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Arizona State races past St. John’s

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Arizona State raced out to an early lead and never trailed as they advanced past St. John’s with a 74-65 win on Wednesday night during an NCAA tournament First Four game in Dayton.

Jumping out to a double-digit lead 10 minutes into the game, the Sun Devils were barely threatened until late in the second half as the Red Storm had a disjointed night on offense. St. John’s had some early momentum in the second half during an 8-0 burst when the Arizona State lead was cut to eight points. The Sun Devils quickly pushed the lead back to double-digits with another run. With under five minutes left, St. John’s made a final push to cut the Arizona State lead to seven but they never made it over the hump to get fully back into the game.

Freshman Luguentz Dort was the standout for Arizona State on Wednesday as he finished with 21 points. Although Dort experienced a scary fall early in the second half, he shook off the hard landing to return. Dort’s health will be something to monitor for the next round as he’s clearly the best offensive weapon for the Sun Devils. Forward Zylan Cheatham (14 points) was the only other double-figure scorer for the Sun Devils on Wednesday as Arizona State didn’t play a particularly crisp game on offense.

Although Arizona State (23-10) led the entire game, they had 21 turnovers and some sloppy possessions that they’ll need to clean up before Friday’s first-round matchup with Buffalo. Arizona State advances to play the No. 6 seed Bulls on Friday in a West Region game in Tulsa. The matchup will feature Sun Devils head coach Bobby Hurley going against his former team as he left Buffalo four seasons ago to take the job in Tempe. Hurley will also be facing a head coach, Nate Oats, that he hired as an assistant coach at Buffalo. Wednesday’s win for the Sun Devils also marks the first NCAA tournament win for Arizona State since 2009 when they beat Temple in the first round.

St. John’s (21-13) never found a rhythm on offense as they shot 32 percent (22-for-69) from the field and 26 percent (8-for-31) from three-point range. Junior guard Shamorie Ponds (25 points, four assists) and guard L.J. Figueroa (19 points) were two of the only bright spots for the Red Storm as St. John’s turned the ball over 16 times.

Starting the 2018-19 season with a 12-0 record, St. John’s finished the year 9-13 as they plummeted once Big East play started. After such a promising start to the season, many predicted that St. John’s would be a factor in the Big East race.

Instead, St. John’s slipped to the point of barely making the Field of 68 as they were the last at-large team let into the field. Losing in a First Four game after being a top-25 team only two months ago is a very disappointing ending to what looked like a comeback season for this program. The Red Storm have not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 as they’ve dropped five straight in the Big Dance.

NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous No. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

Bubble Banter: It’s the final weekend of the regular season

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster and @phillipshoops.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Wofford, Baylor, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Ohio State, Auburn and N.C. State.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

MURRAY STATE (NET: 52, SOS: 215): The Racers don’t have to worry about the bubble anymore after clinching an autobid over Belmont in the OVC title game. Ja Morant and Murray State are back into the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. Learn all about this dangerous double-digit seed here.

SETON HALL (NET: 61, SOS: 27): No bubble team in the country had a better week than Seton Hall. After Saturday’s Big East win at home over Villanova (25), the Pirates have now knocked off the Big East’s two best teams in back-to-back games with their backs against the wall. Following the win over Marquette earlier this week, Seton Hall should feel comfortable about likely getting in. Now standing a very solid 6-6 in Q1 games, Seton Hall is all but assured an at-large entry on Selection Sunday. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Pirates perform in the Big East Tournament because they’ve been one of the most inconsistent teams in the country. A three-game winning streak turned into a three-game losing streak and now Seton Hall just took down the league’s two top teams. Who knows what we’ll see in the postseason?

TCU (NET: 53, SOS: 34): Massive Q1 road win for TCU over another bubble team in Texas (34) on Saturday as both were in an uncomfortable position. The Horned Frogs can feel a little bit safer knowing they earned potentially the biggest bubble win of the day with this Q1 road victory. Although TCU has been shaky in the Big 12 (7-11) with just average Q1 (3-8) and Q2 (5-4) results, this could be the win that gives them a little bit of breathing room heading into the Big 12 tournament. Beating Texas stopped a three-game slide and also hurts another bubble team in the process. It would certainly help the Horned Frogs to get another win or two in the Big 12 tournament, but this win on Saturday was a home run for now.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 80): The Owls might have just solidified an at-large bid thanks to a Q1 home win over UCF (26) on Saturday. Winners of six of their last seven games, Temple has been teetering on the bubble because of a soft recent conference schedule. Knocking off the Knights pushes the Owls to a 3-6 record against Q1 teams coupled with a solid 5-1 record in Q2 scenarios. Even more important for Temple, the UCF win provides Q1 insurance, as Missouri (75) is right on the edge of becoming a Q2 win. With high-quality wins over Houston (6) and UCF, that could be enough to get the Owls into the Field of 68 in Fran Dunphy’s final season.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 80, SOS: 81): A bizarre trip to the Midwest for the Hoyas this week as they followed up a blowout loss to DePaul (98) with a shocking road win over Marquette (29) on Saturday. The Hoyas still have very shaky computer metrics thanks to a very underwhelming non-conference schedule. They’ve also knocked off the two best teams in the Big East as they’ve proven themselves to be a dangerous opponent in conference play. Even with this Q1 road win (to move the Hoyas to 4-6 in that mark), they likely need to pick off a few teams at Madison Square Garden next week to get in. Marquette is doing everything they can to keep the Big East bubble teams afloat these last few games, and Georgetown will thankfully take its extended bubble life for another week.

INDIANA (NET: 55, SOS: 48): Suddenly-surging Indiana has won four straight games to get themselves firmly back in the at-large picture. Sunday saw the Hoosiers take down Rutgers (97) at home for a Q3 victory. While knocking off the Scarlet Knights isn’t going to give Indiana a significant jump, at this point in the season, any win helps. It also gives Indiana a matchup in the Big Ten tournament against another bubble team in Ohio State in the 8/9 game next week. Depending on what the Buckeyes do later on Sunday, that game could be a win-and-get-in/loser-goes-home scenario that could make for a must-see matchup.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 71, SOS: 67): Helping its cause with a road win over in-state rival Arizona (89), the Sun Devils continued their solid play down the stretch. Beating the Wildcats means Arizona State has won five of their last six games — including two straight on the road. This Q2 win pushes the Sun Devils to a solid 8-2 record against that group while they remain a decent 3-3 against Q1 teams. If Arizona State avoids a bad loss in the Pac-12 tournament (and there are plenty of opportunities for pitfalls) then they should be able to be the second Pac-12 team to make the Big Dance.

CLEMSON (NET: 40, SOS: 32): The Tigers did what they needed to do in knocking off Syracuse (42) for a Q2 home win. For a team currently hovering at “First Four Out” status, getting two wins this week just helps keep the Tigers in the at-large picture. Now 6-3 in Q2 games, it’s the 1-9 mark against Q1 opponents that has Clemson concerned at this point in the season. It will likely come down to the ACC tournament in terms of the Tigers getting into the field as they need to continue to win at this point in the season.

CREIGHTON (NET: 54, SOS: 14): Pulling out a home win over DePaul (98), this Q3 victory won’t do too much to enhance Creighton’s credibility. But as a team sitting in “Last Four In” status entering this game, avoiding a loss is just as important. The win for the Bluejays earns them a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as they get a dangerous Xaver team in the opening matchup. Creighton will need to take care of the Musketeers if they want to keep its tourney hopes in tact.

N.C. STATE (NET: 35, SOS: 211): Avoiding a bad loss was more important than the win N.C. State earned over Boston College (113) on Saturday. Although the Eagles are an ACC bottomfeeder, the road win still merits a Q2 result — pushing the Pack to a very solid 6-0 in that category. But, as we’ve discussed all season, N.C. State’s dreadful strength of schedule is going to be the fascinating subplot for them the rest of the season. With a comparable SOS to mid-major teams on this list like Belmont and Murray State (see below), how will the committee evaluate a team like N.C. State on Selection Sunday? The 2-8 record in Q1 territory doesn’t help. Continuing to win is really the only recipe to ensure that the Wolfpack get in.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 57, SOS: 116): Advancing to the SoCon tournament finals with a win over another bubble team in Furman (41), UNC Greensboro continues to help its cause. Knocking out the Paladins not only helps the Spartans with a Q1 win — it also hurts one of the teams UNC Greensboro is directly competing with for an at-large bid. The Spartans are now 2-5 in Q1 games with Sunday’s result. Facing another Q1 opponent in Wofford in the SoCon finals will also help UNC Greensboro — regardless of outcome. The win would obviously take the Spartans off the bubble and into the Field of 68 with the autobid. But even a loss to a Q1 team like Wofford is going to continue to elevate UNC Greensboro’s rapidly-rising SOS — which is continuing to look even better when compared to other mid-major bubble teams like Belmont, Lipscomb and Furman.

VCU (NET: 31, SOS: 49): Knocking off Saint Joseph’s (171) for a home win won’t do much to help VCU’s at-large cause. Beating the Hawks at home is only good enough for a Q4 win at this point in the season. Avoiding the disastrous Q4 loss is the most important thing about Friday’s win for the Rams. Winning the A-10 regular season by two full games, VCU should continue to win in order to feel safe next weekend.

LOSERS

BELMONT (NET: 45, SOS: 192): It’s going to be a long week for the Bruins. Falling to Murray State (52) in the OVC title game, Belmont is hoping other bubble teams continue to lose while bid poachers don’t knock off teams like Buffalo or Wofford. On the bright side, if Belmont was going to lose to anyone in this OVC title game, falling to a Q1 opponent like Murray State is as good as they could have hoped for. With a 2-1 record against Q1 teams and a 3-2 mark against Q2 opponents, Belmont’s profile has a lot to like. But the mediocre strength of schedule, coupled with a mediocre 3-2 mark against Q3 opponents, could hurt the Bruins on Selection Sunday. Ultimately, Belmont, Furman and Lipscomb will be the major test cases for the committee as they weigh the merits of picking a quality mid-major program or a barely-.500 power conference team with better computer numbers.

FURMAN (NET: 41, SOS: 182): Furman might be in bubble trouble after falling to UNC Greensboro (57) in the SoCon semifinals. The Paladins drop a Q2 game with the loss, but it came to one of their main bubble competitors while eliminating a chance to get a crack at Wofford. Sitting at 1-5 against Q1 teams and 3-1 versus Q2 teams, Furman might not have enough to get into the field after a full week of other bubble teams earning wins. Adding to the glut of mid-major bubble teams with no more games like Belmont and Lipscomb, it’s going to be fascinating to see how this week unfolds and where that group stands by the end of it.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 42, SOS: 210): It might be an even longer week for Lipscomb after the Bisons lost at home to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament title game. The Q2 loss drops Lipscomb to 1-3 against that group while they’re 2-3 against Q1 teams. On the positive side, the Bisons only have one Q3 loss (3-1 overall) and no Q4 losses as they’ve beaten most of the teams they’re supposed to take care of. But now that both Belmont and Lipscomb are vying for an at-large bid, the Bisons could be in dangerous territory. Belmont has a slightly better NET, SOS and a winning record against both Q1 and Q2 opponents. Much like the Bruins, Lipscomb likely needs a lot of things to go its way this week if they want to get in the field.

OHIO STATE (NET: 52, SOS: 59): Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin (15) has to really sting for the Buckeyes. With a chance to earn a Q1 win that would give Ohio State some much-needed breathing room heading into the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes instead collapsed in overtime after rallying from 23 points down in the second half. Sitting at “Last Four Byes” status before a long weekend of bubble wins for other teams, the Buckeyes might be right on the edge of the cut line going into a very important all-bubble matchup against Indiana. Thursday’s No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed showdown against the Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament could very well decide an NCAA tournament bid with the loser of that one being left out in the cold. We’ll have to see how brackets look after this weekend, but it could come down to that simple result on Thursday.

TEXAS (NET: 34, SOS: 7): The perplexing bubble case of Texas just got even more confusing with a home loss to TCU (53). The Q2 loss means the Longhorns are now 4-4 in that group (meh…) but they still have a solid (for a bubble team) 5-9 mark against Q1 teams. Just how long can the goodwill of wins over North Carolina, Purdue and Kansas last? Texas is now 16-15 overall and many brackets have them right on the cusp of making it. And that was before this Saturday defeat. Now that they’ve lost to TCU, Texas likely needs at least one or two wins in the Big 12 tournament to have a shot at getting in. The Longhorns might be the biggest indicator of how the committee feels about strength of schedule and NET rating on Selection Sunday.

FLORIDA (NET: 34, SOS: 39): Just when Florida was trending in a great direction on a five-game winning streak a few weeks ago, the Gators have now lost three straight games entering the postseason. Saturday’s loss at Kentucky (5) isn’t a backbreaker — but the Gators also would have potentially punched their ticket with a Q1 win of that magnitude. The SEC tournament now becomes the focus for Florida. At only 3-11 against Q1 teams, if Florida can enhance that mark while earning some more wins, they might just be able to sneak into this field. For now, it feels like Mike White’s team is doing everything they can to play in the NIT.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 62, SOS: 69): Falling to Xavier (73) on the road, St. John’s continues to make its bubble life more difficult. Losing four of their last five games, the Red Storm are struggling entering a Big East tournament in which they now need to play a Wednesday play-in game to even make the quarterfinals as a No. 7 seed. Now 5-5 against Q1 teams, and 5-3 against Q2 teams, St. John’s desperately needs to win its opening game on Wednesday to avoid disaster. As long as St. John’s wins the opener, they should be okay but they certainly aren’t making things easy on the committee.

ALABAMA (NET: 57, SOS: 25): Dropping a third consecutive game, Alabama is in real trouble entering the SEC tournament. Falling to Arkansas (65) on the road, the Crimson Tide are now an underwhelming 3-9 in Q1 settings with a 6-3 record in the Q2 sector. Sitting at “First Four In” status in our latest bracket entering this game, this loss could push Alabama into risky territory as they’ll need to win a few games next week to get in. Given the way Alabama is limping into the postseason, that doesn’t seem very likely.

BUTLER (NET: 59, SOS: 20): It’s probably time to take Butler off the bubble after its latest loss to Providence (76). Losers of four of their last five games, the Bulldogs haven’t helped themselves at all over the last several weeks — even as other Big East bubble teams like Creighton, Georgetown and Seton Hall improve their chances. Now standing 16-15 overall with a suspect 1-10 record against Q1 opponents, a Q2 loss (now 8-3 there) is especially damaging for Butler. The Bulldogs need to likely win the Big East tournament to be dancing.

MINNESOTA (NET: 55, SOS: 40): Squandering a valuable opportunity for a Q1 road win at Maryland (28), the Golden Gophers probably didn’t hurt themselves too badly in defeat. After beating Purdue (12) earlier this week at home, Minnesota gave themselves a little bit of a bubble cushion. But this Maryland game is the kind of win that would have all but guaranteed Minnesota’s at-large hopes had they won. As it stands, the Gophers are now 3-9 in Q1 scenarios and 7-3 against Q2. Richard Pitino’s bunch doesn’t have any bad losses and their strength of schedule is solid. As long as they don’t bow out in the first Big Ten Tournament game, it feels like they should be safe.

Monday’s Overreactions: P.J. Washington is Jordan Bone, Matt Painter Coach of the Year, Coby White’s week

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Coby White, North Carolina

He’s not the most consistent and he may not even be the best, but it’s becoming increasingly evident that the most dangerous player on the North Carolina roster is freshman point guard Coby White.

The 6-foot-5 White put together his best week of the season in UNC’s wins over Syracuse and at Clemson, as he averaged 31.0 points, 5.0 boards and 4.0 assists while shooting 60 percent from the floor and 12-for-22 (54.5%) from three. Included in there was a career-high 34 points in the win over the Orange.

What makes this notable is that White had struggled in UNC’s previous three games, totaling 29 points and 11 turnovers while shooting just 29.7 percent from the floor and 18.8 percent from three, but the Tar Heels went 3-0 in that stretch. They beat Duke by 16 points in Cameron Indoor Stadium on a night where White had one of his worst games in Chapel Hill. They beat Florida State by 18 when he struggled. They were able to do those things because Luke Maye, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little all played great at one point or another.

On the nights they struggled, White carried the load.

That’s a long-winded way of stating the obvious: North Carolina has a half-dozen ways they can win on any given night, and considering that their best player — a streaky, shoot-first, tough-shot making freshman lead guard — is inherently inconsistent, knowing they can win on the nights where White doesn’t show up really raises the floor of what this group can be.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: UCF Knights

UCF landed what may go down as a top five win on the season on Saturday when they went into Houston and knocked off the Cougars.

Houston, as of this very moment, is ranked 6th in the NET. Kentucky, Tennessee, Duke, Virginia and Gonzaga are ranked ahead of them. Combined, those teams have lost four home games. Throw in Duke’s 34 point win over Kentucky on a neutral floor, and those are the only wins that are going to look better to the selection committee on team sheets on Selection Sunday.

As we wrote on Saturday evening, that is the win that UCF needed to put themselves in the NCAA tournament.

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

1. P.J. WASHINGTON IS TO KENTUCKY AS JORDAN BONE IS TO TENNESSEE

On Saturday, Tennessee smacked around Kentucky in Knoxville, getting revenge on the Wildcats for the beatdown they suffered in Rupp Arena just two weeks prior.

And while I know that this space is typically meant to be used as a place to house wild overreactions, I am finding it hard to say anything about this beyond the obvious: Kentucky is a really good basketball team that got whipped on the road by another really good basketball team, which is exactly the way that I feel about Tennessee.

If anything, the takeaway here should be that Tennessee needs Jordan Bone to be great if they are going to hit their ceiling, which is something I wrote about after that game ended.

But along those same lines, Kentucky needs P.J. Washington to be great if they are going to be great. The Wildcats leapt into the national consciousness as a top five team and a potential No. 1 seed right around the time that Washington’s 10-game stretch of utter dominance started, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that in the last two games — where Washington has averaged 11.0 points while shooting 4-13 from the floor — Kentucky has struggled.

Here’s to hoping we get a rubber match between these two teams in Nashville next week.

2. IF PURDUE WINS THE BIG TEN, MATT PAINTER SHOULD BE COACH OF THE YEAR

There are a number of guys out there that deserve to be in the mix for National Coach of the Year based on the way that their have performed this season. The job that Kelvin Sampson has done turning Houston into a top ten team is remarkable. Scott Drew has done a masterful job getting Baylor into the NCAA tournament picture despite the fact that he team has been decimated by injuries, and he might not even be the Big 12 Coach of the Year — Chris Beard and Bruce Weber would have a strong case if they end up snapping the Kansas streak for Big 12 titles. John Calipari has completely turned around this season for Kentucky. John Beilein should be in the mix, as should Nate Oats of Buffalo and Mike Young of Wofford. There is no shortage of nominees.

But for my money, if Matt Painter ends up winning the outright Big Ten title this season, then he will be my National Coach of the Year.

As it stands, Purdue sits all alone in first place in the Big Ten, the toughest conference in college basketball, according to KenPom, and a league where everyone has to play 20 league games. If Purdue wins at Minnesota and Northwestern this week, they’ll be outright champions despite the fact that there are two top ten teams in the conference, they lost four senior starters off of last year’s roster and that their supporting cast around Carsen Edwards is not all that impressive.

Ryan Cline is a shotmaker that can’t do all that much else. Nojel Eastern is a defender that can’t really make shots. Matt Haarms is fine. Grady Eifert is a good role player. Trevion Williams has emerged as a solid freshman, same with Aaron Wheeler, but we’re not exactly talking about Romeo Langford here. Evan Boudreaux is a transfer from Dartmouth.

And Purdue is now 14-2 in Big Ten games played in 2019.

That deserves all the recognition in the world.

For me, that would include National Coach of the Year.

3. BUT LET’S NOT FORGET LSU’S WILL WADE

The job that Will Wade has done this season is absolutely remarkable.

He has kept a team together that had a player murdered on the evening before the first practice of the season. He has managed to keep winning games despite the fact that he has a cloud hanging over him from the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball; he was subpoenaed to testify in court in April at the final trial for the people charged in this case.

And through all of that, LSU is currently two wins away from taking home at least a share of the SEC regular season title despite sharing a conference with a pair of top ten teams in Kentucky and Tennessee. Should I mention that they beat both of those teams in league play this year?

What that team has accomplished is amazing considering what those young men have gone through in the last five months.

Wade should get plenty of credit for that.

4. WHAT’S LESS LIKELY: A PAC-12 TEAM WINNING A TOURNAMENT GAME OR A BIG EAST TEAM GETTING OUT OF THE FIRST WEEKEND?

Washington, who was supposed to be the one team from the Pac-12 that might have a chance to make something happen in the NCAA tournament this season, lost at Cal on Thursday night.

Gross.

Marquette, who was supposed to be the one team from the Big East that had a chance to make a run to the Final Four in March, lost twice this week, blowing leads at Villanova and at home against Creighton.

Gross.

5. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE BUBBLE TEAM SETTING A RECORD FOR FUTILITY

It’s baffling just how many mediocre to bad teams are still in the mix when it comes to the NCAA tournament.

Indiana is 15-14 this season, but as we detailed on Saturday, this is a program that very much has a resume that is strong enough to get into the NCAA tournament mix if they can finish the season strong. Creighton is 15-13 against Division I competition, and they are still in the bubble picture after beating Marquette on the road on Sunday evening. Arizona State has two Q3 and two Q4 losses. Texas has lost 13 games and they’re comfortably in the tournament right now. Florida and Alabama have lost 12 games apiece, and they’re likely going to be dancing. N.C. State played the second-worst non-conference schedule in the country, and they aren’t even in a play-in game in our most recent bracket update.

What we desperately need to happen is for all hell to break loose in certain one-bid leagues. Gonzaga has to get picked off by someone in the WCC tournament. Nevada and Utah State need to get beaten in the Mountain West tournament. Wofford needs to lose in the SoCon tournament. Buffalo needs to get upset in the MAC tournament. Murray State needs to pick off Belmont in the OVC tournament title game. And, as weird as this sounds, we need someone other than Washington and Arizona State to win the Pac-12 tournament.

If all of those things happen, we’re looking at six at-larges bids going up in smoke.

So let’s raise a glass to all those big thieves out there.

This is your year to shine.

Get it done and save us from a 15-loss at-large bid.

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

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We’re just under two weeks away from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show, and the race is on for the coveted spots along the No. 1 seed line.

Gonzaga seems like a lock to lead the West Region.  At this point, a loss in the West Coast Conference tournament will do little to change the Zags’ overall profile.  What it would do, however, is send ripples along the bubble, because as we stand now, the WCC appears to be a one-bid league.

Tennessee earns the final No. 1 seed today.  Kentucky and North Carolina are equally strong contenders.  And let’s not sleep on Michigan if the Wolverines win their rematch against Michigan State and surge to a Big 10 tournament title.  We also have another matchup between Duke and UNC as we await news about the availability of Zion Williamson.

NBC Sports Top 25 | Bubble Watch

On a housekeeping note … with conference tournaments beginning this week, we’ve eliminated the CAPS referring to automatic bids; those will be reserved now as teams officially punch their tickets (exceptions made for teams traditionally known by their acronym – such as VCU).

UPDATED: March 4, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Seton Hall
WEST REGION Minnesota vs. Arizona State
EAST REGION Iona vs. Norfolk State
WEST REGION Prairie View vs. St. Francis (PA)

EAST Washington, DC   WEST – Anaheim        
Columbia Salt Lake City
1) Virginia 1) Gonzaga
16) Iona / Norfolk St 16) Prairie View / St. Francis
8) Auburn 8) Syracuse
9) St. John’s 9) VCU
San Jose Hartford
5) Mississippi State 5) Kansas State
12) Temple / Seton Hall 12) Minnesota / Arizona St
4) Kansas 4) Florida State
13) UC-Irvine 13) Vermont
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Villanova 6) Nevada
11) Texas 11) Florida
3) LSU 3) Texas Tech
14) Yale 14) Texas State
Des Moines Des Moines
7) Buffalo 7) Louisville
10) Utah State 10) TCU
2) Michigan State 2) Michigan
15) Loyola-Chicago 15) Montana
MIDWEST – Kansas City SOUTH – Louisville
Columbus Columbia
1) Tennessee 1) Duke
16) Campbell 16) Sam Houston St
8) Washington 8) Baylor
9) Oklahoma 9) Ole Miss
San Jose Hartford
5) Virginia Tech 5) Maryland
12) Lipscomb 12) Belmont
4) Wisconsin 4) Marquette
13) New Mexico St 13) Old Dominion
Salt Lake City Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Cincinnati
11) Alabama 11) NC State
3) Houston 3) Purdue
14) South Dakota St 14) Hofstra
Jacksonville Columbus
7) Wofford 7) Iowa
10) Ohio State 10) UCF
2) North Carolina 2) Kentucky
15) Colgate 15) Wright State

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Florida Minnesota Georgetown Providence
Texas Arizona State Clemson Memphis
NC State Temple Furman UNC-Greensboro
Alabama Seton Hall Xavier Creighton

TOP SEED LINE: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, and Tennessee

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): PURDUE, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas

SEC (8): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, UCF, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Iona (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Campbell (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Colgate (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Bubble Banter: Indiana is back on the bubble

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Wofford, Baylor, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Ohio State, Auburn and N.C. State.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 73): We wrote all about the Knights’ win here.

INDIANA (NET: 58, SOS: 179): Look, I get it. Indiana is 15-14 on the season. They are 6-12 in the Big Ten. They have been a massive disappointment based off of what the expectations were for this team back in November. But after knocking off No. 6 Michigan State in Bloomington on how many teams in all of college basketball can match these five wins: A sweep of Michigan State (6), Wisconsin (15), Marquette (21), Louisville (25). They also won at Penn State (50) and beat Butler (55) on a neutral.

Overall, Indiana is 6-9 in Q1 games. All 14 of their losses have come against Q1 and Q2 competition. And in a year where we are talking about teams without anything even remotely close to a quality win on their resume, Indiana, at the very least, is in the thick of the conversation.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 27): Creighton landed an enormous win on Sunday, as they went into Milwaukee and picked off Marquette (19), landing by far their best win of the season. The Bluejays are just 15-13 on the season against Division I competition, but if we’re considering Texas and Indiana for at-large bids, then we have to put Creighton into the mix as well. Why? Because they now have a marquee win to add to a profile that is not nearly as bad as you might think. They now have three Q1 wins — Clemson (40) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72) — and currently sit at 9-13 against Q1 and Q2 competition. Their worst loss of the season came at Xavier (70) and they played the No. 11 schedule in all of college basketball.

The Bluejays finish out the season with DePaul and Providence at home. They need to win both of those and probably win at least a game or two in the Big East tournament to really feel comfortable. They have some ground to make up, but in a year where the bubble is this weak, they’re very much in the mix.

TEXAS (NET: 37, SOS: 9): The Longhorns absolutely blitzed a short-handed Iowa State (14) on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak in Big 12 play. Texas, like Indiana, is now sitting in a spot where their ugly record (15-13 overall, 8-8 in Big 12 play) is overshadowed by the number of good wins that they have landed. The Longhorns beat North Carolina (8) on a neutral. They beat Purdue (12), Iowa State (14) and Kansas (17) in Austin. They won at Kansas State (28) by 20. Add those wins to a 5-8 mark against Q1, a 9-11 record against Q1 and Q2 combined and two bad losses — Providence (77) and Radford (130) at home — and you’re looking at a mediocre team with a resume that is top heavy.

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 116): This was the win that Utah State needed. Playing at home against the best that the MWC has to offer — No. 12 Nevada (19) — the Aggies landed the marquee win that their resume was missing. The Aggies are now 2-2 against Q1 opponents with a neutral court win over Saint Mary’s (39), and while they do have a couple of losses that bring the resume down — at San Diego State (128) and Fresno State (88) at home — this is a win that should put the Aggies on the right side of the bubble heading into Monday. If they can pick off Colorado State in Fort Collins next Tuesday, they’ll win a share of the MWC regular season title and they should be dancing.

FURMAN (NET: 47, SOS: 200): Furman’s SoCon regular season came to an end on Saturday with a win at Chattanooga, meaning that the Palladins will head into the conference tournament with an outside chance of getting an at-large bid. And frankly, when it comes down to it, the decision that the committee is likely going to be put to is whether or not they like the profile of a team like Furman — or UNC Greensboro, or Lipscomb, or Belmont, or anyone that didn’t stockpile games against Q1 opponents — or a team like the two you see above, Texas and Indiana.

Furman has a marquee win at Villanova. They also have a Q4 loss at home against Samford. Other than that, they’ve lost five Q1 games of which four were league opponents. They finished 21-6 on the season against Division I opponents. They have a non-conference SOS that ranks 281st. It’s hardly a perfect resume, which begs the question — are you more impressed by teams that take advantage of the one or two chances they get to play power conference teams, or by the teams that stockpile good-to-great wins a third of the time they get to play them?

There are no good answers, so my vote would be for the mid-majors.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 61, SOS: 118): The Spartans are in basically the same spot as Furman after beating Mercer on Saturday. They don’t have the elite win — their Q1 win is at East Tennessee State (65) — but they also don’t have a bad loss.

VCU (NET: 36, SOS: 39): It wasn’t easy, but VCU got the job done at Richmond, winning a rivalry game, 69-66, and avoiding what would have been their third Q3 loss of the year. The Rams are in pretty good shape at this point, but with every game left on their schedule a potential bad loss, they really want to win out.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 63, SOS: 84): The Sun Devils got a big boost this weekend. Not only did they beat Oregon State (83) on the road to add their seventh Q2 win to their resume, but Utah State (30) beat Nevada, helping boost their NET ranking; ASU beat Utah State on a neutral. The Sun Devils are 3-3 against Q1, but they also have two Q3 losses and two Q4 losses.

TEMPLE (NET: 56, SOS: 67): The Owls did what they needed to do to keep themselves in contention for an at-large bid — they knocked off a bad Tulane team. At this point, I don’t think that they can afford another loss and stay on the right side of the bubble.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 74, SOS: 89): Georgetown moved to 18-11 on the season on Saturday, picking up a double-overtime win over Seton Hall (64) in D.C. The Hoyas profile is not great, but it might be better than you think. They have three Q1 wins and a 9-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have a pair of Q3 losses — SMU (106) at home and Loyola-Marymount (148) on a neutral court. The more damaging part of their profile might be their non-conference schedule, which ranks 248th. The committee has shown in the past that they punish teams who don’t schedule tough.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners smoked West Virginia, which means basically nothing beyond avoiding a bad loss on their resume. Because as it stands, that’s the best thing about Oklahoma’s resume right now. They are 3-9 against Q1 opponents — Wofford (18), Florida on a neutral (29), at TCU (43) — with seven Q2 wins and no bad losses. I think they need a split in their last two games — Kansas (17) and at Kansas State (28).

BELMONT (NET: 50, SOS: 222): The Bruins smacked around SEMO on Saturday night. They finished the regular season with a 24-4 record and a 16-2 mark in the OVC. They swept Lipscomb (46), they won at Murray State (52) and they beat UCLA (108) in Pauley Pavilion. They’re 5-1 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have three Q3 losses. The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Murray State in the OVC tournament.

MURRAY STATE (NET: 54, SOS: 286): Murray State is in a similar spot to Belmont in that they ended the regular season with a gaudy record in a mediocre league. They also only have a chance of getting an at-large if they lose to Belmont in the OVC tournament. The difference is that I think they are in a much more difficult position. The Racers lost both of the Q1 games they’ve played and their best win is a sweep of Austin Peay (129).

LIPSCOMB (NET: 46, SOS: 206): It’s a longshot for Lipscomb, but there is still a chance thanks to a pair of Q1 wins — at TCU (43) and at Liberty (62). The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun title game, but even that might not be enough.

LOSERS

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 38): Clemson lost another heartbreaker on Saturday, this time falling by two points at home against a North Carolina team that would have been the marquee win that this team is sorely missing. The Tigers are 17-12 overal. They have one top 45 win — Virginia Tech (11) at home without Justin Robinson — and while they don’t have any bad losses, they are 5-12 against Q1 and Q2. That’s not good enough, and with at Notre Dame (102) and Syracuse (44) left on their schedule, this was their last chance in the regular season to land a resume-changing win.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 49): Just when we thought that the Gators had finally figured things out, they go and they lose to Georgia (109) at home. Florida had won five straight games prior to Saturday night, but none of those wins were all that impressive. They have just one top 35 win — at LSU (13) — and while they sit at 3-9 against Q1 opponents, two of those three Q1 wins are at Alabama (49) and at Arkansas (74). They also have a pair of Q3 losses — tonight’s loss to Georgia and a loss at home to South Carolina (86).

And here’s the craziest part — Florida was a No. 10 seed in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection entering the weekend.

ALABAMA (NET: 49, SOS: 32): If you want an idea of why Indiana has a really, really good chance of getting into the NCAA tournament, all you need to know is that entering today, most brackets had Alabama on the right side of the bubble. They were a No. 11 seed in our most recent bracket projection. After a loss to No. 13 LSU at home, the Tide are now 17-12 on the season and 8-8 in the SEC. They are 2-9 against Q1 — Kentucky (5) and Mississippi State (20) at home — with a home loss to Georgia State (133) in the mix as well. If that resume isn’t even in a play-in game, is Indiana’s really that much worse?

TCU (NET: 42, SOS: 42): The Horned Frogs got whipped up on by Texas Tech at home on Saturday, dropping them to 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12. They have a sweep of Iowa State (14) on their resume, and they also beat Florida (29) at home. With no bad losses to their name, that’s enough to keep them on the right side of the bubble fairly comfortably. That said, they’ve now lost five of six and seven of ten and they still get Kansas State (28) and at Texas (36) before the season is over. Can they get a bid at 6-12 in league play?

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling in double-overtime at Georgetown (71). As it stands, Seton Hall’s resume is very borderline. They have wins over Kentucky (5) on a neutral and at Maryland (26), and a 4-7 record against Q1 opponents is good. But they also lost at home to DePaul (111) and Saint Louis (121), both Q3 losses. Here’s the best news: the Pirates close the regular season by hosting both Villanova (27) and Marquette (21). They’ll have two more shots to land top 30 Q1 wins.

SAINT MARY’S (NET: 39, SOS: 46): The Gaels missed their chance to land a win that would have gotten them on the right side of the bubble, losing at home to No. 1 Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has no top 50 wins. They have one Q1 win — at New Mexico State (51) — and are sitting at just 3-8 against Q1 and Q2 opponents with three Q3 losses. Smarter people than me have Saint Mary’s firmly in the bubble mix, and at this point it has me questioning whether or not those people are actually smarter than me.

BUTLER (NET: 52, SOS: 20): The Bulldogs dropped to 15-14 on the season with a 21 point loss at Villanova (27). With games left against Xavier (70) and at Providence (77), they won’t be able to add to their resume in any meaningful way. I think they’re done.

MEMPHIS (NET: 53, SOS: 44): The Tigers had a shot if they had been able to win at Cincinnati (22) on Saturday night, but they were not able to get it done. The Tigers have as many Q1 wins — UCF (30) at home — as they do Q3 losses — Charleston (114) on a neutral — and with nothing other than a home game against Tulsa (98) left, they are going to need to make an American tournament run to have a chance.

DAYTON (NET: 68, SOS: 94): The Flyers likely saw their at-large hopes go up in flames on Friday night, as they lost in overtime at home to Rhode Island (141), their second Q3 loss of the season to go along with precisely zero Q1 wins. It was a longshot to get onto the right side of the cut-line, and this ends it.