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NBC Sports Top 25: The final power rankings of the college basketball season

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Yes, I’m the guy that still has Duke at No. 1. I explained why in detail last week, and I’m not going to do it again, especially now that it appears Zion Williamson will be back for the ACC tournament.

And just to make it clear: This does not mean that I believe Duke should be a No. 1 seed. I don’t. Losses, even if they come when a team is not at full strength, need to matter for things like NCAA tournament seeding. They don’t matter when it comes to how the industry — and me, specifically — rank which of those teams are the best.

Beyond that, there isn’t all that much to talk about in what will be the final top 25 of the 2018-19 season.

I bumped Texas Tech up to fifth after they won a share of the Big 12 regular season title. Outside of a three-week stretch in January when Jarrett Culver forgot how to shoot, the Red Raiders were the best team in that conference. With the way they are shooting and scoring the ball in the last month combined with that defense, they are very much a threat to win a national title.

One other thing that I’ll note here: I think there are three tiers at the top of college hoops. At the top is a healthy Duke, Gonzaga and Virginia. Right behind that trio sits North Carolina, Texas Tech, Tennessee and Kentucky. I think those seven are pretty clearly the top seven teams in the country, and one you get past them, it starts to get wild. Purdue, Kansas State, Michigan State, Houston, Michigan, Florida State, Nevada. I think there is an argument for all of these teams to be ranked in the back end of the top ten.

Anyway, here is my final Top 25 of the season:

1. Duke (26-5, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (28-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (26-5, 4)
5. Texas Tech (26-5, 6)
6. Tennessee (27-4, 5)
7. Kentucky (26-5, 7)
8. Michigan State (25-6, 12)
9. Purdue (23-8, 9)
10. Kansas State (24-7, 10)
11. LSU (26-5, 11)
12. Houston (29-2, 12)
13. Michigan (26-5, 8)
14. Nevada (28-3, 15)
15. Florida State (25-6, 18)
16. Virginia Tech (23-7, 17)
17. Buffalo (28-3, 20)
18. Wofford (27-4, 22)
19. Wisconsin (22-9, 19)
20. Kansas (23-8, 16)
21. Marquette (23-8, 14)
22. Auburn (22-9, NR)
23. VCU (25-6, NR)
24. Mississippi State (22-9, NR)
25. UCF (23-7, 25)

Dropped Out: 21. Iowa State, 23. Villanova, 24. Cincinnati
New Additions: 22. Auburn, 23. VCU, 24. Mississippi State

No. 6 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 66-57 in SEC finale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Free throws seemed destined to be the saving grace for No. 6 Kentucky before it finally strung baskets together.

Tyler Herro made his share of both, and that combination was important in putting away Florida.

Herro scored 16 points and led a big second-half run that helped the Wildcats overcome the Gators 66-57 on Saturday.

The Wildcats (26-5, 15-3 Southeastern Conference) went back and forth with the Gators (17-14, 9-9) early in the second half and trailed 40-39 with 13:46 remaining.

Herro had six points during a 15-2 spree, hitting a couple of shots in the lane and adding two free throws, to give Kentucky a 54-42 advantage. The Wildcats capped the seven-minute burst by scoring 10 straight points.

“I saw some lanes going to the basket,” said Herro, who made 6 of 11 from the field.

Herro hit all four free throws as Kentucky made 26 of 32 from the line. Florida finished 6 for 11 on free throws.

“Me and PJ (Washington) ran a little two-man game when they went man to man. We had to take whatever they gave us, but once they went man I felt like I had some lanes to drive,” Herro said.

Added coach John Calipari, “Tyler made some unbelievable plays. We made some shots and again, we’re a good free throw shooting team.”

Washington added 15 points as Kentucky handed Florida its third consecutive loss. The Wildcats clinched the No. 2 seed for the SEC Tournament by virtue of its sweep of Auburn, which topped Tennessee earlier Saturday. It was regular-season wrapup for the Wildcats and Gators going into the SEC Tournament.

Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson each added 14 points, and Washington’s nine rebounds helped the Wildcats dominate the boards 39-23.

Kevarrius Hayes had 19 points and Jalen Hudson 13 for Florida, which overcame a nine-point first half deficit to lead 31-30 at the break. A 5:12 drought in the second half did in the Gators, who also made just 3 of 18 from long range.

“We just really struggled from the 3 and convert at the foul line,” Florida coach Mike White said.

SENIOR MOMENT

Reid Travis missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained right knee but was honored before his home finale with reserve guard Jonny David, who started and played the first couple of minutes.

Though Calipari wouldn’t speculate about Travis’ availability for the SEC Tournament, he didn’t sound worried.

“Here’s what good, it’s not an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament),” the coach said. “He sprained his knee. He’s going to be fine.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Kentucky took a step toward getting back in the Top 5 with the win that took more work than expected.

BIG PICTURE

Florida: The Gators held their own for a while in the second of consecutive games against Top 10 schools but couldn’t finish with a win. They committed just six turnovers, outscored Kentucky 32-22 in the paint and appeared to make the Wildcats play at their pace for a good stretch. They then went cold and weren’t able to recover in shooting 44 percent.

Kentucky: The Wildcats got through the home stretch 4-1 without Travis. But it required a wakeup call they survived by getting hot midway through the second half. They shot just 41 percent, but those made shots were huge in clinching the game and second place.

“We knew we had to pick up the intensity and make a statement coming into the second half,” Johnson said. “We need to get some separation.”

UP NEXT

Florida will play Wednesday in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

Kentucky plays in next Friday’s quarterfinal at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/ Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Best Bets: Previewing Duke-North Carolina, Michigan-Michigan State, Saturday’s slate

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Here is everything you need to know when betting the biggest games this weekend.

As always, this is coming out before the Vegas lines for Saturday’s games, so we are using projections from KenPomTorvik and Haslametrics to walk through how the game will play out. 

No. 4 DUKE at No. 3 NORTH CAROLINA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: North Carolina 84, Duke 83
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: North Carolina 87, Duke 85
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: North Carolina 87, Duke 85

This game is going to be one that is difficult to project because we don’t have an absolute answer on Zion Williamson’s status as of this writing. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski hinted at the idea that he would not be playing after their 71-70 miracle win over Wake Forest in Cameron on Tuesday night, so I would guess that he will likely be out.

I also have no feel for what the line or the total is going to end up being because there is no way that Vegas is going to rely on the projections for this one. Put another way, if the line opens at North Carolina (-2), I will bet everything I own including the dog on the Tar Heels.

Remember, this is a North Carolina team that went into Cameron and beat the Blue Devils by 16 points when Zion Williamson wasn’t playing. This time, they will be playing at home with a chance to land a sweep over their archrivals with a share of the ACC title — or, if Virginia loses to Louisville earlier in the day, the outright ACC title — on the line.

PICKS: We have talked plenty about just how much Williamson’s absence affects Duke, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. Without him, they lose rim protection. They lose their best rebounder. They lose the guy that forces live-ball turnovers and pick-six layups. They lose the guy that they can put on Luke Maye and know that they’ll have him neutralized.

But beyond that, they lose a guy that can score in transition and a guy that can get them easy buckets on the offensive glass. North Carolina isn’t exactly known for being a defensive powerhouse, but they are 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency this season and Duke, as we know, can struggle to score when they are forced into the halfcourt and their shots aren’t falling.

Put another way, there is no chance that I am going to be on the Duke side of this bet. The question is just how high the line needs to be before I think the Tar Heels lose value, and for me, it’s probably right around (-9). I also want no part of betting the under here, but I would probably only consider the over if the total opens around the mid-150s.

No. 7 MICHIGAN at No. 9 MICHIGAN STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan State 69, Michigan 65
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Michigan State 68, Michigan 66
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan State 70, Michigan 64

A rivalry game between two top ten teams with a Big Ten regular season title on the line. That sounds like a great way to end the final Saturday of the college hoops regular season.

The first time these two teams got together, Michigan State was playing just their second game after Nick Ward fractured a bone in his hand. We don’t have a definitive answer on Ward either way, and there was some speculation earlier this week that he might be ready to go, but for now I am going to operate with the mindset that he is not playing. The same can be said about Charles Matthews.

When these two teams squared off just 13 days ago, Michigan State changed the way that the defend ball-screens to tailor their defense to Michigan’s personnel: They went way under every ball-screen that Zavier Simpson was involved and, when it was Jon Teske setting those screens, they switch 1-to-5. The Wolverines haven’t played since Sunday, meaning that John Beilein will have had a full week to figure out a way to attack that defense.

I also think that it’s important to note that Zavier Simpson is as competitive as anyone in the country, and that he is not going to be happy about just how badly Cassius Winston cooked him when they played. Winston had 27 points and eight assists, and of the 57 possessions that Michigan State had before the Wolverines started fouling, 36 were a result of Winston ball-screens and another nine were run through Winston. He shoulders a massive load offensively, and Simpson is going to be the guy tasked with stopping him.

PICKS: This will likely be a stay-away from me, depending on what the lines opens at. I don’t want to bet on Michigan on the road, but I also don’t want to bet on Michigan State sweeping their archrival without three of their top seven or eight players. I fully expect this game to be close, so if the line gets to, say, Michigan (+5.5), I’ll buy the Wolverines.

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No. 8 TEXAS TECH at IOWA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPNNews)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 69, Iowa State 68
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Texas Tech 70, Iowa State 68
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas Tech 72, Iowa State 67

These are two teams trending in very, very different directions.

Texas Tech has won eight in a row and ten of their last 11. They are currently tied for first in the Big 12 title race with Kansas State, and a win on Saturday afternoon would guarantee at least a share of — and possibly the outright — Big 12 regular season title. Iowa State, on the other hand, has lost two in a row and five of their last seven. They were blown out at Texas and at West Virginia in the last six days and they have lost three games in Hilton Coliseum this season.

The Red Raiders lost at home against the Cyclones earlier this year, but that was a different time and place for both of these teams. Texas Tech has been the best shooting team in the country over the course of the last six weeks, vaulting themselves from outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency into the top 40. Iowa State, on the other hand, may or may not have had a fight in practice that may or may not have resulted in Marial Shayok possibly breaking a toe by kicking a door. He did not play against WVU. On Wednesday night, Talen Horton-Tucker and Michael Jacobson had a bit of a shoving match on the court in the second half.

It’s a mess in Ames right now.

PICKS: I’m going to be very interested to see where this line opens. up. The average of the projections is about Texas Tech (-2.5), and while this game is going to be played in Ames, I think that number will climb. Considering that the Red Raiders have won three straight road games by an average of 15 points and that they will be playing with the Big 12 title on the line, I’d probably take Tech up to about (-8). There’s only one side that I want to be on in this game.

OKLAHOMA at No. 18 KANSAS STATE, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas State 65, Oklahoma 59
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Kansas State 66, Oklahoma 60
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kansas State 66, Oklahoma 61

The first thing to note here is that Kansas State is going to know what they are playing for. If Texas Tech wins, they will be playing for a share of the Big 12 title. If Texas Tech loses, they get to be the first team not named Kansas to win an outright Big 12 title since Oklahoma State in 2004. Either way, there is a ton of motivation here for K-State.

I also think it is worth noting that Oklahoma more or less punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a win over Kansas on Tuesday night. Now they are turning around and playing on the road against a team that beat them by 13 points in Norman.

PICKS: Oklahoma has finished the season strong after losing five straight in the middle of Big 12 play. They’ve won four of their last five games, and while their defense has regressed to the mean a little bit, they are still better on that end of the floor than they are offensively. I think they can make it interesting, and I think that brings the over into play.

But the best bet here is, I think, Kansas State (-5.5) or so. I’ll be a little bit worried if the line climbs past (-7.5) because, like I said, I can see Oklahoma hanging with the Wildcats.

That said, this game will be played on Senior Night in Bramlage Coliseum, which has been known as the Octagon of Doom. They will be playing for the right to either be co-Big 12 champs or outright Big 12 champs in the first year that Kansas has not one the league in 14 years. To get a sense of what that rivalry means to Kansas State, the Wildcat fans stormed the floor after beating Kansas earlier this year despite the fact that they were in first place in the Big 12 at the time.

That building will be rocking on Saturday.

No. 5 TENNESSEE at AUBURN, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 76, Auburn 75
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Tennessee 77, Auburn 76
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 77, Auburn 75

Do you trust Tennessee’s defense? In the last two games, the Vols have put together their best two defensive performances of the season. They held Kentucky to 52 points and Mississippi State to 54 points. They’ve forced 17 turnovers in each of the last two games and held them to a combined 31 percent shooting from the floor and 25.7 percent shooting from three. Auburn, as we know, shoots a ton of threes, and the two biggest weaknesses the Vols have had defensively this season have been the defensive glass and running opponents off of the three-point line.

And that brings me to a larger point: The status of Austin Wiley. Wiley is a guy that might be able to play the role that Reid Travis did for Kentucky the first time the Vols and the Wildcats played, someone that can keep Tennessee from sealing in the paint and force Grant Williams out of the lane. He’s missed the last three games and has say eight of the last 14 in SEC play. There are only two high-major programs — Arkansas and Washington — that are worse on the defensive glass that Auburn, and Tennessee does have some guys that can create second chance points.

PICKS: Auburn is going to have a lot to play for here — they really don’t have many great wins — but I have a hard time seeing Tennessee losing. The Vols will be playing for an SEC title, and while LSU plays after them, the Tigers are playing Vanderbilt (0-17 in the SEC) at home. The Vols have to win, and rolling the way they are rolling, I can’t see them losing.

And the more I think about it, the more I like the under … despite the fact that I said the opposite on the podcast. (Whoops.) Tennessee’s defense is playing much better and so much of what Auburn does offensively comes off of their ability to force turnovers. They lead the nation in defensive turnover rate. Tennessee is 23rd nationally in offensive turnover rate.

No. 23 VILLANOVA at SETON HALL, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (FOX)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Villanova 70, Seton Hall 68
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Villanova 70, Seton Hall 68
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Villanova 70, Seton Hall 68

Seton Hall more or less punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament on Wednesday night with a come-from-behind win over Marquette, and while they’ll still have something to play for — better seeding in the NCAA and Big East tournaments, senior night, etc. — Villanova will have a lot more on the line. The Wildcats are playing for the outright Big East regular season title. Win and they get it.

PICKS: I am probably staying away from this game. I have no interest in betting against Villanova to win a championship of any sort. I also have no interest in betting on Villanova to win on the road when they have lost their last four games on the road.

No. 12 HOUSTON at No. 20 CINCINNATI, Sun. 12:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Cincinnati 63, Houston 62
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Cincinnati 64, Houston 63
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Cincinnati 65, Houston 64

Houston picked off SMU on Thursday night, but Cincinnati could not fulfill their side of the bargain. The Bearcats lost at UCF, which means that the Cougars now hold a one game lead on Cincinnati. Instead of a game that is being played for the outright AAC regular season title, Cincinnati is hoping to earn a share of the crown.

PICKS: When it comes down to it, in a game like that, I tend to lean towards the home team. Unless Houston is getting three or four points, I’ll probably end up on Cincinnati.

FLORIDA at No. 6 KENTUCKY, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kentucky 68, Florida 58
  • TORVIK PROJECTION: Kentucky 67, Florida 59
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kentucky 68, Florida 56

The is a must-win game for Florida, who has found a way to lose close quite a bit this season. They are 17-13, but thanks to the fact that they haven’t lost a game by more than 14 since Nov. 6th, they are still 30th in KenPom and 32nd in the NET.

PICKS: That is more or less where I am at with this game. Kentucky has struggled in the last weeks. Florida has lost two in a row, both at home, but they almost always play teams close.

No. 6 Kentucky earns hard-fought 80-76 win over Mississippi

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OXFORD, Miss. — Keldon Johnson scored 22 points, Tyler Herro added 20 and No. 6 Kentucky earned a hard-fought 80-76 win over Mississippi on Tuesday night.

Kentucky (25-5, 14-3 Southeastern Conference) bounced back from its 71-52 loss at No. 5 Tennessee on Saturday. PJ Washington had 13 points — all in the second half — to help the Wildcats ward off a tough challenge from the Rebels.

Kentucky shot 55.4 percent from the field and dominated in the paint with 34 points.

Ole Miss (19-11, 9-8) has lost three straight and four of five. The Rebels trimmed their deficit to 78-76 with six seconds left, but Immanuel Quickly made two free throws to put the game out of reach.

Terence Davis led the Rebels with 25 points on his Senior Night. Breein Tyree added 21.

Ole Miss led 39-38 at halftime thanks to 15 points from Davis. The 6-foot-4 guard also had six rebounds and two assists before the break.

Herro scored 13 points in the first half on 6-of-6 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: It was a good bounce-back win for the Wildcats, who were once again tested. Kentucky prevailed thanks to an efficient offense that finished tough chances close to the rim. Washington’s second-half outburst was huge. Kentucky remains in the mix for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Ole Miss: The Rebels were feeling good about their NCAA Tournament chances a few weeks ago, but three straight defeats have hurt the resume. Two have come against Tennessee and Kentucky, and while those are certainly understandable, it means Saturday’s road game against Missouri could have NCAA implications.

UP NEXT

Kentucky: Hosts Florida on Saturday.

Ole Miss: Plays at Missouri on Saturday.

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.

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.