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Bucknell’s Nate Sestina becomes Kentucky’s latest grad-transfer addition

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After a breakout redshirt junior year, Bucknell’s Nate Sestina is headed to the big time.

The forward from Emporium, Penn. will graduate transfer to Kentucky and finish his career with the Wildcats next season, he announced Thursday.

“It’s been an amazing ride from Emporium to Bucknell and everywhere in between, and it’s surreal to think my college basketball career isn’t over yet,” Sestina wrote on social media. “I’m humbled to get started with @KentuckyMBB! Need to thank God, my family, my coaches, teammates and @UKCoachCalipari #BBN”

Sestina follows in the footsteps of Reid Travis, who finished his career in Lexington this past season after spending four years with Stanford. Sestina, though, gives Kentucky something Travis couldn’t – a floor spacer in the post.

The 6-foot-9 forward shot 38 percent on over 100 3-point attempts last season as he averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He shot 80.5 percent from the free-throw line and 53.6 percent from the floor overall. It was a major step forward after Sestina averaged just 6.5 points in 14.9 minutes per game the previous season. He redshirted the 2015-16 season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

He’ll also provide what Travis did for John Calipari – a veteran and experienced voice on the floor and in the locker room for what figures to be, as is every season, a young Kentucky team.

Introducing Cinderella: Colgate makes NCAA tournament for first time in 23 years

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Colgate is heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 23 years after defeating Bucknell for a 94-80 home win. The program’s first NCAA trip since back-to-back appearances in 1995 and 1996, the Raiders will enter the NCAA tournament riding an impressive 11-game winning streak.

On Wednesday night, sophomore Jordan Burns was the hero for Colgate as he finished with a career-high 35 points on a blistering 6-for-9 performance from three-point range. With Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas (14 points, eight rebounds) battling foul trouble, Burns and junior forward Will Rayman (18 points, seven rebounds) stepped up to put the game away after Bucknell made an early second-half run.

CONFERENCE: Patriot League

COACH: Matt Langel

RECORD: 24-10, 13-5 in the Patriot League

RATINGS:

  • KENPOM: 133
  • NET: 135

PROJECTED SEED: Colgate projects as a No. 15 seed in our latest NBC Sports bracket. Although the Raiders are riding a recent winning streak, they don’t have great metrics nor any notable wins.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas (16.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is a double-double threat who can also extend the floor with 43 percent three-point shooting. The former Northwestern transfer has been a revelation at Colgate as the junior is finally healthy after two years of shoulder issues. Sophomore Jordan Burns (15.1 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.2 rpg) is another notable threat at lead guard while junior forward Will Rayman (13.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 apg) is the team’s third double-figure scorer.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: Going 0-4 against Q1 and Q2 teams this season, Colgate’s two best wins of the season are home wins over Bucknell. The Raiders lost to Syracuse, Penn State, USF and Pitt — all by double-digits. With three Q4 losses to Boston (228), Loyola-Maryland (280) and Navy (281) the Raiders are also susceptible to some duds against bad teams.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: One of the hotter teams entering the 2019 NCAA tournament, Colgate has won 11 straight games. Three-point shooting will be the key for the Raiders to stay with a top seed as they’re a very good 38.6 percent as a team on the season (19th in the nation). Defensively, Colgate is No. 203 in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency, so the Raiders will almost assuredly need a hot-shooting night to win in the tournament.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: Colgate doesn’t have a lot of men’s basketball notoriety but the program did produce NBA veteran big man Adonal Foyle — as he helped the Raiders to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 1995 and ’96. U.S. Congressman Antonio Delgado (New York’s 19th congressional district) is also a men’s basketball alum of Colgate who played from 1995 through 1999.

FINAL THOUGHT: This is what Championship Week and March Madness is all about. Even though Colgate is likely to get bounced in the opening round, seeing the Raiders make their first NCAA tournament appearance in 23 years is a really fun storyline. And with Ivanauskas, Burns and Rayman all retaining eligibility after this season, this could be a nice building-block for Colgate heading into what could be another great year next season.

Bracketology: Kentucky returns to top line

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Kentucky began its bracket journey last October as the projected No. 1 seed in the South Region.  As March nears, the Wildcats return to the top line, holding the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.  For context, UK has lost just twice since the start of 2019, by a combined four points.

Duke continues as the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia and Gonzaga.  Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan State and Michigan remain in the top-seed discussion.  All eight have a lot at stake these next three weeks.

The cutline is equally compelling.  Will some early contenders make late runs to regain a look?  Will teams like Texas, Minnesota, and Ohio State hold on?  Will this be the year we see an at-large bid or two granted to deserving mid-majors?  The Madness is about to begin.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 25, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Alabama
MIDWEST REGION UCF vs. Utah State
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION PRAIRIE VIEW vs. RIDER

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                           
Columbia Columbus
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / NORFOLK ST 16) SAM HOUSTON ST
8) Ole Miss 8) St. John’s
9) Oklahoma 9) TCU
Salt Lake City San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Maryland
12) Temple / Alabama 12) BELMONT
4) Kansas 4) KANSAS STATE
13) OLD DOMINION 13) VERMONT
Jacksonville Hartford
6) Louisville 6) Virginia Tech
11) Arizona State 11) Texas
3) LSU 3) Purdue
14) YALE 14) TEXAS STATE
Des Moines Columbia
7) BUFFALO 7) Villanova
10) VCU 10) Ohio State
2) Michigan 2) Tennessee
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) WRIGHT STATE
MIDWEST – Kansas City WEST – Anaheim
Columbus Salt Lake City
1) KENTUCKY 1) GONZAGA
16) BUCKNELL 16) PR VIEW / RIDER
8) Baylor 8) WOFFORD
9) Syracuse 9) Auburn
San Jose Tulsa
5) Florida State 5) NEVADA
12) UCF / Utah State 12) LIPSCOMB
4) Wisconsin 4) Texas Tech
13) UC-IRVINE 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Hartford Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Mississippi State
11) Minnesota 11) Seton Hall
3) MARQUETTE 3) HOUSTON
14) HOFSTRA 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Jacksonville Des Moines
7) Cincinnati 7) WASHINGTON
10) Florida 10) NC State
2) North Carolina 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) RADFORD 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Texas Temple Butler Dayton
Minnesota Alabama Clemson UNC-Greensboro
Arizona State UCF Georgetown Davidson
Seton Hall Utah State Furman Murray State

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, Texas

SEC (8): KENTUCKY, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama

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

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

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), Rider (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), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

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

Monday’s Three Things To Know: Baylor keeps winning, Tar Heels stay surging and Bucknell caps a thriller

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1. BAYLOR BOLSTERS RESUME

It wasn’t even two weeks ago when Baylor was sitting in last place in the Big 12 with a 2-7 league record, the owners of a four-game losing streak and losers of six of their last seven. The Bears didn’t begin the season as Big 12 frontrunners or anything, but as January came to an end, they were undoubtedly the biggest disappointment in the conference.

That was then, though, and this is now, which happens to be a time when the Bears are squarely back in the NCAA tournament conversation after defeating Texas, 74-73 in double overtime, in Austin on Monday night to claim their-fourth straight win heading into a weekend matchup with No. 7 Texas Tech in Lubbock.

It’s been a stark turnaround for Scott Drew’s team, which look destined to languish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings and miss out on the Big Dance for the first time since 2013. Before February started, Baylor had zero road wins and only two top-50 KenPom victories to their name. Now? The Bears have wins at Texas and at Oklahoma State while doubling their KP top-50 wins. It’s a turnaround that borders on stunning given how quickly Baylor has played its way into tournament consideration. And West Virginia and Oklahoma still have to come to Waco, so the Bears will have ample opportunity to really build that resume without even leaving the Ferrell Center.

As big as the win was for Baylor, it’s equally distressing for Shaka Smart and the Longhorns, who have now lost three in a row and four of their last five. Now they’ve got back-to-back road games against Oklahoma and Kansas State on the docket, which threatens to turn this skid into a prolonged slide.

The Big 12 is a jumbled mess of parity right now. Rob Dauster does his best to parse the league in Monday night’s Bubble Banter.

2. TAR HEELS STAY SURGING

North Carolina has recovered nicely from the three-game losing streak it suffered to end January, and that resume rehabilitation continued Monday as the knocked off shorthanded Notre Dame, 83-66, with a late push that turned a tight game into a snooze.

The Tar Heels ended last month with losses at Virginia Tech and Clemson and a loss in Chapel Hill (in overtime) to NC State, but have since reeled off wins Pitt, Duke, the Wolfpack and now the Fighting Irish. No one is likely to catch Virginia in the ACC race, but North Carolina is doing its best to buoy its seed line in the regular season’s final month.

As for the close to the season for UNC, it’s, well, a bit of a killer. The Heels go to Louisville and Syracuse before hosting Miami and then hitting the road again to visit the Blue Devils in Durham to finish the regular season. It’s an absolute meat grinder.

3. BUCKNELL COMPLETES HUGE COMEBACK

A 10-point deficit with under 60 seconds ought to be an insurmountable obstacle. Don’t try telling that to Bucknell, though.

The Bison completed an amazing comeback in the game’s final seconds when Kimbal Mackenzie drilled a corner 3 as time expired to give Bucknell a one-point victory after staring defeat straight in the face just seconds earlier.

Click here for the blow-by-blow – and video of Mackenzie’s winner – of how the Bison mounted their comeback.

Introducing Cinderella: The Bucknell Bison are headed to the NCAA tournament

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Conference: Patriot League

Coach: Nathan Davis

Record: 26-8 (15-3 1st)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 81
RPI: 65
AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: A respectable RPI should keep Bucknell off the two bottom seed lines and on to something in the 14 range.

Names you need to know: Nana Foulland, and not just because it’s an awesome name. The 6-foot-9 junior is putting up 14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while shooting a scintillating 62.7 percent from the floor. Zach Thomas is Bucknell’s leading scorer at 16 points per game, and he also averages 6.5 boards per outing. Kimbal Mackenzie and Stephen Brown both average in double figures scoring.

Stats you need to know: The Bison’s overall strength of schedule would give them the look of cupcake killers, but if you dig a little deeper, it’s reason to think they might be able to pull off an upset. Sure, overall, it’s ranked 313th by KenPom in the country, but that was drug down by a Patriot League that didn’t offer a ton of resistance. In the non-con, Bucknell ranked in the upper half of the country in strength of schedule. It wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row, but the Bison were tested.

Big wins, bad losses: Bucknell topped Vanderbilt and Richmond in the non-conference, but a loss to Loyola (Md.) is a significant blip on the radar.

How’d they get here?: The Bison beat Army in the Patriot League opener and followed that up with a win against Navy. In the league title game, Bucknell held just a one-point halftime advantage over Lehigh, but outscored the Mountain Hawks by 15 in the second half to cruise to third NCAA tournament in the last six years.

Outlook: Bucknell has shown it can play with bigger programs this season, and a one-two punch of Thomas and Foulland is formidable, as is having a supporting cast like Mackenzie and Brown. The Bison could be a tricky out for a Power 5 team sneaking a peak to later in the week.

How do I know you?: Sorry, Kansas fans.

Patriot League Preview: Can anyone catch Lehigh?

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Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Patriot League.

The Patriot League is a conference with many familiar faces in 2015-16, which should make for a competitive race, one that could involve a handful of teams.

Lehigh should be pegged as the preseason favorite. The Mountain Hawks bring back four starters, none bigger than Tim Kempton, the 6-foot-10 junior who took home Patriot League Player of the Year honors last season. Kempton is joined by Kahron Ross, a playmaking point guard who led the league in assists, and Austin Price, the team’s second leading scorer from a season ago. Justin Goldsborough adds some support on the frontline, but the Lehigh back court took a hit this fall with Brandon Alston tore his ACL.

After seven seasons and a pair of NCAA tournament appearances, Dave Paulsen left Bucknell for George Mason. Nathan Davis, a former Bucknell assistant, steps into a good situation with four starters back from a team that won the regular season title in 2014-15. Chris Hass is one of the more gifted scorers in the league and anchors the perimeter, which includes Ryan Frazier and Stephen Brown. Nana Foulland, a 6-foot-9 forward who started every game last season, could be in for a monster sophomore campaign.

Boston University and Army both have their entire starting fives back from a season ago. The Black Knights didn’t have the season in envisioned, but the duo of Kyle Wilson, who has led the league in scoring at 17.5 points per game, and forward Tanner Plomb, who scored in double figures in all but three league games, can skyrocket them up the Patriot League standings. The Terriers have two double-digit scorers of their own in Cedric Hankerson and Eric Fanning. BU’s supporting cast should be more comfortable in their roles this season. Hankerson, who is recovering from an ACL tear, could be back in December, Joe Jones told ESPN.

Jesse Reed will attempt to lead American to another Patriot League Tournament title game (winning in 2014, losing in 2015), but he’ll have to do so without Pee-Wee Gardner. The Eagles could benefit from transfers Paris Maragkos and Leon Tolksdorf. Lafayette, the reigning champion, will likely take a step back, but guards Nick Lindner and Bryce Scott could keep things interesting in league play.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

COACH’S TAKE

  • Favorite: “I would say Lehigh. Anytime you bring back the player of the year, it’ll obviously give you an advantage. Having him (Tim Kempton) along with the rookie of the year, Kahron Ross, I think those two are one of the best tandems in the league.”
  • Sleeper: “Colgate. With some of the guys they had sitting out, I’d probably say them. They’re going to be so different compared to what they had last season. With so many new faces those guys will come in and provide meaningful stuff for them right away.”
  • Star to watch: “To me, it’ll be Kyle Wilson. In our league, he’s one of the most talented scorers. He can score in so many different ways.”

PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tim Kempton, Lehigh

The reigning Patriot League Player of the Year returns following a sophomore campaign averaging 15.3 points and a league-high 8.7 boards per game. Not many can handle the 6-foot-10 big man on the block. Adding to the mismatch, Kempton can also do damage with his mid-range game. Kempton and point guard Kahron Ross make for a lethal one-two punch in the Patriot League.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON PATRIOT LEAGUE TEAM:

  • Chris Hass, Bucknell: Ten times Hass went for 20 or more. Six happened in league play. Two more happened in back-to-back games: 21 against Michigan and 32 vs. Villanova.
  • Nick Lindner, Lafayette: The Patriot League Tournament MVP averaged 12.5 points, 5.2 assists per game.
  • Jesse Reed, American: The Eagles may be relying on new pieces this season, but they will expect the same offensive production from Reed, who averaged double figures in each of the last two seasons. The 6-foot-5 guard was a marathon man for American in 2014-15, never coming off the floor in 16 games.
  • Kyle Wilson, Army: The 6-foot-4 senior led the league in scoring the past two seasons.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @PL_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Lehigh
2. Bucknell
3. Boston University
4. Army
5. American
6. Lafayette
7. Colgate
8. Holy Cross
9. Loyola (Md.)
10. Navy