Leon Halip/Getty Images

Bracketology: All Hail the Wolverines

Leave a comment

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)

Hagans silences Georgia crowd, lifts No. 12 Kentucky, 69-49

AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Leave a comment

ATHENS, Ga. — Ashton Hagans silenced a hostile crowd by scoring a season-high 23 points, leading No. 12 Kentucky to a 69-49 victory over Georgia on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats (13-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) pulled away in the second half for their third straight victory.

Hagans, a freshman who initially committed to Georgia out of high school but wound up signing with Kentucky, was booed by the sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum each time he touched the ball.

It sure didn’t seem to bother him.

The point guard reached double figures for the fifth game in a row, eclipsing the 18 points he scored a week ago against Texas A&M. But the youngster’s contribution went much deeper on the stat sheet — he also had five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Hagans’ performance was especially galling for a Georgia team that could’ve had him running the offense. The Bulldogs’ point guard, senior Turtle Jackson, managed only two points on 1-of-8 shooting.

Georgia (9-7, 1-3) led by five in the opening minutes before going to the locker room down 35-31.

Hagans took control after halftime. He knocked down a 3-pointer just ahead of the shot-clock buzzer, darted into the lane to lay one in, and scored off a steal by Tyler Herro to suddenly push the lead into double figures, 42-31.

Kentucky steadily pulled away from there.

In the closing minutes, as most of the red-clad fans headed for the exits, a sizeable contingent of Wildcat fans chanted, “Go Big Blue!”

Nicolas Claxton led Georgia with 12 points. The Bulldogs shot only 30 percent (17 of 56) from the field.

HOMECOMING

Hagans played his high school ball about an hour’s drive from Athens.

The freshman initially committed to play for the Bulldogs and their previous coach, Mark Fox. But Hagans backed off his commitment last February when it became apparent that Fox’s job could be in jeopardy. Indeed, Fox was fired after the season and replaced by Tom Crean.

Hagans wound up signing with Kentucky — though he remains a Georgia football fan.

BIG PICTURE

Kentucky: Hagans is really taking control of the Wildcats after playing limited minutes early in the season.

Georgia: The Bulldogs still have a lot of work to do, especially in the backcourt. The other starting guard, Teshaun Hightower, had only five points.

Jared Harper, No. 11 Auburn rebound with 93-78 win over Georgia

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Jared Harper had 22 points and seven assists while he and No. 11 Auburn rebounded from a rough night to beat Georgia 93-78 on Saturday.

Harper and the Tigers (12-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) looked sharper at home than in an 82-67 loss at Mississippi, but still struggled to put away a team that was blown away by No. 3 Tennessee a week ago.

The Bulldogs (9-6, 1-2) threatened to make it close through much of the second half to avoid a repeat of that 46-point road loss to the Volunteers.

Harper got off to a strong start and then reclaimed control down the stretch.

Auburn built up a 16-point lead midway through the second half, but Georgia chipped away at it enough to remain within striking distance.

Georgia had a chance to cut it to single digits when Auburn’s inbounds pass sailed over Wiley’s head. But Harper stole the ball at the other end and fired a pass to Dunbar for a dunk and 82-69 lead with 4:08 left.

Dunbar got a steal of his own on the Bulldogs’ next possession to set up Chuma Okeke’s dunk to help ensure a comfortable victory.

Harper didn’t waste any time showing this performance would be different from than 3-of-14, nine-point game against the Rebels. The Auburn point guard hit two early 3-pointers and added a couple more before his day was done.

Bryce Brown had 15 points and made 3 of 4 3-pointers for Auburn. Anfernee McLemore also scored 15 points and added nine rebounds. Samir Doughty and Malik Dunbar each scored 11 points.

William Jackson Jr. led Georgia with 16 points, Nicolas Claxton added 15, and Teshaun Hightower had 12. Rayshaun Hammonds had nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia was fairly competitive throughout after getting blown out 96-50 by Tennessee last Saturday.

Auburn was more efficient and balanced than the Ole Miss game, when Brown fired up 19 3s. The Tigers hit 50 percent (34 of 68) after shooting a cold 33 percent against the Rebels.

UP NEXT

Georgia: Hosts No. 18 Kentucky on Tuesday night.

Auburn: At Texas A&M on Wednesday night.

Go and download the new NBC Sports Scores app

NBC Sports
Leave a comment

The easiest way for you to read, watch and engage with any and all of the content that NBC Sports has to offer is now here.

The new NBC Sports Scores app is now ready and available to download on your mobile devices, which is the only way for you to truly keep up to date on everything happening in the world of sports.

Keep up to date on everything happening with your favorite college basketball team with live scores, team schedules and alerts to all the new content for whoever it is that you follow.

This isn’t just for college basketball, mind you.

The NBC Sports Scores app brings you extensive coverage of the NBA, the NHL, the NFL, Major League Baseball, college football and, of course, all of our Premier League content. It is the only app you need — and the only app you could ever want — to stay on top of breaking news and sharp analysis of whatever sport it is that you lone.

So go and download the app now.

No. 3 Tennessee trounces Georgia 96-50 to open SEC play

Donald Page/Getty Images
Leave a comment

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Jordan Bowden scored 20 points off the bench as No. 3 Tennessee opened Southeastern Conference competition by trouncing Georgia 96-50 on Saturday for its eighth consecutive victory.

Tennessee recorded the most lopsided triumph in this series’ 146-game history, surpassing a 105-69 Volunteers victory from Feb. 1, 1975.

The Vols (12-1, 1-0 SEC) were one point away from matching their most decisive win over any SEC opponent. Tennessee beat Mississippi 102-55 on Jan. 8, 1966.

Tennessee delighted a sellout crowd with its 17th consecutive home victory. Tennessee’s last home defeat was a 94-84 setback against Auburn on Jan. 2, 2018.

Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield scored 18 points each for Tennessee. Kyle Alexander had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Jordan Bone added 11 points.

Derek Ogbeide scored 17 points for Georgia (8-5, 0-1), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.

These two teams were meeting for the first time since Tennessee capped the 2017-18 regular season with a 66-61 come-from-behind victory that earned the Volunteers a share of the SEC title. That result snapped Georgia’s five-game winning streak in this series.

This game didn’t feature nearly as much success as that thriller.

Georgia stayed close for the first eight minutes until Tennessee went on an 11-0 run to extend its lead to 25-12. The Vols never looked back.

Williams set the tone for the rest of the game when he drew two fouls on Ogbeide in the first 57 seconds, as Georgia would struggle with foul trouble all day.

Georgia’s leading scorer — Rayshaun Hammonds — picked up three fouls in the first 14 minutes of the game and sat out the rest of the first half. He played just 16 minutes and went scoreless.

Nicolas Claxton, who entered the day averaging a double-double for Georgia, had just six points and five rebounds.

With Georgia trailing 38-17 late in the first half, Bulldogs coach Tom Crean kept Claxton in the game late even after the 6-foot-11 sophomore picked up his third foul. The move backfired when Claxton committed a fourth foul with 4:01 left until halftime.

Claxton didn’t return until 13:12 remained in the game. Tennessee led 66-32 by that point.

Tennessee’s Lamonte’ Turner returned to action Saturday after missing the Vols’ last six games with a shoulder injury. He played 15 minutes and scored six points.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: The Bulldogs couldn’t do much of anything against Tennessee’s defense. The Bulldogs shot a season-low 32.1 percent (17 of 53) and were 1 of 20 from 3-point range.

Tennessee: The Vols are off to their best start since winning 16 of their first 17 games in 2007-08. That team went on to earn a No. 1 ranking later that year before finishing 31-5 with an NCAA regional semifinal appearance.

SEC Reset: Has Tennessee usurped Kentucky as favorites?

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

College basketball’s non-conference season is finally coming to a close.

To help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason recaps to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Who has been the best player in the biggest leagues?

Who is on track to get an NCAA tournament bid?

What have we learned about the conference hierarchy?

What is still left for us to figure out?

We break it all down here.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the SEC.

MIDSEASON SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grant Williams, Tennessee

The reigning SEC Player of the Year now finds himself firmly in the National Player of the Year discussion after a stellar start. Williams is averaging 20.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 blocks per game on the season as he’s improved nearly every facet of his game.

While the 6-foot-7 junior was mostly an interior force last season, he’s improved his range to become a decent perimeter shooter (41 percent from three on a small sample size). Passing has also been a revelation for Williams, as he’s made the Vols’ offense a lot better with his ability to create for teammates.

Zion Williamson still finds himself as the current NPOY favorite, but Williams is doing everything he can to close the gap.

THE ALL SEC FIRST TEAM

  • Grant Williams, Tennessee
  • Admiral Schofield, Tennessee: Schofield has been nearly just as good as Williams in a dominant Tennessee frontcourt. Putting up 18.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, Schofield is a matchup nightmare who can make plays all over the floor.
  • Daniel Gafford, Arkansas: The sophomore big man has become a force on the interior. The NBA Draft prospect is averaging 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game on 66 percent shooting.
  • Keldon Johnson, Kentucky: On a loaded Kentucky team, Johnson has emerged as the team’s best player as he’s now considered as a potential lottery pick. The freshman guard is averaging 16.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 43 percent three-point range.
  • Quinndary Weatherspoon, Mississippi State: The senior leader of a dangerous Mississippi State team, Weatherspoon has helped the Bulldogs to a strong start. Weatherspoon is averaging 17.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS

  • NCAA: Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky, Florida, Mississippi State, LSU
  • NIT: Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Alabama, Missouri
  • OTHER/NO POSTSEASON: South Carolina, Texas A&M, Georgia
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

THREE THINGS WE’VE LEARNED

1. The SEC race is wide open

Not that this should come as any sort of surprise, but the SEC race is wide open at this point in the season. Defending co-regular season champions Auburn and Tennessee have returned to top-15 form from last season. Kentucky is starting to figure things out while looking like the potential juggernaut many believed they could be.

Mississippi State, LSU and Florida also have the look of very dangerous teams who could be sleepers in the SEC race. And the second tier of the SEC (Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, and Missouri) are all off to decent starts.

Besides for Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina, seemingly every team is a threat in the league this year.

2. Auburn and Tennessee both have teams capable of repeating as SEC champions

Defending co-SEC champions Auburn and Tennessee have lived up to lofty preseason expectations so far as both teams find themselves ranked in the top 15 in the country.

The Vols and Tigers both sport top 35 offenses and defenses on KenPom and both have passed the all-important eye-test by playing well against elite teams. Tennessee has knocked off Gonzaga while hanging tough with Kansas while Auburn fought hard against Duke and knocked off teams they were supposed to beat like Washington, Xavier and Arizona.

Both veteran teams look like they’re well-positioned to be near the top of the SEC standings once again this season thanks to veteran teams that have won plenty of games.

3. Kentucky is starting to figure things out

After the opening night dominance of Duke over Kentucky in the Champions Classic, there were some serious questions about the Wildcats. More questions returned once Kentucky suffered a surprising loss to Seton Hall.

Over the last several weeks, the Wildcats have answered many of those concerns with notable results.

Kentucky is starting to figure out its rotation while also clamping down more on defense. The transfer of point guard Quade Green helped alleviate some perimeter logjams that have enabled sparkplugs like Ashton Hagans to come in and earn more minutes. That’s provided more stability for Kentucky overall while enhancing their perimeter defense quite a bit. Kentucky also has the luxury of having multiple guys who can take over a game as we’ve seen Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have big recent outings against quality competition. The frontcourt play of Reid Travis and P.J. Washington remains solid as well.

Kentucky still has to get by Auburn and Tennessee to be the SEC’s premier team, but they’re in as good of a position as they could have hoped for given how embarrassing the season started.

(Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

THREE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW

1. Can Auburn and Tennessee reintroduce key pieces into the rotation?

For as good as Auburn and Tennessee have been this season, both programs are still trying to reintroduce double-figure scorers back into their rotations.

Auburn finally gets forward Danjel Purifoy back into the lineup after his suspension for his alleged involvement in the FBI’s college basketball corruption scandal. The Tigers don’t need Purifoy to be great, but if he’s able to provide another lift in the frontcourt, then it adds another scary element to Auburn’s rotation.

Tennessee guard Lamonte Turner has also been sidelined most of this season as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. The SEC’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year might be the Vols’ most important perimeter scorer as he would help the backcourt of Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden immensely by adding another playmaker.

It’s not a guarantee that either of these guys make a huge impact. Purifoy hasn’t played for a season and a half and Turner is clearly having issues with a surgically-repaired shoulder that has given him trouble before. But if either of these guys can regain previous form then it makes these two teams even more of a threat for the rest of the season.

2. Do any middle tier teams separate themselves from the pack and make the NCAA tournament?

At the start of 2019 the SEC had five teams ranked in the top 20 on KenPom with a sixth team, LSU, coming in at No. 40. Barring an extremely bad conference season, those teams should all be aiming to make the NCAA tournament.

It’s the second tier of SEC teams that will be intriguing to follow.

Ole Miss, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Missouri are all in the top 75 on KenPom after positive starts to the season. None of those teams are currently guaranteed NCAA tournament entry based on current standing. But all of them are going to have ample opportunities to earn huge wins since so many SEC teams are ranked and sitting in Quadrant 1 territory.

Last season saw the SEC create a basketball resurgence with eight NCAA tournament bids. Some work still needs to be done, but with the Pac-12 as down as it is, there is ample opportunity for the SEC to make another major push for the same number of NCAA tournament bids.

3. Can Mississippi State push the SEC’s elite?

Among the SEC’s four ranked teams, Mississippi State is by far the most unproven of the bunch.

Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee are all coming off of NCAA tournament appearances with deep and talented rosters. And although the Bulldogs have earned some notable non-conference wins over teams like Cincinnati and Clemson, they haven’t competed against elite national competition like the other top SEC teams.

Since the Bulldogs haven’t made the NCAA tournament since 2009, they’ll need to earn the trust of everybody by proving themselves against top-flight teams. After years of building, it finally looks like Ben Howland has a veteran team who can take him back to the NCAA tournament. Quinndary Weatherspoon leads a team with five double-figure scorers. The Bulldogs have depth at multiple spots. Aric Holman has been tremendous in spurts. Mississippi State has a top-45 offense and defense. If this program is ever going to make a run for the top of the SEC, this is the time to do it.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

THREE PREDICTIONS

1. The SEC gets seven teams in the NCAA tournament (and has a more successful March)

Last year was a banner year for the SEC when they had eight of its membership make the Big Dance. Although the SEC top-to-bottom doesn’t appear to be as strong as last season, it’s looking like the SEC should still have plenty of numbers in March. And more teams should also be poised for a deeper run.

The key will be if the middle-tier teams can pick off the ranked teams during conference play as happened last season. If the top SEC contenders run away with the league, and only lose to each other, then it significantly hurts the SEC’s chances for overall quality wins. But if the league is a bloodbath like last year, with no team clearly separating from the pack, then we should see plenty of SEC teams back in the field.

Either way, the SEC should fare better than only one Sweet 16 team from last season. Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee are all in potential position to earn great seeds and make runs and there are plenty of dangerous second-tier teams who could get hot at the right time.

2. Tennessee captures the SEC title

The SEC race is going to be a close one given how talented the league is at the top. But Tennessee has the difference of having arguably the two best players in the conference in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.

The key for Tennessee could come down to guard play. Jordan Bone has been better than last season but he’s still struggling to shoot from the perimeter. Jordan Bowden has actually been slightly worse than last year — particularly shooting the ball from deep. And the SEC’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamonte Turner, has only played in three games this season as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery.

As long as Williams and Schofield keep playing at this level, and Tennessee’s perimeter attack can make some timely plays and shots, then the Vols should be in position to claim another SEC regular season title.

3. Florida makes a big push after a strange start

One of this season’s most perplexing teams has been the Florida Gators. Sitting at 8-4 with tremendous computer numbers thanks to a challenging non-conference schedule, it’s tough to get a read on Florida at this point in the season.

We know that Florida is one of best defensive teams in the country. The Gators turn you over and throw waves of bodies at you thanks to their depth and athleticism. It’s offense that’s the issue. Florida doesn’t have a go-to scorer and nobody on the roster seems like a natural takeover guy.

There are currently an astounding eight players averaging between 10.3 points and 6.6 points per game on this roster right now. If a veteran guard like KeVaughn Allen or Jalen Hudson starts to figure things out as a scorer, then Florida should elevate to another level.

Both Allen and Hudson have averaged at least 14.0 points per game over a full college season before, so it’s certainly possible. I believe that Florida gets one of those guys rolling and becomes a dangerous team heading into March.