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NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Zion Williamson to go No. 1, R.J. Barrett No. 4

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Periodically throughout the rest of the season, we will be posting an updated mock draft here on College Basketball Talk.

This will be different than other mocks, mind you. We’re not as much projecting who is going to be picked where — that is impossible to do right now, as the NBA season is just past the halfway point and the NBA changed their lottery rules to flatten out the odds of who gets the first pick — as much as take a look at where, in a vacuum, a player should be picked. 

With that in mind, one of the objectives of this mock will be to take a deeper dive into a handful of the most intriguing prospects in the mock each and every time we update. This isn’t meant to be just a place to rank prospects, the goal is to open up the floor for some discussion about the players that need the most discussing. 

Oh, and one other note: We’re only talking about the college kids here. I could sit here and pretend like I know something about Sekou Doumbouya beyond what I Googled and found on YouTube, but the truth is I don’t know a damn thing about him.

I’ll stick to what I know for now.

And that is these prospects:

1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

At this point, the question isn’t whether or not Zion Williamson is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the question is just how far back you have to go to find a prospect that was better than him entering the NBA.

For me, you have to go all the way back to Anthony Davis, which is ironic, because one of the questions that whoever ends up with the No. 1 pick is going to have to ask themselves is if it would be worth it to give up the opportunity to draft Zion in exchange for a player like Davis.

That’s a different conversation for a different day, and while I do think it is important to note that Zion is not a perfect prospect — the jumper is a question mark, he has a habit of overpursuing defensively to make a play, at some point his balls-to-the-wall style of play combined with his playing weight will eventually take a toll on his body — it is his combination of ruthless efficiency on the offensive end of the floor (he’s shooting 68.3 percent from the floor; his offensive rating on KenPom is over 130 with a usage rate above 28 percent; his PER of 42.1 is a record for Division players in the Basketball Reference database, with second-best coming in at 36.9) and the things he lets you do defensively.

Because there has never been a player that is more perfectly suited to playing the five in a small-ball lineup than Zion Williamson with the exception of maybe Draymond Green.

It starts with just how good of a rim protector Zion is. He stands 6-foot-7 and his arms aren’t incredibly long, but he’s a freakish athlete (duh!) with a quick jump that has a knack for knowing when and where he needs to be. And it’s not just the simple fact that he is able to block shots — it’s that players know that he is capable of blocking shots. Like all great rim protectors, his presence in the paint has an effect on how aggressive opponent are going into the lane.

The third clip below is the perfect example. Louisville point guard Christian Cunningham is in the middle of the lane precisely where you need to be to beat a zone, and he is too scared of Zion to get a shot off, eventually turning the ball over:

Along those same lines, Zion can cover an unbelievable amount of ground in no time. In each of the clips you see below, the shooter is open when he decides he is going to shoot, and Zion erases the shot anyway. Humans are not supposed to be able to move like this, especially humans that are the size of Zion Williamson:

But to me, this last edit is the most important thing we need to discuss. Let me just get this out of the way first: Zion gets beaten off the dribble a lot more than he should based on how good his reputation is defensively. He needs to be more consistent defending on the ball in space, but he is also just 18 years old. College freshmen are not supposed to be finished products defensively. Based solely on everything that he is physically capable of doing, I fully expect this part of his game to come along in the long run.

And I say that because he shows flashes of being a terrific perimeter defender, sliding his feet and changing directions and using his bulk to edge off drivers without letting them turn a corner. When he can do things like this in flashes, it’s hard not to imagine that he’ll get more consistent in time:

We know how much trouble he is going to cause defenses playing in a league that is as spaced out as the NBA is. But it’s that promise that he has on the defensive end of the floor that sets him apart from past elite prospects.

The question I keep finding myself asking is what players in the NBA I wouldn’t give up for control over Zion Williamson for the next nine years, four of which would come at the discount price of a rookie contract.

There aren’t many.

2. CAM REDDISH, Duke

The last time that I posted a mock draft, I spent 700 words explaining why I think Reddish is the No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft. I think that, a month later, all of that still holds true. To me, his ceiling is what makes him so intriguing, but that does come with some risks. There are times where he appears to be almost indifferent. He definitely needs to tighten up his handle, and, frankly, he needs to be better than a 33 percent three-point shooter. His floor is certainly worrisome, and I do not believe that he is the type of prospect that every franchise should take with the No. 2 pick. Fit will matter here more than it does in other cases.

3. JA MORANT, Murray State

I’ve toyed with the idea of bumping Morant up to the No. 2 spot, but I am not quite ready to make that leap. What makes Morant so promising is that he possesses all the skills you want out of a point guard in a league where players of his ilk — Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose, etc. — have had a tremendous amount of success. He’s an electric athlete with more highlight-reel ability than anyone this side of Zion. He’s an excellent passer that can really read the floor and operates in ball-screens. He needs to become a better shooter (33.8 percent from three), his turnovers are an issue (5.67 t/o’s per 40) and he can be inconsistent defensively, but he has the potential to be a franchise point guard. If you’re an NBA team drafting in the top three, odds are pretty good you need a franchise changing talent. Morant could be it.

4. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

Barrett may be my blind spot in this year’s draft. On the one hand, his production has been absolutely insane. He’s currently averaging 23.3 points, 7.5 boards and 4.1 assists, and the last time that a player in a high-major program did that was during the 1992-93 season. His name was Anfernee Hardaway.

The issue I have is the eye-test, not the production that we’ve seen. Barrett is not an elite-level athlete the way that, say, Zion or Cam Reddish or even someone like De’Andre Hunter is, which is a concern because his game in the halfcourt is, essentially, straight-line drives going to his favored left hand. Mike Krzyzewski has done a fantastic job this season of scheming actions to get Barrett downhill going to his left, and at the college level, he can overpower players once he gets to the rim.

At just 202 pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and, like I mentioned, without that elite athleticism, I can’t see his game working as well in the NBA as it does in college. His jumper definitely needs work — he’s shooting 33.3 percent from three, a number that drops to 31.3 percent when you remove the first 12 minutes at Virginia — and he’s not a real threat pulling-up at this point. The games against N.C. State and Syracuse were promising because of his willingness to pass the ball, but for the most part, those have been the exception to the first 27 games of his season.

Barrett is also young, so I fully expect him to continue to improve, and based on his competitiveness and the way he’s produced everywhere he’s played, I do think he’ll be around for a while.

I just think there is a ceiling to what he can be, and that ceiling does not include “franchise talent.” My guess is Barrett maxes out at four or five years somewhere in the vicinity of the best year of Shabazz Muhammad’s career — 13.5 points, 4.1 boards and 1.2 assists — and that is not enough for me to pass on the chance for Reddish or Morant to hit their ceiling.

5. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

For my money, the thing that makes Hunter so intriguing as a prospect is what he can do on the defensive end of the floor.

In just the last two weeks, Hunter has guarded all-american caliber players that play four different positions — Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker; Coby White, Cam Johnson and Luke Maye from North Carolina; and Jordan Nwora of Louisville.

He’s quick enough to be able to move his feet and stay in front of first round picks like Alexander-Walker and White and, as I broke down in the video below, he’s able to flip his hips and run alongside a driver while keep his torso square and staying on-balance if the dribbler stops. He can get over ball screens. He can chase shooters around off-ball screens and pin-downs — in the example I use in the video, he trails Johnson around five screens and still gets a contest on a jumper — and he is strong enough to hold his ground in the post while maintaining verticality:

Combine all of that with the fact that he averages an uber-efficient 15.2 points on the slowest team in college basketball while knocking down 47.4 percent of his threes and showing the ability to beat defenders off the dribble and score in the post. He took over in the second half of Virginia’s come-from-behind win at Louisville, scoring 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting, and that is hardly the first time that he has done that.

He is absolutely the perfect piece for the modern NBA, and while he’s not going to be the sexiest pick, whoever winds up with him will be adding an impact starter from day one.

6. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech

Culver is one of the highest floor prospects in this draft. I believe that any team taking him is more or less locked into getting a starting-caliber NBA wing. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 (and might be closer to 6-foot-8) and has added some strength to his frame. He’s been terrific as a pick-and-roll option this year, and outside of a slump early in Big 12 play, he’s shot the ball well. I’m not sure he’s great shooting off the dribble, and I think his ceiling defensively is lower than some will realize, which limits his upside. I don’t think he’s an all-star, but I do think he’s one of the safest picks in the draft. In a year with so much uncertainty, that has value.

If you’re curious, I went much deeper on Culver and why he’s so promising here.

7. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

As weird as this may sound, Romeo Langford is one of the greatest scorers to ever come out of the state of Indiana and where he gets picked in June will revolve entirely around whether or not the team drafting trusts whether or not they will be able to develop his jumper.

He has everything else. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-6 wing with a plus wingspan. He’s one of the best in the country when it comes to finishing around the rim. He’s proven to be a really good defensive weapon when he’s engaged — which, frankly, has not bee quite as often as one might hope.But he’s shooting 27.1 percent from three, and that’s after a recent four-game run where he knocked down 11-for-26 from deep.

If you believe that his touch around the basket and the 72.9 percent he shoots from the free throw line is a sign he can be a 35-37 percent three-point shooter down the road, he’s worth a top eight pick.

8. NASSIR LITTLE, North Carolina

I took a long look at Little the last time that I released a mock draft, and what I wrote there mostly remains true. Little has not had a great freshman season, and while some of that blame falls on his shoulders, it’s also worth noting that his skillset translates much better to the modern NBA game than it does a North Carolina system that requires big men to be big and wings to be super-skilled.

9. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

Johnson is a tough, competitive wing that is a plus athlete with the physical tools he needs to play the wing in the league. He’s a capable three-point shooter, although he tends to be streaky. He can really defend and he’s shown flashes of being a good scorer as a slasher, but he’s mostly a straight-line driver that has some limitations. He profiles as a high-floor, relatively low ceiling prospect in a position of need for many franchises.

10. DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt

Nothing new to add here. After a promising start to his freshman campaign, he saw any hope of trying to play his way into the being the first point guard drafted go up in smoke after tearing the meniscus in his left knee and undergoing season-ending surgery. That’s tough. But Garland was impressive in flashes — particularly in the first half of Vandy’s win at USC — and not only should he be healthy by the time NBA teams can start bringing players in for workouts, meniscus tears are not considered to be career-altering injuries.

11. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech

I’m not quite sure what to make of Alexander-Walker at this point. He’s been terrific this season, one of the most improved players in college hoops, and the skillset that he does have projects really well to the NBA — he can operate in ball-screens, he can really shoot it, he’s ambidextrous, he has the tools to defend at the one or the two. The concern, however, is that his numbers have fallen off a cliff with Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech’s point guard, out with an injury. In the six games Robinson has missed, Alexander-Walker is averaging 12.7 points and 3.3 assists while turning the ball over 4.1 times per game and shooting 33.3 percent from the floor and 32.3 percent from three. That’s well off the pace that he set while playing alongside one of the all-time greats to come out of the Virginia Tech program.

We dove deep into Alexander-Walker in a recent mock draft.

12. JAXSON HAYES, Texas

There is no player in the country that has improved their draft stock more than Hayes, who did not even start a high school basketball game until his senior season. He’s very, very raw, but he has the size, the build, the length and the athleticism that you want out of an NBA five — his dad was an NFL tight end, and Hayes is built like someone that would have followed that path, but he didn’t stop growing until he hit 6-foot-11. He’s mobile, he had sensational hands and he’s been unstoppable at times as a roller in ball-screen actions.

And he’s raw, which means that he has a long way to go but that he can be developed however an NBA team sees fit. Sometimes a blank canvas is better than a player that already has bad habits ingrained.

13. BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga

I think there is an argument to be made that Brandon Clarke is a top five player in college basketball this season. One bit of evidence: The best PER that any Division I player has posted since the 2009-2019 season was 36.9, which was done by John Brown of High Point three years ago. Clarke is currently matching that number, and the only player that has ever put up a higher number playing more than 20 minutes in a season is Zion Williamson himself. For comparison’s sake, Anthony Davis put up a 35.1 PER, albeit against much stronger competition.

I am fully convinced that Clarke is going to end up being a terrific defensive player in the NBA. He is probably the best defensive player in college basketball this season, and I’m not entirely sure it’s all that close. The question with him offensively is whether or not you believe that jump shot is going to come around. I think that it will eventually, and he has proven that he is a hard-worker.

14. P.J. WASHINGTON, Kentucky

I was skeptical of P.J. Washington coming into the season. Hell, I was skeptical of P.J. Washington six weeks ago. But what he has done over the course of the last ten games — averaging 21.0 points and 7.9 boards while shooting 53 percent from three while carrying Kentucky to a tie for first place in the SEC — has been nothing short of outstanding. I do think his ceiling is somewhat limited, but to see him consistently banging home perimeter jumpers while being able to punish mismatches on both ends of the floor has me thinking that he has a ten-year NBA career ahead of him. He fits in the modern NBA far better than I realized.

15. ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova

I expect Paschall to drop well beyond this range, but I have a hard time envisioning a world where he doesn’t end up being a useful NBA rotation player and someone that can contribute to a playoff team. Today. He’s a chiseled 6-foot-8, he’s an explosive athlete, he can defend on the perimeter and, playing in that Villanova offense, he’s proven he can accept a role and be a guy that attacks closeouts. Betting on him with a top 20 pick means betting that his jumper can extend out to the NBA three-point line, and that’s a bet I’m willing to take.

16. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

The ideal for Hachimura is to be what O.G. Anunoby is — a versatile defender with three-point range that can finish above the rim and guard anyone from wings to centers. The problem is that Hachimura has the physical tools to be a really good defender but that it hasn’t all come together for him on that end just yet, and while he’s proven to be a good midrange shooter, he has an awkward release and is shooting just 31.3 percent from three in his career on only 67 attempts.

17. TRE JONES, Duke

Let’s just get this out of the way now: Tre Jones needs to become a better shooter for this pick to payoff value. I think he will. He’s a worker, he has NBA bloodlines and he’ll put in the time in the gym to get it done. And while he’s not shooting it great right now — 24.6 percent from three — he has shown nice touch on floaters and pull-ups in the lane. But at this level, teams just fade guarding him out to the three-point line. It’s the biggest reason the floor is always so clogged for Duke on the offensive end. He has to be better:

The rest of his game is what intrigues me so much. It starts with his on-ball defense, which is a game-changer for Duke this year. I’m not sure there is a better defender in all of college basketball, and Jones has the strength and athleticism to be able to do the same at the next level. His leadership qualities are exactly what you would expect from Tyus Jones’ brother — all the point guard cliches, he has them — and he’s proven that he doesn’t need the spotlight; if he can fit alongside the Big Three at Duke, he can fit in an NBA locker room.

18. COBY WHITE, North Carolina

I’ve come around on White, but I’m not sure that I few him as a point guard the way some other do. He’s a 6-foot-5 combo-guard that just turned 19 this week, and what has be on the bandwagon is that he’s just such a ridiculous shot-maker. You’re not drafting White to be the cornerstone point guard you grow a franchise around, you’re drafting him because you hope that he one day turns into Jamal Crawford 2.0.

19. BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland

I’m not sure there is a player in the country that has improved a skill this season more than Bruno Fernando has improved his passing ability from his freshman year to his sophomore year. As a freshman, Fernando finish the season with 21 assists (and 53 turnovers). He’s nearly tripled that this season, averaging 2.0 assists per game while improving his assist rate from 6.9 to 15.0. Turnovers are still a bit of an issue — he’s not a natural passer and he can telegraph decisions a bit too much — and he’s has certainly not turned into Nikola Jokic, but at this point, Fernando is a player that Maryland can run offense through.

His passing ability also changes the way that teams are forced to defend him, because he is able to pass out of a double-team and reads when and where help will leave a teammate open:

20. KZ OKPALA, Stanford

Okpala fits the mold. He’s a 6-foot-9 wing with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a solid frame that can shoot from the perimeter and operate ball-screens. He’ll be a rotation player, possibly a starter, in the NBA for a long time. The one concern here is that Okpala has regressed significantly from beyond the arc. He’s now shooting 36.8 percent from three, making just five of his last 28 attempts, after starting the season 23-for-48 from deep. He shot 22.6 percent from three last year.

21. KEVIN PORTER JR., USC, and BOL BOL, Oregon

If I had to guess, I think both of these guys would end up getting picked higher than this. Both have ceilings that are massive. Bol Bol is a 7-foot-2 center with a 7-foot-8 wingspan with a feathery touch from three and the ability to be a difference-maker at the rim. He’s also weak, soft, a defensive liability despite the shot-blocking and he may not actually like basketball. Then he broke his foot.

Porter, on the other hand, has had a weird season. After exploding on the seen with a six-game stretch in November that showcased just how lethal he is as a scorer, he got hurt, disappeared for six weeks with a thigh bruise and turned the whispers of off-court issues into a cacophony of alarm bells. Then he was suspended. To date, he’s played nine games in 2019, averaging 7.7 points and posting 16 assists while turning the ball over 20 times. He is shooting 12-for-24 (50%) from three, which was a worry, and anyone that saw him perform at Hoop Summit knows his ceiling is as the best scorer in this draft, but his floor is out of the league in two years.

How much risk are you willing to assume?

22. JONTAY PORTER, Missouri

Porter’s draft stock has remained high despite the fact that he is dealing with a devastating knee injury that was suffered in October. Like his brother and Harry Giles before him, how high he goes is likely going to be determined by the doctors that take a look at his knee. When healthy, Porter is (was?) an offensively-gifted 6-foot-11 lefty with three point range and an underrated ability to pass the ball. I don’t know what he’ll be defensively — unlike his brother, he had athletic limitations before the injury — but he sure would fit the modern NBA on at least one end of the floor. One other note: Jontay is younger than Reddish. That’s worth keeping in mind.

23. TY JEROME, Virginia

Jerome is a guy that I’m willing to go all in on as an NBA prospect. I’m not saying that I think this guy will be an all-star or anything like that, but he has all the makings of a ten-year NBA veteran that will find himself a role at the next level. He’s a big-time shooter that can create for himself on-the-ball despite a lack of athleticism and really understands how to use screens and move into space moving off the ball. He’s 6-foot-5, and while he doesn’t have even average NBA tools, he’s a heady player that works well as a cog in the best defense in the college ranks. He’s also tough as hell and he’s an absolute killer when it comes to making tough shots in big moments. He may not be Patrick Beverly, but I don’t see him being a liability. He needs to find the right fit — stinking him on Philly alongside Ben Simmons to give them some shooting and secondary play-making makes sense to me — but if there’s a job for the likes of Jalen Brunson and Fred VanVleet in the NBA, there is a job for Jerome somewhere.

24. DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas

Gafford is a tough prospect to get a feel for. On the one hand, he is on paper exactly what NBA teams are looking for out of a center. He’s tall, he’s long, he’s athletic and he can act as a rim-running vertical spacer as well as a rim protector. On the other hand, he’s not really someone that projects as a good perimeter shooter and he has heavy feet that likely limits what he can be as a switchable five at the next level.

25. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

On the one hand, I think that Williams’ lack of elite physical tools gets him something of a bad wrap. I think back to this stat from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic: Since 1992, there are just six high major players that have averaged at least 18 points, eight boards and three assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, and all six (Tim Duncan, David West, Jared Dudley, Evan Turner, Ben Simmons and Caleb Swanigan) ended up being first round picks. Five of the six have, or will have, long and successful NBA careers. Williams doesn’t quite reach that threshold anymore — 19.0 points, 7.6 boards, 3.3 assists, 56.9 FG% — but that belabors the point. People that produce the way he produces in college tend to be able to produce in the NBA.

The flip side is that Williams profiles more as a Caleb Swanigan than he does anyone else in that group. He’s not as tall as West or Duncan. He’s not as perimeter-oriented as Jared Dudley or Evan Turner. He sure as hell ain’t Ben Simmons. Tennessee is at LSU on Saturday and plays host to Kentucky the following Saturday. I want to see Williams in those two games before I make any sweeping changes to my current take.

26. ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, Tennessee

You know what you’re getting with Schofield if you are an NBA team. He’s a 6-foot-5 wing that’s built like a wrestler, that has a 7-foot wingspan, that is shooting 39 percent from three the last three seasons (345 attempts) and that is a virtual lock to be a plus defender in the NBA. He’s a perfect 3-and-D role player with defensive versatility that will be adored in an NBA locker room for the way that he plays the game and carries himself professionally. He will make a playoff team better in the late first round.

27. ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky

Hagans, like Tre Jones, is an absolute game-changer on the defensive end of the floor that is very much a work in progress offensively. The difference here is that Jones, in spite of his limitations as a shooter, has a turnover rate that is half that of Hagans and has shown to be more comfortable running a team. He’s also six months younger than the Kentucky point guard. I do like Hagans quite a bit, but I do find myself wondering just how far away he is from being a total zero on the offensive end in the NBA.

28. JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State

After a weird start to the season, McDaniels has settled in as the best player in the Mountain West that does not currently call Reno home. At 6-foot-10, he has a ton of skill and has proven to be a productive rebounder and a better defender than you would think out of a player that is a gangly 195 pounds. For me, everything here centers around the jump shot. I don’t think he’ll ever be mobile, fluid or explosive enough to be a three in the NBA and barring the kind of weight gain that I’ve made since leaving college, I can’t see him being a five, even the small-ball variety. He’s certainly worth a late first round pick if you’re betting you can improve on that 33.3 percent three-point shooting.

It’s also worth mentioning: McDaniels currently has a legal issue hanging over his head that, if true, is pretty disturbing and the kind of thing that could make him fall on draft night.

29-30. SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s, and MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

I love both of these guys as late first or early second round picks. Ponds has proven to be a much more efficient shooter and unselfish playmaker this season, and I can absolutely see him thriving as a back-up point guard that torches second teams around the NBA. Howard is a full-fledged scorer at 5-foot-11 that is one of the best shooters in the college game, but he struggles with length and athleticism and doesn’t have a clear-cut position defensively. He’s also younger than Trae Young, and it’s not smart to bet against guys that can shoot it the way he can shoot it.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

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It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

LEFT TO PLAY

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out)

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out)

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out)

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble)

Virginia upends No. 5 Florida State, 61-56

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Remember back to the season’s opening night? Nearly three months ago? That was when Virginia embarrassed Syracuse in a 48-34 win. That game foretold a lot of the season up to this point for the Cavaliers. Their title-defending team would have the defense that’s defined Tony Bennett’s program while the offense, well, that would be a bit of a struggle. What it did not predict was more Quad 1 wins, as the Cavaliers, despite a dominating defense, failed to rack up another such victory after that season-opener.

Until Tuesday.

Virginia injected some life into its NCAA tournament hopes with a 61-56 win over fifth-ranked Florida State in Charlottesville to pick up a critical victory in an ACC that offers far fewer marquee opportunities than in years past.

The victory was exactly what Bennett’s team needed to help buoy that resume before the start of February. January was extremely rough on them with a 3-4 mark before the win over the Seminoles put them at .500 for the month. With only four chances left against the ACC’s best of FSU, Duke and Louisville, beating the Seminoles at home may not have been an absolute-must for the Cavs, but it sure makes it a lot easier to chart a path to the tournament now, even if it’s still a rocky road, than if they had dropped the game.

Point guard Kihei Clark scored 11 of his 15 points after halftime, changing the game offensively for the Cavaliers with his dribble penetration into the middle of the Florida State defense. He wasn’t wildly efficient, but his ability to get into the teeth of the defense – creating some buckets and free throws for himself and chances for his teammates – provided just enough lift for the offensively-challenged team. His beautiful reverse layup with a minute left gave Virginia a lead it would not relinquish as it closed the game on an 8-0 run.

Mamadi Diakite had 19 points and nine boards for Virginia while Braxton Key had 13 points and nine rebounds.

The loss stops a 10-game winning streak for the ‘Noles, who led for most of the game but could not ever find any meaningful separation. Devin Vassell had 17 points to lead Florida State, which had two shots to tie the game in the final seconds but missed both 3-point attempts horribly. If Virginia can surge a little in the season’s final month, this win won’t be much more than a missed opportunity for the Seminoles, but if it proves to just be a blip on the radar for Virginia, Florida State may have done some damage to its seed line Tuesday.

No. 8 Villanova pulls away from St. John’s 79-59

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NEW YORK (AP) — Saddiq Bey scored 23 points, Collin Gillespie had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Villanova easily handled St. John’s  on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden to win its seventh-straight game, 79-59.

Justin Moore, starting for injured forward Jermaine Samuels, added 11 points and fellow freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 13 points and 14 rebounds as the balanced Wildcats (17-3, 7-1 Big East) won for the 13th time in 14 games.

Samuels, a 6-foot-7 junior averaging 11.1 points and five rebounds per game, was a game-time decision and sat out with a sprained left foot after getting hurt during Saturday’s victory at Providence. His absence hardly hindered the Wildcats, who quickly recovered from a slow start and opened a 24-point bulge in a second half that was never competitive.

Rasheem Dunn had 24 points for St. John’s (13-9, 2-7), the only Big East team to beat Villanova in each of the past two seasons. Mustapha Heron was held to three on 1-of-7 shooting — he entered averaging 14.3 points per game, including 18.7 in the previous three.

The schools play again Feb. 26 at Villanova.

St. John’s jumped out to a seven-point lead in the first three minutes, but the Wildcats took control with a 13-0 run that gave them a 28-19 advantage. Moore had five points and Bey drained two 3s during the spurt as the Red Storm went scoreless for 4:28.

Villanova closed the first half with seven consecutive points and was ahead 39-26 at the break. The 6-foot-3 Gillespie had nine rebounds and five assists to go with his four points in the first half.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Chasing another Big East title, the Wildcats moved within a half-game of first-place Seton Hall in the conference standings. The 10th-ranked Pirates, yet to lose a league game, host last-place DePaul on Wednesday night.

St. John’s: After going 11-2 out of conference with wins over West Virginia and Arizona, the Red Storm’s only two Big East triumphs have come against DePaul — including a victory Saturday that marked their first true road win of the season. But they were unable to follow it up against a top opponent. St. John’s plays three of its next four at home, all against teams currently unranked, and probably needs at least a victory or two to maintain reasonable hopes of a postseason bid in Mike Anderson’s first season as coach.

THINKING OF KOBE

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the seven others killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in California.

UP NEXT

Villanova: After winning two road games in four days, the Wildcats return home to face well-rested Creighton (16-5, 5-3 Big East) on Saturday afternoon. Villanova won 64-59 on Jan. 7 at Creighton, which has won three straight and sits just outside the AP Top 25 this week.

St. John’s: Hosts high-scoring Georgetown on Sunday afternoon as Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing returns again to Madison Square Garden, where he was an NBA star for the New York Knicks. The Red Storm were routed 87-66 at Georgetown on Jan. 8.

Bubble Watch: Breaking down every team in at-large contention

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It’s that time of the year again, which means that we are diving head first into our annual NCAA tournament bubble tracker.

The way that it will work is simple: We’ll be looking at every team that our Dave Ommen, the best bracketologist in the business, considers in the mix for an at-large bid. In an effort to keep this somewhat manageable, we are going to assume that the top 36 teams in the field — every team that is a No. 9-seed or above — is “off the bubble”. This does not mean those teams are a lock to dance, it just means that they have given themselves enough room for error that we can take them out of the conversation until they do something dumb.

Dave’s latest bracket can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

So with all that in mind, let’s get into the full NCAA tournament bubble watch:



ACC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Florida State (NBC: 2), Louisville (NBC: 2), Duke (NBC: 3)

N.C. STATE (NET: 60, NBC: Play-in game): The Wolfpack, who looked like they could be as high as a 9 or 10 seed last week, would likely be out of the NCAA tournament if it started today. They are 14-7 overall, which isn’t terrible, but they have just one win against a top 50 opponent — Wisconsin (31) at home — to go along with a pair of Quad 3 losses. They do have two Quad 1 wins, but one of those — UNCG (75) on the road — is the bottom of the cutoff for a Quad 1 win.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): The Hokies may go down as the biggest bubble loser of the weekend. Playing at Boston College (153), Virginia Tech suffered their first Quad 3 loss of the season despite the fact that the Eagles shot just 11-for-27 from the free throw line. That’s just brutal. Bubble teams need to avoid these landmines, and Mike Young’s team couldn’t. The Hokies also have a non-conference SOS that ranks 341st, which eliminates much of their margin for error. The good news? They still have pair of Quad 1 wins — including Michigan State (10) on a neutral — and four of their five Quad 1 and 2 wins came away from home. It’s not all bad.

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): The Cavaliers are not in a good spot right now. We’re more than halfway through the season and their only Quad 1 win came at Syracuse (64) on the first day of the season. The best team that they have beaten is Virginia Tech (50). They avoided a landmine by winning at Wake Forest (109) on Sunday, but they really need to beat one of the ACC’s elite. It starts on Tuesday night with Florida State (15) at home.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange are starting to play like a top five team in the ACC this season. On Saturday, they knocked off Pitt in the Carrier Dome, pushing them to 6-3 in the league and 13-7 overall. They do have a home loss to Notre Dame (71) that could end up being Quad 3 if the Fighting Irish fall out of the top 75, but they’ve won four true road games in league play, two of which are Quad 1 wins. A 5-7 record in Quad 1 and 2 games is enough to keep them in and around the bubble for now, but zero top 50 wins is a problem. Their best chance at a marquee win will likely be Saturday, when they host Duke (6).

NORTH CAROLINA (NET: 93, NBC: Off the bubble): I still very much believe that North Carolina can get to the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels added their third Quad 1 win — Oregon (16) and Alabama (41) on neutrals, at N.C. State (60) — on Monday night and seem to be figuring some things out. Garrison Brooks has been awesome, Brandon Robinson and Leaky Black are getting better and their supporting cast finally seems to be embracing roles. Most importantly, however, the Tar Heels have five sub-Quad 1 losses and all five came without Cole Anthony. If he returns and UNC again becomes the team that beat Oregon, they’ll have four chances to add elite wins. It’s a long shot, but it’s possible.


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Houston (NBC: 8), Wichita State (NBC: 8)

MEMPHIS (NET: 51, NBC: 10): Oh, Memphis. Two days after losing by 40 at Tulsa (65), the Tigers turn around and blow an 11-point lead in the final five minutes at home against SMU (68). They aren’t in real trouble yet, but it is worth noting that they have not beaten a single team in the top 50 in the NET and that their three best wins — Tennessee (55), Cincinnati (57) and N.C. State (60) — are teams that may not make the NCAA tournament. We’re in late-January and Memphis has as many Quad 3 losses as Quad 1 wins.

TULSA (NET: 69, NBC: Off the bubble): I thought Tulsa deserved a mention here given that they are currently tied for first in the American after winning at UConn (97) on Sunday. Their issue is that home wins over Houston (33) and Memphis (51) have both fallen outside of the top 30, which means that the committee will be focusing on the bad things: a Quad 3 loss, a Quad 4 loss and a non-conference SOS of 283rd. Tulsa gets Wichita State (30) at home on Saturday. That’s a must win, as are roadies against Houston and Wichita State.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Baylor (NBC: 1), Kansas (NBC: 1), West Virginia (NBC: 4), Oklahoma (NBC: 9)

TEXAS TECH (NET: 38, NBC: Play-in game):  I’m not sure people realize just how little there is on Texas Tech’s resume right now. They beat Louisville (11) on a neutral court. They beat Iowa State (70) at home. They beat Oklahoma State (79) at home. They won at Kansas State (88). Combined, that’s one Quad 1, two Quad 2 and a Quad 3 win. They have eight wins against sub-225 teams and have lost to seven Quad 1 opponents, including Kentucky (23) at home on Saturday. The Red Raiders will have plenty of chances to build on their profile — they get West Virginia (7) at home and play at Kansas (3) this week alone — but there is no doubt that this team has to start winning some games against teams that are not horrific.

TEXAS (NET: 72, NBC: Off the bubble): Texas rallied, and ultimately lost, at home against LSU (25) on Saturday, which is a tough blow for the Longhorns. LSU is a Quad 1 opponent, and the Longhorns have some ground they need to make up. They’ve now lost three in a row and five of their last seven games, and a November win at Purdue (36) does not look quite as good now as it did at the time. If they don’t win at TCU (61) and beat Iowa State (70) at home this week, it may be time to take the Longhorns out of the mix.

TCU (NET: 61, NBC: Off the bubble): I have TCU here because I think their resume will be one of the easiest to build up in major conferences hoops. They don’t have any bad losses to their name and they sit at 3-6 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. Getting a win over Texas Tech (38) last week was massive and they still get Baylor (1) twice, Kansas (4) twice, West Virginia (7) at home and Texas Tech on the road. They need to win at least two, if not three, of those games.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

Top 9: Seton Hall (NBC: 2), Villanova (NBC: 3), Butler (NBC: 5), Creighton (NBC: 5), Marquette (NBC: 6)

DEPAUL (NET: 66, NBC: 11): Saturday’s home loss to St. John’s (67) is not going to do any favorites for DePaul. They do have three Quad 1 wins, including two Big Ten road wins — Iowa (21) and Minnesota (43) — as well as Butler at home, but a 1-6 start in the Big East combined with a loss to Buffalo (163) at home puts them in a really tough spot. It doesn’t help matters that four of their next five are on the road, starting with a visit to Seton Hall (13) on Wednesday. I think that the next two weeks will determine where they play in March.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): Since beating Arizona in California on Dec. 21st, St. John’s has now lost six of their last eight games. The only team that they have beaten in that stretch is DePaul (66), who they completed a sweep of on Saturday with a road win. That said, this is the third Quad 1 win for this group to go along with West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), but with eight losses on the season — including a loss at home against Vermont (101) — the Red Storm have work to do. They can start tonight with a win over Villanova (14) in MSG.

XAVIER (NET: 63, NBC: Next four out): The good news for Xavier is that they only have one sub-40 loss to their name, and that was at Wake Forest (109), a Quad 2 loss. the bad news is they have not beaten a top 50 team and their only Quad 1 win came at TCU (61). They’re at Seton Hall (12) on Saturday, host Villanova (14) next month and have two more games against Butler (9). They probably need to win at least one, if not two of those games.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Hoyas don’t have a terrible resume right now. They beat Creighton (24) at home, won at SMU (59) and have four Quad 1 wins. They’re 6-8 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents and have strong computer and SOS numbers. But they’re just 2-5 in the Big East and only have seven scholarship players. Things seem to be trending in the wrong direction.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Michigan State (NBC: 2), Maryland (NBC: 4), Iowa (NBC: 4), Penn State (NBC: 5), Illinois (NBC: 6), Wisconsin (NBC: 7), Indiana (NBC: 7), Rutgers (NBC: 7), Ohio State (NBC: 8)

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): The Wolverines have lost four in a row and five of their last six games, dropping them to 11-8 overall and just 2-6 in the Big Ten. But their “worst” loss came over the weekend, at home against Illinois (32) and they have beaten Gonzaga (3) as well as Iowa (21) and Creighton (24) at home. It’s also worth noting that Isaiah Livers have missed this recent losing skid, and Livers is their best player. There’s enough here for the Wolverines to be pretty comfortable assuming that Livers can eventually get back to 100 percent.

MINNESOTA (NET: 43, NBC: First four out): The Golden Gophers are 11-9 overall, but just one of their losses — DePaul (66) at home — was sub-Quad 1. They’ve swept Ohio State (19) and knocked off Penn State (27) as well. There are going to be plenty of chances for Minnesota to rack up quality wins, and they’ll have a really good shot at earning a bid if they can go 7-4 down the stretch of the regular season.

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out): Purdue’s schizophrenic January continued on Friday with a blowout win over Wisconsin (31) at home. The Boilermakers have lost four of their last six, and the two wins were utterly dominant wins over the Badgers and Michigan State (8). Their 11-9 (4-5) record isn’t pretty, but a pair of Quad 1 wins and just one Quad 3 loss — at Nebraska (165) — is enough to keep them in the mix.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Oregon (NBC: 2), Colorado (NBC: 6), Arizona (NBC: 7), USC (NBC: 8)

STANFORD (NET: 18, NBC: 10): The last three halves of basketball that Stanford has played has put them smack in the middle of the bubble conversation. They blew a 21 point second half lead and lost at USC (40) before going to Cal (155) and blowing another double-digit second half lead in a loss. Now, the Cardinal are sitting at 1-3 against Quad 1 opponents without a single win over a top 40 opponent, just two top 90 wins and an ugly Quad 3 loss. Hold serve against the Oregon schools this week and they’ll be fine.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 56, NBC: Playin game): The Sun Devils landed just an enormous win on Saturday night, coming back from 22 points down to beat Arizona (10) at home in their last chance to take on the Wildcats during the regular season. Believe it or not, that is the first Quad 1 win for the Sun Devils, and given that they only have one Quad 2 loss — Virginia (58) on a neutral court — this group is not all that far away from getting a bid. They just needed a couple big wins. Knocking off Arizona certainly qualifies.

WASHINGTON (NET: 45, NBC: Off the bubble): The fact that Washington has a neutral court win over Baylor (1) is the only reason they’re still in the conversation here. They’re 12-9 overall and they have just two Quad 1 and 2 wins, which is equal to the number of Quad 3 losses — UCLA (124) at home and at Cal (155) — they’ve suffered. They’re currently in last place in the Pac-12, a game behind Washington State. They badly need to sweep the Arizona schools this weekend.

UTAH (NET: 74, NBC: Off the bubble): Utah is going to be mentioned here because they have beaten Kentucky (22) on a neutral and knocked off BYU (29) at home. They are also 5-5 against the top two quadrants. Now, the key for Larry Krystkowiak is to make up a player that the Utes were missing when they played in Myrtle Beach Invitational so the Selection Committee can overlook losses to Coastal Carolina (196) and Tulane (152).


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

TOP 9: Kentucky (NBC: 4), LSU (NBC: 5), Auburn (NBC: 6), Florida (NBC: 9), Arkansas (NBC: 9)

ALABAMA (NET: 41, NBC: Off the bubble): The biggest problem that Alabama has right now is their losses. They dropped a home game to Penn (165) on the opening night of the season, which is a Quad 4 loss. They lost a game to North Carolina (93) in the Bahamas. They also lost to Iowa State (70) in the Bahamas. Those do not look good right now. The Tide have turned their season around — beating Kansas State (89) on Saturday was their fourth straight win and their seventh win in the last nine games — but they have just one win over a top 50 team. They get LSU (24) on the road on Wednesday and, in February, play at Auburn (18) and LSU again. I think winning two of those three games will be critical.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): There’s not a lot to like about Mississippi State’s resume right now. They have one win over a top 75 team this season — Arkansas (28) at home — and their only road win came at Coastal Carolina (196). They’s lost to Louisiana Tech (84) at home and New Mexico State (118) on a neutral floor. What am I supposed to be impressed with? Losing at Oklahoma (46) on Saturday didn’t help. Winning at Florida (37) on Tuesday would.

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): Tennessee missed on a great chance to add a marquee win to their resume when they lost at Kansas (4) on Saturday. The Vols had won four of their last five prior to that game, and it looks like they’ve gotten their season turned around. They are 12-7 overall but just 3-7 against the top two quadrants and they have yet to beat a top 35 team. They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols are in a good spot if they can get hot.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

TOP 9: Gonzaga (NBC: 1), San Diego State (NBC: 1), Dayton (NBC: 3), Saint Mary’s (NBC: 9)

BYU (NET: 29, NBC: 11): The Cougars have really good computer numbers, and they do have some quality wins to their name — at Houston (33), Virginia Tech (50) and Utah State (62) on neutrals — but after losing at San Francisco (95) on Saturday, BYU now has a pair of Quad 2 losses and a 4-7 record against the top two Quads. With games remaining against Saint Mary’s (40) and Gonzaga (4) at home, BYU should be OK if they can get one of those and avoid the landmines.

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble): The Aggies have neutral site wins over LSU (25) and Florida (37), which is enough to keep them in this discussion despite road losses at Boise State (102), UNLV (130) and Air Force (184). They make the trip to Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State (2) on Saturday, and that feels like a must-win for Utah State at this point.

VCU (NET: 39, NBC: Play-in game): The Rams avoided one of the landmines on their schedule as they went into Philly and knocked off La Salle. VCU is now 15-5 overall with a Quad 1 (LSU, 25) and Quad 2 (at Charleston, 134) win. The Rams have a ton of work left to do, but the fact that their worst loss is against Tennessee (55) on a neutral court and that there are a number of potential Quad 1 wins left on their league schedule is a good thing. Tuesday’s date with Richmond (47) in the Siegel Center feels enormous.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): The Spiders lost to Dayton (5) on Saturday at home, a critical loss because it’s really the only game-changing opponent that they had left on their schedule. They do play VCU (39) twice, and picking them off in Richmond will be a Quad 1 win, but that’s not going to be enough to get them to leapfrog any high-major teams that play a dozen Quad 1 games in league play. Richmond is in a bad spot.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): The Rams avoided one of the landmines left on their schedule, winning at St. Bonaventure on Saturday, but they are not in a great spot at the moment. URI is on the wrong side of the bubble right now, and while every team in the power conferences are playing one or two Quad 1 games a week, URI has just two left on their schedule — their two games against Dayton (5). Their win at VCU (39) is nice, but it is counteracted by a loss at Brown (229).

SAINT LOUIS (NET: 68, NBC: Off the bubble): The Billikens are just 2-5 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents, with wins at Richmond (54) and Kansas State (88). They don’t have any bad losses, but a Jalen Crutcher three at the buzzer at Dayton (5) two weeks ago may end up being what keeps them from making a real push to be a bubble team.

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 49, NBC: 12): Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (89) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but loss at Southern Illinois (166) and Illinois State (214) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago (91) in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large.

LIBERTY (NET: 73, NBC: 13): The Flames killed their hope of getting an at-large this weekend. They are 0-1 in Quad 1 games, 1-0 in Quad 2 games (Akron (65) on a neutral) and 2-1 in Quad 3 games. They have 14 wins over Quad 4 opponents and just lost to Stetson (309). They’re frauds.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 42, NBC: 12): The Buccaneers are in a decent spot right now thanks to a win at LSU (25) in December. They’re 15-3 overall with a pair of Quad 1 wins, but they do have one bad loss — at North Dakota State (160) — which means that they cannot step on another landmine during league play. Winning out in the regular season is the only option here.

UNCG (NET: 75, NBC: Off the bubble): Wins at Georgetown (52), Furman (80) and Vermont (98) get the Spartans mentioned, particularly with a game at East Tennessee State (42) left on their schedule. But with a loss at Wofford (142) and at home against Montana State (215), UNCG has to win out and lose to ETSU in the SoCon tournament to have any actual shot at an at-large.

YALE (NET: 53, NBC: 12): The Elis are in this conversation because they don’t really have a bad loss to speak of. Their “worst” loss was a road game at San Francisco (95), and if North Carolina (93)gets Cole Anthony back, then that loss is not going to look nearly as bad by Selection Sunday. Their problem is a lack of quality wins. They won at Clemson (81), which is their only Quad 1 or 2 win. That’s not going to change in the Ivy. I think they need to win out and lose to Harvard in the Ivy title game to have a real at-large chance.

Three Things To Know: Iowa comes back, Christian Braun arrives, three-bid ACC?

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It was a very slow night in the college basketball world, but there were three games that are relevant enough to talk about.

So let’s talk about them.

Here are the three things that you need to know about Monday’s college basketball action:

1. THE ACC GOT THAT MUCH CLOSER TO BEING A THREE-BID LEAGUE

On Monday morning, our Dave Ommen published his updated NCAA tournament bracket projection, and he had just four ACC teams in the field. One of those four teams was N.C. State, who was sitting in the play-in game prior to Monday night’s action.

So what did they do on Monday night?

They just lost at home to a North Carolina team that ranks outside the top 100 in the NET. Suddenly, the Wolfpack, who looked like they could be as high as a 9 or 10 seed last week, would likely be out of the NCAA tournament if it started today. They are 14-7 overall, which isn’t terrible, but they have just one win against a top 50 opponent to go along with a pair of Quad 3 losses. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but two of those — Wisconsin (30) at home and UNCG (75) on the road — are the bottom of the cutoff for Quad 1 wins. Put another way, they are the worst possible Quad 1 wins, and that is something that will be discussed by the committee.

Ironically enough, I think this win was a sign that North Carolina might actually be the most likely CC team to give the league a fourth bid. Hear me out. The Tar Heels have ten losses on the season, but seven of those ten — including all of their bad losses — came without Cole Anthony on the roster. If he comes back healthy, that’s something that will be taken into consideration by the selection committee.

But more importantly, it feels like the Tar Heels are starting to play much better. Garrison Brooks has turned into a dominant force on the block, and he and Armando Bacot can do the things that Roy Williams wants his frontline to do. Brandon Robinson is playing much better despite being injured, while Leaky Black, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce and Andrew Platek have all seemed to figure out a role that they can be effective in. It reminds me a bit of what happened to Seton Hall when they were without Myles Powell. The supporting cast had to put on their big boy pants and find a way to win. It took UNC longer than it took Seton Hall, but I think they’re getting there now.

The problem that the Tar Heels faced early in the season was that defenses could throw everything at Cole Anthony because no one else on UNC was really a threat, and Anthony couldn’t give the ball up because, well, no one else was really a threat. If he has a supporting cast now, and he comes back as the player he was before he hurt his knee, then the Tar Heels will have a chance.

2. NO. 18 IOWA LANDS A COME FROM BEHIND WIN TO BEAT WISCONSIN

For 33 minutes, this looked like Wisconsin’s night, like the Badgers were going to go into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and make a statement with a road win against a ranked team in a league where those are few and far between.

That’s not what happened.

Iowa used a 21-2 run late in the second half to turn a 57-45 deficit into a 66-59 lead, holding on for a 68-62 home win that few saw coming. And to me, this is the kind of win that speaks to the change in what we have seen in the Iowa program this season. Fair or not, the reputation the Hawkeyes have had in the past is to start the year out well before collapsing late in the season. This is precisely the kind of game that they would lose in past seasons.

That’s not the way it worked out on Monday night.

With the win, Iowa moves to 15-5 on the season and remains a game out of first place in the Big Ten regular season standings. Luka Garza finished with 21 points, 18 boards and three blocks, continuing what has been a first-team All-American caliber season.

3. WHO SAW CHRISTIAN BRAUN COMING?

Christian Braun scored 16 points, hitting four threes on Monday night, and added nine boards as No. 3 Kansas routed Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

Braun was moved into the starting lineup for the first time this season, and it paid off for Bill Self, who was forced to work around a roster that only had seven scholarship players available and lacked any kind of interior presence behind Udoka Azubuike. He’s earned the chance, too. This performance came just six days after he scored a career-high 20 points in a win over Kansas State in the Phog. For a team that has desperately been searching for consistent three-point shooting and a defensive presence on the perimeter, Braun checks a lot of boxes.

Sometimes you just need a guy that can go out and do a job for you, and that’s precisely what Braun has done. What will be interesting is to see where Self goes from here. When David McCormack gets back from his suspension on Saturday, will he return to the starting lineup?

Or did he cost himself his spot in the starting five when he decided to go into the stands during a fight?