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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

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.

Jones’ clutch buckets lead No. 2 Duke to victory over Georgia Tech

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ATLANTA — Tre Jones hit two key baskets down the stretch and No. 2 Duke extended its decade-long domination of Georgia Tech, holding off the Yellow Jackets 73-64 on Wednesday night.

The Blue Devils (14-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) extended their winning streak to eight in a row, and their firm hold on this series goes back much further. Georgia Tech (7-7, 2-2) has lost 13 straight to Duke since its last victory over the Blue Devils on Jan. 9, 2010 — almost 10 years ago to the day.

The Yellow Jackets rallied from a double-digit deficit but couldn’t make a basket in the closing minutes, missing 14 of their last 15 shots.

Jones led the Blue Devils with 16 points, including a pull-up jumper that snapped a 61-all tie and another floater in the lane that extended the edge to 68-64.

Cassius Stanley and Vernon Carey Jr. added 14 apiece.

Joe Alvarado paced Georgia Tech with 18 points. James Banks scored 14 points, grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds and swatted away seven shots.

Turning up the defensive pressure, Duke appeared to take control with a 12-0 run late in the first half. All six baskets in the outburst were layups or dunks, three of them set up by Georgia Tech turnovers.

The Yellow Jackets went more than four minutes without scoring and suddenly found themselves down 34-22 in a game they led throughout much of the opening period.

Duke went to the locker room with a 40-29 edge after Jones slipped under the basket to tip in a missed 3-pointer by Matthew Hurt, the ball dropping through the hoop just as the red light came on. The referees briefly reviewed the play before ruling it beat the expiring clock.

Coming off a 13-point victory at North Carolina, Georgia Tech did its best to impress a rare sellout crowd at McCamish Pavilion. A massive line of students wrapped halfway around the 8,600-seat arena, stretching thin a security staff and ticket-scanners who weren’t used to handling such crowds.

In the end, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t finish off a feat they have not accomplished since 2009-10 — beating Duke and the Tar Heels in the same season.

TIP-INS

Duke: Played without freshman Wendell Moore Jr., who underwent surgery after breaking his right hand in a victory over Miami last weekend. The 6-foot-6 forward will miss extensive time but is expected to return this season.

Georgia Tech: Michael Devoe, who came into the game leading the Yellow Jackets in scoring at 16.9 points a game, endured a tough night. He finished 3 of 11 from the field, including 1 for 6 beyond the arc. The one he’ll really be kicking himself for was an open 3 that would’ve given Georgia Tech a 67-66 lead. It bounced off the rim and over the backboard. The Yellow Jackets went scoreless the rest of the way.

UP NEXT

Duke: Returns home to face Wake Forest on Saturday.

Georgia Tech: Heads north to face Boston College on Saturday.

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.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Cincinnati gets a resume win, Georgia Tech gets blown out at home and North Carolina loses fourth straight

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It may be finals weeks for schools across the country, but there were plenty of tests on the floor Wednesday night, even if an injury to Cole Anthony sucked a lot of the drama out of one of the games that should have been a marquee matchup.

Here’s what you need to know from Wednesday:

1. Cincinnati knocks off No. 21 Tennessee

It’s been a rough go of things for Cincinnati as of late. They lost the Crosstown Shootout to rival Xavier, and then, to make matters much, much worse, they lost by one at home to Colgate because of a bizarre ending in which AAC preseason player of the year Jarron Cumberland threw up a casual halfcourt shot in a tie game with 5 seconds to play and a Colgate player was fouled on the subsequent rebound, paving the way for a game-winning free throw.

So some good news would go a long way for the Bearcats, and they got a nice dose of it Wednesday with a 78-66 win over No. 21 Tennessee.

It was a balanced affair for the Bearcats, who had six players score in double figures and a seventh lodge nine points. They shot 56.4 percent from the floor while holding the Vols to 3 of 13 from distance.

Not only was it a big win for Cincinnati just to get some good vibes after a couple of tough Ls, it was a huge resume boost ahead of AAC play, which will provide some NCAA tournament-boosting opportunities, but no one is going to be mistaking it for the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12. Beating the Vols gives the Bearcats unquestionably their biggest win of the season, which sounds a lot better than that distinction belonging to Vermont. Cincinnati gets another crack at a Power 5 team this week against a resurgent Iowa on a neutral floor.

It’s worth keeping a close eye on Cincinnati not just to see how things unfold in John Brannen’s first season, but to see what happens to Cumberland. He was expected to be a dominant player this season, but instead has seen his numbers plummet. He’s shooting 33 percent from the floor (down from 40) and 26 percent from 3 (down from 38.8) while averaging 13.3 ppg (down from 18.8). Then there was the absolutely head-scratching finish to the Colgate game.

The win against Tennessee is great for Cincinnati, but it’s hard to see it ultimately mattering a whole lot unless Cumberland gets it going.

2. Ball State thumps Georgia Tech in Atlanta

Josh Pastner was 32 years old when he coached his first game at Memphis, a plum job with an impossible task – following John Calipari. The youthful Pastner did an admirable job in the early going, going 24-10 overall and 13-3 in the CUSA in his first season that ended in an NIT bid before then going to four-straight NCAA tournaments with the Tigers. He was young, mostly successful on the court and the recruiting trail, and looked like he might be able keep Memphis relevant.

When that didn’t happen, with back-to-back NCAA tournament misses and the failure to come close to reaching anything resembling the highs under Calipari, Memphis actually paid Pastner $1.25 million to fail upward, as he took a job in the ACC with Georgia Tech. Things started well(ish) there, too, as he got the Yellow Jackets to Madison Square Garden in the NIT semifinals in an innaugural season in which they finished 21-16.

The question now, though, is will that be as good as it gets for Pastner in Atlanta? It’s certainly a question worth asking a little louder Wednesday, as Georgia Tech fell at home by 18 points to Ball State, a team that has taken losses to Evansville, Northern Kentucky, Western Illinois and Loyola Chicago this season. The Yellow Jackets are now 4-5 with that season-opening win against NC State seeming very long ago while sitting in the shadow of the last two sub-.500 seasons.

There’s time left in the season for Pastner and Georgia Tech to figure things out, but getting walloped at home by a team picked to finish third not in the MAC, but in the western division of the MAC, that’s the kind of thing that erodes whatever amount of goodwill and benefit of the doubt fans – and university decision makers – are otherwise inclined to give you, which can’t be much when recruiting violations already have banned you from the 2020 postseason and put you on a multi-year probation.

Ten years ago, Pastner took a job with a bar of expectation that probably no one could clear. He got paid to go away because doing a pretty good job wasn’t good enough. Unless things change in a hurry at Georgia Tech, Pastner could be moving on for failing to meet much more modest expectations.

3. Gonzaga hands North Carolina fourth-straight loss

It’s not really losing to Gonzaga that has to have you frustrated if you’re a North Carolina fan. Dropping a game in Spokane is something every single team that visits this season is likely  to do. Mark Few may have another No. 1 seed in this year’s Bulldogs. So, a loss isn’t much to be concerned about.

It’s what comes next, now that the Tar Heels have dropped four-straight and are looking at a few weeks without Cole Anthony. Really, the real test comes over the next week when UNC gets UCLA on a neutral and Yale at home. How the Tar Heels perform in those two games will likely tell us exactly what they are, at least without Anthony: either they survive those games and live to fight in the ACC until Anthony gets back from injury or drop them, proving that this is a team that just can’t compete without its star point guard.

The good news is if it’s the former, North Carolina’s ACC schedule is backloaded, giving them the opportunity to just fight, scratch and claw their way through until Anthony returns. There’s a path for North Carolina to get right, but it’s gonna get real narrow real quickly if things go sideways against the Bruins and Bulldogs.

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