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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

Purdue defense bottles up No. 8 Spartans in 71-42 upset

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Trevion Williams scored 16 points and Purdue relied on a staunch defense Sunday to upset No. 8 Michigan State 71-42.

The Boilermakers (10-7, 4-3 Big Ten) snapped a two-game skid by picking up their second win this season over a Top 10 foe. They also beat defending national champion Virginia on Dec. 4.

Cassius Winston finished with 10 points to lead the Spartans (13-4, 5-1) but also had nine turnovers as Michigan State’s eight-game winning streak ended. The Spartans, who were 4 1/2-point road favorites, hadn’t lost since Dec. 3. They produced their lowest point total of the season and were held almost 40 points below their season scoring average of 81.3.

The game was never really close.

The Boilermakers scored the first five points then seized control with a 12-0 run that gave them a 19-4 lead.

They were just warming up.

Williams and Sasha Stefanovic jump-started another big spurt, 13-2, which gave the Boilermakers a 34-14 lead with 3:23 left in the first half.

And even though the Spartans scored eight of the final 11 points in the half to cut the deficit to 37-20, they couldn’t build on that momentum.

After giving up the first basket of the second half, Michigan State scored seven straight to close to 39-27.

Purdue answered with two 3-pointers to make it 45-29 with 14:11 to go and the Spartans couldn’t get closer than 11 the rest of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: Clearly, the Spartans are better than they demonstrated Sunday. They were completely out of sync against Purdue’s defense. They were beaten physically and were careless with the ball. The real danger is it could become a guide for how other opponents can beat Michigan State.

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ usually strong defense might have been at its best against the Spartans. It’s tough to imagine them performing much better. But, offensively, they may have found a solution to their woes by divvying up the scoring chores. Time will tell whether coach Matt Painter has a fix — or whether it was merely an aberration.

STAT PACK

Michigan State: Committed seven turnovers before forcing one by the Boilermakers. … The Spartans missed their first 10 3-point attempts and were just 2 of 16 in the game. … Michigan State shot 35.1% from the field, was outrebounded 34-32 and the 20-point first half was its lowest total in any half this season. … The Spartans have lost four straight in West Lafayette. … Rocket Watts had 10 points. Xavier Tillman finished with eight points and eight rebounds.

Purdue: Williams also had seven rebounds and four assists. … Evan Boudreaux had 11 points and five rebounds while Stefanovic and Eric Hunter Jr. each finished with 10 points. … Purdue had a 21-8 advantage in points off turnovers. … The Boilermakers broke a tie for the second-longest home winning streak against conference opponents in Mackey Arena history. They won 19 straight between January 1968 and February 1970. … The Boilermakers have won five of their last six home games against Top 10 foes.

UP NEXT

The Spartans will try to rebound at home Friday against Wisconsin.

Purdue faces another daunting challenge Saturday, at No. 12 Maryland.

Cassius Winston leads No. 8 Michigan St to 74-58 win over Minnesota

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cassius Winston scored 18 of his 27 points in the second half while Xavier Tillman finished with 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, leading No. 8 Michigan State to a 74-58 win over Minnesota on Thursday night.

The Spartans (13-3, 5-0 Big Ten) led by just four points at halftime before pulling away for their eighth straight victory, staying atop the Big Ten standings as the only team without a conference loss.

The Golden Gophers (8-7, 2-3) were very competitive in the first half, which had five lead changes and five ties, but couldn’t slow down Winston after halftime.

Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu had 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Marcus Carr scored 11 points and Alihan Demir added 10 points for the Gophers.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: Oturu needs more help. The Gophers have four players who average in double figures, but didn’t have anyone get there other than Oturu until Demir made a 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining.

Michigan State: After taking full advantage of a home-heavy schedule, the Spartans will play three of their next four games on the road.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans are the highest-ranked team with three losses, making it difficult for them to move up in the poll.

UP NEXT

Minnesota: Hosts No. 19 Michigan on Sunday and No. 20 Penn State on Wednesday night, facing a third ranked opponent in a week.

Michigan State: At Purdue on Sunday.

Cassius Winston stars as No. 14 Michigan State defeats No. 12 Michigan

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Cassius Winston slipped from the national consciousness. After going 4 of 14 in a loss to Duke at the Breslin Center to start December, the Michigan State guard, seemingly, moved to the fringe of the national player of the year conversation that just a month earlier he had him at its center.

It was a tough performance on a big stage, and one that weighs heavily early in the season. Winston, though, has quietly bounced back over the last month.  He scored at least 21 points in four of the next five games, averaging six assists per game over that stretch. The Spartans won each one of those games, plus another against Western Michigan which he sat out with a minor injury.

Maybe it was because the competition topped out against the likes of Rutgers and Illinois during that stretch that there was little notice of the man who was once the consensus pick for national player of the year dominating. Performances without the right stage are really just dress rehearsals. Being great when few are watching just doesn’t resonate.

Well, with the spotlight squarely on Winston and the Spartans on Sunday, both starred.

Winston scored a career-high 32 points while dishing out nine assists, and No. 14 Michigan State dominated play Sunday in defeating rival and 12th-ranked Michigan 87-69 at the Breslin Center in what will surely reassert both the senior guard and the Spartans in their spots as among the country’s best.

How could anyone ever even forgotten that’s where they belong?

Winston was truly brilliant, orchestrating the Spartan attack all day long with precision. He was 11 of 19 from the floor, including 2 of 3 from deep, in 38 minutes. Whenever a big play was there to be made or a moment was there to seize, Winston stepped forward and delivered.

It was a sight to behold, especially knowing how difficult these last two months must have been for Winston and his family following his brother’s death in November. Winston returned to Michigan State looking for a triumphant final season on the court, but instead he’s going through what has to be one of the most trying periods of his life. That, at times, has to make basketball feel awfully small by comparison.

So to see Winston smiling, balling and being an absolute wizard on the court is not only great basketball entertainment, but also something more. It was, simply, joyful.

Winston is what drives the Spartans, but he wasn’t alone Sunday in starring. Xavier Tillman had 20 points and 11 rebounds to give Michigan State that inside-outside punch that’s so hard to contend with. No other Spartan scored more than eight points, but when Winston and Tillman have it going like that, the rest of the team really just has to get out of the way and play defense.

Which is what they did.

Michigan shot 36.2 percent overall and 21.7 percent on 23 attempts from 3 as they played from behind the entire game.

The Wolverines, though, were without the services of junior Isaiah Livers, who missed a second-straight game with a groin injury. The 6-foot-7 wing is averaging 13.6 points per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range.

His absence creates a significant shift in what Michigan can do as it’s not only the fact that he’s so deadly from distance, but that his shooting forces defenses to account for him religiously on the perimeter, creating space for Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and the rest of the Wolverines to operate.

Simpson had 14 points (on 18 shots) and eight assists while Teske had 15 points and five boards.

Since captivating the college basketball world with their run through the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Wolverines are 3-4, but with losses Louisville, Illinois, Oregon and Michigan State. All but Oregon (which went to OT) were away from Ann Arbor. Michigan might not be the team we thought they were leaving the Bahamas, at least not yet, but I’m not sure they’re far off. Especially once Livers comes back.

The story is certainly the Spartans and Winston. After fading from the national discussion for the last month, both loudly spoke up Sunday, reminding us they hadn’t really gone anywhere.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Is Payton Pritchard the favorite?

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It has been a weird year for college basketball and college basketball Player of the Year.

Not only is there no clear-cut best team in the country, but there is anything-but a favorite for National Player of the Year at this point. That is unusual. Recent seasons have seen one player emerge in November as the favorite to win the award. Zion Williamson stepped into that role after a monstrous performance in a blowout win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic. The year before, Trae Young’s ridiculous November made him the obvious favorite. Frank Mason led the charge in 2017 starting from, quite literally, the first game of the season. The year before that, it was Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine in a two-horse race all season. The year before that, Jahlil Okafor emerged as the early favorite.

Sometimes, those early favorites end up winning all the Player of the Year awards. Sometimes, they get chased down. That’s what Frank Kaminsky did to Okafor and what Jalen Brunson did to Young.

But either way, there always was a guy to chase.

This year, there is not.

Here is the definitive college basketball Player of the Year rankings:

1. PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon

STATS: 18.5 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.3 RPG, 39.7 3PT%

At this point, I think that Pritchard has to be considered the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award. He’s putting up numbers that are on par with what Jalen Brunson posted the year he won Player of the Year. He’s doing so on a team that is the favorite to win the Pac-12 and currently sitting in the top five of the AP poll and the top ten at KenPom.

And he’s had College Basketball Player of the Year moments. Like roasting Zavier Simpson down the stretch in an overtime win at Michigan. Or the big shots that he hit late in a win over Memphis when they still had James Wiseman. There are a lot of really good point guards around America this season, but Pritchard, to date, has been the best.

2. OBI TOPPIN, Dayton

STATS: 19.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 spg, 35.1 3PT%

Toppin has been this year’s breakout star. He entered the season as the best player in the Atlantic 10 and a potential first round pick, but he’s gone on to become a candidate to go in the top ten while being the anchor for one of the most surprising teams in the sport. Dayton is a ton of fun to watch, and so much of that is because of the way that they have built around Toppin, both offensively and defensively. There is a very strong case for him as the National Player of the Year right now. Who saw that coming?

3. DEVON DOTSON, Kansas

STATS: 18.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 spg

I still think that Udoka Azubuike is the single-most dominant force in college basketball this season, but what Dotson has done this year has helped mitigate the fact that some teams are going to sell out to stop the big fella. His ability to beat teams down the floor in transition is a game-changer for a Kansas program that has had some lulls offensively, and he is the guy that can create in the halfcourt when Bill Self isn’t able to scheme up a way to get shots. He’s far from a perfect player right now, but what he’s provided Kansas this season has been close to that.

4. TRE JONES, Duke

STATS: 14.6 ppg, 7.4 apg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 spg

5. VERNON CAREY, Duke

STATS: 17.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 61.3 FG%, 57.1 3PT%

I’m lumping these two together because I can already tell the debate about who the best player is on Duke is going to rage all season long.

I think there is a valid argument for both. Tre Jones is Duke’s leader. He is the guy that sets the tone defensively by smothering opponents at the point of attack. He is the leader is the locker room. He is their second-leading scorer, third nationally in assists among high-major players and an improved three-point shooter.

Carey, on the other hand, has been better than anyone thought. He’s hardly a great defender, but he’s been good. He’s made threes. He’s been able to play away from the rim. And, most importantly, he’s been just a dominant force on the block. He’s as much of a reason for Duke sitting at No. 1 on KenPom as anyone.

So you tell me.

Who is the best player on the Duke roster?

6. FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga

STATS: 17.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 55.1 FG%

I’m honestly not even sure if Petrusev is the best player on Gonzaga, but I think that he needs to be on this list. He’s the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker on the No. 1 team in the country, but more importantly, he is the best post scorer on a team that survives off of post touches as much as any high major team in the country.

7. KALEB WESSON, Ohio State

STATS: 14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 bpg, 44.2 3PT%

Wesson’s counting stats don’t really show it, but he has been one of the most improved players in college basketball this season. Not only has he developed into one of the best frontcourt shooters in college hoops, he’s also worked to improve his body and his athleticism to make himself really good on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not only the fulcrum of the Ohio State offense, but he’s become the piece that allows them to be as good defensively as they have been.

8. MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette

STATS: 25.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 47.1 3PT%

I’m not convinced yet that Marquette is going to end up being good enough for Howard to truly get considered for a spot as a first-team All-American, but he’s averaging 25.6 points and shooting 47.1 percent from three on more than eight attempts per game. That should never stop being wildly impressive.

9. MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

STATS: 21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 37.0 3PT%

It’s tough to know where to slot Powell on this list. On the one hand, he has had some of the most impressive individual performances of the season and is arguably the most dangerous player in college basketball. He put 37 points on Michigan State, 32 points on Oregon, 24 points on Iowa State, 27 points on DePaul. But his two best games of the year came in losses, he has missed time with an ankle injury and a concussion, and he did not play in Seton Hall’s best win of the year.

10. JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

STATS: 20.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 39.5 3PT%

Nwora is another player that is tough to slot. He’s averaging 20.2 points and 7.2 boards for a top five team in the country. He was a Preseason All-American that is putting up the numbers you would expect from a player of that caliber. But he has also been invisible in Louisville’s two losses, shooting 6-for-26 from the floor and 2-for-13 from three against Texas Tech and Kentucky. He was a decoy in the second half against Kentucky, and that was certainly not something the Louisville staff planned.

ALSO CONSIDERED FOR COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR

JARED BUTLER, Baylor; ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland; MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia; SAMIR DOUGHTY, Auburn; LUKA GARZA, Iowa; COLLIN GILLESPIE, Villanova; TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State; MASON JONES, Arkansas; NICO MANNION, Arizona; TYRESE MAXEY, Kentucky; MAC MCCLUNG, Georgetown; JAHMI’US RAMSEY, Texas Tech; PAUL REED, DePaul; LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State; ISAIAH STEWART, Washington; TRES TINKLE, Oregon State; CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State; MARCUS ZEGAROWSKI, Creighton