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NCAA Tournament 2019: Instant Analysis West Region

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The West Region has an intriguing draw with Gonzaga gaining the top seed and Michigan, a Final Four team from last season, getting the No. 2 seed. This region has some potential darkhorse Final Four team and some trendy potential upsets to keep an eye on during the first weekend.

The No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Despite a loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game, the Bulldogs still earned a No. 1 seed out west as they face the play-in winner between No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View A&M.

It should be a matchup of a lot of length and athleticism when No. 8 seed Syracuse and No. 9 seed Baylor collide. The health of Orange star guard Tyus Battle (hip) and Bears senior guard Makai Mason (toe) could very well decide who advances in that one.

The best lead-guard matchup of the first round goes down in Hartford with No. 5 seed Marquette and All-American Markus Howard battling OVC champion and No. 12 seed Murray State and Ja Morant. The Golden Eagles struggled down the stretch in Big East play as they went from Final Four darkhorse into a potentially-popular first-round matchup.

ANALYSIS: East | South | West | Midwest

A dangerous No. 4 seed could be Florida State as the Seminoles just knocked off Virginia in the ACC tournament over the weekend. Coming off of an Elite Eight appearance last season, the Seminoles could be a sleeper Final Four team out of this region. The Seminoles collide with No. 13 seed Vermont, a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The America East champions had a beatdown of UMBC in the conference tournament title game.

After an impressive season in the MAC in which they became a consistent top-25 team, Buffalo gets a No. 6 seed. The Bulls could get a fascinating first-round matchup as they await the winner of the play-in game between No. 11 seeds Arizona State and St. John’s. If the Sun Devils advance past Dayton, it’ll be a matchup of Bobby Hurley-coached programs as he left Buffalo for Arizona State a few years ago.

Texas Tech earned the No. 3 seed out of the Big 12 following an impressive regular-season title. Although the Red Raiders made the Elite Eight last season, the roster is almost entirely different from last season. But the Red Raiders have a star in Jarrett Culver and the nation’s best defense. Northern Kentucky, the No. 14 seed, draws Texas Tech after winning the Horizon League title.

Following a disappointing regular season, Nevada is a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Florida. The Wolf Pack had preseason top-10 hype but failed to deliver results in the regular season behind a loaded roster that is mostly in-tact from last season’s Sweet 16 team. The Gators needed some late wins this season to get in — most notably over LSU in the SEC tournament. Florida is dangerous but extremely inconsistent.

Rounding out the West is No. 2 seed Michigan as the Wolverines attempt to return to the Final Four. Guard Charles Matthews recently returned from injury as Michigan appears to be near full-strength heading into the Big Dance. The Wolverines face No. 15 seed Montana to open things up as the Grizzlies represent the Big Sky.

No. 14 Nevada rallies to beat Boise State in MWC quarters

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada got an early scare in the Mountain West Conference quarterfinals.

After trailing Boise State by 15 points in the first half, the Wolf Pack slowly responded. And not until the final minute of the game — did they feel comfortable.

Jazz Johnson scored 20 points, Caleb Martin had 19 and No. 14 Nevada rallied to beat Boise State 77-69 on Thursday .

Tre’Shawn Thurman added 17 points, and Cody Martin had 10 to help top-seeded Nevada (29-3) tie the school record for victories in a season. The Wolf Pack will face San Diego State in the semifinals Friday night.

Derrick Alston led Boise State (13-20) with 21 points, and Justinian Jessup had 18.

Boise State led 11-3 and had a 27-12 advantage with 7:37 left in the first half. The Wolf Pack opened 2 of 14 from the field.

“We stunk for the first 12 minutes of the game,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “It was hard to watch. I’d rather go the dentist and get some teeth pulled. But the thing with our ballclub is down 15, no panic. We’ve been in those situations where we’ve gotten down and figured away to come from behind on a big stage. At halftime, we got our minds cleared.”

Down 34-29 at intermission, Nevada shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, going 5 of 11 from 3-point range.

“In the three games we lost, we never found that spurt,” Musselman said. “Today, we found that spurt. I want to compliment (Boise State) coach Leon Rice, he had them over prepared. They didn’t back down.”

After the Wolf Pack took a 57-50 lead with 9:33 left, the Broncos went on a 10-0 run. Nevada took the lead for good on Cody Martin’s jumper with 3:37 left. The Wolf Pack slowly pulled away, converting all eight free throws in the final 51 seconds.

BOISE LOOKS TO FUTURE

The Broncos hung around thanks to 8-of-17 shooting from 3-point range and an 11-of-13 mark from the free-throw line.

“Nevada has big-time tough guys, big-time character,” said Rice, who now looks ahead to next season. “(As for the season), there were positives. A lot of teams would be able to do what went through. We got our hearts ripped out many times. We competed night in and night out. (Alston and Jessup) have some great days ahead of them. That’s a heck of a cornerstone going ahead.”

THE BIG PICTURE

Nevada: The comeback win was tied the team’s season mark from 15, also rallying against then No. 20 Arizona in December. Coach Eric Musselman is 6-2 in the MWC tournament.

Boise State: The Broncos are 8-51 against AP Top 25 teams. Marcus Dickinson had 12 points, while Zach Haney, who fouled out with 4:44 left, had 10.

UP NEXT

Nevada will face the San Diego State in the semifinals Friday. The Aztecs beat UNLV 63-55.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain West says court-storm not at fault in Nevada-Utah State dust-up

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Whatever the issues that led to the post-game issues Saturday between Nevada and Utah State, the Mountain West Conference is staying out of it.

The league conducted an investigation into the court storming at Utah State and the events in the handshake line and determined that it would be up to the two schools to determine if any further action should be needed, the conference announced Monday.

“After a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Saturday night’s incident, which included a review of numerous video clips from various sources and the collection of written statements from multiple individuals,” the conference said in a prepared statement, “the Mountain West has concluded the situation was not caused by the court rush.  There was a postgame management plan in place and it was executed successfully.

“Rather, inappropriate conduct by individuals from both programs in the postgame handshake line and subsequently in the locker room areas created the unfortunate circumstances.  The Conference office has had multiple communications with both athletics directors and has shared the findings of its review.  Each institution will be responsible for the determination and administration of what it deems appropriate disciplinary action for those involved.  It must be made clear unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

After Utah State’s 81-76 upset of Nevada, a dispute in the handshake line spilled into the hallways of the arena and ultimately there was video of Jordan Caroline striking a glass case in anger.

Nevada coach Eric Musselman tweeted a statement in support of Caroline.

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

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

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

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

NBC Sports Top 25 | Bubble Watch

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

UPDATED: March 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, here is the full top 25:

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

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