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

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The most recent NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here

WINNERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 81, SOS: 80): During most seasons, Georgetown’s profile wouldn’t merit inclusion in any sort of bubble discussion. The Hoyas played an incredibly weak non-conference schedule. They were 5-7 in the Big East entering Wednesday night. But after knocking off Villanova at home for a Q1 win, somehow, the Hoyas continue to hold an outside shot at an at-large bid. Standing at 3-4 in Q1 contests and 4-4 in Q2 games, Georgetown has been respectable against the limited quality competition they’ve played. The 2-2 Q3 mark and the non-conference schedule will be a lot to overcome during the next few weeks.

FLORIDA (NET: 33, SOS: 29): Sitting at “First Four Out” status, the Gators might have just played their way in (for now) with a massive overtime road win at No. 13 LSU. Florida’s best Q1 win of the season could not have come at a better time as the Gators now have two such wins within the past five days. Although they’re only 3-10 against Q1 teams, that record looks a lot better than the 1-10 mark Florida was at last week. Riding a three-game winning streak, the next three games on the schedule (Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Georgia) are all winnable for the Gators as they have a chance to build some momentum heading into a final two games that includes a rematch with LSU and a road game at Kentucky. Florida still needs to take care of business the next few weeks, but this is the kind of win they desperately needed at this point in the season.

SYRACUSE (NET: 48, SOS: 24): Putting together a convincing ACC home win over No. 18 Louisville, the Orange helped themselves immensely with another Q1 win. Sitting at a No. 9 seed before this outcome, Syracuse now finds themselves at 3-4 against Q1 teams and a solid 4-2 against Q2 teams. Perhaps most importantly, Syracuse got the Q1 win here that they had to have. The final five games on the Orange’s schedule includes games against three top-ten teams — Duke, North Carolina and Virginia. So this Louisville win is a solid insurance policy heading into a rough final stretch. As long as the Orange don’t fall to Wake, while also ideally taking care of Clemson, they should be able to get in even if they drop a couple.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 68, SOS: 67): Alternating wins and losses for seven consecutive games, the Sun Devils finally settled down and started mini win streak with a home win over Stanford. The win is only of the Q3 variety for Arizona State, but as a team hovering in “Last Four Byes” territory, they’ll take what they can get in the win column. The next Sun Devil game at home against Cal should be a breeze. Three consecutive road games to close the regular season is where things get intriguing for Arizona State as they finish at Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona. Work is still left to do, but Arizona State did what they were supposed to here.

OHIO STATE (NET: 45, SOS: 59): The Buckeyes did what they needed to do in taking care of Northwestern at home for a Q3 win. Snapping a two-game slide with the victory, Ohio State has a brutal Big Ten conference slate to end the regular season, as this is a positive start. With four of their last five games coming against top-25 teams (at Maryland, Iowa, at Purdue, Wisconsin), things are certainly going to be difficult for the Buckeyes. But they’ll also have ample opportunities to take themselves off the bubble as they have a lot of Q1 games left.

N.C. STATE (NET: 31, SOS: 209): Escaping with an overtime win over Boston College, the Wolfpack avoided a potentially disastrous loss to start a mostly easy stretch of schedule to end the season. Only a Q3 win on Wednesday, N.C. State has Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and a road return to Boston College left on the schedule. All of those games probably need to be wins for the Pack to feel safe. The most important game left, however, is the road game at Florida State that offers a Q1 opportunity to potentially solidify an at-large bid.

UTAH STATE (NET: 34, SOS: 122): Putting away New Mexico with a strong second half, Utah State did what they needed to do to earn a Q4 home win. Since the Mountain West is so weak this season, the Aggies are awaiting the opportunity to get another crack at top-ten Nevada as Utah State hosts the Wolf Pack on March 2nd. Until then the Aggies just need to avoid any other losses if they hope to get an at-large spot.

LOSERS

SETON HALL (NET: 60, SOS: 46): Trouble could be on the horizon for the Pirates after a home loss to Xavier. Suffering a Q3 loss at this point in the season could really sting as Seton Hall is now a mediocre 4-3 against that group. The good news for the Pirates is that they still have plenty of games to pick up quality wins. Road games at St. John’s and Georgetown and home games against Marquette and Villanova all spell opportunities for Seton Hall to strengthen the profile before the end of the regular season. But that’s also a very tough four-game stretch that will require Seton Hall to win at least a few of those games.

ARKANSAS (NET: 71, SOS: 46): Four consecutive losses likely takes the Razorbacks off the bubble after a blowout road loss at Auburn. Now only 1-7 against Q1 teams and 2-3 against Q2 teams, Arkansas just doesn’t have the quality wins to get into the Field of 68. If Arkansas has any hope of an at-large, they’ll have to win out to close the regular season — including a road game at Kentucky and home games with Ole Miss and Alabama. For a young team in the midst of a losing streak, that doesn’t seem very likely at this point.

BUTLER (NET: 49, SOS: 28): At “Last Four In” status heading into Wednesday, the Bulldogs dropped a game at No. 11 Marquette in which they led at halftime. Missing out on a critical Q1 road win will sting, as Butler sits at an uninspiring 1-7 against that group of teams. The Bulldogs can’t hang their heads with so many important games ahead. Two against Providence, a road game at Villanova and a home game against Xavier looms as Butler needs all the wins they can get to land in the tournament.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 38, SOS: 234): Falling to Florida Gulf Coast likely means the at-large dream is over for the Bison as they’ve now lost two of their last three games. While Lipscomb is still a big contender to potentially win the autobid out of the Atlantic Sun (along with Liberty), a Q4 loss — with an already-shaky at-large profile — isn’t going to cut it. At this point in the season, Lipscomb just doesn’t have enough Q1 and Q2 opportunities left to play its way back into an at-large position.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)