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Bracketology: Welcome to the top line, San Diego State

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Here is the latest NCAA tournament bracketology projection.

Welcome to the top line, San Diego State.  The Aztecs join Baylor, Gonzaga, and Kansas as No. 1 seeds in our latest bracket update.  SDSU remains the only unbeaten team in college hoops, buoyed by wins over tournament teams Iowa, Creighton and BYU.

The West-leaning geographical slate of top seeds means someone has to go East.  As SDSU is the fourth overall seed, that adventure belongs to them.  Several additional power conference teams are pushing for the top line, too – including Florida State, Michigan State and surging Seton Hall.  And let’s not forget about Louisville, a preseason top seed.  The Cardinals put together an impressive road win at Duke on Saturday.

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

UPDATED: January 20, 2020

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Virginia Tech vs. Georgetown
WEST REGION NC State vs. VCU
SOUTH REGION  PR VIEW-AM vs. NORFOLK ST
WEST REGION MONMOUTH vs. ST. FRANCIS (PA)

SOUTH Houston                           WEST – Los Angeles
Omaha Spokane
1) BAYLOR 1) GONZAGA
16) PV-AM / NORFOLK ST 16) MONMOUTH / ST. FRANCIS (PA)
8) Arkansas 8) Illinois
9) Memphis 9) HOUSTON
Tampa Sacramento
5) Colorado 5) Arizona
12) EAST TENNESSEE ST 12) NC State / VCU
4) Maryland 4) Iowa
13) S.F. AUSTIN 13) NEW MEXICO ST
St. Louis Greensboro
6) Marquette 6) Michigan
11) NORTHERN IOWA 11) Saint Mary’s
3) LOUISVILLE 3) Duke
14) NORTH TEXAS 14) LITTLE ROCK
Albany Spokane
7) Wisconsin 7) LSU
10) USC 10) Oklahoma
2) SETON HALL 2) Oregon
15) WILLIAM-MARY 15) UC-IRVINE
EAST – New York MIDWEST – Indianapolis
Sacramento Omaha
1) SAN DIEGO STATE 1) Kansas
16) RADFORD 16) MONTANA
8) Rutgers 8) Indiana
9) STANFORD 9) Florida
Albany Cleveland
5) Kentucky 5) Creighton
12) LIBERTY 12) YALE
4) Villanova 4) DAYTON
13) AKRON 13) VERMONT
Greensboro St. Louis
6) Penn State 6) Auburn
11) Virginia Tech / Georgetown 11) BYU
3) West Virginia 3) Butler
14) COLGATE 14) WRIGHT STATE
Tampa Cleveland
7) Ohio State 7) Wichita State
10) DePaul 10) Texas Tech
2) Florida State 2) MICHIGAN STATE
15) AUSTIN PEAY 15) NORTH DAKOTA ST

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
USC Virginia Tech Purdue Washington
DePaul NC State Minnesota Saint Louis
Saint Mary’s Georgetown Arizona State St. John’s
BYU VCU Xavier Richmond

Top Seed Line
Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas, San Diego State
Seed List

Breakdown by Conference …
Big Ten (10)
Big East (7)
ACC (5)
SEC (5)

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

West Coast (3)
Atlantic 10 (2)
Mountain West (1)

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Baylor and Gonzaga lead the way

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

Baylor is not the No. 1 team in my poll, and I suspect that they are going to be the No. 1 team in the country when the AP poll is released on Monday morning. The only reason they weren’t No. 1 last week is because four people (like me) had Duke at No. 1, stealing votes from the Bears. That … did not go well, so here we are.

I also want to talk through something else: Last week, I wrote extensively about why I think that it’s foolish to allow the result of one possession games to have a significant impact on the way that you view a team. One shot in a 70 possession game that is just one of more than 30 games that will be played this season is insignificant when determining the quality of a team, and I truly believe that.

But I also think it is important to consider how and why teams are winning close games, not just games that are one-possession games.

So let’s use Duke and Baylor for this example once again.

One thing that the Bears have proven over and over this season — at Texas Tech, at Kansas, at Oklahoma State — is the ability to close out a tough game, particularly on the road. That’s because they have a number of players on the roster that are capable of taking and making clutch shots. Against Tech, it was Jared Butler. Against Oklahoma State, it was Devonte Bandoo. The Bears may not look as good in the metrics because they haven’t obliterated the mediocre teams they have played, but they are 15-1 because they come through in the clutch.

Now, some of that may eventually regress. I believe in the clutch gene because I think life — not just sports, but everything every human being does — is confidence. Baylor has confidence in clutch situations, as much as anyone in the country. They do not get rattled by the moment, and they have a number of different options they can go to down the stretch.

Duke, on the other hand, does not. Their three losses this season have all been close games where the Blue Devils have struggled to find an outlet for offense in the final minutes. Maybe that will come with more experience — Duke is loaded with freshmen, Baylor is as old as anyone in the country — but as it stands, that’s the difference between these two teams.

Baylor won their close games.

Duke did not.

And I don’t think that’s a fluke.


The other thing that I want to discuss in this space is where I have San Diego State and Dayton ranked in the college basketball top 25. They are currently sitting and eighth and ninth in my poll, exactly where they have been for a couple of weeks now. And that is where they are going to stay for the foreseeable future.

The reasoning for me is simple: I don’t want to fall into the trap where I’m bumping a team up in the rankings simply because they keep winning in a league that is not as tough as the leagues where the rest of the teams in consideration for the top ten are playing, and losing.

I’m sure there are going to be people in San Diego and Dayton that call me a hater for this, and that’s fine. Maybe I am being a hater.

But the truth is this: I love both of these teams. SDSU is so tough defensively and Malachi Flynn has proven himself to be a flat-out winner at the point, while Dayton runs a pro-style, aesthetically-pleasing offense heavy on three-balls and Obi Toppin.

I just don’t believe they are one of the top six or seven teams in the country, and beating the likes of Nevada and Saint Louis is not going to change my mind.

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



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

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Houston
DROPPED OUT: No. 16 Ohio State, No. 19 Wichita State

Walker leads No. 18 FSU to 78-65 win over No. 7 Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — M.J. Walker scored 23 points for Florida State as the 18th-ranked Seminoles beat No. 7 Louisville 78-65 on Saturday.

The Seminoles (13-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who were 6 1/2-point underdogs, endured a big game from Louisville’s Jordan Nwora to pull the upset. The preseason All-American scored 32 points, matching a career high.

But the Cardinals (11-3, 2-1) could not overcome a 55.2% shooting performance by the Seminoles in losing their second straight. Florida State made a season-best 11 of 23 3-pointers.

Nwora had a hot hand early for Louisville, scoring 21 points in the first half. The junior shot 6 of 9 from the floor, but the Cardinals combined to make just 10 of 37. They went the last 5:04 without a field goal as the Seminoles took 39-32 lead into the break.

Walker helped offset Nwora’s early barrage. The junior came off the bench to score 15 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

Walker finished one point short of his career high. Trent Forrest added 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and Devin Vassell scored 14.

Florida State led 52-42 with 13:43 remaining. Louisville cut that to 54-51 on Nwora’s putback, but that was as close as the Cardinals would get.

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The Seminoles’ perimeter shooting not only helped them beat a top-10 team on the road, it also gave them wins at Louisville in consecutive seasons for the first time in a series that dates back to 1968.

Louisville: Playing for the third time in 17 days, the Cardinals had their worst shooting half of the season in the first half. They followed that up by committing 11 of their 16 turnovers in the second.

UP NEXT

Florida State travels to Wake Forest on Wednesday.

Louisville hosts Miami on Tuesday.

Vassell, Williams lead Florida St. past Ga. Tech

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State knows its defense goes a long way.

The No. 18 Seminoles blocked nine shots and created 11 steals to beat Georgia Tech 70-58 Tuesday for their 15th straight home victory.

“They are very, very good defensively,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “We had 20 turnovers. Those turnovers, it’s just the difference.”

Florida State (12-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) leads the ACC with 9.6 steals a game. And that tenacity was critical for a team missing starting guard M.J. Walker (hip bruise) and backup center Balsa Koprivica (back bruise).

Coach Leonard Hamilton does not expect either injury to be long term. But even while short-handed the Seminoles had more than enough depth to pull away.

“There were periods in the second half where I thought our guys were really locked in,” Hamilton said. “We made some energy plays. That’s what happens when the quality of your depth is involved as much as it was. And our guys were a little fresher.”

Devin Vassell scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Seminoles while Patrick Williams added 12 points and Trent Forrest had eight points and six assists.

Michael Devoe scored 19 points, knocking down 6 of 8 three-point attempts for Georgia Tech (6-7, 1-2). Moses Wright added 13 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season, but he also had six turnovers.

The Seminoles led 48-45 when they capitalized on a flagrant foul on forward Jordan Usher with 10:07 to go. Usher fouled Florida State guard Anthony Polite on a drive, and Polite made both free throws. RaiQuan Gray scored on a drive on the next possession. Vassell and Williams then followed with baskets in the next two minutes as Florida State went up 56-47 with 7:59 left.

“Just being able to persevere, come down the stretch and make big shots, make big plays, it just shows the character that we have,” Vassell said.

Vassell had eight points and Dominik Olejniczak added seven points in the second half for Florida State, which shot 53% after halftime to pull away.

The 20 turnovers by Georgia Tech were one short of its season high. Pastner, however, sees improvement during a 2-2 stretch.

“We are getting better these last four games,” he said. “I like the progress we are making.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida State can make the case that it is capable of being a top 15 team, especially if the Seminoles win at No. 7 Louisville on Saturday.

DECADE-LONG RUN

Florida State finished the decade with a 224-110 record. That includes a 2012 ACC title, six NCAA Tournament appearances and three berths in the Sweet 16. The Seminoles are 57-3 in their last 60 home games.

TAKEAWAYS

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets managed just three bench points and wore out in the second half.

Florida State: Even without Walker and with Koprivica playing just two minutes, the Seminoles still had 10 players score points.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: at North Carolina on Saturday.

Florida State: at Louisville on Saturday.

No. 19 Florida State rallies past South Florida 66-60

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida State had trouble making a shot. South Florida had trouble getting a shot.

The No. 19-ranked Seminoles used smothering defense to overcome a 10-point deficit in the final seven minutes and beat South Florida 66-60 Saturday in the Orange Bowl Classic.

The Seminoles shot only 40 percent but matched a season high by forcing 24 turnovers, including seven as they outscored the Bulls 19-3 down the stretch.

“When we went down 10, I thought we became more aggressive,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Our aggressiveness generated some easy baskets off turnovers.”

The Seminoles (10-2) deployed double teams along the sidelines and near midcourt to repeatedly force South Florida mistakes down the stretch.

“We had a plan to trap the ball screen,” said guard Anthony Polite, chosen the game’s most valuable player. “That led to a few steals that gave us energy, and we were able to get some easy baskets in transition. That gave us momentum.”

South Florida (6-6) lost to a ranked team for the 27th consecutive time since 2012.

“The guys are ticked off because we lost that game, which is good for me to able to coach them, because they are not going to accept the fact that we just competed and hung in there,” coach Brian Gregory said. “They want to take another step.”

With 13 steals and 21 points off turnovers, the Seminoles won despite a poor shooting effort, including 7 for 27 from 3-point range. They also were outrebounded by 14 by the Bulls.

“They outplayed us for the majority of the game,” Hamilton said. “They brought a lot more than we had asked for.”

RaiQuan Gray had 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals for Florida State. Polite, Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker also scored 11 points apiece.

A flurry of nine points in 39 seconds by the Bulls — including a pair of 3s and two free technical foul free throws — helped them lead 57-47 with 6:32 to go. But they didn’t score another field goal until garbage time with 3 seconds left, and committed turnovers on four consecutive possessions as the Seminoles pulled ahead.

Devin Vassell’s jumper with two minutes left put Florida State in front to stay.

Michael Durr had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Bulls, but they shot just 3 for 15 from 3-point range. Four of their turnovers came on shot-clock violations.

EARLY DEFICIT

The Seminoles trailed for more than 33 minutes, and made only one of their first 13 shots as South Florida raced to a 17-4 advantage. Florida State missed its first 10 3-point tries.

Xavier Castaneda’s driving layup with 3 seconds left in the first half gave the Bulls a 31-28 halftime lead.

Trent Forrest’s layup with eight minutes to go gave the Seminoles their first lead, 47-46.

OVERHEARD

The technical foul was called on the Florida State bench, but Hamilton pleaded innocent.

“I really don’t know what happened on the technical,” he said. “The ref was on the other side of the court. He has really good ears, I guess. I didn’t hear it, and I was right there.”

BIG PICTURE

Winning with defense is nothing new for the Seminoles. Four victories have come when they score 66 points or fewer.

South Florida has a .500 record for the fifth time this season.

UP NEXT

Florida State plays host to North Alabama on Dec. 28 before returning to Atlantic Coast Conference play.

South Florida plays host to Florida Atlantic on Dec. 29.

Koprivica, Olejniczak power Florida State past North Florida

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Balsa Koprivica scored 15 points and fellow big man Dominik Olejniczak added 11 as No. 19 Florida State defeated North Florida 98-81 on Tuesday night.

The 7-footers were able to capitalize on their height advantage, making shots in the lane and leading the Seminoles to a 39-27 rebounding edge. Koprivica was 6 of 8 from the floor, while Olejniczak went 5 for 7.

M.J. Walker had 11 points, one of seven Seminoles who scored in double figures. Florida State (9-2) has won 12 straight home games in a streak that dates to the 2018-19 season.

Ivan Gandia-Rosa scored 23 points, knocking down four 3-pointers, for North Florida (7-6). Garrett Sams added 20 points, also making four 3s.

North Florida came into the game with 149 made 3-pointers, which led Division I. The Ospreys shot 13 of 34 (38.2%) from beyond the arc.

TAKEAWAYS

North Florida: The Ospreys tried to keep pace by taking 3-pointers, but they didn’t fall in the second half and Florida State often turned those rebounds into fast-break opportunities.

Florida State: The Seminoles showcased their 7-footers more than they have all season, an illustration of just how deep and dangerous the team can be in ACC play. Eleven players made a basket on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

North Florida: At Syracuse on Saturday.

Florida State: Faces South Florida on Saturday at Sunrise, Florida.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top 25