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Bracketology: All Hail the Wolverines

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With Duke’s home loss to Syracuse, and with the status of Blue Devils’ point guard Tre Jones uncertain following a shoulder injury, Michigan climbs the final rung on the latest Seed List ladder.

The Wolverines hold the No. 1 overall position in today’s bracket, followed closely by Virginia and Tennessee.

The real debate involved the fourth No. 1 seed position.

One could make a compelling case for Duke, Kansas, or Michigan State.

The Blue Devils were without two of their primary players for much of the loss to Syracuse.

In the end, however, the Jayhawks’ eight Group 1 wins, plus victories over both Tennessee and Michigan State, proved to be the difference.

UPDATED: January 17, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION VCU vs. Pittsburgh
WEST REGION Texas vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Norfolk State vs. Prairie View
EAST REGION Sam Houston vs. UMKC

SOUTH Louisville   EAST – Washington, DC          
Columbus Columbia
1) MICHIGAN 1) VIRGINIA
16) PR VIEW / NORFOLK ST  16) SAM HOUSTON / UMKC
8) NC State 8) Kansas State
9) Mississippi State 9) Minnesota
Salt Lake City Des Moines
5) Florida State 5) VILLANOVA
12) LIPSCOMB 12) VCU / Pittsburgh
4) Marquette 4) Maryland
13) GEORGIA STATE 13) YALE
Des Moines Jacksonville
6) Nebraska 6) Indiana
11) SAINT LOUIS 11) Arizona
3) HOUSTON 3) Kentucky
14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 14) VERMONT
Jacksonville Tulsa
7) LSU 7) Auburn
10) TCU 10) Syracuse
2) Duke 2) Texas Tech
15) RIDER 15) UTSA
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Tulsa Columbia
1) KANSAS 1) TENNESSEE
16) WEBER STATE 16) WAGNER
8) Purdue 8) Ohio State
9) St. John’s 9) Seton Hall
Hartford San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Louisville
12) Texas / Arizona State 12) MURRAY STATE
4) North Carolina 4) Oklahoma
13) HOFSTRA 13) UC-IRVINE
San Jose Hartford
6) Iowa State 6) BUFFALO
11) WOFFORD 11) Temple
3) NEVADA 3) Virginia Tech
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Salt Lake City Columbus
7) Wisconsin 7) Ole Miss
10) Cincinnati 10) WASHINGTON
2) GONZAGA 2) Michigan State
15) RIDER 15) LEHIGH

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
TCU Texas Butler Clemson
Cincinnati Arizona State UCF San Francisco
Temple VCU Florida Fresno State
Arizona Pittsburgh Alabama Dayton

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

ACC (9): VIRGINIA, Duke, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh

SEC (6): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State

BIG 12 (6): KANSAS, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU, Texas

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

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (3): WASHINGTON, Arizona, Arizona State

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

Atlantic 10 (2): SAINT LOUIS, VCU

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), UTSA (C-USA), Georgia State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Weber State (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Lipscomb (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), UMKC (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Tuesday’s Three Things To Know: It was a surprisingly wild night in college hoops

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While Golden State was busy putting up 50 points in a quarter, the college basketball world had themselves a wild night that featured a pair of top 25 teams winning in the final seconds, some big dogs rolling and a couple of trendy teams taking ugly losses.

Here is what you need to know from Tuesday night:

1. THE BIG BOYS ROLLED

The biggest game of the night ended up being one of the most boring games of the night, as No. 4 Virginia put away No. 9 Virginia Tech before we reached the under eight media timeout. The Wahoos hit nine of their first 11 threes, finished 13-for-24 from beyond the arc on the evening and took a 44-22 lead into halftime, eventually knocking off the Hokies, 81-59. It was an utterly dominant performance from Tony Bennett’s club, and one that had our Travis Hines convincing himself that this is the year for UVA.

The Cavs weren’t the only big dog to handle their business in impressive fashion on Tuesday. No. 3 Tennessee jumped out to a 23-6 lead on Arkansas and never looked back, beating the Razorbacks 106-87 in a game where the Vols never seemed to get out of third gear. While that was happening, No. 12 Kentucky was in the midst of going into Stegeman Coliseum and dropping a hammer on Georgia, 69-49. Ashton Hagans — who was previously committed to the Bulldogs — put a career-high 23 points on the board.

And lastly, while the Tar Heels didn’t run away with this win, they did manage to hold off Notre Dame, 75-69. This win was notable because of the second half performance from Nassir Little. He scored just 11 points, but all of them came in the final 11 minutes, and he had nine in a 14-6 run that turned a deficit into a 65-58 lead.

2. SAM HAUSER SAVES No. 15 MARQUETTE, No. 17 N.C. STATE IS NOT SO LUCKY

Hauser put up a career-high 31 points to go along with eight boards in a 74-71 win at Georgetown as he was forced into point guard duties as Markus Howard was dealing with a lower back issue and Joseph Chartouny has apparently forgotten how to be a point guard. The Hoyas are not exactly a powerhouse these days, but they are a dangerous team offensively that has won some games we did not expect them to win, and going into Washington D.C. and winning this game without the Big East Player of the Year is, frankly, really impressive.

And important.

The Golden Eagles remain the only team that is one game behind Villanova in the Big East regular season title race.

N.C. State was not as fortunate. Playing without starting point guard Markell Johnson, the Wolf Pack found themselves down by 15 points at the half and by as many as 22 points in the second half at Wake Forest. A 29-7 run tied the game at 58 with about seven minutes left in the game, but Wake Forest did enough down the stretch to get the win, 71-67.

This is not a great loss for N.C. State, who has now lost two of their last three games and no longer looks like a top 25 basketball team.

3. THE OLE MISS HYPE TRAIN DERAILS

The trendy team this week was Ole Miss, and deservedly so — in the span of 96 hours, they beat No. 11 Auburn by 15 points and went into Starkville and picked off No. 14 Mississippi State. They were 13-2 on the season and 3-0 in the SEC at that point. They deserved to be trendy.

And it all came crashing down with a visit from LSU. Tremont Waters scored 20 points and added nine assists as the Tigers knocked off No. 18 Ole Miss, 83-69, in Oxford. Now 3-0 in the league, it may be time that we start looking at LSU as the new Ole Miss.

AND I NEED TO MENTION …

That a pair of top 25 teams survived at the last second. In Starkville, Mississippi State survived Florida, 71-68, thanks to a three-point play from Quinndary Weatherspoon with 3.6 seconds left on the clock. And out in Boise, No. 10 Nevada knocked off Boise State, 72-71, thanks to a three with 4.5 seconds left from Cody Martin, who had not made a three since Dec. 15th and was shooting 19.5 percent from beyond the arc entering the night.

NBC Sports Top 25: Buh-bye Iowa State, hello Ole Miss?

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The #DausterCurse strikes again!

After going all-in on Iowa State, taking them from outside the top 25 to No. 10 in the country based on a dominant win against Kansas and buying into the (what I thought was an accurate) eye-test, the Cyclones never stood a chance. They lost by three at Baylor on Tuesday night and followed that up by blowing a late lead and losing at home to Kansas State on Saturday.

So much for that.

While I still do believe that Iowa State is really, really good and that they may actually be the second-best team in the Big 12 this season — two one possession losses are just that, one possession losses — I can’t justify ranking them in the top 25 today and keep any shred of credibility that I have remaining.

Beyond that, there isn’t anything to talk about in the top ten. Duke won on the road against Florida State despite playing without Zion Williamson for an entire half, further solidifying by belief that they are the best team in the country. Michigan, Tennessee and Virginia all logged impressive wins at every turn. Michigan State, Kansas, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech took care of business, and Gonzaga survived what may be the toughest test they face in league play, a trip to San Francisco.

Things get weird outside the top nine, as Ole Miss beating Auburn at home and Mississippi State on the road threw things for a loop. So did North Carolina. The Tar Heels went into Raleigh and beat N.C. State before turning around and getting blown out at home against Louisville, but I could only drop them one spot because A) they still beat N.C. State on the road, and B) everyone in that group of teams directly behind them lost at some point this week, too.

The only really notable development near the bottom of the top 25 was that Villanova jumped back into my rankings. The Wildcats have won five in a row, just handled Creighton in Omaha fairly easily and now sit as the lone undefeated team in the Big East at 4-0.

Here is the full NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Duke (14-1, Last Week: 1)
2. Michigan (17-0, 2)
3. Tennessee (14-1, 3)
4. Virginia (15-0, 4)
5. Gonzaga (16-2, 5)
6. Michigan State (15-2, 6)
7. Kansas (14-2, 7)
8. Texas Tech (15-1, 8)
9. Virginia Tech (14-1, 9)
10. Kentucky (12-3, 11)
11. Nevada (16-1, 14)
12. Marquette (14-3, 19)
13. North Carolina (12-4, 12)
14. Florida State (13-3, 13)
15. Ole Miss (13-2, NR)
16. N.C. State (14-2, 15)
17. Auburn (12-3, 16)
18. Mississippi State (12-3, 17)
19. Buffalo (15-1, 20)
20. Maryland (14-3, NR)
21. Villanova (13-4, NR)
22. Houston (16-1, 21)
23. Oklahoma (13-3, 25)
24. Indiana (12-4, 24)
25. Louisville (11-5, NR)

New Additions: 15. Ole Miss, 20. Maryland, 21. Villanova, 25. Louisville
Dropped Out: No. 10 Iowa State, No. 18 Ohio State, 22. St. John’s, 23. Wisconsin

Funderburk leads No. 15 NC State past Pitt 86-80

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — DJ Funderburk scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, and No. 15 North Carolina State beat Pittsburgh 86-80 on Saturday.

Devon Daniels scored 19 points, Eric Lockett added 12 of his 17 points after halftime and Torin Dorn finished with 12 for the Wolfpack (14-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).

They bounced back from a tough loss to rival North Carolina and won their eighth in nine games despite losing two starters in the first half after big man Wyatt Walker was ejected and point guard Markell Johnson was injured.

Freshman Xavier Johnson had 20 of his season-high 25 points in the second half, Au’Diese Toney scored 17 and Terrell Brown added 10 for the Panthers (11-5, 1-2), who led by four points with less than 6½ minutes remaining but couldn’t finish off a second straight conference victory.

Lockett hit two of the four 3-pointers and scored eight points during the Wolfpack’s game-breaking 16-4 run, which C.J. Bryce capped with a jumper that made it 73-65 with just under 3 minutes left. Pitt didn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Pitt: The Panthers were coming off their first ACC victory since they upset No. 17 Florida State in February 2017. They were trying for their first winning streak in league play since earlier that month. They’re clearly improved over last year’s team that went 0-18 in the ACC but wound up with their 13th straight road loss in the conference.

N.C. State: The dominating issue for the Wolfpack was how they struggled at both ends without Walker, who was tossed 2 minutes in for grabbing the foot of Pitt’s Johnson to bring him down. They also were missing Markell Johnson, who took a hard fall while trying to block a shot. N.C. State missed 13 consecutive shots in the second half before Funderburk and Lockett carried the team down the stretch.

N.C. State’s inexperience in big games too much to overcome in loss to North Carolina

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N.C. State got what they wanted.

There was a minute left against No. 12 North Carolina on Tuesday night and the No. 15 Wolfpack were down 82-78. Their press, which had worked on and off throughout the night, forced the turnover. Markell Johnson gets into the lane, draws a defender and finds C.J. Bryce — a 38 percent three-point shooter — all alone in the corner for a three that would have cut UNC’s lead to just a single point with plenty of time left on the clock.

Bryce airballs the three.

Seven seconds later, Leaky Black gets behind N.C. State’s defense for an uncontested dunk.

Game over.

N.C. State would go on to lose 90-82 in the biggest game for the program in the Kevin Keatts era, and while the scoreboard will say that the Tar Heels were in control for the majority of the night, N.C. State is going to wake up tomorrow ruing the chances that they had.

Because that one sequence summed up what was a frustrating night in Raleigh.

Every time N.C. State looked like they were in a position to take the lead or take control of this thing, it was the Tar Heels that made the big plays and big shots.

The Wolfpack dug themselves a 12 point hole before they even scored. They trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, yet with six minutes left before the break they had cut the lead to two points. With the score 33-31, the Wolfpack missed a three and a layup before UNC pushed the lead back to eight. N.C. State tied the game at 47 early in the second half only to foul Cam Johnson as he made a three for a four-point play. After tying the game at 53, Johnson again answered with a three, sparking an 11-2 run to push the lead to nine. With 10 minutes left, Bryce was fouled with the Wolfpack down two. He made 1-of-2 from the line, but N.C. State would go scoreless for the next five minutes, even as UNC struggled to find a way to get their own offense going. In a game where the Tar Heels put up 90, they only managed to push their lead to ten during that stretch.

“I like where my team’s at,” Kevin Keatts said after the game. “If we clean some things up, we have a chance to be a very good basketball team.”

“I’m not frustrated by that,” he added when asked about the runs that fell short. “It means we won’t lay down.”

And he’s right.

This is a good N.C. State team. They’re scrappy, they play hard and the pieces fit with the style that Keatts wants to play. They are probably more talented than they get credit for, and it’s impressive to see the way that they have come together in a situation where so many faces are new.

But the difference between N.C. State and North Carolina is that, right now, Roy Williams has dudes, and they not only know when they need to step up and make a play, they can do it. Luke Maye is a senior that was an all-american last season. He made a couple of huge jumpers to quell runs in the first half. Cameron Johnson is a senior that is playing like an all-american this season. The two threes he made early in the second half to keep the Wolfpack at bay were probably the two biggest shots of the game. Coby White is dynamic in transition and does not appear to have ever been fazed by the moment or the pressure. Kenny Williams has been a part of a team that went to the national title game and won a title the following season.

N.C. State doesn’t have dudes that are ready for those moments yet.

And I don’t think this is an immaturity thing. I’m not trying to insinuate that N.C. State choked, or that they can’t win big games. Nothing like that.

Maybe I’m reading this entirely wrong, but I do think that there is a hurdle that teams have to get over when it comes to games like this one — a battle between two ranked rivals in an absolutely raucous environment.

North Carolina has been there. No one on that team was fazed by the noise, or the game-pressure, or the Wolfpack making a run.

That’s what is it to be “clutch.” To have the confidence and the mental fortitude to be able to execute a play and make a shot in a moment that should overpower a player, and at this level, I think that comes with experience.

North Carolina has it, and that’s because they’ve been through games like this before.

N.C. State will get there.

And the only way to do it is to — win or lose — play games like this.

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Texas Tech wins; Iowa State, Mississippi State upset; Villanova takes Big East reigns

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Tuesday’s night of college basketball had some really good conference games as ACC, Big 12 and SEC contests all came down to the wire. We saw some upsets go down in the Big 12 and the SEC, while the Big East saw a familiar team win a critical home game against a recent upstart. 

1. Jarrett Culver lifts No. 8 Texas Tech past No. 23 Oklahoma in Big 12 play

Now that Kansas has lost Udoka Azubuike for the season and fallen at Iowa State, they look susceptible to potentially losing control of the Big 12. Texas Tech has taken advantage with a 3-0 start in league play after another close win over the Sooners, 66-59.

Player of the Year candidate Jarrett Culver took over the game down the stretch for the Red Raiders as he scored eight consecutive points during one stretch to finish with 23 points and 13 rebounds on an efficient 8-for-13 shooting and 7-for-7 performance from the line.

With the league’s best player in Culver, along with a defense that looks stifling, Texas Tech could have enough to be the leaders in the Big 12 race at this current moment. Although counting out Kansas would be really stupid, the Jayhawks still have to regroup from losing a huge piece for them while Texas Tech looks like they know how to win close games with a closer in Culver.

The Big 12 schedule won’t get much easier for the Red Raiders, as they travel to Texas before hosting Iowa State after that.

2. No. 12 North Carolina earns a road win at No. 15 North Carolina State

Perhaps the biggest game of the night was the ranked clash between ACC rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State. The Tar Heels earned a road win with a 90-82 final over the Wolfpack.

Jumping out to an early 12-0 lead, North Carolina never trailed in this contest as they put together an impressive start-to-finish effort. Luke Maye led the Tar Heels with 21 points while Coby White added 19 points as North Carolina won this with Cameron Johnson out and battling leg cramps for the final 12 minutes.

N.C. State deserves credit for battling back and tying this game twice in the second half, but they could never get over the hump to take a lead. Braxton Beverly led the Pack with 21 points as this loss snapped a seven-game winning streak.

2. Baylor takes down No. 20 Iowa State to add to the Big 12’s crazy night

While Texas Tech is unbeaten in the Big 12, Iowa State looked like a major threat coming off of a weekend in which they knocked off Kansas in convincing fashion. Baylor had other ideas when they led most of the game in a 73-70 win over Iowa State.

Makai Mason had 25 points to pace the Bears, who earned one of their most important wins of the season as a likely bubble team. Coming off of a close loss at TCU, this is the type of solid win that Baylor needed to stay in the NCAA tournament mix. They get another huge opportunity when they host Kansas on Jan. 12.

Iowa State only led by two points and just didn’t look like a Big 12 contender during a flat performance. While the Cyclones didn’t play poorly, their young players didn’t step up as they have at previous times this season as Marial Shayok paced them with 19 points.

The Cyclones are still going to be a dangerous Big 12 team, but Texas Tech is the top dog at the moment after Tuesday night’s results. The young Cyclones still have the talent to potentially win the league, but it is road games like this against fringe tournament teams like Baylor that they need to win to stay in that race.

4. Villanova maintains unbeaten Big East mark with win over No. 24 St. John’s

One of Tuesday’s most important games featured two top teams in the Big East. While some have written off Villanova after some early losses to Furman and Penn, the Wildcats remained unblemished in the league with a big 76-71 win over No. 24 St. John’s.

Eric Paschall finished with 25 points while Phil Booth had 23 points and six three-pointers — including the go-ahead look in the second half. The Wildcats are the sole undefeated team in the Big East as they’re off to a solid start in league play. Winning over St. John’s — a team many believe to be a major contender — is proof that Villanova should be taken seriously once again in the Big East race.

The Red Storm were paced by Shamorie Ponds’ 23 points, but Mustapha Heron struggled to a 3-for-11 night from the field to finish with eight points.

There is still a long way to go in the Big East race, and these two teams will play again on Feb. 17, as St. John’s will try to bounce back after a 2-2 start in league play.

5. South Carolina drops No. 14 Mississippi State for upset win

The SEC gave us one of the night’s notable upsets as the Gamecocks took down the Bulldogs with an 87-82 overtime win.

People weren’t sure what to make of Mississippi State’s season as they entered this game with a bloated record thanks to a pretty easy schedule. The Bulldogs deserve credit for some solid wins (Cincinnati, Clemson) and no terrible losses.

But a loss to a South Carolina team ranked in the 115s on KenPom likely isn’t going to be a realistic SEC contender against the likes of Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee.

To South Carolina’s credit, they’re now 2-0 in league play as they hit the offensive glass and defend hard. Maik Kotsar played the best game of his Gamecock career with 25 points and nine rebounds as led five double-figure scorers for South Carolina.

Mississippi State will likely still find itself in fine position to make the NCAA tournament, but this is the type of loss that makes you question their ceiling for this season.