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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

Oturu’s 30 leads Minnesota past No. 19 Michigan

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MINNEAPOLIS — Daniel Oturu scored a career-high 30 points and Minnesota went on a late 11-0 run to beat No. 19 Michigan 75-67 on Sunday.

Marcus Carr had 21 points and 12 assists for Minnesota (9-7, 3-3 Big Ten), while Alihan Demir scored 13 points.

Zavier Simpson had 19 points and nine assists for Michigan (11-5, 2-3). Franz Wagner scored 17 points.

The Gophers pulled away late after a back-and-forth second half.

Eli Brooks hit a 3-pointer with 3:20 to play to put Michigan ahead 65-64. But Oturu answered on the other end with a basket in the low post to give Minnesota the lead for good with 3 minutes left.

Michigan’s next two possessions ended in turnovers, and the Gophers made them pay with a bucket in the paint by Demir and two free throws by Carr.

Then, after Jon Teske’s short hook rolled out, the Gophers got a corner 3-pointer from Payton Willis to take a 73-65 lead with 1:02 to play.

Michigan took an early lead and was in control for much of the first half. A 3-pointer by Teske gave the Wolverines their biggest lead at 30-19 with 5 minutes to play in the half.

But the Gophers closed on an 11-1 run that was bookended by two baskets from Carr, the last coming with 29 seconds to play. Minnesota’s defense then forced a miss on a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer as Michigan took a 31-30 lead to the locker room.

Oturu’s jumper to start the second half gave Minnesota its first lead of the game at 33-32.

Carr was 2-for-7 shooting in the first half, but he came to life after the break. After hitting two free throws and a driving layup, he made a 3-pointer and then fed Oturu for an alley-oop dunk to put the Gophers up 45-41.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines lived and died from beyond the arc. They made five of their first six 3-pointers, but then hit just one of their final eight attempts from deep in the first half.

Minnesota: The Gophers struggled to find offense from anyone other than Oturu in the first half. Through the first 15 minutes, Oturu had scored 16 of Minnesota’s 19 points. He finished the first half 9 for 12 from the floor, while his teammates went 4 for 16.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Two of the top three offenses in the Big Ten will square off on Friday when the Wolverines travel to Iowa. It’ll be a rematch of the conference opener, which Michigan won 103-91.

Minnesota: The Gophers host Penn State on Wednesday.

Thursday’s Things to Know: Arizona can’t finish at Oregon, Wichita State takes early American lead and Michigan wins in 2OT

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Thursday night start with significant news that Washington point guard Quade Green will be academically ineligible for at least the next two months, and then things really got interesting.  Here’s what you need to know from a night of overtimes and early jockeying for conference positioning.

1. Arizona misses huge chance in Eugene

Arizona blew a massive opportunity Thursday night.

The Wildcats had a chance to firmly establish themselves as the Pac-12’s premier team, put themselves in the league’s driver’s seat and land a major NCAA tournament resume win when they led No. 9 Oregon by six with less than 2 minutes left in the game at Knight Arena. For a team whose best win was at home against Illinois in the season’s first week, that’s an opportunity you can’t miss.

Which is exactly what Arizona did.

Oregon scored six-straight points over the final 1:38 of regulation, including a game-tying jumper by Payton Pritchard with 28 seconds remaining, and the Wildcats missed two shots and then turned it over in the final possession of overtime to fall to the Ducks, 74-73, in frustrating fashion.

Arizona got a tough whistle down the stretch Zeke Nnaji maybe getting fouled on a potential game-winner with 5 seconds left without drawing a call, and then when officials blowing a play dead when it appeared Pritchard threw the ball back toward an unguarded basket before landing out of bounds. That makes it tough, but it’s a conference road game against a top-10 opponent. It’s gonna be tough.

The loss is obviously not something that’s going to hurt Arizona – a lot of teams are going to lose in Eugene over the next two months – but a win could have been monumentally helpful. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s just examine it from a public perception angle. The Wildcats were ranked 24th, and, given how AP voters typically behave, will probably fall outside the top-25, even if that’s silly considering they lost on the road to a top-10 team. Arizona may have showed itself to be the best team in the Pac-12 by taking Oregon to OT and nearly winning in Eugene, but there’s a pretty good chance Arizona is playing without a number next to its name next week.

To the things that really matter. Arizona has two “good” losses – at Baylor, vs. Gonzaga – and one whatever loss, St. John’s on a neutral, and that’s why the computers like them, but their resume is pretty thin with something pretty important: Good wins. It’s been two months since they beat a perfectly fine but not particularly remarkable Illini team in Tucson, and their best win since then depends on how you feel about New Mexico State, Arizona State and Wake Forest. And no one feels that great about that trio of teams.

A win at Oregon would have not only been a statement, but a serious NCAA tournament resume builder, something that isn’t exactly in strong supply across the Pac-12.  The league once again isn’t great, and that means needle-moving wins aren’t a plentiful resource. To outplay Oregon for most of the night Thursday on the Ducks’ floor only to return home with an L is a pretty tough pill to swallow if you’re Sean Miller or his players.

Arizona’s performance made me pretty confident that they’re the best team in the Pac-12, but my opinion is worth less than the Wildcats’ Nov. 24 win against Long Beach State (KenPom No. 305).

2. Shockers knock off Memphis

Even without James Wiseman, Memphis has a roster that can compete for an AAC championship. The Tigers ripped off a series of wins without the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick, both before and after he decided to hang up his sneakers for the season. Wins against N.C. State and Tennessee are enough to believe in Penny Hardaway’s team even without the stellar freshman. These Tigers still have a chance.

But they’re not the frontrunners.

Wichita State looks to have staked a claim to that status with their 76-67 win over the Tigers on Thursday night at Koch Arena.

The Shockers led by as many as 19 points despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from the 3-point line. They did it thanks to 35 trips to the free-throw line and a defense that produced 18 turnovers and held the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the floor while going a ghastly 4 of 21 from 3-point range. Gregg Marshall’s team had six players score at least eight points while Jamarius Burton led the way with 16.

Wichita State is now 2-0 in the American with the best league win across the conference to date. They’re just a little more than a week away from butting heads with another – probably their chief – AAC  contender, Houston, in Wichita.

3. Michigan survives 2OT to beat Purdue

I don’t know if anyone was actually worried about Michigan after Cassius Winston and Michigan State pretty well thumped them Sunday, but getting big performances from Zavier Simpson, Franz Wagner and Jon Teske to overcome 36 points and 20 rebounds from Trevion Williams and beat Purdue 84-78 in double-overtime might help calm some nerves.

Simpson had 22 and nine assists,  Teske had 18 points and nine rebounds and Wagner had 15 points and five boards to help power the Wolverines, who are still without second-leading scorer and 50-percent 3-point shooter Isaiah Livers. The junior wing has now missed three-straight games since suffering a groin injury in the early minutes of Michigan’s win against Presbyterian on Dec. 21.

Livers is a huge piece of the Wolverines’ puzzle, and without him their offense shrinks considering the importance of his 3-point shooting.

That doesn’t, however, explain how badly Michigan has gotten beaten inside throughout Big Ten play, with Williams’ huge night the latest in a line of big nights, as noted by The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn:

Michigan might not be the slumbering giant they appeared to be after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (both Iowa State and North Carolina – Michigan’s first two wins in the Bahamas – are in free fall), but if they can get Livers back soon and figure out a way to contain opposing big men, they’ve got a chance to hang around in a Big Ten race that Michigan State is currently in solid control of.

No. 19 Michigan survives double overtime against Purdue

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zavier Simpson scored 22 points, Jon Teske added 18 and Michigan’s seniors made big shots late as the 19th-ranked Wolverines outlasted Purdue 84-78 in double overtime on Thursday night.

Freshman Franz Wagner had 15 points for Michigan (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten), which avoided a third straight Big Ten loss.

Purdue sophomore Trevion Williams had career highs with 36 points and 20 rebounds but missed a shot to win at the regulation buzzer.

In the first overtime, Eric Hunter Jr. missed a contested jump shot for Purdue (9-7, 2-3), and Simpson’s desperation 3-pointer on the run also missed for Michigan at the buzzer.

Michigan left little to chance in the second overtime, scoring the first nine points of the session. Teske had a three-point play, followed by 3-pointers from Simpson and Wagner.

Williams, who went to Henry Ford Academy in nearby Detroit, rushed a shot at the end of regulation while Wagner contested.

It was Williams’ sixth double-digit scoring output in the last seven games after he had just one in the first nine. His previous career highs were 18 points and 16 rebounds, both achieved last month at Nebraska.

Isaiah Thompson added 14 points and Eric Hunter Jr. scored 10 points for Purdue.

David DeJulius made three free throws in the final minute, finishing with 11 points for Michigan.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: The Boilermakers lost another chance for a resume builder, falling to 1-3 against ranked teams.

Michigan: The Wolverines responded to losing two straight Big Ten games, including at rival Michigan State on Sunday, with a hard-fought home win.

BIG MAN DOWN

Purdue junior center Matt Haarms fell awkwardly in the first half and left the game with an unspecified injury. He did not return.

STILL OUT

Michigan was playing its third straight game without junior Isaiah Livers, who has a groin injury. Livers is averaging 13.6 points per game, second on the Wolverines.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Purdue continues a three-game stretch against ranked opponents Sunday against No. 8 Michigan State. After that, the Boilermakers face No. 12 Maryland.

Michigan: In just their fifth conference game, the Wolverines already have a rematch, visiting Iowa on Sunday. Michigan topped the Hawkeyes 103-91 on Dec. 6.

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.