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Bracketology: Happy Valentine’s Day for Duke, LSU

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, we’ll sweep the epic crumbles of futility – otherwise known as this year’s bubble – under the proverbial rug and try not to look.

Instead, we’ll send Happy Heart greetings to the Duke Blue Devils and LSU Tigers, both of whom celebrated huge road wins in the Commonwealth on Tuesday.  For their efforts, Duke remains the No. 1 overall seed in today’s bracket.  LSU rises to No. 12 on the seed list, good for the final No. 3 seed.

As for those crumbles, today’s cutline decisions included serious consideration for teams like Oklahoma, Indiana, Butler, and Florida, all of whom have significant resume issues. There are no clear answers, especially with regards to how the Selection Committee will use the NCAA’s new NET ratings.  The good news for those four, and others, is we still have games to play.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 14, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
WEST REGION Clemson vs. Arizona State
MIDWEST REGION UNC Greensboro vs. Utah State
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Quinnipiac
MIDWEST REGION Robert Morris vs. Prairie View

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

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Minnesota Clemson Oklahoma Arkansas
Texas Arizona State Indiana Georgetown
UCF UNC-Greensboro Butler Fresno State
Temple Utah State Florida Davidson

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

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Clemson

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

BIG 12 (7): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (2): WOFFORD, UNC-Greensboro

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Quinnipiac (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (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), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bubble Banter: We need to talk about N.C. State, Auburn and UCF

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The most recent NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here

For my money, the three toughest resumes to figure out — at least when discussing teams in, on and around the bubble — are N.C. State (NET: 37, SOS: 262)UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101) and AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30).

All three played on Wednesday night.

Only one of the three lost, so we’ll start with Auburn, who have great computer numbers — they’re not only top 20 in the NET, they’re 17th in KenPom — and just one loss to a team outside the top 40, but there is a total and complete lack of quality wins to their name. They are 0-6 against Q1 opponents this season. Their best win came against Washington (31) at home on the fourth day of the season. Since then, the only two teams they’ve beaten with a puncher’s chance at getting an at-large are 13-11 Florida and 15-9 Alabama. They are just 1-5 on the road, and the one win came against a bad Texas A&M (82) team.

They’re not on the bubble right now because their computer numbers are too good to ignore, but how high can you seed a team without a Q1 win?

It’s the same question that we have to ask about UCF, who, as of Valentine’s Day, has played just two Q1 games and lost them both. One of those two losses was by 20 points to a thoroughly mediocre Memphis team. The Knights have actually won a few road games — UConn (79), SMU (110), Tulane (293) — but they do have an ugly home loss to FAU (164) on their resume as well. Their win over South Florida on Wednesday night is their fifth Q2 win of the year.

Our Dave Ommen is the best in the business when it comes to bracketing, and he has UCF in the tournament as of today. If he says it, then I’ll believe it, but more than anything, it’s evidence of just how bad the bubble is this year.

Which brings us to N.C. State.

The Wolfpack’s profile isn’t all that different from UCF or Auburn, with the one exception being that they have one Q1 win … which came at home against Auburn. They are 18-7 on the season, and just one of those seven losses — at Wake Forest (194), without Markell Johnson — is not a Q1 loss, but the issue for N.C. State is that they, quite literally, have the worst non-conference SOS in the country, according to the NET.

The committee has proven, over and over again, that is something they will punish you for.

We just don’t know how much.

WINNERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 262): See above.

UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101): See above.

SETON HALL (NET: 69, SOS: 47): The Pirates picked up their seventh Q2 win of the season when they beat Georgetown at home on Wednesday. With a neutral court win over Kentucky and a win at Maryland, the Pirates do have two really good wins, which are off-set by a pair of Q3 home losses. Their bid is going to come down to whether or not they get wins against Marquette and Villanova at home in the last week of the regular season.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 114): The Aggies bounced back from their loss at San Diego State by knocking off Wyoming at home on Wednesday. I think they need to win out — including Nevada at home — to have a real chance at an at-large.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 39): Florida won! They beat Vanderbilt, snapping a three-game losing streak and getting them to within a game of .500 in league play. They have good computer numbers, just one bad loss — South Carolina (100) at home — and four more Q1 games left on the schedule, which should help offset their current 1-9 mark against Q1 opponents.

VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 34): VCU smoked city rival Richmond on Wednesday night, continuing to do what they need to do to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble — don’t lose to bad teams. And based on the way their schedule shakes out, VCU probably would not be able to sleep comfortably if they lose to anyone other than Dayton on the road before the A-10 tournament starts.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Temple is right there with UCF when it comes to their profile, but I think they’re in slightly better shape right now for two reasons — 1. They have a win over Houston (5), and 2. their bad loss is a Q3 loss to Penn (92). That said, Temple’s only chances to land Q1 wins come at South Florida, at Memphis and at UConn. None of those teams are in the top 65 of the NET.

LOSERS

AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30): See above.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 69): The Sun Devils picked the wrong time to make the toughest road trip in the Pac-12. Firmly on the cutline, they had lost two of their last four games — including a 21 point loss to Washington State (176) last Thursday — before going into Colorado (80) and losing to the Buffaloes. All in all, it’s not a terrible loss, but with a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses to their name, they need all the help they can get.

CLEMSON (NET: 39, SOS: 25): Clemson went down to Coral Gables and took a loss to a Miami team that is now 11-13 overall and just 3-9 in the ACC. This loss does not look as bad on a resume as it does in real life — the Hurricanes are 90th in the NET, so it’s just a Q2 loss — but the Tigers are not in a great spot as of today. They need to keep building on a profile that doesn’t include a bad loss but that only has one Q1 win on it — Virginia Tech (13) — and features a 4-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents. This isn’t a killer, but this is another step in the wrong direction.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 62): The Gophers are in a good spot because of the strength of the league that they play in. There are no bad losses in the Big Ten right now, but it’s time for Minnesota to turn this thing around. They lost their fourth straight on Wednesday at Nebraska, but as bad as the Huskers have been, that is comfortably a Q1 loss. As it stands, Minnesota is 3-7 against Q1 and 4-2 against Q2, and their worst loss is at Boston College (128). They’ve won at Wisconsin and beat Washington on a neutral.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 226): The Bisons lost at home on Wednesday night, which typically would be a killer to their at-large profile except that this loss came to Liberty, who is now 20-5 on the year, tied for first in the Atlantic Sun with Lipscomb and — most importantly — 61st in the NET. This hurts because this was the last time Lipscomb had a chance to land a Q2 win during the regular season.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 78, SOS: 79): The Hoyas lost at Seton Hall by 15 points on Wednesday, dropping them to 3-4 against Q1 opponents. They’re also 4-4 against Q2 and they have a pair of Q3 losses. They’re firmly in the bubble conversation, but they need to start winning. They have a week off until they get Villanova at home. That’s as close to a must-win as it can get in mid-February.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 10): Creighton lost their third straight on Wednesday, falling in overtime at Xavier. They are now 12-12 on the year and 4-8 in the Big East. They probably need to win out to get an at-large at this point.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 74, SOS: 65): The Friars lost at Villanova (21) on Saturday in a game that was brutal for their at-large chances. It’s not because losing at Villanova is a bad loss, it’s because Providence is on the bubble of being on the bubble. They have quite a bit of ground to make up, and this was their best chance to do that. They whiffed.

Bracketology: Committee pens Duke, Tennessee as 1-2 punch

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Few of us were surprised on Saturday when the Selection Committee announced that Duke and Tennessee were Nos. 1 and 1A on their Seed List.  After an action-filled weekend, neither position has changed, although one could argue that Duke’s win at Virginia, giving the Blue Devils a regular-season sweep, might create a more distinct line of separation between those two.

The only top-line move this morning was lifting Gonzaga to No. 3 on the Seed List and dropping Virginia to No. 4.  Gonzaga still reigns over the West Region and Virginia the Midwest.  Elsewhere, team positions on the first four lines mirror what the Committee gave us on Saturday.  One could argue whether or not Iowa State would stay after a home loss to TCU, or about how losses by Louisville and Wisconsin might also impact those lines.  For today, we’ll let the Committee’s voice be heard.

Unfortunately, the Committee didn’t provide us any sort of insight into what has become a very mediocre bubble picture.  Then again, why take on that headache right now? Hopefully, some cleaner lines of separation will develop over the next three weeks.

UPDATED: February 11, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
SOUTH REGION Butler vs. UCF
WEST REGION Oklahoma / Temple
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Canisius
MIDWEST REGION Robert Morris vs. Prairie View

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

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Minnesota Butler Georgetown Providence
Arizona State UCF NC-Greensboro Utah State
Seton Hall Oklahoma Arkansas Florida
Clemson Temple Indiana Creighton

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

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (9): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Clemson

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

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

SEC (7): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama

Big East (5): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), 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), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Gillespie’s career game carries No. 14 Villanova past Hoyas

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PHILADELPHIA — Collin Gillespie hit six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points and Eric Paschall had 24 to keep No. 14 Villanova unbeaten in the Big East with a 77-65 victory over Georgetown on Sunday.

The Wildcats (18-4) have won 10 straight games and are 9-0 in the conference for the first time since 2009-10. The Wildcats got rolling late at their off-campus home, the Wells Fargo Center. The Wildcats are 32-3 in the building since 2012-13 — and their win percentage boosted by six straight wins over the Hoyas in Philadelphia.

James Akinjo led the Hoyas (14-8, 4-5) with 19 points. The Hoyas had averaged 83.2 points on the season yet scored no field goals over a 6-minute stretch late in the game.

Phil Booth — who missed 10 of his first 12 shots — scored on a driving layup, then buried a 3 to snap a tie and give Villanova a 58-53 lead with 5:41 left. Villanova, which was called for four fouls on one possession late in the game, got a Gillespie bucket to stretch the lead and hold off the Hoyas.

The Wildcats were again a two-scorer show. Booth, who was leading Villanova this season with 18.7 points, mostly sat this one out until crunch time. He missed his first six 3-pointers while Paschall had some surprising help from Gillespie.

After Paschal converted a three-point play to give the Wildcats a 46-43 lead, he had combined with Gillespie to score 39 of their points. Gillespie, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard, had flashes of scoring bursts this season. He scored a career-high 21 in a loss to Penn and 19 in a loss to Furman. But in a Big East battle, Gillespie was clutch in a win.

He sank two free throws for a three-point lead to cap one of the wilder sequences of the game: Booth was picked clean by Greg Malinowksi and the Hoya guard went for a fast-break layup. But Nova’s 6-7 forward Jermaine Samuels hustled back and stuffed Malinowksi on a block that brought the crowd to its feet. The Wildcats snagged the possession and Gillespie converted from the line.

And when the Hoyas again tied the game, Gillespie buried a 3 for the lead.

BIG PICTURE

Georgetown: The Hoyas had won two straight games but again had their Big East progress stunted by Villanova. The Wildcats have been a thorn for Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing since the 1980s. The Wildcats upset Ewing and the Hoyas in the 1985 national championship game.

Villanova: The Wildcats are playing for NCAA Tournament seeding and could earn one in the low single digits. Samuels was a key against the Hoyas with 16 rebounds and three blocks.

BRUNSON’S BACK

Two-time national champion Jalen Brunson, the 2018 AP Player of the Year, returned for a senior day celebration. Brunson played three seasons with the Wildcats and was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. He received a framed No. 1 jersey and shared a hug before the game with coach Jay Wright. Brunson said he still keeps in touch with many of his teammates. “It was a flashback in about 30 seconds,” he said.

No. 15 Marquette beats Georgetown after Markus Howard leaves with injury

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Marquette got a career performance from Sam Hauser and won a Big East road game Tuesday, but the Golden Eagles’ 74-71 win against Georgetown came with a caveat.

Markus Howard, the nation’s fourth leading scorer, played just three minutes before bowing out with a back injury.

“He’s been experiencing some low back soreness,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said after the game, per The Associated Press. “I’m not going to put a guy out there unless he’s 100%.”

Hauser shined offensively for Marquette with Howard unable to carry the load. The sophomore scored 31 points in the victory. It was the Golden Eagles’ defense, though, that got them to the finish line. Marquette blocked two go-ahead attempts by Georgetown freshman guard James Akinjo in the final 15 seconds, with the first coming from Brendan Bailey and the second courtesy of Theo John.

Now, though, attention will turn to the health of Howard, who is averaging 25.8 points per game and is a week removed from dropping 53 points on Creighton. Marquette does have a pair of home games upcoming against Providence and DePaul, so the Golden Eagles do have some fortuitous timing in their favor, but if Howard is sidelined for an extended period of time or the back is an issue all season, that’s going to be a significant issue.

Tuesday’s Three Things To Know: It was a surprisingly wild night in college hoops

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While Golden State was busy putting up 50 points in a quarter, the college basketball world had themselves a wild night that featured a pair of top 25 teams winning in the final seconds, some big dogs rolling and a couple of trendy teams taking ugly losses.

Here is what you need to know from Tuesday night:

1. THE BIG BOYS ROLLED

The biggest game of the night ended up being one of the most boring games of the night, as No. 4 Virginia put away No. 9 Virginia Tech before we reached the under eight media timeout. The Wahoos hit nine of their first 11 threes, finished 13-for-24 from beyond the arc on the evening and took a 44-22 lead into halftime, eventually knocking off the Hokies, 81-59. It was an utterly dominant performance from Tony Bennett’s club, and one that had our Travis Hines convincing himself that this is the year for UVA.

The Cavs weren’t the only big dog to handle their business in impressive fashion on Tuesday. No. 3 Tennessee jumped out to a 23-6 lead on Arkansas and never looked back, beating the Razorbacks 106-87 in a game where the Vols never seemed to get out of third gear. While that was happening, No. 12 Kentucky was in the midst of going into Stegeman Coliseum and dropping a hammer on Georgia, 69-49. Ashton Hagans — who was previously committed to the Bulldogs — put a career-high 23 points on the board.

And lastly, while the Tar Heels didn’t run away with this win, they did manage to hold off Notre Dame, 75-69. This win was notable because of the second half performance from Nassir Little. He scored just 11 points, but all of them came in the final 11 minutes, and he had nine in a 14-6 run that turned a deficit into a 65-58 lead.

2. SAM HAUSER SAVES No. 15 MARQUETTE, No. 17 N.C. STATE IS NOT SO LUCKY

Hauser put up a career-high 31 points to go along with eight boards in a 74-71 win at Georgetown as he was forced into point guard duties as Markus Howard was dealing with a lower back issue and Joseph Chartouny has apparently forgotten how to be a point guard. The Hoyas are not exactly a powerhouse these days, but they are a dangerous team offensively that has won some games we did not expect them to win, and going into Washington D.C. and winning this game without the Big East Player of the Year is, frankly, really impressive.

And important.

The Golden Eagles remain the only team that is one game behind Villanova in the Big East regular season title race.

N.C. State was not as fortunate. Playing without starting point guard Markell Johnson, the Wolf Pack found themselves down by 15 points at the half and by as many as 22 points in the second half at Wake Forest. A 29-7 run tied the game at 58 with about seven minutes left in the game, but Wake Forest did enough down the stretch to get the win, 71-67.

This is not a great loss for N.C. State, who has now lost two of their last three games and no longer looks like a top 25 basketball team.

3. THE OLE MISS HYPE TRAIN DERAILS

The trendy team this week was Ole Miss, and deservedly so — in the span of 96 hours, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points and went into Starkville and picked off No. 14 Mississippi State. They were 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC at that point. They deserved to be trendy.

And it all came crashing down with a visit from LSU. Tremont Waters scored 20 points and added nine assists as the Tigers knocked off No. 18 Ole Miss, 83-69, in Oxford. Now 3-0 in the league, it may be time that we start looking at LSU as the new Ole Miss.

AND I NEED TO MENTION …

That a pair of top 25 teams survived at the last second. In Starkville, Mississippi State survived Florida, 71-68, thanks to a three-point play from Quinndary Weatherspoon with 3.6 seconds left on the clock. And out in Boise, No. 10 Nevada knocked off Boise State, 72-71, thanks to a three with 4.5 seconds left from Cody Martin, who had not made a three since Dec. 15th and was shooting 19.5 percent from beyond the arc entering the night.