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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.

Bubble Banter: Indiana is back on the bubble

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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.
  • 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

UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 73): We wrote all about the Knights’ win here.

INDIANA (NET: 58, SOS: 179): Look, I get it. Indiana is 15-14 on the season. They are 6-12 in the Big Ten. They have been a massive disappointment based off of what the expectations were for this team back in November. But after knocking off No. 6 Michigan State in Bloomington on how many teams in all of college basketball can match these five wins: A sweep of Michigan State (6), Wisconsin (15), Marquette (21), Louisville (25). They also won at Penn State (50) and beat Butler (55) on a neutral.

Overall, Indiana is 6-9 in Q1 games. All 14 of their losses have come against Q1 and Q2 competition. And in a year where we are talking about teams without anything even remotely close to a quality win on their resume, Indiana, at the very least, is in the thick of the conversation.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 27): Creighton landed an enormous win on Sunday, as they went into Milwaukee and picked off Marquette (19), landing by far their best win of the season. The Bluejays are just 15-13 on the season against Division I competition, but if we’re considering Texas and Indiana for at-large bids, then we have to put Creighton into the mix as well. Why? Because they now have a marquee win to add to a profile that is not nearly as bad as you might think. They now have three Q1 wins — Clemson (40) on a neutral and at Georgetown (72) — and currently sit at 9-13 against Q1 and Q2 competition. Their worst loss of the season came at Xavier (70) and they played the No. 11 schedule in all of college basketball.

The Bluejays finish out the season with DePaul and Providence at home. They need to win both of those and probably win at least a game or two in the Big East tournament to really feel comfortable. They have some ground to make up, but in a year where the bubble is this weak, they’re very much in the mix.

TEXAS (NET: 37, SOS: 9): The Longhorns absolutely blitzed a short-handed Iowa State (14) on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak in Big 12 play. Texas, like Indiana, is now sitting in a spot where their ugly record (15-13 overall, 8-8 in Big 12 play) is overshadowed by the number of good wins that they have landed. The Longhorns beat North Carolina (8) on a neutral. They beat Purdue (12), Iowa State (14) and Kansas (17) in Austin. They won at Kansas State (28) by 20. Add those wins to a 5-8 mark against Q1, a 9-11 record against Q1 and Q2 combined and two bad losses — Providence (77) and Radford (130) at home — and you’re looking at a mediocre team with a resume that is top heavy.

UTAH STATE (NET: 33, SOS: 116): This was the win that Utah State needed. Playing at home against the best that the MWC has to offer — No. 12 Nevada (19) — the Aggies landed the marquee win that their resume was missing. The Aggies are now 2-2 against Q1 opponents with a neutral court win over Saint Mary’s (39), and while they do have a couple of losses that bring the resume down — at San Diego State (128) and Fresno State (88) at home — this is a win that should put the Aggies on the right side of the bubble heading into Monday. If they can pick off Colorado State in Fort Collins next Tuesday, they’ll win a share of the MWC regular season title and they should be dancing.

FURMAN (NET: 47, SOS: 200): Furman’s SoCon regular season came to an end on Saturday with a win at Chattanooga, meaning that the Palladins will head into the conference tournament with an outside chance of getting an at-large bid. And frankly, when it comes down to it, the decision that the committee is likely going to be put to is whether or not they like the profile of a team like Furman — or UNC Greensboro, or Lipscomb, or Belmont, or anyone that didn’t stockpile games against Q1 opponents — or a team like the two you see above, Texas and Indiana.

Furman has a marquee win at Villanova. They also have a Q4 loss at home against Samford. Other than that, they’ve lost five Q1 games of which four were league opponents. They finished 21-6 on the season against Division I opponents. They have a non-conference SOS that ranks 281st. It’s hardly a perfect resume, which begs the question — are you more impressed by teams that take advantage of the one or two chances they get to play power conference teams, or by the teams that stockpile good-to-great wins a third of the time they get to play them?

There are no good answers, so my vote would be for the mid-majors.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 61, SOS: 118): The Spartans are in basically the same spot as Furman after beating Mercer on Saturday. They don’t have the elite win — their Q1 win is at East Tennessee State (65) — but they also don’t have a bad loss.

VCU (NET: 36, SOS: 39): It wasn’t easy, but VCU got the job done at Richmond, winning a rivalry game, 69-66, and avoiding what would have been their third Q3 loss of the year. The Rams are in pretty good shape at this point, but with every game left on their schedule a potential bad loss, they really want to win out.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 63, SOS: 84): The Sun Devils got a big boost this weekend. Not only did they beat Oregon State (83) on the road to add their seventh Q2 win to their resume, but Utah State (30) beat Nevada, helping boost their NET ranking; ASU beat Utah State on a neutral. The Sun Devils are 3-3 against Q1, but they also have two Q3 losses and two Q4 losses.

TEMPLE (NET: 56, SOS: 67): The Owls did what they needed to do to keep themselves in contention for an at-large bid — they knocked off a bad Tulane team. At this point, I don’t think that they can afford another loss and stay on the right side of the bubble.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 74, SOS: 89): Georgetown moved to 18-11 on the season on Saturday, picking up a double-overtime win over Seton Hall (64) in D.C. The Hoyas profile is not great, but it might be better than you think. They have three Q1 wins and a 9-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have a pair of Q3 losses — SMU (106) at home and Loyola-Marymount (148) on a neutral court. The more damaging part of their profile might be their non-conference schedule, which ranks 248th. The committee has shown in the past that they punish teams who don’t schedule tough.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 12): The Sooners smoked West Virginia, which means basically nothing beyond avoiding a bad loss on their resume. Because as it stands, that’s the best thing about Oklahoma’s resume right now. They are 3-9 against Q1 opponents — Wofford (18), Florida on a neutral (29), at TCU (43) — with seven Q2 wins and no bad losses. I think they need a split in their last two games — Kansas (17) and at Kansas State (28).

BELMONT (NET: 50, SOS: 222): The Bruins smacked around SEMO on Saturday night. They finished the regular season with a 24-4 record and a 16-2 mark in the OVC. They swept Lipscomb (46), they won at Murray State (52) and they beat UCLA (108) in Pauley Pavilion. They’re 5-1 against Q1 and Q2 opponents, but they also have three Q3 losses. The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Murray State in the OVC tournament.

MURRAY STATE (NET: 54, SOS: 286): Murray State is in a similar spot to Belmont in that they ended the regular season with a gaudy record in a mediocre league. They also only have a chance of getting an at-large if they lose to Belmont in the OVC tournament. The difference is that I think they are in a much more difficult position. The Racers lost both of the Q1 games they’ve played and their best win is a sweep of Austin Peay (129).

LIPSCOMB (NET: 46, SOS: 206): It’s a longshot for Lipscomb, but there is still a chance thanks to a pair of Q1 wins — at TCU (43) and at Liberty (62). The only way they can get an at-large bid is if they lose to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun title game, but even that might not be enough.

LOSERS

CLEMSON (NET: 43, SOS: 38): Clemson lost another heartbreaker on Saturday, this time falling by two points at home against a North Carolina team that would have been the marquee win that this team is sorely missing. The Tigers are 17-12 overal. They have one top 45 win — Virginia Tech (11) at home without Justin Robinson — and while they don’t have any bad losses, they are 5-12 against Q1 and Q2. That’s not good enough, and with at Notre Dame (102) and Syracuse (44) left on their schedule, this was their last chance in the regular season to land a resume-changing win.

FLORIDA (NET: 31, SOS: 49): Just when we thought that the Gators had finally figured things out, they go and they lose to Georgia (109) at home. Florida had won five straight games prior to Saturday night, but none of those wins were all that impressive. They have just one top 35 win — at LSU (13) — and while they sit at 3-9 against Q1 opponents, two of those three Q1 wins are at Alabama (49) and at Arkansas (74). They also have a pair of Q3 losses — tonight’s loss to Georgia and a loss at home to South Carolina (86).

And here’s the craziest part — Florida was a No. 10 seed in the most recent NBC Sports bracket projection entering the weekend.

ALABAMA (NET: 49, SOS: 32): If you want an idea of why Indiana has a really, really good chance of getting into the NCAA tournament, all you need to know is that entering today, most brackets had Alabama on the right side of the bubble. They were a No. 11 seed in our most recent bracket projection. After a loss to No. 13 LSU at home, the Tide are now 17-12 on the season and 8-8 in the SEC. They are 2-9 against Q1 — Kentucky (5) and Mississippi State (20) at home — with a home loss to Georgia State (133) in the mix as well. If that resume isn’t even in a play-in game, is Indiana’s really that much worse?

TCU (NET: 42, SOS: 42): The Horned Frogs got whipped up on by Texas Tech at home on Saturday, dropping them to 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12. They have a sweep of Iowa State (14) on their resume, and they also beat Florida (29) at home. With no bad losses to their name, that’s enough to keep them on the right side of the bubble fairly comfortably. That said, they’ve now lost five of six and seven of ten and they still get Kansas State (28) and at Texas (36) before the season is over. Can they get a bid at 6-12 in league play?

SETON HALL (NET: 64, SOS: 51): The Pirates lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling in double-overtime at Georgetown (71). As it stands, Seton Hall’s resume is very borderline. They have wins over Kentucky (5) on a neutral and at Maryland (26), and a 4-7 record against Q1 opponents is good. But they also lost at home to DePaul (111) and Saint Louis (121), both Q3 losses. Here’s the best news: the Pirates close the regular season by hosting both Villanova (27) and Marquette (21). They’ll have two more shots to land top 30 Q1 wins.

SAINT MARY’S (NET: 39, SOS: 46): The Gaels missed their chance to land a win that would have gotten them on the right side of the bubble, losing at home to No. 1 Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has no top 50 wins. They have one Q1 win — at New Mexico State (51) — and are sitting at just 3-8 against Q1 and Q2 opponents with three Q3 losses. Smarter people than me have Saint Mary’s firmly in the bubble mix, and at this point it has me questioning whether or not those people are actually smarter than me.

BUTLER (NET: 52, SOS: 20): The Bulldogs dropped to 15-14 on the season with a 21 point loss at Villanova (27). With games left against Xavier (70) and at Providence (77), they won’t be able to add to their resume in any meaningful way. I think they’re done.

MEMPHIS (NET: 53, SOS: 44): The Tigers had a shot if they had been able to win at Cincinnati (22) on Saturday night, but they were not able to get it done. The Tigers have as many Q1 wins — UCF (30) at home — as they do Q3 losses — Charleston (114) on a neutral — and with nothing other than a home game against Tulsa (98) left, they are going to need to make an American tournament run to have a chance.

DAYTON (NET: 68, SOS: 94): The Flyers likely saw their at-large hopes go up in flames on Friday night, as they lost in overtime at home to Rhode Island (141), their second Q3 loss of the season to go along with precisely zero Q1 wins. It was a longshot to get onto the right side of the cut-line, and this ends it.

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.

Cumberland leads No. 23 Cincinnati over Memphis 71-69

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CINCINNATI — Jarron Cumberland overcame a sluggish first half and scored 26 points, leading No. 23 Cincinnati to a 71-69 victory over Memphis on Saturday night that moved the Bearcats into a tie for first place in the American Athletic Conference.

The Bearcats (25-4, 14-2) are tied with Houston atop the league. They finish the regular season by facing each other in Cincinnati next Sunday.

The edgy game included three players getting technical fouls and another ejected. Jeremiah Martin led the Tigers (18-12, 10-7) with 28 points, keeping them in it until the final seconds.

Martin hit a 3-pointer and made a layup that cut it to 70-69 with 6.8 seconds left. Cincinnati’s Trevon Scott hit a free throw with 4.9 seconds to go, and Logan Johnson stole a pass intended for Martin to clinch it.

Cumberland and Antwann Jones got technical fouls with 7:38 left for an exchange under the basket. Cincinnati point guard Justin Jenifer was ejected for coming off the bench.

Also, Memphis’ Raynere Thornton tripped Cumberland as he dribbled, and then stepped over him, drawing a technical foul with 4:24 left.

Martin was hit on the left side of the face in a collision under the basket in the opening minutes and rubbed his jaw. He was examined during a timeout. Martin came in leading the league with 19.4 points per game and missed six of his nine shots in the first half, when Cincinnati led by as many as 10 points.

Cumberland had 21 points in the second half.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati needed a win to stay ranked for another week, and the Bearcats got it by holding down the league’s highest-scoring offense and getting an edge the boards 38-31.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers suffered a major setback in their bid to get a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are in better position to win a second straight AAC regular season title after first-place Houston lost to UCF 69-64 at home on Saturday . The Bearcats also won the conference tournament last season.

Bracketology: Virginia back to the top as March returns

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A year ago, the Virginia Cavaliers were holding the same position – sitting atop the college basketball world as king’s of Bracketology.  Today, as March awaits, UVA is back, leading the latest Field of 68.

Duke’s seed status will be heavily debated in the Selection Committee room if questions about Zion Williamson’s availability remain unanswered over the next two weeks.  When Selection Sunday arrives, the Committee will have to evaluate the Blue Devils based upon the team anticipated to take the floor in the NCAA tournament.  Given that Williamson’s injury status is day-to-day, we’re working under the assumption that he will, in fact, return at some point.  Time will tell.

The race for No. 1 seeds is far from over.  Kentucky and Tennessee play again this weekend.  Michigan State and Michigan meet again.  Duke has another matchup with North Carolina.

And just for fun, March begins tomorrow.

UPDATED: February 28, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Texas vs. UCF
MIDWEST REGION Utah State vs. Temple
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION PRAIRIE VIEW vs. RIDER

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

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Alabama Texas Clemson Butler
Arizona State UCF Georgetown Memphis
Minnesota Utah State Furman Providence
Seton Hall Temple Dayton UNC-Greensboro

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

SEC (8): KENTUCKY, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, 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), Rider (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), Radford (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.

Thursday’s Things To Know: AAC stays tied, Lagerald Vick steps aside and Pac-12 troubles magnify

Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images
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There weren’t many surprising results from the top-25 teams in action across the country on Thursday night, but there was significant news from both Kansas and Gonzaga (Killian Tillie can’t catch a break) while the AAC gets a dream matchup Sunday and the Pac-12 continues to be a nightmare. Here’s what you need to know”:

HOUSTON AND CINCINNATI BOTH WIN ROAD TESTS

It could have been an interesting night in the American. No. 12 Houston and No. 25 Cincinnati, both sporting matching one-loss conference records, were on the road against potentially tricky opponents in UCF and Memphis, respectively. It would have been easy to envision one losing, adding some tension into the league race or having them both taking Ls, injecting chaos into a league that’s been pretty orderly.

Both, though, won and continued to separate themselves from the rest of the conference and setup a monster showdown Sunday.

The Cougars had no trouble with the Knights, claiming a 77-68 victory, while the Bearcats held off the Tigers, 69-64.

Corey Davis, Jr.  had a big game for Houston, going for 26 points, five assists and three rebounds It was Jarron Cumberland unsurprisingly starring for Cincy with 17 points, six assists and six rebounds in a game the Bearcats had to really compete down the stretch to finally finish off.

Now, let’s talk about this weekend.

The first matchup between the two AAC frontrunners comes Sunday, with the Bearcats visiting Houston in what should be one of the marquee games of the weekend and the first of two bouts between these two teams.

It’ll be an interesting matchup with neither team sporting elite offenses, but strong defenses and deliberates paces. Cincy’s best bet will likely be to try to turn defense into offense as it has been solid in creating turnovers while that’s one of the areas the Houston offense hasn’t excelled. The way for most teams to attack Mick Cronin’s defense is at the 3-point line, but that’s not the strength of the Cougars, who instead rely on their offensive rebounding and the fact they don’t really have to score that much with how good their defense has been.

KANSAS LOSES A STARTER

It was just last week I used this space to muse about the vulnerability of Kansas’ Big 12 title streak. Sure, things looked less than great for the Jayhawks, but we’d seen that plenty over the course of the last 14 years only to then see Bill Self’s team ultimately on top of the conference standings.

But now it feels like bad is getting increasingly worse for the Jayhawks.

The school announced Thursday that starting guard Lagerald Vick will be taking a leave of absence from the team to deal with personal issues while his mother told the Kansas City Star he was needed back home in Memphis “for a couple weeks.”

Vick has been wildly inconsistent this season – and his playing time has been lately as well – but he’s a player that the Jayhawks are going to sorely miss for however long his absence runs. The margin of error for Kansas was already shrinking with a 6-4 league record and Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Baylor all looking like threats, and now losing a player like Vick, even with his flaws, only tightens that window. Dedric Lawson is now likely to see even more aggressive double teams with Kansas’ best 3-point threat off the floor and no clear player capable of replacing his 45.5 percent shooting from deep. It’s more than just losing a starter for Kansas, it’s losing a player that was providing a skill that Kansas has in short supply and allows its best player – Lawson – to be better.

Maybe Self figures this out or maybe Vick’s time away is short, but with the cascading bad news for Kansas, it feels like things are more likely to get worse than better.

THE PAC-12 IS REALLY TRYING TO BE A ONE-BID LEAGUE

Yes, it’s easy to pile on the Pac-12 for being awful this season. Sure, it’s probably been covered plenty this year that the league is down, even by its recent pedestrian standards.

But, I mean, c’mon. The conference just never seems to help itself.

Washington stayed perfect by beating Arizona in Tucson while Arizona State took a HORRIBLE loss at home to Washington State.

The Wildcats have now lost four-straight and five of their last six while Arizona State loss 91-70 to a Cougars team that was 8-14 overall and 1-8 in the Pac-12 in its home gym. I repeat, the Sun Devils lost by 21 POINTS to a team that previously had only managed to WIN A SINGLE GAME IN A HISTORICALLY TERRIBLE CONFERENCE. Bobby Hurley’s squad ain’t lookin’ so good right now.

Neither is the Pac-12, which continues to flirt with being a one-bid league.

Be sure to read Bubble Banter to get the in-depth look at what Thursday night meant, not only to the Pac-12, but the rest of the country trying to position itself heading into the regular season’s final month.