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Bubble Banter: Tracking Bracketology for the weekend in college hoops

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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.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

AP Poll: Louisville remains No. 1, Ohio State jumps to No. 3

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Louisville and Kansas finally provided some consistency to what has been a volatile Top 25 poll this season, while perennial bluebloods Michigan State and North Carolina continued to tumble after another wave of defeats.

The Cardinals solidified thier place at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 released Monday by routing then-No. 4 Michigan in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and breezing past Pittsburgh over the past week. The Jayhawks stayed at No. 2 after returning from their Maui Invitaitonal title to thump former Big 12 member Colorado.

“I think it’s two games in a row, where we got stops,” Louisville coach Chris Mack said. “We didn’t allow second shots. We ran the clock on offense. We got great looks. We got layups, and that’s a killer.”

Ohio State jumped from sixth to third following its 74-49 rout of then-No. 7 North Carolina and a Big Ten blowout of Penn State. Maryland dropped one spot to fourth despite continuing to pile up wins, while Michigan slid one spot to round out the top five after Juwan Howard’s bunch ran into the Louisville buzzsaw for their first loss of the season.

The Spartans continued their fall from preseason No. 1 after losing to Duke, this time dropping from 11th to No. 16. The Tar Heels tumbled 10 spots to No. 17 after getting crushed by Ohio State and losing to No. 9 Virginia.

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

Others receiving votes: Utah St. 160, Washington 144, Purdue 130, Indiana 13, Marquette 11, Liberty 9, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 8, Texas 6, Florida 5, Penn St. 5, Georgetown 4, West Virginia 3, Richmond 3, LSU 2, Duquesne 1, DePaul 1, VCU 1.

Monday’s Overreactions: Naji Marshall owns Cincinnati, Ohio State is No. 1, Joel Ayayi

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

Marshall has lived up to the hype through the first month of the season, but the biggest and best game that he has played in 2019 happened on Saturday. Squaring off with archrival Cincinnati, Marshall went off for 31 points, eight boards, five steals and three assists, hitting four threes and totally outplaying his Bearcat counterpart, Jarron Cumberland.

As a team, Xavier has been a little bit up and down this season. Their issues shooting the ball have been prevalent all season long, and as good as the likes of Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin and Paul Scruggs – hell, and Marshall himself – can be, there has been some inconsistency to date.

There was not any on Saturday.

Marshall took over and led Xavier to their biggest win of the season.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

On Wednesday, the Buckeyes went into Chapel Hill and ran North Carolina out of their own gym, leaving with a 74-49 win. On Saturday, Chris Holtmann’s club hosted Penn State, and that did not go well for the Nittany Lions, who lost by 32 points while giving up 106.

This team is starting to look scary, and there’s a valid argument to make that they should be sitting at No. 1 in the AP poll this morning.

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

1. OHIO STATE HAS THE MOST IMPRESSIVE RESUME IN THE COUNTRY

If we ranked teams solely based on resume at this point in the season, I don’t think there is any way to leave the Buckeyes out of the top spot.

They are undefeated. They have beaten Villanova by 25 at home. They have beaten North Carolina by 25 on the road. They have beaten Penn State by 32 at home. Those are three of the top 24 teams in the country, according to KenPom. No one else can match that. Hell, the Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 1 in KenPom’s rankings.

To put those wins into context, consider this, via Jordan Sperber of Hoop Vision: There have been six instances this season of a top 50 KenPom team losing by 20 or more points. Ohio State is responsible for three of them.

To be honest, I’m not ready to actually call Ohio State the best team in college basketball – I explain why in the podcast below at the 11:20 mark – but they are certainly playing like it.

2. WE FINALLY SAW THE ANTHONY COWAN WE NEED TO SEE FOR MARYLAND TO REACH THEIR POTENTIAL

Look, I know how ridiculous this is going to sound.

Coming off of a performance where Anthony Cowan shot 6-for-14 from the floor in a game where Maryland needed something bordering on a miracle to erase a 15 point second half deficit at home against unranked Illinois, I’m finally convinced?

Well, kinda?

Here’s my logic: I am not sold on Mark Turgeon being the best coach in college basketball, and I am hardly alone in that sentiment. But he does have a roster with some talent, and it is always a good sign when a team’s talent takes over and wins a game where, frankly, they played like crap. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday. In the past, Cowan would not have taken over. In the past, he would not have put the team on his back, scored 20 points in the final 23 minutes and finished with seven boards, six assists and the game-tying and winning points in the final 20 seconds.

All-Americans bail their team out in games they are not supposed to win. Final Four teams win games where they don’t show up until they are getting thoroughly embarrassed. The Terps did both of those things.

Now, would I like to see them finally figure out how to win without sleepwalking through the first half of games?

Absolutely!

But it’s hardly a bad sign to be sitting at 10-0 as you’re still figuring things out.

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

After taking down Florida in Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon, Butler has a surprisingly impressive crop of wins this season. They beat Minnesota at home. They beat Missouri in Kansas City. They beat Stanford on a neutral. They won at Ole Miss. And now they have that win over the Gators, who we just can’t quite seem to quit.

Either way, the Bulldogs play at Baylor on Tuesday night and then take on Purdue in the Crossroads Classic next Saturday.

We’ll know more about them then, but for now, this is a team that we have to talk about.

That said …

4. … NO ONE HAS MADE US A BELIEVER IN MORE TEAMS THAN FLORIDA

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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5. JOEL AYAYI IS THE X-FACTOR THAT WILL MAKE GONZAGA A TITLE CONTENDER

Listen, I’m not saying that Ayayi is the best player on this Gonzaga roster.

I think that he’s probably their third-best player, and even that might be generous.

What he is, however, is a guy that fills a role that the Zags didn’t have anyone to fill. The issue with this Gonzaga team heading into the season was in their backcourt. We wondered if they had enough point guard play, perimeter shooting and playmaking to be able to compete with the best teams in the country. It’s one thing to have a great frontline with guards that can get them the rock where they need it. It’s another thing to have a great frontline and no one that an initiate offense or keep defenses honest.

Ayayi has done those things to date this season. He’s averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 boards and 3.8 assists, which is second on the team to Ryan Woolridge, who is quietly having a solid start to the season as well. He provides length, athleticism, floor-spacing, a second ball-handler and creator. He takes the pressure off of Woolridge to carry the lead guard load.

He is more or less everything that Gonzaga fans were hoping Admon Gilder would turn into.

We’ll see if this lasts, but his performance against Washington on Saturday was really promising. Ayayi didn’t play or shoot particularly well, but he stepped up with 20 seconds left and buried the biggest shot of the game, a three to give the Zags a 82-76 lead and bury U-Dub.

Mamukelashvili breaks wrist as No. 16 Seton Hall loses to Iowa State

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AMES, Iowa — No. 16 Seton Hall lost much more than a game in Ames, as starter Sandro Mamukelashvili broke his right wrist in the first half of a loss at Iowa State.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 17 points, George Conditt had a season-high 17 off the bench and the Cyclones knocked off Seton Hall 76-66 on Sunday for its second straight victory.

Rasir Bolton scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half to help the Cyclones avenge an 84-76 loss on Nov. 29 to the Pirates (6-3) in the Bahamas. The rematch was part of the Big East/Big 12 Alliance series.

Mamukelashvili, a 6-foot-11 forward and a facilitator who averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game entering play, went down hard with 15:14 to go in the first half and didn’t return.

Coach Kevin Willard said after the game that it was too soon to know how long Mamukelashvili might be out.

“I don’t know for sure. It’s definitely broken. But we … have to go get an MRI tomorrow and let our doctors and radiologists read it,” Willard said. “There’s definitely a break in there, it’s just that we don’t know where it is.”

Conditt’s free throws pushed Iowa State’s lead to 59-53 with 2:56 left. Haliburton then drew an offensive foul and freed himself for a wide-open 3 at the top of the key. Haliburton drilled it, making it a nine-point game at the 2:23 mark.

Seton Hall fouled Prentiss Nixon from beyond the arc with 1:27 left. Nixon hit all three from the line to push Iowa State back up by nine, and Conditt’s transition dunk sealed the win.

Iowa State won despite shooting just 4 of 19 on 3s.

“Every good team needs a signature win and this was the first one for us,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “It felt really good beat a ranked team, but also a team that beat us before.”

Myles Powell scored 19 points with eight rebounds for Seton Hall. But Powell was 7 of 20 shooting, had five turnovers and fouled out with 54.4 seconds to go on an offensive foul. The Pirates’ previous defeats came against Michigan State and Oregon by just five combined points.

Seton Hall committed 20 turnovers and was outrebounded 43-40 despite having a major size advantage. The Pirates also gave Iowa State 33 tries from the line, and Cyclones made 26 of them.

“We turned the ball over too much and we fouled,” Willard said. “You can’t go on the road against a good team and turn the basketball over and foul.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: On losing Mamukelashvili, Willard said that “it changes things a lot. But the good thing is, we have some guys that need to get comfortable in that role and step up in that role…we’re going to need everyone to step up.”

Iowa State: The Cyclones have been strangely awful at times this season shooting jump shots — even though they supposedly have enough shooters. It’s a problem that Iowa State will need to get sorted out before it threatens to sink their season. On the plus side, the Cyclones were active with their hands in forcing Seton Hall’s bigs to turn it over, and Haliburton delivered yet another signature performance.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Losing on the road to a Big 12 team that had the opportunity to play them 10 days ago shouldn’t cost the Pirates too much. Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum can be a brutal place for opponents — especially one that didn’t necessarily know what it was walking into.

HE SAID IT

“It’s a hell of a win for us.” —- Prohm said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

Monday Overreactions Podcast: Ohio State’s the best, Travis Steele’s the GOAT, is Anthony Cowan good?

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Rob Dauster and Bobby Reagan are back to walk through everything that happened in college basketball this weekend. Is Ohio State the best team in college basketball? Is it actually Maryland? Just how good is Anthony Cowan? Just how bad is Florida? And did Travis Steele do the greatest thing in the history of coaching on Saturday night? He might have.