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

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Now that conference play is just about done and the NCAA tournament is right around the corner, 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.
  • 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: Ole Miss, Ohio State, Auburn, Wofford, Baylor, Minnesota, St. John’s, Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

TCU (NET: 41, SOS: 33): The Horned Frogs are the biggest winners of the day, as they avoided a second half collapse to land their second win of the season over Iowa State (14), 75-72. TCU is not 18-9 overall, and while they are 6-8 in the Big 12, they don’t have a bad loss to their name right now. Losing at Oklahoma State (87) is the only time they’ve lost to a team that isn’t at the very least in the bubble picture. The problem with their resume is that the only Q1 wins that they currently have are against the Cyclones; TCU is 2-6 against Q1 and 5-3 against Q2.

WOFFORD (NET: 24, SOS: 152): The Terriers continued to build on their at-large profile by going into Furman (45) and knocking off the Palladins, 72-62. That’s Wofford’s third Q1 win of the season, and they don’t have a single loss to their name that is “worse” that at Oklahoma. For my money, Wofford will be an at-large as long as they don’t lose at Chattanooga and at Samford.

CLEMSON (NET: 44, SOS: 31): Beating Boston College (123) at home isn’t going to change all that much for the Tigers, but for a team that is currently sitting at one of the First Four Out in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection, that’s a loss that would have been tough to survive.

VCU (NET: 37, SOS: 32): The Rams blew out George Washington, which is exactly what they need to do. With the way their schedule has shaken out — a non-conference win at Texas (35) and over Temple (56) on a neutral — and the lack of quality wins available in the Atlantic 10, VCU is in a spot where they simply cannot afford a loss to any of the teams left on their schedule.

UTAH STATE (NET: 36, SOS: 123): I’m not quite sure how Utah State managed it, but the Aggies found a way to win in overtime after blowing a big lead and finding themselves down late. That’s their fourth straight win and their 11th win in the last 12 games. That’s really what the Aggies need to do until they get a shot at Nevada (22) at home on March 2nd.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 29): After going into Baton Rouge and beating LSU (17) in overtime on Wednesday night, the Gators very nearly found a way to ruin all the positive momentum they had built by struggling with Missouri (92) at home. Florida does have 11 losses this season, but 10 of those 11 losses are against Q1 opponents. The problem? They have just three Q1 wins. The question for Florida is going to end up being simple: Does the committee value a resume like this over a resume like Furman’s? Both have one elite win and one Q3 loss. The difference is that the Gators got 13 chances for Q1 wins while Furman only got six.

N.C. STATE (NET: 32, SOS: 208): The Wolfpack could not afford to lose at home to Wake Forest (192), and they didn’t. Kevin Keatts’ team has a resume that looks an awful lot lie a mid-major teams’ resume. They have one Q1 win — at home against an Auburn team that has one win over a tournament team — and one Q3 loss, but the bigger issue is a non-conference SOS that ranks 352nd nationally. I think they have to win at Florida State (24) on Saturday, at this point.

ALABAMA (NET: 51, SOS: 27): The Crimson Tide jumped out to a big, early lead on Vanderbilt (132) and never looked back on Saturday. Alabama does not have a great profile — they are 2-6 against Q1 with a 16-11 record and two Q3 losses — but they do have a win over Kentucky (5) that looks better and better with each blowout win that the Wildcats land.

UCF (NET: 39, SOS: 72): The Knights absolutely obliterated SMU (103) on Sunday, beating them 95-48. That looks great in the box score. It doesn’t help their tournament resume all that much, though. UCF is still 0-3 against Q1 opponents, and while they are 6-2 against Q2, they have no wins over top 50 competition and they lost at home to FAU (153), a Q3 loss. The Knights either need to win at Houston (4) or beat Cincinnati at home (50) if they don’t want to sweat out Selection Sunday.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 66, SOS: 69): It was more of a sweat than it should have been, but the Sun Devils got the job done in the end, winning at home against Cal and avoiding another brutal loss on their resume. As it stands, ASU sits at 4-1 against Q1 opponents with a 4-4 record against Q2, but they’ve lost to Utah (102), Washington State (168) and Princeton (170) at home. No one else near the bubble has three losses that are quite that bad.

BELMONT (NET: 53, SOS: 217): Belmont has two more landmines to dodge in the regular season after they beat up on SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday night. If they can get to the OVC tournament without taking another loss, and if they can find a way to lose to Murray State and only Murray State in the OVC tournament, then I think that the Bruins have a real chance to get a big. They have ins at Lipscomb, at Murray State and at UCLA.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 38, SOS: 13): Have the Sooners figured things out? After snapping a five-game losing streak last Saturday at TCU (41), they turned that into a winning streak by beating Texas (41) at home this Saturday. The Sooners are 17-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Big 12, but with a couple of good wins — Wofford (24) at home, Florida (31) on a neutral, at TCU (41) — they are in a good spot considering the state of the bubble this year.

TEMPLE (NET: 54, SOS: 63): Temple picked off a Tulsa team that has been playing better of late, but the issue the Owls are currently facing is that there isn’t really a way to drastically improve their profile until the American tournament starts. As it stands, we have them in a play-in game. Essentially every game they play is a must-win at this point.

LOSERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 69, SOS: 75): The Hoyas had a chance to add another Q1 win on Saturday afternoon, and instead they went into Omaha and lost 82-69 to Creighton (57). The Hoyas are still in a decent spot thanks to last week’s win over Villanova (27) at home, but the Wildcats are barely a Q1 win and Georgetown has also lost to SMU (101) at home and to Loyola Marymount (153) on a neutral. Those are two Q3 losses. Georgetown’s schedule closes out like this: DePaul (111), Seton Hall (64), at DePaul (111), at Marquette (18). I think they need to win out to get an at-large bid.

FURMAN (NET: 45, SOS: 232): The Palladins are going to be a very interesting team come Selection Sunday. They are 19-6 on the season and 11-5 in the SoCon, but because of the strength of that league, four of those five leagues losses are actually Q1 losses. One of those is today’s loss to Wofford (24) at home. There are three other things here to note:

  • 1. Furman won at Villanova (27) back in November.
  • 2. They lost at home to Samford (156), which is a Q3 loss.
  • 3. Their non-conference SOS is 252nd nationally, a number that is not ideal. That’s why 14 of their wins are Q4 wins.

Frankly, I think that it is No. 3 that will end up costing the Palladins an at-large bid.

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost at St. John’s (49) on Saturday, and in a vacuum, that’s probably not a loss that is going to hurt them. That is a Q1 loss, and given where Seton Hall currently sits on the bubble, they can survive it. The problem? They finish up the year at Georgetown and with Marquette and Villanova at home. That is a tough finish for a team that is already 16-11 overall.

TEXAS (NET: 35, SOS: 9): Playing without Kerwin Roach, Texas went into Norman and lost to Oklahoma (38), 69-67. That’s the seventh Q1 loss for the Longhorns this season. On the season, they’re 15-12 overall with four Q1 wins and an 8-11 mark against the top two quadrants. Throw in a home loss to Radford (130) and Texas is nowhere near safe despite the fact that they have a neutral court win over North Carolina (9), home wins over Purdue (11) and Kansas (15) and a win at Kansas State (28). This team is the perfect example of why the bubble is so soft this season.

NEBRASKA (NET: 46, SOS: 92): Nebraska lost 75-72 at home against Purdue (11). They’re now 14-13 on the season. I have them here because if they end the season with wins at Michigan (7), at Michigan State (8) and over Iowa (30) in Lincoln, they’ll be in. But that’s a big ‘if’.

Pitt moves into 1st-place ACC tie destroying Louisville

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PITTSBURGH – Nike Sibande scored 15 points off the bench, nine Pittsburgh players entered the scoring column and the Panthers demolished Louisville 91-57 on Tuesday night and moved into a first-place tie with Clemson in the ACC.

Entering play Tuesday, the top five teams in the ACC were separated by just a game in the standings. A win by No. 8 Virginia against No. 22 North Carolina State Tuesday would create a three-way tie for first between Clemson, Pitt and the Cavaliers.

Against Louisville, the Panthers (17-7, 10-3) distributed 23 assists on 28-made baskets. Defensively, Pitt held Louisville (3-21, 1-12) to 27.6% (16 for 58) shooting and outrebounded the Cardinals 37-30. Mike James scored 11 points for Louisville.

El Ellis made a pair of foul shots to bring Louisville into a 14-all tie with 13:36 before halftime. Pitt then went on a 16-2 run over nearly the next five minutes. Six-different Panthers scored during the run. Nate Santos’ 3-pointer with 9:38 before the break made it 27-16 and Pitt led by double digits the rest of the way. A 47-27 halftime lead turned into a 58-28 margin just 1:59 into the second half.

With the win, the Panthers reached double digits in conference wins for just the second time in 10 ACC seasons. Pitt went 11-7 in its first year in the ACC following its 12-6 campaign in its final year in the Big East in 2012-13.

Louisville will continue its road trip when it takes on No. 19 Miami on Saturday. Pitt travels to face Florida State on Saturday.

Appleby scores 35 as Wake Forest holds off Tar Heels 92-85

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Tyree Appleby scored a season-high 35 points, 23 coming at the free-throw line, and Wake Forest built a big lead early then held on for a 92-85 victory over North Carolina on Tuesday night.

Appleby was just two points short of his career high while tying his best of 11 assists and sharing the team lead with seven rebounds. Though only 6 of 20 from the floor, he made a career-best 23 of 28 free throws including 13 straight in the final two minutes when the Tar Heels got as close as seven after trailing by 26 early in the second half.

Damari Monsanto had three 3-pointers and 16 points with seven rebounds and Matthew Marsh came off the bench to score 10 points for the Demon Deacons (16-9, 8-6 ACC), who won their second straight after losing four in a row.

Caleb Love made all four of North Carolina’s 3-pointers, including three in the final minute, and finished with 24 points for the Tar Heels (15-9, 7-6), who have lost three straight. Armando Bacot, who played only eight minutes of the second half before fouling out, had 17 points and 11 rebounds. RJ Davis added 16 points and Pete Nance had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

When these teams met on Jan. 4, an 88-79 win for North Carolina, there were 20 lead changes. Tuesday night, there was a lone lead change two minutes into the game as Wake Forest quickly took control and led 47-25 at halftime.

The Tar Heels trailed by 10 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the game not long after Bacot fouled out. They got as close as seven in the final minute thanks to Love but no closer because of Appleby.

Still, it took two from the line by Daivien Williamson with 12 seconds left for a 10-point lead that finally ensured the win before Love hit his final 3-pointer.

In their Jan. 4 game, North Carolina scored 32 points off 15 turnovers. Tuesday, the Deacons committed just five. They finished 33 of 42 at the line to 21 of 26 for the Heels.

North Carolina is home against Clemson and Wake Forest is host to Georgia Tech, both games on Saturday.

Texas A&M beats Auburn 83-78, completes season sweep

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Wade Taylor IV had 22 points and seven assists, Julius Marble scored a career-high 20 points and Texas A&M beat Auburn 83-78 on Tuesday night to complete a regular-season sweep.

The last of 11 lead changes in the final eight minutes came after Texas A&M made 7 of 9 shots, with three straight makes from Marble, to build a 78-74 lead with 2:09 left.

Auburn guard Wendell Green Jr. was short on a long 3-pointer and Tyrece Radford secured the defensive rebound before being fouled with 24.9 seconds left. Radford made two free throws to extend Texas A&M’s lead to 80-76. Green had a layup roll off the rim and Andersson Garcia went 1 of 2 from the line for a five-point lead before Auburn was short on another 3-pointer with 10.8 left.

Texas A&M was 31 of 39 from the free-throw line compared to 9 of 14 for Auburn.

Garcia added 11 points and Radford scored 10 for Texas A&M (17-7, 9-2 SEC), which also beat then-No. 15 Auburn 79-63 on Jan. 25. The Aggies are off to their best conference start since joining the SEC in 2012.

Green finished with 20 points and six assists for Auburn (17-7, 7-4). Johni Broome had 18 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late and Jaylin Williams and Allen Flanigan each scored 12 points.

Texas A&M plays at LSU on Saturday. Auburn, which has lost four of its last five games, hosts No. 3 Alabama on Saturday.

South Carolina’s Staley defends team after Auriemma comments

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Dawn Staley strongly defended her top-ranked Gamecocks on Tuesday following critical comments by UConn coach Geno Auriemma two days earlier.

Auriemma said after the top-ranked Gamecocks’ 81-77 victory that Huskies guard/forward Lou Lopez Senechal had bruises on her body from the game.

“It’s just appalling what teams do her now,” he said. “It’s not basketball anymore. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not basketball.”

Staley fired back Tuesday on her radio call-in show, saying when her team has success, “we’re called something other than players that are locked in.”

“They play the right way,” she continued, “and approach it the right way whether they win or lose. We don’t denounce anybody’s play. They are always uplifting the game of women’s basketball and when we were getting our heads beat in by UConn for all those years, I said nothing.”

South Carolina’s victory Sunday was its fourth in the past five meetings between the schools, including the national championship game last April.

Staley’s South Carolina teams had been 0-7 against UConn before their recent run of success.

“We’ve been called so many things and I’m sick of it,” Staley said. “I’m sick of it because I coach some of the best human beings the game has ever had.”

South Carolina (23-0, 10-0) visits Auburn on Thursday night.

Forward Mawot Mag to miss rest of season for No. 24 Rutgers

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 01 Minnesota at Rutgers
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PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Junior forward Mawot Mag will miss the rest of the season for No. 24 Rutgers after tearing the ACL in his right knee.

Rutgers announced the injury Tuesday, hours before the Scarlet Knights were to play at No. 18 Indiana. Mag was hurt Saturday in the first half of a game against Michigan State, a 61-55 win.

Mag, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, started every game for Rutgers this season, averaging 7.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and a steal. His best performance came in an overtime win over Ohio State when he scored a career-high 15 points and added a late 3-pointer to give the Scarlet Knights breathing room in a 68-64 decision.

Aundre Hyatt, a junior who has been averaging 9.4 points and 4.2 rebounds off the bench, is expected to replace Mag in the starting lineup.

“We’re going to miss Mawot greatly,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “He’s a high-energy player, a veteran presence and the ultimate glue-guy. He’s one of our best team defenders and one of our best offensive rebounders. There’s not a better person in our program.”