NET/Championship Fortnight Viewing Guide For Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Florida will look for a repeat of 2018 when LSU visits the O’Connell Center tonight.

Bubble teams from the SEC and Big East get big opportunities at home tonight. Plus, two more conference tournaments get underway. For a more traditional look at the schedule, visit MattSarzSports.com.

Reminders of the different groupings:

  • Quad 1 (home games): Visitor is ranked 1-30
  • Quad 1 (away games): Host is ranked 1-75
  • Quad 2 (home games): Visitor is ranked 31-75
  • Quad 2 (away games): Host is ranked 76-135
  • Quad 3 (home games): Visitor is ranked 76-160
  • Quad 3 (away games): Host is ranked 136-240
  • Quad 4 (home games): Visitor is ranked 161-353
  • Quad 4 (away games): Host is ranked 241-353

All NET numbers are from the NCAA’s website and reflect games played through Monday, March 4. Records reflect games played through Tuesday, March 5. All times are Eastern.

Top 30 at Top 75 (2 Games)

Quad 1 for both the host and visitor (1/1)

No. 26 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6, 12-4) at No. 63 Seton Hall Pirates (16-12, 7-9), 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
No. 13 LSU Tigers (24-5, 14-2) at No. 35 Florida Gators (17-12, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Seton Hall returned to my projected field today, but that was mostly due to Alabama‘s loss to Auburn. But with back-to-back home games against Marquette and Villanova to close the regular season, the Pirates can add to a profile that already includes wins over Kentucky (at MSG) and at Maryland. They’ll just have to snap a three-game skid to get there.

As for Florida, a sweep of LSU is necessary, thanks to Saturday’s bad home loss to Georgia and a looming Saturday trip to Rupp Arena. A Gator win would also put Tennessee in sole possession of first with a game left.

Top 30 at 76-135 (1 Game)

Quad 2 for the visitor; Quad 1 for the host only (2/1)

No. 18 Iowa State Cyclones (20-9, 9-7) at No. 116 West Virginia Mountaineers (11-18, 3-13), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Cyclones have looked shaky of late, going 2-4 in their last six (including a pair of losses at Hilton Coliseum). But they might struggle at WVU Coliseum, where the Mountaineers have already defeated Kansas, Oklahoma, and TCU in Big 12 play. Not too bad for a very disappointing season in Morgantown.

31-75 at 76-135 (3 Games)

Quad 2 for both the host and the visitor (2/2)

No. 72 Georgetown Hoyas (18-11, 8-8) at No. 104 DePaul Blue Demons (14-13, 6-10), 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
No. 39 Clemson Tigers (17-12, 7-9) at No. 103 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-16, 3-13), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 43 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11, 8-10) at No. 95 Northwestern Wildcats (12-17, 3-15), 9 p.m. (BTN)

A trio of bubble teams will play must-win road games on this Wednesday. Georgetown is looking to complete a season-sweep of DePaul in an eight-day span, as the Hoyas dropped the Blue Demons by nine in D.C. just last Wednesday. Clemson heads to Notre Dame, where the Irish would like to end a five-game losing streak. The Tigers can’t get caught looking back at last Saturday’s major missed opportunity against North Carolina nor ahead to this Saturday’s visit from Syracuse. As for Ohio State, they’ll attempt to complete a season sweep of Northwestern, a team that last won on January 22nd.

76-160 at Top 75 (4 Games)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 3 for the host (1/3)

No. 78 Providence Friars (16-13, 6-10) at No. 49 Creighton Bluejays (16-13, 7-9), 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
No. 91 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-19, 3-13) at No. 34 Baylor Bears (19-10, 10-6), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 129 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (13-17, 5-12) at No. 31 North Carolina State Wolfpack (20-9, 8-8), 9 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACC Network Extra)
No. 88 Oregon State Beavers (17-11, 9-7) at No. 32 Washington Huskies (23-6, 14-2), 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

Of the four contenders with winnable home games tonight, Creighton, N.C. State, and Washington have the most to lose. While the Bluejays are aiming for a season sweep of Providence, their first meeting was all the way back on New Year’s Eve. The Wolfpack’s tendency to play down to their level of competition could be an issues against Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, the Huskies will hope to shake off the bad memories of their Bay Area trip, which they were lucky to split, as they look to go 2-0 against Oregon State.

Baylor, on the other hand, is a little more securely in the bracket, but Oklahoma State will be a feisty opponent. The Bears won the first meeting in Stillwater, 73-69, on January 14th.

31-75 at 136-240 (1 Game)

Quad 3 for the visitor; Quad 2 for the host only (3/2)

No. 64 Oregon Ducks (17-12, 8-8) at No. 190 Washington State Cougars (11-18, 4-12), 11 p.m. (FS1)

Washington State has the potential to spoil the Ducks’ remaining at-large hopes, even if the Ducks won the first meeting in the season series by 20 in Eugene back on January 27th.

Horizon League Quarterfinals, Night 2

No. 7 Detroit Mercy Titans (11-19, 8-10) at No. 2 Northern Kentucky Norse (23-8, 13-5), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 6 Youngstown State Penguins (12-19, 8-10) at No. 3 Oakland Golden Grizzlies (15-16, 11-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Last night, the top-seeded Wright State Raiders and fourth-seeded Green Bay Phoenix both won to set up Monday night’s first semifinal in Detroit. The Raiders’ win was the first for a Horizon League No. 1 seed since now-departed Valparaiso Crusaders ‘s won two games to claim the conference’s auto bid back in 2015.

This evening, co-champ and No. 2 seed, NKU will look to defeat Mike Davis’ Titans for a third time, while Oakland will attempt to win the season series with Youngstown State. Note that the Penguins won on their first trip to the O’Rena on January 31st, 75-74.

NEC Quarterfinals

No. 6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (15-15, 9-9) at No. 3 Sacred Heart Pioneers (15-16, 11-7), 6 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
No. 8 Bryant Bulldogs (10-19, 7-11) at No. 1 St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (16-13, 12-6), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
No. 7 Wagner Seahawks (13-16, 8-10) at No. 2 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (17-13, 12-6), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
No. 5 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (17-14, 9-9) at No. 4 Robert Morris Colonials (16-15, 11-7), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)

The NEC opens its playoffs tonight, with only fourth-seeded Robert Morris looking to defeat its opponent for the third time on the year. In the other three matchups, the hosts will all be aiming for a second home win over their lower-seeded opposition.

Remember that the NEC, like the America East, re-seeds after the quarterfinals.

OVC First Round

No. 8 SIU Edwardsville Cougars (10-20, 6-12) vs. No. 5 Morehead State Eagles (12-19, 8-10), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 7 UT Martin Skyhawks (11-18, 6-12) vs. No. 6 Eastern Illinois Panthers (14-17, 7-11), approx. 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

The first ladder-style bracket of 2019 tips off in Evansville, with tonight’s winners moving on to a pair of quarterfinal games, which will see the entry of the No. 3 and 4 seeds, on Thursday night. Morehead State lost its lone meeting of the season with SIUE, 83-76, back on January 31st at the Vadalabene Center. EIU, on the other hand, swept its two meetings with the Skyhawks.

Chronological Schedule

Grouped by quality in each tip window.

Early Evening Tips

1/1 No. 13 LSU Tigers (24-5, 14-2) at No. 35 Florida Gators (17-12, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
1/1 No. 26 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6, 12-4) at No. 63 Seton Hall Pirates (16-12, 7-9), 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
2/1 No. 18 Iowa State Cyclones (20-9, 9-7) at No. 116 West Virginia Mountaineers (11-18, 3-13), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Horizon Quarterfinal: No. 7 Detroit Mercy Titans (11-19, 8-10) at No. 2 Northern Kentucky Norse (23-8, 13-5), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Horizon Quarterfinal: No. 6 Youngstown State Penguins (12-19, 8-10) at No. 3 Oakland Golden Grizzlies (15-16, 11-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
NEC Quarterfinal: No. 6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (15-15, 9-9) at No. 3 Sacred Heart Pioneers (15-16, 11-7), 6 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
NEC Quarterfinal: No. 8 Bryant Bulldogs (10-19, 7-11) at No. 1 St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (16-13, 12-6), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
NEC Quarterfinal: No. 7 Wagner Seahawks (13-16, 8-10) at No. 2 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (17-13, 12-6), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
NEC Quarterfinal: No. 5 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers (17-14, 9-9) at No. 4 Robert Morris Colonials (16-15, 11-7), 7 p.m. (NEC Front Row)
OVC First Round: No. 8 SIU Edwardsville Cougars (10-20, 6-12) vs. No. 5 Morehead State Eagles (12-19, 8-10), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Mid-Evening Tips

2/2 No. 72 Georgetown Hoyas (18-11, 8-8) at No. 104 DePaul Blue Demons (14-13, 6-10), 8:30 p.m. (FS1)
1/3 No. 78 Providence Friars (16-13, 6-10) at No. 49 Creighton Bluejays (16-13, 7-9), 8 p.m. (CBSSN)

Late Evening Tips

2/2 No. 39 Clemson Tigers (17-12, 7-9) at No. 103 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-16, 3-13), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
2/2 No. 43 Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11, 8-10) at No. 95 Northwestern Wildcats (12-17, 3-15), 9 p.m. (BTN)
1/3 No. 91 Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-19, 3-13) at No. 34 Baylor Bears (19-10, 10-6), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
1/3 No. 129 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (13-17, 5-12) at No. 31 N.C. State Wolfpack (20-9, 8-8), 9 p.m. (ACC RSNs/ACC Network Extra)
OVC First Round: No. 7 UT Martin Skyhawks (11-18, 6-12) vs. No. 6 Eastern Illinois Panthers (14-17, 7-11), approx. 10 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Late Night Tips

1/3 No. 88 Oregon State Beavers (17-11, 9-7) at No. 32 Washington Huskies (23-6, 14-2), 10 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
3/2 No. 64 Oregon Ducks (17-12, 8-8) at No. 190 Washington State Cougars (11-18, 4-12), 11 p.m. (FS1)

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2019-20 College Basketball Early Season Tournaments, Events, And Neutral-Site Games

A regularly updated list of the 2019-20 men’s college basketball season’s early season tournaments and neutral-site games, which will eventually include schedule and TV information. If you have any additions, email them to bloggingthebracket at gmail dot com or tweet them to me @ChrisDobbertean.

Note: All dates and teams are tentative.

Warning: Graphics and tables may not appear optimally when viewing on a mobile device.

All field graphics by Chris Dobbertean using logos from Sportslogos.net.

Bracketed Exempt Multi-Team Events

Sunshine Slam

Fri.-Sun., Nov. 8-10: Kissimmee, Fla.

Teams: 8 TBA

Myrtle Beach Invitational

Thu.-Fri. and Sun., Nov. 21-22 and 24: Conway, S.C. (Release)


Teams (8): Baylor Bears (Big 12), Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (Sun Belt), Memphis Tigers (American), Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (C-USA), Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC), Ohio University Bobcats (MAC), Utah Utes (Pac-12), Villanova Wildcats (Big East)

Gildan Charleston Classic

Thu.-Fri. and Sun., Nov. 21-22 and 24: Charleston, S.C. (Original release, field update from Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Teams (8): Buffalo Bulls (MAC), UConn Huskies (American), Florida Gators (SEC), Miami Hurricanes (ACC), Missouri State Bears (MVC), Saint Joseph’s Hawks (A 10), Towson Tigers (CAA), Xavier Musketeers (Big East)

Non-Bracketed Game

Sun., Nov. 17
Florida at UConn (assumed based on timing) (Denver Parler, Florida)

2K Empire Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project

Thu.-Fri., Nov. 21-22: New York (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Championship Round (Host) Teams (4): California Golden Bears (Pac-12), Duke Blue Devils (ACC), Georgetown Hoyas (Big East), Texas Longhorns (Big 12)

Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic

Fri.-Sun., Nov. 22-24: Montego Bay, Jamaica (Sheldon Mickles, The Advocate)

Host Teams (4): LSU Tigers (SEC), 3 TBA

U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam

Fri.-Mon., Nov. 22-25: St. Thomas, V.I. (Release)


Teams (8): Bowling Green Falcons (MAC), Cincinnati Bearcats (American), Fordham Rams (A 10), Grand Canyon Antelopes (WAC), Illinois State Redbirds (MVC), Nevada Wolf Pack (MW), Valparaiso Crusaders (MVC), WKU Hilltoppers (C-USA)

Air Force Reserve Tip-Off presented by Citi

Fri.-Sun., Nov. 22-24: Uncasville, Conn. (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Naismith Bracket (Host) Teams (4): Arizona State Sun Devils (Pac-12), St. John’s Red Storm (Big East), UMass Minutemen (A 10), Virginia Cavaliers (ACC)

Cayman Islands Classic

Mon.-Wed., Nov. 25-27: George Town, Cayman Islands (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)

Teams (8): Colorado State Rams (MW), George Mason Patriots (A 10), Loyola Chicago Ramblers (MVC), New Mexico State Aggies (WAC), Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA), South Florida Bulls (American), Washington State Cougars (Pac-12), 1 TBA

Maui Jim Maui Invitational

Mon.-Wed., Nov. 25-27: Lahaina, Hawai’i (Release)


Teams (8): BYU Cougars (WCC), Chaminade Silverswords (DII, PacWest, host), Dayton Flyers (A 10), Georgia Bulldogs (SEC), Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12), Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten), UCLA Bruins (Pac-12), Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC)

Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tip-Off

Mon. and Wed., Nov. 25 and 27: Fort Myers, Fla. (Fort Myers Tip-Off)


Host Teams (4): Bradley Braves (MVC), Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12), Northwestern Wildcats (Big Ten), Pittsburgh Panthers (ACC)

Legends Classic

Mon.-Tue., Nov. 25-26: Brooklyn, N.Y. (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Host Teams (4): Auburn Tigers (SEC), New Mexico Lobos (MW), Richmond Spiders (A 10), Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)

Hall Of Fame Classic

Mon.-Tue., Nov. 25-26: Kansas City, Mo. (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Championship Round (Host) Teams (4): Butler Bulldogs (Big East), Missouri Tigers (SEC), Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12), Stanford Cardinal (Pac-12)

MGM Resorts Main Event

Mon. and Wed., Nov. 25 and 27: Las Vegas (Pat Rooney, BuffZone.com)


Heavyweight Bracket (Host) Teams (4): Clemson Tigers (ACC), Colorado Buffaloes (Pac-12), TCU Horned Frogs (Big 12), Wyoming Cowboys (MW)

Cancun Challenge

Tue.-Wed., Nov. 26-27: Cancun, Mexico (Release)


Mayan Division Semifinals (Tue., Nov. 26)

UT Martin Skyhawks (OVC) vs. UT Martin Skyhawks (OVC), 12:30 p.m. (FloHoops.com ($))
Boston University Terriers (Patriot) vs. Northern Colorado Bears (Big Sky), approx. 3 p.m. (FloHoops.com ($))

Riviera Division Semifinals (Tue., Nov. 26)

Wichita State Shockers (American) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (SEC), 6 p.m. (CBSSN)
Northern Iowa Panthers (MVC) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (Big 12), approx. 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Mayan Division Finals (Wed., Nov. 27)

Consolation: 12:30 p.m. (FloHoops.com ($))
Championship: approx. 3 p.m. (FloHoops.com ($))

Riviera Division Finals (Wed., Nov. 27)

Consolation: 6 p.m. (CBSSN)
Championship: approx. 8:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

On-Campus Games

Sat., Nov. 16
Northern Colorado at Northern Iowa
UT Martin at Wichita State

Mon., Nov. 18
Northern Colorado at West Virginia

Tue., Nov. 19
Boston University at South Carolina
UT Martin at Northern Iowa
Gardner-Webb at Wichita State

Fri., Nov. 22
Gardner-Webb at South Carolina
Boston University at West Virginia

Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis

Wed.-Fri., Nov. 27-29: Paradise Island, Bahamas (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Teams (8): Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC), Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC), Iowa State Cyclones (Big 12), Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten), North Carolina Tar Heels (ACC), Oregon Ducks (Pac-12), Seton Hall Pirates (Big East), Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (C-USA)

NIT Season Tip-Off

Wed. and Fri., Nov. 27 and 29: Brooklyn (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)


Hosts (4): Mississippi Rebels (SEC), Oklahoma State Cowboys (Big 12), Penn State Nittany Lions (Big Ten), Syracuse Orange (ACC)

AdvoCare Invitational

Thu.-Fri. and Sun., Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 1: Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Release)


Teams (8): Davidson Wildcats (A 10), Fairfield Stags (MAAC), Harvard Crimson (Ivy), Marquette Golden Eagles (Big East), Maryland Terrapins (Big Ten), Temple Owls (American), Texas A&M Aggies (SEC), USC Trojans (Pac-12)

Wooden Legacy

Thu.-Fri. and Sun., Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 1: Fullerton, Calif. (Release)


Teams (8): Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12), College of Charleston Cougars (CAA), Long Beach State 49ers (Big West), Penn Quakers (Ivy), Pepperdine Waves (WCC), Providence Friars (Big East), UCF Knights (American), Wake Forest Demon Deacons (ACC)

Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational

Thu.-Fri., Nov. 28-29: Las Vegas (Orleans Arena)


Host Teams (4): Creighton Bluejays (Big East), Iowa Hawkeyes (Big Ten), San Diego State Aztecs (MW), Texas Tech Red Raiders (Big 12)

Emerald Coast Classic

Fri.-Sat., Nov. 29-30: Niceville, Fla. (Release)


Host Teams (4): Florida State Seminoles (ACC), Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten), Tennessee Volunteers (SEC), VCU Rams (A 10)

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

Sun.-Mon. and Wed. Dec. 22-23 and 25 (Release)


Teams (8): Ball State Cardinals (MAC), Boise State Broncos (MW), Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (ACC), Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (Big West, host), Houston Cougars (American), Portland Pilots (WCC), UTEP Miners (C-USA), Washington Huskies (Pac-12)

Notable Teams Not Yet Tied To An Event

Fully committed: Big 12

A 10 (6/14): Duquesne Dukes, George Washington Colonials, La Salle Explorers, Rhode Island Rams, St. Bonaventure Bonnies, Saint Louis Billikens
ACC (4/15): Boston College Eagles, Louisville Cardinals, N.C. State Wolfpack, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
American (4/12): East Carolina Pirates, SMU Mustangs, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Big East (1/10): DePaul Blue Demons
Big Ten (6/14): Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Pac-12 (1/12): Oregon State Beavers
SEC (3/14): Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores

Neutral-Site Showcases

Armed Forces Classic

Fri., Nov. 8: Anchorage, Alaska (Release)
Baylor vs. Washington

Pac-12 China Game

TBA: China (Release)
Arizona State vs. Colorado*

* Game will not count in Pac-12 standings, per release.

Sanford Pentagon Showcase

Sat., Nov. 9: Sioux Falls, S.D. (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)
Oklahoma vs. Minnesota

State Farm Champions Classic

Tue., Nov. 5: New York (Release)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky

Fort Worth Showcase

Fri., Dec. 6: Fort Worth, Texas (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)
USC vs. TCU

Phil Knight Invitational

Tue., Nov. 12: Portland, Ore. (Release)
Oklahoma vs. Oregon State
Memphis vs. Oregon

Las Vegas Showcase

Wed., Dec. 18: Las Vegas (Kentucky)
Kentucky vs. Utah

Chicago Legends

Sat., Dec. 21: Chicago (Release)
Cincinnati vs. Iowa
Colorado vs. Dayton

CBS Sports Classic

Sat., Dec. 21: Las Vegas (T-Mobile Arena)
North Carolina vs. UCLA
Kentucky vs. Ohio State

HoopHall LA

Sat., Dec. 21: Los Angeles (Sheldon Mickles, The Advocate)
LSU vs. USC

Cleveland Showcase

Sun., Dec. 22: Cleveland (Jon Rothstein via Twitter)
West Virginia vs. Ohio State

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01/27: Kentucky in title form, Kansas is flawed, Purdue snaps Michigan State, Big East is a bunch of mush

The biggest game of the weekend was Kentucky beating Kansas, so this ep opens on UK, then gets to Kansas’ glaring issues (9:50). From there, Parrish and Norlander give Purdue some love (21:30) and pass on fretting about Michigan State. In the SEC, LSU is making a charge for Tennessee and Kentucky (25:30), while the Big East is tracking for — maybe — its worst season since it went to 10 teams (32:45). The podcast has recaps and thoughts on Iowa State, Houston, Cincinnati, Baylor and Nebraska (39:00), which probably was the biggest loser of the weekend; Norlander explains why. The guys wrap with some Vegas talk and make their predictions for Tuesday’s two biggest games (47:40).

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01/30: Kansas is 1-5 on the road and might be broken for good; Ethan Happ and Grant Williams' cases vs. Zion for POY

Kansas’ loss at Texas has many wondering if the Jayhawks will fail to finish atop the Big 12’s regular season standings for the first time in a decade and a half. Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander start on that, then get to the eligibility case of Silvio De Sousa (11:00), which is expected to be resolved in the coming days. From there, the guys touch on Baylor’s surprising January (16:50), make the cases for Grant Williams and Ethan Happ to challenge Zion Williamson for NPOY (23:00) and lay out the problems with Chris Mullin at St. John’s (32:30). At the end, there’s a Trivia Time session that goes a little sideways too. 

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03/06: R.I.P. to Kansas streak; with Zion Williamson out yet again, might RJ Barrett overtake him for National Player of the Year?

For the first time since 2004, Kansas will not finish atop the Big 12 standings. The greatest streak in college hoops history is done. Parrish and Norlander open on that, then get to Texas Tech and Kansas State (11:00) fighting out the top of the league, in addition to a discussion on whether or not Chris Beard is a top-five (or top-10) coach in college hoops. Meantime, Duke (23:45) barely won at home vs. Wake Forest on Tuesday night. What? So with that, and with Zion unlikely to play at UNC on Saturday, Norlander poses the questions: Did Duke handle the initial timeline for Zion correctly and is he vulnerable to losing NPOY to his teammate? The guys close with thoughts on the sentencing that came down Tuesday (37:45) for the three men charged in the college basketball corruption case. 

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Never Made the Tournament Club, 3/6: The Blue Hose are Taking Over

Can’t count out Dustin Kerns.

Welcome back to the Never Made the Tournament Club, where we track the teams that have never made the NCAA Tournament.

It was a day of staggering highs and disappointing lows for the NMTC, as the three Big South teams in action went 1-2. Presbyterian crushed perennial Big South darling UNC Asheville 106-59, a smashing result for Dustin Kerns’ team, which Greg Mitchell profiled for this very site yesterday. UNC Asheville went 21-13 last year, winning the Big South regular season title and making the NIT. Presbyterian went 11-21. Asheville is in rebuilding mode, but that beatdown signaled the Blue Hose are back in style. And if you’re wondering where the Blue Hose nickname comes from, here’s the official Presbyterian website

The nickname “Blue Hose” began in the early 1900’s, when sportswriters referred to the Presbyterian College athletic teams as the “Blue Stockings” because of the blue socks they wore. Writers used the terms “stockings” and “hose” interchangeably over the years. They often shortened “stockings” to “hose” in newspaper headlines.

Next up, we have the Longwood Lancers, who valiantly fought against the Hampton Pirates, but lost 77-71. Hampton went 30-of-32 from the line, sealing the game for the Pirates down the stretch. USC Upstate played a decent first half against Charleston Southern, but couldn’t keep it up.

Today’s Schedule

Of the eight conference tournament games, six of them feature an NMTC member. This is the best night of unfettered hope you’ll get all season. Assuming all games are independent, there is a 0.17 percent chance that every NMTC member wins tonight. Never tell me the odds.

NEC

(6) LIU Brooklyn at (3) Sacred Heart (NEC Front Row) – 6 p.m. EST [69% chance to win on Kenpom]

(5) St. Francis (NY) at (4) Robert Morris – 7 p.m. EST (NEC Front Row) [36%]

(8) Bryant at (1) St. Francis (PA) – 7 p.m. EST (NEC Front Row) [20%]

Clearly, NEC Front Row is a must-have for NMTC fans tonight. Sacred Heart is one of the best candidates to escape this year, and the Pioneers stand a good chance of beating LIU Brooklyn on their home floor. The real must-have, though, are the St. Francis Terriers, who have been one of the surprises of the NEC season. The Terriers are one of the Founding Fathers: one of four teams who have missed every NCAA Tournament since it was created.

Horizon

(6) Youngstown State at (3) Oakland – 7 p.m. EST (ESPN+) [24%]

The people are clamoring for more Penguins!

I’m going to commit the cardinal sin of blogging and admit I have no clue what I’m talking about in the first round of the Horizon League Tournament. All I know is the Penguins made a run to the conference semifinals in 2017 before falling to fellow NMTC member Northern Kentucky. Let’s make the magic happen again, Penguins.

Ohio Valley

(8) SIU Edwardsville vs. (5) Morehead State (ESPN+) – 7:30 p.m EST [28%]

(7) UT-Martin vs. (6) Eastern Illinois (ESPN+) – 9:30 p.m. EST [52%]

Alright, admittedly the Ohio Valley doesn’t look very promising with Murray State, Belmont, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay all significantly better than any of these teams. But the Skyhawks should be favored against a bad Eastern Illinois team that has lost five straight, and SIUE has a puncher’s chance against Morehead State.

THE NEVER MADE THE TOURNAMENT CLUB CLASS OF 2019

America East: Hartford Hawks, Maine Black Bears, New Hampshire Wildcats, UMass Lowell River Hawks

Atlantic Sun: Kennesaw State Owls, North Alabama Lions (NEW MEMBER!!), NJIT Highlanders, Stetson Hatters (GOAT NAME)

Big Sky: Sacramento State Hornets

Big South: Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs, High Point Panthers, Longwood Lancers, Presbyterian Blue Hose, South Carolina Upstate Spartans,

Big West: UC Riverside Highlanders

CAA: William & Mary Tribe, Elon Phoenix

Horizon League: Youngstown State Penguins

MAAC: Quinnipiac Bobcats

MEAC: Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, Savannah State Tigers, Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks

Northeast Conference: Bryant Bulldogs, St. Francis (NY) Terriers, Sacred Heart Pioneers

Ohio Valley Conference: SIU-Edwardsville Cougars, Tennessee-Martin SkyHawks

Patriot League: Army Black Knights

SoCon: The Citadel Bulldogs

Southland Conference: Abilene Christian Wildcats, Central Arkansas Bears, Incarnate Word Cardinals

SWAC: Grambling Tigers (BACK AT IT)

Summit: Denver Pioneers, IPFW Mastodons, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, South Dakota Coyotes, Western Illinois Leathernecks

WAC: California Baptist Lancers (NEW MEMBER!!) Chicago State Cougars, Grand Canyon Antelopes, Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, Utah Valley Wolverines, UMKC Kangaroos

Coming back next year…

Cal Baptist (transitioning to D1)
Incarnate Word (will miss the Southland Tournament)
Kennesaw State
North Alabama (transitioning to D1)
Stetson (missed ASUN Tournament)

Jazz Johnson’s career night gives Nevada its blueprint for a deep NCAA Tournament run

Earlier this season, the 5’10 Portland transfer made a name for himself on one of college basketball’s most loaded rosters. But will shaking off his shooting slump be the spark Nevada needs?

Trailing 13-9 to a plucky Air Force team, No. 17 Nevada needed a basket to overcome what appeared to be another slow start in a season of slow starts.

When junior Jazz Johnson stepped on the floor after the first media timeout, his role, like it has been all season, was clear: Go out, hit a three and help Nevada establish a rhythm on offense.

Less than a minute after entering the game, Johnson hit the first three he took. Fifty-seven seconds later, he hit another. By the time the final horn sounded on Tuesday night’s 90-79 win, Johnson set a new career-high of 27 points and 7-10 shooting from three — all while helping Nevada shoot better than 50% from three for the first time since Nov. 23.

Although it’d be unrealistic to expect Johnson to set new career-highs every night, his performance against Air Force brought back a familiar sight for Wolf Pack fans. No player on Nevada’s roster can spread defenses as effectively, shoot as accurately or make teams pay in transition quite like Johnson.

If Nevada wants to make a deep run in March, then Johnson will have to revert back to his net-torching, non-conference self that was amongst the nation’s leaders in several offensive categories.

Becoming a spark off the bench won’t be a tough ask for Johnson. In fact, it’s what he’s done all season.

Like all Wolf Pack transfers, Johnson rebuilt his identity as a basketball player after moving to Reno. At Portland, Johnson acted as the Robin to high-scoring guard Alec Wintering’s Batman by averaging 15.8 PPG (on 44.4 FG%), starting all 33 games as a sophomore, culminating to a spot on the WCC’s Honorable Mention list. Whenever defenses focused on Wintering, Johnson had to pick up the slack. Sometimes, Johnson and the Pilots were successful. Mostly, however, they were not. Ultimately, Johnson was a fun player trapped on two, 20-plus loss teams as an underclassman, which led to his eventual transfer.

One player-development year later, and Johnson burst onto the scene by being the Wolf Pack’s sixth man. He won over fans by hitting a handful of electrifying, corner threes, using his footspeed and quick release to make opponents pay in transition.

His was an effective shooter in half-court sets as well. Johnson was the ultimate conundrum for opposing defenses: Either give him too much space and run the risk of him burning you from deep, or focus on shutting him down, which opens up his teammates. Perhaps teams were slow to catch on, but Johnson has often been given acres of space compared to his teammates — oftentimes without having to move at all.

Take note of how Johnson stays put, waiting in the defenses’ blind spots as the offense unfolds. By the time help defenders see either the Martwins or Tre’Shawn Thurman zip cross-court passes to Johnson, it’s usually too late:

Johnson’s presence alone might not stand out in the boxscore, but his style of play is a perfect fit on Nevada’s roster. He’s surrounded by three of the nation’s most prolific one-on-one players in the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline. Unsurprisingly, defenses tend to over-focus on the trio, leaving Johnson wide open while the Martwins and Caroline lull defenders to sleep by trying to create their own shots. Johnson is the safety net for whenever these isolation possessions either go nowhere, or attract too many defenders:

This combination of transition scoring, stretching zones and excelling as Nevada’s third or fourth-option put Johnson in elite company during the non-conference. Through his first 15 games, Johnson the nation in offensive rating (1.59 PPP, per KenPom), highest true shooting percentage (78.5%), was No. 8 in free throw percentage (92.7%), No. 4 in three-point percentage amongst qualifiers per KenPom (55.7%), averaged 11.7 ppg (on 6.1 FGs per game), in 26.8 minutes per game. To provide context for that litany of stats, Johnson managed these numbers while averaging 4.4 threes-point attempts per game, which was actually lower than his sophomore year at Portland (4.5).

Then No. 6 Nevada traveled to the Pit on Jan. 5. Johnson and the Wolf Pack haven’t looked the same since.

Sure, Nevada bounced back with 39-point over lowly San Jose State. Sure, that 40-point home win over Colorado State looks almost as impressive as Jordan Caroline hanging 40 on the Rams in Fort Collins. And yes, Musselman used some motivational tactics to bring out the best in the Wolf Pack in its revenge game against the Lobos a month later.

Dig deeper, and Nevada has taken a nosedive on offense. Call it a regression to the mean, or teams finally catching up with Wolf Pack, but the team has struggled since reaching its zenith as KenPom’s top offense on Dec. 5. They currently sit at No. 22 in offensive efficiency. Of course, this comes with a caveat. Nevada is still ranked No. 17 with a 27-3 record, after all. Right now, Nevada’s offense is great; its personnel has enough firepower to be a bona fide juggernaut.

This leads to the elephant in the room.

Johnson’s post-New Mexico slump is worth noting. In a sense, the Wolf Pack’s offense goes as he goes: When Johnson is a three-point specialist, Nevada becomes an elite offense; when his outside shot isn’t falling and he takes more shots in the paint, slumps like this occur:

Jazz Johnson’s first 13* games: 6.0 FGA, 57.7 FG%, 1.5 2PA, 56.9 3FG%, 12.2 PPG
Jazz Johnson’s next 15 games: 7.8 FGA, 41.0 FG%, 3.1 2PA, 31.4 3FG%, 9.4 PPG

But pinning Nevada’s offensive slide on Johnson alone would be picking nits. Getting him more involved in the offense will take a team-wide effort.

One could make an argument that Johnson is the Wolf Pack’s most important player because he gives an another dimension to Nevada’s offense. When he’s on, Nevada’s passing becomes more precise. Its half-court sets become more fluid. Its transition game trades contested twos into open threes. And from a purely entertainment standpoint, watching the Wolf Pack toy with defenses and get Johnson his looks becomes a much more exciting spectacle than seeing a historically loaded team devolve into iso-ball.

Nevada’s whole looks better than the sum of its parts when Johnson is a factor. By having Johnson knock down a few shots and make defenses aware of his presence, he can give the Martwins and Caroline some more breathing room to find their shots and vice-versa. But in order for this to happen, Johnson has to keep hitting his shots.

So if Nevada makes the Final Four run so many predicted it would, don’t be surprised if Johnson propels them forward one transition three at a time.


*Johnson did not play against South Dakota State per the NCAA’s concussion protocol.

WAC Wednesday: We can officially talk about a much improved league

And with plenty of youth it should only get better.

It was a narrative that poked its head out in November and December.

The WAC had a banner non-conference, winning its challenge against the Summit while picking up notable wins throughout the league. New Mexico State feasted on the Mountain West. Seattle pounced on vulnerable Pac-12 teams — plural — while Utah Valley snagged a good road win at Fresno State. Overall, the WAC was one of the few mid-major leagues that finished with a winning non-conference record (59-56).

The metrics backed up that improvement, as KenPom’s conference adjusted efficiency margin placed the WAC above leagues it had usually found itself looking up at, such as Conference USA, the Missouri Valley or the Horizon. Two more months worth of data points later, those numbers have held.

The WAC currently sits at 14th overall in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, and 16th overall in the NET conference rankings per warrennolan.com. That’s a far cry from 2014-15, when it finished 31st in KenPom, but also doesn’t seem like a flash in a pan. The league has steadily climbed the conference ladder since then, finishing 17th and 18th, respectively, the two seasons leading into this one.

So what’s been most responsible for the continued ascent, besides Cal Baptist’s strong inaugural season?

For one, coaching within the league seems to be on very solid footing. Chris Jans has been nothing short of a rockstar since taking over at NMSU, while Rod Barnes and Jim Hayford are likely underrated program builders on the national scale.

Mark Pope, to his credit, has engineered back-to-back 20-win seasons, and drew rave reviews from Sam Houston State coach Jason Hooten, who tangled with him earlier this year. The Bearkats took a six-point loss in Orem on Dec. 22, but have lost just once since then en route to the Southland regular season title. Hooten said that that strong performance against a well-coached team helped catapult his Bearkats.

“[Pope] is a really good coach, he does a great job,” he said in an interview last month. “It seems like their system always fits their talent. In fact, we left that game, and we kind of both run the same system, but we took a few things from that game and tweaked our offense. It was one of those games that helped our confidence with the way we played on the road.”

NCAA Basketball: Utah Valley at Gonzaga
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Pope has built a steady program at Utah Valley, and the WAC has benefited.

That’s also not to mention the good work being done by the other coaches throughout the league, and Hayford talked about the WAC’s potential before the year.

“You’ve got a conference where basketball is the main sport for every one of those schools,” he said. “New Mexico State is the only other one with a football program and basketball is king at New Mexico State. So you’re going to get not just every program and athletic department’s best shot, but every university’s best shot.”

And the best may be yet to come.

The league, as a whole, is exceedingly young in the many impactful spots. The presumed POY frontrunners — Milan Acquaah and Jake Toolson — are not seniors, and neither are other players in that general conversation, such as Jarkel Joiner and Carlos Johnson.

NMSU loses some important seniors — such as Eli Chuha — but retains an impressive core with A.J. Harris, Terrell Brown, Ivan Aurrecoechea, Trevelin Queen and more. UMKC is a dark horse for a vault up the standings next year with an exciting backcourt led by Xavier Bishop, and UTRGV has its exciting of Javon Levi and Lesley Varner with eligibility left. And the team brimming with perhaps the most potential is Seattle, which does not have a senior.

Chicago State, of course, merits discussion here. Despite some positive flashes, the Cougars are wrapping up another difficult season with a lopsided number in the loss column. That the WAC has been able to post its strong metrics — and the winning non-conference record — in spite of the Cougars’ season shows the depth of the league.

But that should also be reason for optimism.

Lance Irvin got the job later than any other new Division I head coach, and had scant time not just to implement his system and philosophies, but to build his roster as well. With a full offseason, it’s almost a certainty CSU will improve drastically in 2019-2020. Irvin has already done some intriguing work on the recruiting trail — like getting a verbal commitment from Canadian JuCo standout Jace Colley — and has respect around the league.

“You could tell their guys, and I love Tracy Dildy so I’m not knocking him at all, but you could tell with a new coach those guys are buying into Lance Irvin,” Kareem Richardson said after his Roos beat CSU on Jan. 5. “Lance has been a part of college basketball for a long time and has a great mind. Their record isn’t indicative of what you see on film.”

An improved CSU lined up with a slew of young teams could keep the good times rolling.

Game of the Week

Grand Canyon @ Utah Valley | Thursday, March 7 | 9:00 PM ET

While the Thursday slate has quality games in both Riverside and Seattle, this is an easy pick. There will be plenty at stake in Orem, as GCU and UVU battle for the No. 2 seed in the WAC Tournament. It’s not often the league can pit two top-100 KenPom and NET teams against one another without it involving NMSU, but that’s just what will happen.

The Lopes bottled up the UVU offense when the teams met way back on Jan. 3 in their respective league openers. Matt Jackson was brilliant for GCU that day (19 points, 8 rebounds) as the Lopes length frustrated the visiting offense.

One big difference this time around? The emerging big man for UVU.

Richard Harward did not see action for the Wolverines in Phoenix, but has since become one of the league’s dominant forces down low. What first seemed like a feel-good, pitch-in-when-needed narrative as Harward came in to lift short-handed UVU in a win over Seattle, has turned into a trend. The sophomore center is in the top-five in league play in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, as well block percentage. He’s also been a useful outlet offensively for the UVU backcourt.

With Michael Finke enjoying a torrid stretch, a game with plenty of perimeter firepower seems just as intriguing in the paint.

Bracketology Seed List For Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Seton Hall is back in the field today, thanks to Alabama’s loss to Auburn. But the Pirates aren’t the only newcomer.

If Zion Williamson doesn’t return soon, Duke’s No. 1 seed is in peril. Plus, we have two new at-large teams and some serious shuffling near the cut line.

Notes:

  • Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses.
  • Arrows indicate movement up or down the seed list (down to the spot on the seed list). This is relative to Tuesday’s bracket and seed list.
  • New entrants are marked with an asterisk.
  • For at-large candidates only, the numbers in parentheses after the team’s name are as follows: record vs. D1 opposition/record in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games/record in Quad 1 games only. Records reflect games played through Tuesday, March 5., while NET data reflects games played through Monday, March 4. I pulled the quality win info from WarrenNolan.com’s selection sheets.

No. 1 Seeds

(1) Virginia Cavaliers (ACC) (27-2/15/10) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Columbus 1
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC) (29-2/12/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 1
(↑3) Kentucky Wildcats (25-5/15/10) – LOUISVILLE – Columbus 2
(↓4) Duke Blue Devils (26-4/14/8) – KANSAS CITY – Columbia 1

While Kentucky struggled with Ole Miss in Oxford, their performance was still more impressive than the one Zion Williamson-less Duke put on at Cameron against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, ranked 198th in the NET heading into Tuesday, a 71-70 escape that was inches from being a Quad 4 loss. Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that Williamson should be ready for next week’s ACC Tournament, though he will likely miss Saturday’s rematch with North Carolina. And with a third meeting with the Tar Heels a distinct possibility in Charlotte, that could be a fortunate bit of timing.

For the moment, Kentucky jumps Duke in the seed list, taking the top spot in the Wildcats’ favored South regional. As for the Blue Devils, a loss to UNC on Saturday would knock them down to a 2 for sure.

No. 2 Seeds

(5) North Carolina Tar Heels (25-5/15/8) – LOUISVILLE – Columbia 2
(6) Tennessee Volunteers (26-3/13/8) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jacksonville 1
(7) Michigan Wolverines (26-4/17/8) – KANSAS CITY – Des Moines 1
(8) Michigan State Spartans (23-6/15/10) – ANAHEIM – Des Moines 2

North Carolina, Tennessee, and Michigan State all won fairly easily on Tuesday night. Kentucky’s move to the South regional had bracketing implications for these squads, however.

No. 3 Seeds

(9) LSU Tigers (SEC) (24-5/16/9) – KANSAS CITY – Tulsa 1
(↑10) Houston Cougars (27-2/13/4) – ANAHEIM – Tulsa 2
(↓11) Kansas Jayhawks (22-8/15/10) – LOUISVILLE – Salt Lake City 2
(12) Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten) (22-8/15/7) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jacksonville 2

The two three seeds in action Tuesday, Kansas and Purdue, didn’t fare quite as well. The Jayhawks saw a Big 12 title streak that began all the way back in 2005 end, thanks to an 81-68 loss at Oklahoma, with that scoreline being flattering to KU. Bill Self’s team went just 3-6 in Big 12 road games this season. As for the Boilermakers, their 73-69 defeat at Minnesota might have cost them the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament and put the Golden Gophers in the NCAAs for sure.

Quad 1 win totals keep both teams here for now.

No. 4 Seeds

(13) Texas Tech Red Raiders (25-5/15/5) – KANSAS CITY – San José 1
(14) Virginia Tech Hokies (22-7/10/4) – ANAHEIM – Hartford 1
(15) Florida State Seminoles (24-6/12/6) – LOUISVILLE – Hartford 2
(16) Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6/14/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – San José 2

Florida State defeated Virginia Tech 73-64 after overtime in Tallahassee to earn a quarterfinal bye in the ACC Tournament. The Seminoles’ likely foe next Thursday in Charlotte? The Hokies! Leonard Hamilton’s club moves up to the four line with the win, displacing Kansas State. Based on this seed list, FSU and Tech would see each other yet again in Hartford, though they wouldn’t meet as they anchor separate pods in different regions.

No. 5 Seeds

(17) Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12) (23-7/12/7)
(18) Wisconsin Badgers (20-9/13/8)
(19) Villanova Wildcats (Big East) (22-8/15/4)
(↑20) Maryland Terrapins (21-9/12/6)

No. 6 Seeds

(↓21) Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8/11/8)
(22) Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4/10/4)
(↑23) Iowa State Cyclones (20-9/9/5)
(24) Nevada Wolf Pack (27-3/8/1)

Mississippi State fell a single spot after a 71-54 defeat at Tennessee, though that resulted in a seed drop, with Maryland replacing the Bulldogs on the five line. Nevada’s 90-79 victory at Air Force kept them both in the Mountain West title hunt and on line six.

No. 7 Seeds

(↓25) Wofford Terriers (SoCon) (23-4/7/3)
(↓26) Buffalo Bulls (MAC) (26-3/7/2)
(27) Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8/11/4)
(28) VCU Rams (A 10) (24-6/6/2)

Both Buffalo and VCU clinched outright regular-season conference titles last night, so they’ll be in the bracket as their respective league’s auto bid holders from here until they’re knocked out. Look for both to be in the field in any case.

No. 8 Seeds

(29) Baylor Bears (19-10/12/4)
(30) Auburn Tigers (20-9/12/3)
(↑31) Washington Huskies (Pac-12) (23-6/8/2)
(↑32) Oklahoma Sooners (18-11/9/3)

No. 9 Seeds

(33) Louisville Cardinals (19-11/8/4)
(34) Syracuse Orange (19-11/8/3)
(↓35) Ole Miss Rebels (19-11/7/4)
(36) UCF Knights (22-6/7/1)

Oklahoma’s win over Kansas combined with that Ole Miss home loss to Kentucky resulted in those two teams basically swapping spots.

No. 10 Seeds

(37) Utah State Aggies (MW) (24-6/4/2)
(38) Florida Gators (17-12/8/3)
(39) Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11/8/4)
(↑40) Minnesota Golden Gophers (19-11/10/3)

Minnesota’s win over Purdue gave them real breathing room, considering the Golden Gophers held the final First Round bye heading into Tuesday’s action.

No. 11 Seeds

(↑41) Texas Longhorns (16-14/9/5)
(↓42) Belmont Bruins (OVC) (24-4/5/2)
(43) Lipscomb Bisons (ASUN) (22-6/3/2)
(↑44) St. John’s Red Storm (20-10/10/6)

If quality wins matter as much as the Committee has indicated in the past, Texas might be underseeded here. And it’s a similar story for St. John’s.

No. 12 Seeds

(↓45) Arizona State Sun Devils (20-9/10/3)
(↓46) TCU Horned Frogs (18-12/7/2)
(↓47 – First Four) N.C. State Wolfpack (20-9/7/2)
(*48 – First Four) Seton Hall Pirates (16-12/10/4)
(*49 – First Four) Indiana Hoosiers (15-14/7/6)
(↓50 – First Four) Temple Owls (21-8/6/1)
(50 – First Four)

The “quality wins” factor led me to seriously re-evaluating the profiles of Arizona State, TCU, and N.C. State. The Wolfpack, with just one Quad 1 win over an actual at-large threat and three such wins overall, are in a bit of trouble when this is considered more closely.

And wins over Kentucky and Maryland boost Seton Hall’s placement a bit with their return as a replacement for Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s final minute in their loss to Auburn might just be something they regret on Selection Sunday. Indiana is also back, again due to six Quad 1 wins. Clemson drops out, while Temple remains, simply because the Owls have a better record in Quad 1 and 2 games (6-7 vs. 5-12) while having a better top NET win than the Tigers (Houston over Virginia Tech).

First Four Out (NIT No. 1 Seeds)

(↓69) Clemson Tigers (17-12/5/1)
(↓70) Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12/9/2)
(71) Creighton Bluejays (15-13/9/3)
(72) Georgetown Hoyas (18-11/9/3)

Next Four Out

(↑73) Furman Paladins (21-6/4/1)
(↑74) Butler Bulldogs (16-14/8/2)
(↓75) Oregon Ducks (17-12/4/1)
(↓76) Murray State Racers (23-4/1/0)

Butler replaces the Xavier Musketeers (16-14/9/3) following the Bulldogs’ 71-66 home win on Tuesday night. The Musketeers really needed to win out to have a real shot, so now their Big East Tournament performance will dictate their fate.

No. 13 Seeds

(51) New Mexico State Aggies (WAC)
(52) Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA)
(53) Vermont Catamounts (America East)
(54) Hofstra Pride (CAA)

No. 14 Seeds

(55) UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
(56) South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit)
(57) Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
(58) Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky)

No. 15 Seeds

(59) Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt)
(60) Loyola Chicago Ramblers (MVC)
(61) Wright State Raiders (Horizon)
(62) Colgate Raiders (Patriot)

No. 16 Seeds

(63) Sam Houston State Bearkats (Southland)
(64) Campbell Fighting Camels (Big South)
(65 – First Four) Iona Gaels (MAAC)
(66 – First Four) Prairie View A&M Panthers (SWAC)
(67 – First Four) Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC)
(68 – First Four) St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (NEC)

The final 18 teams are unchanged, but don’t expect that stability to last much longer with the Championship Fortnight just beginning.

Conference Ranking With Seeds

Note: Auto bid holders are denoted by asterisks.

Big Ten (9): 2. Michigan, 2. Michigan State*, 3. Purdue, 5. Wisconsin, 5. Maryland, 7. Iowa, 10. Ohio State, 10. Minnesota, 12. Indiana (First Four)
ACC (8): 1. Virginia*, 1. Duke, 2. North Carolina, 4. Virginia Tech, 4. Florida State, 9. Louisville, 9. Syracuse, 12. N.C. State (First Four)
Big 12 (8): 3. Kansas, 4. Texas Tech, 5. Kansas State*, 6. Iowa State, 8. Baylor, 8. Oklahoma, 11. Texas, 12. TCU
SEC (7): 1. Kentucky, 2. Tennessee, 3. LSU*, 6. Mississippi State, 8. Auburn, 9. Ole Miss, 10. Florida
American Athletic (4): 3. Houston*, 6. Cincinnati, 9. UCF, 12. Temple (First Four)
Big East (4): 4. Marquette, 5. Villanova*, 11. St. John’s, 12. Seton Hall (First Four)
MW (2): 6. Nevada, 10. Utah State*
Pac-12 (2): 8. Washington*, 11. Arizona State

Auto Bid Selection Procedures

If a team has already clinched the top seed in its conference tournament, it will be the league rep here until eliminated in said event. For every other league, I’m still using each conference’s tiebreaker procedures to determine auto bid holders.

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02/01: Villanova is 3-point-shooting its way back into title contention; your weekend preview, bold picks included

Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander open this episode by discussing Villanova’s nine-game winning streak and getting into why it’s happened. From there, the weekend preview gets going with UNC-Louisville (11:00), Kentucky-Florida (18:00), Texas Tech-Kansas (22:45), Indiana-Michigan State (26:00) and some expanded trivia time (35:00). Norlander also calls for Michigan to lose on Friday night at Iowa. 

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02/03: NCAA bans Kansas' Silvio De Sousa for two years; Michigan schools get upset; NC State scored only 24 points (?!)

It was a noisy weekend in college basketball, starting with the NCAA’s two-year suspension on Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa. Parrish and Norlander open on that — and get into a deep discussion on what is and isn’t fair, what is and isn’t known, and how this could be a harbinger for other punishments to come. From there, the guys get into what happened over the weekend, starting with Michigan and Michigan State going down/Indiana and Iowa winning (31:15), NC State’s ridiculous 24-point game (38:30). Kentucky, North Carolina and Baylor also continued their winning ways (46:45), so the guys get to that as well before making their Super Bowl picks (54:00). 

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Tuesday Truths: AWOL from Bubble Watch edition

Welcome to this season’s penultimate installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 75 teams in six conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its defense

hoos

(virginiasports.com)

Through March 4, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Virginia             15-2   60.4    1.16    0.92    +0.24
2.  North Carolina       14-2   74.2    1.13    0.98    +0.15
3.  Duke                 13-3   71.4    1.11    0.97    +0.14
4.  Louisville           10-7   68.6    1.04    0.96    +0.08
5.  Florida State        11-5   68.6    1.04    0.97    +0.07
6.  Virginia Tech        11-5   63.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Clemson               7-9   66.1    0.98    0.95    +0.03
8.  Syracuse             10-7   67.3    1.02    1.01    +0.01
9.  NC State              8-8   71.1    1.05    1.07    -0.02
10. Miami                4-12   67.2    1.00    1.08    -0.08
11. Boston College       5-11   66.4    1.00    1.09    -0.09
12. Notre Dame           3-13   65.2    0.97    1.09    -0.12
13. Georgia Tech         5-12   66.3    0.91    1.04    -0.13
14. Pitt                 2-14   67.2    0.95    1.09    -0.14
15. Wake Forest          4-12   68.3    0.93    1.15    -0.22

AVG.                            67.4    1.03

Perhaps this falls under the heading of a blinding flash of the obvious the day after a team sinks 18 shots from beyond the arc (in a game with 59 possessions, if this had been a North Carolina tempo, madre de Dios), but it is of course long past time to retire the “I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its offense” announcer trope.

Actually, at the moment, said offense is (very slightly) better than the D relative to the respective ACC means.

They think they can just outscore people
Standard deviations better than conference mean
ACC games only

                           Offense (PPP)     Defense (Opp. PPP)
Virginia    2019                1.78                1.61

The Cavaliers have adopted an interior-oriented look for ACC play in 2019 (North Carolina and Duke both devote a larger share of their attempts to threes than do the Hoos) but, when the three-headed monster of Guy Jerome Hunter (good name for airport bookstalls, that) does try one from deep, it’s been falling. Unless of course it doesn’t, in which case Virginia still wins. (Ask Louisville.)

Kansas State is excellent, so let’s discuss what that means for KU

kstate

(Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)

Big 12                    W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Texas Tech           13-4   66.2    1.07    0.93    +0.14
2.  Kansas State         13-4   62.0    1.06    0.97    +0.09
3.  Iowa State            9-7   67.0    1.09    1.04    +0.05
4.  Texas                 8-9   62.3    1.10    1.05    +0.05
5.  Baylor               10-6   65.3    1.12    1.07    +0.05
6.  Kansas               11-5   69.1    1.04    1.00    +0.04
7.  Oklahoma             6-10   67.3    0.99    1.05    -0.06
8.  TCU                  6-11   68.8    1.02    1.08    -0.06
9.  Oklahoma State       3-13   64.2    0.99    1.13    -0.14
10. West Virginia        3-13   69.6    0.94    1.10    -0.16

AVG.                            66.2    1.04

I kid, I kid. For once let’s focus our hoops attention a bit further west in the 785 than custom dictates.

Kansas State did not spring out of the gates in Big 12 play like a white-hot grease fire of pure basketball excellence, losing to Texas by 20 and handing Bruce Weber the worst home defeat of his tenure in Manhattan. A subsequent defeat on the road at Texas Tech dropped the Wildcats to 0-2. Dean Wade missed both games, and Kamau Stokes sat out for one of them.

Since that time, however, K-State’s been easily the best Division I team in the Sunflower State….

From Metcalf Avenue to Goodland and from Atchison to Elkhart
Performance since January 6, conference games only

State of Kansas           W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kansas State         13-2   61.9    1.09    0.96    +0.13
2.  Kansas               10-4   68.4    1.06    1.01    +0.05
3.  Wichita State         8-7   67.7    1.02    1.01    +0.01

All that time people have of course been watching intently and waiting for the No. 2 team in these L. Frank Baum Cup standings to inexorably overtake No. 1. The “overtake” part is now off the mathematical table.

“Pull alongside” is still theoretically possible, as is a forthcoming discussion in March 2033 when old geezers discuss the improbable origins of Kansas State’s incredible streak of consecutive Big 12 titles.

DePaul Blue Demons, I salute you!

strus

(AP/Jim Young)

Big East                  W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Villanova            13-4   64.8    1.14    1.03    +0.11
2.  Marquette            12-4   69.1    1.09    1.01    +0.08
3.  Georgetown            8-8   71.4    1.07    1.07     0.00
4.  Creighton             7-9   68.3    1.06    1.06     0.00
5.  St. John's            8-9   71.3    1.04    1.05    -0.01
6.  Seton Hall            7-9   70.7    1.01    1.03    -0.02
7.  Butler               6-10   68.2    1.05    1.07    -0.02
8.  Xavier                8-8   65.9    1.05    1.08    -0.03
9.  Providence           6-10   68.3    0.97    1.02    -0.05
10. DePaul               6-10   69.7    1.06    1.12    -0.06

AVG.                            68.8    1.05

The problem with talking about “cannibalism” every time an at-large hopeful loses a conference game to a team at the bottom of the standings is that not all teams at the bottom of the standings are created equal. DePaul is not Wake Forest or Tulane.

In fact, the Blue Demons are perhaps the “best worst” team relative to its conference in recent Tuesday Truths history.

Last place in Truths, 2015-19
Best efficiency margins, conference games only

Cellar                 W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
DePaul          2019  6-10   69.7    1.06    1.12    -0.06
Texas           2017  4-14   68.9    0.97    1.06    -0.09
Iowa State      2018  4-14   69.4    1.03    1.13    -0.10
DePaul          2018  4-14   72.7    0.97    1.07    -0.10
Ole Miss        2018  5-13   69.9    1.01    1.11    -0.10

This is not to say DePaul’s the best last-place team, period. Your cellar dweller of choice in the Big Ten likely has that title sewn up this year.

Still, the intra-conference cacophony created by these 10 similarly-performing Big East teams knocking against each other helps explain the selection mess the league’s about to drop in the lap of the men’s basketball committee. It’s hard to make fine distinctions when everyone not named Marquette or Villanova is so egalitarian about things.

Purdue is an unstoppable shot-volume monster

boilers.jpg

(Purdue Athletics)

Big Ten                   W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Michigan State       14-4   65.9    1.12    0.96    +0.16
2.  Purdue               15-3   64.6    1.13    1.00    +0.13
3.  Michigan             15-4   65.0    1.06    0.93    +0.13
4.  Wisconsin            12-6   63.2    1.01    0.94    +0.07
5.  Maryland             12-7   64.7    1.03    1.00    +0.03
6.  Iowa                 10-8   69.2    1.09    1.10    -0.01
7.  Minnesota            8-10   66.8    1.02    1.05    -0.03
8.  Ohio State           8-10   65.8    0.99    1.02    -0.03
9.  Penn State           5-13   67.8    1.00    1.03    -0.03
10. Illinois             7-11   70.5    1.01    1.05    -0.04
11. Rutgers              7-11   67.6    0.99    1.06    -0.07
12. Indiana              6-12   64.9    0.95    1.03    -0.08
13. Nebraska             5-13   65.9    0.99    1.08    -0.09
14. Northwestern         3-15   66.5    0.91    1.02    -0.11

AVG.                            66.3    1.02

Feast your eyes on Matt Painter’s league-leading offense. The Boilermakers don’t shoot anywhere near as accurately from the floor as does Michigan State, nor do they take care of the ball as well as the usual meticulous suspects like Michigan, Wisconsin, or even Nebraska.

But what Purdue does better than any other Big Ten team is launch shots. Many, many shots.

Shot volume index (SVI)
Turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and shot volume
Major-conference games only

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
1.  LSU                 16.9    37.7    100.7
2.  Purdue              16.0    34.8    100.5
3.  Tennessee           14.8    29.7     99.4

The point is often made that these sassy new-look perimeter-oriented Boilermakers are making West Lafayette into a regular Villanova west, which is true. However, there’s also a little Chapel Hill in the mix. This whole shot-volume thing used to be a North Carolina monopoly, but now a horde of eager would-be Tar Heel epigones have copied the recipe and like what they’re tasting.


Utah looks amazing on alternating halves of the court over the course of a game

Utes

(utahutes.com)

Pac-12                    W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Washington           14-2   66.7    1.06    0.93    +0.13
2.  Oregon                8-8   66.3    1.04    0.99    +0.05
3.  Arizona State        11-6   71.3    1.07    1.03    +0.04
4.  USC                   8-8   68.8    1.07    1.03    +0.04
5.  Colorado              8-8   67.4    1.04    1.02    +0.02
6.  Oregon State          9-7   67.3    1.08    1.06    +0.02
7.  Stanford              8-9   71.0    1.03    1.01    +0.02
8.  Utah                  9-7   69.2    1.10    1.09    +0.01
9.  UCLA                  9-7   73.6    1.07    1.06    +0.01
10. Arizona               8-9   66.7    1.02    1.05    -0.03
11. Washington State     4-12   70.3    1.01    1.14    -0.13
12. Cal                  2-15   69.2    0.95    1.13    -0.18

AVG.                            69.1    1.05

Having your league’s best offense in a major-conference season usually results in a fair degree of notice and adulation, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to pan out that way for Utah in 2019. Who knows, maybe that’s because of a defense that ranks down in the 200s in adjusted efficiency at KenPom.

Duly noted. Still, Larry Krystkowiak knows his way around an offense. The Utes have hopped aboard the Villanova-Purdue perimeter-orientation express train, and that has propelled a team with shall we say intermittent episodes of defensive absence into a surprising degree of laptop respectability.

More perimeter-oriented than thou
Standard deviations higher than conference mean
Major-conference games only, 2019

                              3FGA/FGA
1. Auburn                       2.15
2. Villanova                    2.10
3. Utah                         2.06

With all due respect to Sedrick Barefield, it has perhaps been a Bill Walsh-level tour de force of one-side-of-the-ball coaching. Salute.

The golden age of SEC hoops

vols

(utsports.com)

SEC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Tennessee            14-2   68.1    1.17    0.99    +0.18
2.  Kentucky             13-3   66.0    1.11    0.94    +0.17
3.  LSU                  14-2   71.2    1.12    1.03    +0.09
4.  Auburn                9-7   69.4    1.10    1.03    +0.07
5.  Mississippi State     9-7   68.4    1.09    1.04    +0.05
6.  Florida               9-7   64.3    1.03    1.01    +0.02
7.  Ole Miss              9-7   69.5    1.05    1.04    +0.01
8.  Alabama               8-8   69.9    1.02    1.02     0.00
9.  South Carolina        9-7   71.3    1.02    1.07    -0.05
10. Texas A&M            6-10   68.8    1.00    1.06    -0.06
11. Arkansas             6-10   71.1    1.01    1.07    -0.06
12. Missouri             4-12   66.6    0.97    1.08    -0.11
13. Georgia              2-14   67.6    1.00    1.14    -0.14
14. Vanderbilt           0-16   66.2    0.91    1.08    -0.17

AVG.                            68.4    1.04

The SEC may — repeat, may — escape bubble drama in 2019. Alabama is pretty dicey comparatively speaking, but, compared to fellow No. 11 seed-type substances like TCU (which has lost six of its last seven) and Minnesota (which has lost six of its last eight), Avery Johnson’s group is a veritable tower of strength.

Even more impressively, the Crimson Tide would, we trust, represent this league’s eighth team in the field of 68. That would make two consecutive years in which the SEC has sent an octet dancing and, how best to put this, nothing anywhere close to that has ever happened with this conference before.

Bids, 1985-2018
bids

True, the league had some great years back in the day of the Kentucky-Florida duopoly, but 2019’s showing you can have two teams squabbling over an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed and still spread the wealth downward through the top two-thirds or so of the conference. These are the best of times for basketball in the football conference. Salute.

NET/Championship Fortnight Viewing Guide For Tuesday, March 5, 2019

On Saturday, Florida State knocked off N.C. State. Tonight, the Seminoles get a visit from Virginia Tech in a game with serious seeding implications.

There are a whopping six all-Quad 1 games on tonight’s schedule, and for once, all of them feature at-large contenders. Plus, three more conference tournaments tip off. For a more traditional look at the schedule, visit MattSarzSports.com.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a lineup broken down by telecast window with the group designations in bold to the left of the game. Instead of ordering these specifically by tip time, however, I’ve grouped them by importance.

Reminders of the different groupings:

  • Quad 1 (home games): Visitor is ranked 1-30
  • Quad 1 (away games): Host is ranked 1-75
  • Quad 2 (home games): Visitor is ranked 31-75
  • Quad 2 (away games): Host is ranked 76-135
  • Quad 3 (home games): Visitor is ranked 76-160
  • Quad 3 (away games): Host is ranked 136-240
  • Quad 4 (home games): Visitor is ranked 161-353
  • Quad 4 (away games): Host is ranked 241-353

All NET numbers are from the NCAA’s website and reflect games played through Monday, March 4. Records reflect games played through that same date. All times are Eastern.

Top 30 at Top 75 (6 Games)

Quad 1 for both the host and visitor (1/1)

No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies (22-6, 11-5) at No. 19 Florida State Seminoles (23-6, 11-5), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers (22-7, 15-3) at No. 56 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11, 8-10), 8 p.m. (BTN)
No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8, 9-7) at No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers (26-3, 14-2), 9 p.m. (SECN)
No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (24-5, 13-3) at No. 37 Ole Miss Rebels (19-10, 9-7), 9 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 16 Kansas Jayhawks (22-7, 11-5) at No. 41 Oklahoma Sooners (18-11, 6-10), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 12 Auburn Tigers (20-9, 9-7) at No. 53 Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12, 8-8), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

The biggest game of the six all-Quad 1 affairs on tonight’s schedule is set for Tallahassee, where the Virginia Tech-FSU winner will not only clinch a quarterfinal bye at the ACC Tournament but also put themselves in stronger position in the NCAA protected seed race. The Hokies are starting to figure life without Justin Robinson out, as they’ve won four of five, while only North Carolina has defeated the Seminoles in their last 11. Making matters more difficult for Tech is the fact that Duke is the only team to defeat FSU at the Donald Tucker Center this season.

Elsewhere, Minnesota really could use a home win over Purdue to boost their hopes, as the Golden Gophers have won just twice in their last eight outings. In the Big 12, Kansas must win at Oklahoma this evening, or their conference title streak will finally be put to rest.

Of the three SEC games, Alabama’s visit from Auburn has the most going for it on the bubble front, as the Crimson Tide could use the win after letting LSU get away on Saturday afternoon. Auburn won the first pair’s meeting, 84-63, back on February 2nd. Both Tennessee and Kentucky must win to keep their SEC title hopes alive, but the onus is really on the Wildcats, who are a game back of the Vols and LSU.

31-75 at Top 75 (2 Games)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 2 for the host (1/2)

No. 70 Xavier Musketeers (16-13, 8-8) at No. 59 Butler Bulldogs (15-14, 6-10), 6 p.m. (FS1)
No. 51 Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-14, 5-13) at No. 8 Michigan State Spartans (23-6, 14-4), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

While Butler doesn’t appear in my first eight out for today, rest assured that the Bulldogs will be back with a win over Xavier tonight, likely at the expense of the Musketeers. Travis Steele’s club won the first meeting, by just one, at the Cintas Center on January 13th.

Michigan State, meanwhile, will hope to avoid resurrecting Nebraska’s at-large hopes, much like the Spartans did to Indiana‘s on Saturday. A loss would also seriously damage MSU’s Big Ten title hopes, particularly if Purdue ends up winning in Minneapolis tonight.

Top 30 at 76-135 (1 Game)

Quad 2 for the visitor; Quad 1 for the host only (2/1)

No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5, 14-2) at No. 111 Boston College Eagles (14-14, 5-11), 8 p.m. (Raycom (Regional)/TheACC.com/ACC Network Extra)

The Tar Heels will look to keep pace with Virginia in the ACC race, though they’ll need the Cavaliers to lose to Louisville on Saturday (in Charlottesville, mind you) to have a shot at the top seed in next week’s ACC Tournament.

31-75 at 136-240 (2 Games)

Quad 3 for the visitor; Quad 2 for the host only (3/2)

No. 36 VCU Rams (23-6, 14-2) at No. 148 George Mason Patriots (16-13, 10-6), 7:30 p.m. (Stadium/MASN)

While the Rams have already locked up a share of the Atlantic 10 title, they can take the top seed in the conference tournament with a win tonight. VCU defeated Mason by a 79-63 score in Richmond back on February 2nd.

Top 30 at 136-240 (3 Games)

Quad 3 for the visitor; Quad 1 for the host only (3/1)

No. 15 Buffalo Bulls (26-3, 14-2) at No. 181 Ohio University Bobcats (13-15, 5-11), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 30 Utah State Aggies (24-6, 14-3) at No. 185 Colorado State Rams (12-17, 7-9), 9 p.m. (AT&T SN Rocky Mtn. & Southwest/Root Sports/MWN)
No. 23 Nevada Wolf Pack (26-3, 13-3) at No. 230 Air Force Falcons (13-15, 8-8), 11 p.m. (ESPN2)

In the MAC, Buffalo can sew up the top seed in Cleveland tonight in Athens, which would be a good idea considering the Bowling Green Falcons will be headed to town Friday with a season sweep on their minds. Out West, Utah State wraps up its conference schedule tonight and with a win over Colorado State can put pressure on Nevada, which needs to win both of its remaining games to secure at least a share of the Mountain West title.

161-353 at Top 75 (1 Game)

Quad 4 for the host; Quad 1 for the visitor only (4/1)

No. 198 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-17, 4-12) at No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (25-4, 13-3), 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The Blue Devils will need to beat the Demon Deacons and get some help from Louisville to have any shot at earning the top seed in the ACC Tournament. That’s a possibility if Duke beats UNC on Saturday and Virginia loses to the Cardinals. With all three teams then tied at 15-3, the Blue Devils would get the nod based on their 3-1 record against their immediate rivals.

Big South First Round

No. 10 UNC Asheville Bulldogs (4-26, 2-14) at No. 7 Presbyterian Blue Hose (17-14, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 11 USC Upstate Spartans (6-25, 1-15) at No. 6 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (15-14, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 9 Longwood Lancers (15-16, 5-11) at No. 8 Hampton Pirates (14-15, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)

The Big South begins its slightly-expanded tournament with three on-campus games. Each host will be looking to beat their respective opponents for a third time this year. The victors move on to Thursday’s quarterfinals, which will be hosted by the top-seeded Campbell Fighting Camels.

Patriot League First Round

No. 9 Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds (11-20, 7-11) at No. 8 Boston University Terriers (14-17, 7-11), 7 p.m. (PLN)
No. 10 Holy Cross Crusaders (15-16, 6-12) at No. 7 Lafayette Leopards (10-19, 7-11), 7 p.m. (Lafayette Sports Network/PLN)

On the other hand, the two Patriot League openers are rubber matches, as home teams were perfect in the regular-season meetings between these pairs.

Horizon League Quarterfinals, Night 1

No. 8 IUPUI Jaguars (16-15, 8-10) at No. 1 Wright State Raiders (19-12, 13-5), 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 5 UIC Flames (16-15, 10-8) at No. 4 Green Bay Phoenix (16-15, 10-8), 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

The Horizon League did the most to change its tournament format this season. For starters, the bottom two teams, the Cleveland State Vikings and Milwaukee Panthers, didn’t qualify. Secondly, the four quarterfinal games were moved to the home arenas of the top four seeds, which probably wasn’t the worst idea for a conference that struggled to keep its best teams alive in the previous editions of Motor City Madness. By the way, this will be the last season the tournament will wrap up in Detroit, as it’s moving to Indy for a few years, starting in 2020.

One thing that didn’t change, even with the format changes, is that the quarterfinals are split over two nights. This year, however, the teams playing the early semifinal on Monday will play tonight, with those in the second semifinal taking the floor tomorrow. (Last year, the top two seeds played on the first night.) Once again, both home teams will be looking to defeat the visitors for the third time this season.

Chronological Schedule

Grouped by quality in each tip window.

Early Evening Tips

1/1 No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies (22-6, 11-5) at No. 19 Florida State Seminoles (23-6, 11-5), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
1/2 No. 70 Xavier Musketeers (16-13, 8-8) at No. 59 Butler Bulldogs (15-14, 6-10), 6 p.m. (FS1)
1/2 No. 51 Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-14, 5-13) at No. 8 Michigan State Spartans (23-6, 14-4), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
3/2 No. 36 VCU Rams (23-6, 14-2) at No. 148 George Mason Patriots (16-13, 10-6), 7:30 p.m. (Stadium/MASN)
3/1 No. 15 Buffalo Bulls (26-3, 14-2) at No. 181 Ohio Bobcats (13-15, 5-11), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
4/1 No. 198 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-17, 4-12) at No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (25-4, 13-3), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Big South R1: No. 9 Longwood Lancers (15-16, 5-11) at No. 8 Hampton Pirates (14-15, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Big South R1: No. 10 UNC Asheville Bulldogs (4-26, 2-14) at No. 7 Presbyterian Blue Hose (17-14, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Big South R1: No. 11 USC Upstate Spartans (6-25, 1-15) at No. 6 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (15-14, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Patriot R1: No. 9 Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds (11-20, 7-11) at No. 8 Boston University Terriers (14-17, 7-11), 7 p.m. (PLN)
Patriot R1: No. 10 Holy Cross Crusaders (15-16, 6-12) at No. 7 Lafayette Leopards (10-19, 7-11), 7 p.m. (Lafayette Sports Network/PLN)

Mid-Evening Tips

1/1 No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers (22-7, 15-3) at No. 56 Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11, 8-10), 8 p.m. (BTN)
2/1 No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5, 14-2) at No. 111 Boston College Eagles (14-14, 5-11), 8 p.m. (Raycom (Regional)/TheACC.com/ACC Network Extra)
Horizon QF: No. 5 UIC Flames (16-15, 10-8) at No. 4 Green Bay Phoenix (16-15, 10-8), 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
Horizon QF: No. 8 IUPUI Jaguars (16-15, 8-10) at No. 1 Wright State Raiders (19-12, 13-5), 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

Late Evening Tips

1/1 No. 22 Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8, 9-7) at No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers (26-3, 14-2), 9 p.m. (SECN)
1/1 No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (24-5, 13-3) at No. 37 Ole Miss Rebels (19-10, 9-7), 9 p.m. (ESPN)
1/1 No. 16 Kansas Jayhawks (22-7, 11-5) at No. 41 Oklahoma Sooners (18-11, 6-10), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
1/1 No. 20 Auburn Tigers (20-9, 9-7) at No. 53 Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12, 8-8), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
3/1 No. 30 Utah State Aggies (24-6, 14-3) at No. 185 Colorado State Rams (12-17, 7-9), 9 p.m. (AT&T SN Rocky Mtn. & Southwest/Root Sports/MWN)

Late Night Tip

3/1 No. 23 Nevada Wolf Pack (26-3, 13-3) at No. 230 Air Force Falcons (13-15, 8-8), 11 p.m. (ESPN2)

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How one change in his shot turned Marques Townes into Missouri Valley Player of the Year

Townes’ turnaround coincided with the Ramblers’ resurgence.

In many ways, the crowning of Marques Townes as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year on Tuesday seemed inevitable.

The fifth-year senior from Edison, New Jersey, averaged a league-high 18.1 points and third-best 3.2 assists per game during conference play, all while leading Loyola to its first back-to-back conference regular season championships in school history. So it was no great surprise when coach Porter Moser entered the locker room on Tuesday after a team lift to announce the news.

“Everyone jumped up excited, giving me high fives, daps and hugs, it was fun,” Townes said. “I’m happy for myself, there’s no other way to describe it.”

But this result, for both Townes and Loyola, didn’t seem like much of a possibility in early January when the Ramblers stumbled out to a 9-7 record. In diagnosing what led to those losses, one problem Moser kept referring to was the inconsistent or insufficient perimeter shooting. As the team’s leading scorer Townes wasn’t exactly helping, shooting just 31.4 percent from deep over the first 16 games. Over a five-game stretch in mid-December, he missed 12 consecutive threes.

“Last year I felt like we always had four, five guys on the floor who can shoot,” Moser said after one January game. “Obviously right now that’s not the case.”

Then on Jan. 9, something clicked for Townes. Sitting in the film room with assistant head coach Bryan Mullins the day after a 19-point loss to conference bottom-feeder Evansville, a game in which Townes went 0-for-3 from beyond the arc, he looked on as Mullins pulled up video not of himself, but of Klay Thompson.

On the previous night, the Golden State Warriors’ guard scored 43 points and hit seven three-pointers, needing only four total dribbles the whole game to do it. Mullins used his highlights to make a specific point to Townes.

“We just showed him clip after clip, and every time, [Thompson] holds his follow through,” Mullins said. “For Marq, working with him every day, every time he holds his follow through, flicks his wrist and stays in the same spot it looks really good.”

The physical mechanics were used to trigger a mental response, something Townes calls “staying in your shot.” If he holds his follow through and lands on the same patch of floor from which he jumped, it signals Townes has committed fully to the shot and believes it is going in.

The results are substantial. Since the Thompson film session, Townes is shooting 42.6 percent from deep — nearly 47 percent if you remove one outlier 0-for-5 game against Southern Illinois.

In addition, the threat of a three-point shot opened up the rest of his offensive repertoire. Over the summer, Townes was intentional about adding a mid-range jump shot to his game, making him what Moser calls a “true three-level scorer” because of his ability to attack the rim, score in the midrange and now shoot from beyond the arc. The proof is in the box scores: before Jan. 9 Townes had just two games of 18 or more points, and he’s had eight in the 15 games since.

“He definitely brought his game to another level,” said Loyola guard Bruno Skokna. “Because he’s more confident in himself.”

Loyola has needed all of Townes’ production. Before the season, Moser took Townes and fellow fifth-year senior Clayton Custer out to lunch to reassure them they weren’t expected to fill roles any different or greater than the ones they had during the Ramblers’ Final Four run last March.

Yet the numbers, at least in Townes’ case, disagree. Of the 2190 players eligible across the country in the individual player rankings on KenPom.com, Townes ranks in the top eight percent (170th) in percentage of possessions used — meaning his actions end more than one in every four of the team’s possessions when he’s in the game. Along the same lines, he takes nearly 29 percent of the team’s shots while on the court, placing him in the top six percent (133rd) in all of college hoops.

Townes has made the most of those shots, which allowed Loyola to produce a 12-6 conference record. After one final 26-point performance on senior night on Saturday, the Ramblers’ captured a share of the Missouri Valley title with Drake.

“We always knew he was really good,” Custer said after Saturday’s game. “He’s worked his butt off to get to where he’s at; he’s dominating the league.”

Heading into Arch Madness, Loyola is still far from an impressive outside shooting team. One telling number is 33.9, the percentage of the team’s overall field goal attempts that are threes. According to KenPom, they rank 295th in the country in the category. To counteract this, the Ramblers’ coaching staff is using their final practices before leaving for Saint Louis and the MVC Tournament to stress the importance of getting out in transition and playing with increased pace.

Still, the Ramblers will depend on the scoring, and specifically shooting, of their newly-minted conference player of the year to propel them to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. It’s a role Townes says he takes too seriously to celebrate his award any further.

“I’m happy from a personal standpoint, for myself, the hard work I put in to even be in a position like that,” Townes said Tuesday. “But it’ll feel much better once we win on Sunday.”

NCAA Regional in Syracuse Seeing Lowest Prices Remaining Among Host Sites

The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. will play host to the East Regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight this season. The teams in the East division have surprised the nation, specifically North Carolina State and Michigan State. The top two seeds in this bracket have been eliminated in the round of 32, which puts the Oklahoma Sooners as the top seed in the East division. This makes every match up more competitive, and that means exciting hoops for fans in the Syracuse area.

According to TiqIQ, this high level of hoops competition can be seen for relatively inexpensive prices. The average price for an all-sessions pass to the East Regional is $282.57 on the secondary market. However, passes can be purchased for as low as $61.00 on the secondary market. The first session on March 27th go for $189.85 on the secondary market, and the second is going for $143.40. However, tickets can be purchased for $57.00 and $39.00 respectively. These are the lowest get-in prices of any regional bracket.

With the lowest ticket prices of any regional bracket, you can take the savings to Hipmunk.com to plan your March Madness viewing weekend. According to Hipmunk, thousands of Syracuse flights can be searched with only a few clicks to make reserving your accommodations as easy as possible.

The North Carolina State Wolfpack shocked the world in the round of 32 when they defeated the Villanova Wildcats in the round of 32. They were able to exploit the Wildcats inside with the dribble penetration of Cat Barber, and the rebounding dominance of Abdul-Malik Abu, who scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. They face a completely different animal in Montrezl Harrell and the Louisville Cardinals. Harrell is one of the best players in the country, and averages close to a double-double every night (15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds). NC State will have it’s handful with Harrell, but the battle between Harrell and Abu should be one to watch.

The Michigan State Spartans have also surprised many. Most considered the Spartans to have had a disappointing season, but they have turned it on in the tournament. Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have been playing like men possessed, both averaging over 14 points per game. Their exploitation of Virginia’s top-ranked defense was a performance that has not been repeated so far this season. However, they have to deal with the likes of Buddy Hield, who could end up being the player of the year in the NCAA tournament depending on Oklahoma’s success. Given the fact that the top teams in the bracket are out, Oklahoma has a rare opportunity to perhaps advance to the Final Four.

Although the Orange aren’t in the tournament this season, the fans in the area should be in a great position to see some great basketball. These tickets are some of the cheapest in the whole tournament at this stage, and it’s a great opportunity to see some excellent basketball.

03/03: THIS. IS. MARCH.

That gift off the top — that’s for you, listeners. Thank you for subscribing. Please, if you could, rate the pod five stars and leave an good comment! 

On this episode, Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander open with the wild scene at Utah State over the weekend, in which Nevada got beat by the Aggies and then a fracas in the hallway behind the scenes went viral. From there, the guys get to Tennessee throttling UK (22:45), and also talk LSU and its No. 1 seed chances. This week’s special segment is a throwback to the early part of the season, when Norlander promised Wofford would be a good (44:00). It’s an absolute must-listen. Then, it’s time for some WIDE-RANGING bubble talk (61:00) as the guy touch on almost every team’s results from the weekend that had bubble impact and more. 

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Bracketology Seed List For Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Pretty sure Virginia just hit another three at the Carrier Dome.

Virginia solidified its hold on the No. 1 overall seed by pulling away from the second half on Monday night.

Today’s full bracket post (will go live when it’s published)

Notes:

  • Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses.
  • Arrows indicate movement up or down the seed list (down to the spot on the seed list). This is relative to Monday’s list. Changes noted on the full bracket are relative to last last Tuesday’s full projection.
  • New entrants are marked with an asterisk.
  • For at-large candidates only, the numbers in parentheses after the team’s name are as follows: record vs. D1 opposition/record in Group 1 and Group 2 games/record in Group 1 games only. Overall records and NET data reflect games played through Monday, March 4. I pulled the quality win info from WarrenNolan.com’s selection sheets.

No. 1 Seeds

(1) Virginia Cavaliers (ACC) (27-2/15/10) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Columbus 1
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC) (29-2/12/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 1
(3) Duke Blue Devils (25-4/14/8) – LOUISVILLE – Columbia 1
(4) Kentucky Wildcats (24-5/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Columbus 2

No. 2 Seeds

(5) North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5/14/8) – KANSAS CITY – Columbia 2
(6) Tennessee Volunteers (25-3/12/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 1
(7) Michigan Wolverines (26-4/17/8) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Des Moines 1
(8) Michigan State Spartans (23-6/14/10) – ANAHEIM – Des Moines 2

No. 3 Seeds

(9) LSU Tigers (SEC) (24-5/16/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tulsa 1
(10) Kansas Jayhawks (22-7/15/10) – KANSAS CITY – Tulsa 2
(11) Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten) (22-7/15/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 2
(12) Houston Cougars (American) (27-2/13/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 2

No. 4 Seeds

(13) Texas Tech Red Raiders (25-5/15/5) – LOUISVILLE – San José 1
(14) Virginia Tech Hokies (22-6/10/4) – ANAHEIM – Hartford 1
(15) Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Hartford 2
(16) Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12) (23-7/12/7) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – San José 2

No. 5 Seeds

(17) Florida State Seminoles (23-6/11/5)
(18) Wisconsin Badgers (20-9/13/8)
(19) Villanova Wildcats (Big East) (22-8/15/4)
(20) Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8/11/8)

No. 6 Seeds

(21) Maryland Terrapins (21-9/12/6)
(22) Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4/10/4)
(23) Wofford Terriers (SoCon) (23-4/7/3)
(24) Nevada Wolf Pack (26-3/8/1)

No. 7 Seeds

(25) Buffalo Bulls (MAC) (25-3/7/2)
(26) Iowa State Cyclones (20-9/9/5)
(27) Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8/11/4)
(28) VCU Rams (A 10) (23-6/6/2)

No. 8 Seeds

(29) Baylor Bears (19-10/12/4)
(30) Auburn Tigers (19-9/11/2)
(31) Ole Miss Rebels (19-10/7/4)
(↑32) Washington Huskies (Pac-12) (23-6/8/2)

No. 9 Seeds

(↑33) Louisville Cardinals (19-11/8/4)
(↓34) Syracuse Orange (19-11/8/3)
(35) Oklahoma Sooners (18-11/9/3)
(36) UCF Knights (22-6/7/1)

No. 10 Seeds

(37) Utah State Aggies (MW) (23-6/4/2)
(↑38) Florida Gators (17-12/8/3)
(39) Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11/8/4)
(↑40) N.C. State Wolfpack (20-9/7/2)

No. 11 Seeds

(↑41) Belmont Bruins (OVC) (24-4/5/2)
(↑42) Arizona State Sun Devils (20-9/10/3)
(↑43) Lipscomb Bisons (ASUN) (22-6/3/2)
(↓44) Texas Longhorns (16-14/9/5)

No. 12 Seeds

(↓45) TCU Horned Frogs (18-12/7/2)
(46) Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11/9/2)
(47 – First Four) St. John’s Red Storm (20-10/10/6)
(48 – First Four) Clemson Tigers (17-12/5/1)
(49 – First Four) Temple Owls (21-8/6/1)
(50 – First Four) Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12/9/2)

First Four Out (NIT No. 1 Seeds)

(69) Seton Hall Pirates (16-12/10/4)
(↑70) Indiana Hoosiers (15-14/7/6)
(↑71) Creighton Bluejays (15-13/9/3)
(↓72) Georgetown Hoyas (18-11/9/3)

Next Four Out

(↓73) Xavier Musketeers (16-13/9/3)
(↓74) Furman Paladins (21-6/4/1)
(↓75) Oregon Ducks (17-12/4/1)
(↓76) Murray State Racers (23-4/1/0)

No. 13 Seeds

(51) New Mexico State Aggies (WAC)
(52) Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA)
(53) Vermont Catamounts (America East)
(54) Hofstra Pride (CAA)

No. 14 Seeds

(55) UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
(56) South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit)
(57) Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
(58) Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky)

No. 15 Seeds

(59) Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt)
(60) Loyola Chicago Ramblers (MVC)
(61) Wright State Raiders (Horizon)
(62) Colgate Raiders (Patriot)

No. 16 Seeds

(63) Sam Houston State Bearkats (Southland)
(64) Campbell Fighting Camels (Big South)
(65 – First Four) Iona Gaels (MAAC)
(66 – First Four) Prairie View A&M Panthers (SWAC)
(67 – First Four) Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC)
(68 – First Four) St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (NEC)

Conference Ranking With Seeds

Note: Auto bid holders are denoted by asterisks.

ACC (9): 1. Virginia*, 1. Duke, 2. North Carolina, 4. Virginia Tech, 5. Florida State, 9. Louisville, 9. Syracuse, 10. N.C. State, 12. Clemson (First Four)
Big 12 (8): 3. Kansas, 4. Texas Tech, 4. Kansas State*, 7. Iowa State, 8. Baylor, 9. Oklahoma, 11. TCU, 12. Texas
Big Ten (8): 2. Michigan, 2. Michigan State, 3. Purdue*, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Maryland, 7. Iowa, 10. Ohio State, 12. Minnesota
SEC (8): 1. Kentucky, 2. Tennessee, 3. LSU*, 5. Mississippi State, 8. Auburn, 8. Ole Miss, 10. Florida, 12. Alabama (First Four)
American Athletic (4): 3. Houston*, 6. Cincinnati, 9. UCF, 12. Temple (First Four)
Big East (3): 4. Marquette, 5. Villanova*, 12. St. John’s (First Four)
MW (2): 6. Nevada, 10. Utah State*
Pac-12 (2): 8. Washington*, 11. Arizona State

Auto Bid Selection Procedures

If a team has already clinched the top seed in its conference tournament, it will be the league rep here until eliminated in said event. For every other league, I’m still using each conference’s tiebreaker procedures to determine auto bid holders.

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Day 6 Picking The Lines

We had all hoped that the chalk-heavy first round meant that we would have some spectacular games in the second round, and we had a taste of that yesterday. Wisconsin/Villanova was the standout game, of course, but Gonzaga/Northwestern and a couple of other games were also excellent.

In a lot of ways, however, Saturday was just an appetizer for Sunday. Kentucky/Wichita State is the headliner, but Louisville/Michigan and Michigan State/Kansas are both high quality games between elite programs, and we have several other potentially really fun match-ups. Get ready to make a dent in your couch today.

Yesterday ATS: 4-4-0
2017 Tournament ATS: 22-20-2 (52%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Louisville (-3.5) over Michigan: If Michigan shoots the lights out like they did against Oklahoma State, obviously they can win this game, but if the shots aren’t falling at above season average rates, they don’t match up well against Louisville. The Cardinals are ferocious defensively in the paint and will make it difficult for Derrick Walton to be as effective as he usually is with the dribble drive. Louisville should also be able to take advantage of Michigan’s small front line on the glass. Meanwhile, Louisville is vulnerable against teams that attack and draw contact (Louisville was dead last in the ACC in defensive FTRate), but Michigan is just not that style of team.

Kentucky (-4.5) over Wichita State: This is a potential Revenge Game for 8-seed Kentucky knocking off 1-seed Wichita State three seasons ago, although none of the regulars on Wichita State’s roster actually played in that game. As good as Wichita State has been, I’m worried about Kentucky’s length here. Wichita State is a 40% three-point shooting team, but Kentucky’s perimeter defense is good at running teams off of the three-point line (as John Calipari teams almost always are).

Michigan State (+8) over Kansas: Both of these teams had uncharacteristically good performances and surprisingly large blowouts in their first round games. This is an awfully big spread, however, against a Michigan State team that has clearly been playing their best basketball of the season over the last month, with a fully healthy and dangerous Miles Bridges, and with the development of a really nice freshman crop. In addition, Michigan State’s strong defensive rebounding is going to put pressure on Kansas to hit outside shots. The Jayhawks certainly can shoot well (40.6% on threes this season), but if the shots don’t fall then this is a game that they can lose.

Arkansas (+11) over North Carolina: Even if Joel Berry plays, it’s unlikely that he’ll be 100%. If we believe this late season Arkansas spurt (they’ve risen from 59th to 38th in the Pomeroy ratings over the last five weeks) then this is too large of a spread even for a fully healthy Tar Heels roster. Arkansas doesn’t have any match-up advantages, but they’re a solid team and I’d be surprised if they get completely trucked.

Rhode Island (+5.5) over Oregon: Defensively, Rhode Island matches up well with Oregon. The Ducks were 2nd in the Pac-12 in 3PA/FGA ratio and hit threes at a 42% clip, yet Rhode Island led the Atlantic Ten in both defensive 3PA/FGA ratio and 3P% (whichever of those you choose to believe matters). If Oregon is not scoring particularly efficiently, and with a defense that has obviously taken a significant hit without Chris Boucher, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rhode Island wins this game outright.

Baylor (-6.5) over USC: USC has oddly been getting a lot of hype the last couple of days. I think it’s because so many people really didn’t see them play this season, being buried late at night and on the Pac-12 Network. And yes, they played well the last two games, but both games were decided in the final minute, and this is the same USC team that entered the NCAA Tournament having gone 2-9 vs KenPom Tier A/B teams since Christmas. Baylor’s defense, and their length in particular, are a further difficulty level from either Providence or SMU. Baylor’s elite rebounding (they led the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding efficiency) will challenge a USC team that was 10th in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding rate.

South Carolina (+7.5) over Duke: I’m trying my best not to overreact to that tremendous South Carolina second half against Marquette, where they simply looked better than they’ve looked all season long. But my real match-up concern here is Duke’s ability to handle South Carolina’s pressure defense, which led the SEC in both steal and turnover rates. Duke, as talented as they are on offense, does not have a real point guard, and they will potentially struggle with turnovers. If the Blue Devils get hot behind the arc, however, I’m skeptical that South Carolina’s offense will be able to repeat anything like the 1.29 PPP that they poured in against Marquette.

Cincinnati (+4) over UCLA: I picked Cincinnati to win this game outright, and so I’m going to stick with my pick here. There are three reasons for that. First of all, UCLA is overrated, as Pomeroy has this game basically a toss-up (though Sagarin has the spread closer to 4). Second, UCLA’s dependence on outside shooting makes me nervous, particularly against a defense as long and athletic as Cincinnati. Third, Cincinnati is an elite offensive rebounding team (20th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage), which could pose problems for a UCLA front line that is tall but not particularly physical. The counter-argument, of course, is that UCLA has the ability to put up points in bunches in a way that Cincinnati does not. If the Bruins get hot behind the arc, they can obviously defeat anybody.

NET Viewing Guide For Sunday, March 3, 2019

David Crisp and the Huskies are officially ON NOTICE as they head to the Farm to take on Stanford.

While the Big Ten brings us the lone all-Quad 1 contest of the day, there’s plenty of bubble action available, with the Big East and Pac-12 taking center stage. For a more traditional look at the schedule, visit MattSarzSports.com.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a lineup broken down by telecast window with the quad designations in bold to the left of the game. Instead of ordering these by tip time, however, I’ve grouped them by importance.

Reminders of the different groupings:

  • Quad 1 (home games): Visitor is ranked 1-30
  • Quad 1 (away games): Host is ranked 1-75
  • Quad 2 (home games): Visitor is ranked 31-75
  • Quad 2 (away games): Host is ranked 76-135
  • Quad 3 (home games): Visitor is ranked 76-160
  • Quad 3 (away games): Host is ranked 136-240
  • Quad 4 (home games): Visitor is ranked 161-353
  • Quad 4 (away games): Host is ranked 241-353

All NET numbers are from the NCAA’s website and reflect games played through Friday, March 1. Records reflect games played through Saturday, March 2. All times are Eastern.

Top 30 at Top 75 (1 Game)

Quad 1 for both the host and visitor (1/1)

No. 9 Michigan Wolverines (25-4, 14-4) at No. 26 Maryland Terrapins (21-8, 12-6), 3:45 p.m. (CBS)

The Wolverines will need a win against the Terps and some help to ensure their Saturday visit to Michigan State has any meaning in the Big Ten title race. Michigan won the first meeting 15 days ago by a 65-52 margin at Crisler.

31-75 at Top 75 (1 Game)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 2 for the host (1/2)

No. 56 Creighton Bluejays (15-13, 6-9) at No. 21 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3), 3 p.m. (FS1)

Yesterday, Indiana got itself back into the bubble picture by completing a season sweep of Michigan State. Can the Bluejays get a split of their matchups with the Golden Eagles to do the same? These two played an OT thriller in Omaha on January 9th, with Marquette coming out on top by a bucket, 106-104.

31-75 at 76-135 (3 Games)

Quad 2 for both the host and the visitor (2/2)

No. 59 St. John’s Red Storm (20-9, 8-8) at No. 111 DePaul Blue Demons (13-13, 5-10), 12 p.m. (FS1)
No. 32 Washington Huskies (22-6, 13-2) at No. 96 Stanford Cardinal (15-13, 8-8), 4 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 68 Arizona State Sun Devils (19-9, 10-6) at No. 85 Oregon State Beavers (17-10, 9-6), 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

This might be the most intriguing trio of games set for today. St. John’s will attempt to rebound from a damaging home loss to Xavier Musketeers in Chicago—against a DePaul team that defeated the Red Storm by eight in Queens back on January 12th.

Out West, Pac-12 regular-season champ Washington handed the woeful California Golden Bears (and yes, they must be referred to as the “woeful California Golden Bears” in full until further notice) their first conference win of the year on Thursday. While that loss did enough damage to the Huskies’ seeding/at-large hopes, failing to beat Stanford would do a bit more. Mike Hopkins’ squad won the first meeting in Seattle by 16 on January 17th. Washington was able to clinch the title because second-place Arizona State also lost Thursday, at Oregon. The Sun Devils will look to avoid being swept out of the Beaver State by defeating the Beavers for a second time. That won’t be easy, as Oregon State only lost by three in Tempe.

76-160 at Top 75 (1 Game)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 3 for the host (1/3)

No. 102 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-15, 3-12) at No. 25 Louisville Cardinals (18-11, 9-7), 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

The Cardinals will hope to snap their three-game skip—and return to playing some semblance of normal basketball—by beating the visiting Irish.

76-160 at 76-135 (1 Game)

Quad 2 for the visitor only; Quad 3 for the host (2/3)

No. 83 South Florida Bulls (18-10, 7-8) at No. 97 UConn Huskies (13-15, 4-11), 12 p.m. (CBSSN)

At this point the Bulls are playing for a season sweep of the Huskies, 20 wins, and an NIT bid.

161-353 at Top 75 (3 Games)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 4 for the host (1/4)

No. 301 Tulane Green Wave (4-23, 0-15) at No. 57 Temple Owls (20-8, 10-5), 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

Temple, which can clinch a top four seed in the American Athletic Tournament (and the bye to the quarterfinals that goes with it), can’t afford to pull a Washington here—if the Owls want to remain an at-large prospect.

Chronological Schedule

Grouped by quality in each tip window.

Early Afternoon Tips

2/2 No. 59 St. John’s Red Storm (20-9, 8-8) at No. 111 DePaul Blue Demons (13-13, 5-10), 12 p.m. (FS1)
2/3 No. 83 South Florida Bulls (18-10, 7-8) at No. 97 UConn Huskies (13-15, 4-11), 12 p.m. (CBSSN)

Mid-Afternoon Tips

1/2 No. 56 Creighton Bluejays (15-13, 6-9) at No. 21 Marquette Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3), 3 p.m. (FS1)
1/3 No. 102 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-15, 3-12) at No. 25 Louisville Cardinals (18-11, 9-7), 1:30 p.m. (CBS)
1/4 No. 301 Tulane Green Wave (4-23, 0-15) at No. 57 Temple Owls (20-8, 10-5), 2 p.m. (ESPNU)

Late Afternoon Tips

1/1 No. 9 Michigan Wolverines (25-4, 14-4) at No. 26 Maryland Terrapins (21-8, 12-6), 3:45 p.m. (CBS)
2/2 No. 32 Washington Huskies (22-6, 13-2) at No. 96 Stanford Cardinal (15-13, 8-8), 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

Evening Tip

2/2 No. 68 Arizona State Sun Devils (19-9, 10-6) at No. 85 Oregon State Beavers (17-10, 9-6), 8 p.m. (ESPNU)

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Bracketology Seed List For Monday, March 4, 2019

Thanks to Sunday’s win at Marquette, Creighton is back in the NCAA hunt.

The Big East is dominating the cut line at the moment.

Notes:

  • Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses.
  • Arrows indicate movement up or down the seed list (down to the spot on the seed list). This is relative to Sunday’s list.
  • New entrants are marked with an asterisk.
  • For at-large candidates only, the numbers in parentheses after the team’s name are as follows: record vs. D1 opposition/record in Group 1 and Group 2 games/record in Group 1 games only. Overall records and NET data reflect games played through Sunday, March 3. I pulled the quality win info from WarrenNolan.com’s selection sheets.

No. 1 Seeds

(1) Virginia Cavaliers (ACC) (26-2/14/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Columbus 1
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC) (29-2/12/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 1
(3) Duke Blue Devils (25-4/14/8) – LOUISVILLE – Columbia 1
(4) Kentucky Wildcats (24-5/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Columbus 2

No. 2 Seeds

(5) North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5/14/8) – KANSAS CITY – Columbia 2
(6) Tennessee Volunteers (25-3/12/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 1
(7) Michigan Wolverines (26-4/17/8) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Des Moines 1
(8) Michigan State Spartans (23-6/14/10) – ANAHEIM – Des Moines 2

No. 3 Seeds

(9) LSU Tigers (SEC) (24-5/16/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tulsa 1
(10) Kansas Jayhawks (22-7/15/10) – KANSAS CITY – Tulsa 2
(11) Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten) (22-7/15/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 2
(12) Houston Cougars (American) (27-2/13/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 2

The top 12 remain in the same order as on Sunday, even with Michigan’s impressive road win over Maryland—with Charles Matthews missing for the second consecutive game.

No. 4 Seeds

(13) Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-5/14/5) – LOUISVILLE – San José 1
(↑14) Virginia Tech Hokies (22-6/10/4) – ANAHEIM – Hartford 1
(↓15) Marquette Golden Eagles (23-6/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Hartford 2
(16) Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12) (22-7/11/6) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – San José 2

Marquette remains on line No. 4 even after Sunday’s home loss to Creighton. However, Virginia Tech jumped them on the seed list. But with both teams needing to stay in the same positions as on Sunday’s list because of bracketing rules, all this change did was balance the regions out a little more.

No. 5 Seeds

(17) Florida State Seminoles (23-6/11/5)
(18) Wisconsin Badgers (20-9/13/8)
(↑19) Villanova Wildcats (Big East) (22-8/15/4)
(↑20) Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8/11/8)

Thanks to Marquette’s loss, Villanova again has a decent shot at winning at least a share of the Big East title. The Wildcats are a half-game up on the Golden Eagles in the standings, so they take over the auto bid for the moment. They also move up a bit on the five line, with Mississippi State jumping up from line six to replace Maryland.

No. 6 Seeds

(↓21) Maryland Terrapins (21-9/12/6)
(22) Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4/10/4)
(↑23) Wofford Terriers (SoCon) (23-4/7/3)
(↓24) Nevada Wolf Pack (26-3/8/1)

As of this morning’s update, Wofford is now 14th in the NET, so if that metric means anything, the Terriers have to be reaching lock status.

No. 7 Seeds

(25) Buffalo Bulls (MAC) (25-3/7/2)
(26) Iowa State Cyclones (20-9/9/5)
(27) Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8/11/4)
(28) VCU Rams (A 10) (23-6/6/2)

No. 8 Seeds

(29) Baylor Bears (19-10/12/4)
(30) Auburn Tigers (19-9/11/2)
(31) Ole Miss Rebels (19-10/7/4)
(32) Syracuse Orange (19-10/8/3)

No. 9 Seeds

(33) Washington Huskies (Pac-12) (23-6/8/2)
(34) Louisville Cardinals (19-11/8/4)
(35) Oklahoma Sooners (18-11/9/3)
(36) UCF Knights (22-6/7/1)

Both Washington and Louisville won yesterday, but didn’t budge as a result. The Huskies escaped Stanford, the NET’s 100th-ranked team, by the skin of their teeth, 62-61. As for the Cardinals, they did what they needed to do, handling disappointing Notre Dame, 75-61, for a home Quad 3 win.

No. 10 Seeds

(37) Utah State Aggies (MW) (23-6/4/2)
(38) Texas Longhorns (16-13/9/5)
(39) Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11/8/4)
(↑40) Florida Gators (17-12/8/3)

Florida slides up one spot, and back to the 10 line, thanks to St. John’s loss at DePaul.

No. 11 Seeds

(↑41) N.C. State Wolfpack (20-9/7/2)
(↑42) TCU Horned Frogs (18-11/7/2)
(↑43) Belmont Bruins (OVC) (24-4/5/2)
(↑44) Arizona State Sun Devils (20-9/10/3)

It was Survival Sunday in the Pac-12, as Arizona State left Corvallis with a gutsy 74-71 win over Oregon State, a result that put Bobby Hurley’s team in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.

No. 12 Seeds

(45) Lipscomb Bisons (ASUN) (21-6/3/2)
(↑46) Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11/9/2)
(47 – First Four) (↓47 – First Four) St. John’s Red Storm (20-10/10/6)
(48 – First Four) Clemson Tigers (17-12/5/1)
(49 – First Four) Temple Owls (20-8/6/1)
(50 – First Four) Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12/9/2)

The big change here is St. John’s relegation to the First Four, as the DePaul Blue Demons swept the season series with the Red Storm courtesy of a 92-83 victory in Chicago. While Chris Mullin’s team has three wins over the conference’s two NCAA locks and victories over VCU and a 5-4 mark against the league’s copious supply of bubble teams, being swept by both DePaul and Providence and a weak non-conference schedule really hurt their case.

First Four Out (NIT No. 1 Seeds)

(69) Seton Hall Pirates (16-12/10/4)
(↑70) Indiana Hoosiers (15-14/7/6)
(↑71) Creighton Bluejays (15-13/9/3)
(↓72) Georgetown Hoyas (18-11/9/3)

Next Four Out

(↓73) Xavier Musketeers (16-13/9/3)
(↓74) Furman Paladins (21-6/4/1)
(↓75) Oregon Ducks (17-12/4/1)
(↓76) Murray State Racers (23-4/1/0)

With Creighton following Indiana in becoming a “zombie bubble team” this weekend, the first eight out is a Big East party today. So, festivities at Madison Square Garden next week will be quite entertaining with those storylines playing out. The Liberty Flames (22-6/2/1) drop out of the group as a result of the Bluejays’ return.

No. 13 Seeds

(51) New Mexico State Aggies (WAC)
(52) Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA)
(53) Vermont Catamounts (America East)
(54) Hofstra Pride (CAA)

No. 14 Seeds

(55) UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
(56) South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit)
(57) Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
(58) Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky)

No. 15 Seeds

(59) Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt)
(60) Loyola Chicago Ramblers (MVC)
(61) Wright State Raiders (Horizon)
(62) Colgate Raiders (Patriot)

No. 16 Seeds

(63) Sam Houston State Bearkats (Southland)
(64) Campbell Fighting Camels (Big South)
(65 – First Four) Iona Gaels (MAAC)
(66 – First Four) Prairie View A&M Panthers (SWAC)
(67 – First Four) Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC)
(68 – First Four) St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (NEC)

Of the final 18 teams in the field, New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Vermont, Hofstra, UC Irvine, South Dakota State, Loyola Chicago, Wright State, Colgate, Sam Houston State, Campbell, and St. Francis (Pa.) have all secured the top seeds in their conference tournaments.

Conference Ranking With Seeds

Note: Auto bid holders are denoted by asterisks.

ACC (9): 1. Virginia*, 1. Duke, 2. North Carolina, 4. Virginia Tech, 5. Florida State, 8. Syracuse, 9. Louisville, 11. N.C. State, 12. Clemson (First Four)
Big 12 (8): 3. Kansas, 4. Texas Tech, 4. Kansas State*, 7. Iowa State, 8. Baylor, 9. Oklahoma, 10. Texas, 11. TCU
Big Ten (8): 2. Michigan, 2. Michigan State, 3. Purdue*, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Maryland, 7. Iowa, 10. Ohio State, 12. Minnesota
SEC (8): 1. Kentucky, 2. Tennessee, 3. LSU*, 5. Mississippi State, 8. Auburn, 8. Ole Miss, 10. Florida, 12. Alabama (First Four)
American Athletic (4): 3. Houston*, 6. Cincinnati, 9. UCF, 12. Temple (First Four)
Big East (3): 4. Marquette, 5. Villanova*, 12. St. John’s (First Four)
MW (2): 6. Nevada, 10. Utah State*
Pac-12 (2): 9. Washington*, 11. Arizona State

Auto Bid Selection Procedures

If a team has already clinched the top seed in its conference tournament, it will be the league rep here until eliminated in said event. For every other league, I’m still using each conference’s tiebreaker procedures to determine auto bid holders.

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NET/Championship Fortnight Viewing Guide For Monday, March 4, 2019

Syracuse crushed Wake Forest in Winston-Salem on Saturday, but they’ll face a far tougher opponent back at the Carrier Dome this evening.

Big regular-season matchups from the ACC and Big 12 and the first four conference tournament games are on tap tonight. For a more traditional look at the schedule, visit MattSarzSports.com.

It’s a relatively short slate tonight, so I’m skipping the chronological schedule.

Reminders of the different groupings:

  • Quad 1 (home games): Visitor is ranked 1-30
  • Quad 1 (away games): Host is ranked 1-75
  • Quad 2 (home games): Visitor is ranked 31-75
  • Quad 2 (away games): Host is ranked 76-135
  • Quad 3 (home games): Visitor is ranked 76-160
  • Quad 3 (away games): Host is ranked 136-240
  • Quad 4 (home games): Visitor is ranked 161-353
  • Quad 4 (away games): Host is ranked 241-353

All NET numbers are from the NCAA’s website and reflect games played through Sunday, March 3. Records reflect games played through that same date. All times are Eastern.

Top 30 at Top 75 (2 Games)

Quad 1 for both the host and visitor (1/1)

No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers (26-2. 14-2) at No. 39 Syracuse Orange (19-10, 10-6), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 28 Kansas State Wildcats (22-7, 12-4) at No. 48 TCU Horned Frogs (18-11, 6-10), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

If Syracuse can knock off Virginia at the Carrier Dome tonight, an at-large bid will almost assuredly be theirs. The Orange are 2-3 in their last five meetings with the Cavaliers (including the 2016 Midwest Regional final), but Virginia swept last season’s series.

Both Big 12 co-leaders are in action tonight, with Kansas State hitting the road to take on a TCU team that’s dropped five of six and has fallen near the cut line. The Wildcats are looking for a season sweep that will help them stay in the hunt for the top seed in Kansas City, having won by 10 in Manhattan back on January 19th.

31-75 at Top 75 (1 Game)

Quad 1 for the visitor only; Quad 2 for the host (1/2)

No. 33 Texas Longhorns (16-13, 8-8) at No. 10 Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-5, 12-4), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

The other half of the Big 12 title race, Texas Tech, hosts Texas, which is looking to build off Saturday’s profile-saving win over Iowa State Cyclones. The Red Raiders are aiming for the season sweep here, thanks to a 68-62 victory in Austin from way back on January 12th. Chris Beard’s squad is among the nation’s hottest teams, having won seven straight and nine of 10.

ASUN Quarterfinals

No. 5 NJIT Highlanders (20-11, 8-8) at No. 4 FGCU Eagles (14-17, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 6 North Alabama Lions (10-21, 7-9) at No. 3 North Florida Ospreys (15-16, 9-7), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 7 Jacksonville Dolphins (12-19, 5-11) at No. 2 Liberty Flames (25-6, 14-2), 7 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))
No. 8 Kennesaw State Owls (6-25, 3-13) at No. 1 Lipscomb Bisons (23-6, 14-2), 8 p.m. (ESPN+ ($))

The top three seeds are all looking to defeat their respective opponents for the third time this season, while the 4/5 matchup is a rubber match, with the Eagles and Highlanders having each won at home. But NJIT only lost by two, 57-55, in Fort Myers on February 13th.

Note that North Alabama is ineligible for the postseason as it’s just starting its transition to Division I. Note that when the Stetson Hatters participated in the 2016 ASUN Tournament as an ineligible team, the auto bid would have been awarded to the regular-season champion had the Hatters won the championship game. Oddly enough, Stetson finished ninth in the conference this season, thanks in part to an 83-82 loss at Kennesaw State on Friday, so it didn’t qualify for 2019’s event.

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Seeking the next extreme scoring event

MSU

Michigan State rang up 1.33 points per trip against Iowa. Highly impressive, but not quite “extreme.” (MSU Athletics)

With major-conference play having already tipped off in the Big Ten, this is a good time to revisit the record book. The first thing to be said of the book is that it’s pretty big. Starting with the 2006 season and running up through last night, there have been 8,355 major-conference games played.

Out of all that basketball, there have been just 49 instances where a team scored 1.45 points per trip or better. And, in what surely ranks as the all-time upset, two of those instances actually happened in the same game. It’s tough to lose when you score 1.46 points per possession, but that’s exactly what happened to Buzz Williams on February 18, 2017. Hoops. Go figure.

When something occurs 49 times out of 8,355 chances, that gives us roughly a one-in-170 shot at seeing the amazing episode in question at any given game. Put rather more positively, we’ll expect to see three or four extreme scoring events this coming season in major-conference play. An extreme scoring event is one where a team scores at least 1.45 points per trip.

It’s no surprise to learn that fully 78 percent of such eruptions have taken place on the “extreme” team’s home floor. It is perhaps rather more surprising, however, to note that 20 percent of these events have occurred in March. The month clearly punches above its weight in extreme scoring events. In fact, if you had to roll the dice on just one game this year that could make this list, you should take a long look at a Big Ten senior day. Again, go figure.

Naturally, scoring’s not the only extreme event under the sun. Shooting can also, on occasion, achieve escape velocity. Conveniently, a 75.0 effective FG percentage is eerily similar in its rarity to the 1.45 threshold for offense. The best shooting in major-conference play since 2006 was recorded by Clemson at home against Georgia Tech on January 12, 2011: 83.3 eFG percentage. No, that’s still nowhere near the 92.5 that, incredibly, Creighton hung on Southern Illinois back in the Bluejays’ Missouri Valley days on February 14, 2012.

The interesting thing about extreme shooting is that it’s markedly and perhaps even radically less dependent on venue than offense appears to be. Since 2006, extreme shooting events have been distributed exactly 50-50 between “home” and “road” in major-conference play.

By default, this would seem to suggest that outlandish shot volume must be somewhat venue-dependent, at least more so than outlandish shooting. Let’s hold that thought. For now, we can observe simply that teams landing on the 1.45-and-over extreme offense list are equally ridiculous at both accuracy (average eFG percentage: 69.3) and volume (mean SVI: 108.2).

Here’s what I have under the heading of extreme scoring events in major-conference play, starting in 2006. If you have notable examples from earlier than that, I’m all ears.

                            opponent       H/A  PPP
DePaul          2-Mar-06    Syracuse        H   1.64
Ohio State      6-Mar-11    Wisconsin       H   1.61
Purdue          18-Jan-16   Rutgers         A   1.56
Villanova       7-Mar-15    St. John's      H   1.55
Wisconsin       23-Jan-11   Northwestern    A   1.55
Indiana         3-Mar-07    Penn State      H   1.55
Ohio State      5-Jan-06    Penn State      H   1.55
Michigan        26-Jan-17   Indiana         H   1.54
Duke            4-Jan-17    Georgia Tech    H   1.54
Louisville      18-Feb-17   Virginia Tech   H   1.53
Wisconsin       20-Jan-15   Iowa            H   1.52
Syracuse        5-Mar-11    DePaul          H   1.52
Northwestern    27-Feb-16   Rutgers         H   1.51
Texas A&M       12-Jan-08   Colorado        H   1.50
Georgetown      27-Jan-07   Cincinnati      H   1.50
North Carolina  22-Feb-06   NC State        A   1.50
Florida State   5-Feb-17    Clemson         H   1.49
Wisconsin       6-Feb-11    Michigan State  H   1.49
Kansas          3-Mar-08    Texas Tech      H   1.49
TCU             17-Jan-18   Iowa State      H   1.48
Louisville      24-Jan-17   Pitt            A   1.48
Georgia         15-Jan-11   Ole Miss        A   1.48
Minnesota       7-Mar-10    Iowa            H   1.48
Boston College  12-Jan-08   Wake Forest     H   1.48
West Virginia   31-Jan-07   Rutgers         A   1.48
Creighton       16-Feb-14   Villanova       H   1.47
Michigan State  2-Mar-08    Indiana         H   1.47
Kansas          19-Feb-18   Oklahoma        H   1.46
Villanova       1-Feb-18    Creighton       H   1.46
Iowa State      31-Jan-18   West Virginia   H   1.46
Duke            18-Feb-17   Wake Forest     H   1.46
Virginia Tech   18-Feb-17   Louisville      A   1.46
Indiana         19-Jan-16   Illinois        H   1.46
Duke            7-Feb-15    Notre Dame      H   1.46
Baylor          22-Feb-14   West Virginia   A   1.46
West Virginia   22-Jan-14   Texas Tech      H   1.46
Oregon          3-Mar-12    Utah            H   1.46
Michigan        2-Mar-10    Minnesota       H   1.46
Michigan State  20-Feb-08   Penn State      H   1.46
Oregon          20-Jan-07   Cal             H   1.46
North Carolina  9-Jan-18    Boston College  H   1.45
Michigan State  4-Jan-18    Maryland        H   1.45
Creighton       20-Jan-14   Villanova       A   1.45
North Carolina  22-Feb-14   Wake Forest     H   1.45
Duke            21-Feb-13   Virginia Tech   A   1.45
Missouri        3-Jan-12    Oklahoma        H   1.45
Pitt            14-Feb-09   Cincinnati      H   1.45
Michigan State  20-Jan-07   Penn State      A   1.45
Tennessee       15-Feb-06   Auburn          H   1.45

Extreme scoring teams, I salute you. As for the hopefuls trying to join this list in 2019, best of luck. Incredibly, you are all chasing DePaul.

History says one of these 12 teams will win it all

Heelnew

National title? It’s a possibility. (Jeffrey A. Camarati)

Every year since 2004, the eventual national champion has been ranked no lower than No. 12 in that season’s week six AP poll. Naturally, the eventual national champion tends to be highly ranked in any given week, but the week six poll in particular has, over the last 14 years, proven to be better than the rest all the way to Selection Sunday.

This bears mentioning because the 2018-19 week six AP poll was just released today. Here are its top 12 teams:

1.  Kansas
2.  Duke
3.  Tennessee
4.  Gonzaga
5.  Michigan
6.  Virginia
7.  Nevada
8.  Auburn
9.  Michigan State
10. Florida State
11. Texas Tech
12. North Carolina

Coaches love to say that rankings don’t matter, and, strictly speaking, they’re right. Teams don’t win games in the NCAA tournament just because they earned a nice ranking in week six.

Instead, it tends to be the case that AP pollsters have learned a good deal by week six but aren’t yet too caught up in regular-season noise.  Their rankings of eventual champions therefore tend to be a bit more accurate by this point than they are in the preseason.

True, the preseason AP poll carries something of a reputation for being a sagacious big-picture projection uncluttered by short-term static like a loss that just happened. That reputation is not entirely misplaced.  Indeed, since expanding to 25 teams before the 1989-90 season, the preseason AP poll’s been excellent at things like, for example, ranking all four eventual No. 1 seeds.

When it comes to picking the champion, however, there is no AP poll worse than the preseason poll. If you want to find that one special team, it turns out week six is your go-to source.

Average AP ranking of eventual national champion by week, 2004-18

graphinal2

Only the poll released the day after Selection Sunday has, historically speaking, done a better job of identifying the nascent title-winner. Which begs the question, what’s so special about week six?

Start with where these numbers are coming from in the first place. The two national champions playing an outsized role in this statistical week-six supremacy are Florida in 2005-06 and Connecticut in 2010-11. Neither team was ranked in their respective preseasons. By week six in December 2005, however, the Gators were already up to No. 7; the Huskies’ corresponding position at that same point in December 2010 was No. 4.

Meaning early-season ascents by teams that feel like they came out of nowhere form roughly half the story behind this week-six thing. By this point in the season, the AP’s pollsters already have a very good sense of which teams they missed on entirely in the preseason, and the voters have rectified those mistakes.

Still, if that were all there is to picking champions, it would be a later poll that would rate out as the best one. Florida, for example, kept right on going up in the polls after week six in 2005-06, getting all the way to No.  2 by week 10.

Which leads us to the other half of this story. By December, the AP poll, at least at the very top, is driven largely by the intrinsically and admittedly interesting but nevertheless not necessarily enlightening question of which team can stay undefeated the longest.

The quest for the longest perfect season is determined in no small part by the schedule a team has chosen to build for itself. Once we’re talking about schedules played in November and December, we’re a long way from predicting performance in March and April.

So, on the one hand, there are surprise title contenders to be identified in any given season, and, for the most part, those identifications will have been made by early December. On the other hand, there are teams that are about to drop in the rankings after early December because they’re about to lose their first games.

In between these two countervailing tendencies, week six stands like something of a chronological continental divide. Now we know what we didn’t know in the preseason, but we’re not yet completely invested in the perfect-season sweepstakes that are about to begin in earnest.

Pat yourselves on the back, AP pollsters. The rankings you just collectively produced stand an excellent chance of being as good as it get this season, analytically speaking. We’ll check in again with what you have to say after Selection Sunday.

Sweet 16 Day 1 Picking The Lines

This NCAA Tournament has lacked huge upsets and buzzer beaters, but it has been played at a really high level of basketball. In general, the sport is just getting better and better each year as the talent pool grows deeper, but the lack of upsets also played a role in keeping the big boys in more games.

And in the end, the high quality of basketball has just made this a really entertaining product. We don’t need shocking upsets when we can watch powers like Kentucky/Wichita State and Wisconsin/Villanova trading punches at a high level for 40 minutes. And as we head into the penultimate weekend of the season, it’s nothing but high quality of basketball ahead. And hey, who knows, maybe we’ll still get a buzzer beater, too.

Sunday ATS: 3-5-0
2017 Tournament ATS: 25-25-2 (50%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Oregon (+1.5) over Michigan: This is a fair line, as most computer ratings have a healthy Oregon as a slight favorite (Oregon, of course, is missing Chris Boucher). I don’t think the Boucher absence will matter nearly as much as usual against Michigan, however, as the Wolverines are almost exclusively a perimeter shooting team. Oregon’s perimeter defense is not great, but acceptable (7th in the Pac-12 in defensive 3PA/FGA ratio). Michigan has been playing remarkably well for the past couple of weeks, and maybe they will keep it up and Derrick Walton will continue his Kemba Walker impression, but if they don’t then they don’t particularly match up well with Oregon’s weaknesses, and the Ducks are probably the better team.

Gonzaga (-3) over West Virginia: This line is small enough, particularly with the fact that Gonzaga shoots 73% at the free throw line if they need to lock up a game late, that I’d just pick whoever you think is going to win this game. West Virginia is a fantastic team as far as 4 seeds go. That said, Gonzaga is a strong 1 seed, and they have a team that is built to withstand Press Virginia. They have depth, experience, and savvy in a backcourt led by Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, and Josh Perkins, and they have the front court length and talent to protect the defensive glass. This West Virginia team is more capable of scoring efficiently in the half court than other recent vintages of Press Virginia have been, but still not good enough to win a controlled-style game against a team as good as the Zags.

Purdue (+5) over Kansas: I chose Purdue outright in my bracket and I’m going to stick with that pick here. Kansas had an incredible game against Michigan State, though the final score was deceptive as to how big the margin was for most of the 40 minutes. And overall, the Jayhawks came into the NCAA Tournament rated as easily the weakest 1 seed. As a match-up, Purdue’s biggest problem is going to be staying in front of Frank Mason. But Kansas’s front court size is a concern as well, against a Purdue front line that had its way with Iowa State. As good as Josh Jackson is, Caleb Swanigan is better.

Xavier (+7.5) over Arizona: Arizona is the better team, and Xavier’s demolition of Florida State was probably a bit of a fluke, but this is an awfully large Vegas line. Xavier has a ton of length and size, and they will be able to match Arizona body-for-body inside, even if they don’t have a big man quite as skilled as Lauri Markkanen. Offensively, Xavier passes the ball really well, and they have been surprisingly efficient offensively since losing point guard Edmond Sumner. A Xavier win would be an upset, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them play close enough to cover in a defeat.

Bracketology Seed List For Sunday, March 3, 2019

Virginia demolished Pitt on Saturday to remain No. 1 overall.

The four No. 1 seeds are the same as they were on Friday, despite Kentucky’s loss at Tennessee. But once again, the real action is down by the cut line.

Notes:

  • Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses.
  • Arrows indicate movement up or down the seed list (down to the spot on the seed list). This is relative to Friday’s bubble post.
  • New entrants are marked with an asterisk.
  • For at-large candidates only, the numbers in parentheses after the team’s name are as follows: record vs. D1 opposition/record in Group 1 and Group 2 games/record in Group 1 games only. Overall records and NET data reflect games played through Saturday, March 2. I pulled the quality win info from WarrenNolan.com’s selection sheets.

No. 1 Seeds

(↑1) Virginia Cavaliers (ACC) (26-2/14/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Columbus 1
(2) Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC) (29-2/12/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 1
(3) Duke Blue Devils (25-4/14/8) – LOUISVILLE – Columbia 1
(4) Kentucky Wildcats (24-5/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Columbus 2

While the top three teams on the seed list all won on Saturday, Kentucky got blown out in its rematch with Tennessee. Yet the Wildcats still remain on the top line. So what gives? Well, UK’s eight wins over teams in the NET top 25 give them an advantage over both the Vols (who have just three) and UNC (six).

No. 2 Seeds

(5) North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5/14/8) – KANSAS CITY – Columbia 2
(↑6) Tennessee Volunteers (25-3/12/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 1
(↑7) Michigan Wolverines (25-4/16/7) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Des Moines 1
(↓8) Michigan State Spartans (23-6/14/10) – ANAHEIM – Des Moines 2

Tennessee’s win didn’t even get them to the top spot on line No. 2, which still goes to North Carolina, thanks to their quality win total. But the Volunteers do get their favored spot in the South regional as a result of this ranking. Michigan State remains a two despite being swept by Indiana. Seven Quad 1 road wins will have that effect. However, I did put the Spartans behind Michigan, despite their head-to-head win over the Wolverines. John Beilein’s team doesn’t have as many questionable losses as Tom Izzo’s

No. 3 Seeds

(↑9) LSU Tigers (SEC) (24-5/16/9) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tulsa 1
(↑10) Kansas Jayhawks (22-7/15/10) – KANSAS CITY – Tulsa 2
(↑11) Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten) (22-7/15/7) – LOUISVILLE – Jacksonville 2
(↓12) Houston Cougars (American) (27-2/13/4) – ANAHEIM – Salt Lake City 2

But there’s another Big Ten team in the race for a No. 2 seed, at a minimum, and that’s Purdue. The Boilermakers dominated Ohio State Saturday, 86-51, to shake off some recent poor performances. Meanwhile, LSU and Kansas picked up close road wins over Alabama and Oklahoma State, respectively, to move up slightly. Houston, on the other hand, fell to the edge of the three line, as the Cougars dropped their second game of the season—to visiting UCF.

No. 4 Seeds

(13) Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-5/14/5) – LOUISVILLE – San José 1
(14) Marquette Golden Eagles (Big East) (23-5/14/9) – KANSAS CITY – Hartford 1
(15) Virginia Tech Hokies (22-6/10/4) – ANAHEIM – Hartford 2
(↑16) Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12) (22-7/11/6) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – San José 2

The Big 12’s co-leaders find themselves on line No. 4 this morning, as Kansas State replaces Florida State as the final protected seed for the day. The Wildcats knocked Baylor out of the league title race, 66-60, and will next face the TCU team Texas Tech handled in Fort Worth. Marquette will be in action this afternoon against Creighton, while Virginia Tech is idle until a Tuesday trip to Tallahassee. Even with the ‘Noles drop, that one will have an effect on this chase.

No. 5 Seeds

(↓17) Florida State Seminoles (23-6/11/5)
(18) Wisconsin Badgers (20-9/13/8)
(↑19) Maryland Terrapins (21-8/12/6)
(↑20) Villanova Wildcats (22-8/15/4)

Florida State and Wisconsin both survived home games on Saturday, with N.C. State taking the Seminoles down to the wire in Tallahassee and pesky Penn State nearly knocking the Badgers off in Madison. Nevada and Mississippi State drop following road losses to Utah State and Auburn, respectively. Those results significantly boosted the victors’ at-large hopes. Villanova, winners over Butler in Philadelphia, and Maryland, who visits Michigan this afternoon, replace them in the top 20.

No. 6 Seeds

(↓21) Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-8/11/8)
(↑22) Cincinnati Bearcats (25-4/10/4)
(↓23) Nevada Wolf Pack (26-3/8/1)
(↑24) Wofford Terriers (SoCon) (23-4/7/3)

Curiously, Nevada’s loss in Logan pushed Utah State to 30th in the NET, so the Wolf Pack finally have a Quad 1 win on their profile. Still, their protected seed prospects are now gone. I would keep an eye on Cincinnati in that race, as the Bearcats now share the American lead with Houston. The two meet in Cincy next Sunday.

Wofford, which completed a perfect 18-0 SoCon season, rises to the six line partially as a result of their excellence in an improved league and partially because of the many, many failings of others.

No. 7 Seeds

(↑25) Buffalo Bulls (MAC) (25-3/7/2)
(↓26) Iowa State Cyclones (20-9/9/5)
(↓27) Iowa Hawkeyes (21-8/11/4)
(↑28) VCU Rams (A 10) (23-6/6/2)

Iowa and Iowa State are two of the more perplexing teams in the country and both illustrated why on Saturday. The Hawkeyes got blown out by Rutgers at home, 86-72, in the first of two games head coach Fran McCaffery will miss due to the suspension he earned after his actions post-Ohio State. As for the Cyclones, they helped 13-loss Texas’ at-large case, as the Longhorns drubbed them, 86-69, in Austin.

Atlantic 10 co-champ (at a minimum) VCU rises to line No. 7 after a close win over archrival Richmond, as it wasn’t a great day for the teams around them.

No. 8 Seeds

(↓29) Baylor Bears (19-10/12/4)
(↑30) Auburn Tigers (19-9/11/2)
(↓31) Ole Miss Rebels (19-10/7/4)
(↑32) Syracuse Orange (19-10/8/3)

Auburn’s win over Mississippi State shored up the Tigers’ profile, even if it still features only two Quad 1 wins. As for Ole Miss, a one-point loss at Arkansas wasn’t too damaging. Syracuse jumps up from line nine after dominating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem—the Orange will be able to virtually lock up a bid with a win over Virginia at the Carrier Dome on Monday.

No. 9 Seeds

(↓33) Washington Huskies (Pac-12) (22-6/7/2)
(↑34) Louisville Cardinals (18-11/8/4)
(↑35) Oklahoma Sooners (18-11/9/3)
(↑36) UCF Knights (22-6/7/1)

UCF’s win in Houston seriously boosted the Knights’ fortunes, and losses by Florida and Ohio State resulted in Johnny Dawkins’ team earning a nice seeding boost. Oklahoma, meanwhile, took care of West Virginia, 92-80, to earn a slight improvement in its seeding.

No. 10 Seeds

(↑37) Utah State Aggies (MW) (23-6/4/2)
(↑38) Texas Longhorns (16-13/9/5)
(↓39) Ohio State Buckeyes (18-11/8/4)
(↓40) St. John’s Red Storm (20-9/10/6)

No. 11 Seeds

(↓41) Florida Gators (17-12/8/3)
(↑42) N.C. State Wolfpack (20-9/7/2)
(↓43) TCU Horned Frogs (18-11/7/2)
(↑44) Belmont Bruins (OVC) (24-4/5/2)

With its win over Nevada, Utah State moved a half-game up on the Wolf Pack in the Mountain West race as a result. So, the Aggies are not only in today’s field, they’re in as the league leader. Texas earned a little breathing room by defeating Iowa State, but both Florida and Ohio State tumbled after losses. The Gators’ home defeat to Georgia was particularly costly as it was their second that falls under Quad 3. At least the Buckeyes fell to a protected seed, even if it was in blowout fashion.

Saturday’s only winner on the 11 line was Belmont, who wrapped up the top seed in the OVC Tournament with an 84-66 win at Southeast Missouri State. The Bruins will have to win just to games in Evansville to win the conference’s automatic bid, but neither potential semifinal opponent Austin Peay or possible final foes Murray State and Jacksonville State (who beat Rick Byrd’s team twice) will make things easy.

No. 12 Seeds

(45) Lipscomb Bisons (ASUN) (21-6/3/2)
(↓46) Arizona State Sun Devils (19-9/9/3)
(47 – First Four) Minnesota Golden Gophers (18-11/9/2)
(↑48 – First Four) Clemson Tigers (17-12/5/1)
(*49 – First Four) Temple Owls (20-8/6/1)
(↓50 – First Four) Alabama Crimson Tide (17-12/8/2)

Clemson remains despite an 81-79 home loss to UNC that the Tigers might very well regret on Selection Sunday. Temple jumps in, but will drop out again (maybe for good) if they lose to Tulane at home today. Alabama, the last team in, also missed a golden opportunity when LSU escaped Tuscaloosa with a win.

First Four Out (NIT No. 1 Seeds)

(↓69) Seton Hall Pirates (16-12/10/4)
(↑70) Georgetown Hoyas (18-11/9/3)
(↑71) Indiana Hoosiers (15-14/7/6)
(↑72) Xavier Musketeers (16-13/9/3)

Next Four Out

(↑73) Furman Paladins (21-6/4/1)
(↑74) Oregon Ducks (17-12/4/1)
(↑75) Murray State Racers (23-4/1/0)
(↑76) Liberty Flames (22-6/2/1)

Seton Hall drops out following a double OT loss to Georgetown. While the Hoyas are knocking on the door, their NET ranking of 72nd could give the Committee. Arizona State is currently the lowest-ranked at-large by that metric, at 69th. However, the Sun Devils have two top 25 non-conference wins, while the Hoyas’ best non-league result came against 62nd-ranked Liberty. The Flames are among this octet, but they will likely need to make their conference final at a minimum to earn a bid, and it’s a similar story for Furman and Murray State.

Indiana is back from the dead, thanks to a completed sweep of Michigan State. The Hoosiers may have 14 losses, but they also have five wins over NET top 25 teams. And since quality wins seem to matter to the Committee more than anything else, here they are. Again, keep an eye on Oregon, which visits Washington next week to close out Pac-12 play. The Ducks will still likely need to win the Pac-12 Tournament, but they’re still very much in the at-large picture thanks to earlier wins over Syracuse and Arizona State.

The Memphis Tigers (18-12/3/1), Dayton Flyers (19-10/3/1), and Saint Mary’s Gaels (20-11/3/1) drop out of the picture thanks to their respective losses to Cincinnati, Rhode Island Rams, and Gonzaga.

No. 13 Seeds

(51) New Mexico State Aggies (WAC)
(↑52) Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA)
(↑53) Vermont Catamounts (America East)
(↑54) Hofstra Pride (CAA)

No. 14 Seeds

(↑55) UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West)
(56) South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit)
(*57) Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
(↑58) Montana Grizzlies (Big Sky)

No. 15 Seeds

(*59) Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt)
(60) Loyola Chicago Ramblers (MVC)
(↑61) Wright State Raiders (Horizon)
(↑62) Colgate Raiders (Patriot)

No. 16 Seeds

(↑63) Sam Houston State Bearkats (Southland)
(*64) Campbell Fighting Camels (Big South)
(↑65 – First Four) Iona Gaels (MAAC)
(↓66 – First Four) Prairie View A&M Panthers (SWAC)
(↓67 – First Four) Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC)
(↓68 – First Four) St. Francis (Pa.) Red Flash (NEC)

Of the final 18 teams in the field, New Mexico State, Old Dominion, Vermont, Hofstra, UC Irvine, South Dakota State, Loyola Chicago, Wright State, Colgate, Sam Houston State, Campbell, and St. Francis (Pa.) have all secured the top seeds in their conference tournaments.

Conference Ranking With Seeds

Note: Auto bid holders are denoted by asterisks.

ACC (9): 1. Virginia*, 1. Duke, 2. North Carolina, 4. Virginia Tech, 5. Florida State, 8. Syracuse, 9. Louisville, 11. N.C. State, 12. Clemson (First Four)
Big 12 (8): 3. Kansas, 4. Texas Tech, 4. Kansas State*, 7. Iowa State, 8. Baylor, 9. Oklahoma, 10. Texas, 11. TCU
Big Ten (8): 2. Michigan, 2. Michigan State, 3. Purdue*, 5. Wisconsin, 5. Maryland, 7. Iowa, 10. Ohio State, 12. Minnesota
SEC (8): 1. Kentucky, 2. Tennessee, 3. LSU*, 6. Mississippi State, 8. Auburn, 8. Ole Miss, 11. Florida, 12. Alabama (First Four)
American Athletic (4): 3. Houston*, 6. Cincinnati, 9. UCF, 12. Temple (First Four)
Big East (3): 4. Marquette*, 5. Villanova, 10. St. John’s
MW (2): 6. Nevada, 10. Utah State*
Pac-12 (2): 9. Washington*, 12. Arizona State (First Four)

Auto Bid Selection Procedures

If a team has already clinched the top seed in its conference tournament, it will be the league rep here until eliminated in said event. For every other league, I’m still using each conference’s tiebreaker procedures to determine auto bid holders.

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Sweet 16 Day 2 Picking The Lines

It’s going to take some time to process just what Kansas is doing this NCAA Tournament. They are scoring an ungodly 1.34 PPP over three games after scoring just 1.13 PPP in Big 12 play. Their best offensive efficiency in Big 12 play this season was 1.27 PPP while their worst offensive efficiency in the NCAA Tournament this far has been 1.28 PPP.

Before you say “momentum”, if teams could carry “momentum” from game to game then this hot streak wouldn’t have even happened, since Kansas had actually slid to a season-worst 10th in the Pomeroy ratings at the end of the regular season. This hot streak is unsustainable long term, of course, but there is no more “long term”. As we saw with Villanova last season, it’s not that unprecedented for a team to get really hot for six straight games. If Kansas keeps scoring like they’ve been scoring the last three games, they’re going to be almost impossible for anybody to beat.

Let’s get to today’s games:

Yesterday ATS: 2-1-1
2017 Tournament ATS: 27-26-3 (51%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Butler (+7.5) over North Carolina: North Carolina is the better team, but this is an awfully big spread considering how good Butler is. Rating systems like Sagarin and Pomeroy have the true line closer to 4 points. North Carolina likes to get easy baskets off of offensive rebounds and in transition, yet Butler is strong both on the defensive glass and with transition defense. I expect this game to be slower paced than North Carolina likes it, and for this game to be decided in the final minute.

Baylor (-3.5) over South Carolina: So do we really believe that South Carolina is suddenly as good as they’ve looked the last two games? Because it came out of nowhere, with them having gone 3-6 down the stretch of the season. Sindarius Thornwell is obviously a fantastic player, but South Carolina’s offense as a whole is really ugly (1.00 PPP in SEC play). As strong as their defense is, their one weakness is on the defensive glass, where they were just 9th in SEC play. Baylor led the Big 12 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. And so even if both teams struggle to find open shots, I expect Baylor’s advantage in easy put-back baskets to be the difference here.

Kentucky (+1) over UCLA: With two blue chip programs, two teams playing at blur-fast tempos, and two squads with elite offenses, this is going to be the premier game of the night for television ratings. I like Kentucky here for two reasons, besides the fact that their defense is a lot better. The first is that Kentucky has always had a strong perimeter defense under John Calipari and this year is no different – they will be able to run UCLA’s shooters off the three-point line better than most. Second of all, UCLA is the significantly weaker rebounding team. So to me, the only way UCLA wins is if they shoot significantly better from outside. 

Wisconsin (+1.5) over Florida: In contrast to the Kentucky/UCLA game it will be up against on television, expect a slow-tempo, defensive battle. Wisconsin led the Big Ten in defensive efficiency while Florida’s defense was rated by Pomeroy as the 3rd best in the entire nation. I do think that Wisconsin has two advantages in this game. First of all, Florida’s defense is best at preventing three-pointers, yet Wisconsin’s offense tends to work inside-out and is not particularly dependent on outside shots. Second, Florida has struggled with defensive rebounding since losing John Egbunu, and Wisconsin is very strong on the offensive glass. Wisconsin is vulnerable to teams that can put them in foul trouble, but Florida just doesn’t draw a lot of fouls, and they were just 9th in the SEC in offensive FTRate. In my opinion, Wisconsin is the slight favorite to win this game outright.

02/06: MSU, Marquette and KU all take different kinds of bad losses; love for Tennessee, shouts to mid-majors

Parrish and Norlander take a diverse tour through college hoops, touching on a bunch of teams they normally don’t get a chance to chat about. It starts with Michigan State’s loss against Illinois, then onto St. John’s beating Marquette (7:30) before touching on K-State leading the Big 12 (15:45) thanks to its convincing win over Kansas. From there, a tour around college hoops (22:40), including Syracuse, Duke, Utah State, Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago and Tennessee, which is still sort of underappreciated. The guys close (37:15) with love for the Wofford-East Tennessee State game on Thursday, and talk mid-major NCAA Tournament chances in general. This episode is brought to you by ZipRecruiter.com. 

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02/07: Kansas loses another player, Arizona loses another assistant, and it's a beautifully loaded weekend

The latest episode of your favorite college hoops pod starts with Kansas announcing Lagerald Vick is out indefinitely due to a personal matter. From there, Norlander and Parrish preview Duke-Virginia (8:45), talk Nevada and Gonzaga (13:45), preview Villanova-Marquette (21:30), get to Wisconsin-Michigan (30:00) and then take a breezy tour of Saturday’s schedule (35:00), including making note of the poor Pac-12. Then, it’s some talk about the NET (44:00) in advance of the CBS top-16 bracket reveal on Saturday, a look at Sunday’s Houston-Cincinnati game (48:00) and the pod wraps by asking the question: Will Sean Miller be the coach at Arizona at the start of next season (53:30)?

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Wisconsin and Duke Fans Have No Problem Filling Seats In Kentucky’s Absence of NCAA Championship Game

The final game of the 2015 NCAA Tournament has been set.  The Wisconsin Badgers were able to fend off the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats and earn their spot in the final. A young Duke team led by Coach Mike Krzyzewski pounded Michigan State in order to punch their ticket to the finals as well.  The two teams are set to play on Monday, April 6th at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.  This game will be a rematch of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge game that took place earlier in the season.  Duke was able to edge the Badgers by 10 points, but that was with a hobbled Sam Dekker, who was slowed by an ankle injury and only had five points in the contest.

Frank Kaminsky was named the Naismith Player of the Year in the wake of their win over undefeated Kentucky last week.  But for the Blue Devils, the massive center may not even be the biggest threat they have to prepare for.  Dekker has been shooting the lights out for Wisconsin all tournament long and has hit multiple clutch shots as time winds down.  The junior from Sheboygan, WI has put up some massive numbers in the tournament, considering that he averaged 13 points per game before the tournament.  Dekker scored 27 in the Elite Eight against Arizona and another 23 against North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen.  Matching up with Kaminsky and Dekker will be a huge challenge for the Blue Devils, who have shown a few weaknesses defensively this season.

This young Duke team is going to have its hands full with the veteran lineup from Wisconsin.  The Blue Devils do have the advantage of being coached by Coach K, who is appearing in his ninth title game.  If anyone can handle figuring out how to shut down two of the hottest scorers in the nation, it would be him.  In their massive win over Michigan State, Duke was able to penetrate the Spartans defense and get to the line, scoring 27 points from the line in that game.  However, Wisconsin gives up the least fouls against them in the country, meaning it will be difficult to replicate that same result.  The key for Duke will be to get their phenomenal freshman, Jahlil Okafor, scoring.  Okafor has been a monster down low this season and averaged 17 points per game from the center position.  Many believe that he will be the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.  This game will be a matchup of the two best college basketball players going to head to head for the title.

Hipmunk.com will help any college basketball fan get to the action, with thousands of flights to and from Indianapolis. After your team wins, celebrate without worrying about rushing home as Hipmunk offers hotels near Lucas Oil Stadium from $89.

As always with games of this magnitude, a lot is on the line for all coaches, players and programs. According to TiqIQ.com, the average ticket price to the NCAA Championship Game is $613.86 with a walk-in price of $126. The belief that ticket prices would plummet with Kentucky’s elimination have been wiped away, as ticket prices have only had a small, marginal drop since Saturday night.

Elite 8 Day 1 Picking The Lines

Just as we all expected, the game of the night was Wisconsin/Florida rather than Kentucky/UCLA.

Of course, the media narrative on Kentucky/UCLA is all wrong:

The reality is that Kentucky allowed 1.15 PPP last night while allowing 1.17 PPP back on December 3rd. The difference was that there were 83 possessions on December 3rd compared to just 65 possessions last night. What Kentucky did was grind that game down to a halt, figuring that a half court game would benefit them more than UCLA, and it worked out.

To be fair, I’m not that sure we can expect long-time major television college basketball analysts to know the difference between what good defense and slow tempo looks like. But, sure, “the eye test” is a reliable metric, you guys.

Interestingly enough, this had been easily the highest tempo team that John Calipari has coached at Kentucky. Not only was 65 possessions the third slowest game that UCLA had played this season, but it was also the 3rd slowest game that Kentucky had played this season.

Yesterday ATS 2-2-0
2017 Tournament ATS: 29-28-3 (51%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Gonzaga (-8) over Xavier: This spread seems large, yet Sagarin has it at 9 points and Pomeroy has it as 10. And, of course, Xavier’s games with Edmond Sumner are still inflating their rating. Xavier has looked great so far this NCAA Tournament, of course, but they’ve also benefited from some outside shooting luck. What about the match-ups? Xavier certainly has the size to match Gonzaga defensively, but I worry about their ability to score. A big reason they’ve been able to score efficiently without Sumner has been their ability to get easy baskets off of offensive rebounds and in and around the paint, but Gonzaga’s length and defensive tenacity forces opponents further away from the basket. Xavier is only a 34.9% three-point shooting team.

Oregon (+6.5) over Kansas: Kansas has played out of their minds for their three NCAA Tournament games, including probably their best performance of the entire season in the Sweet 16 against Purdue. Is it worth it to believe that they have radically improved over the last two weeks? Probably not. In the end, I don’t think either of these defenses really matches up particularly well with the opposing offenses. Both teams shoot well from beyond the arc and neither defends the perimeter particularly well. Even without Chris Boucher, Oregon’s interior defense is still fairly strong, and Kansas’s lack of a true post scorer could limit them in the paint. The reason I’m picking Oregon here is because I like their chances of grinding this into a low-scoring game, and keeping it close late.