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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

Three Things To Know: Seton Hall beats Maryland, Auburn’s undefeated

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NEWARK, N.J. – Thursday was a relatively quiet night in the college basketball world.

But it wasn’t a silent night.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. SETON HALL PICKED UP AN ENORMOUS WIN

When it comes to the tangible stuff, Seton Hall’s win over No. 7 Maryland is massive.

The Pirates were coming off of back-to-back losses. They were playing at home for the first time since Nov. 23rd. They were playing their final quality non-conference opponent that just so happens to be a top ten team, and they were doing it at home. Beating Iowa State on a neutral court is going to be a solid win on Selection Sunday.

Beating Maryland?

At home?

That’s the kind of win that will be a difference-maker. Entering Thursday night, our Dave Ommen had Seton Hall as one of the last teams into the dance. They needed this W, and they needed it badly.

But there is more to it than simply landing a win for their resume.

For the last season and a half, the Hall has basically been looked at as a team that had Myles Powell and a bunch of guys. They win when Powell goes bonkers. They struggle when he is human, and while that is a pretty fair summation overall, the problem is that the mindset had permeated the team, in a way.

“We defer to him,” Quincy McKnight told me after the game.

They couldn’t defer to Powell on Thursday, because Powell was back home in his apartment watching the game while relaxing in a dark room.

(He was actually bouncing off the walls, lights on, and going nuts on FaceTime with his teammates after the fact. “I yelled at him,” head coach Kevin Willard said, and I’m not sure if he was kidding or not.)

That meant that the likes of McKnight and Jared Rhoden and Anthony Nelson were forced into playing bigger roles, and it worked out. McKnight had 15 points and six assists. Nelson had 10 points and four assists. Rhoden had eight points, 12 boards and three assists.

The Pirates didn’t win because of that – they won because their defense turned the Terps into a middle school JV team – but it did force Powell’s supporting cast into having to make plays to win the game without him. They had to figure it out on their own, to prove to themselves they have what it takes.

That will benefit them down the road.

2. BUT MARYLAND MIGHT BE BROKEN

The Terps, on the other hand, were just dreadful. They finished the night shooting 26.9 percent from the floor. They were 5-for-21 from three. They had more turnovers (17) than made field goals (14). Hell, they had more shots blocks (15) than shots made.

Mark Turgeon?

He was not happy, clearly frustrated by the fact that he can’t find a way to get the best out of this team. They’ve been a mess offensively in recent weeks. They look nothing like the team that beat Marquette in Orlando in November.

Specifically, Turgeon said that he frustrated by his team’s decision-making and execution. Things like the inability to execute coming out of a timeout; Maryland was down by three with the ball with less than a minute left, but they turned it over when they couldn’t run the play he called a timeout to draw up. He was unhappy about the fact that his team continually challenged Seton Hall’s two seven-foot centers at the rim, which did not go well for the Terps.

It’s never a good situation when you hear coaches say this: “Hopefully tonight will allow guys to be a little more coachable moving forward.”

3. AUBURN LANDED A NEEDED HOME WIN OVER N.C. STATE

The Auburn Tigers remained amongst the ranks of the undefeated on Thursday night, as they won their 10th straight game to open the season behind 24 points from Samir Doughty.

I think that this win is relevant because of the position that the Tigers have put themselves in with their scheduling. Believe it or not, but N.C. State is the first team from one of the Big Seven leagues that Auburn has played this season, and it is the only high-major foe that they are going to face until the start of SEC play. That’s not to say that the Tigers have played an easy schedule. They’ve beaten Davidson, New Mexico, Richmond, Furman and Saint Louis already this year, and every one of those teams is a top 100 team on KenPom. They ended up being forced to play Richmond after Wisconsin lost to the Spiders in the Legends Classic, and they still get Iowa State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.

But the truth is that there is nothing in their non-conference that is going to be overly impressive. Gonzaga went into Arizona and won. Ohio State beat Villanova by 25. Duke beat Kansas. All of those teams have statement wins. N.C. State was Auburn’s statement win, if you will.

And given the way that the non-conference has played out for the SEC, that is somewhat concerning for the Tigers. The top of the league is thoroughly unimposing. Florida and Kentucky have both been disappointing. Tennessee is working through some issues, having lost two straight. LSU just got worked over at home by East Tennessee State. If Kentucky ends up playing closer to their current ranking in the NET (77th) than on KenPom (15th), there’s a real scenario where Auburn will go through the entire season without playing a single ranked team.

What kind of seed will that lead to in the NCAA tournament?

Doughty rallies No. 12 Auburn for 79-73 win over N.C. State

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AUBURN, Ala. — Samir Doughty scored 11 of his 24 points over the final 4:33 and No. 12 Auburn beat North Carolina State 79-73 Thursday night.

The Tigers (10-0) remained the only unbeaten Power Five team with perhaps their toughest win of the season.

The Wolfpack (8-3) briefly took a lead on Braxton Beverly’s layup with 5:23 left but couldn’t score again for the next four-plus minutes.

Doughty started a late 10-point surge with a scoop shot, but his biggest was a back-breaking 3-pointer from the corner to beat the shot clock with 25 seconds left. He was perfect on six foul shots down the stretch.

Austin Wiley had a breakaway dunk when Wolfpack players were slow to get back following a turnover. Doughty also turned the ball over and stole it right back, winning the scramble for a loose ball and calling a timeout from the floor to save possession.

J’Von McCormick’s layup with 2:12 left gave Auburn a 72-64 lead.

Markell Johnson broke the North Carolina State drought with a short jumper with 1:21 left. After Doughty made two more foul shots, Pat Andree cut the Wolfpack’s deficit to 74-69 with a 3-pointer with 55 seconds to play.

McCormick had 14 points for Auburn and Austin Wiley added 10 points and eight rebounds.

C.J. Bryce had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead North Carolina State before fouling out with 1:38 left. Johnson added 17 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Johnson made a buzzer beater from midcourt Sunday to beat UNC-Greensboro 80-77 but didn’t get a chance for more heroics this time.

DJ Funderburk added 12 points.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina State: Had a three-game winning streak snapped. Committed 28 fouls with Devon Daniels also fouling out.

Auburn: Off to just its fifth 10-0 start and first since the 1998-99 season. Has won 22 of its last 23 games.

FIRST-HALF RUNS

Auburn built a double-digit lead with 12 straight points in the first half. North Carolina State then answered with a 17-2 run for a 33-28 lead.

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

Officials called three technical fouls. Bryce and Auburn’s Allen Flanigan drew double technicals with 14:35 left and Johnson was whistled for another not long after.

UP NEXT

North Carolina State hosts The Citadel on Sunday.

Auburn hosts Lehigh on Saturday.

N.C. State forward Jericole Hellems released from hospital

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State says sophomore forward Jericole Hellems has been released from a hospital and is in “good spirits” after an injury in Saturday’s win at Wake Forest.

The team announced the news Sunday on Twitter. Hellems had fallen on a rebound attempt and banged the back of his head on the court with 28 seconds left. He was alert but had to be carried from the court on a stretcher. Then he was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons to rule out a possible lower back injury as well as to be evaluated for a possible concussion.

The team says Hellems will meet with NC State doctors in the coming days, while coach Kevin Keatts will address his status later in the week.

NC State travels to UNC Greensboro next Sunday.

No. 16 Memphis beats NC State in Barclays Center Classic

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NEW YORK — No. 16 Memphis is way ahead of schedule.

“We’ve seen them grow up right before our eyes,” coach Penny Hardaway said. “I thought it was going to be around January. We’re not where we need to be but we’re growing. To see this in November is big.”

The Tigers came up big Thursday, beating North Carolina State 83-78 on Thursday in the Barclays Center Classic.

Boogie Ellis scored 21 points to lead Memphis (6-1). Precious Achiuwa added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyler Harris had 14.

Markell Johnson led North Carolina State (5-2) with 22 points. Jericole Hellems added 17, and DJ Funderburk had 14.

“It’s a loss but we want to build off our second half,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “The second half was way better than our first.”

Trailing by 16 at the start of the second half, the Wolfpack cut it to 75-72 on C.J. Bryce’s free throw with 3:51 left.

Achiuwa made a jumper, and D.J. Jeffries converted a putback on Memphis’ next two possessions to extend the lead to seven, only for Bryce to respond with a jumper to cut it to 79-74.

Harris missed a floater in the lane, but the ball went off a N.C. State player. Johnson then drew a blocking foul on Ellis, and made both foul shots to cut it to 79-76.

Memphis dashed any thoughts about an upset when Harris converted a three-point play, and Alex Lomax stole the ball from Johnson.

“This is a part of growth,” Hardaway said. “The best is still yet to come for this young team. They’re starting to understand more now and I’m proud of that. They’re carrying over what we’re teaching to the games.”

Memphis did not have freshman center James Wiseman (NCAA suspension) and freshman guard Lester Quinones (broken right hand), although freshman center Malcolm Dandridge played his first game after suffering a torn meniscus in February. Dandridge finished with two points and a rebound.

BIG PICTURE:

The Thanksgiving matinee was the fourth straight game Wiseman sat out due to NCAA suspension. The NCAA had ruled earlier in the month Wiseman’s mother had accepted money from Hardaway in 2017, when the former NBA star was a high school and AAU coach. Wiseman played for Hardaway’s AAU team, and would later enroll at the school where the one-time NBA star coached. The NCAA also added three games to the suspension to make up for the three games Wiseman played for Memphis (Nov. 5 against South Carolina State, Nov. 8 against Illinois-Chicago, Nov. 12 against Oregon) while being ineligible.

Memphis challenged the NCAA’s initial ruling, but the NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstate announced Wednesday that the decision was upheld. Wiseman, the nation’s top-ranked recruit coming out of high school, and the centerpiece of Hardaway’s top-ranked recruiting class, can return Jan. 12 against South Florida.

Hardaway believes the suspension won’t negatively affect Wiseman, who had averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, three blocks in 23.1 minutes in the three games. He shot 76.9% from the field, and 70.4% from the foul line. He is expected to be on the short list of players who could be the first overall pick in June’s NBA Draft.

“James is very smart,” said Hardaway, who noted Wiseman did not travel with the team. “He understands. He watches a lot of film. He’s a student of the game. I think he’ll hit the ground running when he comes back. He’s just that special because he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”

UP NEXT:

Memphis: Hosts Bradley on Tuesday night.

North Carolina State: Hosts Wisconsin on Wednesday night