Articles By David Fox

Path: /college-basketball/weekly-tipoff-can-kansas-win-title-injured-joel-embiid

One of the nation’s best freshmen with a bright future and national title contending team received season-altering news this week when center Joel Embiid sustained a stress fracture in his back.

At first, Embiid was held out of the last two games of the regular season as a precautionary measure, but the news worsened when it was announced he’d be held out of the Big 12 Tournament and the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

The news could impact Embiid’s NBA Draft hopes, where he was a contender for the No. 1 spot, in addition to Kansas’ national championship hopes. With Selection Sunday a little more than a week away, our editorial staff ponders the latter.

Will Joel Embiid’s back injury prevent Kansas from contending for the national championship?

David Fox: An absence by Embiid won’t prevent Kansas from getting to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, which is when the seven-foot big man is set to return. The Jayhawks likely will be a No. 2 seed, and barring a bad matchup in the round of 32, KU is good enough to get to the Sweet 16 riding Andrew Wiggins. If Embiid can’t return or is limited — certainly possible given the nature of back injuries — Kansas might not be able to make it to the Final Four. Embiid averaged 11.5 points in Big 12 play, but his impact was more on the defensive end. He accounts for 40 percent of Kansas’ blocked shots when the next best contributor accounts for 16 percent. And he makes up 20 percent of Kansas’ rebounds, though Wiggins claims a better share of offensive rebounds. Simply put, Embiid is too big a piece and one with a dangerous skill set to not be a critical absence.

Braden Gall: My Kansas prediction for the first game — should it be a 2-15, 3-14 or 4-13 matchup — won't be affected at all by Joel Embiid's absence. In fact, I can almost guarantee that I am going to have the Jayhawks reaching the second weekend and the Sweet 16 regardless of matchups. But from there on, all bets are off if Embiid doesn't play or isn't at full strength. A championship run is incredibly fragile as it takes not only a great collection of talent and coaching but also some luck to win The Big Dance. And while Kansas has loads of depth and quality front court talent to pick up where Embiid left off (Perry Ellis, Tariq Black), this is a totally different team without an Olajuwonian presence in the lane. Could Kansas play their way to North Texas and the Final Four without their star freshman center? Possibly. Do I consider this team (sans Embiid) capable of winning six straight games in the tourney? I'll say no.

Mitch Light: Depends on our definition of contender. Without Embiid, Kansas is still in a group of about 10-12 teams that can win a national championship. But I don't believe the Jayhawks can be considered a favorite to win the title — or each the Final Four without the freshman big man in the lineup. This team still has plenty of talent, but Embiid is such an important piece to the puzzle in every facet of the game. He is known for his defense and rebounding, but he also has proven to be a skilled offensive player who can deliver team 10-14 points per game. If he is not able to play, there will be more pressure on KU's three other double-figure scores — Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden.  

Nathan Rush: Of course Kansas is still a national championship contender without 7-foot freshman phenom Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks have a 21–7 record with Embiid and a 2–1 mark without him. And the Embiid-less loss at West Virginia came on the same day that KU's "other" freshman, Andrew Wiggins, poured in a Kansas freshman record 41 points (although, don't forget Wilt Chamberlain played JV as a frosh, which was the style in 1955). Coach Bill Self's team still has all the pieces in place to cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium (the architecture formerly known as Cowboys Stadium). Kansas has a legitimate superstar in Wiggins, solid guard play from Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason, wing scoring from Wayne Selden Jr. and plenty of size down low with Perry Ellis (6-8, 225), Jamari Traylor (6-8, 220) and Tarik Black (6-9, 260). No one should cry for KU heading into March Madness; they should fear the chant "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk."

Weekly Tipoff: Can Kansas win a title with an injured Joel Embiid?
Post date: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/bubble-teams-most-gain-conference-tournaments

The NCAA selection committee likes to remind us that a team’s entire body of work is being judged on Selection Sunday.

Why, then, does it seem that last impressions matter every season?

The conference tournaments give every team another chance to prove why they’re worthy of an NCAA Tournament slot or show why they were on the bubble in the first place.

Roughly 10 spots in the field may be up for grabs as the major conference tournaments begin Wednesday and Thursday. With 17 teams in play for those spots, these games could make all the difference.

The spotlight primarly will be on the Big East and SEC where the most teams could play their way in or out of the field, but those aren't the only leagues with bubble teams in critical spots.

On the Spot Thursday

Pittsburgh vs. Wake Forest
The Panthers have lost two of their last five games to Florida State and NC State and needed overtime to beat Notre Dame and Clemson. That’s not the issue as much as a paltry non-conference schedule. The Panthers’ schedule strength ranks 74th nationally, contributing to an RPI rank of 45 despite 23 wins. Both Notre Dame and Wake Forest are outside of the RPI top 100. Losing to either could be the end of Pitt.

SMU vs. Houston
SMU didn’t challenge itself in the non-conference schedule, so the Mustangs may sweat a bit even thought they defeated UConn twice and Cincinnati and Memphis in the conference schedule. After the No. 5 seed in the tournament the American has no other RPI top 100 teams, so a loss to Houston would qualify as a bad one. SMU has already lost to two such teams in the bottom half of the AAC in Temple and USF.

Dayton vs. George Mason
The Flyers have defeated Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and A-10 regular season champion Saint Louis. Avoiding a bad loss in the first game of the league tournament may be all Dayton, 9-6 against the top 100, needs to seal a bid.

Kansas State vs. Iowa State
Here’s the good news: Kansas State has seven RPI top 50 wins. Here’s the bad news: They’re all at home. K-State is 0-6 against the top 60 outside of Manhattan. The wins may be enough to get the Wildcats into the field, but a win over Iowa State in the Big 12 quarterfinals would help Bruce Weber sleep easier.

St. John’s vs. Providence
This traditional Big East matchup sets up the first tournament in the league’s new alignment. It’s an important game, too, as a potential elimination game for both teams, but certainly for St. John’s. The RPIs just outside the top 50 and schedule strength are similar, but St. John’s has fewer top 50 wins (one) than Providence (two) and more bad losses (again, 2-1). St. John’s will be playing on its homecourt at Madison Square Garden.

Xavier vs. Marquette
A pair of double overtime heartbreakers against Providence and St. John’s ended Marquette’s hope to climb onto the bubble. Xavier may have the third-best NCAA profile in the Big East after Villanova and Creighton, but the Musketeers have too many losses (Seton Hall twice, USC) to think they can lose to Marquette and still feel safe in the field.

Minnesota vs. Penn State
All three of Minnesota’s big wins this season (Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa) have taken place in Minneapolis, so the Gophers’ goals will be two-pronged. First, beat Penn State again after crushing the Nittany Lions 81-63 in the regular season finale and then defeat the Badgers in the quarterfinals for a top 50 neutral site win. Defeating Penn State is a must. In the event of a loss to Wisconsin loss Friday, Minnesota will have to hope its seventh-ranked strength of schedule will hold up.

Arizona State vs. Stanford
The Sun Devils are yet another team that has a few good wins, but all of them at home. Arizona State is probably pretty safe given that one of those home wins is over Arizona, but beating Stanford on a neutral floor would be a nice final touch.

Arkansas vs. South Carolina
Arkansas flopped in a major way with an 83-58 loss to Alabama in the last day of the regular season. With an RPI of 60 and schedule strength of 80, the Razorbacks have all their hopes pinned on the sweep of Kentucky. Probably not a great idea to follow that Alabama loss with another defeat to Auburn or South Carolina, both ranked outside of the RPI 150.

Missouri vs. Texas A&M
If the 72-45 loss to Tennessee on Saturday wasn’t an eliminator for Missouri, a loss to Texas A&M certainly would be. Missouri may need to upset Florida in the semifinals to get back into the field. Good luck, Mizzou.

On the Spot on Friday

Tennessee vs. South Carolina/Arkansas
Beyond Florida, no team in the SEC has been hotter to close the season than Tennessee. The Volunteers may be safe after the rout of Missouri, but a potential quarterfinal matchup with Arkansas should have both teams under pressure.

St. Joseph’s vs. Dayton/Fordham
The best case for St. Joe’s, who received a bye to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, could be to face Dayton. A win for the Hawks would be the third this season over a fellow bubble team in the Flyers. A home loss to La Salle in the regular season finale — a fourth loss outside of the top 50 for St. Joe’s — put pressure on the Hawks to win an A-10 Tournament game.

Nebraska vs. Ohio State/Purdue
The Cornhuskers may have done enough with a win over Wisconsin in the regular season finale to seal an NCAA bid. Nebraska has three top 50 wins (Ohio State, at Michigan State) and three losses outside of the top 100 (at Penn State, at Purdue, UAB). A loss to Purdue — which faces Ohio State in the first round — would be the worst-case scenario for Nebraska.

Bubble Teams with the Most to Gain in the Conference Tournaments
Post date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/10-teams-surging-march-madness

A good rule of thumb for anyone filling out bracket is to ask one simple question: How many consecutive games against good teams can this team win right now?

Nearly every team in the field will have proven at some point in the year, even if it was in the conference tournaments, can win four or five games in a row.

Of course, we know teams like Wichita State and Florida can reel off wins better than any other team in the country. Here, we are highlighting some of the teams that are just now starting to show their true potential.

These are the teams heading into the postseason with the most momentum. Not all won their regular season finales, but these teams have shown since at least February that they can string together wins over quality teams.

10 Teams Surging into March Madness

After starting the season with an impressive performance in the Maui Invitational defeating Gonzaga and taking Baylor to the wire, Dayton slumped to start conference play. Led by Sean Miller’s younger brother Archie, Dayton finished Atlantic 10 play with nine wins in 10 games. Recent wins over UMass and Saint Louis, both in the RPI top 20, likely have pushed the Flyers into the field barring an A-10 Tournament upset.

The Cardinals capped the regular season with an 81-48 rout over Connecticut in one of Louisville’s best defensive performances of the season. Louisville has allowed only one opponent in the last nine games (Memphis on March 1) to average better than a point per possession, including a 0.71 points per possession against UConn. Montrezl Harrell, who had an out-of-nowhere performance in the Big East Tournament last year, has averaged 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last five games.

The celebration in Lincoln was only the culmination of the Cornhuskers’ turnaround since mid-January. Nebraska started 0-4 in the league, and it looked like the projected last-place finish could come to fruition. Instead, Nebraska finished the season on an 11-3 run. Nebraska has caught teams at the right time, defeating slumping Ohio State and Michigan State for two of the the Huskers’ best wins. But Sunday’s 77-68 win over Wisconsin was as convincing as any.

North Carolina
The Tar Heels might not be as concerned about Saturday’s 93-81 loss at Duke as they should be about three close calls against NC State, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Few teams could have won in Cameron on Saturday. North Carolina, though, should handle the Wolfpack, Hokies and Irish. Still, this is a North Carolina team that reeled off 12 consecutive wins after an inauspicious start to the season.

Oklahoma State
The Cowboys lost in overtime to Iowa State on Saturday, but it’s clear the Pokes are playing their best basketball since at least January. If anything, the three-game suspension seemed to re-focus Marcus Smart, who started the year as a player of the year candidate. He’s been improved as a facilitator (6.4 assists per game since his return), and at least against Iowa State, his 3-point selection was more reliable.

Back in early February, Oregon lost a pair of heart breakers to the Arizona schools to start 3-8 in the Pac-12. Since then, Oregon regrouped to win the final seven games of the regular season, including relatively comfortable wins over Arizona State (by 7) and Arizona (also by 7). Mike Moser is averaging 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds during the win streak, but the move to return sophomore Johnathan Loyd to the starting lineup also revitalized the Ducks.

With no room for error late in the season, the Volunteers responded with a near-perfect finish, defeating Vanderbilt, Auburn and Missouri by a combined 93 points. The final game was the most important as Missouri is also fighting for an NCAA bid. The Volunteers still have an iffy resume with losses to Texas A&M (twice), Vanderbilt, NC State and UTEP, but they are in the top 30 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.

The Wildcats are in the mix for the final No. 1 seed assuming Arizona, Florida and Wichita State are the other three. Villanova may need to defeat Creighton in the Big East Tournament to pick up a few believers. At least since the last loss to the Bluejays, the Wildcats have won six in a row. Villanova allowed only one team (Providence in double overtime) to score more than 70 since Creighton put up 101 points.

The Cavaliers lost 75-69 in overtime to Maryland to halt a 13-game winning  streak, but it might not be a major point of concern. The Cavs, who had already clinched the ACC regular season title, lost in the final Maryland home game of the ACC era for the Terrapins. Better to pay closer attention to the team that led the ACC in adjusted defensive efficiency and finished second in the offensive end.

We’re not making too much of Wisconsin’s loss to finish the season, either. Against a Nebraska team that needed a win Sunday, Wisconsin lost 77-68 in front of a raucous crowd in Lincoln. After a 1-5 skid in Big Ten play, Wisconsin recovered to win eight in a row, including wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa.

10 Teams Surging into March Madness
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/10-teams-stumbling-march-madness

As of today, the next two losses will be any team's last losses of the season.

With conference tournaments starting this week, no team can afford any kind of cold streak.

The following teams, though, need to hit the reset button in the worst way. These 10 teams have slumped late in February and into the early part of March.

Teams like Iowa, Michigan State and Kentucky were all considered potential Final Four contenders, but doubt has surfaced in recent weeks. And teams like Missouri and Pittsburgh are perhaps a loss away from going to the NIT.

As the major conference tournaments start this week, these are the 10 teams in most desperate need if immediate answers.

10 Teams Stumbling into March Madness

The Hawkeyes aren’t in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but they are in danger of early exits in the postseason. Iowa has lost five of the last six games with losses to Big Ten also-rans Indiana and Illinois. The culprit has been an inept performance in the defensive end of the court. Since Feb. 1, iowa has allowed 78.2 points per game and 1.11 points per possession, both the worst in the Big Ten.

Slumps are all relative. Kansas’ 1-2 finish to the season is evidence of that. The Jayhawks had already clinched the Big 12 title by the time they lost to Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Andrew Wiggins showed he’s in postseason form with 41 points against the Mountaineers. Here’s what has to be a concern, though: Joel Embiid will be out until at least the Sweet 16 with back troubles.

John Calipari wants his team to rediscover the confidence it had a few weeks ago. That must happen between now and the first game in Atlanta. During the 1-3 skid to end the season, which included losses to South Carolina and Arkansas, Kentucky has averaged only 92 points per 100 possession, fourth-worst in the SEC in that span.

Michigan State
Point guard Keith Appling’s wrist may be the determining factor if Michigan State can make a run at the Final Four. Tom Izzo has backed off on his playing time, but even when he’s in the game Appling has struggled to shoot because of the injury. A season full of injuries for the Spartans' roster has contributed to a 5-7 slide since Michigan State started 18-1.

The Tigers may have played themselves out of NCAA at-large contention with three losses in the last five games, including losses to two teams outside of the top 50 (Alabama and Georgia) and a drubbing to fellow bubble team Tennessee.

Perhaps this wasn’t a slump as much as it was an indication that the early record (16-1 on Jan. 14) was the product of an unimpressive stadium. Pittsburgh’s seeding hopes were going to take a hit with only one top 50 win, but the Panthers have landed on the bubble thanks to home losses in the last three weeks to Florida State and NC State.

Saint Louis
The Billikens started 25-2 with their only losses to Wisconsin and Wichita State before hitting a three-game skid late in the Atlantic 10 season. A Duquesne win at home was the real shocker as the Dukes hit 8 of 15 3-point shots on Saint Louis’ home court. The Billikens then lost 17 turnovers against VCU and lost a 10-point second half lead against Dayton. A season-ending win against UMass on a late layup by Jordair Jett may be good for the psyche, but Saint Louis still struggles to put up points at times.

The outlook would have been even more bleak had Stanford lost to Utah on Saturday. The Cardinal pulled out the 61-60 to avoid a four-game losing streak to end the season. Stanford nearly blew and 11-point lead in the second half against Utah and gave up a lead earlier in the week to Colorado. Not a good trend for a team fighting for an NCAA berth.

Good for Texas that postseason games aren’t played on the road. The Longhorns lost their final five road games, including Saturday’s 59-53 loss to Texas Tech. The postseason isn’t played in Austin, either, and Texas opens the Big 12 Tournament against a West Virginia team that just defeated Kansas.

In classic “this is why you’re on the bubble fashion,”  Xavier followed up a win over Creighton with a loss to Seton Hall and then another loss to Big East leader Villanova. The Musketeers will open the Big East Tournament without starting center Matt Stainbrook (knee) against a capable Marquette team.

10 Teams Stumbling into March Madness
Post date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/dummies-guide-march-madness-2014

For any fan just getting into college basketball in time for championship week and office pools: What took you so long?

You have some catching up to do. By waiting until the final weeks, you’ve missed a historic season. Certainly, every season is historic for one reason or another, so maybe this season will be among the most memorable even before the NCAA Tournament.

Just think of the seasons 2013-14 resembles. Wichita State is the first 34-0 team since 1991 when Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV team went undefeated before losing in the Final Four to Duke. But perhaps the Shockers’ run has been more reminiscent as the last undefeated run by a Missouri Valley Conference team.

The Shockers, who reached the Final Four last season, don’t have anyone close to a Larry Bird type, but they are the best team out of the Missouri Valley since the Sycamores met Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the 1979 championship game.

Speaking of historic names, Creighton’s Doug McDermott has passed many of them on his march to 3,000 career points. Among them: Danny Manning, Tyler Hansbrough, Larry Bird, Bill Bradley, Stephen Curry, Wayman Tisdale and David Robinson. By the time he’s through, he’ll be only the third player to be a three-time consensus first-team All-American.

Or maybe another touchstone for this season is 2006-07, one of the most intriguing seasons for freshmen during the one-and-done era. That year, Texas’ Kevin Durant and Ohio State’s Greg Oden were the subject of a season-long debate of who should go No. 1 in the Draft while leading two of the nation’s best teams.

This season, it’s Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid playing a part in a similar storyline.

So if you’re just jumping into the season this week, that’s OK. Given what we’ve seen so far, you haven’t seen the endgame to Wichita State’s season, McDermott’s college career or the freshmen’s career trajectory.

You may need to catch up a bit, but that’s what you’ll learn here.

Wichita State is the story of the NCAA Tournament
No matter what happens in the Tournament, Wichita State has done something truly special. The Shockers’ next win for 35-0 will be a record, passing UNLV’s 34-0 start in 1990-91. Most impressive for Gregg Marshall’s team, the Shockers have rarely lost focus. Nearly every team that puts together a lengthy unbeaten stretch to start the season loses focus or buckles under the pressure of challenging 1976 Indiana, the last undefeated team in the sport. Oddly enough, Wichita State has been a divisive team among hardcore fans at large. The schedule, they argue, diminishes the accomplishment. At this point, forget what kind of ranking Wichita State deserved and didn’t deserve and enjoy watching a team making a bid for history.

Doug McDermott is capping a fantastic career
McDermott will leave Creighton with one of the greatest careers in college basketball history. He became the sport’s eighth 3,000-point scorer, passing Oscar Robertson and Danny Manning down the stretch of his senior season. More than just a scorer, he’ll be in an elite group of players with 2,750 points and 1,000 rebounds along with Robertson, Manning, Larry Bird, Tyler Hansbrough and Hank Gathers. More than just an accumulator of statistics, he joins Patrick Ewing and Wayman Tisdale as the only three-time first-team consensus All-Americans. And he’s done all this while stepping up in conference affiliation from the Missouri Valley to the Big East and while playing for his father. All that’s missing is a trip to the Sweet 16.

The Year of the Freshman has played out in fascinating ways
This season promised the best freshman class since 2007, at least considering that not all of them were concentrated on a single John Calipari team at Kentucky (more on that later). Duke’s Jabari Parker delivered as an All-American and a potential No. 1 overall pick. So did Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, even if he had an uneven season overshadowed by another freshman on his own team. That freshman, Joel Embiid, has a ceiling that’s been compared to Hakeem Olajuwon. Arizona’s Aaron Gordon has been a defensive stalwart on a team with national championship aspirations. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis has been magical in late-game situations.

Kentucky’s one and done may be their NCAA Tournament hopes
See anyone missing from the list of great freshmen this season? How about the majority of the nation’s best signing class, one that included six McDonald’s All-Americans. Julius Randle deserves to have his name listed with Parker, Wiggins, Ennis and others, but the rest of this class in Lexington has been a disappointment. A team loaded with potential draft prospects lost five games in a weak SEC this season. Kentucky is the first preseason No. 1 team to fall to No. 25 in the polls since Indiana went unranked in 1979-80. Suddenly, the Wildcats will be known for the wrong kind of one and done.

Louisville has a chance to repeat
The Cardinals are seeking to become the second program to repeat since 1992, joining Florida in 2006-07. The Cardinals may not be one of the national championship favorites, but they have a better chance to repeat than many of the recent defending champions. Being in the field in the top half of the bracket is more than former champs at Kentucky, Connecticut and North Carolina can say. The Cardinals return Russ Smith and last year’s NCAA Tournament most outstanding player Luke Hancock. This team isn’t perfect, but it is among the national leaders in offensive and defensive efficiency.

North Carolina has gone from the most confusing team to the hottest team
The Tar Heels opened the season with one of the most bizarre resumes of any team in college basketball. They defeated preseason top four teams Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky but lost to Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest and Miami. Now, North Carolina is simply good. The Tar Heels reeled off 12 consecutive ACC wins, their longest conference win streak since 1986-87. If Carolina can win 12 in a row in the ACC, how many can the Heels win in March?

Syracuse started 25-0 but might not make it out of the first weekend
The Orange started 25-0, but they don’t look anything like a team that’s going to reach the Final Four, or even the Sweet 16. Syracuse had a flair for the dramatic near the end of its win streak, defeating Duke in an overtime classic, taking out Pittsburgh with a deep 3 from Tyler Ennis, and beating NC State by 1 thanks to a late steal. Since then, Syracuse lost teams you won’t even find in the NIT — Boston College and Georgia Tech.

Billy Donovan is building a Hall of Fame career
The Gators have their best teams since Joakim Noah and Al Horford led the Florida to back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. Donovan may not be thinking much further than the Elite Eight, where his team has stalled the last three years, but his team is capable of putting the coach in elite company. Only five coaches have won three or more national titles — John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Adolph Rupp, Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight. Donovan may already be a Hall of Famer. This Tournament could erase any doubt.

Virginia had its best season since Ralph Sampson
For all the fascinating stories in the ACC this season, none may have been more unlikely than Virginia’s first outright conference title since 1981 when the legendary Ralph Sampson was still on campus. The Cavaliers may have benefitted from an unbalanced schedule, but they enter the postseason on a hot streak fueled by a stifling defense.

The Pac-12 has a real national championship favorite
The Pac-12 might not be back to being a conference on par with the Big Ten or ACC, but the league does have a national champion for the first time since UCLA reached the Final Four three times in a row from 2006-08. Arizona has a veteran core led by Nick Johnson and Duquesne transfer point guard T.J. McConnell to go with one of the major freshmen of the season in Aaron Gordon. Sean Miller has reached the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight in his last four NCAA Tournament trips at Arizona and Xavier. This may be the season he reaches his first Final Four.

The Dummies' Guide to March Madness 2014
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 15:00
Path: /college-basketball/nc-states-tj-warren-earns-national-player-week-honors

NC State isn’t where it wants to be this season, but at least with T.J. Warren, the Wolfpack are appointment viewing.

The sophomore showed why NC State could be considered a sleeper in the ACC Tournament with a pair of 40-point games this week.

Warren scored 41 points in a 74-67 road upset of Pittsburgh on Monday and then added 42 in a 78-68 against Boston College on Sunday to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

Against Boston College, Warren added 13 rebounds, including four in the offensive end.

“Here is the most important thing about T.J. that I’ve learned having coached: He wants to win,” NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. “And you know, in his mind he’s not being selfish when he feels like he’s the best option.”

Warren’s hot streak to finish the season enabled the Wolfpack to pull to 9-9 in the ACC and one victory away from a 20-win season.

Athlon Sports National Weekly Awards

National Player of the Week: T.J. Warren, NC State
Warren joined the legendary David Thompson as the only two players in NC State history to score 40 points in back-to-back games. Warren shot 30 of 45 from the field and 20 of 24 from the free throw line for the week.

National Freshman of the Week: Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker, a virtual lock to earn first-team All-America honors as a freshman, scored a career-high 30 points and added 11 rebounds to help Duke avenge a loss to North Carolina with a 93–81 win over the Tar Heels Saturday night in Durham. Parker became the fourth Duke freshman to score at least 30 points in a game, joining J.J. Redick (34 and 30), Kyrie Irving (31) and Johnny Dawkins (31).

Under-the-radar player of the Week: Corey Walden, Eastern Kentucky
Walden poured in a career-high 29 points — 22 in the second half — to lead Eastern Kentucky to a 79–73 win over No. 1 seed Belmont in the championship game of the OVC Tournament in Nashville. Walden, a junior guard, averaged 23.3 points in the Colonels’ three OVC Tournament wins. EKU will be making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007.

Other notable performances of the week:

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
VanVleet scored 22 points and had five rebounds and five assists to lead Wichita State to an 83–69 win over Indiana State in the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The Shockers, 34–0, will be the first team since UNLV in 1991 to enter the NCAA Tournament without a loss.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
His team lost the game — 92–86 at West Virginia — but Wiggins was spectacular in the final regular-season game of his freshman season. The 6­-8 forward scored 41 points (the most ever by a KU freshman), grabbed eight rebounds and added five steals and four blocks. Wiggins is expected to be a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Juwan Staten, West Virginia
Staten was one of three Mountaineers to top the 20-point mark — joining forward Devin Williams and fellow guard Eron Harris — as West Virginia handed Big 12 champ Kansas a surprising 92–86 loss. Staten, a junior point guard, scored 24 points (14 from the foul line) and handed out nine assists to lead WVU to its ninth Big 12 win of the season.

Kenny Chery, Baylor
Chery scored 29 points to lead Baylor to a résumé-building win at Kansas State on Saturday. The senior point guard hit 8-of-13 from the field and 13-of-14 from the foul line and also contributed six rebounds, six steals and three steals to help the Bears improve to 9–9 in the Big 12.

Russ Smith, Louisville
Smith showed his versatility in the final two games of the regular season. On Wednesday, the senior guard scored 26 points (and hit all six of his 3-point attempts) to lead Louisville to a come-from-behind win at SMU. Then, on Sunday, he only scored three points but handed out a career-high 13 assists as the Cardinals pounded UConn 81–48 on Senior Night at the KFC Yum! Center.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Kane scored 27 points to help Iowa State overcome a 16-point deficit  in Ames on Saturday. The senior guard, a transfer from Marshall, also had eight rebounds and eight assists in the Cyclones’ 85–81 overtime win against Oklahoma State.

Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh
Patterson tied his career high with 30 points to help Pittsburgh escape Clemson with an 83–78 win in the school’s final regular-season game of its first year in the ACC. The Panthers trailed by five points in the closing seconds of regulation but rallied to tie the score on a Patterson 3-pointer with thee seconds remaining and a Josh Newkirk jump shot (after a Clemson turnover) at the buzzer.

Eric Moreland, Oregon State
Moreland stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 19 rebounds, four steals and three blocks to lead Oregon State to a 78–76 win over NCAA Tournament-bound Arizona State. The Beavers finished the regular season 8–10 and — barring a surprising run to the Pac-12 Tournament title — will miss the NCAA Tournament for the 24th consecutive season.

Doug McDermott, Creighton
Playing the final home game of his record-breaking career, McDermott scored a career-high 45 points to lead Creighton to an 88–73 win over Providence on Senior Night in Omaha. McDermott, the overwhelming favorite to earn National Player of the Year honors, became the eighth player in Division I history to hit the 3,000-point mark.

Deonte Burton, Nevada
Burton was spectacular last week, leading Nevada to wins at Boise State and vs. in-state rival UNLV. The athletic 6-1 guard scored 24 points and had 11 assists and eight rebounds while playing all 50 minutes in a double-overtime win over Boise State and then chipped in 24 points, 11 assists and eight boards in Saturday’s upset over UNLV.

Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Two days after scoring 34 points in an emotional Senior Night win over Memphis, Kilpatrick led UC with 24 points in a win over Rutgers on the road. The Bearcats finished in a tie with Louisville atop the American Athletic Conference standings and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament.

N.C. State's T.J. Warren earns National Player of the Week honors
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 13:23
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-recap-15-things-know

Whether the achievements were fully expected, almost routine, or a true surprise, college basketball gave us some of the best of the sport during the weekend.

Even though Doug McDermott hit a career milestone, Wichita State continued its unbeaten streak or Florida joined an elite class, there was cause for celebration on the final day of the regular season.

The milestone in Lincoln wasn’t quite as expected as the others, but just as momentous as Nebraska all but clinched an NCAA Tournament bid with a win over Wisconsin.

All this, with a week left before Selection Sunday

College Basketball Weekend Recap: 15 Things to Know

1. Doug McDermott scored his 3,000th point
Milestone performances don’t come in many more perfect packages than what Doug McDermott delivered Saturday night. The Creighton forward became the eighth member the 3,000-point club with a 3-point shot in the second half of a win over Providence, but that was only part of the career night by McDermott. In his final home game in Omaha, McDermott scored a career-high 45 points. In a game Warren Buffett would love — the Oracle of Omaha himself was in attendance — McDermott was economical in his career day, finishing 17 of 25 from the field and 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He’s the first 3,000-point scorer since 2006 and one of the rare players to put up these kinds of numbers while playing for a nationally prominent program.

The 3,000-point club includes:

Top Scorers in College Basketball History
PlayerLast YearTotal Points
1. Pete Maravich, LSU19703,667
2. Freeman Williams, Portland State19783,249
3. Lionel Simmons, La Salle  19903,217
4. Alphonso Ford, Mississippi Valley19933,165
5. Harry Kelly, Texas Southern19833,066
6. Keydren Clark, Saint Peter’s20063,058
7. Doug McDermott, Creighton20143,011
8. Hersey Hawkins, Bradley  19883,008

2. Wichita State matched UNLV’s 34-0
History continued for Wichita State, and again it looked routine. Indiana State threatened at times, but the Sycamores led a minute into the game and never again. Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament with an 83-69 win over Indiana State to seal a 34-0 record and likely a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The 34-0 start ties 1990-91 UNLV for the best start in college basketball history. Wichita State will likely break the record with its 35th win in the NCAA Tournament unless the Shockers become the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. A notable number of the MVC final, Wichita State beat Indiana State — the No. 2 team in the league — three times by a combined margin of 41 points.

3. Florida made history
No matter how weak the SEC is this season, Florida’s accomplishment of reaching 18-0 stands as a historic feat. The Gators trounced Kentucky 84-65 to become the first 18-0 team in league history. The schedule expanded to 18 games when SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri, but no team accomplished the feat when the league slate featured 18 games from 1967-91. Running the table in a classic power conference is a rare feat, accomplished only seven times since the 1985. In that span, no Big Ten team has gone undefeated in league play. Ditto for the Big East or Pac-12. Naturally, the achievement is a precursor to NCAA Tournament success.

Undefeated in a power conference since 1985
TeamNCAA TournamentCoach
2014 Florida (18-0 SEC)--Billy Donovan
2012 Kentucky (16-0 SEC)National championJohn Calipari
2003 Kentucky (16-0 SEC)Elite EightTubby Smith
2002 Kansas (16-0 Big 12)National runner upRoy Williams
1999 Duke (16-0 ACC)National runner upMike Krzyzewski
1996 Kentucky (16-0 SEC)National championRick Pitino
1987 North Carolina (14-0 ACC)Elite EightDean Smith

4. Jabari Parker is going to be a force in the postseason
Duke avenged its collapse against North Carolina earlier in the season with a 93-81 win over the Tar Heels. The story, though, may be Jabari Parker. The freshman is playing perhaps his best basketball of the season with 30 points (10 of 17 shooting) and 11 rebounds against the Tar Heels. Parker has had a double-double in six consecutive games, averaging 18.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in that span.

5a. Oregon has snapped out of its funk
The Ducks have been clawing their way out of a 3-8 start in the Pac-12 for some time, but this week signaled Oregon will be a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon defeated Arizona State in a key game to get off the bubble before a major statement in a 64-57 win over Arizona. Dana Altman returned Johnathan Loyd to the starting lineup on Feb. 16, and the Ducks haven’t lost since. Loyd had 16 points against Arizona.

5b. Arizona’s offensive deficiencies will be worth watching
Arizona may be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament because of its stifling defense. It certainly won’t be because of its offense. Arizona shot 2 of 11 from 3-point range against one of the weakest defensive teams in the conference, and the Wildcats continued to struggle from the free throw line (11 of 19). That’s going to be a concern as the Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament.

6. Andrew Wiggins’ career day means there’s little reason to worry about Kansas
On paper, maybe Kansas fans should be worried about the Jayhawks. They lost two out of their last three including Saturday’s 95-86 win over West Virginia. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Kansas had already locked up the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and played again without Joel Embiid, whose ailing back is being saved for the postseason. Most encouraging for KU was the performance of Andrew Wiggins. The freshman scored more in  a game than any other rookie this season with 41 points against the Mountaineers. More than just prolific, Wiggins was sharp as he shot 12 of 18 from the field and 15 of 19 from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks.

7. Nebraska’s going to the NCAA Tournament
The Cornhuskers still have to wait to Selection Sunday to be certain, but the Lincoln crowd celebrated as if they won the Big Ten Tournament. Closing the regular season on an 11-3 run after starting 0-4, Nebraska picked up its third RPI top 30 win by defeating Wisconsin 77-68. Second-year coach Tim Miles led one of the true surprises of the season as the Huskers were picked 12th in the league, including by Athlon. Nebraska will open the Big Ten Tournament on a bye as the No. 4 seed.

8a. Louisville was ridiculous Saturday
Few performances were more dominant than Louisville’s 81-45 win over Connecticut on Saturday. The Huskies helped with some ill-advised shots from Shabazz Napier, but they still finished shooting 29.4 percent from the field and 3 of 22 from 3-point range. The Cardinals were just as dominant as the defensive end as they had 20 assists — led by Russ Smith’s 13 on Senior Day — on 26 field goals. Montrezl Harrell has been on a hot streak with 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last five games.

8b. The top seed in the American was decided on a coin flip
Seriously. The series of tiebreakers between Cincinnati and Louisville, tied in the league standings and 1-1 against each other, ended up in a coin flip conducted after Louisville’s win over UConn. Cincinnati won.

9. Baylor is one of the nation’s hottest teams
The end-of-game dramatics, thanks to a poor out-of-bounds play again, made Baylor’s 76-74 win more interesting than it should have been. Even so, tip your cap to the way Baylor recovered this season. Not long ago, the Bears were 2-8 in the Big 12 and in danger of slipping into the NIT for the second consecutive season. Now, the Bears go into the Big 12 Tournament at 9-9 in the league. Baylor punctuated the win over Kansas State, the Wildcats’ first loss in Manhattan since the opener, with 17 consecutive free throws.

10. Oklahoma State showed why a team should foul while leading by 3
The Cowboys missed a chance to close out the season with another impressive win when they lost 85-81 at Iowa State. Oklahoma State led 71-68 in the final seconds when Naz Long pulled up for a long 3-pointer with one second remaining. Oklahoma State didn’t foul and went into overtime. The odds in the extra frame were somewhat evened with Marcus Smart fouled out for Oklahoma State and Melvin Ejim fouled out for Iowa State (Georges Niang followed later). The loss spoiled an otherwise impressive performance for an Oklahoma State team that will be the most dangerous team at whatever seed the Pokes get.

11. Tennessee tried to erase any doubt
The Volunteers have been a bubble team all season, helped by an early season win over Virginia but harmed by a season sweep to Texas A&M. If Tennessee played like it did in the last three games, the Volunteers wouldn’t be on the bubble at all. The Volunteers defeated Missouri 72-45 to defeat the Tigers, Vanderbilt and Auburn by a combined 95 points. Tennessee might need to win its SEC Tournament opener for an NCAA bid, but it’s tough to pick against a Volunteers team on this kind of hot streak.

12. Three teams suddenly have work to do in the conference tournaments
Tennessee’s rout of Missouri puts the Tigers into a deeper hole, but Frank Haith’s team wasn’t alone in falling apart in its final regular season game. Arkansas, which looked like a lock by virtue of a sweep of Kentucky, lost 83-58 to an Alabama team with a losing record. Elsewhere, Pittsburgh lost 83-78 in overtime to Clemson to fall to 11-7 in the SEC. An early loss in the league tournament for any of those teams could cost them a bid.

13. San Diego State goes to 1-3-1, beats New Mexico
Few things are more intriguing as when a major coaching adjustment pays off. Steve Fisher showed why he’s a national coach of the year contender by switching to a 1-3-1 defense to take Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk out of the  game. San Diego State trailed by 16 as New Mexico’s big men took control before the Aztecs adjusted. San Diego State won 51-48 to clinch the Mountain West regular season title.

14. Syracuse and Saint Louis showed signs of life
Syracuse defeated Florida State 74-58 on the road to end a 1-4 streak which included losses to also-rans Boston College and Georgia Tech. Elsewhere, Jordair Jett’s layup in the final 3 seconds gave Saint Louis a 64-62 win over UMass, ending a three-game losing streak.

15. Five teams clinched automatic bids
The first five automatic bids were clinched over the weekend with Wichita State, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and Mercer all winning conference tournaments. Harvard won the Ivy League regular season title.

College Basketball Weekend Recap: 15 Things to Know
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-nebraska-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch

Fifteen Senior Nights have come and gone in Lincoln without a group of veterans continuing their seasons in the NCAA Tournament.

That could change Sunday against Wisconsin.

The Cornhuskers have been one of the surprise teams in the country, assured of a winning record in the Big Ten. The next hurdle could be their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.

Here’s how Nebraska arrived on the bubble and how the Huskers could further their case Sunday and into the conference tournaments.

By the numbers
Record: 18-11, 10-7 Big Ten
RPI: 50
Strength of schedule: 36
KenPom: 50
Best win: Michigan State on the road
Worst loss: UAB on a neutral court

How Nebraska could be in the Tournament: The Huskers add to their top 50 win total
Nebraska stunned Ohio State 68-62 on Jan. 20, which turned out to the the turning point of the season. The win over the Buckeyes was the first top 50 win of the season for the Cornhuskers, which includes a 60-51 win at Michigan State on Feb. 16. The Huskers are 3-7 overall against the RPI top 50, but a win over Wisconsin would be their first against a team in the top 20

How Nebraska could be left out: The Huskers can't escape three bad losses
The Cornhuskers have three losses from which they’d like to hide from: at Purdue, at Penn State and against UAB in the Charleston Classic. Three losses to teams outside of the top 100 isn’t an eliminator — Kentucky and North Carolina have the same — but it’s not a good look.

Nebraska needs to: Beat Wisconsin
The Cornhuskers could be playing with house money in the Big Ten Tournament if they defeat Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers, though, have won eight in a row since a 1-5 stretch in January.

Nebraska can’t afford to: Fall out of the No. 4 seed and lose in the Big Ten Tournament
The No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament brings a first-round bye, but the Cornhuskers could slip to a No. 5 or No. 6 with a loss to Wisconsin combined with wins by Ohio State and/or Iowa. Falling out of the top four seeds would draw either Purdue or Northwestern in the first round. A loss to one of those teams could be devastating.

Insight from the beat: Brian Rosenthal, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star
“The fact Nebraska is even in consideration for an NCAA Tournament bid is a sign of the incredible coaching job by Tim Miles. In only his second season in Lincoln, Miles has taken a team picked to finish last in the Big Ten Conference and put it on the brink of ending its NCAA Tournament drought, which dates to 1998. Nebraska began the season 0-4 in Big Ten play, including a 31-point loss at Ohio State, but has since gone 10-3 to rise to fourth place in the Big Ten standings. The emergence of sophomore transfer Terran Petteway, the Big Ten’s leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, and a defense that’s held eight straight foes to less than 38 percent shooting have been key. The Huskers have also established a decisive home-court advantage at their new home, sold-out Pinnacle Bank Arena, where they’re 14-1. The lone loss came to league champion Michigan by one point.”

Profiling Nebraska: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-bubble-watch-and-teams-spot

By the end of the weekend, at least three automatic bids will be sealed with championship games in the Missouri Valley, Ohio Valley and Atlantic Sun.

Elsewhere, at-large teams are trying to make their final statements before their own conference tournaments. This includes a key bubble game in the SEC, a Kentucky team looking for respect, teams like Oklahoma State and Nebraska putting the final touches on their regular season resumes and teams like Stanford and Pittsburgh trying to hang on.

The week will feature a number of key matchups, but these are the teams that are under the most pressure Saturday and Sunday.

Teams on the Spot this Weekend

The Wildcats stumbled through a 55-48 home win over Alabama on Tuesday. At this rate, that has to count for something. Kentucky will try to salvage what’s already one of the most disappointing seasons for a preseason No. 1 team in decades. Did anyone expect John Calipari to be staring down his 12th SEC loss in two seasons?

Related: Kentucky at Florida Preview

St. John’s
The Red Storm are hanging by a thread to an at-large bid and will need to beat Marquette on the road to set up a chance to make an impression in the Big East Tournament. Marquette may have missed its own opportunity when Davante Gardner’s desperation heave at the end of regulation against Providence was a fraction of second too late. Marquette lost 81-80 in double overtime.

Oklahoma State
A win over Kansas last week did wonders for Oklahoma State’s NCAA Tournament hopes. A win on the road over Iowa State, even one that lost back-to-back games to Kansas State and Baylor, could signal the Cowboys could be a dangerous team in the Tournament.

A three-game losing streak has dropped the Cardinal to 9-8 in the Pac-12 and fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid. A feisty Utah team is probably the last opponent Stanford wants to see in a must-win situation. The Utes took Arizona to overtime and then reeled off three wins over potential NCAA teams Arizona State, Colorado and Cal. Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins may be coaching for his job.

Missouri and Tennessee
If there’s a fourth SEC team heading to the NCAA Tournament, it may be the winner of this game. The home team in this case has all the momentum. Tennessee played like a team with little room for error in blowouts of Vanderbilt (by 38 points) and Auburn (by 28).

Related: Tennessee’s Bubble Profile

The Panthers don’t want to invite the NCAA selection committee to look at their resume. As it is, Pittsburgh may be on the bubble after allowing 41 points to T.J. Warren in a 74-67 loss to NC State on Monday. The Panthers don’t have a win against a team assured of a spot in the NCAA field.

Providence was the beneficiary of some — sorry for this — providence in the win over Marquette. The Friars have played six overtime games this season, half of them settled in double OT. A season sweep of Creighton after Providence won the first meeting 81-68 at home may seal a bid for the Friars.

The Hawkeyes are fading fast, primarily because they can’t find a defense to match the offense. Iowa lost 86-76 to Michigan State on Thursday for its fourth loss in five games and third game in the last four giving up more than 80. A home date against Illinois is a chance to regroup ... or sound further alarms.

New Mexico
San Diego State has been the more highly regarded team all year, but New Mexico could win the regular season title in the Mountain West with a win on the road. New Mexico won the first meeting at The Pit 58-44.

Saint Louis
The Billikens’ 25-2 start has been spoiled with three consecutive losses. Saint Louis was one of the best defensive teams in the country until Feb. 27, allowing at least a point per possession in each game and an average of 70 points per game to Duquesne, VCU and Dayton.

Ohio State
The Buckeyes need home cooking in the worst way after road losses to Penn State and Indiana. Ohio State has hit 70 points just once (at home against Northwestern) since Feb. 4.

In a season with three top 50 wins, none would be better than Wisconsin. The Badgers are chasing a No. 1 seed, but Nebraska is looking to seal its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1998.

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: None

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (6)
Feeling good: Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: Dayton, George Washington, St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (3)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Nebraska
Bubble out: Indiana, Minnesota

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (6)
Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Bubble out: Stanford

SEC (4)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Arkansas, Tennessee
Bubble out: LSU, Missouri

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Irvine
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Davidson
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament

NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Teams on the Spot
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 12:56
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-north-carolina-seeks-sweep-vs-duke

The ACC Tournament starts next week, and the league seems to have fewer questions than ever at the top.

Will Syracuse pull out of its scoring slump in time? Should we believe in Virginia to make a run? Can North Carolina be trusted in a bracket? And what is the ceiling for Duke?

The latter two questions may be answered in some form or another Saturday night in the regular season finale for Duke and North Carolina.

In the first meeting, Duke squandered a second half lead to lose 74-66 to the Tar Heels. At the time, North Carolina was playing some of its most consistent basketball of the season, and while the Tar Heels haven’t lost since Jan. 20, they haven’t been the most sharp team in recent games.

What’s on the line for North Carolina:
The Tar Heels are looking to secure their first season sweep of Duke since 2007 and end the regular season on a 13-game winning streak. A win over Duke and a strong showing in the ACC Tournament could signal a team ready to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.

What’s on the line for Duke:
The Blue Devils are trying to stay in the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Duke ranks eighth in the RPI and has only four top 50 wins this season, which is fewer than fellow No. 1 seed contenders Kansas and Wisconsin. A win over North Carolina and an ACC Tournament championship may be tough to ignore.

North Carolina at Duke
Saturday, 9 p.m. Eastern, ESPN

About North Carolina
Record: 23-7, 13-4 ACC
AP: 14
RPI: 20
KenPom: 23
Sagarin: 24

About Duke
Record: 23-7, 12-5 ACC
AP: 4
RPI: 8
KenPom: 8
Sagarin: 6

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: North Carolina 63-61
Braden Gall: Duke 70-60
Mitch Light: Duke 77-70
You’ll tune in to watch: If North Carolina can stay hot
The Tar Heels have gone from a being mystery team early in the season to of the hottest teams in the country. The 12 consecutive ACC wins is the most for the North Carolina in ACC play since 1986-87. The stretch hasn’t been entirely dominant with ugly wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Carolina will need to play at a higher level to end the regular season on a 13-game win streak.

Pivotal player: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Perhaps most interesting about North Carolina’s hot streak is that Paige hasn’t been hitting shots. Earlier in the season, North Carolina had little chance if Paige had an off night. In his last two games, though, he’s 5 of 15 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range, yet Carolina won both.

Biggest question: What is the status of Mike Krzyzewski?
This has been a trying season for Krzyzewski, whose older brother died unexpectedly in December. Krzyzewski then suffered dizziness and lightheadedness that brought him to a knee during Wednesday’s win over Wake Forest. Krzyzewski coached the remainder of the game from the bench but did not speak during postgame interviews. Reports indicated he returned to practice Thursday.

College Basketball Game Preview: North Carolina seeks sweep vs. Duke
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 11:21
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-florida-seeks-record-season-vs-kentucky

Billy Donovan doesn’t want his team to get too caught up in the past. Meanwhile, John Calipari wants his team to spend plenty of time thinking about the past.

As Florida chases perfection in the SEC, Donovan doesn’t want his team to dwell on the record — what he says is simply a reflection of what’s already been done.

“Up to this point we’ve done a good job, but you don’t want to lose your identity as a team,” Donovan said. “You don’t want to get enamored with a record.”

At the same time, Calipari wants his team to try to rediscover what it had in mid-February. At that point, his team defeated Missouri, Ole Miss twice and played one of their best games of the season in a loss to Florida.

At that time, Calipari’s team held its head high. Losing to Arkansas and South Carolina changed that.

“How do we get our defensive confidence, defensive confidence,” Calipari said. “We just had it 10 days ago. How did that change? What did we do different?”

Whatever the answer to that question, Kentucky needs to find it before the finale in Gainesville.

What’s on the line for Kentucky:
Respectability. The Wildcats have long since lost their chance at the SEC title, and it may take more than a win in Gainesville to drastically improve their seed in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Kentucky needs to show some signs of life. The Wildcats last three weeks have not been pretty: An overtime win over LSU, an overtime loss to Arkansas and an embarrassing defeat against South Carolina in which John Calipari was ejected. Will the Wildcats show any signs they can salvage this year as they enter the postseason?

What’s on the line for Florida:
The 18-0 milestone. The Gators could clinch the SEC regular season title by six games, and a No. 1 seed may be a given. What’s on the line for Florida is the first 18-0 conference record in SEC history. Granted, the SEC has had an 18-game season for only two seasons. But this would be the first undefeated SEC season in school history and only the second in the league since 2002-03.

Kentucky at Florida
Saturday, noon Eastern, CBS

About Kentucky
Record: 22-8, 12-5 SEC
AP: 25
RPI: 17
KenPom: 22
Sagarin: 19

About Florida
Record: 28-2, 17-0 SEC
AP: 1
RPI: 3
KenPom: 3
Sagarin: 5

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Florida 72-58
Braden Gall: Florida 70-60
Mitch Light: Florida 68-54
You’ll tune in to watch: A Florida team rounding into national championship form
It’s hard to remember the time early this season when the Gators’ roster was in flux. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin was suspended to start the season. So was Dorian Finney-Smith. Backup point guard Kasey Hill was hurt at times. Now, the Gators are as balanced as ever with Michael Frazier II, Dorian Finney-Smith, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and Casey Prather taking their turns leading Florida in scoring in the last six games. Meanwhile, Florida has held opponents to fewer than one point for possession in the last three games.

Pivotal player: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
If Kentucky is going to have any chance to upset Florida, the Wildcats are going to have to crack the Florida defensive pressure. The Gators hold opponents to a 0.71 assist-to-turnover ratio, second to Arkansas in the SEC. Point guard has been an issue all season for Kentucky with Harrison, who averages 1.4 assists per turnover.

Biggest question: Can Kentucky find its shot?
It’s easy for opponents to gang up on Julius Randle when Kentucky can’t make a shot — or takes bad ones — from outside. The Wildcats are shooting 34.4 percent from the floor in the last three games and 15 of 65 from 3-point range. The slump has been team wide with James Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Alex Poythress all struggling from the field.

College Basketball Game Preview: Florida seeks record season vs. Kentucky
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 11:08
Path: /college-basketball/fatal-flaws-could-sink-13-title-contenders-ncaa-tournament

First off, congratulations to all the teams on the following list. Each of the 13 teams on the list below looks like a team that could win the national title.

Now that we're finished with the formalities, Athlon Sports is going pick out each team’s biggest weakness.

No team in college basketball is perfect, not even the one sitting in Kansas with the perfect record. In a one-game elimination scenario just one opponent needs to exploit one soft spot to end a top team’s national championship bid.

For teams like Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Kansas, Duke and more, these are the things that might doom a title bid. These are the fatal flaws.

Fatal flaw: Free throw shooting

At one point, Arizona’s biggest weakness looked like it might be the absence of 6-8 forward Brandon Ashley. After a couple of stumbles, the Wildcats are back to their early season form even without Ashley in the post. One of the Wildcats’ major flaws instead is free throw shooting. Arizona converts only 66.2 percent of free throws, which puts the Cats just inside the top 300 nationally.

Fatal flaw: Game-altering defense

Opponents facing Creighton will admit that Doug McDermott is going to get his 25 points or more. And Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat will snap out of their 3-point shooting slump sooner or later. The issue for Creighton is what it’s been every season of the Doug McDermott era: Defensive play. While the Bluejays may be the best offensive team in the country, they’re outside of the top 100 in defensive efficiency. Their block rate, steal rate and defensive turnover rate are among the worst in the Big East.

Fatal flaw: Lack of a big body

Duke has two of the most versatile 6-8 forwards in the country in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. What those two can’t do, though, is defend around the rim. Duke is a far better defensive team than it was early in the season, but the Blue Devils could run into trouble against a team with a good post presence. Seven-footer Marshall Plumlee, though, is gaining more and more playing time to give Duke some size to go with the 6-9 Amile Jefferson.

Fatal flaw: Who is the go-to scorer?

What a problem Billy Donovan has: His team is almost too balanced. The top five scorers average between 14.5 and 9.3 points per game. Scottie Wilbekin is the Gators’ most important player, but Casey Prather, Michael Frazier or even Dorian Finney-Smith may end up taking the last shot.

Fatal flaw: Inexperience

Few teams have grown up more than Kansas from the non-conference season to the conference tournaments. With five new starters, three of which are freshmen, Kansas had room to grow. In the Jayhawks’ three Big 12 losses, freshman Andrew Wiggins struggled from the floor, particularly from long range. If that occurs in the later rounds of the Tournament, Kansas could be upset. However, this team still won the Big 12 regular season title and may be a No. 1 seed. Experience might be overrated.

Fatal flaw: No Gorgui Dieng

Montrezl Harrell has had a fine season, contributing in unexpected ways in the offensive end. Harrell went 11 of 17 from the field against Memphis, including a rare 3-pointer. After the 6-8 Harrell, though, there’s a major drop off tot he next two big men in the 6-9 Stephan Van Treese and the 6-10 Mangok Mathiang. The absence of Dieng on defense was a major question to start the season and remains that way.

Fatal flaw: Defense around the basket

This is where Michigan will miss Mitch McGary, one of the key cogs to the trip to the championship game last season. Michigan may be a better offensive team that it was a year ago, especially after Caris LeVert has given the Wolverines an additional weapon. But can Michigan defend well enough around the basket for a run in the Tournament? Big Ten opponents shoot 52 percent from 2-point range against the Wolverines.

Michigan State
Fatal flaw: The team we’ve seen is the team we’re going to get

The line on Michigan State all season has been that as soon as the Spartans get healthy, this team can challenge for a title. An intact roster hasn’t happened yet. Even as Branden Dawson returned, point guard Keith Appling’s ailing wrist remained an ongoing concern. Meanwhile, Gary Harris has shown signs of a player who has been asked to carry the team for weeks. There’s a likelihood not everyone will be healthy and rested for the Tournament run, and the team Michigan State has had in the last month will be the one that goes to the postseason.

Fatal flaw: Frontcourt depth

With Jerami Grant injured and DaJuan Coleman already out for the season, Syracuse against Georgia Tech had to go with a lineup starting Tyler Robinson, a freshman who had played 130 minutes all season. Unless Rakeem Christmas gets going, Syracuse  doesn’t have a reliable scorer in the post. And without depth, foul trouble or another injury could hit this team hard.

Fatal flaw: Size in the frontcourt

The easiest answer for Villanova’s fatal flaw is “Creighton,” a team that drilled the Wildcats for two of their three losses this season. The other answer for Villanova’s most glaring weakness is the lack of a big body in the frontcourt. Villanova has big guards — James Bell and Darrun Hilliard are both 6-6, Josh Hart is 6-5. But the only regular taller than 6-7 is Daniel Ochefu, a 6-11 forward who averages 21.3 minutes per game.

Fatal flaw: Tempo

Teams that run at a slower pace often run into trouble in the NCAA Tournament, and the Cavaliers rank 342nd in adjusted tempo according to KenPom. The Cavaliers are still able to score in spurts, but a team that rarely tops 70 points could have a ceiling in the Tournament.

Wichita State
Fatal flaw: 3-point shooting

Oddly enough, the same thing that propelled Wichita State to last year’s Final Four may hold Wichita State back in a bid to repeat. The Shockers hit 14 of 28 3-pointers to upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the round of 32 last year. Now, long-range shooting may be one of Wichita State’s few weaknesses. The Shockers shoot 33.7 percent from 3.

Fatal flaw: Defense

The instinct is to say the Badgers’ style of play and limited offense could cause them to stall in the NCAA Tournament as they have in years past. That wouldn’t be entirely accurate. Wisconsin plays a bit faster than it used to, and it has more weapons in the offensive end than it has in some time. Meanwhile, though, Wisconsin’s defense has been ordinary by Bo Ryan standards, ranking 42nd in defensive efficiency. Wisconsin struggles to get turnovers, and its perimeter defense has been suspect at times this season.

Fatal flaws that could sink 13 title contenders in the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/notable-names-will-be-snubbed-college-football-hall-fame

If AJ McCarron ends up in the College Football Hall of Fame, the credit won’t go entirely to his two national championships and 36 career wins.

Instead, the former Alabama quarterback can thank the Walter Camp Foundation. That organization voted him its first-team All-America quarterback during his senior year, thus making him eligible for the Hall of Fame.

(Remember, this makes McCarron eligible, but does not guarantee he'll be on the ballot or voted into the Hall. The late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas is in his fourth year on the ballot for one of the more egregious snubs in recent years.)

That’s just one illustration of the rules that govern eligibility for the college hall. A player must be voted a first-team All-American by one of the major services to simply be eligible.

Seriously, the Hall puts it in all caps:


In most modern cases, this is first-team recognition by the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the American Football Coaches Association, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Sporting News. And this makes sense. To be in the Hall of Fame, at least one service should deem a player to be the best at his position in one season, right?

But there’s only one spot for a quarterback as a first-team All-American, and McCarron’s time coinciding with Heisman winners Robert Griffin, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston has made the first team tough to crack.

Coaches have their own requirements: 10 years and 100 games as a head coach with a .600 win percentage. Sure, a Hall of Fame coach should probably win better than 60 percent of his games, but not if he cut his teeth, and eventually won, at tough jobs.

These rules are — putting it kindly — problematic. Here's who would not be eligible for the Hall of Fame:

Howard Schnellenberger
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Win percentage
Why he should be in: In his 277-game career, Schnellenberger gets penalized for taking over hopeless college jobs at Miami and Louisville, plus building Florida Atlantic from the ground up. That makes him the architect of three programs. He led Miami to its first national title in 1983 and Louisville to the Fiesta Bowl in 1990. All that time at tough jobs causes him to fall short of the win percentage requirement (51.4 percent). Even if Schnellenberger retired in 1994 before a 5-5-1 season at Oklahoma and a 41-56 run at fledgling FAU, he still would fall short of the 60-percent mark (56.2 percent at Miami and Louisville).

Reggie Bush
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: “Citizenship”
Why he should be in: The Hall of Fame doesn’t forbid players who received NCAA sanctions to be enshrined, but it does say a player’s “post-football record as a citizen is also weighed.” On the field, Bush would be an easy pick for the Hall of Fame, but it may be tough for a player who had to return his Heisman to crack the College Football Hall of Fame.

Pete Carroll
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Too few seasons
Why he should be in: The criteria states a head coach must work for a minimum of 10 years. Carroll coached nine with seven consecutive top-five finishes, two national titles and five Rose Bowls.

Pat White
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Not a first-team All-American
Why he should be in: Noticing a trend with quarterbacks circa 2006-08? There were a lot of good ones, and White ends up getting squeezed out. He was the most successful West Virginia quarterback since Major Harris, he became the first quarterback to start and win four bowl games, and he holds the record for career rushing yards for a quarterback (4,480).

Joe Tiller
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Win percentage
Why he should be in: Tiller brought the spread to the Big Ten and made Purdue relevant along the way. The Boilermakers endured 12 consecutive losing seasons before he was hired and reached the Rose Bowl (albeit with an 8-4 record) by his fourth season). He went to bowl games in 10 of 12 seasons at Purdue, but finished his career with a 57.8 win percentage in Lafayette and at Wyoming. It’s worth noting Tiller’s best quarterback, Drew Brees, also doesn’t meet Hall of Fame criteria by never being a first-team All-America selection.

Rich Brooks
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Win percentage
Why he should be in: Go ahead and be underwhelmed by Brooks’ career losing record (45.5 percent) in 290 games as a college coach, but go ask about him in Eugene and Lexington. Without Brooks, there’d be no Mike Bellotti or Chip Kelly at Oregon. In 1994, Brooks led Oregon to its first Rose Bowl since the 1919 season. And at Kentucky, he and Bear Bryant are the only coaches with four consecutive winning seasons.

Colin Kaepernick
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Not a first-team All-American
Why he should be in: Chris Ault -- who was already in the College Football Hall of Fame as an active coach -- invented the Pistol offense years earlier, but Kaepernick brought it to the masses as a collegian and a pro. He led Nevada to its best season as an FBS program while becoming the only quarterback to pass for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards in his career.

Case Keenum
Why he doesn’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Not a first-team All-American
Why he should be in: Passing for 19,217 career yards at the Conference USA level wasn’t enough to make Keenum a first-team All-American among a loaded group of quarterbacks from 2007-11.

Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly
Why they don’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Too few games
Why they should be in: The two coaches defined the Pac-12 for the post-Pete Carroll era in divergent ways. Harbaugh’s physical, balanced teams produced two Heisman finalists (Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart) and the best Stanford season since 1940. Kelly’s Oregon teams were the best at running the no-huddle spread on the way to three conference titles. The NFL came calling for both, meaning Kelly (53 career games) and Harbaugh (50 FBS games, plus 35 at FCS San Diego) don't meet the 10-year or 100-game requirement. Harbaugh, however, is eligible as a player.

Big 12 quarterbacks
Why they don’t meet the Hall of Fame’s criteria: Not first-team All-Americans
Why they should be in: Let’s name the names: Landry Jones, Chase Daniel and Collin Klein. Jones is the career-leading passer for the Big 12 and Oklahoma. Daniel was Heisman finalist who led his team to two Big 12 title games and the brink or the ’07 national championship game. Klein finished with 86 total touchdowns (56 rushing, 30 passing) and went 21-5 his last two seasons. The problem? Contemporaries like Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel for Jones and Klein and Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford for Daniel relegated these quarterbacks to second-team status or lower.

Notable Names that will be Snubbed by the College Football Hall of Fame
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 12:04
Path: /college-basketball/12-unlikely-players-who-could-be-ncaa-tournament-heroes

Becoming a March Madness hero has its perks.

For example, can you pronounce Farokhmanesh? Have you ever had such a hot hand you thought you might try courting Kate Upton in front of the entire world?

That's what it's like for three weeks during the NCAA Tournament for the unlikeliest of stars.

Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh hit four 3-pointers to upset Kansas in the second round in 2010, and for a brief time every college basketball fan could pronounce the name a player who had never even averaged 10 points per game in his career.

And just last year, Michigan’s then-freshman Spike Albrecht briefly became a title game hero with 17 points against Louisville, a total he never exceeded before or since. Things were working out so much for Albrecht he tweeted to swimsuit model Kate Upton, who attended the game in a maize V-neck, “saw you at the game last night, thanks for coming out! Hope to see you again. :)”

Finding the next Farokhmanesh or Albrecht isn’t easy, but we’ll give it a try. Here are a handful of lesser-known players who could become household names for major contenders in the NCAA Tournament.

Gabe York, Arizona
York entered the starting lineup for three games late in the season and immediately gave the Wildcats a boost after their loss to Arizona State. York is a defensive liability, but he is a 3-point shooter on a team without many of them — York has made as many 3s (43) as leading scorer Nick Johnson in 12 fewer minutes per game.

Grant Gibbs, Creighton
Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Manigat have suddenly gone cold from 3, but here’s Gibbs, shooting 7 of 9 in the last three games. The sixth-year senior is the classic glue guy who knows when to take a shot (60 percent from 2, 47.2 percent from 3) or when to pass (four assists per game).

Amile Jefferson, Duke
Remember Brian Zoubek? The Blue Devils center in 2010 helped Duke to the national title thanks to his offensive rebounding prowess. Jefferson isn’t nearly as prolific (77 offensive boards) as the 7-1 Zoubek was (143), but he is Duke’s top offensive rebounding threat this season. Jefferson had five offensive rebounds against Virginia, six against Pittsburgh and six against Syracuse this season.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Here’s the definition of an unlikely NCAA Tournament hero: Finney-Smith is on a loaded team but had slumped to make one 3-point shot in his last 23 attempts. So who gets the ball with an opportunity for a dagger against Vanderbilt? Finney-Smith. The Virginia Tech transfer also grabbed 10 or more rebounds five times this season.

Wayne Selden, Kansas
The Jayhawks will be led by Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid, but the five-star freshman Selden isn’t a bad fourth option. He can finish around the rim, and he’s plenty capable of hitting shots from deep. A secondary scorer on Kansas’ record, he’s managed to find a way to top 20 points three times.

Terry Rozier, Louisville
The freshman Rozier briefly started in place of an injured Chris Jones in an eye-opening stint at point guard this season. Rozier has returned to the bench, but he’s still offering better than 20 minutes per game. He can be a bigger option at point guard (6-1) than the starter Jones (5-10).

Spike Albrecht, Michigan
Albrecht already has been the NCAA Tournament X-factor, when he scored 17 points out of nowhere against Louisville in the title game. A second explosion in the Tournament might not have the shock value of the first time, but it would still be surprising. A consistent contributor off the bench this season, Albrecht hasn’t topped 10 points since the title game.

Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
After the last two weeks, Syracuse perhaps should’t be on a list of teams preparing to play for the title. A major reason has been a lack of inside scoring. If anyone on the roster is going to provide it, Christmas may be the guy since the Orange have few other options. He’s shown flashes with 10 points against Pittsburgh and 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks against NC State.

Josh Hart, Villanova
Hart was briefly one of the nation’s most productive freshmen during an eight-game stretch in December and January when he scored at least 10 points in each game. Hart slumped into Big East play, but he’s showing signs of pulling out of it with 13 points against Marquette and eight rebounds against Butler in the last week.

London Perrantes, Virginia
The Cavaliers freshman point guard has been the key to Virginia’s run to the ACC title and reason the Cavs may be dangerous in March. Not only has Perrantes, who averages 4.8 points per game, been hitting key 3-point shots in wins over Syracuse and Miami, he’s become a more efficient point guard. He has a 5.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio during Virginia’s win streak.

Darius Carter, Wichita State
Wichita State has its share of established names — Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton — but Carter may be one of the names that emerges in the Tournament. The 6-7 forward comes off the bench to offer 8.3 points per game, but he’s averaging 18.3 points per 40 minutes, second only to Early’s 22.9. His fresh legs will be an asset.

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
Wisconsin has its share of impact players — Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust. Of all them, the freshman Hayes may have the highest ceiling. The depth has allowed Hayes to grow into his role to the season where now he’s a consistent threat anywhere inside the arc.

12 Unlikely players who could be NCAA Tournament heroes
Post date: Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/12-teams-could-pop-ncaa-tournament-bubbles

Beware of bid thieves.

For weeks, basketball fans been watching the NCAA Tournament bubble, hoping their teams can win the games they should and maybe score an upset or two.

But an NCAA Tournament bid isn’t always in the hands of the bubble teams. In just about every season, a team that has no business playing in the Big Dance will make a run at a conference title by grabbing an automatic bid at the 11th hour.

These are those teams, the spoilers. Bubble teams should watch with trepidation.

Bid thieves are not teams already on the bubble that could play its way in like Nebraska, Minnesota or a host of teams in the SEC. Instead, these are teams that are conference tournament champions or bust.

They are either major conference teams capable of making a run in the league tournaments or they are teams in leagues that would be receive only one bid if the regular season champion wins out.

For example, if any team other than Wichita State wins the Missouri Valley tournament, the MVC will be a two-bid league and one bubble team will be out of luck. The same is true if a team like Georgia wins the SEC Tournament or Utah wins the Pac-12.

Here are the teams that could spoil the next two weeks for bubble teams.

Boise State
The Broncos this season returned five starters from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament, but they need the Mountain West Tournament to return. Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic still give Boise State the backcourt to make the Broncos contenders. If Boise State can put together a consistent defensive effort for a weekend, the Broncos can play the role of spoiler.

The Bulldogs have shocked the SEC Tournament before, albeit under strange circumstances. In 2008, Georgia won the SEC Tournament by winning two games in one day at Georgia Tech after a tornado damaged the Georgia Dome. The SEC Tournament is back in Atlanta, and this year’s Georgia team is much better than the last-place team that won in 2008. If someone knocks off Florida, a Georgia team that’s 10-6 in the SEC would have as good a chance to win as any team.

Eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention thanks to an eight-game losing streak in January, Illinois is starting to heat up. The backcourt of Rayvonte Rice and Tracy Abrams led Illinois to three consecutive wins over Minnesota, Nebraska and Michigan State in the last two weeks. And don’t doubt a John Groce team in a tournament setting: This is a coach who has a Maui Invitational title, a Sweet 16 appearance and an upset of Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament on his ledger.

Green Bay will be one of the most dangerous mid-majors in the field, but what if the Phoenix lose in the Horizon League Tournament? Green Bay doesn’t have a great at-large profile at No. 51 in the RPI and a strength of schedule barely inside the top 150. Still, given the state of the bubble, the selection committee might look favorably on a 24-5 team that beat Virginia and lost by three to Wisconsin. Why Milwaukee as the spoiler for Green Bay instead of Horizon No. 2 Cleveland State? Milwaukee defeated Green Bay 73-63 on the road and lost in overtime in the first meeting. With Jordan Aaron back from suspension, Milwaukee will be more dangerous than a typical No. 5 seed in the Horizon.

Northern Iowa
If Wichita State wins the league tournament, the Missouri Valley will be a one-bid league. The Shockers have shown few signs of weakness in league play, so any upset would be a long shot. Indiana State is the No. 2 seed in the Arch Madness and the consensus No. 2 team. Still, the Sycamores are limping into the postseason with three consecutive loses, including a 71-69 loss to third-place Northern Iowa. The Panthers won five of their last six.

Ole Miss
The Rebels aren’t nearly the complete team they were last season when they won the SEC Tournament. But this team still has Marshall Henderson chucking 3-pointers against an SEC full of teams susceptible to losing games they shouldn’t.

San Francisco
Gonzaga and BYU both could be at-large bids out of the West Coast Conference, making San Francisco the team with the most to gain in the league tournament. Portland is the only team to defeat both Gonzaga and BYU this season, but San Francisco has been the more consistent team during the season. The Dons enter the WCC Tournament on a hot streak with five consecutive wins.

Seton Hall
Bubble teams in the Big East already want nothing to do with Seton Hall. The Pirates have six conference wins this season, four of which coming on regular season sweeps of Georgetown and Xavier. Seton Hall also defeated Providence on the road in overtime on Dec. 31. The Pirates might not be able to win the Big East Tournament, but they might not have to in order to knock teams out of the NCAA field.

Texas Tech
The Big 12 was a grind this season, especially during the month or so when Texas Tech was of the toughest outs in the bottom tier of the league. The Red Raiders defeated Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma and took Kansas to the buzzer this season. This is a well-coached team under Tubby Smith with an under-appreciated forward in Jaye Crockett, and few teams in the Big 12 should be considered invincible.

The Runnin’ Rebels have a roster that should be better than 19-10 and needing the Mountain West Tournament to get into the field. This has been a disappointing season, but the Rebels have homecourt advantage. The Mountain West is not a strong conference this season, so the tournament isn’t the grind it was a year ago. If UNLV can beat New Mexico or San Diego State, the Rebels can win in Vegas.

Larry Krystkowiak should be a Pac-12 coach of the year candidate as Utah approaches the 20-win mark and flirts with a winning conference record in his third season. Keep in mind, this is a program that won six games total in 2011-12. The Utes have one of the stronger defensive teams in the league and a duo of Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright that has kept them competitive all year. Utah has defeated UCLA, Colorado and Arizona State this season and took Oregon, the Buffaloes and Arizona to overtime.

West Virginia
Like Texas Tech, West Virginia enjoyed a few weeks as one of the more dangerous teams in the Big 12. The Mountaineers defeated Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Iowa State during a five-game stretch from Jan. 28-Feb. 10. The Mountaineers’ backcourt of Juwan Staten and Eron Harris can keep up with anyone in the league.

12 teams that could pop NCAA Tournament bubbles
Post date: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-bubble-watch-and-key-games-march-4

Crunch time is here.

Conference tournaments are starting this week in 13 league. But with most of those tournaments featuring a winner-take-all for an NCAA bid, the bubble watch is taking place in the final week of the regular season for the major conferences.

The Big East, Atlantic 10 and Pac-12 have perhaps the most important bubble games of the week while other teams are simply trying to work on some resume maintenance, as you might call it.

Here are the key midweek games and a look at the field and bubble teams for the rest of the week.

Key Games with NCAA Tournament Implications This Week

Iowa State at Baylor (Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2)
The Bears have probably recovered from their 2-8 start in Big 12 play with wins over Kansas State and Oklahoma State. A game against Iowa State, coming off a loss to Kansas State on Saturday, is another chance to build the resume.

Creighton at Georgetown (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Bluejays are looking to recover from a loss to Xavier on Saturday, but this game is more important for Georgetown. The Hoyas are on a 1-3 slide, with all three losses on the road. If John Thompson III’s team is going to make it to the field, beating Creighton or Villanova would be a good start.

Marquette at Providence (Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Buzz Williams’ team is on the fringes despite a disastrous start to the season. The Eagles may need to beat Providence and St. John’s, otherwise, it’s Big East Tournament or bust. The Friars have their own work to do to prove they can beat someone other than DePaul, Butler and Seton Hall.

Florida State at Boston College (Tuesday, 9 p.m., ESPNU)
The Seminoles may be a long shot, but they need to win this game to set up the really important game against struggling Syracuse to end the season.

Arizona State at Oregon (Tuesday, 11 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Sun Devils and Ducks have similar RPI and strength of schedule rankings, but Arizona State has the strong resume with six top 50 wins. Oregon, meanwhile, is looking to build momentum after its best of the season at UCLA on Saturday.

Louisville at SMU (Wednesday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Mustangs may be safe as long as they don’t lose early in the American Tournament. SMU finishes with Louisville at home and Memphis on the road.

Nebraska at Indiana (Wednesday, 7 p.m., Big Ten Network)
A 60-49 loss to Illinois a week ago puts more pressure on Nebraska to win its final two games in Bloomington and at home against Wisconsin. The Hoosiers have quietly pulled themselves together in February with back-to-back wins over Iowa and Ohio State, but a home loss to a bubble team is not a great way to get attention.

Ole Miss at Arkansas (Wednesday, 8 p.m.,
The Razorbacks may be in the field with seven wins in the last eight games. They just need to avoid the home upset to Marshall Henderson and the Rebels.

Texas A&M at Missouri (Wednesday, 8 p.m.,
With road losses to Alabama and Georgia in the last two weeks, Missouri needs this game to set up a meaningful matchup at Tennessee on Saturday.

Colorado at Stanford (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ESPN2)
The Buffaloes are 6-6 without Spencer Dinwiddie and finish with road trips to the Bay Area schools, both of which are in NCAA at-large contention. A huge opportunity for Tad Boyle’s team.

Dayton at Saint Louis (Wednesday, 9 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Flyers are still in contention after Saturday’s win over UMass. Finishing against a slumping Saint Louis team on the road and at home against Richmond will be critical for a team just barely in the RPI top 50.

St. Joseph’s at George Washington (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Comcast SportsNet)
The Colonials have slumped against NCAA contenders in the last month with losses to Dayton, VCU, UMass and Saint Louis. St. Joe’s, meanwhile, is on a six-game winning streak.

Arizona at Oregon State (Wednesday, 11 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Wildcats will look to protect their No. 1 seed with a trip to the Oregon schools this week. Both of Arizona’s losses this season have come on the road.

Utah at Cal (Wednesday, 11 p.m., ESPNU)
Cal is 3-4 since the win over Arizona on Feb. 1. The Bears finish with two tough but winnable home games against Utah and Colorado.

Villanova at Xavier (Thursday, 7 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Musketeers followed up an upset of Creighton on Saturday by losing its second game of the season to Seton Hall. And that’s why Xavier is on the bubble.

Iowa at Michigan State (Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Whose fortunes are sinking faster? Iowa has lost three of four, and Michigan State is 4-6 since starting 18-1 overall.

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: None

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (6)
Feeling good: Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: Dayton, George Washington, St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (3)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Minnesota
Bubble out: Indiana, Nebraska

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (6)
Feeling good: Arizona, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, Stanford
Bubble out: None

SEC (4)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Arkansas, Missouri
Bubble out: LSU, Tennessee

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Irvine
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Davidson
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament

NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Key Games March 4
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 14:01
All taxonomy terms: Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/kentucky-wildcats-wrong-side-college-basketball-history

Kentucky entered the season hoping to be in rare company. The idea of the top recruiting class in the history of college basketball challenging 40-0 always seemed far fetched.

But at the start of the season Kentucky certainly appeared much closer to winning 30-plus games during the regular season than losing 10.

Instead, Kentucky is trying to avoid another kind of company — from preseason No. 1 to unranked. After losing twice last week to Arkansas and most embarrassingly to SEC bottom feeder South Carolina, Kentucky was ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press poll, 22 points from falling out completely.

Kentucky, which finishes the regular season at No. 1 Florida on Saturday, may be the first AP preseason No. 1 team to spend a week out of the polls since Indiana did it in 1979-80.

With an 11-5 record in a weak SEC, the Wildcats already are one of the most disappointing preseason No. 1 teams in recent decades. It’s rare for a preseason No. 1 team to spend any amount of time outside of the top five, much less the majority of the season.

On Dec. 2, Kentucky was ranked third in the nation before a 67-62 loss to Baylor dropped the Wildcats to 11th. Kentucky lost again to North Carolina on Dec. 14, so even defeating Louisville to end 2013 could’t give Kentucky a push back into the top 10

Altogether, Kentucky has been ranked no higher than No. 11 since Dec. 2.

It’s worth noting Kentucky was not a dubious pick as a No. 1 team. Athlon Sports ranked Kentucky No. 1, but Athlon was not alone by any means.

Perhaps the most disappointing preseason No. 1 in the last 10 years was 2004-05 Kansas. The Jayhawks that season returned seniors Wayne Simien and Keith Langford but finished 23-7 overall and 12-4 in the Big 12 before losing to No. 14 seed Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

If there’s hope for Kentucky, it could look toward 2000-01 Arizona, which lost eight games during the regular season, slipped to 24th in the AP poll but rebounded to reach the national title game.

What kind of precedent is Kentucky setting, here’s how all the preseason No. 1 teams fared since Indiana flopped in 1979-80.

How AP Preseason No. 1 Teams Fared since 1979-80
Preseason No. 1 TeamFinal RecordLowest RankNCAA Tournament
13-14 Kentucky21-8No. 25--
12-13 Indiana29-7No. 7Sweet 16
11-12 North Carolina32-6No. 8Elite Eight
10-11 Duke32-5No. 5Sweet 16
09-10 Kansas33-3No. 3Second round
08-09 North Carolina34-4No. 5National champion
07-08 North Carolina36-3No. 5Final Four
06-07 Florida35-5No. 7National champion
05-06 Duke32-4No. 3Sweet 16
04-05 Kansas23-7No. 12First round
03-04 UConn33-6No. 9National champion
02-03 Arizona28-4No. 4Final Four
01-02 Duke31-4No. 3Sweet 16
00-01 Arizona28-8No. 21National runner up
99-00 UConn25-10No. 24Second round
98-99 Duke37-2No. 4National runner up
97-98 Arizona30-5No. 8Elite Eight
96-97 Cincinnati26-8No. 12Second round
95-96 Kentucky34-2No. 5National champion
94-95 Arkansas32-7No. 12National runner up
93-94 North Carolina28-7No. 5Second round
92-93 Michigan31-5No. 7National runner up
91-92 Duke34-2No. 1National champion
90-91 UNLV34-1No. 1Final Four
89-90 UNLV35-5No. 14National champion
88-89 Duke28-8No. 14Final Four
87-88 Syracuse30-8No. 17Elite Eight
86-87 North Carolina32-4No. 5Elite Eight
85-86 Georgia Tech27-7No. 7Sweet 16
84-85 Georgetown35-3No. 2National runner up
83-84 North Carolina28-3No. 2Sweet 16
82-83 Virginia29-5No. 7Elite Eight
81-82 North Carolina32-2No. 2National champion
80-81 Kentucky22-6No. 11Second round
79-80 Indiana21-8NRSweet 16


Kentucky Wildcats on the wrong side of college basketball history
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/who-will-be-no-1-seeds-ncaa-tournament

While many teams are fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament from the bubble, another key part of the bracket is still being determined.

A No. 1 seed carries with it not just prestige, but also a decisive advantage history wise to advance to the second weekend of the Tournament. A No. 1 seed has never lost its first game and has more often won the national title (18 times) than it failed to reach the Sweet 16 (13).

As many as 10 teams could be in the running for one of the four No. 1 seeds. Some teams would have to collapse to lose a spot on the top line (Arizona, Florida and Wichita State) while others may need a major break to get to that top spot (Wisconsin, Michigan).

NCAA Tournament No. 1 Seed Staff Predictions
David Fox
Braden Gall
Mitch Light

Here’s a look at how the race for the No. 1 seeds is playing out:

Arizona (27-2, 14-2 Pac-12)
The case for a No. 1 seed: Arizona is No. 1 by the RPI, KenPom and Sagarin. The Wildcats are 10-1 against the RPI top 50 and faced a schedule ranked sixth in the country. Arizona’s resume includes four RPI top 25 wins away from Tucson against Duke in Madison Square Garden and Michigan, San Diego State and UCLA on the road. Neither of Arizona’s losses should harm the resume (No. 28 Arizona State and No. 53 Cal, both on the road).

The case against a No. 1 seed: Not much. The selection committee has shown it will taken into account a late-season change in personnel, such as the season-ending injury to Brandon Ashley. However, Arizona has won four in a row without him. Arizona likely would have to lose to Oregon State and lose its first game in the Pac-12 tournament to fall off the top line. Arizona may be closer to claiming the overall No. 1 seed than falling to a No. 2.

Duke (23-6, 12-4 ACC)
The case for a No. 1 seed: The Blue Devils are ranked eighth in the RPI and third in KenPom. Duke has three top 26 wins, including Syracuse, Virginia, Michigan and UCLA. The Blue Devils have ample opportunities for more high-profile wins with North Carolina to end the regular season plus potential matchups with Syracuse and/or Virginia in the ACC Tournament.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Home-cooking. Duke has only two RPI top 100 wins away from Cameron Indoor Stadium (at Pittsburgh, UCLA in Madison Square Garden). Of course, all that can change in Greensboro.

Florida (27-2, 16-0 SEC)
The case for a No. 1 seed:
Florida has dominated the SEC and may be the first team to go 18-0 in league history (other teams have gone 16-0 with a shorter schedule). The Gators’ only losses came early in the season on the road with a shorthanded roster against Wisconsin and Connecticut, the latter on a buzzer-beater by Shabazz Napier.

The case against a No. 1 seed: The SEC. Florida may have to lose to South Carolina on Tuesday and lose its first game in the SEC Tournament to slip to a No. 2. Both would qualify as bad losses.

Kansas (22-7, 13-3 Big 12)
The case for a No. 1 seed:
Kansas played the toughest schedule in the country with 19 games against RPI top 50 teams. The team that played the No. 2 schedule (Wisconsin) faced 11 top 50 teams. The Jayhawks took their losses early in the season, but they may end up the regular season and tournament champion of the top conference in the RPI.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Seven losses is a lot for a No. 1 seed. In the last 10 seasons, only 2011-12 Michigan State was a No. 1 seed with seven losses. Like Kansas, the Spartans played the toughest schedule in the country that season. An eighth loss for this year’s Kansas team, though, may push the Jayhawks to a No. 2. Worth keeping in mind: Kansas has shut down star freshma Joel Embiid (back) for the last two games of the regular season.

Michigan (21-7, 13-3 Big Ten)
The case for a No. 1 seed: The Wolverines have a two-game lead in the Big Ten, rank ninth in the RPI and have eight top 50 wins.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Like Kansas, Michigan has seven losses, two of which are Charlotte and Indiana. Kansas may have a better shot at a No. 1 seed with eight losses than Michigan would if it wins out.

Syracuse (26-3, 13-3 ACC)
The case for a No. 1 seed: Syracuse started 25-0, defeating teams like Villanova, Duke and North Carolina along the way. The seven RPI top 50 wins for Syracuse is more than anyone else in the ACC.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Everything that happened since the 25-0 start. A home loss to a Boston College team ranked 177th in RPI would be toxic for most teams vying for a No. 1 seed. Road losses to Duke and Virginia, both in the top three in KenPom and in the top 10 in the RPI, aren’t deal breakers. But Syracuse has hardly looked like a team that’s has lost its last game before Selection Sunday.

Villanova (26-3, 14-2 Big East)
The case for a No. 1 seed: The Wildcats built plenty of clout in the Battle 4 Atlantis, defeating Kansas and Iowa. Those wins contributed to a No. 4 ranking in the RPI despite ranking 26th in strength of schedule, but not as much as no losses outside of the top 10.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Creighton. The Bluejays swept Villanova by a combined 49 points. A 4-3 record against the RPI top 50 may not be No. 1 seed material unless Villanova can atone for its regular season losses to Creighton in the Big East Tournament.

Virginia (25-5, 16-1 ACC)
The case for a No. 1 seed: The Cavaliers opened a three-game lead in the ACC by defeating Syracuse on Saturday. Virginia’s only loss since the New Year is by four on the road against Duke. Tempo-free analytics love the efficient Cavaliers as they rank second in KenPom.

The case against a No. 1 seed: The unbalanced ACC schedule and non-conference losses. The Cavaliers will play Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina once apiece before the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers also lost in the non-conference schedule to Tennessee and Green Bay, both on the road. Winning the ACC Tournament is a must.

Wichita State (31-0, 18-0 Missouri Valley)
The case for a No. 1 seed:
Have you heard? Wichita State is 31-0 and will be favored to get to 34-0 in the Missouri Valley Tournament. Banishing an undefeated team to a No. 2 seed, no matter the strength of schedule, would be a bold call. The Shockers are sixth in the RPI.

The case against a No. 1 seed: Wichita State’s strength of schedule is ranked 100th by the RPI. The Shockers’ best win — on the road against Saint Louis — might not look as impressive after the Billikens lost to Duquesne at home last week. At most, Wichita State will get to Selection Sunday with only three wins over teams with NCAA at-large credentials (BYU, Saint Louis, Tennessee).

Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5 Big Ten)
The case for a No. 1 seed:
Wisconsin’s wins over Florida and Virginia are even more impressive than they were back in November and December. After a cold streak early in the Big Ten schedule, the Badgers have reeled off seven consecutive wins. Despite those losses, Wisconsin is fifth in the RPI and second in strength of schedule.

The case against a No. 1 seed: The Badgers’ midseason slump included losses to Indiana and Northwestern, the latter at home. The five losses puts Wisconsin at second in the Big Ten despite a head-to-head win over Michigan. Another in the Big Ten Tournament might be needed.

Who will be the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament?
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/oregons-mike-moser-earns-athlon-sports-player-week-honors

When Oregon’s season hit a critical point, the Ducks leaned on a fifth-year senior who has been around the block.

Mike Moser, a veteran who has played for UCLA and UNLV, kept the Ducks in NCAA Tournament contention with back-to-back double doubles during the weekend.

Moser had 12 points and 20 rebounds in an 87-83 overtime win over UCLA on Thursday and followed that with 20 points and 12 rebounds in a 78-63 win over USC to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

As Oregon has recovered from a 2-8 swoon from Jan. 5-Feb. 8, Moser has been the leader. He’s scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, and of his five double-doubles this season, two came last week.

Photo courtesy of Eric Evans/

Athlon Sports Weekly College Basketball Awards

National Player of the Week: Mike Moser, Oregon
The well-travelled Moser is playing his best basketball as an Oregon Duck at the right time of the year. Moser, who played one season at UCLA and two at UNLV before opting to spend his final year of eligibility in Eugene, scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Ducks to a 78–62 win at USC. Moser is averaging 17.6 during Oregon’s current five-game winning streak.

National Freshman of the Week: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Arizona has answered any questions left by the void of Brandon Ashley in recent weeks. A major reason has been the play of Aaron Gordon, the freshman defensive whiz who is becoming a more consistent contributor in the offensive end. In routs of Stanford and Cal, Gordon totaled 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting. Gordon also contributed 15 rebounds against the Cardinal.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Bryant Mbamalu, Louisiana-Lafayette
Mbamalu was spectacular in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 102–76 win over South Alabama. The senior guard scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds (both season highs) to lead UL-Lafayette to its 10th Sun Belt win of the season.

Other Standout Performances of the Week:

Antonio Barton, Tennessee

After scoring a total of six points (and missing all eight 3-point attempts) in his previous two games, Barton had season highs in both scoring (21 points) and assists (six) to lead Tennessee to an easy 76–38 win over Vanderbilt. The fifth-year senior, a transfer from Memphis, hit 7-of-11 from the field, including 5-of-7 beyond the 3-point arc.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Finney-Smith broke out of an extended scoring slump by averaging 17.5 points and 5.5 rebounds to help Florida improve to 16–0 in the SEC. The transfer from Virginia Tech scored 19 points — including a huge 3-pointer in the final minute — to lead the Gators in a 57–54 win at Vanderbilt on Tuesday night. Then, on Saturday, he scored 16 points in a 79–61 win over LSU that clinched the SEC title for Florida.

Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma
Oklahoma completed a season sweep over rival Texas with a 77–65 win in Norman. Cousins, a sophomore guard, led the way with a career-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Since missing all eight shots against Oklahoma State two weeks ago, Cousins has converted 17-of-31 from the field.

Tyler Haws, BYU
Haws continues to score at a high level as his BYU Cougars are making a late charge at a possible at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The junior guard scored 25 points in Saturday’s win at San Diego. Haws, who leads the West Coast Conference with a 23.4-point average, has scored in double figures in every game this season.  

Justin Martin, Xavier
Martin rebounded from a subpar effort (three points, three rebounds) in a win over St. John’s on Tuesday by scoring 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in Xavier’s huge 75­–69 win over Creighton in Cincinnati. It was the first career double-double for the junior forward from Indianapolis.

Brenton Williams, South Carolina
Williams poured in a game-high 24 points to lead South Carolina to a surprising 72–67 win over Kentucky — easily the biggest victory of the Frank Martin era in Columbia. Williams only hit four field goals but connected on 15-of-16 from the foul line — including four following the two technicals that led to John Calipari’s ejection.

Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara
Brownridge scored a career-high 38 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals as Santa Clara posted an 86–78 win at Pepperdine. A freshman guard from Aurora, Ill., hit 12-of-22 from the field, including 7-of-9 from the 3-point line.

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart overcame a slow start (one point in the first half) to lead Oklahoma State to its biggest win of the season — a 72–65 victory over Big 12 champion Kansas. The sophomore guard scored 20 points in the second half to help the Cowboys rally from a 10-point deficit. In the final 10 minutes, he hit 4-of-4 from the field and had three assists and zero turnovers.

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
McDaniels, one of the nation’s most underrated players, had perhaps the best game of his junior season. He scored 26 points and had 14 rebounds and six blocks to key the Tigers’ 77–73 double-overtime win over Maryland. The Birmingham, Ala., native is averaging 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Oregon's Mike Moser earns Athlon Sports Player of the Week honors
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 12:33
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-recap-10-things-know-march-3

The first weekend in March was not a bad way to start the greatest five weeks in the college basketball season.

Wichita State wrapped up an undefeated regular season. Virginia came a little closer to winning the ACC. Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky — all preseason top five teams — looked completely out of sorts.

In other words, unpredictability reigns.

More unlikely storylines are sure to occur as conference tournaments start later this week in most of the traditional one-bid leagues.

Our focus for the week, though, starts with the major programs hitting their stride (Wichita State and Virginia) and others with newfound concerns (Syracuse, Michigan State, Ohio State and Cincinnati), plus some of the bubble teams that helped their case Saturday.

College Basketball Recap: 10 Things to Know

1. There is no disputing Wichita State’s bid for history
In the NCAA Tournament, teams like Wichita State generally end up darlings. Turns out going 31-0 draws scrutiny. Wichita State completed the first undefeated regular season in a decade and the first 31-0 start in 23 seasons with its 68-45 win over Missouri State. The achievement, though, has drawn a similar level of scrutiny — or in some cases, scorn — as Boise State’s best teams in college football. And that’s fair. Wichita State is no mid-major deserving to be the lovable underdog. The Shockers pay coach Gregg Marshall $1.75 million, and as noted by their coach, they draw 10,000 fans per game and travel on private planes. But 31-0 against any schedule is worthy of history. We spelled out Wichita State’s other superlatives in its undefeated season elsewhere, but this is a team that will be favored to make it all the way to an unprecedented 35-0.

2a. Virginia picked up its biggest win in 20 years in unlikely fashion
It's tough to find more unlikely heroes than Akil Mitchell. The senior forward who averages seven points per game scored eight in the first half to keep Virginia afloat in time for Malcolm Brogdon to give the Cavaliers a commanding lead in the ACC standings with a 75-56 win over Syracuse. Brogdon finished with 19 points including eight during the run that decided the game as moved Virginia to 16-1 in the ACC. Think about it: Joe Harris, a preseason ACC player of the year contender, scored six points on 2-of-10 shooting and Virginia still scored 75 against Syracuse.

2b. Time to worry about Syracuse
Despite starting 25-0, the Orange might slip to a No. 2 seed after this 1-3 slide. This team is not ready to advance deep in the Tournament. Syracuse has gone five consecutive games without averaging a point per possession (one point per possession is considered average). Syracuse hasn’t even shot 45 percent from the field since Jan. 25 against Miami. What’s troubling is that the performance against Virginia wasn’t even particularly bad by Syracuse’s recent standards as the Orange shot 35.7 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from 3.

3. Kentucky is an absolute mess
The talk of Kentucky winning a national title or reaching the Final Four is long gone. It’s time to start wondering if Kentucky is going to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. By virtue of being a team far too talented to get a seed as low as Kentucky will get, the Wildcats have a good chance to win a game in the Tourney. But there’s little reason to have any faith in Kentucky after Saturday. Going to overtime with LSU and losing to Arkansas — bubble teams both — is one thing. Losing to South Carolina, the worst team in the SEC, is another. John Calipari got himself ejected arguing with officials, but his team still attempted 42 free throws to South Carolina’s 33. The offensive execution was dreadful as Kentucky shot 35.3 percent from 3-point range and an unbelievable 22.9 percent from 2-point range.

4. We’re not going to say Oklahoma State is back, but...
Any time a team beats Kansas, it’s worthy of note. Oklahoma State has won three in a row since Marcus Smart returned from suspension, no win bigger than a 72-65 defeat of Kansas. Smart scored 21 points, mainly due to volume (14 shots from the field, 14 free throws). Teammate Markel Brown was the more efficient scorer, adding 21 points on 4-of-7 shots from the field and 10-of-10 free throws. Oklahoma State caught Kansas on a night when the Jayhawks committed 22 turnovers, in part due to 11 Oklahoma State steals. Feel free to put Oklahoma State in a bracket, just don’t expect the team you saw in December and January.

5. Louisville collapsed
Winning on the road against a good team is tough, but, still, Louisville did not look great in its collapse against Memphis. The Cardinals had been a dominant team recently, even if it was largely against bad teams in the American. At Memphis, the Cardinals took an eight-point lead with 4:47 to go but ended up losing 72-66. Memphis got hot from the free throw line, but Louisville helped out with no fied goals in nearly five minutes to finish the game.

6. Michigan State suffered a “complete meltdown”
Even in Branden Dawson’s return, Michigan State looked as weak as it has all season. The Spartans lost 53-46 at home to an Illinois team that’s 6-10 in the Big Ten. Michigan State was just as inept in the offensive end as you’d imagine for a team that couldn’t muster 50 points against the Illini. Outside of Gary Harris, who scored 19 points, Michigan State shot 11 of 30 from the field. Tom Izzo called the game a “complete meltdown.” The Spartans are 4-6 since Jan. 21 and stand a chance to enter the Big Ten tournament with seven conference losses as they finish the regular season with Iowa and Ohio State.

7a. Cincinnati’s offensive shortcomings will bite them in March
At least Cincinnati’s defense showed up at UConn. That’s the only reason Cincinnati had a chance to defeat the Huskies in Hartford in a 51-45 loss. At the same time, this game continued to show that Cincinnati may have trouble scoring points in the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats scored only four points in the first 12:07 in the second half and struggled in traditional (45 points, 27.1 percent shooting) and advanced (0.672 points per possession) metrics. The key is bottling up Sean Kilpatrick, who was the only Bearcat with more than eight points. Cincinnati doesn’t have secondary scorers to overcome a 4-of-16 game from its star player.

7b. Another coach/official confrontation draws attention
Only a week after Jim Boehiem’s tantrum and ejection, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin nearly had a similar confrontation with official Ted Valentine. Cronin didn’t get a technical foul arguing a questionable out-of-bounds and after running in front of his bench toward Valentine. Cronin had to be restrained by three of his players and an assistant, but Valentine didn’t come out of this much better, nearly going nose to nose with the Bearcats coach.

8. No bubble team had a better week than Xavier
The Musketeers have struggled to get into a groove in the Big East, but they’re hitting a stride at a good time. After defeating St. John’s on the road early in the week, Xavier defeated Creighton 75-69 on Saturday. Doug McDermott was productive as usual with 27 points, but Xavier held the rest of the Bluejays to 5 of 22 from 3-point range. For Xavier, Justin Martin had 19 points and 16 rebounds, and Semaj Christon finished with 21 points.

9. Oregon had a decent week, too
It’s time to call Oregon’s turnaround legitimate. The Ducks had lost eight of 10 at one point after starting 13-0, but they have since recovered in the last week. Oregon played their way back into the NCAA Tournament field with a six-game losing streak. The signature win was an 87-83 win in double overtime against UCLA, but Oregon avoided an upset by defeating USC 78-63. The lopsided win as deceptive was the game was tied in the final 10:21

10. SEC bubble teams handled themselves well
Besides Florida, most of the SEC seems to be looking for ways to be disappointed on Selection Sunday. Give at least a little credit to Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas for avoiding home upsets. Arkansas had the toughest challenge, beating Georgia 87-75. Tennessee crushed Vanderbilt 76-38, and Missouri defeated Mississippi State 85-66. Granted, we’re giving these teams credit for doing things they should do anyway, but that doesn’t happen all the time in the SEC. Just ask Kentucky.

Short stuff

• Now is a good time to start doubting Ohio State. Few teams had a worse week than Ohio State, which lost Thursday to Penn State and Sunday to an Indiana team playing without standout freshman Noah Vonleh.

• Pittsburgh isn’t on the bubble, but the Panthers came close to testing that with an 85-81 win over Notre Dame in overtime.

• Utah is going to go to the NIT which is a.) really good for the program Larry Krystkowiak inherited three years ago and b.) a little unfortunate. Utah is 8-8 in the Pac-12, but the Utes gave themselves a paltry non-conference schedule as they continued the rebuilding process. Utah’s strength of schedule is ranked 112th in the RPI.

• The jockeying to be the Atlantic 10’s last at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament will be tight. Dayton defeated UMass 86-79 to stay in contention while Richmond may be out after losing 66-43 to Rhode Island.

• Saint Louis has lost two in a row after starting 12-0 in the Atlantic 10, and neither game, whether at home against a bad Duquesne team or on the road at VCU, has been particularly close.

• From the land of the bizarre, the SWAC will allow four teams ineligible for an NCAA Tournament bid to play in the conference tournament. If an ineligible team wins the tournament, the SWAC’s automatic bid will be awarded to the eligible team that advances the furthest or the highest-seeded team if multiple teams are eliminated in the same round. The four ineligible teams includes league leader Southern (13-2 in the SWAC), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-7), Mississippi Valley State (5-10) and Grambling State (2-10).

College Basketball Weekend Recap: 10 Things to Know March 3
Post date: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/wichita-state-wraps-undefeated-regular-season-superlatives-shockers

When Wichita State reached the Final Four last season, the Shockers were a part of a trend, a team outside of the power structure reaching the final weekend of the college basketball season.

George Mason did it. VCU did it. Butler did it twice.

What the Shockers did Saturday night puts them in a company all their own. Or if Wichita State is put into a category, it stands in even more rare company than simply making a Final Four.

Four wins in two weeks is one thing. Winning 31 games in a row is another.

Wichita State wrapped up an undefeated regular season, a feat that hasn’t been matched in a decade with a win total that hasn’t been matched in 23 years.

Here’s how Wichita State stacks up with history:

• Wichita State is the first team to reach 31-0 since UNLV won their first 34 games in 1990-91. Led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, that Runnin’ Rebels squad won the national title a year earlier before falling to eventual national champion Duke in the Final Four for their only loss of 1991.

• The Shockers have been downright dominant during this run. Wichita State’s win to seal a 31-0 regular season played out like so many this season — in lopsided fashion. Wichita State defeated opponents by an average 15.5 points per game, both against the overall schedule and in conference. The Shockers played in only five games all season decided by fewer than 10 points.

• The Shockers are the first team to reach the conference tournament undefeated since St. Joseph’s, led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, did it in 2003-04. The Red Hawks started 27-0 before losing to Xavier in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals that season. The game against Xavier also was their first game as the No. 1 team in the polls.

• St. Joe’s chances for a No. 1 seed were questioned after the loss to Xavier, but the Red Hawks ended up as a top seed in the East region before falling to second-seeded Oklahoma State 64-62 in the Elite Eight.

• All but one of the 11 other teams to start 30-0 or better reached the Final Four. The exception was 1974-75 Indiana, which topped out in the regional final.

• The NCAA selection committee is not supposed to look at what Wichita State did last season, but we can. The Shockers are 61-9 in the last two seasons. Since March 1 last year, the only teams to defeat Wichita State are Creighton twice and eventual national champion Louisville.

• If the Shockers win the Missouri Valley Tournament, they will match UNLV’s 34-0 start and likely will grab a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If Wichita State wins its first NCAA Tourney game — and no No. 1 seed has lost to a No. 16 — Wichita State will be college basketball’s first 35-0 team.

• Don’t dismiss the Missouri Valley Tournament as a formality for Wichita State, though. The Shockers haven’t won Arch Madness since 1987 under Eddie Fogler.

• Wichita State’s status as a No. 1 seed likely depends entirely on being 34-0. Other than the loss column — and it’s worth reiterating that’s not to be ignored — the Shockers don’t have a No. 1 seed profile. Wichita State is 3-0 against the RPI top 50 with the only win against a sure NCAA Tournament team coming on the road against Saint Louis. Wichita State has only six top 100 wins and only two of those (the season sweep of Indiana State) are in conference play.

• Advanced analytics are a little more kind to Wichita State than the RPI, which does not count margin of victory among any other things in its formula. Wichita State is ranked sixth in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. However, the Shockers have one trait that every national champion has had since 2003, a top 20 ranking in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

• You haven’t seen the last of Wichita State after this season, either. The Shockers have one senior among their top seven scorers. That’s a major piece in Cleanthony Early (15.7 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game), but sharpshooter Ron Baker and point guard Fred VanVleet are sophomores.

Wichita State wraps up undefeated regular season: Superlatives on the Shockers
Post date: Saturday, March 1, 2014 - 18:14
Path: /college-basketball/profiling-oklahoma-state-ncaa-tournament-bubble-watch

Expectations have changed drastically in Stillwater in the last two months.

What looked like a team that would challenge Kansas’ reign atop the Big 12 at the start of the season is now fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot.

Drawing a first-round bye in the conference tournament, earning an NCAA Tournament bid and winning a game once in the field is now one of the most optimistic prospects for the Cowboys.

The good news for coach Travis Ford is that all of that looks attainable. Marcus Smart appears refreshed since his return to the lineup two games ago, and the Pokes have ended a seven-game losing streak.

A win over Kansas on Saturday would be a tall task, but it would seem to all but clinch a bid for the Cowboys. Here’s how Oklahoma State’s profile looks heading into the final stretch:

Remaining scheduleBy the numbers
March 1: Kansas
March 3: Kansas State
March 8: at Iowa State
Record: 18-10, 6-9 Big 12
RPI: 49
Strength of Schedule: 42
KenPom: 27
Best win: Texas at home
Worst loss: Texas Tech on the road

How Oklahoma State could be in the Tournament
The Cowboys need to come back from a seven-game losing streak from Jan. 27-Feb. 17. Defeating Texas Tech and TCU in Marcus Smart’s first two games back from suspension is a start. Smart has been the playmaker the Cowboys’ need with 17 assists in two games, but his shot is still inconsistent (0 of 3 from 3 against Texas Tech, 1 of 8 from 2 against TCU).

How Oklahoma State could be left out
The seven-game losing streak is tough to ignore, even if it includes only one loss to a team that’s certainly outside of the field (Texas Tech). The Cowboys’ personnel is not what it was during the non-conference schedule when forward Michael Cobbins was healthy and backup point guard Stevie Clark was on the roster. The final stretch will be tough against Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and a tough opponent in the Big 12 tournament.

Oklahoma State needs to: Defeat Kansas State and/or Iowa State
The Cowboys can probably afford a loss to Kansas at home Saturday, but that puts more pressure on the Pokes to at least split the last two Big 12 regular season games and win a game in the conference tournament. Defeating the Jayhawks on Saturday or winning in Ames next week would be the best thing Oklahoma State could do for its NCAA prospects.

Oklahoma State can’t afford to: Lose to Kansas State or go winless in the Big 12 Tournament
Kansas State is drifting onto the bubble. Oklahoma State may be able lose to Kansas and Iowa State and still have a decent NCAA profile, but it certainly can’t lose at home to the Wildcats. Seventh place in the Big 12 — where Oklahoma State is tied right now — would draw TCU in the conference tournament. That does nothing for the NCAA resume, but at least it draw the No. 2 seed in the next game.

Insight from the Oklahoma State beat: John Helsley, The Oklahoman
“The Cowboys were playing as well as anyone in the country into January, when they lost post player Michael Cobbins to a blown Achilles. And they haven’t been the same since, with the impact of that injury way more damaging than anyone imagined, leaving them exposed in the middle on both ends of the floor. They’ve gone from the front end of the AP Top 25 to the back end of the Big 12 standings. Since returning from a three-game suspension, point guard Marcus Smart seems to have rediscovered the 'facilitator' style that made him a special freshman a year ago. He’ll need to maintain that mindset to lead a surge down the stretch.”

Profiling Oklahoma State: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 12:28
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-bubble-watch-and-key-games-march-1

The NCAA Tournament field is ever-evolving at this time of year.

A week or so ago, Arkansas was barely on the NCAA Tournament radar. After Thursday’s win over Kentucky, the Razorbacks can claim a spot in the field barring a major loss. Minnesota has enjoyed the same turnaround after defeating Iowa.

Five of six ranked teams in action Thursday night lost, perhaps signaling a wild two weeks before the major conference tournaments begin.

Here are the games that will determine the field, plus projections of the bubble teams under pressure in the final weeks.

Key Games with NCAA Tournament Implications this Weekend

Providence at Seton Hall (Friday, 7 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
The Friars once looked like an NCAA Tournament team, but their only three wins in the last month are against DePaul twice and Butler once. With two wins over Georgetown and one over Xavier, Seton Hall is relishing its spoiler role.

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (Saturday, noon, ESPN2)
While the fans in Knoxville scream for a Bruce Pearl return, Cuonzo Martin is still on the edge of NCAA Tournament consideration. Not with a home loss to Vanderbilt, though.

Texas Tech at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
Texas ended Baylor’s four-game winning streak with a 74-69 win on Wednesday. Baylor can’t afford to take losses in bunches again like it did back in January.

Louisville at Memphis (Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS)
The possibility of a repeat won’t seem too far-fetched for Louisville if the Cards win in Memphis.

Related: Louisville-Memphis Game Preview

Missouri State at Wichita State (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN)
The only thing standing between Wichita State and an undefeated regular season is the last team to truly challenge the Shockers this season.

LSU at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS)
A win in Gainesville may be one of the last hopes for LSU to get an at-large bid. Good luck. The Gators have won 30 in a row at home.

Syracuse at Virginia (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
The Orange draw their second consecutive road game against a delirious crowd, this time against a Cavaliers team with an ACC title on its mind.

Related: Syracuse-Virginia Game Preview

Texas at Oklahoma (Saturday 4 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The two teams are jockeying for seeding in the Big 12 tournament. The Longhorns are still looking to buck the trend of dismal road play.

Creighton at Xavier (Saturday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
The Musketeers are seeking their first RPI top 50 win since defeating Cincinnati on Dec. 14.

Minnesota at Michigan (Saturday, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Welcome back to the bracket projections, Minnesota. The Gophers’ win over Iowa on Tuesday puts Richard Pitino’s team in a better spot. Winning in Ann Arbor might seal a bid.

Cal at Arizona State (Saturday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Bears defeated Arizona the first time around but lost by 28 in the return trip. Not a great look for a team trying to build an NCAA resume.

Iowa State at Kansas State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
The Cyclones keep rolling while Kansas State is 2-2 since the upset of Kansas. The Wildcats’ two wins were over TCU and Texas Tech.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
Oklahoma State roared back in the second half against Kansas during the first meeting in Lawrence before coming up short. Seems like ages ago.

Related: Oklahoma State bubble watch profile

NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch

ACC (5)
Feeling good: Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia
Bubble in: Pittsburgh
Bubble out: Clemson

American (5)
Feeling good: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis
Bubble in: SMU
Bubble out: None

Atlantic 10 (5)
Feeling good: George Washington, Saint Louis, UMass, VCU
Bubble in: St. Joseph’s
Bubble out: Richmond, Dayton

Big 12 (7)
Feeling good: Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
Bubble in: Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
Bubble out: West Virginia

Big East (4)
Feeling good: Creighton, Villanova
Bubble in: St. John’s, Xavier
Bubble out: Georgetown, Marquette, Providence

Big Ten (6)
Feeling good: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Bubble in: Minnesota
Bubble out: Nebraska

Mountain West (2)
Feeling good: New Mexico, San Diego State
Bubble in: None
Bubble out: Boise State

Pac-12 (7)
Feeling good: Arizona, Stanford, UCLA
Bubble in: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Bubble out: None

SEC (4)
Feeling good: Florida, Kentucky
Bubble in: Arkansas
Bubble out: LSU, Missouri, Tennessee

West Coast (2)
Feeling good:
Bubble in: BYU, Gonzaga
Bubble out: None

Favorites in one-bid leagues (22)
America East:
Atlantic Sun: Mercer
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: High Point
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Delaware
Conference USA: Southern Miss
Horizon: Green Bay
Ivy: Harvard
MAAC: Iona
MAC: Toledo
MEAC: North Carolina Central
Missouri Valley: Wichita State*
Northeast: Robert Morris
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southern: Elon
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: North Dakota State
Sun Belt: Georgia State
SWAC: Texas Southern
WAC: New Mexico State
*Wichita State would be an at-large if the Shockers lose in the MVC tournament

NCAA Tournament Projections, Bubble Watch and Key Games
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:52
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-virginia-seeks-acc-title-vs-syracuse

Virginia wasn’t one of the first major stories of the season in the ACC, but it may be the last.

The Jabari Parker Watch was alive at Duke for most of the early part of the year, and Syracuse started 25-0 with a series of wild finishes.

The Cavaliers, though, may end up as league champions after Saturday. Virginia ascended to the ACC lead last week and will play their biggest game in decades against the Orange.

For its part, Syracuse is trying to reassert itself after a series of close calls and two losses in recent weeks.

The game may be a test in momentum. Through the course of the ACC season, Virginia has found complementary scorers for preseason conference player of the year contender for Joe Harris, or in the case of Malcolm Brogdon, a new leading scorer. Even freshman London Perrantes has emerged as a 3-point threat in recent weeks.

Many of the things that worked for Syracuse during that undefeated start have shown some cracks: C.J. Fair has been inconsistent, freshman Tyler Ennis is no longer invincible in end-of-game situations, and the 3-point shot has gone dormant.

What’s on the line for Syracuse
This is a tough question to ask of a team that started 25-0, but where is Syracuse going? After losses to Boston College and Duke, Syracuse bounced back to beat Maryland, but it was another close game and another narrow victory over a team not going to the NCAA Tournament. A game in Charlottesville is an opportunity for the Orange to regain their early season form.

What’s on the line for Virginia
History, pretty much. With a win over Syracuse, Virginia would lead the ACC by three games in the win column. Virginia has not won an outright ACC regular season title since 1981.

Syracuse at Virginia
Saturday, 4 p.m. Eastern, ESPN

About Syracuse
Record: 26-2, 13-2 ACC
AP: 4
RPI: 9
KenPom: 10
Sagarin: 15

About Virginia
Record: 24-5, 15-1 ACC
AP: 12
RPI: 14
KenPom: 4
Sagarin: 10

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Virginia 58-52
Braden Gall: Virginia 55-51
Mitch Light: Virginia 55-51
You’ll tune in to watch: Virginia’s bid for time in the national spotlight
Despite that gaudy conference record, Virginia won’t be a contender for a No. 1 seed based on non-conference losses to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee. The Cavs quietly took the lead in the conference with a little help from the unbalanced schedule in the ACC. Virginia’s conference strength of schedule is ranked 15th in the ACC in KenPom. Win this game, and Virginia will be overlooked no more.

Pivotal player: Trevor Cooney, Syracuse
Since Cooney went for nine 3-pointers against Notre Dame, Syracuse’s top threat from beyond the arc is 11 of 40 from long range. The Cavaliers are allowing ACC opponents to shoot only 30.8 percent from 3-point range, the best rate in the league.

Biggest question: Will C.J. Fair take charge?
Fair is the senior and Syracuse’s leading scorer, but he’s also streaky. In the last five games, he’s shot 32 of 82 from the field (39 percent). Such a high-volume shooter probably needs to be more efficient, but that’s going to be tough against Virginia’s stingy defense.

College Basketball Game Preview: Virginia seeks ACC title vs. Syracuse
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:18
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-louisville-seeks-flex-muscles-vs-memphis

If Louisville is truly rounding into postseason form, Memphis will be the key test Saturday.

The Cardinals flopped at home against the Tigers in the first meeting back on Jan. 9, losing 73-67. Memphis’ entire starting five scored in double figures that day, the last time an opponent scored more than 70 points against Louisville.

“Our worst game of the season was Memphis,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “You have to give them credit because they made us look bad. That was our poorest performance of the season at the defensive end. We did a lot of things that were uncharacteristic of us, but we are a much different team now then when we played them.”

Going into Thursday, Memphis had hopes of scoring a rare season sweep of Louisville, but the Tigers may have a new host of problems with a 77-68 loss to Houston. The loss was only the third for a team in the top five of the American standings against a team in the bottom six — SMU owns the other two losses to USF and Temple.

What’s on the line for Louisville
The Cardinals moved into a tie with Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference lead with a win Thursday against Temple. Louisville’s road to the top seed in the conference tournament will be tougher with Saturday’s game at Memphis, a road trip to SMU and the home finale against UConn. Meanwhile, Cincinnati face UConn and Rutgers on the road and Memphis at home.

What’s on the line for Memphis
With a 73-67 win over Louisville on Jan. 9, Memphis is seeking its first season sweep of the Cardinals since 1996-97 when both were in Conference USA. Like Louisville, the Tigers wrap up their season with a tough stretch (at Cincinnati, vs. SMU). Memphis was sloppy in a loss Thursday to Houston, allowing 21 points on 14 turnovers.

Louisville at Memphis
Saturday, 2 p.m. Eastern, CBS

About Louisville
Record: 24-4, 13-2 American
AP: 7
RPI: 28
KenPom: 2
Sagarin: 4

About Memphis
Record: 21-7, 10-5 American
AP: 21
RPI: 39
KenPom: 45
Sagarin: 46

Athlon Editor Picks
David Fox: Louisville 71-65
Braden Gall: Louisville 74-68
Mitch Light: Louisville 64-60
You’ll tune in to watch: The Russ Smith Show
The Louisville guard scored only 10 points against Cincinnati on Saturday, but the last two were the only ones anyone will remember. Smith continues to be an All-America caliber guard who is having a season even better than what he did year ago. Now a darling of advanced analytics, Smith is shooting 52 percent from 2-point range (up from 45.8) and 37.6 from 3 (up from 32.8). He’ll be matched up against Memphis’ standout defensive duo of Geron Johnson and Michael Dixon.

Pivotal player: Austin Nichols, Memphis
The 6-8 freshman could be a key player for Memphis late in the year. The guard-oriented Tigers have had four standout games from Nichols in a row with 12 points per game in that span. Facing a small lineup against UConn and two bad AAC teams in Rutgers and Temple may have helped.

Biggest question: Who will hit free throws?
Struggling to hit free throws is usually a red flag in March. Few teams are more concerned than Louisville and Memphis, who are two of the worst in the country from the line. Memphis ranks 304th (65.8 percent), and Louisville is a few steps behind at No. 313 (65.5).

College Basketball Game Preview: Louisville seeks to flex muscles vs. Memphis
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 11:03