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Bracketology: Baylor leads, Big Ten reigns

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

One bracket decision was easy today: Baylor as the No. 1 overall seed.  The Bears are 5-1 against Quadrant 1 teams, have a win at Kansas, and haven’t lost since dropping a close game to Washington in early November.

Elsewhere, the Big Ten reigns, filling up the field with a dozen teams.  Much of that has to do with the strength and depth of the conference, with quality wins available almost every night and home teams rarely losing.  Another contributing factor is fewer contenders in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, and even the Southeastern Conference (SEC).   Whether those trends continue remains to be seen.  Ultimately, the Big Ten is more likely to end up with nine or ten bids.

In a close call, Butler remains the final No. 1 seed, but loses its Midwest route to Kansas.  The Bulldogs depth of wins against teams in the Field was the difference.  But one could make an equally compelling and accurate case for San Diego State.

The latest look at where our NCAA tournament bracketology projection stands …

UPDATED: January 17, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Minnesota vs. Virginia Tech
WEST REGION NC State vs. Washington
MIDWEST REGION  ROBERT MORRIS vs. NC A&T
SOUTH REGION PR VIEW AM vs. NO COLORADO

SOUTH Houston WEST – Los Angeles                   
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NC A&T 16) QUINNIPIAC
8) Illinois 8) Wisconsin
9) Florida 9) Oklahoma
Tampa St. Louis
5) Michigan 5) WICHITA STATE
12) LIBERTY 12) NC State / Washington
4) Auburn 4) Louisville
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
Albany Spokane
6) STANFORD 6) Iowa
11) Saint Mary’s 11) Houston
3) SETON HALL 3) Oregon
14) COLGATE 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Greensboro Sacramento
7) Arkansas 7) Penn State
10) Purdue 10) Texas Tech
2) DUKE 2) SAN DIEGO STATE
15) NORTHERN COLORADO 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
St. Louis Omaha
1) Butler 1) Kansas
16) ALBANY / ROB MORRIS 16) RADFORD
8) LSU 8) Marquette
9) Rutgers 9) Indiana
Sacramento Albany
5) Maryland 5) Ohio State
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) AKRON
4) Colorado 4) Villanova
13) YALE 13) GEORGIA STATE
Cleveland Cleveland
6) Kentucky 6) Creighton
11) Minnesota / Virginia Tech 11) NORTHERN IOWA
3) DAYTON 3) MICHIGAN STATE
14) WILLIAM & MARY 14) WRIGHT STATE
Greensboro Tampa
7) Arizona 7) Memphis
10) Georgetown 10) BYU
2) West Virginia 2) Florida State
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) CHARLOTTE

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Purdue Minnesota USC St. John’s
Texas Tech Virginia Tech Oregon State Arizona State
Houston NC State VCU Utah
Saint Mary’s Washington Xavier Georgia

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, Butler
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (12)
Big East (6)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

Big 12 (5)
Pac 12 (5)
American (3)

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (1)
Mountain West (1)

Clemson knocks off No. 3 Duke

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First, Clemson wins its first-ever game in Chapel Hill. Now, just a couple days later, they’ve got a win against the state of North Carolina’s other monster program, Duke.

The Tigers defeated third-ranked Duke, 79-72, at home Tuesday night to deliver one heck of a follow-up to Saturday’s win against North Carolina.

Clemson shot 56.6 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Aamir Simms scored 25 points and added nine rebounds while Tevin Mack had 22 points and nine rebounds.

This dup of wins for Brad Brownell, whose program has gone to just two NCAA tournaments (albeit a Sweet 16 appearance in 2018) in his nine season. The North Carolina win doesn’t do a lot for an NCAA tournament resume, but flipping it forward to a win against Duke certainly does. Still, a non-conference slate whose highlight was an overtime win on a neutral floor against TCU means the Tigers have a lot of work to do, though the last two weeks is a nice start and there are Quad I wins to be had in the ACC.

Duke, which was just dubbed as the sport’s lone elite team by our Rob Dauster, saw its nine-game winning streak snapped with just its second setback of the season, with the first being the wild Stephen F. Austin defeat in November. The Blue Devils had mostly steamrolled their way through their first five ACC opponents, but fell behind early to Clemson and were unable to wrangle back the lead and some separation the rest of the night.

The Blue Devils shot 50 percent from the floor for the game (53.6 percent in the second half) while getting 17 points, five rebounds and four assists from Tre Jones and another 20 points and seven rebounds from Vernon Carey, but it wasn’t enough to hold off the upset-minded Tigers. Despite the loss to a Clemson team that has been largely mediocre this season, there’s probably little to take from this game to worry about going forward for the Blue Devils. Clemson got hot from 3, and Duke’s turnover issue negated its own hot-shooting. If anything, it’s those giveaways that Duke really needs to clean up in its pursuit for the No. 1 overall seed.

The loss also steals a little bit of luster from Duke’s Saturday showdown with No. 11 Louisville.

POSTERIZED: Clemson’s John Newman III drops hammer on Duke

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Sure, Clemson winning at North Carolina for the first time ever, stopping a 59-game losing streak, was something.

But lighting the Internet on fire with a monster dunks, too, is something.

John Newman III is making history out here.

The Clemson 6-foot-5 sophomore absolutely unloaded on Duke and Javin DeLaurier on Tuesday night with a hammer.

Maybe Clemson gets the North Carolina-Duke back-to-back. Either way, Newman has this.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Duke, Baylor, Gonzaga round out top three

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

And in lieu of going through and talking about every single team my college basketball top 25 today, I have something that I want to say about rankings. The genesis of this stems from a conversation that popped up last week. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports and Poll Attacks fame brought to light the fact that the people that produce the AP poll have started releasing the individual ballots of voters on Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon, thus eliminating the relevance of the column.

This led to a discussion about whether or not Parrish was right to go after AP voters and eventually brought us to a place where I was having multiple conversations about the process when it comes to voting.

And that is what I want to discuss today.

Full disclosure: I am an AP voter this year. The top 25 that you see in this space is the ballot that I submit every week, and it frustrates me to no end when people don’t vote with the same goal in mind as I do. I’m looking to list out the top 25 teams in college basketball, full stop. Not the top 25 teams with the best wins, not the top 25 resumes. The best 25 teams in college basketball, in order, and for me, the thinking goes like this: The best team in the country is the team that would be favored on a neutral court against every other team in the country. The second best team is the one that would be favored against all but one team in the country, and so on and so forth.

Fundamentally, I do not believe that the outcome of a one possession basketball game should influence how good you think that a basketball team is. There are two prime examples of that this season. The first is Duke. The Blue Devils are sitting at 15-1 on the season, which is really good except for the fact that they lost at home to Stephen F. Austin in what was, at the time, one of the biggest upsets that we have ever seen in the sport. That game was decided by a coast-to-coast layup that was released with 0.1 seconds left on the clock; it had to be reviewed to determine whether or not the shot would count.

Now, the Lumberjacks have proven to be much better than anyone expected in the preseason, but this was still a very disappointing performance from the Blue Devils. Because of that loss, which happened two months ago, Duke could very well end up getting dropped out of the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP poll for Baylor. There is absolutely no chance that would happen if Nathan Bain’s game-winner in Cameron was waved off and Duke won in overtime.

You really think there are people that would be willing to drop one of the three remaining undefeated teams out of the top spot in the poll when they have wins over Kansas and at Michigan State when the gap between them and the No. 2 team in KenPom’s rankings is almost as big as the gap was between Kentucky and the No. 2 team in the country in 2015?

There wouldn’t be.

And the proof is what’s happening with San Diego State.

Back in December, the Aztecs played an absolutely horrid game at home against a San Jose State team that is significantly worse that the SFA team that beat Duke. Malachi Flynn hit a three with less than a second left so that the Aztecs avoided a humiliating loss that would be their only loss of the season. There is no chance that the Aztecs would be inching closer to the top five if they had a home loss to a sub-250 team on their resume. Absolutely none.

The point here is that the perception of just how good teams like Duke and San Diego State are should never, ever be impacted one possession in one 70-possession game when these teams have played 16 games and more than 1,000 possessions this season. Put another way, we knock Duke for losing to a lesser team at home in a game they played like crap but ignore the fact that San Diego State did the exact same thing.

The only difference was the way the last possession played out.

One, single possession.

To me, that is not a sharp way of thinking about the sport of basketball.

Now, there are two things I want to be crystal clear on here:

1. The point of this stream of consciousness is not to say that Baylor doesn’t deserve to be the No. 1 team in the country this week. If that’s the way you feel, you’re not wrong. The Bears have very much earned it. Picking who was No. 1 in my poll was not easy to do, and I think there are valid arguments to make for any one of Duke, Baylor and Gonzaga for the top spot.

The point is to say that if you’re picking Duke, who is the only team on KenPom with a top 10 offense and defense, to drop from the No. 1 spot because they lost on a buzzer-beater in November while keeping San Diego State in the top five because they won on a buzzer-beater in December, you’re being silly.

2. The fact that Duke lost and San Diego State won absolutely should factor into the things that actually matter. You can check the receipts. I was one of the people banging on the loudest about the fact that whatever metric the NCAA developed to replace the RPI must keep some kind of results-based influence in the algorithm. We cannot have the most important metric in our sport be a fully-predictive metric.

The reason for this is simple: What is the point of watching sports if the win doesn’t actually matter? What is the point of getting excited about a buzzer-beater if that buzzer-beater doesn’t have outsized influence on the season at-large? Duke absolutely, 100 percent should have that home loss to Stephen F. Austin ding them as the bracket is put together. And San Diego State should 100 percent be allowed to go up to the Selection Committee and point out how it’s January 12th and they still have not lost a basketball game.

Wins have to matter when seeding teams.

They have to.

But they should not matter in weekly rankings. Those are supposed to determine who are the best teams in the sport at this very moment. By definition, the best team is the one that would be favored to win a game played on a neutral court against every other college basketball team in the country. Anyone with any analytical sense or basketball IQ will understand that the outcome of a game that comes down to a final possession will have a negligible impact on spreads, KenPom projections and the things that are infinitely smarter than some person with an opinion.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Brad Stevens moments, seen in the clip below. Watch him at the end of this insane finish. As Roosevelt Jones is making the game-winning shot, he’s calmly turning and walking up the floor to shake Mark Few’s hand.

Butler guard Rotnei Clarke was asked about this.

“The outcome is irrelevant if [Stevens] thinks you played as well as you can,” Clarke said.

If you’re not going to listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to him.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



1. DUKE (15-1, Last Week: 1)
2. BAYLOR (13-1, 6)
3. GONZAGA (18-1, 3)
4. BUTLER (15-1, 7)
5. AUBURN (15-0, 5)
6. KANSAS (12-3, 2)
7. MICHIGAN STATE (13-4, 4)
8. SAN DIEGO STATE (17-0, 8)
9. DAYTON (14-2, 9)
10. OREGON (14-3, 10)
11. KENTUCKY (12-3, 13)
12. FLORIDA STATE (14-2, 14)
13. LOUISVILLE (13-3, 15)
14. WEST VIRGINIA (13-2, 16)
15. SETON HALL (12-4, 20)
16. OHIO STATE (11-5, 11)
17. TEXAS TECH (10-5, 12)
18. VILLANOVA (12-3, 23)
19. WICHITA STATE (15-1, 24)
20. MICHIGAN (11-5, 17)
21. MARYLAND (13-3, 19)
22. IOWA (11-5, 22)
23. CREIGHTON (13-4, NR)
24. ILLINOIS (12-5, NR)
25. MEMPHIS (13-3, 25)

DROPPED OUT: 18. Arizona, 21. Penn State
NEW ADDITIONS: 23. Creighton, 24. Illinois

Tre Jones scores 23, No. 2 Duke routs Wake Forest 90-59

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DURHAM, N.C. — Tre Jones scored 23 points to help No. 2 Duke handle Wake Forest 90-59 on Saturday night.

Cassius Stanley added 16 points for the Blue Devils (15-1, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who shot 53% from the field.

Duke scored on eight of its first nine possessions to take control early. The Blue Devils pulled away with a 27-12 run in which they scored on 13 of 15 possessions while making 11 of 12 shots. Duke led 49-23 at halftime after shooting 63%, including 6 of 10 from 3-point range.

Joey Baker and Jack White scored 11 points each, and Jordan Goldwire had 10 points for the Blue Devils.

Torry Johnson and Olivier Sarr scored 13 points apiece to lead Wake Forest (8-7, 1-4). Sharone Wright Jr. added a season-high 11 points for the Demon Deacons.

Brandon Childress, Wake Forest’s leading scorer at 16 points a game, went scoreless and missed all six shots.

Duke won its 900th game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, more wins than any other college team has at its current venue.

The Blue Devils beat Wake Forest for the 11th consecutive time and 21st straight at home.

BIG PICTURE

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have enough problems at Duke when they’re at full strength. They have lost 21 consecutive road games against the Blue Devils since Tim Duncan’s senior season in 1997. Without second-leading scorer Chaundee Brown, who missed his second consecutive game with an injury, Wake Forest couldn’t keep pace.

Duke: The Blue Devils are rolling and remain the favorite to win the watered-down ACC. Since their 150-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents ended against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 26, they have won all 10 of their games by at least nine points.

UP NEXT

Wake Forest: Hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday night, starting a stretch in which it plays three of four at home.

Duke: Play at Clemson on Tuesday night. The Tigers won at North Carolina for the first time in program history earlier Saturday.

Wednesday’s Things To Know: Auburn, Duke, Kansas all win

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Wednesday was a night full of close calls, as No. 2 Duke, No. 5 Auburn and No. 10 Florida State were all tested.

All three ended up winning, which feels more notable that an upset based on the way this season has gone.

Here are the three things you need to know after Friday’s college hoops action.

1. AUBURN, SAN DIEGO STATE REMAIN UNDEFEATED

There are still two undefeated teams left in college basketball as No. 5 Auburn and No. 7 San Diego State both won.

It was smooth sailing for the Aztecs, who went into Laramie and knocked off Wyoming, 72-52, despite playing shorthanded yet again. Malachi Flynn led the way for Brian Dutcher’s club, finishing with 19 points and four assists, while Yanni Wetzell added 17 points while shooting 7-for-7 from the floor.

Auburn’s win was not quite as easy. The Tigers held a double-digit lead in the second half and were in control for much of the game before Vandy made a run. They tied the game at 79 in the final minute, and if it wasn’t for a couple of missed layups and a turnover from Ejike Obinna on the final possessions, Auburn might have taken their first loss.

Oh, and Isaac Okoro might have committed a homicide:

2. KANSAS ROLLED IOWA STATE ON THE ROAD

No. 3 Kansas ensured that there would be no Hilton Magic this season.

The Jayhawks went into Ames, a place they have struggled over the years, and blew out the Cyclones, 79-53, behind 20 points, six assists and five boards from Devon Dotson. David McCormack added 16 points in 18 minutes while Ochai Agbaji chipped in with 16 points of his own.

Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Kansas held Tyrese Haliburton to just five points on 2-for-7 shooting.

This win sets up a showdown in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon, as No. 4 Baylor pays a visit to the Phog to take on the Jayhawks in what should be one of the games of the season.

3. DUKE CONTINUES TO WIN, UNC CONTINUES TO LOSE

The Blue Devils, the NBC Sports No. 1 team in the country, went down to Atlanta on Wednesday night and did not have the easiest go of it against a Georgia Tech team that has proven to be better with the return of Jose Alvarado and Jordan Usher getting eligible.

Duke was up 11 at halftime. They trailed with five minutes left.

Like I said, it wasn’t easy, but they got the job done.

That’s what elite teams do.

And it is a perfect contrast for that other team on Tobacco Road right now.

Because North Carolina, coming off of an embarrassing home loss to those very same Yellow Jackets and having heard half a week filled with shots raining down from their head coach, jumped out to a double-digit lead on Pitt at home only to see the Panthers come roaring back and win.

The Tar Heels are in very real danger of missing the NCAA tournament.