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Rothstein Files | Missouri on an upward trajectory

Jon Rothstein

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1. Notre Dame is facing a “win-and-in” situation against Duke

The Irish are now 14-4 with Bonzie Colson in the lineup this season and 6-9 without him. They’re one of the big teams in question during Championship Week when it comes to the bubble because they’ve had good wins and bad losses with their most important player in uniform.

Notre Dame has neutral site victories over Wichita State and Virginia Tech with Colson in the lineup, but also lost to Ball State and Indiana with him as well.

There’s no doubt that Mike Brey’s squad would have done enough to merit an NCAA Tournament caliber bid if Colson was healthy all season, but he wasn’t.

So what can put the Irish over the edge?

Beating Duke on Thursday night at the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.

Win and in?

Without question.

What happens with a loss?

A long three days between now and when the brackets come out on Sunday.

2. Bucknell has all the requisites to win a game in the Round of 64

The Bison have won 17 of their last 18 games and 13 of those games have been won by double-figures.

Bucknell’s last two games in the Patriot League Tournament were decided by a combined 60 points and several of this team’s key components were a part of last year’s squad that only lost to West Virginia by six in the NCAA Tournament.

This team’s top five scorers — Zach Thomas, Nana Foulland, Stephen Brown, Kimbal Mackenzie, and Nate Sestina — are all either juniors or seniors.

Another thing to keep in mind?

This team is battle tested.

The Bison played an arduous non-conference schedule that featured road games at North Carolina, Arkansas, and Maryland.

You won’t want to see this team in the Round of 64.

3. Missouri is on an upward trajectory

20-win team?

Check.

The return of a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft in Michael Porter Jr.?

Check.

Playing the SEC Tournament in Saint Louis when your campus is located in Columbia?

Check.

There’s a lot to like regarding Missouri’s chances in its league tournament this week and all the intangibles are heading in its direction. Cuonzo Martin’s public announcement on Wednesday that Porter will play in the Tigers’ game on Thursday against Georgia makes Missouri a trendy pick for next week’s NCAA Tournament and also adds the caché that Martin hoped to bring to this program when he left Cal last spring.

The Tigers’ prognosis is on an incline right and it’s only going to stay that way if Porter makes the type of impact many expect he will over the next few days in Saint Louis.

4. Oklahoma is a lightning rod

Perhaps no other team in college basketball can draw the ire of pundits and fans like the Sooners.

Oklahoma started the season 14-2 overall, but has since went 4-11 in its last 15 games.

Are the Sooners still a lock to be an NCAA Tournament team?

Absolutely.

My colleagues at CBS Sports Network — Brent Stover and Wally Szczerbiak — took part in a group text exchange with myself after Oklahoma’s loss on Wednesday night to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament and while this team’s recent struggles and lack of quality performances were a major point of discussion, so was the Sooners’ overall body of work.

Lon Kruger’s team has beaten TCU twice, won at Wichita State, and also beaten both Kansas and Texas Tech.

All 13 of the Sooners’ losses are against teams that are currently projected to be in the NCAA Tournament with the exception of Iowa State. Alabama is the only other exception, but the Crimson Tide are still in contention for an at-large bid.

You can debate the merits of a lot of different bubble teams between now and Selection Sunday, but it’s a waste of time to debate Oklahoma.

The Sooners are a lock.

5. Boston College has turned a corner under Jim Christian

Athletic directors have different motives when they hire a coach, but one that is most common is the hope “to win the press conference.”

Hiring the best person for the job isn’t nearly as important to most administrators as it is to hire the best person to gain headlines and generate a certain buzz around their program.

Jim Christian wasn’t necessarily a hire that “won a press conference” when he was tabbed to succeed Steve Donahue at Boston College, but the move by the Eagles to tab Christian as their head coach is paying major dividends.

Boston College won its second game in the ACC Tournament on Wednesday against NC State and its 19th overall, putting itself in position to at least be a member of the Postseason NIT if it doesn’t beat Clemson on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Eagles have won nine games this season against conference opponents; they won a combined six ACC tilts during Christian’s first three years in Chestnut Hill.

If Boston College’s starting back court of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman returns to school next year, the Eagles are a legitimate threat to be ranked in the Top 25 of virtually every preseason poll entering the 2018-19 season.

If that’s not tangible progress for a program that has been anonymous for roughly the last half decade, then what is?

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via ITunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

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