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NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis South Region

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The South Region is led by some top seeds who were bounced early in the NCAA tournament last season as Virginia and Tennessee look to redeem themselves after strong seasons.

The South Region is led by No. 1 seed Virginia. Following last season’s stunning loss to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round, the Cavaliers will get a chance to redeem themselves against No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb, the champions of the Big South.

The No. 8/9 matchup is a matchup between SEC and Big 12 as Ole Miss and Oklahoma battle. The Rebels were one of the most pleasant surprises of any team in the field this season while Oklahoma has won some games down the stretch to earn another bid.

Wisconsin draws the No. 5 seed as the Ethan Happ-led Badgers get a major test in No. 12 seed and Pac-12 Tournament champion Oregon. Although the Ducks struggled during the regular season — particularly after the loss of star freshman Bol Bol — they’re a dangerous team with two recent wins over Washington.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

The No. 4 seed is Kansas State as they are still hoping to get senior forward Dean Wade (foot) healthy enough to play in the NCAA tournament after he missed all of last season’s Elite Eight run for the Wildcats. They’ll face No. 13 seed UC Irvine, the champions of the Big West.

Defending champion Villanova drew no favors from the committee with the No. 6 seed. There hasn’t been a No. 6 seed in the Final Four since 1992 as the Wildcats will have an uphill battle to make the Final Four for the third time in four years. They draw No. 11 seed Saint Mary’s as the Gaels gained a lot of momentum in winning the WCC title over No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

Earning a surprising share of the Big Ten regular-season title this season, Purdue draws the No. 3 seed as they get a tough first-round opponent in No. 14 seed Old Dominion.

The committee also didn’t help No. 7 seed Cincinnati as the Bearcats had an impressive showing in an AAC title-game win over Houston on Sunday. The Bearcats will face No. 10 seed Iowa in a clash of styles and tempo.

After falling short in the SEC tournament title game, No. 2 seed Tennessee gets a matchup with No. 15 seed Colgate — a program making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 23 years. Although the Raiders feature the Patriot League Player of the Year in forward Rapolas Ivanauskas, they’ll face one of the best frontcourts in the tournament with the Vols’ veteran combo of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.

No. 21 Wisconsin routs Iowa 65-45

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Ethan Happ had 21 points and 14 rebounds in his final home game to help No. 21 Wisconsin beat Iowa 65-45 on Thursday night.

Fellow senior Khalil Iverson added 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Badgers (21-9, 13-6 Big Ten).

The Hawkeyes (21-9, 10-9) played without coach Fran McCaffery as he completed a two-game suspension for an outburst at an official Feb. 26. They had a season-low points total — 20 below their previous low — and shot a season-worst 31 percent from the field.

Jordan Bohannon led Iowa with eight points.

Iowa’s post players couldn’t stay on the floor. Luka Garza went to the bench in the first half after being whistled for his second foul with nearly 9 minutes left. Nicholas Baer followed a few minutes later Then it was Jared Cook’s turn in the second half. He was whistled for his third foul less than 4 minutes into the half, came back five minutes later and was promptly hit with his fourth. After scoring 19 and grabbing 15 rebounds in the two teams’ first meeting Nov. 30, Cook was scoreless and had seven rebounds.

Wisconsin turned Iowa’s 25 fouls into 27 free throws, making just 17.

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: The Hawkeyes lost their third straight game by double digits.

Wisconsin: The Badgers came in needing to win each of their last two games to secure a top-four finish in the conference and a double-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. They took care of the first one.

UP NEXT

Iowa: At Nebraska on Sunday

Wisconsin: At Ohio State on Sunday.

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

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

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

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

NBC Sports Top 25 | Bubble Watch

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

UPDATED: March 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

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

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

NBC Sports Top 25: Duke stays at No. 1; Purdue, Kansas State in the top ten

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I know that I’m probably going to end up getting some flack for this, but I’m sticking to my guns.

I believe that Duke is the best team in college basketball. The only team that they have lost to when they’ve been at full strength is the No. 2 team in the country, who beat them by two points on a neutral court. They swept the team that is sitting at No. 3, including a double-digit win on Virginia’s home floor. As far as we know, Zion Williamson is going to be back at some point this season, and it might be as soon as Tuesday’s game against Wake Forest.

So I’m going to leave Duke at No. 1. If Zion doesn’t play on Tuesday, then I will start worrying about whether or not he is actually going to be back in time for the game at North Carolina, the ACC tournament and, eventually, the NCAA tournament. If Zion is not going to come back to play this season, I think would slot Duke at eighth, behind Michigan and in front of Purdue, Kansas State and LSU.

One other point that I think needs to be made here: This is not necessarily how I would seed these teams if the NCAA tournament started today. If it did, Virginia and Gonzaga would be the top two seeds with Tennessee, Duke and Kentucky sliding in behind them in some order I’m not totally certain of. But even if Duke ends up as a No. 2 seed or the last No. 1 seed in the field, I would still set them as favorites to win the national title.

Beyond that, the only major change to the top ten is that I flipped Tennessee and Kentucky. I can see them being ranked either way, and I am 100 percent here for the rubber match coming in the SEC tournament title game, although it does not look like that is something that will happen.

I’ve also vaulted Purdue and Kansas State into the top ten with LSU sitting at No. 11. I really have no idea what to make of the teams sitting between No. 9 and No. 16, and I’m not sure I’d quibble with them being in any order.

Anyway, here is the full top 25:

1. Duke (25-4, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (26-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (24-5, 5)
5. Tennessee (26-3, 7)
6. Texas Tech (24-5, 6)
7. Kentucky (24-5, 4)
8. Michigan (25-4, 9)
9. Purdue (22-7, 13)
10. Kansas State (22-7, 14)
11. LSU (24-5, 15)
12. Michigan State (23-6, 8)
13. Houston (27-2, 11)
14. Marquette (23-6, 10)
15. Nevada (26-3, 12)
16. Kansas (22-7, 17)
17. Virginia Tech (22-6, 19)
18. Florida State (23-6, 22)
19. Wisconsin (20-9, 16)
20. Buffalo (26-3, 22)
21. Iowa State (20-9, 18)
22. Wofford (24-4, 24)
23. Villanova (22-8, 25)
24. Cincinnati (25-4, NR)
25. UCF (22-6, NR)

Dropped Out: 20. Maryland, 21. Iowa
New Additions: 24. Cincinnati, 25. UCF

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.

Harper scores 27, Rutgers rolls Iowa 86-72

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — No. 22 Iowa has likely done enough to lock up an NCAA Tournament spot.

But it’s fair to start wondering if the Hawkeyes will be able to do anything once they get there.

Freshman Ron Harper Jr. scored a season-high 27 points and Rutgers rolled past Iowa 86-72 on Saturday in the Hawkeyes’ home finale.

Issa Thiam had 13 points for the Scarlet Knights (14-14, 7-11), who won their first road game over a ranked opponent as a Big Ten team. It was also the Scarlet Knights’ first victory over a Top 25 team away from home since defeating then-No. 13 Pittsburgh 77-64 in 2008.

“We got it rolling a little bit,” Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. “It’s hard to win on the road, and it’s the best league in the country.”

Iowa played without coach Fran McCaffery, who was suspended by the school for two games for yelling at an official in a hallway heading to the locker room following Tuesday’s loss at Ohio State.

It was Iowa’s third loss in four games — and the Hawkeyes (21-8, 10-8) needed some late heroics to top Indiana in their only win in that stretch.

The scariest thing for the Hawkeyes was how lopsided it was. Iowa shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and turned it over 13 times.

“It didn’t seem like we able to get into any sort of offensive rhythm,” acting Iowa coach Andrew Francis said. “We haven’t shot the ball collectively as well as we know we’re capable of.”

Rutgers jumped all over the Hawkeyes in the first half, hitting seven 3s — including 3 straight from Thiam from the same corner — to jump ahead 39-30. The Scarlet Knights then went on an 8-2 run straight out of the locker room to make it 47-32.

Iowa, the national leader in free throws made entering play, got into the bonus with 13:21 left. But the Scarlet Knights kept getting open looks from beyond the arc from a generous Iowa defense, with Harper and Geo Baker hitting back-to-back 3s to help push the lead to 65-45.

“He’s getting better and better,” Pikiell said of Harper. “I think he’s going to be a really good player, and we got a little dose of that.””

Senior Nicholas Baer scored a season-high 17 points and Tyler Cook had 16 for Iowa (21-8, 10-8), which closed to 72-60 before allowing back-to-back dunks.

The Hawkeyes shot just 8 of 29 on 3s.

“We’re going through a small rough patch, I guess. Even in our wins we haven’t been playing our greatest ball,” Cook said. “But the fun part about it is finding a way to get better.”

BIG PICTURE

Iowa: It’s impossible to say whether McCaffery’s absence hurt the Hawkeyes. But he’s the coach for a reason. Iowa came out lethargic in front of a sellout crowd on Senior Day, and failed to make the halftime adjustments needed to at least make a game of it. “We don’t want to lose our confidence in who we are,” Francis said. “I think this team is still in a good place…we’re just missing some shots.”

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights, who lost at Fordham and needed overtime to beat Columbia in December, are one of the most improved teams in America — and they got revenge for losing to Iowa on a buzzer beater two weeks ago. They might win a game or two at the Big Ten tournament.

THE NUMBERS

Bohannon had 15 points, but he was just 4 of 12 shooting. Bohannon is streaky, and that could be an issue in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. …Rutgers was 11 of 23 on 3, with Harper leading the way at a 4 of 7 from deep. …Sophomore big man Luka Garza has had a strong season for Iowa, but he wasn’t at his best against the Scarlet Knights. The Hawkeyes were minus-24 with Garza on the floor. Garza had 10 points but just two rebounds.

HE SAID IT

“Of course we want coach (McCaffery) out there with us. He’s the main voice that we hear every day,” Cook said. But “even when he’s with us he’s not out there playing ball. So, we’ve got to go out there and execute.”