vanderbilt (189) — and that doesn’t court their worst loss of the year, at home to Washington State (230) by 21 points.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Here is the catch-22 for life on the bubble: Entering Saturday, Temple winning at USF (76) would have been a Q1 win. The Owls went out and they beat the Bulls in overtime. The problem? That loss dropped USF to 76th in the NET, meaning that it is now a Q2 win and Temple’s resume is still a win over Houston (5) and not much else. The reality is that won’t matter all that much. The committee will take into account that winning South Florida, whether it’s Q1 or Q2, is not a game-changer, which is why I’m still of the mindset that Temple needs to win at least four of their final five regular season games and avoid an AAC tournament loss to one of the teams at the bottom of the league.

BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 25): The Bulldogs beat DePaul on Saturday night, getting the win they needed to set themselves up for a shot at an at-large. Butler plays at Marquette on Wednesday and at Villanova in two weeks. With just one Q1 win to date, Butler might need to get both to really feel comfortable.

VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 40): The Rams were up by 22 points at Dayton (82) early in the second half and blew the lead, but thanks to a late Marcus Evans bucket, they were able to get out of Dayton Arena with a win. The win at Texas (35) continues to look better and better, a 3-2 mark against Q2 teams is solid and with just one bad loss — a Q3 home loss to Charleston (113) — the Rams are the Atlantic 10’s best chance at an at-large.

BELMONT (NET: 60, SOS: 166): For the Bruins to have a chance at an at-large, they need to win out and lost to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament. On Saturday night, they smacked around Tennessee Tech. So far so good.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 126): The Aggies probably couldn’t afford a loss to Air Force, and they did what they needed to win — win. There are two things that Utah State needs to do in they truly want to get an at-large bid to the tournament: 1. Beat Nevada at home, and 2. Hope that Fresno State cracks the top 75 in the NET. If they two, that’s one less Q3 loss and one more Q1 win on their resume.

UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 83): UCF won against Memphis in Orlando, which gives them a sixth Q2 win but doesn’t do much to change the biggest flaw in their profile: A total lack of Q1 wins. The Knights play at Cincinnati on Thursday. That will be the game-changer.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 6): The Longhorns did what they needed to do on Saturday, knocking off Oklahoma State in Austin to avoid picking up their second Q3 loss of the year. The Longhorns are now 15-11 overall and just 7-6 in the Big 12, but they have the No. 6 SOS and No. 11 non-conference SOS nationally. Combine that with a neutral court win over UNC (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (18) and a win at Kansas State (26), and the Longhorns are in a pretty good spot.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 188): Losing to a three-win Kennesaw State team would have been a dream-killer for the Bisons. They won and live to fight another day.

LOSERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 239): The Wolfpack lost at Duke on Saturday, which is what we all expected to see happen. The chink in N.C. State’s armor is that they played the worst non-conference schedule in the country, and when combined with A) just one Q1 win and B) a Q3 loss, Kevin Keatts is not in a place where he can feel comfortable yet. The most troubling part: N.C. State’s season ends like this: Boston College, Wake Forest, at Florida State, Georgia Tech, at Boston College. They have one Q1 opportunity left. They really, really need to win it.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 46, SOS: 191): The Spartans were whipped at Wofford, losing by 30 to the SoCon leaders. It’s their second loss this week and probably takes them out of serious bubble consideration. We’ll keep them around, but they’re probably not going to have enough good wins.

ARKANSAS (NET: 63, SOS: 45): I don’t get the appeal of Arkansas as a bubble team. They won at LSU, which is nice, but that is their only Q1 win in seven tries and they are 3-10 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. They’ve also lost at home to both Georgia Tech (118) and Western Kentucky (121), which are Q3 losses. What is the appeal here? What am I missing?

INDIANA (NET: 49, SOS: 36): Indiana is off the bubble at this point. They went into Minnesota and got absolutely poleaxed. The Hoosiers have now lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall to 13-12 on the season and 4-10 in the Big Ten. If they can somehow find a way to put together a winning streak late in the year, they have some great wins — at Michigan State (7), Louisville (16), Marquette (20) — and no bad losses, but that feels like saying if I can lose 30 pounds and get my six pack back I could be an underwear model.

CLEMSON (NET: 42, SOS: 33): The Tigers had a shot to land their second Q1 win of the season, but after erasing and eight point lead in the final minute and forcing a turnover with 3.5 seconds left, the Tigers had a layup blocked with that would have won the game. The result doesn’t really hurt their profile other than the opportunity cost — this is the kind of win that, on this year’s bubble, can jump Clemson up four or five spots in the seed list. That’s a tough miss.

GAMES LEFT TO PLAY

SETON HALL (NET: 69, SOS: 39) at CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 16), Sun. 3:00 p.m. (FS1)