Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Bubble Watch: Who is still in danger of missing the NCAA tournament?

Leave a comment

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

The way that I see it, there are 37 teams that can now be considered locks to be an at-large bid. They are listed as ‘IN’ in the conference by conference breakdowns below. Those 37 teams come from eight conferences, which means that, at most, eight of those 37 teams will be automatic bids.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Automatic Bids

Do the match, and that means that with the way things currently stand, there are 29 at-large locks, meaning that there are six available at-large bids to be earned and, by my count, 10 teams with a realistic shot of getting in. Then there are six more —  so 16 teams in total — that can either lock up or earn their at-large bid this week.

That’s how tight things are at the moment.

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

IN: Florida State, Duke, Louisville, Virginia

N.C. STATE (NET: 54, NBC: Play-in game): The Wolfpack picked up the win that they needed by beating Pitt (107) in the second round of the ACC tournament, setting them up for a date with Duke (6) and a chance to just about lock up their at-large bid. They have just four Quad 1 wins, and their 8-10 record against the top two Quads is nothing special. The good news is that Georgia Tech (72) is now a Quad 2 loss, meaning that the Wolfpack now have just the two Quad 3 losses. Their saving grace right now is that 22 point win over Duke in Raleigh, but the truth is that N.C. State is right on the cut-line. They are going to want to win a game in the ACC tournament, and potentially more, if they don’t want to sweat out Selection Sunday.


AMERICAN BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Houston

WICHITA STATE (NET: 41, NBC: First four out): The Shockers closed out the regular season with a win, picking off Tulsa (76) at home by 22 points. Wichita State is now 23-8 on the season, but they only have a pair of low-end Quad 1 road wins, Quad 2 wins over VCU (68) and Oklahoma (46) at home. They don’t have any truly terrible losses, but with just a single top 50 win on the season, I think the Shockers are going to have an uncomfortable Selection Sunday. The fact that they are 9-8 against the top two Quads without a bad loss — depending how you few Temple (116) on the road — is something of a saving grace at this point. I think they need to win a couple of games in the AAC tournament, but I do not see a way that they can get to Selection Sunday feeling comfortable because they cannot get a win against Houston until the title game. They will, however, get Cincinnati in the semifinals, which would likely be a play-in game.

CINCINNATI (NET: 51, NBC: 12): The Bearcats erased a big second half deficit and won on a tip-in at the buzzer at home against Temple (116) on Saturday, a bucket that saved their chances of actually getting into the NCAA tournament. Cincinnati has a pair of Quad 1 wins — Houston (20) at home and Wichita State (41) on the road — and a 9-6 record against the top two Quads. But they have also lost four Quad 3 games. Of note: They are listed as the American champions in Dave’s projection because he assumes the No. 1 seed is the champ until they get knocked out of their league tournament, but I think it is important to note here that both Cincinnati and Wichita State are right on the bubble cut-line. If things play out according to seed, they would get the Shockers in the semifinals. That would likely turn into a play-in game.

MEMPHIS (NET: 58, NBC: Next four out): Memphis lost at Houston (20) to close out the regular season, which means that the Tigers are going to have a lot of work to do in the AAC tournament if they want to be on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. I think Memphis needs to win at least two games to really fell confident about a bid. They have three Quad 3 losses compared to just two Quad 1 wins. It’s doable, but they need to root for all the bubble teams ahead of them to lose.


ATLANTIC 10 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Dayton

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 57, NBC: Next four out): The Rams avoided disaster when they beat UMass (136) by one on the road on Saturday. At this point, I do not see how the Rams can get an at-large bid without beating Dayton at some point during the Atlantic 10 tournament, but that won’t happen unless they play in the title game. On the other hand, it makes it more likely that they will not need to beat the Flyers in order to get it done.  They only have one Quad 1 win — at VCU (68) — and they also have a Quad 4 loss at Brown (224), and now that their NET is in the high-50s, they no longer have that to hang their hat on, either.

RICHMOND (NET: 38, NBC: First four out): The Spiders closed out their regular season with wins over Davidson (75) at home and at Duquesne (94). They are 3-4 against Quad 1 opponents With just a 6-6 record against the top two Quads. (It’s worth noting here that, as of this posting, Davidson is 75 in the NET. Richmond swept Davidson. The cut-off for Quad 1 road wins and Quad 2 home wins is 75. This is the problem with the sorting tools and relying only on the Quad 1 number. Davidson being ranked 75th and 76th is irrelevant in terms of how good they are, but it changes everything with Richmond’s profile.) They also have a Quad 3 loss, Richmond does not have any margin for error, not with so many teams on the bubble playing their win in over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately for Richmond, they won’t play Dayton until the Atlantic 10 tournament title game, which eliminates their chance to land that elite win unless it earns them the automatic bid. On the other hand, it makes it more likely that they will not need to beat the Flyers in order to get it done.

SAINT LOUIS (NET: 49, NBC: Next four out): The Billikens are not that far away from the bubble after they won their last five games of the regular season. They are 2-5 against Quad 1 teams, 4-7 against the top two Quads and 15-8 against Quads 1-3. For comparison’s sake, Texas Tech is 10-13 against the top three Quads. Now, the difference is that Tech has some elite wins. Saint Louis won at Richmond (38) and at Rhode Island (57), but their wins over VCU (65) at home and at Kansas State (99) don’t look great. Throw in a Quad 3 loss to Duquesne (94) at home, and Saint Louis has some work to do. I think they need to beat Dayton in the semifinals to get in.


BIG 12 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma

Texas Tech and Texas play each other in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament on Thursday, which essentially means that will be a play-in game.

TEXAS TECH (NET: 22, NBC: Play-in game): The Red Raiders could not find a way to get a win over Kansas (1) at home on Saturday afternoon, and that means that they are almost assuredly going to have a stressful Selection Sunday. Texas Tech is now 18-13 on the season, but they have just three Quad 1 wins. The win over Louisville (8) is going to hold up really well, and they did pick up a win over West Virginia (17) at home, but with just a 7-13 mark against the top two Quads, I think the Red Raiders are going to want to win at least one Big 12 tournament game. They are 10-13 against Quads 1-3, which is even more worrisome. It would be awfully surprising to see this group end up missing the NCAA tournament, but that might be where we are right now.

TEXAS (NET: 69, NBC: First four out): The Longhorns did all that work, winning five straight games to get themselves right into the middle of the bubble conversation, only to turnaround and get absolutely hammered by Oklahoma State (61) at home. It’s not the end of the world — it’s only a Quad 2 loss, after all — but Texas only has seven total Quad 1 and 2 wins. They do have five Quad 1 wins — including at Texas Tech (22) and Purdue (32) — but that probably won’t be enough. I think they need to win two games in the Big 12 tournament to really feel comfortable on Selection Sunday. One might get the job done, especially since they get Texas Tech in their opener.


BIG EAST BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Seton Hall, Villanova, Creighton, Butler, Providence, Marquette

XAVIER (NET: 45, NBC: Play-in game): The Musketeers lost the game that they couldn’t afford to lose, falling to DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament, and suddenly this team looks like they are in some real trouble. Xavier has a weird resume. They are now 19-13 overall and 8-10 in the Big East, but they have just three Quad 1 wins and only one win over a top 35 team — at Seton Hall (15). They are 3-11 against Quad 1 opponents, but they make up for that with a 7-2 mark against Quad 2 teams, no bad losses and strong metrics. Their only loss to a sub-40 opponent came at Wake Forest (111). They are not in a comfortable spot.


BIG TEN BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Rutgers

Dave has Indiana as a No. 9 seed and Rutgers as the most comfortable No. 10 seed. For all intents and purposes, he is saying they are a lock. He is the best in the business at this, so I am going to listen to him. They are both in.


PAC-12 BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, USC, Arizona State

UCLA (NET: 76, NBC: 11): The Bruins are going to head into the Pac-12 tournament in something of a weird spot after losing at USC (43) at the buzzer on Saturday evening. The Bruins are now sitting at 18-12 on the season with a 12-6 record in the Pac-12 after a rough non-conference season. They have a brutal Quad 4 loss to Cal St. Fullerton (262) and a Quad 3 loss to Hofstra (118), but they also have six Quad 1 wins, including a sweep of Arizona (10) and Colorado (23), and a 9-10 record against the top two Quads. They should be in a good spot, but they are going to be one of the teams that will enter next week needing to win a game or two if they really want to feel good about their at-large chances. They’ll get the winner of Stanford and Cal in the quarterfinals.

STANFORD (NET: 30, NBC: Play-in game): The Cardinal missed on a massive opportunity to land a marquee win at Oregon (12) on Saturday, meaning they are heading into the Pac-12 tournament needing to add something to their resume. They are now 4-7 against Quad 1 opponents, 7-10 against the top two Quads. They also have a Quad 3 loss — at Cal (148) — to their name. It could be worse for Stanford, but I do believe they need to win at least one, and probably two, games in Las Vegas to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the bubble.


SEC BUBBLE WATCH

IN: Kentucky, Auburn, LSU, Florida

ARKANSAS (NET: 47, NBC: Off the bubble): Arkansas kept the dream alive with a win over Vanderbilt in the opening round of the SEC tournament. They have four Quad 1 wins, and while they don’t have any Quad 3 or 4 losses, they do have six Quad 2 losses. With just a 6-12 mark against the top two Quads, I can’t see Arkansas getting into the tournament without a pretty significant run in the SEC tournament. They get South Carolina today.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 50, NBC: Next four out): The Bulldogs kept the dream alive with a win over Ole Miss (86) in the last game of the regular season. They are currently sitting at 7-9 against the top two Quads with just two Quad 1 wins to go along with a pair of Quad 3 losses. The only team that they have beaten that is currently projected for the NCAA tournament is Florida (33).

TENNESSEE (NET: 63, NBC: Off the bubble): The Vols had some ground to make up heading into this game, and a chance to beat Auburn (35) at home was exactly what they needed to start doing that. But it didn’t work out that way. They lost by 22 points, and at this point I think Tennessee likely needs to either win the automatic bid from the SEC or make a deep run in the SEC tournament.


BUBBLE WATCH FOR EVERYONE ELSE

IN: San Diego State, BYU, Saint Mary’s

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 36, NBC: First four out): Northern Iowa is in serious trouble now. The Panthers lost to Drake (167) by 21 points, and I’m not sure they did enough this season to be able to survive that loss. UNI has just one Quad 1 win — at Colorado (20) — and they beat South Carolina (63) on a neutral court, but they are 5-3 against the top two Quads. Now, after this loss, they have three Quad 3 losses. I want to see them get an at-large — every one of their non-Quad 1 losses is league game — but there isn’t much else here beyond simply having a 23-6 record. I want to see the Panthers get a shot in the tournament because I’ll always err on the side of the mid-major, but I think that’s a long shot.

The biggest issue is that they are going to be sitting around for a week, watching as the rest of the teams on the bubble go and take their shots at Quad 1 and 2 wins while avoiding the kind of bad loss that they took in their league tournament. We can argue about whether or not that is fair, but it is pointless at the end of the day. UNI probably has not done enough to get in.

Louisville lands grad transfer Carlik Jones

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louisville landed a commitment from Carlik Jones on Sunday night, one of the best grad transfers available this spring.

Jones, who spent the last three seasons at Radford, picked the Cardinals over Maryland, Michigan State and a handful of other programs.

A 6-foot-1 lead guard from Cincinnati, Jones averaged 20 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 boards this past season, when he was named the Big South Player of the Year. He led Radford to the 2018 NCAA tournament and back-to-back Big South regular season titles in 2019 and 2020.

Jones should start immediately for Louisville, fitting alongside David Johnson, Samuell Williamson and Jay Scrubb, should he enroll at Louisville instead of going pro, on their perimeter. Louisville is losing Fresh Kimble, Ryan McMahon and Dwayne Sutton to graduation while Jordan Nwora is expected to turn pro.

Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans will enter NBA draft

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
4 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans will enter the NBA draft and forego his final two seasons of eligibility.

to pursue his dream of playing professionally.

The 6-foot-3 Hagans was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman and became one of the country’s best point guards this past season. However, his time at Kentucky ended in controversy as he argued with forward Nick Richards and coach John Calipari and reportedly refused to re-enter in the second half of a home loss to Tennessee. Calipari downplayed the incident afterward.

Hagans then requested time away from the team for personal reasons and did not travel to the season finale at Florida. He was

for the Wildcats at the SEC Tournament in Nashville, but that event and the NCAA Tournament were canceled last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hagans said in a statement Sunday he was disappointed not to be able to pursue a national title but added that he understands why.

“It’s time for me to live out my lifelong dream and declare for the NBA draft,” Hagans said. “It’s been my No. 1 goal since I first picked up a ball to take this step and I know my time is now.”

He also thanked coaches, teammates and fans and added, “the last two years have been some of the best of my life.”

Hagans was born and raised in Georgia. He had 351 assists at Kentucky – ranking 12th in school history – and 119 steals. He averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals last season.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Mike Tirico to host NBC Sports’ new daily sports talk show ‘Lunch Talk Live’

We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports. This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.
Leave a comment

A new daily sports talk shot called Lunch Talk Live will debut on NBCSN at noon ET on Monday, April 6th.

The show will feature Mike Tirico joined like by special guests every single day, including a lineup of NBC Sports’ on-air personalities, current and former athletes and prominent people in sports media.

The show will focus on how the sports world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, providing a platform for intelligent discussion on the state of sports and how we, as a society, are adapting to living in this challenging time. the goal is to detail personal stories of how different people from across the sports industry are functioning in the day-to-day.

“In these challenging times, we are all missing sports and the people who make sports memories,” said Tirico. “Hopefully, we can bring a midday connection with some of them to help fill the void.”

“We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports,” said Sam Flood, the Executive Producer & President of Production for NBC Sports. “This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.”

The show will be an hour long. It will air on weekdays at Noon ET on NBCSN and will be streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Additionally, content will also be provided on the NBC Sports’ YouTube channel as well as other social media platforms.

All episodes of the show will be hosted remotely.

Michigan State AD defends Tom Izzo after witness report

Getty Images
3 Comments

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman defended basketball coach Tom Izzo on Thursday after Izzo was accused in

of contacting a witness who was part of a 2017 criminal sexual conduct investigation involving one of his players.

According to a police report obtained by ESPN, Michigan State student Brayden Smith was with basketball player Brock Washington on the night a female student said Washington forcibly groped her. When police interviewed Smith, he said he had already been contacted by Izzo and assistant coaches Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland. They “asked (Smith) if he was OK and if there was anything that he had seen during the evening,” according to the report.

Beekman responded in a lengthy statement Thursday.

“Tom Izzo has been a beacon of integrity in his profession for nearly four decades, including a quarter century as head coach. Michigan State’s Office of Institutional Equity has gone on record to say that no policies were violated in regards to any actions taken by the men’s basketball staff during a Title IX investigation into a student,” Beekman said. “There’s nothing to support any claims that any member of the men’s basketball staff conducted their own investigation, or interfered with any ongoing investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is nothing more than an attempt to smear a coach, a program, and an entire university.”

Smith, the son of former Michigan State player Steve Smith, has not played basketball for the Spartans. According to a Title IX report obtained by ESPN, Brayden Smith told investigators he considers the coaches his “godfathers” who check in on him occasionally.

According to ESPN, police said in their report that Brayden Smith’s perception of his conversation with the coaches about the night in question “was not to get information out of him, but rather to ensure that he was OK and remind him to be responsible.”

The school’s Title IX investigation determined that Washington was not responsible for having violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, according to ESPN. The network

that in early 2018, Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault under a provision allowing offenders to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction.

Earlier this week, ESPN reported that campus police told prosecutors they had probable cause that Brock Washington raped a woman Jan. 19 while she was too intoxicated to consent County prosecutors

because they didn’t feel they could prove their case to a jury.

Washington played a total of 19 minutes this season before he was suspended in late January.

NC State’s NCAA case recommended for independent process

AP Photo/Ben McKeown
3 Comments

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State’s NCAA case involving recruiting violations tied to former Wolfpack one-and-done star Dennis Smith Jr. has been recommended to go through an independent investigation process created for complex cases.

In a statement Friday, athletics spokesman Fred Demarest said the school must respond by April 14 to the recommendation. Demarest said officials are “reviewing and evaluating our options.”

The NCAA created the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) last year, a product of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball amid a federal corruption investigation into the sport. The process includes independent investigators and decision-makers with no direct ties to NCAA member schools, and rulings cannot be appealed.

The NCAA announced last month that Memphis’ case involving star freshman basketball player James Wiseman would go that route, becoming the first to enter the process.

IARP spokeswoman Whitney Ertel declined to comment on the N.C. State case, but said involved parties have the chance to respond to any recommendation before a determination is made.

“A case can either be accepted into the independent process or it can be denied,” Ertel said. “If any case is going to be accepted, then we will make an announcement.”

N.C. State was charged last summer with four violations, including former head coach Mark Gottfried being charged individually under the provision of head-coach responsibility for violations within his program.

Specifically, the NCAA has alleged ex-assistant Orlando Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible benefits – including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015.

N.C. State has argued the NCAA had not proven money was actually provided to Smith or his family, noting Smith – picked ninth in the 2017 NBA draft after one year in Raleigh – denied receiving money in a school interview in 2019.

Attorneys for Gottfried, now coach at Cal State Northridge, have questioned the fairness of the process and argued Gottfried fulfilled obligations to monitor the program.

The NCAA enforcement staff’s response in February held firm that violations had occurred.