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Bubble Banter: It’s the final weekend of the regular season

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There is now just under a month left in conference play, so it is time for us to go all-in on the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the weekend, so be sure to check back on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the games get played. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster and @phillipshoops.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below. This does not mean that those teams are locks, but it means they need to do something dumb before they are in danger of missing out on the tournament. 
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: Wofford, Baylor, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Syracuse, Ohio State, Auburn and N.C. State.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

MURRAY STATE (NET: 52, SOS: 215): The Racers don’t have to worry about the bubble anymore after clinching an autobid over Belmont in the OVC title game. Ja Morant and Murray State are back into the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. Learn all about this dangerous double-digit seed here.

SETON HALL (NET: 61, SOS: 27): No bubble team in the country had a better week than Seton Hall. After Saturday’s Big East win at home over Villanova (25), the Pirates have now knocked off the Big East’s two best teams in back-to-back games with their backs against the wall. Following the win over Marquette earlier this week, Seton Hall should feel comfortable about likely getting in. Now standing a very solid 6-6 in Q1 games, Seton Hall is all but assured an at-large entry on Selection Sunday. It’ll be fascinating to see how the Pirates perform in the Big East Tournament because they’ve been one of the most inconsistent teams in the country. A three-game winning streak turned into a three-game losing streak and now Seton Hall just took down the league’s two top teams. Who knows what we’ll see in the postseason?

TCU (NET: 53, SOS: 34): Massive Q1 road win for TCU over another bubble team in Texas (34) on Saturday as both were in an uncomfortable position. The Horned Frogs can feel a little bit safer knowing they earned potentially the biggest bubble win of the day with this Q1 road victory. Although TCU has been shaky in the Big 12 (7-11) with just average Q1 (3-8) and Q2 (5-4) results, this could be the win that gives them a little bit of breathing room heading into the Big 12 tournament. Beating Texas stopped a three-game slide and also hurts another bubble team in the process. It would certainly help the Horned Frogs to get another win or two in the Big 12 tournament, but this win on Saturday was a home run for now.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 80): The Owls might have just solidified an at-large bid thanks to a Q1 home win over UCF (26) on Saturday. Winners of six of their last seven games, Temple has been teetering on the bubble because of a soft recent conference schedule. Knocking off the Knights pushes the Owls to a 3-6 record against Q1 teams coupled with a solid 5-1 record in Q2 scenarios. Even more important for Temple, the UCF win provides Q1 insurance, as Missouri (75) is right on the edge of becoming a Q2 win. With high-quality wins over Houston (6) and UCF, that could be enough to get the Owls into the Field of 68 in Fran Dunphy’s final season.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 80, SOS: 81): A bizarre trip to the Midwest for the Hoyas this week as they followed up a blowout loss to DePaul (98) with a shocking road win over Marquette (29) on Saturday. The Hoyas still have very shaky computer metrics thanks to a very underwhelming non-conference schedule. They’ve also knocked off the two best teams in the Big East as they’ve proven themselves to be a dangerous opponent in conference play. Even with this Q1 road win (to move the Hoyas to 4-6 in that mark), they likely need to pick off a few teams at Madison Square Garden next week to get in. Marquette is doing everything they can to keep the Big East bubble teams afloat these last few games, and Georgetown will thankfully take its extended bubble life for another week.

INDIANA (NET: 55, SOS: 48): Suddenly-surging Indiana has won four straight games to get themselves firmly back in the at-large picture. Sunday saw the Hoosiers take down Rutgers (97) at home for a Q3 victory. While knocking off the Scarlet Knights isn’t going to give Indiana a significant jump, at this point in the season, any win helps. It also gives Indiana a matchup in the Big Ten tournament against another bubble team in Ohio State in the 8/9 game next week. Depending on what the Buckeyes do later on Sunday, that game could be a win-and-get-in/loser-goes-home scenario that could make for a must-see matchup.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 71, SOS: 67): Helping its cause with a road win over in-state rival Arizona (89), the Sun Devils continued their solid play down the stretch. Beating the Wildcats means Arizona State has won five of their last six games — including two straight on the road. This Q2 win pushes the Sun Devils to a solid 8-2 record against that group while they remain a decent 3-3 against Q1 teams. If Arizona State avoids a bad loss in the Pac-12 tournament (and there are plenty of opportunities for pitfalls) then they should be able to be the second Pac-12 team to make the Big Dance.

CLEMSON (NET: 40, SOS: 32): The Tigers did what they needed to do in knocking off Syracuse (42) for a Q2 home win. For a team currently hovering at “First Four Out” status, getting two wins this week just helps keep the Tigers in the at-large picture. Now 6-3 in Q2 games, it’s the 1-9 mark against Q1 opponents that has Clemson concerned at this point in the season. It will likely come down to the ACC tournament in terms of the Tigers getting into the field as they need to continue to win at this point in the season.

CREIGHTON (NET: 54, SOS: 14): Pulling out a home win over DePaul (98), this Q3 victory won’t do too much to enhance Creighton’s credibility. But as a team sitting in “Last Four In” status entering this game, avoiding a loss is just as important. The win for the Bluejays earns them a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as they get a dangerous Xaver team in the opening matchup. Creighton will need to take care of the Musketeers if they want to keep its tourney hopes in tact.

N.C. STATE (NET: 35, SOS: 211): Avoiding a bad loss was more important than the win N.C. State earned over Boston College (113) on Saturday. Although the Eagles are an ACC bottomfeeder, the road win still merits a Q2 result — pushing the Pack to a very solid 6-0 in that category. But, as we’ve discussed all season, N.C. State’s dreadful strength of schedule is going to be the fascinating subplot for them the rest of the season. With a comparable SOS to mid-major teams on this list like Belmont and Murray State (see below), how will the committee evaluate a team like N.C. State on Selection Sunday? The 2-8 record in Q1 territory doesn’t help. Continuing to win is really the only recipe to ensure that the Wolfpack get in.

UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 57, SOS: 116): Advancing to the SoCon tournament finals with a win over another bubble team in Furman (41), UNC Greensboro continues to help its cause. Knocking out the Paladins not only helps the Spartans with a Q1 win — it also hurts one of the teams UNC Greensboro is directly competing with for an at-large bid. The Spartans are now 2-5 in Q1 games with Sunday’s result. Facing another Q1 opponent in Wofford in the SoCon finals will also help UNC Greensboro — regardless of outcome. The win would obviously take the Spartans off the bubble and into the Field of 68 with the autobid. But even a loss to a Q1 team like Wofford is going to continue to elevate UNC Greensboro’s rapidly-rising SOS — which is continuing to look even better when compared to other mid-major bubble teams like Belmont, Lipscomb and Furman.

VCU (NET: 31, SOS: 49): Knocking off Saint Joseph’s (171) for a home win won’t do much to help VCU’s at-large cause. Beating the Hawks at home is only good enough for a Q4 win at this point in the season. Avoiding the disastrous Q4 loss is the most important thing about Friday’s win for the Rams. Winning the A-10 regular season by two full games, VCU should continue to win in order to feel safe next weekend.

LOSERS

BELMONT (NET: 45, SOS: 192): It’s going to be a long week for the Bruins. Falling to Murray State (52) in the OVC title game, Belmont is hoping other bubble teams continue to lose while bid poachers don’t knock off teams like Buffalo or Wofford. On the bright side, if Belmont was going to lose to anyone in this OVC title game, falling to a Q1 opponent like Murray State is as good as they could have hoped for. With a 2-1 record against Q1 teams and a 3-2 mark against Q2 opponents, Belmont’s profile has a lot to like. But the mediocre strength of schedule, coupled with a mediocre 3-2 mark against Q3 opponents, could hurt the Bruins on Selection Sunday. Ultimately, Belmont, Furman and Lipscomb will be the major test cases for the committee as they weigh the merits of picking a quality mid-major program or a barely-.500 power conference team with better computer numbers.

FURMAN (NET: 41, SOS: 182): Furman might be in bubble trouble after falling to UNC Greensboro (57) in the SoCon semifinals. The Paladins drop a Q2 game with the loss, but it came to one of their main bubble competitors while eliminating a chance to get a crack at Wofford. Sitting at 1-5 against Q1 teams and 3-1 versus Q2 teams, Furman might not have enough to get into the field after a full week of other bubble teams earning wins. Adding to the glut of mid-major bubble teams with no more games like Belmont and Lipscomb, it’s going to be fascinating to see how this week unfolds and where that group stands by the end of it.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 42, SOS: 210): It might be an even longer week for Lipscomb after the Bisons lost at home to Liberty in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament title game. The Q2 loss drops Lipscomb to 1-3 against that group while they’re 2-3 against Q1 teams. On the positive side, the Bisons only have one Q3 loss (3-1 overall) and no Q4 losses as they’ve beaten most of the teams they’re supposed to take care of. But now that both Belmont and Lipscomb are vying for an at-large bid, the Bisons could be in dangerous territory. Belmont has a slightly better NET, SOS and a winning record against both Q1 and Q2 opponents. Much like the Bruins, Lipscomb likely needs a lot of things to go its way this week if they want to get in the field.

OHIO STATE (NET: 52, SOS: 59): Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin (15) has to really sting for the Buckeyes. With a chance to earn a Q1 win that would give Ohio State some much-needed breathing room heading into the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes instead collapsed in overtime after rallying from 23 points down in the second half. Sitting at “Last Four Byes” status before a long weekend of bubble wins for other teams, the Buckeyes might be right on the edge of the cut line going into a very important all-bubble matchup against Indiana. Thursday’s No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed showdown against the Hoosiers in the Big Ten tournament could very well decide an NCAA tournament bid with the loser of that one being left out in the cold. We’ll have to see how brackets look after this weekend, but it could come down to that simple result on Thursday.

TEXAS (NET: 34, SOS: 7): The perplexing bubble case of Texas just got even more confusing with a home loss to TCU (53). The Q2 loss means the Longhorns are now 4-4 in that group (meh…) but they still have a solid (for a bubble team) 5-9 mark against Q1 teams. Just how long can the goodwill of wins over North Carolina, Purdue and Kansas last? Texas is now 16-15 overall and many brackets have them right on the cusp of making it. And that was before this Saturday defeat. Now that they’ve lost to TCU, Texas likely needs at least one or two wins in the Big 12 tournament to have a shot at getting in. The Longhorns might be the biggest indicator of how the committee feels about strength of schedule and NET rating on Selection Sunday.

FLORIDA (NET: 34, SOS: 39): Just when Florida was trending in a great direction on a five-game winning streak a few weeks ago, the Gators have now lost three straight games entering the postseason. Saturday’s loss at Kentucky (5) isn’t a backbreaker — but the Gators also would have potentially punched their ticket with a Q1 win of that magnitude. The SEC tournament now becomes the focus for Florida. At only 3-11 against Q1 teams, if Florida can enhance that mark while earning some more wins, they might just be able to sneak into this field. For now, it feels like Mike White’s team is doing everything they can to play in the NIT.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 62, SOS: 69): Falling to Xavier (73) on the road, St. John’s continues to make its bubble life more difficult. Losing four of their last five games, the Red Storm are struggling entering a Big East tournament in which they now need to play a Wednesday play-in game to even make the quarterfinals as a No. 7 seed. Now 5-5 against Q1 teams, and 5-3 against Q2 teams, St. John’s desperately needs to win its opening game on Wednesday to avoid disaster. As long as St. John’s wins the opener, they should be okay but they certainly aren’t making things easy on the committee.

ALABAMA (NET: 57, SOS: 25): Dropping a third consecutive game, Alabama is in real trouble entering the SEC tournament. Falling to Arkansas (65) on the road, the Crimson Tide are now an underwhelming 3-9 in Q1 settings with a 6-3 record in the Q2 sector. Sitting at “First Four In” status in our latest bracket entering this game, this loss could push Alabama into risky territory as they’ll need to win a few games next week to get in. Given the way Alabama is limping into the postseason, that doesn’t seem very likely.

BUTLER (NET: 59, SOS: 20): It’s probably time to take Butler off the bubble after its latest loss to Providence (76). Losers of four of their last five games, the Bulldogs haven’t helped themselves at all over the last several weeks — even as other Big East bubble teams like Creighton, Georgetown and Seton Hall improve their chances. Now standing 16-15 overall with a suspect 1-10 record against Q1 opponents, a Q2 loss (now 8-3 there) is especially damaging for Butler. The Bulldogs need to likely win the Big East tournament to be dancing.

MINNESOTA (NET: 55, SOS: 40): Squandering a valuable opportunity for a Q1 road win at Maryland (28), the Golden Gophers probably didn’t hurt themselves too badly in defeat. After beating Purdue (12) earlier this week at home, Minnesota gave themselves a little bit of a bubble cushion. But this Maryland game is the kind of win that would have all but guaranteed Minnesota’s at-large hopes had they won. As it stands, the Gophers are now 3-9 in Q1 scenarios and 7-3 against Q2. Richard Pitino’s bunch doesn’t have any bad losses and their strength of schedule is solid. As long as they don’t bow out in the first Big Ten Tournament game, it feels like they should be safe.

Cowan scores 21 as No. 24 Maryland beats Minnesota 69-60

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If Maryland was feeling pressured to snap a two-game losing streak, it sure didn’t show prior to the opening tipoff against Minnesota.

The Terrapins completed their warmup session by gathering in the lane to dance to the hip-hop music blaring from the loudspeakers. They laughed and joked with the team’s two upperclassmen on Senior Night, and jumped for joy when senior Ivan Bender dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend.

And then, No. 24 Maryland kept the good times rolling, completing the regular season with a feel-good 69-60 victory Friday night.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 21 points and Jalen Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins. They were coming off a lopsided loss at Penn State and their lone Big Ten defeat at home, versus Michigan.

“We talked about having fun, but you never know if kids are going to relax or not,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were a little uptight Sunday in that (Michigan) game.”

There was no sign of nervousness against Minnesota. The Terrapins (22-9, 13-7) led by 12 at halftime, stretched the margin to 19 in the opening three minutes of the second half and went up 54-32 with 13 minutes left.

“We had a great week of practice,” Turgeon said. “I knew we were going to play well, I knew we were going to play with energy. I didn’t think it would be quite that easy.”

Amir Coffey had 23 points and six assists for Minnesota (19-12, 9-11). The Golden Gophers’ only lead was 2-0.

Minnesota shot 27 percent before halftime, 38 percent overall and committed 13 turnovers.

“We talked about when you go on the road, you’ve got to take good shots and you can’t turn the ball over,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We didn’t do both of those in the first half.”

Bruno Fernando had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Maryland and Smith, a lanky 6-foot-10 freshman, just missed matching his career high of 21 points — set against Minnesota in 82-67 victory Jan 8.

Limited to 10 points against Michigan, Cowan topped that with a 12-point first half against Minnesota. The junior guard finished with a team-high five assists and played 37 minutes.

Asked what made the night special, Cowan replied, “Just seeing everybody playing together. Everybody smiling. Everybody just playing with heart, playing with effort. You can’t really ask for much more than that.”

Maryland led 34-22 at halftime despite missing 11 of its final 12 shots.

Minnesota had more turnovers (8) than baskets (7) in the first half and was 2 for 14 from inside the arc.

The Terrapins led 9-6 before Smith drilled successive 3-pointers to ignite an 18-7 run. Smith added a dunk during the surge and Cowan capped it with a 3 from the top of the key.

Smith started the second half with two free throws and Cowan made a layup to launch a 9-2 spurt that made it 43-24.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are a different team on the road, a problem that is not unique in the Big Ten. Minnesota finished 13-3 at home and 2-9 on the road, including 2-8 in the conference.

Maryland: The Terrapins desperately needed a blowout victory to erase the sting of the two games that preceded it. Turgeon can only hope this serves as a confidence boost heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

COLD COFFEY

Coffey scored a combined 63 points in Minnesota’s previous two games, helping the Golden Gophers beat Northwestern and Purdue. In this one, however, he went 8 for 17 from the floor and struggled before scoring 17 over the final 9:34.

“He doesn’t need to have to score 30 points for us to be a good offensive team,” Pitino said. “But in the second half, he was pretty darn good.”

FULLY ENGAGED

With only two upperclassmen on the squad, Senior Night was expected to be rather uneventful.

Bender rewrote the script by proposing to his girlfriend.

Though caught by surprise, Andrea Knezevic said yes.

UP NEXT

Both teams open play Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago.

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

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Kansas’ Big 12 streak ends; Big Ten race gets complicated; Duke survives

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Tuesday night featured chaos all over college basketball thanks to upsets and conference races getting upended. One of the sport’s most iconic streaks finally came to an end while another conference race got more interesting thanks to an upset loss. And that doesn’t even include an overtime thriller between top-25 teams and a top-five team nearly losing to an unranked team at the buzzer.

Oklahoma ends the Kansas Big 12 title streak with blowout win

The streak is finally over. After 14 consecutive years of Big 12 titles, the league is guaranteed a new conference regular-season champion after No. 13 Kansas fell on the road at Oklahoma.

Falling behind by double digits less than five minutes into the game, the Jayhawks never recovered as junior forward Dedric Lawson (18 points, 11 rebounds) was the team’s only consistent presence. Meanwhile, Oklahoma picked up its most important win of the season as this Q1 victory likely solidifies the Sooners into the Field of 68. Kristian Doolittle (24 points, 11 rebounds) tallied his fourth double-double of the season while Brady Manek earned 21 points.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one here as he explores what the end of this streak means for Kansas and college hoops.

Minnesota outlasts No. 11 Purdue to muddy the Big Ten race 

Things got complicated in the Big Ten on Tuesday night thanks to the Golden Gophers holding off Purdue for a Big Ten home win. While the victory likely punches Minnesota’s at-large ticket into the Field of 68, the most important takeaway from this one is the Boilermakers relinquishing their lead in the Big Ten.

With Michigan State’s Tuesday night win over Nebraska, the Big Ten now has a three-way tie for the conference lead as Purdue, the Spartans and Michigan are all 15-4 heading into the final conference game of the season. The Boilermakers had a golden opportunity to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title with a win on Tuesday, but Carsen Edwards (22 points, 7-for-31 shooting) struggled to consistently make shots while big man Matt Haarms (three points, 1-for-8 shooting) was also off. Amir Coffey poured in 32 points for Minnesota as they were among the night’s big winners among bubble teams.

No. 14 Florida State rallies to beat No. 15 Virginia Tech in OT

The night’s only matchup between top-25 teams ended up being a good one as the Seminoles had an impressive second-half rally to earn the ACC home win.

While this game doesn’t have huge NCAA tournament implications (it’ll certainly help Florida State, but how much remains to be seen) the win gives the Seminoles the very important No. 4 seed (and double bye) in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Trailing by 14 points at the half, Florida State used a balanced effort to rally as Mfiondu Kabengale led with 17 points.

No. 4 Duke survives Wake Forest without Zion

Life without superstar freshman Zion Williamson continued for the Blue Devils on Tuesday as Duke barely survived with a one-point home win over Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons had multiple looks on the game’s final possession as Chaundee Brown’s putback rolled out in agonizingly slow fashion as time expired. Trailing by 10 in the second half, Duke was carried by freshman R.J. Barrett (28 points) in this one as Cam Reddish battled foul trouble and a sluggish start to only finish with six points.

Point guard Tre Jones (13 points, eight rebounds, three steals) also had a solid effort on both ends of the floor, but he left for part of the second half with what’s being described as a bruised right quad. Junior big man Marques Bolden was also limited due to a hip injury in this one as the Blue Devils need to get healthy, and quickly, before Saturday’s rivalry showdown at North Carolina.

Coffey’s 32 points helps Minnesota down No. 11 Purdue 73-69

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MINNEAPOLIS — Amir Coffey matched his career with 32 points, making two free throws with 2.5 seconds left Tuesday night to seal Minnesota’s 73-69 victory over No. 11 Purdue to give the Gophers a big boost for an NCAA Tournament berth and spoil the Boilermakers’ bid for an outright Big Ten title.

Carsen Edwards scored 22 points for Purdue (22-8, 15-4), but he needed 31 shots to get there and finished just 3 for 15 from 3-point range. The Boilermakers, who had their five-game winning streak broken and lost for only the second time in their last 15 games, fell into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with Michigan and Michigan State. The Wolverines and Spartans play each other this weekend, so the best the Boilermakers can do is tie for the regular-season title.

Jordan Murphy had all 13 of his points in the first half to go with 14 rebounds, with fellow seniors Dupree McBrayer (10 points, four rebounds, four assists) and Matz Stockman (nine points, six rebounds, seven blocks) also playing key roles for the Gophers (19-11, 9-10).

Ryan Cline scored 19 points for Purdue, making six of nine 3-pointers including a pair that came 23 seconds apart sandwiching a turnover by Minnesota and cut the lead to 64-61 with 3:06 left. The Gophers were up 68-61 after McBrayer made two free throws with 2:05 remaining, but Coffey missed three of four free throws on consecutive possessions before a 3-pointer by Edwards brought the Boilermakers within 71-69 with 5.2 seconds to go.

The Gophers nearly had the ball stolen on an errant inbound pass but maintained possession after a replay review. The next time they got the ball safely to Coffey, who was coming off his first career double-double with 31 points and 12 rebounds in a win at Northwestern, for the final pair of foul shots.

Nojel Eastern had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Grady Eifert added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Boilermakers, who had won 47 of their last 57 regular-season Big Ten games. They were trying to become the first team since Ohio State in 2006 and 2007 to win two outright titles in a three-year span, having also taken the regular-season crown in 2017.

The Boilermakers had a 21-9 edge in second-chance points, including Eifert’s putback at the halftime buzzer to bring them within 37-27, and the Gophers sure weren’t counting on their opponent wilting down the stretch. Purdue’s 9-0 run tied the game at 54, the only time in the last 31:35 that Minnesota didn’t lead.

STELLAR SENIOR NIGHT

The Gophers honored with the requisite pregame ceremony their five seniors on the roster, including a rousing introduction as the “sixth man” of Jarvis Johnson, an acclaimed hometown recruit who was prevented from playing at all in college by a heart condition. McBrayer received an especially big ovation as he hugged his aunt, standing in for his late mother, Tayra McFarlane, who died Dec. 3 of cancer .

Murphy gave the Gophers his usual yeoman’s effort underneath to help offset their season-long struggle with the 3-point shot. Their high-low passing has been one of their best assets in a half-court offense that has often lagged, and Murphy was a frequent beneficiary.

Stockman, the 7-foot transfer from Louisville wrapping up his only season at Minnesota, ably assumed a much larger role in with backup big man Eric Curry lost for the season to a foot injury. Coffey just kept attacking the basket.

HOUNDING HAARMS

The Boilermakers have one of the most efficient offenses in the country by any statistical measure, but the Gophers gave them plenty of trouble in the first half, particularly in the paint. Matt Haarms, the 7-foot-3 sophomore who brought the best field goal percentage (64.5) in the Big Ten into the game, missed seven of his eight shots and finished with just three points.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edwards, the leading scorer in the Big Ten, is bound to bounce back from this off-kilter shooting performance. More concerning for the Boilermakers, though, was the zero points they received from their bench.

Minnesota: With the pressure on coach Richard Pitino to reach the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in six seasons, this was one of the biggest wins of his career with the Gophers. After faltering at home last month against Wisconsin and Michigan, they finally put together a complete performance against a Top 25 team.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Plays at last-place Northwestern on Saturday afternoon. With a double bye and a spot in the quarterfinals secured, the first Big Ten tournament game for the Boilermakers will be on March 15.

Minnesota: Concludes the regular season conference schedule on Friday night at No. 24 Maryland, with a 2-8 record on the road this season. The Gophers will start the Big Ten tournament in the second round on March 14.

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

Bubble Banter: Xavier, Alabama, Utah State with critical games

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The latest NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here.

WINNERS

MINNESOTA (NET: 56, SOS: 55): The Golden Gophers landed a massive, massive win on Tuesday night, as they picked off Purdue (11) in Minneapolis. It’s the third Q1 win for Richard Pitino’s and their second elite win in league play — they also beat Wisconsin (17) on the road. The Gophers are just 2-8 this season on the road, but they are sitting here on March 6th with a 19-11 record, 10 wins against Q1 and Q2 opponents and just one loss outside the top 100 — at Boston College (111), which is still a Q2 game. Minnesota entered the day sitting right around the play-in game on most projections, and this should be enough to get them on the right side of the bubble. They’re in a really good spot.

OKLAHOMA (NET: 41, SOS: 23): As hard as it may be to believe, Oklahoma entered the day sitting as a No. 9 seed in our latest bracket projection at NBC Sports despite the fact that they were 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the Big 12. That’s what happens when you have a pair Q1 wins, an 8-11 mark against Q1 and Q2, no bad losses and exactly zero games played against Q4 competition. Now add to that Tuesday night’s win — by 13 points over Kansas (16) at home. The Sooners play at Kansas State (27) on Saturday, and at this point, I think they are just about a lock to dance.

VCU (NET: 36, SOS: 42): The Rams did what they needed to do on Tuesday, absolutely drilling George Mason in Fairfax and heading back to Richmond needing nothing more than a win over Saint Joseph’s to just about lock up their bid. The Rams are 6-4 in Q1 and Q2 games, highlighted by a win at Texas (33), but they also have a pair of Q3 losses. I don’t know if they can withstand two more ugly losses, which is what just about every loss to an Atlantic 10 opponent is this season, but I do think they can get a bid with one.

LOSERS

ALABAMA (NET: 53, SOS: 21): The Crimson Tide whiffed on a major chance to land their third Q1 win of the season when they blew a double-digit lead at home against Auburn (20). They are now sitting at 17-13 overall with two Q1 wins and a 9-12 mark against Q1 and Q2. The loss to Georgia State (135) at home is bad, but the win over Kentucky (5) is good. They’re probably sitting in one of the play-in games at the moment, so there is definitely work left to do.

UTAH STATE (NET: 30, SOS: 100): The Aggies dodged a massive bullet on Tuesday night, going into Fort Collins with a share of the MWC title on the line and getting taken to overtime by Colorado State (185). But they got the win, and at this point, with Saturday’s win over Nevada (23) in the books and their regular season over, I think they’re dancing as long as they can avoid taking a bad loss in the MWC tournament.

XAVIER (NET: 70, SOS: 46): Xavier played its way back into the bubble picture thanks to a surprising five-game Big East winning streak. Momentum ran out for the Musketeers during a Tuesday road loss at Butler (59). Squandering a valuable Q1 opportunity against the Bulldogs, Xavier finds itself at 3-9 against Q1 teams and a solid 6-2 with Q2 opponents. Saturday’s home game against St. John’s (61) is now a must-win scenario for the Musketeers if they want to maintain any sort of bubble credibility — but that will likely only be a Q2 opportunity.

OLE MISS (NET: 37, SOS: 85): The Rebels missed on a chance to beat Kentucky (5) at home on Tuesday, but they still are in a good spot. They are 19-11 overall, but 10 of their 11 losses are against Q1 opponents, they swept Auburn (20) and they have a total of seven Q1 and Q2 wins. I would not recommend losing at Missouri (86) and in the first round of the SEC tournament, but I do think that all it would take is one more win to get the job done.

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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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.