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Bubble Banter: Here are the 13 potential bid thieves that will play this week

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Bid Thievery is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as the act of winning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament at the cost of a team that is a lock to get an at-large, thus robbing the field of one of the available at-large bids. 

It’s not a criminal act. 

In fact, in a year like this, where the bubble is weaker than wet toilet paper, these Bid Thieves will be doing America a favor.

For every successful heist, there will be one less 14-loss high major team backing their way into a bid. 

So with that in mind, these are the leagues — and the teams — that you need to be the most concerned about if you happen to be a fan of a program that has spent the last three weeks on all over bubble watch.

NOTE: We discussed the mid-major bid thieves here

ATLANTIC 10 (March 13-17, Barclays Center)

The Atlantic 10 is increasingly looking like a one-bid league if VCU (NET: 31) takes the conference tournament.

Enter Dayton (NET: 65), a team who has won five out of six games entering the postseason. The Flyers are the No. 3 seed in the A10 tournament. They played VCU to two close losses during the regular season, and it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Dayton to win some games and play spoiler here.

Similar to Dayton, DAVIDSON (NET: 68) can very easily win the Atlantic 10 tourney. The one-two punch of Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellen Grady is arguably the best in the conference. Davidson was once a bubble team, but they lost a few too many games in a league that simply does not have enough depth to carry more than one at-large bid. The Wildcats know they need to win this event to get into the field. Don’t sleep on this group having a big week in Brooklyn.

MOUNTAIN WEST (March 13-17, Las Vegas)

The Mountain West has been slept on for most of the season, but at this point it looks like the league is going to be able to support two at-large teams.

NEVADA (NET: 18) is the obvious one. The Wolf Pack are probably looking at a No. 4 seed if they can win the MWC tournament. And while UTAH STATE (NET: 30) is hardly a lock at this point, I do think that they are going to get into the dance as long as they don’t do anything stupid in Vegas.

The No. 3 seed in the league’s tournament, FRESNO STATE (NET: 79) has a chance to play spoiler and make a run. With two high-scoring guards in Braxton Huggins (19.3 ppg) and Deshon Taylor (18.4 ppg), the Bulldogs have already played close games against Nevada and Utah State, and there was a point in time that it looked like they were going to be near the tournament bubble. They’re dangerous, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Fresno State get hot and win this whole event.

The other team to keep an eye on is SAN DIEGO STATE (NET: 134). The Aztecs lost three of their last four games — to the top three teaams in the league — but they did have a four-game winning streak in February that featured wins over Utah State and Nevada. Jaden McDaniels is a future pro and he is capable of taking games over all by himself.

AMERICAN TOURNAMENT (March 14-17, Memphis)

Houston, Cincinnati and UCF are all going to be in the NCAA tournament field on Selection Sunday. TEMPLE (NET: 50) is in the tournament as of today, so they’re not going to be included in this conversation.

And while the AAC as a whole is down while WICHITA STATE (NET: 90), MEMPHIS (NET: 53) and UConn reload, two of those three are going to make some noise this weekend.

Let’s start with the former. Would you want to face Gregg Marshall and the Shockers with a postseason spot on the line? If Wichita State advances past No. 11 seed East Carolina in the first game of the American conference tournament, then they’ll get a crack at No. 3 seed Temple — a team fighting for its at-large life with every game. The Owls need to get that one to feel safe. Wichita State has won four consecutive games. Bubble teams will make this potential game appointment viewing on Friday night.

Next year is the year everyone continues to mention with Memphis. But why not now? Penny’s bunch has been surging with four wins in their last five games heading into the postseason. Senior guard Jeremiah Martin is one of only a handful of players capable of dropping 40 on any given night. The No. 4 seeded Tigers could get a shot at UCF in the quarterfinals in a winnable matchup that would be one of Friday’s underrated games to watch.

Should I mention that they have been dangerous at home and that they’ll be playing this tournament at home?

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THE BIG BOYS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Illinois: Although Illinois has gone through a recent slide, there was a random stretch in the middle of Big Ten season where the Illini won five of six games — including wins over Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State. Playing in Chicago at the United Center for the Big Ten tournament, a chunk of the Illinois roster calls the Windy City home as Illinois is going to have a small homecourt advantage in certain matchups. If freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu takes over a game, Illinois could crush a bubble team’s hopes.

Penn State: Winners of five of their last six games, the Nittany Lions are one of the hottest teams in the country — regardless of NCAA tournament status. While the Nittany Lions have been mostly feasting on Big Ten bottomfeeders during that span, they also earned a notable double-digit win over Maryland that opened some eyes. Beginning the Big Ten tournament with a matchup against Minnesota, Penn State could very easily play a spoiler role in Chicago this week.

DePaul: It’s easy to scoff at the Blue Demons being a credible threat given their No. 10 seeding in the Big East tournament. This isn’t the typical DePaul team we’ve seen over the years. Entering the postseason above .500 for the first time since 2007, the Blue Demons actually swept the season series over Big East tournament first-round opponent St. John’s. If Max Strus gets loose (he dropped 43 points on the Red Storm less than two weeks ago) then St. John’s is going to be sweating on Selection Sunday.

Xavier: The Musketeers have turned the corner over the last several weeks as they earned a No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament despite barely touching the bubble. And during that streak, Xavier picked off NCAA tournament-caliber teams and other hopefuls like Creighton, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova and two wins over St. John’s. Armed with five double-figure scorers, Xavier is playing some of the best ball of any team in the Big East right now as they shouldn’t be counted out in any game at Madison Square Garden.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks could immediately cause chaos in the SEC tournament with an opening-round game against Florida. Big man Daniel Gafford is one of the premier post threats in the country and a young Arkansas team has shaken off a late-season swoon to win three straight games. This could be a dangerous situation for the Gators as they’ve been inconsistent throughout this season.

UCLA: This lost season in Westwood could get interesting if the Bruins get a shot at Arizona State in the Pac-12 tournament. We’ve seen how up-and-down the entire Pac-12 has been this season. UCLA has the talent to compete with any of those teams on the right night. The Sun Devils have had some puzzling games with losses to bad opponents. It’s entirely possible that the Bruins beat Arizona State and end their bubble hopes in the quarterfinals.

Oregon: Winners of four straight games — including a win at Washington, the Pac-12’s best team — the Ducks are another talented team who as straightened the ship late in the year. Point guard Payton Pritchard has plenty of big-game experience while freshman Louis King can take over a game if he gets hot. The Pac-12 has been so unpredictable this season that the Ducks could take advantage and make a run here.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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

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

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

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Diego State joined the rankings at No. 25.

1. Louisville (55)

2. Kansas (4)

3. Ohio St. (5)

4. Maryland

5. Michigan

6. Gonzaga

7. Duke

8. Kentucky

9. Virginia

10. Oregon

11. Baylor

12. Auburn

13. Memphis

14. Dayton

15. Arizona

16. Michigan St.

17. North Carolina

18. Butler

19. Tennessee

20. Villanova

21. Florida St.

22. Seton Hall

23. Xavier

24. Colorado

25. San Diego St.

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

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

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Naji Marshall, Xavier

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

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

There was not any on Saturday.

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Ohio State Buckeyes

Can we even consider anyone else?

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

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

Speaking of which …

OVERREACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, kinda?

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

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

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

Absolutely!

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

3. BUTLER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED TEAM IN THE COUNTRY

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

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

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

That said …

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

Florida State beat Florida in Gainesville?

The Seminoles must be awesome!

UConn beat Florida in Storrs?

The Huskies are back, baby!

Butler knocks off the Gators in Hinkle?

The Bulldogs are the most underrated team in the country?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BIG PICTURE

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

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

POLL IMPLICATIONS

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

HE SAID IT

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

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: At Rutgers on Saturday.

Iowa State: Hosts Iowa on Thursday night.

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

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