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Providence knocks off No. 3 Villanova

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Here’s the good news: Providence is a good team, a team that, after beating No. 3 Villanova in the Dunkin Donuts Center on Wednesday night, is likely on their way to the NCAA tournament.

They are better than St. John’s. They were playing at home. They were in the midst of a game they badly needed. This is the kind of loss that happens all the time in league play. Losses like this are part of why college basketball is so much fun.

The problem is that this 76-71

defeat shines yet another light on a pair of issues that have been plaguing Villanova this season, issues that are on the verge of costing them the Big East regular season title for the first time since the Big East split from the Old Big East.

The first problem is the biggest: Villanova is not a good defensive team. They just aren’t. They entered Wednesday night ranked 50th on KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, but that actually buries the lede. In Big East play, Villanova has ranked eighth out of ten teams in defensive efficiency, and that is in a conference that has become awfully defense-averse. They don’t really rebound the ball all that well, they don’t really protect the rim all that well, they don’t really have guys that are defensive stoppers.

Part of the issue is that Phil Booth isn’t available right now and that Eric Paschall missed a couple of games. Without Booth, that means that Collin Gillispie and Jermaine Samuels see Villanova’s back court minutes off the bench instead of Donte DiVincenzo, who is now in their starting lineup. Booth is not exactly Patrick Beverly but he is much better than Gillispie.

But they were struggling when they had everyone healthy. I’m not sure injuries are entirely to blame here. It may just be as simple as this: Omari Spellman and Jalen Brunson are average-to-below average defenders, and the other three guys on the floor are not good enough to make up for that fact.

Being just OK defensively is not a deal-breaker when it comes to winning the NCAA tournament, mind you, not when you’re an elite offensive team. North Carolina won it in 2009 with the 39th-best defense in the country entering the NCAA tournament. Duke won it in 2015 with the 37th-best best defense. Both of those teams were among the three best offenses in the sport, just like Villanova is this season.

RELATED: How does this affect Providence’s bubble profile?

But they also ran everything through the paint. That Duke team got 27 percent off their offense off of threes. That UNC team got just 23 percent of their offense off of three. This Villanova team gets 39 percent of their offense from beyond the arc, and if you look at the two losses they’ve taken in the last three games, there is a running theme: Against St. John’s, Villanova was 8-for-33 from three and shot 2-for-17 in the second half. Against Providence, they were 3-for-19 from three.

I say all that to say this: The way that Villanova can score the ball when they are clicking can paper over a lot of the cracks they have defensively.

But as the saying goes, you live by the three and die by the three, and that is a fact that is exacerbated for a team whose defensive floor is lower than most title contenders.

“We just kind of lost it,” Wright told me back in January, the last time Villanova had a crisis defensively. “We can’t just say, ‘OK, we’re going to play defense now’ when we haven’t been doing it or three weeks. You have to get back to your habits.”

“The older guys get it, a guy like [Dhamir] Cosby-Rountree or Omari [Spellman], even Donte [DiVincenzo], they’re looking at you like, ‘we scored 100, we’re winning, what’s the big deal?”

Well, they’re not winning anymore.

And if No. 4 Xavier holds serve against Seton Hall at home on Wednesday, then Villanova will be a game out of first place in the Big East standings with a trip to play Xavier in Cincinnati on Saturday.

If the Musketeers win that — which, admittedly, is a stretch given the recent history of those two programs — they’ll have a two-game lead in the Big East.

If you are a Villanova fan, it might be time to start getting worried.

Bubble Banter: Providence, Florida State solidify résumé with critical wins

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Wednesday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): On Saturday, Providence got whipped at home by Big East cellar-dweller DePaul. My guess is that Ed Cooley let his team know that was not going to fly in practice this week, because they turned around and landed a win over Villanova on Wednesday. The Friars now have six Quadrant 1 wins, which should be enough to outweigh the fact that they have lost to two Quadrant 3 opponents and one Quadrant 4 game. They should be in as long as they go at least 2-3 down the stretch.

FLORIDA STATE (RPI: 48, KenPom: 23, NBC seed: 8): Florida State landed a win over Clemson (4) on Wednesday after trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half. The Seminoles now have a 6-4 record against Quadrant 1 opponents and no losses outside the top two Quadrants. At this point, they will no longer be in the Bubble Banter conversation. They will, however, be back on Sunday if they lose to Pitt.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Wildcats landed another Quadrant 2 win on Wednesday, going into Stillwater and picking off Oklahoma State. Kansas State will be interesting come Selection Sunday. They have some good wins — Oklahoma, TCU, at Baylor, at Texas — but no great wins, one bad loss to Tulsa and a terrible non-conference SOS. I think they need to win at least four games the rest of the way. Their final five in the regular season are: Iowa State, Texas, at Oklahoma, at TCU, Baylor. Then there is the Big 12 tournament.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 73, KenPom: 59, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Wolfpack added another Quadrant 1 win to their profile when they went into the Carrier Dome and picked off Syracuse. They are now 5-7 against Quadrant 1 teams, and the fact that they’ve beaten the likes of Duke, Clemson, Arizona and North Carolina on the road should carry serious weight for a committee that showed up during the bracket reveal just how much they value quality wins.

LOSERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 56, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 9): Virginia Tech lost at Duke. No shame in that. They are 4-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents and have eight wins against the top two Quadrants with just a single Quadrant 3 loss and three more Quadrant 1 games left on the schedule. Beat Georgia Tech and then go 1-3 in their final four (Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami) and the Hokies are in.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 68, KenPom: 58, NBC seed: Out): The Bulldogs played their way even further out of the bubble picture on Wednesday when they lost at Vanderbilt on a buzzer beater. With just a single Quadrant 1 win, a 4-8 record against the top two Quadrants and a non-conference SOS of 305, they are in a bad place. They may need to go 4-1 in their final five to feel good, and that may not even be enough.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 98, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Next four out): The Cowboys have now lost five of their last seven games. The two wins? At Kansas and at West Virginia. They needed to beat Kansas State on Wednesday, if for no other reason than they have three road games, Texas Tech and Kansas left.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): The Orange blew a chance to land another Quadrant 2 win on Wednesday night when they lost at home to N.C. State, another team that is right there on the bubble with them. They have just one Quadrant 1 win to their name right now. They will have chances — at Miami, UNC, at Duke, at Boston College, Clemson — so they are anything-but dead at this point, but my best quess would be they beat BC and win two of four against the rest of that group.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 36, KenPom: 55, NBC seed: Next four out): Boise State’s chances of getting an at-large bid are dead. They lost at home to Nevada tonight, meaning they will not have a Quadrant 1 win on Selection Sunday, not if they finish second in the MWC, where they have a one-game lead on third-place with four games left. They need to beat Nevada to land that Quadrant 1 win, but the only way they can currently beat Nevada is if it is in the title game of the MWC tournament.

New all-access with Kentucky series to air on Facebook

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FaceBook Watch announced on Wednesday that they will be airing a ten-episode season of an all-access documentary on the Kentucky Wildcats.

Titled ‘Inside The Madness: University of Kentucky Basketball,’ the first episode is set to be published on Sat., Feb 17th.

“We get approached all the time to do all-access shows,” Calipari said. “The one question I always have is, what is our why? Why are we doing this? As our fans know, we are transparent in everything we do so there is never a concern about the access we give. It’s, what makes this different than any other show? What I liked about Jason and Tom’s approach to this show is what they wanted to show. It wasn’t about the games or showing how I coach or a lesson in Kentucky basketball; it was about showing the type of kids we have here and the family atmosphere we’ve created.”

“They wanted to show that there’s more than just wins and losses with these kids; it’s about preparing them for the rest of their lives. The great thing is their crew can do that while being of no distraction to our team and our goals. They’re around, but they’re a fly on the wall. We get to open the doors to our team in a way we’ve never done before while I coach my team and these kids learn.”

Kentucky is struggling through their worst season of the Calipari era, as they have fallen outside the top 25 and currently sit at 17-9 on the season.

“This is the story of young men, led to be a team by their greatness and willingness to sacrifice, finding their way on the biggest stage in college basketball,” says Tom Cappello, Executive Producer for Crazy Legs Productions. “It’s an honor to be welcomed into the Big Blue Nation and we are excited to create a new experience for fans that will allow them to see a more personal side of the players and coaches that make up this team.”

The Naismith Trophy list is down to just 30 players

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The 30 members the Citizen Naismith Trophy late season team have been announced.

For the NBC Sports ranking of the Player of the Year candidates, see here.

Here is the full list:

Deandre Ayton

Fr.

F

Arizona

Marvin Bagley III

Fr.

F

Duke

Mohamed Bamba

Fr.

F

Texas

Keita Bates-Diop

Jr.

F

Ohio State

Joel Berry II

Sr.

G

North Carolina

Trevon Bluiett

Sr.

G

Xavier

Mikal Bridges

Jr.

G/F

Villanova

Miles Bridges

So.

G/F

Michigan State

Bryce Brown

Jr.

G

Auburn

Jalen Brunson

Jr.

G

Villanova

Jevon Carter

Sr.

G

West Virginia

Gary Clark

Sr.

F

Cincinnati

Mike Daum

Jr.

F

South Dakota State

Angel Delgado

Sr.

C

Seton Hall

Carsen Edwards

So.

G

Purdue

Vince Edwards

Sr.

F

Purdue

Keenan Evans

Sr.

G

Texas Tech

Marcus Foster

Sr.

G

Creighton

Devonte’ Graham

Sr.

G

Kansas

Kyle Guy

So.

G

Virginia

Tra Holder

Sr.

G

Arizona State

Chandler Hutchison

    Sr.

G

Boise State

Kevin Knox

Fr.

F

Kentucky

Jock Landale

Sr.

C

St. Mary’s

Caleb Martin

Jr.

F

Nevada

Luke Maye

Jr.

F

North Carolina

Collin Sexton

Fr.

G

Alabama

Landry Shamet

So.

G

Wichita State

Allonzo Trier

Jr.

G

Arizona

Trae Young

Fr.

G

Oklahoma

 

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy gives brutally honest criticism of Ole Miss team

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Andy Kennedy lost his first game as the lame duck Ole Miss head coach on Tuesday night, and after the game he didn’t hold back when discussing what is wrong with his team.

In summation, they don’t play with pride.

Give it a listen:

“This was about Ole Miss. Obviously, yesterday I tried to take about as big of ownership as you could take. I’m the man here. I’m culpable for this,” Kennedy would go on to say. “After watching our performance Saturday, I thought, ‘Man, this is as bad as I’ve seen it in my 400 games.’ Until tonight. I apologize. I certainly did not want to go out like this.”

“But as I said yesterday, my words are ringing hollow. I can’t get ’em, I can’t reach ’em.”

This is what happens when a team is out of tournament contention, particularly when the decision is made with games remaining to announce the end of that coach’s tenure — that is not normal. It’s exacerbated season-long issues for the Rebels, which, for many, justifies the decision to change leadership in the basketball program.

And considering what Kennedy has done for that program and hoops at that school, it’s sad to see it come to an end like this.

CBT Podcast: Why Your Team Sucks: The third annual college hoops hatefest with Brian Snow

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The best podcast of the season! Rob Dauster was joined by Brian Snow for a special Wednesday podcast. Why Your Favorite Team Sucks. The premise is simple: The 16 best teams in the country are broken down and analyzed, with an emphasis on the things they do not do well and the reasons they are going to lose early in March. It is, of course, because we hate them.

The teams we discussed: Xavier, Villanova, Cincinnati, Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan State, Auburn, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Arizona. In that order.