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Bubble Banter: We need to talk about N.C. State, Auburn and UCF

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The most recent NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here

For my money, the three toughest resumes to figure out — at least when discussing teams in, on and around the bubble — are N.C. State (NET: 37, SOS: 262)UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101) and AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30).

All three played on Wednesday night.

Only one of the three lost, so we’ll start with Auburn, who have great computer numbers — they’re not only top 20 in the NET, they’re 17th in KenPom — and just one loss to a team outside the top 40, but there is a total and complete lack of quality wins to their name. They are 0-6 against Q1 opponents this season. Their best win came against Washington (31) at home on the fourth day of the season. Since then, the only two teams they’ve beaten with a puncher’s chance at getting an at-large are 13-11 Florida and 15-9 Alabama. They are just 1-5 on the road, and the one win came against a bad Texas A&M (82) team.

They’re not on the bubble right now because their computer numbers are too good to ignore, but how high can you seed a team without a Q1 win?

It’s the same question that we have to ask about UCF, who, as of Valentine’s Day, has played just two Q1 games and lost them both. One of those two losses was by 20 points to a thoroughly mediocre Memphis team. The Knights have actually won a few road games — UConn (79), SMU (110), Tulane (293) — but they do have an ugly home loss to FAU (164) on their resume as well. Their win over South Florida on Wednesday night is their fifth Q2 win of the year.

Our Dave Ommen is the best in the business when it comes to bracketing, and he has UCF in the tournament as of today. If he says it, then I’ll believe it, but more than anything, it’s evidence of just how bad the bubble is this year.

Which brings us to N.C. State.

The Wolfpack’s profile isn’t all that different from UCF or Auburn, with the one exception being that they have one Q1 win … which came at home against Auburn. They are 18-7 on the season, and just one of those seven losses — at Wake Forest (194), without Markell Johnson — is not a Q1 loss, but the issue for N.C. State is that they, quite literally, have the worst non-conference SOS in the country, according to the NET.

The committee has proven, over and over again, that is something they will punish you for.

We just don’t know how much.

WINNERS

N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 262): See above.

UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101): See above.

SETON HALL (NET: 69, SOS: 47): The Pirates picked up their seventh Q2 win of the season when they beat Georgetown at home on Wednesday. With a neutral court win over Kentucky and a win at Maryland, the Pirates do have two really good wins, which are off-set by a pair of Q3 home losses. Their bid is going to come down to whether or not they get wins against Marquette and Villanova at home in the last week of the regular season.

UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 114): The Aggies bounced back from their loss at San Diego State by knocking off Wyoming at home on Wednesday. I think they need to win out — including Nevada at home — to have a real chance at an at-large.

FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 39): Florida won! They beat Vanderbilt, snapping a three-game losing streak and getting them to within a game of .500 in league play. They have good computer numbers, just one bad loss — South Carolina (100) at home — and four more Q1 games left on the schedule, which should help offset their current 1-9 mark against Q1 opponents.

VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 34): VCU smoked city rival Richmond on Wednesday night, continuing to do what they need to do to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble — don’t lose to bad teams. And based on the way their schedule shakes out, VCU probably would not be able to sleep comfortably if they lose to anyone other than Dayton on the road before the A-10 tournament starts.

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Temple is right there with UCF when it comes to their profile, but I think they’re in slightly better shape right now for two reasons — 1. They have a win over Houston (5), and 2. their bad loss is a Q3 loss to Penn (92). That said, Temple’s only chances to land Q1 wins come at South Florida, at Memphis and at UConn. None of those teams are in the top 65 of the NET.

LOSERS

AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30): See above.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 69): The Sun Devils picked the wrong time to make the toughest road trip in the Pac-12. Firmly on the cutline, they had lost two of their last four games — including a 21 point loss to Washington State (176) last Thursday — before going into Colorado (80) and losing to the Buffaloes. All in all, it’s not a terrible loss, but with a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses to their name, they need all the help they can get.

CLEMSON (NET: 39, SOS: 25): Clemson went down to Coral Gables and took a loss to a Miami team that is now 11-13 overall and just 3-9 in the ACC. This loss does not look as bad on a resume as it does in real life — the Hurricanes are 90th in the NET, so it’s just a Q2 loss — but the Tigers are not in a great spot as of today. They need to keep building on a profile that doesn’t include a bad loss but that only has one Q1 win on it — Virginia Tech (13) — and features a 4-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents. This isn’t a killer, but this is another step in the wrong direction.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 62): The Gophers are in a good spot because of the strength of the league that they play in. There are no bad losses in the Big Ten right now, but it’s time for Minnesota to turn this thing around. They lost their fourth straight on Wednesday at Nebraska, but as bad as the Huskers have been, that is comfortably a Q1 loss. As it stands, Minnesota is 3-7 against Q1 and 4-2 against Q2, and their worst loss is at Boston College (128). They’ve won at Wisconsin and beat Washington on a neutral.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 226): The Bisons lost at home on Wednesday night, which typically would be a killer to their at-large profile except that this loss came to Liberty, who is now 20-5 on the year, tied for first in the Atlantic Sun with Lipscomb and — most importantly — 61st in the NET. This hurts because this was the last time Lipscomb had a chance to land a Q2 win during the regular season.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 78, SOS: 79): The Hoyas lost at Seton Hall by 15 points on Wednesday, dropping them to 3-4 against Q1 opponents. They’re also 4-4 against Q2 and they have a pair of Q3 losses. They’re firmly in the bubble conversation, but they need to start winning. They have a week off until they get Villanova at home. That’s as close to a must-win as it can get in mid-February.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 10): Creighton lost their third straight on Wednesday, falling in overtime at Xavier. They are now 12-12 on the year and 4-8 in the Big East. They probably need to win out to get an at-large at this point.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 74, SOS: 65): The Friars lost at Villanova (21) on Saturday in a game that was brutal for their at-large chances. It’s not because losing at Villanova is a bad loss, it’s because Providence is on the bubble of being on the bubble. They have quite a bit of ground to make up, and this was their best chance to do that. They whiffed.

Paschall, Booth lead No. 13 Villanova past Providence, 85-67

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VILLANOVA, Pa. — By the time Eric Paschall and Phil Booth exited the game in the final minutes, some fans had already left the arena since the result was no longer in question. Those that remained made sure to give the two fifth-year seniors a hearty ovation.

Paschall scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half and No. 13 Villanova rebounded from its first Big East loss by running away from Providence 85-67 on Wednesday night.

Booth added 22 for the Wildcats (20-5, 11-1), who were fresh off a one-point loss to No. 10 Marquette after getting off to a program best 10-0 start in league play.

“Great leadership from our two seniors,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They’ve been carrying us a lot.”

Nate Watson led Providence (14-11, 4-8) with 18 points. The Friars have lost four of their last five but were coming off an impressive 14-point road win at St. John’s on Saturday.

“They had a lot of adults on the floor,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “Most old teams win. Not many young teams win, unless they’re just the blue bloods of all blue bloods.”

After two straight 3-pointers from Paschall put Villanova ahead 53-45 early in the second half, Providence scored the next 10 points, culminating with a steal and acrobatic reverse layup from Maliek White, to take a 55-53 lead with 10:29 remaining.

But Paschall delivered two more big threes — right in front of the `Nova bench — to help the Wildcats close the game on a 23-6 run. Underclassmen Saddiq Bey and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree helped seal the win with a 3-pointer and three-point play during the decisive spurt.

Paschall shot 10 for 13 from the field and 5 for 6 from 3-point range. Cosby-Roundtree finished with 12 points and didn’t miss a shot from the field (4 for 4) or the foul line (4 for 4) as Villanova shot 63 percent in the second half.

“We just knew we had to get better,” Paschall said. “It was a whole bunch of little things we had to work on.”

Providence junior Alpha Diallo, the eighth leading scorer and top rebounder in the Big East, was held scoreless until an emphatic dunk and three-point play with 1:38 left in the first half followed by a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left.

Diallo finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while committing five turnovers.

“I was proud of our guys for about 35 minutes,” Cooley said. “I thought their experience and discipline showed late while our inexperience and lack of discipline showed late.”

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who have made the NCAA Tournament and won at least 20 games in each of the last five seasons, continue to struggle to put together complete performances. “Unless we can turn my team into another team, that’s just what we’re going to have to deal with with this year’s group,” Cooley said.

Villanova: The Wildcats have a one-game lead on Marquette for first place in the Big East while no other team in the league even has a winning record. Villanova won the first four regular-season championships of the revamped Big East before Xavier took the title last season.

FOULS UPON FOULS

After shooting a perfect 14 for 14 from the foul line in the first half, the Wildcats were on the wrong end of the whistle during one stretch midway through the second half in which they were called for four fouls in one possession.

Wright said he was proud of how his players kept their composure after what he called a “rare” sequence, while Booth claimed to have barely noticed the uniqueness of the situation.

“We were more focused on what we did wrong that caused the fouls,” Booth said. “You just gotta keep playing.”

GOTTA HAVE HART

Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart, who led Villanova to the 2016 national championship, joined his old college team for practice Tuesday and was honored before Wednesday’s game, while wearing a Jalen Brunson Dallas Mavericks jersey.

“He sat through a film session and said, `I shouldn’t have entered that room, I couldn’t get out,” Wright laughed. “But it’s always good to have him. Our guys love him.”

UP NEXT

Providence begins a three-game home stretch vs. Xavier on Saturday afternoon.

Villanova plays the first of three straight games on the road at St. John’s on Sunday evening.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball

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

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

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

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

UPDATED: February 11, 2019

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

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

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

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

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

Bubble Banter: Tracking Bracketology for the weekend in college hoops

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February is here!

And now that we are nearly halfway through conference play, it is time for us to get fully invested in 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 or @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: Mississippi State, Washington, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas, Baylor and Syracuse.

Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

INDIANA (NET: 50, SOS: 53): Earning one of the most massive wins of the college basketball season with an unlikely road win at Michigan State, the Hoosiers now put themselves back in the bubble spotlight over the next several weeks. It would have been easy to leave Indiana for dead after a seven-game losing streak and the loss of senior forward Juwan Morgan to a shoulder injury in the first half against the Spartans, but they pulled off the overtime win to get another Q1 victory.

The Hoosiers are now 3-8 in Q1 contests, but those three wins come over Michigan State, Marquette and Louisville — three top-15 teams entering Saturday. Although the 3-1 Q2 mark helps the Indiana cause, they need to continue to pile up wins in order to build a more consistent profile.

Upcoming games for Indiana will be full of NCAA tournament-caliber opponents — meaning the Hoosiers will have ample opportunities to continue to win games to build their case. But Morgan has to be healthy, and Indiana has to avoid another pitfall like a long losing streak. If this win ignites them into a stretch of winning, then this might have been the game that saved Indiana’s season.

BUTLER (NET: 54, SOS: 21): Butler pulled off the most critical win of the early games by not only adding to its credibility, but also taking Seton Hall down a peg with a two-point Big East win over the Pirates. Entering this game, many had Seton Hall ahead of Butler in the NCAA tournament spectrum. This win gives the Bulldogs some immediate help. Also stopping a three-game slide that derailed a decent Big East start, Butler earned the kind of win that they had to have to stay in the NCAA picture. With three of the next four coming on the road — including St. John’s and Marquette — the Bulldogs escaped with a close home win they desperately needed to stop a rough stretch.

Butler is now a respectable 5-3 in Q2 wins — making up for a 1-6 mark against Q1 teams that the Bulldogs can’t seem to beat. There’s more work to do, but Butler did what they could in this one to stay alive.

WASHINGTON (NET: 29, SOS: 46): Riding an 11-game winning streak, Washington is unbeaten in the Pac-12 at 9-0 after a home win over UCLA. The victory over the Bruins is only a Q3, but it maintains an impressive streak from the Huskies that doubles as perhaps their best argument. Although Washington is only 1-4 in Q1 scenarios — with limited chances thanks to the Pac-12’s dreadful lineup — they’re an undefeated 17-0 in other games. The 4-0 in Q2, mostly a byproduct of beating up on Pac-12 teams on the road, also looks good in comparison to other teams who are struggling in that department. The next three games sees Washington on the road — including a dreaded two-game swing through Arizona and Arizona State — as it could ultimately decide if they’re off the bubble for the time being.

SYRACUSE (NET: 45, SOS: 33): Since Pitt is riding some strong numbers and a solid season, Saturday’s ACC road win qualified as a Q1 win for the Orange. Putting them at 3-2 in Q1 situations, Syracuse is now 7-4 against the top two quadrants as they’ve continued to add stability to the postseason profile. With four of their next five games coming at the Carrier Dome, now is the time for Syracuse to string together a streak to firmly put them in the field of 68. The stretch includes four games against ranked teams in the next five games, but Syracuse is capable of making a serious dent in that span.

OHIO STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 37): The Buckeyes did what they needed to do in taking down Rutgers for a Big Ten home win. Beating the Scarlet Knights — a Q3 win — isn’t going to do much to enhance Ohio State’s numbers. At this point in the conference season, however, the Buckeyes will take any win they can get. The five-game losing streak that recently ended can’t be erased. But Ohio State can fix a lot of damage from that by earning wins during a tolerable portion of the conference schedule the next three games (Penn State, at Indiana, Illinois).

TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 46): Snapping a recent slide with a road win at Tulane, the Owls had recently lost three of their last four games. Temple only picked up a Q4 win for their troubles, but it puts them on a positive track. With a stretch of three winnable games coming up in UConn, Tulsa and SMU, the Owls could use more wins for added stability after a shaky day for the bubble.

VCU (NET: 52, SOS: 19): Four of five wins for the Rams after an A-10 home win over George Mason. The Rams are banking on a strong strength of schedule to help them, as this Q3 win doesn’t do much of anything. VCU will be an interesting team to track on the bubble the next few weeks with three of their next four games coming on the road — including a clash at Dayton.

CLEMSON (NET: 54, SOS: 24): The Tigers blew out a Wake Forest team that is not all that good on Sunday afternoon, which is good for a Q4 win. So there’s not much there. This was a game that Clemson, who is 0-6 in Q1 games, just could not afford to lose.

CREIGHTON (NET: 62, SOS: 6): Creighton beat Xavier on Sunday, meaning that they finished 2-1 on their three-game homestand and setting the stage for the most important three-game stretch of their season, as they head on the road for the next two weeks — at Villanova, at Seton Hall and at Xavier.

WOFFORD (NET: 31, SOS: 151): Although unlikely Wofford gets in as an at-large, the Terriers did what they had to do in pummeling The Citadel for a road win. The win just barely comes through as a Q3 win, since The Citadel is the No. 239 team out of No. 240 needed for a Q3 road win. So, if a lowly Citadel program keeps losing, this likely drops to another meaningless Q4 win for the Terriers. This week is when it starts to get interesting for Wofford, as they’ll have their unbeaten mark in the Southern challenged with a road game at 18-5 East Tennessee State.

BELMONT (NET: 67, SOS: 154): Extending the winning streak to five games with a win over UT-Martin, Belmont gets a Q4 win in the OVC. While the Bruins don’t have a great chance of an at-large bid at the current moment, they also have a favorable schedule coming up in February. Belmont has played most of the top OVC teams already and they have a chance to go on an extended winning streak if they get hot. Could the Bruins sneak into the field as an at-large? Based on how the bubble continues to look, they’re an intriguing case.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 36, SOS: 212): Staying unbeaten in the Atlantic Sun with a win over North Alabama, Lipscomb is doing what they can to provide insurance in the event of a conference tournament loss. With so many teams on the bubble having a bad day, the Bisons need to just continue to win games like this one. Even if it is a Q4 to a lowly conference opponent. With a nine-game winning streak, Lipscomb doesn’t get challenged much until a Feb. 13 tilt with Liberty. As long as they keep winning we’ll have to keep an eye on them with the bubble being so weak.

LOSERS

ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 14): Getting blown out by rival Auburn on the road isn’t going to help the bubble cause for Alabama. But given the day of carnage with some of the other bubble teams losing and the Crimson Tide are still in far better position than many on this list of Saturday’s losers. The Q1 road loss at Auburn gives Alabama an underwhelming 2-5 mark against those types of teams and the puzzling 2-3 mark against Q3 teams also hurts. But the 6-0 record against Q2 teams is looking really solid. Alabama will still have plenty of chances to win against good opponents. For now, the Crimson Tide need to stop alternating wins and losses and get a streak going to get off the bubble.

SETON HALL (NET: 66, SOS: 28): Losing to Butler continued a sluggish stretch for Seton Hall in which they’ve lost five of their last six games. While the Bulldogs needed the win on Saturday more than the Pirates for NCAA purposes, this loss will still sting for the Pirates. Dropping to 5-1 in Q2, Seton Hall now has a blemish in that column as they’re similar to Butler in their struggles with Q1 teams (the Pirates are 2-6 in that category). With the sweep against DePaul also counting against them, Seton Hall needs to seriously start sweating after this miserable stretch. Two of the next three games coming against Creighton could prove to be important for both teams.

FLORIDA (NET: 39, SOS: 49): Things were looking so good for Florida for about 27 minutes against No. 7 Kentucky. Then the Gators imploded at home and dropped a huge, winnable game against the Wildcats in SEC play. Now at 1-7 in Q1 games, Florida simply can’t get the necessary quality wins to put themselves in safe position at this point in the season. Everybody recognizes the Gators having strong computer numbers and a good schedule, but it only does so much when Florida continues to lose to those teams. It doesn’t get much easier for the Gators the next few games when they go on the road to Auburn and No. 1 Tennessee.

NEBRASKA (NET: 28, SOS: 103): The freefall continues for Nebraska as they lost their fifth consecutive game. The Huskers fell behind double-digits and were soundly outplayed by a Big Ten bottomfeeder in Illinois on Saturday as things are starting to sour quickly in Lincoln. Sitting at “Last Four In” status in our latest bracket before this loss, this is not the type of Q2 loss that the Huskers can afford. Now only 3-3 against Q2 (and 2-6 against Q1 teams), Nebraska is seeing losses pile up while lacking a lot of high-quality wins. That’s a recipe that spells, “N-I-T” if things don’t quicky turn around.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 72, SOS: 78): Suffering a Big East road loss at DePaul, the Friars likely find themselves completely off of the next bracket update after being “Next Four Out” in the latest projection. Providence has two straight road losses as they now stand at 3-3 in Q2 losses after Saturday. Also at 1-4 in Q1 games (and with a bad Q4 loss to UMass), Providence is in a dire situation as we begin February.

PITTSBURGH (NET: 69, SOS: 58): An ACC loss to Syracuse might bury Pitt’s chances of an at-large bid as they have now lost five straight games while falling to 2-7 in the conference. The Panthers are only 1-7 in Q1 scenarios and 1-2 in Q2 — so they don’t have much positive momentum going their way at this point. Unless Pitt goes on a huge winning streak, it’s hard to envision them playing meaningful games in March.

SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 46, SOS: 175): Back-to-back losses have all but crushed the Dons’ hopes for an at-large bid, unless they go on another significant winning streak. Opportunities to nab Q1 wins don’t happen very often for San Francisco, as losing to Saint Mary’s is going to really hurt their postseason cause. Now 0-3 against Q1, the Dons likely have to win at No. 4 Gonzaga next game in order to have any kind of shot as an at-large team.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 43, SOS: 72): Falling to a top-flight team like Duke in a true road game actually enhanced a weak strength of schedule for St. John’s as the loss really doesn’t hurt them much. A win against a team of the Blue Devils’ caliber would have surely made the Red Storm feel safe. But now St. John’s falls to 2-4 against Q1 teams as they could use another win in that category to feel better going into March.

Bracketology: Showdowns ahead in No. 1 seed race

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The developing bubble is a garbled mess, so let’s stay positive and focus on the No. 1 seed race, which has seven serious contenders at the moment: Duke, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.

Between now and Selection Sunday, battles will rage.

Virginia and Duke play again on February 9 (Duke was the first meeting by two points in Durham).

Kentucky and Tennessee play twice – February 16 and March 2.

Same for Michigan State and Michigan – February 24 and March 9.

Which brings us to Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs are expected to cruise through their West Coast Conference campaign; another 30-win season a realistic outcome.

Should that occur, it will be difficult for the Selection Committee to keep Gonzaga off the No. 1 seed line out West (especially given their high NET rating).

If that’s the case, it becomes a six team race for three No.1 seed positions with showdowns ahead. Feels like March is right around the corner.

BRACKET UPDATED: January 31, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Florida
SOUTH REGION VCU vs. Nebraska
EAST REGION Norfolk State vs. Prairie View
MIDWEST REGION Sam Houston vs. Robert Morris

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

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
TCU Nebraska UCF Butler
Ohio State VCU Indiana Creighton
St. John’s Temple Arizona Pittsburgh
Seton Hall Florida Clemson Providence

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

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (9): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Purdue, Maryland, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Nebraska

BIG 12 (8): BAYLOR, Kansas, Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU

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

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

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

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Atlantic 10 (2): DAVIDSON, VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

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

Bubble Banter: Does anyone understand what’s happening in the Big East?

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The Big East is a weird league this year.

Villanova may have started the season off in disastrous fashion, but they’ve rebounded as Phil Booth and Eric Paschall have grown into their starring roles. As of today, the Wildcats sit all alone in first place in the conference, just one game ahead of Marquette in the loss column.

Beyond that, however, the league does not make all that much sense.

For starters, eight of the ten teams in the conference are sitting below .500, with the team in tenth place sitting just a half game back of the team in third place.

You read that right. The eight teams in the Big East not named Marquette or Villanova are all 3-4 or 3-5 in league play, which will make for some fun theater and, in all likelihood, super-complicated tie-breakers when it comes conference tournament time. But it also creates a scenario where no one can really feel all that great about their position in the bubble hierarchy.

Best I can tell, there are five Big East teams that are currently sitting on the bubble, in order of their current comfort level: St. John’s, Seton Hall, Butler, Creighton and Providence. All five of those teams are in action tonight, with four of them squaring off against one-another, and all five desperately need a win. St. John’s has been a mess since an extended undefeated run to start the season. Seton Hall hasn’t one a game in three weeks. Creighton and Butler are in danger of seeing their seasons careen off the tracks, and Providence has a hole to dig out of thanks to A.J. Reeves’ injury.

I don’t know if the Big East is going to get more than four teams into the tournament, and nights like Wednesday night will go a long way towards determining which four teams get in.

Here are tonight’s results:

WINNERS

FLORIDA (NET: 39, SOS: 50): What a massive, massive win for the Gators, who trailed by three when KeVaughn Allen forced overtime with a three with 2.5 seconds left. The Gators are 12-8 on the season, but since a season-opening loss at Florida State, the only game they had lost by more than seven points came against No. 1 Tennessee, when they trailed by two with two minutes left. Florida has good computer numbers, but they just don’t quite have the wins to back them up right now. Ole Miss is a solid Q2 win, and the first top 50 team that the Gators have beaten this season.

Their next six games are as follows: Kentucky, at Auburn, at Tennessee, Vanderbilt, at Alabama, at LSU. That’s a brutal schedule, one that will make or break their season.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 48, SOS: 82): The Johnnies got things headed in the right direction, as they snapped a losing skid by going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton. It’s the second Q1 win on the season for Chris Mullin’s team, but it’s just their second win in the last six games — both came against Creighton. On Saturday, St. John’s heads down to Durham for a massive game at Duke.

SETON HALL (NET: 62, SOS: 23): Seton Hall entered Wednesday’s home game against Providence having gone three full weeks without winning a basketball game, and they busted out of their slump by picking off the Friars. Seton Hall has two really impressive wins — Kentucky on a neutral, at Maryland — and a trio of bad losses — they were swept by DePaul and lost to Saint Louis at home.

SYRACUSE (NET: 47, SOS: 38): The Orange bounced back from being humiliated by Virginia Tech to book a win at Boston College. With a 15-6 record, a win at Duke (which will likely be the best win anyone gets this season) and a 6-4 record in Q1 and Q2 games, the Orange are in a good spot even with home losses to Georgia Tech and Old Dominion.

AUBURN (NET: 24, SOS: 29): The Tigers smoked Missouri at home on Wednesday, but they still do not have a Q1 win. They are 5-1 in Q2 games, one of which — Washington (31) — is one spot in the NET away from becoming a Q1 win. But that should tell you everything you need to know about this team’s profile right now. There isn’t as much there as you might think.

LOSERS

INDIANA (NET: 44, SOS: 45): At this point, the issue for Indiana is not what their current resume is, because as of today they probably still have done enough to be considered, at the very least, one of the first four out. They are 12-9, but eight of those nine losses are in Q1 games while their worst loss — Wednesday at Rutgers (125) — is still just a Q2 loss. Throw in wins against Louisville and Marquette, and there are a lot of teams with much uglier profiles.

The issue for Indiana is that they still play a ridiculous tough schedule and there is nothing to lead us to believe this thing is going to get turned around. Rutgers was their seventh straight loss, a game they led by double digits late in the second half before they collapsed. This team lacks leadership, they lack confidence and, at this point, I think they might even lack a desire to finish out the season.

It’s getting ugly in Bloomington.

BUTLER (NET: 51, SOS: 22): The Bulldogs missed on what was their best chance to land a marquee win this season, getting smoked by Marquette at home. They are now 12-10 on the season with three Q2 losses and a Q3 loss to Georgetown at home. Their only Q1 win came against Florida on a neutral, a team that beat them by 34 points in the O-Dome. For the time being, Butler probably needs to be moved off the bubble.

CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 6): After snapping a four-game losing straight with a win at Georgetown, Creighton had a three-game home-stand to get themselves right before a critical game at Villanova on Feb. 6th. On Wednesday, the Bluejays missed on a chance to take down St. John’s at home, losing by 16 points. The biggest issue facing Greg McDermott’s club right now is that their two biggest games (Villanova and Marquette) are both on the road. If they don’t get this figured out quickly, they might need both of those.

PROVIDENCE (NET: 72, SOS: 60): Providence missed out on a chance to last their second Q1 win with a two-point loss at Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Friars are going to be an interesting team to track as we move closer to tournament time, mainly because four of their eight losses came without A.J. Reeves healthy. The problem with that? Their two best wins — at Texas and Seton Hall at home — came during that stretch as well. For my money, the Friars need to do three things to have a shot at dancing — split their remaining two games against Villanova and Marquette; go 2-2 in road trips to St. John’s, DePaul, Butler and Creighton; handle their business if their other four home games.