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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.

Bubble Banter: What is going on with Indiana?

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January has nearly come to a close, which means that it is officially time for Bubble Banter to make its glorious return. 

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. 
  • I’ll update them best that I can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Friday morning. 
  • If you see something I missed, if you have an issue with a team I left out or if you want to congratulate me on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit me up here: @RobDauster.
  • The cut-off we will be using this year for teams that are “on the bubble” is the No. 9 seed line. If your favorite team is seeded as a No. 9 or better in our most recent bracket, they will not be discussed below.
  • On Thursday, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket, and these eight teams were placed in an 8-9 game: NEBRASKA, AUBURN, SYRACUSE, MISSISSIPPI STATE, ST. JOHN’S, TCU, WASHINGTON and CINCINNATI
  • Onto the weekend’s action.

WINNERS

CREIGHTON (NET: 61, SOS: 10): The Bluejays have a weird resume. They’re 11-8 on the season, but they don’t have a single bad loss on the season. Seven of their eight losses are to Q1 opponents, and their only Q2 loss came at home against Ohio State, which was a Q1 loss before the Buckeyes recent losing streak. The problem? Creighton doesn’t have any good wins. They beat Butler at home, Clemson on a neutral and Providence on the road. The latter is their only Q1 win, and who knows how long that lasts — the Friars are currently 73rd in the NET, and that becomes a Q2 win if they fall outside the top 75. The other issue is Creighton already lost to both Villanova and Marquette at home, meaning there are no chances for them to get Q1 wins at home the rest of the season. How costly does this blown call look now?

OHIO STATE (NET: 45, SOS: 41): The Buckeyes entered Saturday as one of the teams right on the edge of the bubble’s cut-line thanks to a five-game losing streak, and they did as much as anyone to change their fortunes as anyone — winning at Nebraska. That’s a top 25 road win for the Buckeyes to go along with wins at Cincinnati and at Creighton. The loss at Rutgers is ugly, but as long as the Scarlet Knights remain somewhat respectable, that will be a Q2 loss, more or less equivalent to losing to Syracuse at home.

BAYLOR (NET: 50, SOS: 70): The Bears won their fourth straight on Saturday, knocking off Alabama at home. The Bears have some nice wins on the season — Texas Tech and Iowa State at home and Arizona in Tucson are all Q1 wins — but they are going to have their work cur out for them making the committee forget about home losses to Texas Southern (215) and Stephen F. Austin (270). The added bonus here is that Alabama is one of the teams that Baylor will be going up against for a bid, and this win keeps the Tide for picking up a Q1, non-conference road win.

VCU (NET: 59, SOS: 31): The Rams picked up a win at Duquesne on Saturday which is going to be great for their chase of the Atlantic 10 regular season title, but it doesn’t help their NCAA tournament profile all that much — it’s a Q3 win. VCU’s win at Texas should hold up as a Q1 win come Selection Sunday, but given how weak the Atlantic 10 is, it’s hard to see how they can end up building on their resume too much. Frankly, I’m not sure they can withstand another loss and keep pace with the bubble teams in the Big 12, the Big Ten or the ACC.

HOFSTRA (NET: 47, SOS: 233): Not only does Hofstra lack any Q1 or Q2 wins, they have not even beaten a team that cracks the top 100 in NET. They are 18-3, they have now won 15 straight games against Division I opponents and Justin Wright-Foreman deserves a chance to play on a bigger stage, but I don’t know how they are going to build a profile good enough to get an at-large bid in the CAA.

WOFFORD (NET: 32, SOS: 106): The Terriers improved to 14-4 on the season with their ninth-straight win on Saturday. Wofford actually does have a couple solid wins to their name — they won at UNC Greensboro, they beat Furman and they knocked off South Carolina on the road by 20 points — and probably have the best argument to be an at-large of all the mid-major teams on this list. To make that a reality, they will probably need to win out, but unlike other mid-major leagues, losses at East Tennessee State (79), at Furman (62) or against UNCG (53) won’t be season-enders.

BELMONT (NET: 77, SOS: 125): The Bruins landed a couple of really nice wins this week, adding a second Q1 win to their resume by beating Murray State on the road and following that up with a win at Austin Peay, their third Q2 win. The big issue for Belmont at this point is that they have three losses to Q3 opponents — Jacksonville State twice and at Green Bay. It’s going to be tough to get an at-large, but it’s not an impossibility, especially if UCLA finds a way to become a top 75 team.

MURRAY STATE (NET: 44, SOS: 289): The Racers caught a bad break this week when their star point guard, Ja Morant, sprained his ankle early in their home loss to Belmont. As weird as it sounds, that Belmont team is Murray’s worst loss of the season and a Q3 loss. The biggest issue with this resume is that they are going to end the season having played just two Q1 games — losses at Auburn and at Alabama — and no Q2 games. Their best win is at Southern Illinois, who is 152nd in the NET.

MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 63): The Gophers picked up a nice Q1 win on Sunday, picking off Iowa in The Barn to move to 15-5 on the season. They are now 4-3 in Q1 games with a win at Wisconsin. There are a pair of Q2 losses on Minnesota’s resume — at Illinois and at Boston College — but this is a tournament worthy profile as of today.

LIPSCOMB (NET: 41, SOS: 180): Lipscomb beat one of the worst teams in Division I on Sunday, taking down Stetson. So that’s a good thing. Even better, however, is just how much carnage there was on the bubble this weekend. San Francisco, Texas, Fresno State, Nebraska, Arizona, Pitt, Florida, Butler, Seton Hall, UCF, Temple — all of these teams taking on water is good for the the mid-majors that are in mix, especially one like Lipscomb, who has won at TCU and at SMU with just four losses, the worst of which is a Q2 loss to Belmont at home.

LOSERS

INDIANA (NET: 36, SOS: 31): Indiana lost their sixth straight game on Friday night, getting blown out by No. 5 Michigan in Assembly Hall. In a vacuum, the Hoosiers are not in a terrible spot just yet. They have four Q1 wins to their name — Marquette, Louisville, Butler (neutral), at Penn State — and all eight of their losses are Q1 games. They still have seven Q1 games left on their schedule. There will be plenty of chances for them to get the good wins they need to stay on the right side of the bubble, and given the strength of the Big Ten, 8-12 might actually be good enough to get them in.

The more interesting question seems to be the Hoosiers themselves, and I’m going to use this space to give you my take on the situation: Beating Marquette the way that he did (96-73) was the worst thing that could have happened to Archie Miller this season because, when combined when Romeo-mania coming into the program, it set expectations much higher than they should have been. The truth is that this is a team that starts two freshmen and two sophomores alongside Juwan Morgan. One of those freshmen is Indiana’s starting point guard, and he wasn’t a top 100 prospect. They are shooting 25 percent from three in Big Ten play and are 13-for-75 from three the last four games.

The truth is that this team is and always was going to be closer to what they’ve been the last month than what they were against Marquette.

And frankly, it’s not quite disaster territory just yet. Those six losses were: at Michigan, at Maryland, Nebraska, at Purdue, at Northwestern, Michigan.

That’s brutal for anyone, let alone a young team that has totally and completely lost any semblance of confidence they had in November.

Yes, Indiana lacks leadership. Yes, Romeo has looked like a freshman far too often. No, Archie Miller has not done a good job with this team. But can we stop pretending like this is the 2008 team going into the tank? Indiana wasn’t ranked in the preseason top 25 for a reason, and you’re seeing it now.

BUTLER (NET: 52, SOS: 24): Butler missed on a chance to land a Q1 on Friday night, falling 75-61 at Creighton. This comes on the heels of whiffing on their shot at Villanova in Hinkle on Tuesday night. As of today, the Bulldogs are 1-6 against Q1 — their win over Ole Miss fell to Q2 with the Rebels dropping outside the top 30 in the NET — with a 12-9 record and a pair of Q3 losses. They’re comfortably on the wrong side of the bubble today.

FLORIDA (NET: 37, SOS: 44): The Gators fell to 11-8 on the season on Saturday after they lost at TCU, 55-50, in another uninspiring performance offensively. The metrics love the Gators — they’ve played a lot of good teams close and have an elite defense — but that hasn’t amounted to many wins. They won at Arkansas — a Q1 win so long as Arkansas doesn’t drop from 70 to outside the top 75 in NET — and they beat Butler at home, but that doesn’t totally make up for the loss to South Carolina in Gainesville.

ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 21): Losing at Baylor was a missed opportunity, but the Tide aren’t in a terrible spot yet. That win over Kentucky is going to continue to look better and better, and they still have six Q1 games left on their schedule as of today. They’ll need to win half of those, however, because three Q3 losses to Northeastern, Texas A&M and Georgia State — the latter two at home — are less than ideal.

PITT (NET: 60, SOS: 57): After a great start to ACC play, the Panthers lost their third straight game on Saturday, falling at Louisville at they led at the half. Jeff Capel has Pitt in a good spot as of today. They’ve beaten Louisville and Florida State and have just one bad loss to their name, but that bad loss is an awful loss — Niagara (301) at home. They’ll get chances, and they’ll need to take advantage of those chances.

TEXAS (NET: 41, SOS: 2): The Longhorns are benefitting from the fact that they have played the second-toughest schedule in college basketball. They’ve already amassed eight Q1 games with four wins, including North Carolina on a neutral, Purdue at home and Kansas State on the road. They do have four Q2 losses — as well as a Q3 loss to Radford at home — but losing at Georgia is hardly a backbreaker, not when they still play at least seven Q1 games during the regular season.

SAINT LOUIS (NET: 75, SOS: 122): The Billikens missed on a terrific chance to land one of the rare Q2 wins they are going to be able to pick up in Atlantic 10 play in excruciating fashion: Jordan Goodwin was fouled with 0.4 seconds left and Saint Louis down one, and he missed them both. The Billlikens have wins over Butler and Oregon State at home as well as a win at Seton Hall, but with two Q3 losses to their name, that’s probably not going to be enough.

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 63, SOS: 56): The Pac-12’s dreams of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament took another hit on Saturday, as Arizona State lost at USC on Saturday night. The Sun Devils do have some good wins — Kansas, Mississippi State are all Q1 wins — and they have four Q2 wins as well, but the Sun Devils lost to Utah and Princeton at home. It doesn’t help matters that the only chance for Q1 wins the rest of the season will be in their last three games: at Oregon, at Oregon State and at Arizona.

ARIZONA (NET: 64, SOS: 73): Saturday was not a good day for the Wildcats, either. They went into Pauley Pavilion and got dropped by UCLA, meaning that they were swept by the LA schooled and have now lost three of their last four games. Their win over Iowa State is going to carry some weight in March, that’s the only Q1 win for Arizona, who only has three more chances to land Q1 wins the rest of the year, and all three of those chances will come on the road against teams outside the top 60 in NET.

FRESNO STATE (NET: 65, SOS: 149): Fresno State suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday, falling at Colorado State (228). That’s their third Q3 loss of the year, and with no Q2 wins and just a pair of Q1 wins (at Utah State, Northwestern), their chances of earning an at-large big probably hinge on whether or not they can win at Nevada in February.

SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 40, SOS: 178): The Dons suffered a loss at San Diego on Saturday night, which actually isn’t as bad as it sounds — San Diego (107) on the road is a Q2 game. That’s excusable. The problem is that the Dons need every good win that they can get. They are 0-2 in Q1 games and just 1-1 against Q2.

TEMPLE (NET: 56, SOS: 40): The only reason that Temple is currently in the discussion for an at-large bid is that they managed to beat Houston (8) at home. That’s a big win. Beyond that, the Owls are 0-3 against Q1 opponents, they’ve already lost at UCF and against Cincinnati at home and also have a Q3 loss to Penn at home. The biggest game of their season comes on Thursday when they play at Houston.

SETON HALL (NET: 56, SOS: 23): The Hall’s losing streak extended to four on Sunday after they were absolutely pummeled by Villanova in Philly. The Wildcats won by 28 points just eight days after Seton Hall lost at home to DePaul. A win over Kentucky on a neutral and at Maryland will look very god on Selection Sunday, but a pair of Q3 home losses is a lot to overcome. The good news: Seton Hall still gets shots at Marquette and Villanova at home.

UCF (NET: 34, SOS: 107): The Knights lost by 20 on Sunday at Memphis, which, to date, is the only Q1 game that UCF has played. They are 3-2 in Q2 games and also took on a loss at home against Florida Atlantic (175), a Q4 loss. With two games left against both Houston and Cincinnati plus a trip to Temple, there are five Q1 games left on their schedule. They’ll need them.

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)

Best Bets: Eight top ten teams on the road, which underdogs have a chance to win?

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There is a wild weekend of basketball on tap.

The No. 1 team in the country is heading down to Tallahassee to take on a top 15 team, and they are one of eight top ten teams that will be playing on the road this weekend. 

One of those games is a rivalry game. Two of them involve elite mid-major teams visiting the second-best team in their league. Two elite Big 12 defenses face-off while Kansas takes another road trip in the league. Indiana tests themselves at Maryland. Myles Powell vs. Markus Howard. And, surprisingly enough, a battle between two Mississippi schools that carries quite a bit of weight. 

But the game of the weekend is the features a pair of teams that reached last year’s Elite Eight, one of whom has an entirely new roster and the other who returned basically everyone from a season ago.

As always, this column is running on Friday morning. The official Vegas lines will not come out until Friday night or Saturday morning, so we will be using projections from KenPom and Haslametrics. KenPom is typically better for projecting what the lines will be, while Haslametrics tends to be more useful to gauge if I’m on the right side of the bet or not. 

No. 1 DUKE at No. 13 FLORIDA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Duke 81, Florida State 73
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Duke 85, Florida State 71

This game is projected to be quite high scoring, as Duke plays at the ninth-fastest pace nationally while Florida State averages better than 70 possessions per game, and it’s worth noting that the only two losses that Florida State has taken on this season have come in their two slowest games — Villanova on a neutral and at Virginia.

There aren’t a lot of teams that want to run with Duke, but my guess is that the Seminoles will be one of those teams — they are in the 63rd percentile nationally in points-per-possession in halfcourt offense, and average 0.15 PPP more in transition than they do in a halfcourt setting. There are two reasons for this: They do not have good point guard play and they are not a good three-point shooting team. If they have to go up against a set defense, one that can clean the defensive glass, they are in trouble. (They were down 65-36 to Virginia, which is all the evidence you need.)

Duke is not Virginia in the halfcourt, but what they are is a top 30 team nationally in steal percentage playing a Florida State team that turns the ball over on 20.6 percent of their possessions. In fact, they actually rank second in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric as of today, while Virginia ranks third.

So this is how I see this game playing out: Tre Jones overwhelms whoever is trying to initiate offense for the Seminoles. Duke gets their quota of “pick-six” dunks and layups off of live-ball turnovers, and Florida State’s press struggles to slow down a team that starts four players that can bring the ball up the floor. The only real concern that I have here is that Duke will be playing on the road against a good team for the first time this season, and I don’t love taking heavy favorites on the road.

PICKS: This matchup favors Duke, and if the line ends up close to what KenPom is projecting, I would probably take the Blue Devils and the over. I can’t see the game not getting into the 80s, and I don’t think that Duke will smother the Seminoles like Virginia did. Their defense isn’t about suffocating teams, it’s about turning steals and rebounds into easy buckets.

No. 3 TENNESSEE at FLORIDA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 67, Florida 65
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 67, Florida 65

I just do not see it with Florida this year. This is a young group whose two best returners — Jalen Hudson and Kevaughn Allen — have seemingly forgotten how to score the ball. They are 9-5 on the season. Their three best wins came against West Virginia, Arkansas and Butler, none of whom were in our more recent bracket update. Only Butler was close, and the Bulldogs split with the Gators.

Should I mention that Florida lost at home to South Carolina?

PICKS: I will say this about Florida: They are terrific defensively. They grind teams down and force a bunch of turnovers, although I’m not sure that will have too much of an effect on a Tennessee team that protects the ball. I love Tennessee and I think the computers are overvaluing Florida at this point in the season, but the fact that both KenPom ad Haslametrics are projecting the same score is worrisome. I like the Tennessee side better, but I’ll probably stay away.

No. 4 VIRGINIA at CLEMSON, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACCNET)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Virginia 65, Clemson 58
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Virginia 67, Clemson 54

Virginia has played two ACC games this season and both of them were essentially 30-point blowouts. Clemson has played two ACC games this season and gotten rocked by Duke and Syracuse, both on the road. Coming back home will help, but the Tigers are a team that struggles with turnovers and can’t shoot it from the perimeter, which is what you have to be able to do to beat the Pack-Line.

PICKS: Clemson has struggled this season adjusting to a lineup where they have to play three forwards instead of three guards, and struggling is not something that works against a team as ruthless as Virginia. I expect this line to be around (-8), and I love Virginia there.

No. 5 GONZAGA at SAN FRANCISCO, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Gonzaga 80, San Francisco 73
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Gonzaga 83, San Francisco 73

Don’t sleep on San Francisco. The Dons already own wins over Stanford, Cal (on the road) and Saint Mary’s. The knock on Gonzaga is on the defensive end of the floor, and while they’ve rocketed up from sub-70 to top 35 in adjusted defensive efficiency, they’ve done so by steamrolling six horrible teams. The Zags have struggled to stop good teams this year, and USF is the second-best team in the WCC.

PICKS: My concern here is that USF doesn’t have the dudes to really take advantage of Gonzaga’s weaknesses. Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. can be exploited in plus-matchups, and it’s hardly a secret that talented forwards can attack Rui Hachimura, a freak athlete that is still figuring it out defensively. I do, however, have plenty of respect for the Dons defensively, and I think they’ll be able to handle Gonzaga’s ball-screens action. Where the line opens will be interesting. If it gets to double-digit, I’ll be all over USF, but I don’t expect it to open higher than around (-8).

No. 6 MICHIGAN STATE at PENN STATE, Sun. 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan State 75, Penn State 67
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan State 81, Penn State 64

Penn State has had a brutal start to Big Ten play, and it doesn’t get any easier with Michigan State coming to town. The Nittany Lions are a 7-9 team on the verge of starting 0-4 in Big Ten play. Their backs are against the wall, and unfortunately, the Spartans are hitting their stride.

PICKS: I’m not really interested in this game from a betting perspective. I’m still trying to figure out what Michigan State is, and Penn State always has at least one shocking win in them per season. If I do bet this game, it will probably be just a small moneyline bet on the Nittany Lions.

No. 7 KANSAS at BAYLOR, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas 70, Baylor 66
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kansas 69, Baylor 66

Kansas is cratering in KenPom. They’re all the way down to 10th after losing two of their last five games, and I still don’t think we truly know that this team is without Udoka Azubuike. Baylor, who plays a tricky zone, will certainly make it difficult for the young Jayhawks and will definitely make a team that can’t really shoot prove they can hit threes.

PICKS: I like the Baylor side here. Playing Scott Drew’s zone — which is somewhere between a 1-1-3, a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 — is always weird, and without knockdown perimeter shooters or their best offensive rebounder, I can see Bill Self’s team getting into some trouble. Iowa State has a similar makeup to what Kansas is right now, and they lost in Waco on Tuesday.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

No. 8 TEXAS TECH at TEXAS, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (LHN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 61, Texas 60
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas 58, Texas Tech 57.8

Texas Tech has the nation’s No. 1 defense, according to KenPom, and ranks outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Texas is 11th defensively and 73rd offensively. This will not be pretty basketball.

PICKS: This total is going to open in the low 120s. Take the under. This will be my heaviest bet of the day. I also expect the Red Raiders to win, and fully expect this to end up in the 50s.

No. 10 NEVADA at FRESNO STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Nevada 73, Fresno State 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Nevada 71, Fresno State 69

Is it safe to believe in Nevada again? They bounced back from an ugly loss at New Mexico by absolutely running San Jose State out of California. But Fresno State on the road will be the toughest game that Nevada has played to date.

PICKS: I’m going to be very interested to see where this line opens up. If I had to guess, I think it will open around (-3) and get bet up a few points once the public sees a top ten team in what’s perceived as a weak league only giving three. I think I’d probably lean towards Fresno State here, but I will wait and see where the line moves before I bet on it.

No. 25 TCU at No. 23 OKLAHOMA, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Oklahoma 75, TCU 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Oklahoma 75, TCU 71

The key here is entirely Jaylen Fisher. If he doesn’t play, then I really like Oklahoma if the line ends up around (-4). This is a really, really good defensive team, and Fisher means so much to the Horned Frogs offensively.

No. 22 INDIANA at MARYLAND, Fri. 7:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Maryland 74, Indiana 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Maryland 75, Indiana 68

Another injury to keep an eye on here. If Indiana point guard Robert Phinisee is out, I would lean towards taking Maryland, but I don’t really love this spot. I’m not quite buying the Terps the way that the computers are at this point, and while Indiana’s three losses are on the road, two of them were at Duke and at Michigan and the third was a game they probably should have won at Arkansas. They tend to play teams tight, so if this ends up around (-7), it would be tough not to take the points.

Again, a lot of that thinking revolves around Phinisee.

SETON HALL at No. 21 MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Marquette 78, Seton Hall 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 72

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not like betting on Marquette because you’re betting on whether or not you think Markus Howard will go bonkers. I do think Seton Hall’s Myles Cale will be able to disrupt Howard — the key to slowing him down is length, but there really is no “key” to slowing Howard down because he could put 35 on a Monstar if he gets into a rhythm — but again, I don’t like betting Marquette.

PICKS: If I’m going to bet this game, I’ll probably just take the over, assuming it’s in the high 140s. I also like the idea of taking prop bets on points scored by Howard and/or Myles Powell. Always take the over with them.

OLE MISS at No. 14 MISSISSIPPI STATE, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Mississippi State 78, Ole Miss 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Mississippi State 79, Ole Miss 72

This is quietly a huge gauge game in the SEC. Ole Miss has won a bunch of games but didn’t beat anyone until they took down Auburn at home. Mississippi State has won a bunch of games and does have some solid Ws, but they also just lost to South Carolina.

PICKS: To be frank, I have no feel for Ole Miss and how good they are, but if we don’t know whether or not a team is good by mid-January, I think we can bet on the idea they aren’t that good. If Mississippi State is (-5) or lower at home in the Egg Bowl, I’d feel comfortable taking them.

Tillie leads No. 7 Gonzaga over San Francisco

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Killian Tillie scored 26 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including connecting on all five 3-pointers, to lead No. 7 Gonzaga past San Francisco 88-60 on Monday night in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinal game.

Tillie has made all 10 3-point attempts at the tournament and is 19-of-23 from the field.

Top-seeded Gonzaga will be going for their sixth consecutive WCC Tournament title on Tuesday night. They await the winner of the Saint Mary’s-BYU game.

Also for the top-seeded Bulldogs (29-4), Rui Hachimura had 17 points and Zach Norvell Jr. added 14. Johnathan Williams had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Gonzaga, which won its 13th straight, and 16th at the WCC Tournament.

Nate Renfro led the fourth-seeded Dons (18-15) with 15 points. Frankie Ferrari and Souley Boum each added nine points for San Francisco, which lost its 14 straight to Gonzaga.

The Bulldogs played a nearly flawless first half, shooting 18-of-28 (64 percent), including 8-of-14 (57 percent) from 3-point range.

After the Dons scored the game’s first two points, the Bulldogs went on a 13-2 run and never trailed again. San Francisco went on an 11-6 run but came no closer the rest of the game. Gonzaga, which had a 23-point advantage in the session, led 48-27 at halftime.

Gonzaga’s lead never got below 19 and grew to as many as 33 in the second half. The Bulldogs finished from the field at 53 percent, and 46 percent from 3-point range.

Up Next

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs play in final against Saint Mary’s or BYU Tuesday night.

San Francisco: The Dons await a postseason invitation.

Dons hire Columbia’s Smith

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Kyle Smith, formerly of Columbia, was named as the newest coach at San Francisco, the university announced Wednesday.

Smith spent six years guiding Columbia, going 101-82 overall with a 25-10 mark and a CIT championship this past season.

“I am extremely honored and thrilled at the opportunity to lead the USF basketball program and be associated with a great university in the most beautiful city in the world,” said Smith in a statement released by the school. “We will work tirelessly to develop leaders on the court, in the classroom and the community who will compete for a West Coast Conference championship and add to the legacy of this great program.”

Smith’s Lions teams were known for their measured pace and strong shooting in recent years with an emphasis on getting up a lot of 3-point attempts.

He inherits a group that was unable to break .500 the past two seasons under Rex Walters after what looked to perhaps be a breakthrough season in 2013-14. The Dons return the bulk of their team that went 15-15 and finished fifth in the WCC last year.