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Sunday’s Things to Know: Houston wins AAC title; three autobids earned; bubble madness in the Big Ten

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The final regular-season Sunday in college basketball had some drama as a major conference title was decided. On the postseason side, three more autobids were also claimed while the bubble had some action as well.

Houston runs past Cincinnati to claim AAC regular-season title

Houston earned its first regular-season conference title since 1992 with a convincing 85-69 road win at No. 20 Cincinnati. The No. 12 Cougars poured on 48 second-half points as they went on a 35-12 run to put the game away. Corey Davis Jr. scored a career-high 31 points while freshman Nate Hinton produced a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds — knocking down some key three-pointers to ignite the comeback run.

For the fourth time in the last six games, Houston scored at least 85 points, which is a notable accomplishment considering the Cougars generally prefer to play on the slower side (232nd in adjusted tempo on KenPom). Houston already has a top-15 defense, so if its offense is getting hot before the postseason, then it’s a trend to keep an eye on during Championship Week.

Autobids handed out to Bradley, Gardner-Webb and Liberty

Sunday didn’t have very many regular-season games left. But there were plenty of conference tournaments to keep track of with three autobids being handed out in traditionally one-bid leagues.

The Big South kicked the autobid day off as Gardner-Webb earned its first NCAA tournament bid in school history by knocking off Radford for a true road win. With back-to-back true road wins during the conference tournament, the Bulldogs certainly earned their way into the Field of 68 with two difficult wins.

Things got crazy during the second half of the Missouri Valley Conference title game shortly after as Bradley rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit to stun Northern Iowa. A day after knocking out a Final Four team from last year in Valley No. 1 seed Loyola, the Braves followed it up with their eighth win of the season in which they were trailing at halftime to come back and win. This will be Bradley’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006 when they stunned the nation as a No. 13 seed who made the Sweet 16.

Finally, Liberty gutted out yet another road win for a team in an autobid situation by advancing in front of a sold-out crowd at Lipscomb. A high-level game featuring two teams who deserve a real look from the NCAA tournament committee, the Flames are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2013. While Liberty is a potentially-dangerous double-digit seed, Lipscomb remains on the bubble as they have a long week of waiting ahead.

The bubble gets crazy in the Big Ten

Among bubble teams playing on Sunday, things got especially chaotic in the Big Ten. Indiana began the conference’s bubble day with a home win over Rutgers. Winners of four consecutive games, the Hoosiers have played their way back into the serious at-large discussion after a mid-season freefall.

Later in the afternoon, No. 21 Wisconsin outlasted Ohio State for an overtime road win that brutally hurts the Buckeyes’ bubble profile. Rallying from 23 points down to tie the game and force overtime, this was a golden opportunity for Ohio State to add some insurance by getting another Q1 win. Instead, they’ve dropped three straight games as the slide continues entering the postseason.

These two results mean that Thursday’s Big Ten tournament matchup between Indiana and Ohio State will have massive implications for the bubble. Both of these teams appear to be teetering right on the edge of the cut line as this result could ultimately put one team in while leaving the other team out of the proceedings.

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: Clemson should be nowhere near the bubble right now

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Barring some kind of monumental change to their resume — a run, for example, to the ACC semifinals which includes a couple wins over the likes of Duke, Virginia Tech or Louisville — the Clemson Tigers have no business deserving an at-large bid.

And that’s not to say that they aren’t a good basketball team.

They are.

They currently rank 29th in KenPom. They are 40th in the NET. They’ve played enough good teams close that we can pretty safely assume that they, themselves, are pretty good.

But the problem for this group is that they simply have not landed nearly enough good wins to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble. The Tigers have just one Q1 win on the season, and that came at home against Virginia Tech (11) when the Hokies were playing without Justin Robinson. The only other win they have against a team in the top 80 of the NET came at home against Lipscomb. Clemson does have five Q2 wins, but four of those five came on the road against sub-80 opponents, none of whom are bound for the NCAA tournament and three of whom are sub-100 league opponents.

And look, I get why Clemson’s metrics are good. They lost at home by two against North Carolina (7). They lost by one at Louisville (24). They lost by two at N.C. State (35). They lost by two at home to Nebraska (51). They lost by one at Miami (94). That’s five losses by a total of eight points, and it doesn’t count a five point loss to Creighton (52), an eight point loss at Syracuse (42) or a nine point loss at Florida State (17).

They’re good.

They might even be one of the 36 best teams in the at-large pool come Selection Sunday.

But as things stand, they are nowhere near deserving a bid to the NCAA tournament despite the fact that this is a historically bad year for bubble teams.

I say that because regardless of how much we value metrics like KenPom, at the end of the day winning games has to matter. When determining just how good a basketball team is, the first possession of the game and the last possession of the game really aren’t all that much different. But when determining what a team has accomplished during the season, there really should be a difference.

Otherwise what’s the point? The difference between winning a game by a point and losing by a point is just two points, but those two points mean everything. That’s why the split-second that a ball is in the air as the buzzer sounds is the most beautiful moment in sports.

This is the way that I look at it: Clemson’s metrics are proof that they are a good team and should be counted as such by the team’s that beat them.

Clemson’s metrics are not enough to put them into the NCAA tournament, not when the likes of Belmont, and Lipscomb, and Murray State are deserving NCAA tournament teams that didn’t have the opportunity to blow eight chances at quality wins like the Tigers did.

WINNERS

INDIANA (NET: 56, SOS: 24): Indiana got one step closer to actually being a team that is on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday by blowing out Illinois in Champaign on Thursday. That is the third Q2 win for the Hoosiers to add to their six Q1 wins. They’ve swept Michigan State (8), knocking off Wisconsin (15), Louisville (24) and Marquette (29) at home and won at Penn State. Perhaps the most important thing to note is that while Indiana has lost 14 games, they are 9-14 against Q1 and Q2 competition. They still have work to do, and I think they need to probably get to at least the Big Ten quarterfinals, if not the semifinals, but that’s doable. Especially if the team that showed up at Illinois decides to make the trip to the Big Ten tournament, too.

UCF (NET: 28, SOS: 59): The Knights beat Cincinnati (21) in Orlando on Thursday night, and with that they are going dancing. UCF has two Q1 wins — including at Houston (6) — and now sit at 8-5 against Q1 and Q2 with just one bad loss. The question at this point is whether they can play themselves out of the 8-9 game.

TEMPLE (NET: 57, SOS: 78): The Owls picked up a Q2 win on Thursday, knocking off UConn in Hartford. Temple has just two Q1 wins this year, and one of them is a win at Missouri (73). Their home win over Houston (6) is going to have legs, and beating UCF (28) on Saturday sure would help them out. That might be enough to get them out of the play-in game in they avoid a bad loss early in the AAC tournament.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 45, SOS: 236): The Bisons picked up a win over NJIT on Thursday night, sending them to the Atlantic Sun title game against Liberty and setting up the only situation possible for Lipscomb to be in the at-large picture: An Atlantic Sun tournament loss to Liberty (63) and only Liberty. It’s not all that likely, unfortunately. They have just three top 100 wins — including two Q1 road wins, TCU (53) and Liberty (63) — and only a 3-5 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents.

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

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Coby White, North Carolina

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

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

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

On the nights they struggled, White carried the load.

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

TEAM OF THE WEEK: UCF Knights

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

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

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

MONDAY’S OVERREACTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That deserves all the recognition in the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wade should get plenty of credit for that.

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

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

Gross.

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

Gross.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is your year to shine.

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

Saturday’s Things To Know: A recap of all the day’s college hoops action

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Jordan Bone, Tennessee

Bone was the best player on the floor in the biggest game of the day, and I’m not sure that it was really all that close.

Bone finished with 27 points on Saturday. He was 11-for-15 from the field. He had three assists and two steals with no turnovers, and he made all five of his threes.

We wrote all about Bone here.

TEAM OF THE DAY: UCF Knights

Collin Smith scored 21 points, UCF ended the nation’s longest home court winning streak and they might have just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

We wrote all about the Knights’ win here.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Sam Merrill, Utah State

Onions of the Day today has nothing to do with a big shot that Merrill hit or any of the 29 points that he scored as the Aggies landed a critical win over No. 12 Nevada.

It had everything to do with this charge he took, because Merrill let himself get absolutely posterized in the name of victory. You have to have some cajones to do that:

But can I just say … it’s ridiculous that this is a charge. Caleb Martin threw down what may very well end up being one of the five favorites for Dunk of the Year in college basketball, and it didn’t count because someone decided to stand in front of him and fall over.

I hearby propose the following rule change: If, while in the process of trying to take a charge, you get dunked on, then the charge is nullified. Put another way, you cannot commit an offensive foul on a dunk, because I don’t want to live in a world where we celebrate a charge over a dunk.

I mean, the announcer here literally says, “THE CHARGE WAS BETTER THAN THE DUNK!”

No.

It was not.

Let’s fix this while there’s still time.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

PURDUE, THANKS TO INDIANA: The Boilermakers currently sit all alone in first place in the Big Ten standings after they blew out Ohio State on Saturday, winning by 35 points as the Buckeyes tried to figure out how to win a game without Kaleb Wesson on the floor. Purdue is a game up on both Michigan and Michigan State, and while their final two games of the regular season are both on the road — at Minnesota and at Northwestern — the Spartans and the Wolverines play on the season’s final day.

Matt Painter deserves serious National Coach of the Year consideration if he finds a way to win the Big Ten after everything Purdue lost this season.

The biggest reason that Purdue is in a position to win the Big Ten title is …

… INDIANA, THANKS TO JUSTIN SMITH: The Hoosiers finished off a sweep of Michigan State on Saturday, beating the Spartans in Bloomington, 63-62, a month after they knocked off Michigan State in overtime in East Lansing. This might be the win that can get them into the NCAA tournament.

Fans of Purdue, Indiana’s archrival, sure were appreciate:

TEXAS: The Longhorns picked up a massive win on Saturday as well, as they blew out Iowa State in Austin. As weird as it sounds, Texas is sitting at 15-13 on the season and not only do they have a resume that is probably strong enough to get into the NCAA tournament, they won’t even have the worst record of at-large teams.

Indiana, if they get in, will.

What a time to be alive.

LSU’S SEC TITLE CHANCES: The Tigers are tied with Tennessee for first place in the SEC title race. The Vols beat Kentucky in Knoxville and LSU survived Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

LEAGUE TITLES FOR KANSAS AND KENTUCKY: Kentucky lost at Tennessee on Saturday, which dropped them a game behind the Vols and LSU for first place in the SEC standings with two games left. To win an outright league title, they’ll need both teams to lose out, and that doesn’t seem that likely.

Kansas is in the same boat. They beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but it didn’t get them any closer to first place in the Big 12 as Texas Tech (at TCU) and Kansas State (Baylor) both won.

SAINT MARY’S, MEMPHIS AND CLEMSON: The bubble is weak enough where teams that don’t have horrible losses can get into the NCAA tournament if they manage to land one elite win. Saint Mary’s, Memphis and Clemson all had chances to do just that on Saturday and failed. The Gaels lost to No. 1 Gonzaga at home. Memphis had a chance to beat No. 23 Cincinnati on the road and turned the ball over down 71-69 on the final possession. Clemson did the same thing at home against No. 5 North Carolina, losing 81-79 when they turned the ball over in the final seconds.

FRAN MCCAFFERY: No. 22 Iowa got blown out for the second straight game and lost for the third time in four games on Saturday. This time, however, is was against Rutgers at home, and they did it without McCaffery on the sideline. McCaffery was suspended for the game after cursing out officials in the postgame.

FLORIDA: The Gators are in the mix for one of the last spots on the bubble, and they might have cost themselves by losing at home to Georgia on Saturday. That’s one way to snap a five-game winning streak.

FINAL THOUGHT

The issue of court-storming is going to once again take center stage this week after an incident that occurred after Utah State’s win over No. 12 Nevada.

Nevada star Jordan Caroline was captured on video in the bowels of the Spectrum losing his mind. He punched out the glass encasing a fire extinguisher and needed to be held back by coaches and players to avoid going after someone. Then, the Nevada coaching staff can be seen getting into an argument with police officers that were trying to keep them separated. This happened after the Wolf Pack were on the court as Utah State fans rush the floor, and coaches in the video can be heard complaining to security and police officers that fans had their hands on the Nevada players.

Now, we still do not know what exactly caused this.

Video after the does not seem to indicate that there was an altercation on the court involving fans and players, and there are reports that the scuffle was the result of members of two coaching staffs getting into a verbal altercation; due to the fans on the floor, Nevada had to leave the court through an exit that took them past the Utah State locker room.

As I do every time the court storm conversation comes up, I’ll make the simple and obvious point: Eventually, something really, really bad is going to happen during one of these court storms. We’ve already seen a West Virginia player get suspended for punching a Texas Tech fan, a Kansas State court storm that saw a fan go after a Kansas player and Bill Self get pinned against the scorer’s table and a full-fledged brawl between Utah Valley State fans and New Mexico State players. What happens if one of those punches lands cleanly? What happens if a player seriously injures one of the court-storming students? What happens if a group of students gang up on one or two players that are caught in the melee?

It’s going to happen at some point.

And we’re all going to wonder why we thought it was such a great idea to allow drunk fans to sprint onto the floor after the team they love just won an emotional game while the losing team is still there.

Justin Smith leads Indiana past No. 6 Michigan State 63-62

AP Photo/Doug McSchooler
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Justin Smith scored a career-high 24 points, and Indiana beat No. 6 Michigan State 63-62 on Saturday.

Devonte Green added 13 points as Indiana (15-14, 6-12 Big Ten) earned its second straight win against a ranked opponent. The Hoosiers beat No. 19 Wisconsin 75-73 in double overtime on Tuesday night.

Indiana trailed 62-60 before Juwan Morgan made a layup with 1:46 left while being fouled by Xavier Tillman. Morgan then converted the three-point play to give the Hoosiers their first lead since the game’s opening bucket.

Cassius Winston led Michigan State with 20 points and 11 assists. But he committed a turnover and missed a jumper as the Spartans (23-6, 14-4) pushed for the go-ahead basket in the final stretch.

Michigan State led by as many 12 in the first half. Matt McQuaid made a jumper to give the Spartans a 62-56 lead with 4:13 left, but the Spartans were shut out the rest of the way.

Kenny Goins had 14 points for Michigan State, and Tillman finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Romeo Langford scored nine points for Indiana on 4-for-14 shooting. Morgan finished with seven points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: It was an uncharacteristic performance by the Spartans in a couple different categories. They were outrebounded 31-30 and committed 14 turnovers, compared to eight for Indiana. They also lost to the Hoosiers on Feb. 2 in East Lansing.

Indiana: With two wins over the Spartans and another win against No. 20 Iowa, the Hoosiers have proven they are a scary team despite their conference record.