Bubble Banter: Tracking Bracketology for the weekend in college hoops

Rob Carr/Getty Images
0 Comments

February is here!

And now that we are nearly halfway through conference play, it is time for us to get fully invested in 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 or @phillipshoops.
  • 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: Mississippi State, Washington, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas, Baylor and Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

INDIANA (NET: 50, SOS: 53): Earning one of the most massive wins of the college basketball season with an unlikely road win at Michigan State, the Hoosiers now put themselves back in the bubble spotlight over the next several weeks. It would have been easy to leave Indiana for dead after a seven-game losing streak and the loss of senior forward Juwan Morgan to a shoulder injury in the first half against the Spartans, but they pulled off the overtime win to get another Q1 victory.

The Hoosiers are now 3-8 in Q1 contests, but those three wins come over Michigan State, Marquette and Louisville — three top-15 teams entering Saturday. Although the 3-1 Q2 mark helps the Indiana cause, they need to continue to pile up wins in order to build a more consistent profile.

Upcoming games for Indiana will be full of NCAA tournament-caliber opponents — meaning the Hoosiers will have ample opportunities to continue to win games to build their case. But Morgan has to be healthy, and Indiana has to avoid another pitfall like a long losing streak. If this win ignites them into a stretch of winning, then this might have been the game that saved Indiana’s season.

BUTLER (NET: 54, SOS: 21): Butler pulled off the most critical win of the early games by not only adding to its credibility, but also taking Seton Hall down a peg with a two-point Big East win over the Pirates. Entering this game, many had Seton Hall ahead of Butler in the NCAA tournament spectrum. This win gives the Bulldogs some immediate help. Also stopping a three-game slide that derailed a decent Big East start, Butler earned the kind of win that they had to have to stay in the NCAA picture. With three of the next four coming on the road — including St. John’s and Marquette — the Bulldogs escaped with a close home win they desperately needed to stop a rough stretch.

Butler is now a respectable 5-3 in Q2 wins — making up for a 1-6 mark against Q1 teams that the Bulldogs can’t seem to beat. There’s more work to do, but Butler did what they could in this one to stay alive.

WASHINGTON (NET: 29, SOS: 46): Riding an 11-game winning streak, Washington is unbeaten in the Pac-12 at 9-0 after a home win over UCLA. The victory over the Bruins is only a Q3, but it maintains an impressive streak from the Huskies that doubles as perhaps their best argument. Although Washington is only 1-4 in Q1 scenarios — with limited chances thanks to the Pac-12’s dreadful lineup — they’re an undefeated 17-0 in other games. The 4-0 in Q2, mostly a byproduct of beating up on Pac-12 teams on the road, also looks good in comparison to other teams who are struggling in that department. The next three games sees Washington on the road — including a dreaded two-game swing through Arizona and Arizona State — as it could ultimately decide if they’re off the bubble for the time being.

SYRACUSE (NET: 45, SOS: 33): Since Pitt is riding some strong numbers and a solid season, Saturday’s ACC road win qualified as a Q1 win for the Orange. Putting them at 3-2 in Q1 situations, Syracuse is now 7-4 against the top two quadrants as they’ve continued to add stability to the postseason profile. With four of their next five games coming at the Carrier Dome, now is the time for Syracuse to string together a streak to firmly put them in the field of 68. The stretch includes four games against ranked teams in the next five games, but Syracuse is capable of making a serious dent in that span.

OHIO STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 37): The Buckeyes did what they needed to do in taking down Rutgers for a Big Ten home win. Beating the Scarlet Knights — a Q3 win — isn’t going to do much to enhance Ohio State’s numbers. At this point in the conference season, however, the Buckeyes will take any win they can get. The five-game losing streak that recently ended can’t be erased. But Ohio State can fix a lot of damage from that by earning wins during a tolerable portion of the conference schedule the next three games (Penn State, at Indiana, Illinois).

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 46): Snapping a recent slide with a road win at Tulane, the Owls had recently lost three of their last four games. Temple only picked up a Q4 win for their troubles, but it puts them on a positive track. With a stretch of three winnable games coming up in UConn, Tulsa and SMU, the Owls could use more wins for added stability after a shaky day for the bubble.

VCU (NET: 52, SOS: 19): Four of five wins for the Rams after an A-10 home win over George Mason. The Rams are banking on a strong strength of schedule to help them, as this Q3 win doesn’t do much of anything. VCU will be an interesting team to track on the bubble the next few weeks with three of their next four games coming on the road — including a clash at Dayton.

CLEMSON (NET: 54, SOS: 24): The Tigers blew out a Wake Forest team that is not all that good on Sunday afternoon, which is good for a Q4 win. So there’s not much there. This was a game that Clemson, who is 0-6 in Q1 games, just could not afford to lose.

CREIGHTON (NET: 62, SOS: 6): Creighton beat Xavier on Sunday, meaning that they finished 2-1 on their three-game homestand and setting the stage for the most important three-game stretch of their season, as they head on the road for the next two weeks — at Villanova, at Seton Hall and at Xavier.

WOFFORD (NET: 31, SOS: 151): Although unlikely Wofford gets in as an at-large, the Terriers did what they had to do in pummeling The Citadel for a road win. The win just barely comes through as a Q3 win, since The Citadel is the No. 239 team out of No. 240 needed for a Q3 road win. So, if a lowly Citadel program keeps losing, this likely drops to another meaningless Q4 win for the Terriers. This week is when it starts to get interesting for Wofford, as they’ll have their unbeaten mark in the Southern challenged with a road game at 18-5 East Tennessee State.

BELMONT (NET: 67, SOS: 154): Extending the winning streak to five games with a win over UT-Martin, Belmont gets a Q4 win in the OVC. While the Bruins don’t have a great chance of an at-large bid at the current moment, they also have a favorable schedule coming up in February. Belmont has played most of the top OVC teams already and they have a chance to go on an extended winning streak if they get hot. Could the Bruins sneak into the field as an at-large? Based on how the bubble continues to look, they’re an intriguing case.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 36, SOS: 212): Staying unbeaten in the Atlantic Sun with a win over North Alabama, Lipscomb is doing what they can to provide insurance in the event of a conference tournament loss. With so many teams on the bubble having a bad day, the Bisons need to just continue to win games like this one. Even if it is a Q4 to a lowly conference opponent. With a nine-game winning streak, Lipscomb doesn’t get challenged much until a Feb. 13 tilt with Liberty. As long as they keep winning we’ll have to keep an eye on them with the bubble being so weak.

LOSERS

ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 14): Getting blown out by rival Auburn on the road isn’t going to help the bubble cause for Alabama. But given the day of carnage with some of the other bubble teams losing and the Crimson Tide are still in far better position than many on this list of Saturday’s losers. The Q1 road loss at Auburn gives Alabama an underwhelming 2-5 mark against those types of teams and the puzzling 2-3 mark against Q3 teams also hurts. But the 6-0 record against Q2 teams is looking really solid. Alabama will still have plenty of chances to win against good opponents. For now, the Crimson Tide need to stop alternating wins and losses and get a streak going to get off the bubble.

SETON HALL (NET: 66, SOS: 28): Losing to Butler continued a sluggish stretch for Seton Hall in which they’ve lost five of their last six games. While the Bulldogs needed the win on Saturday more than the Pirates for NCAA purposes, this loss will still sting for the Pirates. Dropping to 5-1 in Q2, Seton Hall now has a blemish in that column as they’re similar to Butler in their struggles with Q1 teams (the Pirates are 2-6 in that category). With the sweep against DePaul also counting against them, Seton Hall needs to seriously start sweating after this miserable stretch. Two of the next three games coming against Creighton could prove to be important for both teams.

FLORIDA (NET: 39, SOS: 49): Things were looking so good for Florida for about 27 minutes against No. 7 Kentucky. Then the Gators imploded at home and dropped a huge, winnable game against the Wildcats in SEC play. Now at 1-7 in Q1 games, Florida simply can’t get the necessary quality wins to put themselves in safe position at this point in the season. Everybody recognizes the Gators having strong computer numbers and a good schedule, but it only does so much when Florida continues to lose to those teams. It doesn’t get much easier for the Gators the next few games when they go on the road to Auburn and No. 1 Tennessee.

NEBRASKA (NET: 28, SOS: 103): The freefall continues for Nebraska as they lost their fifth consecutive game. The Huskers fell behind double-digits and were soundly outplayed by a Big Ten bottomfeeder in Illinois on Saturday as things are starting to sour quickly in Lincoln. Sitting at “Last Four In” status in our latest bracket before this loss, this is not the type of Q2 loss that the Huskers can afford. Now only 3-3 against Q2 (and 2-6 against Q1 teams), Nebraska is seeing losses pile up while lacking a lot of high-quality wins. That’s a recipe that spells, “N-I-T” if things don’t quicky turn around.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 72, SOS: 78): Suffering a Big East road loss at DePaul, the Friars likely find themselves completely off of the next bracket update after being “Next Four Out” in the latest projection. Providence has two straight road losses as they now stand at 3-3 in Q2 losses after Saturday. Also at 1-4 in Q1 games (and with a bad Q4 loss to UMass), Providence is in a dire situation as we begin February.

PITTSBURGH (NET: 69, SOS: 58): An ACC loss to Syracuse might bury Pitt’s chances of an at-large bid as they have now lost five straight games while falling to 2-7 in the conference. The Panthers are only 1-7 in Q1 scenarios and 1-2 in Q2 — so they don’t have much positive momentum going their way at this point. Unless Pitt goes on a huge winning streak, it’s hard to envision them playing meaningful games in March.

SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 46, SOS: 175): Back-to-back losses have all but crushed the Dons’ hopes for an at-large bid, unless they go on another significant winning streak. Opportunities to nab Q1 wins don’t happen very often for San Francisco, as losing to Saint Mary’s is going to really hurt their postseason cause. Now 0-3 against Q1, the Dons likely have to win at No. 4 Gonzaga next game in order to have any kind of shot as an at-large team.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 43, SOS: 72): Falling to a top-flight team like Duke in a true road game actually enhanced a weak strength of schedule for St. John’s as the loss really doesn’t hurt them much. A win against a team of the Blue Devils’ caliber would have surely made the Red Storm feel safe. But now St. John’s falls to 2-4 against Q1 teams as they could use another win in that category to feel better going into March.

Miles Kelly leads Ga. Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
Getty Images
0 Comments

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.

FIRING UP THE CROWD

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.

UP NEXT

Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.

No. 17 Illinois rallies late, beats No. 2 Texas 85-78 in OT

Illinois v Maryland
Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK – Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 12 of his 16 points in overtime, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining, and No. 17 Illinois rallied to hand second-ranked Texas its first loss of the season, 85-78 on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

Jayden Epps added 11 points, including the final five points of regulation – a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left and two tying free throws with 8 seconds remaining. Epps then blocked Marcus Carr’s jumper in the lane just before the buzzer to force overtime in an entertaining showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Matthew Mayer, who faced Texas several times at Baylor, tied a career high with 21 points as he made his first seven shots and finished 8 of 10.

Shannon, who missed eight of nine shots in regulation, took over in the extra period to help Illinois (7-2) beat a ranked foe for the second time this season. He opened overtime with a jumper after Marcus Carr was called for traveling and then hit an open 3 from the right wing over Brock Cunningham for a 73-70 lead.

Shannon then converted a reverse layup and finished off a three-point play to make it 77-70 with 2:16 left. Carr hit two free throws to get Texas within one with 1:28 remaining. Jayden Epps hit a layup, RJ Melendez sank two free throws to put Illinois ahead by five, and Shannon made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left.

Timmy Allen scored a season-high 21 points for Texas (6-1), which failed to open 7-0 for the first time since 2014-15. Tyrese Hunter added 10 points but Carr was held to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting as Texas had 12 shots blocked and shot 42%.

Texas took its only double-digit lead when Dillon Mitchell hit a layup with 8:28 left. Illinois cut the lead to 58-56 on a 3 by Melendez nearly four minutes later. After Cunningham hit an open 3 with 4:15 remaining, Si’Jabari Rice made a 3 for a 64-58 lead.

Allen found Cunningham for an open jumper that counted when officials called goaltending on Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins. That gave Texas a 65-61 lead with with 1:51 remaining.

Carr’s rainbow jumper in the lane made it 68-63 with a minute left and Illinois had a 3-pointer by Melendez waved off because it called timeout with 45.3 seconds left. After the timeout, Epps made an open corner 3 with 33 seconds remaining.

Hunter missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up Epps’ tying free throws.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini continued to struggle with turnovers, committing 17. But only two of them came in the final 10-plus minutes of regulation or overtime. Illinois’ 15th turnover was an offensive foul by Mayer, which sent him to the bench with four fouls with 10:42 remaining.

Texas: The Longhorns had little offense beyond Allen and Hunter. While the duo was a combined 13 of 29, the rest of the team missed 24 of 40 shots.

UP NEXT

Illinois hosts Penn State in its second Big Ten game on Saturday. The Illini lost their conference opener to No. 13 Maryland.

Texas hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Jimmy Blacklock Classic on Saturday.

Clark, Gardner lift No. 3 Virginia past James Madison, 55-50

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Kihei Clark scored 18 points, Jayden Gardner had 14 points and eight rebounds, and No. 3 Virginia beat feisty in-state rival James Madison 55-50 on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (8-0), who lost starting guard Reece Beekman to a right leg injury early in the first half, prevented the Dukes (7-3) from winning a second straight December game in Charlottesville. James Madison beat Virginia 52-49 last Dec. 7.

Clark had seven assists while playing nearly 39 minutes with Beekman sidelined.

“Kihei gave everything he had and I had to, you know, ride him,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Sure, he missed some free throws. And I know he made some mistakes, but you could just see him, you know, how tough-minded he was.”

Dukes coach Mark Byington said he told Clark – who’s playing his fifth season for Virginia – after last year’s game that he loved watching him play.

“He’s seen everything and nothing you’re going to do is going to surprise him,” Byington said. “There’s nothing Kihei Clark hasn’t seen out there, and he’s poised. I mean, you can’t rattle him. … So I told him this time I was like, `Look, I better never see you in college basketball again.’ But he’s one of my favorite players to watch just because he’s tough, talented, and he’s a winner.”

Takal Molson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half for James Madison, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 42-all with 7:47 to play. Gardner responded for Virginia by scoring five straight points in a 9-1 run.

The Cavaliers kept the Dukes in the game by missing eight of 13 free throws over the last six minutes.

Molson made an acrobatic layup while being fouled with 1:51 left, but he missed the free throw. He scored again with 1:01 left, pulling the Dukes within 52-50, but freshman Ryan Dunn answered with a strong move on the baseline for Virginia with 35 seconds to play.

James Madison threw the ball away on its ensuing possession.

BIG PICTURE

James Madison: The Dukes came into the game leading the nation in scoring (93.3 points per game) and having scored as many as 95 points five times. They were shooting 52.7% for the year, but made just four of their first 19 shots and finished 15 of 55 (26.9%). Vado Morse scored 11 points, the only other JMU player in double figures.

“Yeah, we knew how good they were and they showed it in spots tonight,” Gardner said. “But I think you saw a lot of resiliency tonight on the defensive end getting crucial stops.”

Virginia: The Cavaliers played the final 36 minutes without Beekman and gave extensive minutes to freshman Isaac McKneely. Virginia will hope Beekman, its third-leading scorer and a primary ballhandler and defender, recovers in time for its showdown with No. 1 Houston on Dec. 17.

UP NEXT

The Dukes return home to play Gallaudet on Saturday night.

Virginia has a 10-day break before hosting the top-ranked Cougars.

No. 25 Villanova women beat American University 83-42

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Maddy Siegrist had 24 points and seven rebounds, Lucy Olsen added 14 points and No. 25 Villanova beat American University 83-42 on Tuesday night.

Siegrist scored 15 points in the opening 13 minutes as Villanova led 34-15. The Wildcats extended it to 46-23 by halftime before starting the second half on a 9-0 run for a 32-point lead.

Villanova added an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter for its largest lead of the game at 79-36. The Wildcats held American to 15-of-50 shooting (30%) and scored 21 points off 19 turnovers.

Christina Dalce scored 13 points for Villanova (8-2), which plays Saint Joseph’s on Saturday before taking a week off for final exams. Siegrist, who was coming off a 29-point performance on Sunday, made 10 of 17 shots as Villanova shot 56%.

Emily Johns scored 12 points for American (0-8), which hosts Marist (3-5) on Saturday.

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.