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Bracketology: Happy Valentine’s Day for Duke, LSU

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

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

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

BRACKET UPDATE: February 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (2): WOFFORD, UNC-Greensboro

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Quinnipiac (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Howard scores 36 as No. 10 Marquette beats DePaul 92-73

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CHICAGO — Markus Howard scored 36 points, Sam Hauser had 17 and No. 10 Marquette cruised by DePaul for a 92-73 victory on Tuesday night.

Howard went 12 for 21 from the field and 8 for 10 at the free-throw line in another impressive performance. He has scored at least 30 points in four of his last five games.

Sacar Anim added 12 points as Marquette (21-4, 10-2 Big East) won its second straight game since a disappointing 70-69 loss to St. John’s.

It was mostly smooth sailing for the Golden Eagles all night long. Hauser went to the locker room after he was poked in his right eye with 6:51 left, but he returned to the bench to watch the final minute with his jubilant teammates.

Femi Olujobi scored 19 points for DePaul (13-10, 5-7), and Max Strus had 16. Paul Reed finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Strus got DePaul within one when he converted a layup with 5:41 left in the first half. But Marquette then pulled away for good, going on an 11-0 run led by the shifty Howard.

The junior guard made two foul shots and a layup to increase the Golden Eagles’ lead to 39-34 with 4:46 left. After Jaylen Butz missed two foul shots for DePaul, Jamal Cain hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 46-34 with 1:23 remaining.

It was more of the same in the second half as Marquette continued to work the ball around for open looks. Cain and Anim scored before Ed Morrow made a foul shot to give the Eagles a 69-49 lead with 13:40 to go.

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: Howard is a terrific scorer, but Hauser also is quite an asset for the Golden Eagles with his ability to start a break off the glass. The 6-foot-8 swingman grabbed a defensive rebound in the first half, dribbled up the court and drained a 3-pointer to make it 29-21 with 11:14 left.

DePaul: Reed helped the Blue Demons to a 42-31 rebounding advantage, but they were picked apart on defense.

UP NEXT

Marquette is off for a week before hosting Butler on Feb. 20. The Golden Eagles beat the Bulldogs 76-58 in their first meeting of the season on Jan. 30.

DePaul visits Butler on Saturday night. The Blue Demons lost 87-69 to the Bulldogs on Jan. 16.

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Zion Williamson’s block, R.J. Barrett’s threes, give Brandon Clarke his due

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1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

We’ve all seen the block heard ’round the world by now, but I think that what we should be talking about after Duke’s win at Virginia on Saturday evening, at least when it pertains to Zion, is this: He did not play all that well, particularly on the offense end of the floor, yet he still finished with 18 points, five boards, five assists, three steals and three blocks while shooting 6-for-8 from the floor.

That’s his floor.

That’s about as bad as it’s going to get when Zion plays, at least at this level.

2. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

Tennessee has not lost a game this year since the day after Thanksgiving, when they blew a lead and lost in overtime to Kansas on a night where Grant Williams fouled out late. Since then, they’ve beaten Gonzaga in a thriller on a neutral court, but that was really the only good team that they have played. Since the loss to Kansas, the only win that the Vols have landed against a tournament team is at home against Alabama; both Arkansas and Florida, the latter of whom Tennesse has beaten twice, are currently on the wrong side of the bubble.

Put another way, that battle on Saturday between the Vols and Kentucky is going to tell us a lot about just how good this Tennessee team is.

3. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

We got the full Markus Howard experience this week. On Tuesday night, Howard struggled in a 70-69 loss at home against a St. John’s team that is just an awful matchup for the Golden Eagles. They have the length and athleticism to slow Howard down, and Marquette does not have a bully inside that can take advantage of the fact that the Johnnies have a bunch of perimeter players on their roster.

So I don’t take too much from that.

The more interesting game, to me, came on Saturday against Villanova. Howard finished with 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting — which, believe it or not, is like his fifth-most impressive performance this season — but late in the game we got a glimpse at exactly what makes Howard an iffy NBA draft prospect. First, there was Saddiq Bey picking his pocket, as the lanky, 6-foot-7 forward forced a turnover with Marquette leading by one in the final seconds. That set up the last play of the game, where Howard left Phil Booth on a switch and created a driving lane that Booth — a potential all-american that will play in the NBA and has made maybe one bad decision in his life — really should have taken more advantage of:

I know we’ve gotten a bit off topic here, but Phil, what are you doing? Shoot!

4. JA MORANT, Murray State

Morant continues to cruise along, scoring 20 likes it’s nothing and averaging an NCAA-best 10.2 assists while doing it. I just wonder, at this point, if the Racers are going to have a real chance at getting to the NCAA tournament. They play in one of the tougher mid-major leagues in the country and will have to get through both Belmont and Jacksonville State to get the automatic bid.

5. ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin

Happ was shut down for the final 35 minutes in Wisconsin’s loss at Michigan on Saturday, as Jon Teske got a measure of revenge for the performance the Wisconsin center had when the Badgers ended Michigan’s unbeaten season.

And Happ still finished with 18 points and 11 boards. What a player.

6. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

Hunter had 20 points as Virginia bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Duke with a 69-61 win at North Carolina on Monday night. That’s big, but to really understand how good Hunter is for this team, think about it like this: When the game was on the line, the 6-foot-7, 225 pound forward was put on Coby White for the final five minutes, shutting down one of the most explosive scorers in the country to help preserve a win.

How many players his size can do that?

7. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

The Media: “R.J. Barrett is an inefficient volume shooter that doesn’t have enough range or consistency from three.”

R.J. Barrett:

8. CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Winston bounced back from a career-worst nine turnovers against Illinois to finish with nine assists and no turnovers as the Spartans ended a three-game losing streak by shredding Minnesota on Saturday. He gets Wisconsin on the road tonight.

9. DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas

Lawson did not play well on Monday night in a win at TCU, but he still finished with 14 points, 10 boards and a pair of assists. Perhaps more importantly, he’s 14-for-29 from three in his last seven games. The Jayhawks have now won three of their last four and look like they are starting to figure out how to play with their injury limitations.

10. BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga

I have to bring this up, because it is one of the most shocking omissions on an award since A Star Is Born was shut out of the awards that matter at the Golden Globes.

Brandon Clarke — who is probably Gonzaga’s best player, who is arguably the best defensive player in college basketball and who is unquestionably one of the four best players at power forward or center, wherever it is you decide to list him positionally — was not named a finalist for either the Karl Malone or the Kareem Abdul Jabbar award.

And that is just baffling.

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways (of determining these positional watch lists) die.

IN THE MIX: Phil Booth (Villanova), Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Ty Jerome (Virginia), Charles Matthews (Michigan), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s), P.J. Washington (Kentucky)

Monday Overreactions: Kansas State’s rise, Jack White’s demise, Justin Robinson’s absence

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

Let’s start with the obvious one here: Bohannon scored 13 of his 15 points in the final three minutes, sparking a game-ending, 23-7 run that culminated in the Iowa point guard burying a three in the final seconds to beat Northwestern at home:

That was impressive, and it came on the heels of an even more impressive performance. Bohannon went for 25 points and six assists without committing a turnover as the Hawkeyes went into Assembly Hall and picked off Indiana. Bohannon hit a number of critical jumpers in the final minutes of that game as the Hoosiers threatened a late comeback.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas State Wildcats

Entering the week, Kansas State held a share of the Big 12 lead, tied with Baylor atop the conference standings with dates against Kansas (at home) and those Baylor Bears (in Waco) on the schedule.

As of this morning — and thanks, in part, to wins from Texas and TCU — the Wildcats sit all alone in first place in the league with a two game lead in the loss column over the field and just eight games left on their regular season schedule.

It’s baffling to truly comprehend. A month ago, Kansas State was sitting at 0-2 in the Big 12, coming off of a home loss to Texas where they mustered all of 47 points. They were ranked outside the top 200 in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom, and after digging themselves a 21 point second half hole against West Virginia in Manhattan, it looked like this might finally end up being the season that cost Bruce Weber his job. It sounds foolish to admit to saying that now, but it’s true. Kansas State looked like they were going to miss the NCAA tournament as a preseason top 15 team.

And now, after beating their archrival at home and then picking off the No. 2 team in the league on the road, the Wildcats are the favorite to end the Kansas reign in the Big 12.

This is what K-State’s remaining schedule looks like:

  • at Texas
  • Iowa State
  • at West Virginia
  • Oklahoma State
  • at Kansas
  • Baylor
  • at TCU
  • Oklahoma

If they go 5-3 down the stretch — which is very doable — they are going to win the Big 12.

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. MARQUETTE CANNOT RELY THIS HEAVILY ON MARKUS HOWARD

Howard was absolutely sensational in No. 10 Marquette’s win over No. 14 Villanova on Saturday. He finished with 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting, hitting 5-for-11 from three and carrying the weight in a 66-65 win for the Golden Eagles. The problem is that the rest of the Marquette roster combined to score 28 points, and 18 of them came from Sacar Anim, a role player that is not known as much of an offensive threat. The Hauser brothers were a combined 2-for-10 from the floor and finished with four points.

On the one hand, this was a win that the Golden Eagles had to get if they wanted to have a shot at the Big East regular season title. Howard’s performance made that possible. On the other hand, there is no chance that they can win the league — or anything in March — if they are just going to hope Howard carries them there.

I am all in on the Markus Howard bandwagon. I think he’s sensational. But the Hausers cannot disappear like this in a big game again, because next time Marquette won’t be so lucky.

They probably should have lost this game as it is. Phil Booth, one of the best decision-makers and best players in college hoops, had a chance to win it on Saturday and did this:

Look at this screenshot:

Booth has to be able to score that. He didn’t, and it kept Marquette in the title race.

2. THE MOST IMPORTANT INJURY IN THE COUNTRY IS JUSTIN ROBINSON’S

On January 30th, in a win over Miami, Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson suffered a foot injury that has since left him on the Hokie bench during games wearing a boot and, on Saturday, using crutches. This is the same player that was averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.1 percent from three. This the guy that put 35 points and eight assists on Syracuse four days before he was hurt and had 17 points in 19 minutes when he went down against the Hurricanes.

And as of now, we don’t really have an answer for his status. Buzz Williams has not been forthcoming with information about Robinson’s status, either on the record or off the record. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the best NBA prospect on Virginia Tech’s roster, but Robinson is their most important player, arguably their best defender and the guy that makes their offense run. In the three games that he’s missed, Virginia Tech is 1-2 while averaging 54 points per game and just 0.931 points-per-possession. The one game they won came when N.C. State mustered just 24 points.

With Robinson, the Hokies are one of the best shooting teams in the country and among the nation’s elite offensively. They are dangerous because of what they can do shooting the ball.

Without him, they are thoroughly average and do not have a point guard on the roster.

3. VIRGINIA IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE

Duke does everything well on a basketball court. They are elite defensively. They are maybe the best team in transition in college hoops history. They will clobber you on the glass. They are always going to have the two or three best players on the court. The equalizer for teams playing against them is that they have not been able to make threes this season.

To beat them, you have to pack in your defense, dare R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson to make shots and go from there. That’s exactly what Virginia did on Saturday in Charlottesville, and Duke hit 13 of their first 18 threes and left with a dominating win.

There’s not much the Wahoos can do about that.

Hell, I’d argue that they played well enough on Saturday to win.

Zion stuffed the stat sheet, but the Wahoos did about as good of a job of keeping him in check as you can. Barrett didn’t do much of anything on the offensive end of the floor after he made those five threes to open the game. Cam Reddish did score 17 points, but his damage was done as a spot-up shooter. Those are the shots that you have to live with as a coach.

Virginia, as a team, shot 46.7 percent from the floor. They were 10-for-24 from three. They forced 15 Duke turnovers and limited the Blue Devils to just eight offensive rebounds. They more or less kept Duke from getting out in transition and beating their defense down the floor. I think Tony Bennett will be able to go to sleep tonight knowing that there wasn’t much else he could have done. It was just one of those nights.

4. MARQUES BOLDEN IS EATING UP JACK WHITE’S MINUTES

Earlier in the season, I made the point repeatedly that I thought Duke’s best lineup came with Jack White on the floor and Zion playing the five.

And while I still think that is their best lineup in theory, two things have changed since then:

1. White has forgotten how to play basketball. Since hitting a career-high four threes against Clemson on January 5th, White is 1-for-23 from beyond the arc. He has scored 13 points in the last 10 games. He started three of those games and played at least 24 minutes is five of of them. He was one of just two players to play all 40 minutes against Virginia. He’s averaged 12.4 minutes in the last five games.

2. That can coincided with Marques Bolden proving himself to be capable defending in a system where Duke switches everything. We know he can protect the rim, that he’s a vertical spacer and that he can rebounder the ball fairly well, but the reason that he has been unable to get consistent minutes during his time at Duke is that he has been a mess on the defensive end of the floor.

That’s not so much the case anymore, and while he’s hardly been a guy that is going to draw comparisons to, say, Clint Capela or Jordan Bell or another player of that ilk, he’s been fine when asked to switch onto guards. He can stay in front for a couple of dribbles, and his length allows him to contest jumpers.

It’s not ideal, but it has worked for Duke this month.

5. THE BUBBLE IS THE WORST IT’S EVER BEEN

I know you hear this every year, and I have been trying to avoid writing this for as long as possible, but I can’t do it anymore.

The bubble is just absolutely atrocious this year, as bad as it has ever been.

The reason I am bringing it up now is because two more at-large spots opened up in our latest bracket projection — the team in first place in the league standings is granted the auto-bid, and with VCU and Buffalo moving back into first place, the Atlantic 10 and MAC once again morphed into one-bid leagues.

This is where we stand: Georgetown, who ranks 78th in the NET, who has beaten just a single top 50 team (St. John’s, who is 49th, on the road) and who has three Q1 wins, a 7-7 record against Q1 and Q2 and two Q3 losses, is our first team out. UCF, who is 0-2 against Q1 teams and whose best win is Alabama (43) at home, is an at-large team. Oklahoma, who is 15-9 overall, 3-8 in the Big 12 and has lost four in a row and six of eight, is in the tournament largely due to the fact that a home win over Wofford is a Q1 win.

Indiana, Providence, Florida, Creighton. These teams are all somehow still in the tournament conversation, and it is baffling.

We have to get to 68 teams somehow.

And it is going to get ugly.

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

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

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

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

UPDATED: February 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Princeton (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Robert Morris (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

NBC Sports Top 25: Duke is No. 1, Virginia remains top five

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There wasn’t much change in the top ten for me this week. Virginia was the only member of the top six to lose, and they lost on a night where the No. 1 team shot 13-for-21 from three. As I wrote from that game, it’s hard to think any less of them after that.

Michigan State is the team in the top ten that is the hardest to rank right now. On the one hand, they did lose three straight games, culminating in that loss at Illinois on Tuesday night. On the other hand, everyone lost last week. Villanova lost to Marquette who lost to St. John’s, both games decided by a single point. Kansas lost. Virginia Tech lost twice. I can’t bump any of them over the Spartans, and I also am not yet ready to bump Nevada or Houston past them. Nevada’s best win this season is Utah State at home. They haven’t even played a Q1 game this year, let alone landed a Q1 win.

Purdue and Michigan State are basically the same team and split the season series. The only difference is that Purdue lost early and Michigan State lost recently.

Beyond that, figuring out how to rank the Big 12 is like throwing darts blindfolded. As of today, I have Kansas State as the highest ranked team in the league — how can I not? — with Iowa State, Texas Tech and Kansas right behind them, in that order, but I’m not actually convinced that the Wildcats aren’t the worst of that group of four teams.

We are at the point in league play where college basketball is starting to get weird.

And I am here for it.

Here is the rest of the NBC Sports Top 25:

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

Dropped Out: 19. Mississippi State, 22. Baylor, 24. Auburn
New Additions: 14. Kansas State, 24. Florida State, 25. Wofford