NCAA Tournament bubble could be unpredictable with more than a week until Selection Sunday | College basketball notes
The question on a lot of minds is how much the NCAA Division I men's basketball committee will consider rankings in the new NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET).
As we hit the final weekend of college basketball’s regular season for the power conferences and some mid-majors, the anxiety continues to build approaching Selection Sunday and the overstuffed bubble full of teams that the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee will have to consider.
One of the main questions, with this being the first year of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET), is how much of a role that will play in the overall consideration of at-large teams in contention for postseason berths.
Perhaps the most puzzling example is the range of NET numbers among projected tournament teams.
North Carolina State (NET 35) has an unimpressive resume that includes a strength of schedule ranked 211th and a non-conference SOS of 352. Its two Quadrant 1 wins are over Auburn and Penn State. Yet the Wolfpack are one of the last four in according to Joe Lunardi (ESPN) and Howie Schwab (Fox Sports).
On the other extreme is Arizona State (NET 71), which has a victory over Kansas among its three Quadrant 1 wins but has lost to Quadrant 4 opponents Princeton and Washington State. The Sun Devils are on the last-four-byes list of Lunardi and last-four-in rank of Jerry Palm (CBS Sports).
Meanwhile, Seton Hall, which defeated Marquette on Wednesday night and already has beaten Kentucky on a neutral court and Maryland in College Park, still is considered a First Four candidate by many. The Pirates’ NET is 61 despite their quality wins and a nonconference strength of schedule of 93. They can pick up yet another statement win Saturday against Villanova.
To sum it up, this should be a crazy week for aspiring tournament teams.
End of the impossible
“The Streak” began in 2004, when the big story locally was St. Joseph’s following an undefeated regular season with a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed and a heartbreaking two-point loss to Oklahoma State that kept the Hawks out of the Final Four.
Out in Kansas, the Jayhawks, led by second-year head coach Bill Self, won the Big 12 regular-season championship. They would go on, year after year, through rebuilding projects, injuries and inexperience, to repeat as champions, a streak that reached 14 years before it ended last Tuesday with an 81-68 loss to Oklahoma.
The fact that the streak was still alive in the final week of the regular season is a testament to the team’s grit. The Jayhawks were missing center Udoka Azubuike (injury), guard Lagerald Vick (leave of absence) and forward Silvio de Sousa (ineligible).
Former Kansas player Devonte Graham, now with the Charlotte Hornets, played a role in four of those titles.
“All good things come to an end,” he told the Associated Press. “But as a guy who was there and part of the streak, you always want to keep it going. But I am definitely bummed that it came to an end.”
A great big oh-fer
Another amazing streak, though confined to this season, is from Vanderbilt, which is one loss away from becoming the first SEC team to go winless in league play since Georgia Tech went 0-14 in 1953-54.
The Commodores sank to 0-17 in the league, and fell to a school-record 21st defeat — the most losses in a season in school history — by losing Wednesday night to Arkansas. In 67 years on their Memorial Gym home court, they suffered their first losing season.
They will finish their season Saturday against Louisiana State, which needs a win to clinch at least a share of the SEC title.
Lionel’s spot in jeopardy
We got this heads-up during the week from our old friend Bob Vetrone Jr., known far and wide as Boop, who mentioned that former La Salle great Lionel Simmons might be losing his hold on the No. 3 spot on the NCAA Division I all-time scoring list.
Campbell guard Chris Clemons steadily has been moving up the rankings. His 34 points Thursday night against Hampton in the Big South Tournament gave him 3,170 career points, only 47 away from tying Simmons (3,217) for third place.
The Camels will play Gardner-Webb in Friday night’s semifinals, and a win would send them to Saturday’s championship game. That would give Clemons, the leading Division I scorer at slightly better than 30 points per game, a good shot at vaulting over Simmons. The former Southern High star played from 1987-90.
Expatriate of the week (1)
Junior guard Amir Hinton, who helped lead Abington High to the 2015 PIAA Class AAAA District 1 championship, intends to declare for the NBA draft after a productive season at Shaw University. The 6-foot-5 Hinton led Division II in scoring with a 29.4-point average.
“I think the timing is perfect for me,” Hinton told ESPN. “I will be hiring an agent. I am ready. I am going to try to be a lottery pick.”
Hinton is projected 49th in the ESPN top 100. A Division II player has not been drafted since 2005.
Expatriate of the week (2)
Former Friends’ Central star Jonathan Lawton, a 6-foot-2 senior guard for Florida Southern, was named player of the year in the Sunshine State Conference. Lawton, whose team will play in the semifinals of the SSC tournament on Saturday, is averaging 22.9 points and is first in the league in three-point baskets per game (3.2) and free-throw percentage (90.0).
A look at the week’s top games
Tennessee at Auburn, Saturday at noon, ESPN: Auburn coach Bruce Pearl, who led the Volunteers to six straight NCAA appearances before being fired in 2011 for lying to the NCAA, can prevent his old team from winning the SEC regular season title outright. Tennessee and LSU enter the day tied for first.
Louisville at Virginia, Saturday at 4 p.m., ESPN: Not counting two losses to Duke, the Cavaliers have defeated every opponent this season. A win over the Cardinals and a loss by North Carolina means an ACC regular-season championship, and keeps them in the hunt for a No. 1 NCAA overall seed.
Duke at North Carolina, Saturday at 6 p.m., ESPN: Mike Krzyzewski is content with waiting until the ACC tournament to bring back super freshman Zion Williamson, which would appear to hamper the Blue Devils’ hopes of avenging their loss to the Tar Heels on Feb. 20, the night Williamson sprained his knee.
Michigan at Michigan State, Saturday at 8 p.m., ESPN: The winner of this game clinches at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, and would win it outright if last-place Northwestern can upset Purdue. The Spartans shocked the Wolverines in Ann Arbor less than two weeks ago.
Houston at Cincinnati, Sunday at noon, CBS3: This AAC championship showdown was spoiled when the Bearcats lost Thursday night to Central Florida, meaning they need a win to grab at least a share of the crown. The Cougars’ last title came in 1991-92 when they were in the Southwest Conference.
P.J. Washington, Kentucky, F, 6-8, 228, So., Dallas
Washington, who declared for the NBA draft after his freshman year but withdrew his name and returned to the Wildcats, has been a steady performer for a Kentucky team that has a shot at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Washington is averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds and shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He has posted seven double-doubles and 10 games of 20 points or more. Washington ripped off an 11-game stretch in which he scored 20.3 points per game.