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Big East Offseason Reset: Will Villanova’s supremacy be challenged again?

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking Big East.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

HOW REAL IS THE COMPETITION AT THE TOP?: Villanova has won all but one regular season championship since the Big East went to 10 teams and the Wildcats will be favored again this year, but there does appear to be some serious challengers to their crown. The Wildcats have established themselves as one of the country’s premier programs with national titles in 2016 and 2018, and they’ve shown themselves more than capable of reloading when key players from hugely successful teams move on. Last year wasn’t a NCAA championship season, but it was still a winner and Jay Wright has to replace Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. He seems well positioned to do that with a number of returners and a top-tier recruiting class.

Still, Wright and the Wildcats aren’t going to waltz to a Big East title. Seton Hall looks to be extremely formidable with a strong group of returners, headlined by Myles Powell, with talent and experience. Xavier should be improved in Year 2 under Travis Steele while Creighton is an intriguing team. Villanova is the favorite, but its lead on the rest of the pack isn’t extensive.

Joey and Sam Hauser (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

HOW WILL MARQUETTE ABSORB THE LOSS OF THE HAUSER BROTHERS?: We had the Golden Eagles ranked fourth in our preseason rankings after Markus Howard returned to school, but when the shocking decision came from Sam and Joey Hauser to transfer out of Milwaukee, Steve Wojciechowski’s program slid all the way out of our top-25. In one fell swoop, Marquette went from legitimate title contender to perhaps a bubble team. It was, simply, a crushing blow.

The good news for the Golden Eagles is that Markus Howard eschewed the opportunity to go pro in order to return for his senior season, and he’ll be all over preseason All-American lists as one of the country’s best scorers. His presence alone makes Marquette both entertaining and interesting heading into next season, but will there be enough around him avoid a missed NCAA tournament for the fourth time in six years under Wojo?

WHAT WILL THE EVENTUAL ADDITION OF UCONN MEAN?: In a league where there’s been plenty of jockeying for position behind Villanova, the addition of Connecticut to the league – whenever it comes – is going to throw a lot of that into flux. The Huskies have taken a major hit since that 2014 title – their first year in the AAC – and a return to a more natural fit of a conference which emphasizes basketball under the leadership of Dan Hurley might be the catalyst needed to return the program to the heights it enjoyed over the previous two decades when national championships were the goal.

If that’s the case, the pecking order of the league is going to be an even tougher competition than it already is. If UConn is a winner in this move – and it’s hard to see how the Huskies aren’t – it wouldn’t be surprising to see there be a loser in the Big East. Does UConn coming back stifle Georgetown’s rebuild? Do things get tougher for Seton Hall or Providence? Honestly, Villanova might be the only program who isn’t, to some degree, threatened by the Huskies’ move back. Of course, UConn’s return to glory isn’t guaranteed by their return to the Big East, but how things all unwind will be fascinating to watch.

DOES PATRICK EWING’S GEORGETOWN RENAISSANCE CONTINUE?: The Hoyas got over the .500 hump in Patrick Ewing’s second season back at his alma mater in D.C., and they were sneakily one of the more entertaining teams (Non-Contender Category). James Akinjo and Mac McClung are a ton of fun as a freshman backcourt with energy and highlight-reel plays to spare. Still, the Hoyas took a step in the right direction with senior center Jessie Govan in the middle, and his departure will be a bigger burden on that young backcourt. There are reinforcements coming, however, with 7-footer Omer Yurtseven eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from NC State. There are some intriguing pieces here, and the Hoyas’ trajectory will be something to keep an eye on in Year 3 on the Ewing Era.

WHICH WAS DOES DEPAUL GO?: The first three years of Dave Leitao’s second stint with the Blue Demons were pretty devoid of success, with the program going 29-65 overall and 9-45 in the Big East, but there was progress last year as DePaul posted a 19-17 record with a mark of 7-11 in the conference. The question is, with a senior-heavy roster, was that the turning point or the pinnacle? If the Blue Demons can’t sustain that moderate level of success, Leitao may be leaving Chicago for the second time but without the promotion on this go-round.

IS XAVIER POISED FOR A JUMP?: A six-game losing streak last winter put the Musketeers at 3-8 in the Big East, leaving first-year coach Travis Steele in a tough spot as he tried to continue the success of now-Louisville coach Chris Mack. Xavier and Steele righted the ship, winning six of seven to finish the regular season and then advancing to the second round of the NIT where they lost in overtime in Austin to Texas. Ryan Welage and Zach Hankins are now gone, but but the core of Quentin Goodin, Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs  and Tyrique Jones welcoming a top-25 recruiting class, Xavier looks to be on solid footing.

Naji Marshall (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE

  • SAM and JOEY HAUSER, Marquette: It was one of the most surprising moves of the offseason, with the Wisconsin natives bolting to Virginia and Michigan State, respectively, and leaving the Golden Eagles behind. The Golden Eagles looked like title contenders with the brothers, but without them, the ceiling lowered considerably in Milwaukee.
  • ERIC PASCHALL, PHIL BOOTH and JAHVON QUINERLY, Villanova: The Wildcats lost a pair of mainstays in Paschall and Booth to graduation while the unremarkable Villanova career of Quinerly ended after one season with a transfer to Alabama.
  • MICHAEL NZEI, Seton Hall: The Pirates have a loaded squad this season, though it doesn’t include the forward who was a four-year stalwart.
  • RYAN WELAGE and ZACH HANKINS, Xavier: The Musketeers return quite a bit in 2019-20, but these two seniors will leave a void that will need to be filled.
  • SAM FROLING, MARTIN KRAMPELJ and KALEB JOSEPH, Creighton: A trio that didn’t provide a lot of punch in 2018-19 for the Blue Jays.
  • JESSIE GOVAN, Georgetown: Patrick Ewing has a promising young roster, but it was Govan that provided the most production last season that will have to be replaced with his eligibility exhausted.
  • SHAMORIE PONDS and CHRIS MULLIN, St. John’s: Ponds was one of the more electric players in the conference last year, and his absence will be felt considerably. The bigger departure, though, was Mullin’s abrupt resignation after St. John’s saying he would return for a fifth season at his alma mater after four years in which mediocrity was the highwater mark. Mike Anderson takes over in NYC to try to succeed where Mullin failed.
  • MAX STRUS, DePaul: The Blue Demons had their best season in Dave Leitao’s return to Chicago, but building on it will require keeping momentum without their best player, who was lost to graduation.
  • JOEY BRUNK, Butler: Brunk shot 62 percent from the floor as a sophomore, but the 6-foot-11 center decided to leave the Bulldogs program this offseason, making an intrastate move to Indiana and  the Big Ten.

WHO’S BACK

  • COLLIN GILLISPIE, SADDIQ BEY and JERMAINE SAMUELS, Villanova: A talented and experienced group, but one that will have to excel in expanded roles for the Wildcats.
  • MYLES POWELL, QUINCY MCKNIGHT, MYLES CALE, SANDRO MAMUKELASHVII and IKEY OBIAGU, Seton Hall: Kevin Willard’s program’s hopes of unseating Villanova will rest squarely on the shoulders of his returners.
  • QUENTIN GOODIN, PAUL SCRUGGS, NAJI MARSHALL and TYRIQUE JONES, Xavier: The Musketeers have a strong 2019 recruiting class that will help this season, but the strength of the team is here.
  • DAVION MINTZ, TY-SHON ALEXANDER, MITCHELL BALLOCK and JACOB EPPERSON, Creighton: Greg McDermott’s group might not have a ton of star power, but it is a talented and experienced group that should make some noise.
  • KAMAR BALDWIN, Buter: The Bulldog doesn’t get the same recognition as Howard or Powell, but he’s a dynamic scorer who will be one of the league’s best offensive players.
  • ALPHA DIALLO, Providence: The 6-foot-7 guard averaged 16 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last year, and he’ll be a conference player of the year contender this season.

WHO’S COMING

  • JEREMIAH ROBINSON-EARL, JUSTIN MOORE, ERIC DIXON and BRYAN ANTOINE, Villanova: Jay Wright welcomes a top-five recruiting class to Philly, and the Wildcat machine looks to keep on moving despite another year of significant losses.
  • ROMEO WEEMS, DePaul: A 6-foot-7 top-65 recreuit, Weems picked DePaul over a number of heavy-hitters, giving some hope to a Chicago revival.
  • LUWANE PIPKINS and GREG GANTT, Providence: Pipkins led UMass in scoring last season before grad-transferring while Gantt is a four-star recruit.
  • JAYCE JOHNSON and SYMIR TORRENCE, Marquette: Johnson, a 7-footer, put up 7 points and 7 rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field for Utah last year. Torrence, a four-star recruit, picked the Golden Eagles over the likes of Butler and Cincinnati.
  • JASON CARTER, Xavier: The Ohio transfer has two years of eligibility after averaging 16.5 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Bobcats.
  • OMER YURTSEVEN and TERRELL ALLEN, Georgetown: Yurtseven is one of the country’s most high-profile transfers while Allen is a grad-transfer from UCF who averaged 6.7 points last year.
  • DERRIK SMITS, Butler: The son of former NBA star Rik, Smits comes to Butler from Valpo after picking the Bulldogs over NC State and Arizona State.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-BIG EAST TEAM

MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette (Preseason Player of the Year)
MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
KAMAR BALDWIN, Butler
ALPHA DIALLO, Providence
NAJI MARSHALL, Xavier

Markus Howard and Myles Powell (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. Villanova: It would be silly to bet against Jay Wright’s program at this point, but the Wildcats have more than a name and pedigree this season. They’re loaded with talent and experience with a great recruiting class. They’re not in the top-tier of national title contenders this preseason, but they’re not far behind, either.

2. Seton Hall: The distance between Villanova and the Pirates is relatively narrow, with Seton Hall returning a ton of talent from last year’s NCAA tournament 10-seed. Myles Powell is a difference-maker on both ends, and it’s far from a one-man squad. This group will have to improve, but it’s got the profile of a team that’s capable of making a significant leap.

3. Xavier: The Musketeers aren’t all that different than Seton Hall, with talented returners from a good team needing who fit the bill of a team on the rise. It’s easier said than done, and they’ll have to deal with increased expectations, but this team has the chops to be the best in the conference if things break their way.

4. Creighton: This is a team that will be knocking on the door of preseason top-25s on the strength of a solid-though-not-remarkable returning core. Ty-Shon Alexander is a serious breakout candidate, if such a distinction fits for a player who averaged nearly 16 points per game last season.

5. Providence: Alpha Diallo is one of the conference’s best and most productive players, but the Friars have to improve offensively if they’re going to get back to the NCAA tournament after a five-year streak was snapped last season.

6. Marquette: The Golden Eagles may have been the favorites to win the conference had the Hauser brothers not elected to transfer, but their departures throws this season into question for Marquette. The cupboard is obviously not bare even beyond Markus Howard, who might just power the program to near the top of the league on his own, but it’s certainly a harder team to peg.

7. Georgetown: The Hoyas were really fun to watch last season, but the trick for them is going to be making the transition from entertaining young squad to a still-green-but-successful team. The easiest path to that would be improved shooting as the youthful Hoyas struggled to connect from distance consistently.

8. Butler: The Bulldogs are probably the best candidate to outperform these rankings, on the strength of Kamar Baldwin’s talent alone, but they just haven’t proven enough beyond Baldwin to slide them further up the list.

9. DePaul: The Blue Demons got over .500 last season, but it came on a diet of non-conference cupcakes and then four wins in the CBI. Without Max Strus, here’s betting DePaul takes a step back this season.

10. St. John’s: Mike Anderson has his work cut out for him after Chris Mullin was only able to get a First Four appearance in four years with the Red Storm. St. John’s has only been in the NCAA tournament proper twice since 2005.

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.

Bubble Banter: Xavier, Alabama, Utah State with critical games

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The latest NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here.

WINNERS

MINNESOTA (NET: 56, SOS: 55): The Golden Gophers landed a massive, massive win on Tuesday night, as they picked off Purdue (11) in Minneapolis. It’s the third Q1 win for Richard Pitino’s and their second elite win in league play — they also beat Wisconsin (17) on the road. The Gophers are just 2-8 this season on the road, but they are sitting here on March 6th with a 19-11 record, 10 wins against Q1 and Q2 opponents and just one loss outside the top 100 — at Boston College (111), which is still a Q2 game. Minnesota entered the day sitting right around the play-in game on most projections, and this should be enough to get them on the right side of the bubble. They’re in a really good spot.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 23): As hard as it may be to believe, Oklahoma entered the day sitting as a No. 9 seed in our latest bracket projection at NBC Sports despite the fact that they were 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12. That’s what happens when you have a pair Q1 wins, an 8-11 mark against Q1 and Q2, no bad losses and exactly zero games played against Q4 competition. Now add to that Tuesday night’s win — by 13 points over Kansas (16) at home. The Sooners play at Kansas State (27) on Saturday, and at this point, I think they are just about a lock to dance.

VCU (NET: 36, SOS: 42): The Rams did what they needed to do on Tuesday, absolutely drilling George Mason in Fairfax and heading back to Richmond needing nothing more than a win over Saint Joseph’s to just about lock up their bid. The Rams are 6-4 in Q1 and Q2 games, highlighted by a win at Texas (33), but they also have a pair of Q3 losses. I don’t know if they can withstand two more ugly losses, which is what just about every loss to an Atlantic 10 opponent is this season, but I do think they can get a bid with one.

LOSERS

ALABAMA (NET: 53, SOS: 21): The Crimson Tide whiffed on a major chance to land their third Q1 win of the season when they blew a double-digit lead at home against Auburn (20). They are now sitting at 17-13 overall with two Q1 wins and a 9-12 mark against Q1 and Q2. The loss to Georgia State (135) at home is bad, but the win over Kentucky (5) is good. They’re probably sitting in one of the play-in games at the moment, so there is definitely work left to do.

UTAH STATE (NET: 30, SOS: 100): The Aggies dodged a massive bullet on Tuesday night, going into Fort Collins with a share of the MWC title on the line and getting taken to overtime by Colorado State (185). But they got the win, and at this point, with Saturday’s win over Nevada (23) in the books and their regular season over, I think they’re dancing as long as they can avoid taking a bad loss in the MWC tournament.

XAVIER (NET: 70, SOS: 46): Xavier played its way back into the bubble picture thanks to a surprising five-game Big East winning streak. Momentum ran out for the Musketeers during a Tuesday road loss at Butler (59). Squandering a valuable Q1 opportunity against the Bulldogs, Xavier finds itself at 3-9 against Q1 teams and a solid 6-2 with Q2 opponents. Saturday’s home game against St. John’s (61) is now a must-win scenario for the Musketeers if they want to maintain any sort of bubble credibility — but that will likely only be a Q2 opportunity.

OLE MISS (NET: 37, SOS: 85): The Rebels missed on a chance to beat Kentucky (5) at home on Tuesday, but they still are in a good spot. They are 19-11 overall, but 10 of their 11 losses are against Q1 opponents, they swept Auburn (20) and they have a total of seven Q1 and Q2 wins. I would not recommend losing at Missouri (86) and in the first round of the SEC tournament, but I do think that all it would take is one more win to get the job done.

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.

Bracketology: Virginia back to the top as March returns

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A year ago, the Virginia Cavaliers were holding the same position – sitting atop the college basketball world as king’s of Bracketology.  Today, as March awaits, UVA is back, leading the latest Field of 68.

Duke’s seed status will be heavily debated in the Selection Committee room if questions about Zion Williamson’s availability remain unanswered over the next two weeks.  When Selection Sunday arrives, the Committee will have to evaluate the Blue Devils based upon the team anticipated to take the floor in the NCAA tournament.  Given that Williamson’s injury status is day-to-day, we’re working under the assumption that he will, in fact, return at some point.  Time will tell.

The race for No. 1 seeds is far from over.  Kentucky and Tennessee play again this weekend.  Michigan State and Michigan meet again.  Duke has another matchup with North Carolina.

And just for fun, March begins tomorrow.

UPDATED: February 28, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, Kansas State, 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, 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), 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), Colgate (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

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

Bubble Banter: Big night on the bubble for Alabama, Butler, Ohio State

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The latest NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here.

WINNERS

OHIO STATE (NET: 42, SOS: 53): Ohio State made a statement on Tuesday night, landing a 20 point win over Iowa (30) in Columbus. The Buckeyes are going to have to hope that this performance doesn’t drop the Hawkeyes too far, because a 20 point win over a Q1 team in theory looks much better than a 20 point win over a Q2 team. Either way, Ohio State has put themselves in a position where they are pretty safe. They have five Q1 wins, and a win at Cincinnati looks better and better as the Bearcats continue to win. Their two “bad” losses came at home against Illinois (90) and at Rutgers (102), both of whom have been really good in league play. Win two more games before Selection Sunday and I think they get a bid.

ALABAMA (NET: 53, SOS: 32): The Crimson Tide put themselves in a position where they can just about clinch a bid with their next two games as they went into South Carolina (80) and knocked off the Gamecocks. As it stands, Alabama is just 2-7 against Q1 with eight Q2 losses, but they do have a win over Kentucky (5) that will be significant. One major concern is that they are just 3-7 in true road games that aren’t against Stephen F. Austin (304), and their best road win was tonight’s win in Columbia. They won’t get another shot at an elite road win, but knocking off either — both? — LSU (15) or Auburn (23) in Tuscaloosa would be a boost. I think they need to win both to really feel comfortable.

VCU (NET: 35, SOS: 39): We’ve been saying it for a while — the lack of quality wins available in the Atlantic 10 combined with two Q3 losses (Charleston at home, at Rhode Island) have put VCU in a position where they more or less need to win out until they lose to Dayton (70) or Davidson (67) in the Atlantic 10 tournament. They took one step closer to that with a home win over Saint Louis on Tuesday night.

UTAH STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 131): The Aggies are basically in the same boat at VCU, but they don’t have a win as good as VCU’s win at Texas. USU needs to win out, including a home win against Nevada (19) on Saturday, and they’ll have a really good chance to dance. They got one step closer on Tuesday win a home win over San Diego State.

LOSERS

BUTLER (NET: 49, SOS: 19): This was a bad night for Butler on the bubble. They were already on the edge of the cut-line with a 15-12 and they dropped another one, their worst loss of the season — at home against Providence (83). The Bulldogs have just two Q1 wins — Florida (31) on a neutral and at Georgetown (73) — and a 5-5 mark against Q2. That’s not good enough.

TEMPLE (NET: 51, SOS: 68): The Owls whiffed on a chance to add their third Q1 win of the season as they went into FedEx Forum and lost to Memphis (60). This was, in all likelihood, the last chance that Temple will have during the regular season to get a Q1 win. They’ve going to have to hope that the committee is really impressed with a home win over Houston (4).