ACC Bracket Watch: March 8 Update

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 8th, 2014

A lot can change in the world of college hoops as it relates to the NCAA Tournament, and recently, a lot has. Since the last update we did in early February, Syracuse is no longer undefeated; Virginia is the regular season champion; and UNC has embarked on a mind-boggling winning streak. While the top tier of the ACC has become even more clear since Pittsburgh fell off the face of the Earth, most of the ACC bubble teams living in the #7-#10 seed range have largely disappointed on their way to the outside looking in — surely perennial bubbler and current ESPN personality Seth Greenberg can relate from his ACC days. But while tallies in the loss column have mounted high enough for Syracuse and Duke to be largely removed from #1 seed consideration, Virginia has quietly pushed itself into the discussion. The Cavaliers find themselves in this position thanks to its 16 conference wins and the startling point differential in which they secured them.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett must be ecstatic with the Cavaliers' most recent bracket projection (photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Virginia coach Tony Bennett must be ecstatic with the Cavaliers’ most recent bracket projection (photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

So while North Carolina and Virginia’s stocks are soaring, Syracuse and Duke have taken a hit. It remains to be seen if the ACC can land a bid outside of its top four programs, but at this juncture it seems improbable. Since the last update, Florida State and Pittsburgh have both fallen into a steep decline. Jamie Dixon’s team remains close, residing in and around most people’s ‘Last Four Out’ category, but the Seminoles are nowhere to be found. N.C. State also created some February rumblings about making a run at the bubble until the Wolfpack lost badly to Clemson and Miami in a period of two weeks. The ACC Tournament provides the sole venue for teams seeking an automatic bid, but a team running through the slate of Syracuse, UNC, Virginia and/or Duke seems rather daunting at this point.

‘Busting the Bracket’ Projected ACC Seeding*

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday - North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

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While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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The RTC Podblast: Regular Season Finale Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2014

It’s all about coming full circle on the 2013-14 regular season in this week’s RTC Podblast, and to help us through some of the key questions as we enter the final weekend of play and start looking ahead to March Madness, the guys welcome Sporting News‘ columnist Mike DeCourcy. For those of you who have been listening to us all season, you might recall that DeCourcy was our first Rush the Take guest way back in the preseason. He may have aged five months since then but his takes are as relevant as ever. Full circle.

As usual, the rundown is below if you’d like to skip around to the most interesting parts. Also keep an eye out early next week as we’ll be releasing a bunch of podblasts previewing the upcoming conference tourneys as we head into the heart of Championship Fortnight.

Make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after we record.

  • 0:00-3:05 – Down Goes Duke
  • 3:05-5:18 – Struggling Syracuse
  • 5:18-8:27 – Saint Louis Blue
  • 8:27-25:20 – Rush the Take: Mike DeCourcy
  • 25:20-35:35 – Final Weekend Preview
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ACC M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 6th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. ESPN: If you don’t read anything else today, read this Tommy Tomlinson piece on Dean Smith. It’s well-written and heartbreaking.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: In more upbeat news, Wake Forest knocked off Duke at the Joel last night. This was the first time since 2009 that the Demon Deacons have beaten Duke, North Carolina and NC State at home. It shouldn’t be enough to save Jeff Bzdelik’s job, but it does give Travis McKie some return on his four-year investment in the program. Duke’s offense sputtered against Wake Forest’s zone down the stretch, allowing the Demon Deacons to effectively close out the game on a late 17-0 run. Another side note is that Coach K experienced some dizziness during the game and opted for Steve Wojciechowski to take his place at the press conference podium after the loss.
  3. Syracuse Post-Standard: If you ever wonder why Patrick Stevens gets paid the big bucks, it’s because he’s a saint for breaking out all the possible iterations of the ACC Tournament heading into the final weekend. While the scenarios are complex, they’re slowly narrowing. The top of the league is much more set than the bottom (at this point, all of the byes and double-byes are clinched). But Notre Dame and Georgia Tech are a complete mess.
  4. Washington Post: Drama in College Park. as Charles Mitchell got into a heated discussion with assistant Scott Spinelli. The explosion feels out of character, as Mitchell normally appears to be an easy-going guy on the bench. Suffice to say that it will be handled in house.
  5. USA Today: Man, a lot of people who had Syracuse as an overall #1 seed last week are singing a different tune this week. I won’t get on board that train, although the Orange are certainly not doing themselves seeding favors or otherwise by losing to Georgia Tech.
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ACC M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 5th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. John Gasaway: Virginia is playing as well as anyone in the country. The Cavaliers have the second best efficiency margin in the country, trailing only American cupcake-feasting Louisville. Duke is fifth in efficiency margin behind Louisville, Virginia, Florida and Arizona. North Carolina has been elite over its 12-game winning streak (and has shot the ball incredibly well), which should make for an exciting rematch in Durham this weekend to close out their season.
  2. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Not mentioned in that elite bunch? Syracuse, which continued its regression in the worst kind of way by losing at home to Georgia Tech last night. Jerami Grant missed the game, which put the Orange on their heels inside. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita were offensive no-shows (along with Trevor Cooney), which left CJ Fair and Tyler Ennis to try to cobble together a win. Big ups to Georgia Tech which looks much more dangerous with Robert Carter back in the lineup.
  3. Tomahawk Nation: Moving our focus back to the bubble, it’s time to again point out the obvious flaws in the RPI. If Florida State had scheduled a Division II school (which doesn’t count) instead of Leonard Hamilton’s alma mater, Tennessee-Martin, its strength of schedule would improve a whopping 14 spots from #42 to #28. That’s incredibly stupid. There are a lot of other fun hypotheticals in here that show how close the Seminoles are to the right side of the bubble, but your big takeaway should be that a sport where margin of victory stats are available for every game should take them into account.
  4. Baltimore Sun: It’s becoming increasingly clear that Seth Allen‘s injury may have derailed Maryland’s season. The Terrapins are just starting to click with him back at 100 percent and the Terps still aren’t a great team, but they are significantly improved. Last season, Allen’s potential always shined through, but he seemed to be a year away. Unfortunately his injury set him back. I’m not sure what Maryland’s ceiling is going forward, but don’t bet against the Terrapins making the NCAA Tournament in the Big Ten next season.
  5. Yahoo Sports: Tell me if this story sounds familiar: ACC team racks up more than 20 wins and a decent statistical profile, but it also nabs a bottom 15 percent non-conference schedule where they lost their only chance at a good win. Now add in no sparkling conference wins. What do you get? 2009-10 Virginia Tech and 2013-14 Pittsburgh. I think the Panthers are a better team (certainly the advanced stats say so), but boy they are leaving themselves some work to do in the ACC Tournament if they keep this up.

EXTRA: Trying to decide on an all-ACC team? Here are 20 of the top contenders (with sortable stats) from Backing the Pack‘s Austin Johnson.

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ACC M5: 03.04.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 4th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Backing the Pack: I (like many) had been on the fence about ACC Player of the Year. No more. TJ Warren put away the competition (Jabari Parker and KJ McDaniels) with a 41-point outburst Monday night at Pittsburgh. In the process, the Wolfpack welcomed the Panthers to the bubble and managed to keep their own postseason dreams alive, if only by a thread. Warren did it all offensively against Jamie Dixon’s team. He knocked down 30-footers at the end of the shot clock; he got to the line; and he showed off some mid-range game.
  2. Duke Basketball Report: Virginia clearly won the regular season crown, but who is the best team in the ACC? There’s not a good answer. Duke probably has the highest ceiling (when shots are falling, obviously), and Syracuse has the most depth, but Virginia‘s consistency makes them a very safe bet. This is shaping up to be a really fun ACC Tournament in Greensboro next week. Potentially three schools playing for the final #1 seed or the best #2 seed, and four schools needing wins in the worst kind of way.
  3. USA Today: Good profile on Tyler Ennis from Nicole Auerbach. It’s funny that he was the super-talkative kid when he seems so quiet as a player. Also interesting is that he spent his middle school days dominating indoor lacrosse. Ennis has looked more like a freshman down the stretch, though. Jim Boeheim needs to make sure he’s not wearing down, because as Fran Fraschilla points out in the article, there isn’t anyone else. The one player the Orange can’t replace in their lineup is Ennis. He has to be at the top of his game for Syracuse to make it to Dallas.
  4. Sports Illustrated: Joe Harris was a diamond in the rough. As a freshman and sophomore he took a small (mostly scoring) role on decent teams. Now he’s the backbone of the Cavaliers. He nearly always draws the opponent’s best perimeter player on top of his already significant scoring load. Here’s to hoping Harris gets a shot to show the country just how good Virginia basketball has gotten over the past couple of seasons.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Roy Williams is getting a lot of unbiased, third party advice on free throw shooting. It’s true the Tar Heels have been historically bad from the charity stripe this season, but I’m not sure taking a few more reps after practice is going to fix the problem. And with their two primary ball-handlers making free throws, their struggles may in fact largely be overrated.
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RTC Bracketology: March 3 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 3rd, 2014

Selection Sunday is almost here and the field is starting to take shape. Everything will obviously clear up a lot more when conference tournaments get underway this week and next as teams play themselves into and out of the 68-team field. This time of the year is like a whirlwind, though. It’s hard to keep up with all of it because there are still so many things we do not know. But if we focus on what we do know, things get a lot easier. Let’s do that with today’s RTC Bracketology.

  • Unless  something unbelievable happens down the stretch, Wichita State is going to get a No. 1 seed. The Shockers are basically a lock for the top line and Florida and Arizona are very close to it as well. I think if the Gators and Wildcats win both of their games this week, they will be No. 1 seeds regardless of what happens in their conference tournaments. This is the clearest the top line of the bracket has ever been at this point. Of course, losses by the Shockers, Gators and Wildcats in the next  two weeks would muddy that picture, but let’s count those three teams as No. 1 seed locks at this point.
  • The fight for the fourth No. 1 seed is insane. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the possibility of Wisconsin earning the final No. 1 seed, and as of today, I think the Badgers have the nation’s fourth-best profile. For now, I’m leaving Syracuse on the top line, because that’s what I think the Selection Committee would do, but in my opinion, both Kansas and Wisconsin have better resumes. We know that the fight for the last No. 1 seed is really unclear right now, because there are so many teams still alive for it: Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Villanova, Duke, Virginia, Michigan, Creighton, and and San Diego State. Obviously some of those teams are long shots.
  • The bottom of the bracket is a complete mess. Arkansas moves in with a sweep over Kentucky, and Tennessee hangs on to the last spot in, which gives the SEC a surprising four teams. It’s still very possible that both the Hawgs and Vols could miss the field, leaving the conference with only two teams playing in the NCAAs. I will say this, though: Tennessee was the only team I got incorrect last year. I picked the Vols over Middle Tennessee last season, and although that won’t factor into the decision on my final field of 68, I won’t be too happy if Cuonzo Martin’s team costs me  a perfect field again. Luckily, there is still a lot of basketball to be played before a final field is seeded.
  • I’ve got 32 locks at  this point. I realize some other websites are more patient on their locks, but there are only 13 days left until Selection Sunday. It’s time to lock teams up. Here are the teams I have locked in the field right now: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State  and New Mexico.
  • Teams moving down the seed list in a hurry this week include Michigan State, which lost at home Saturday to Illinois, and Kentucky, which lost at South Carolina. Ohio State is also on the decline after a loss to Indiana on Sunday.

Bids by Conference: Big 12 (7), Big Ten (6), Pac-12 (6), Atlantic 10 (6), ACC (5), AAC (5) SEC (4), Big East (4), Mountain West (2).
First Four Out: Providence, Missouri, BYU, Oregon

Complete bracket after the jump:

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RTC Top 25: Week Sixteen

Posted by Walker Carey on March 3rd, 2014

With just one full week left in the regular season, things started to get very interested this past weekend. A total of 10 previously-ranked teams suffered setbacks on either Saturday or Sunday. The most noteworthy results of the week involved previously 19th-ranked Kentucky. John Calipari’s enigmatic squad, which was ranked first in the preseason edition of the RTC25, is now unranked after falling at home to Arkansas on Thursday and getting stunned at 11-18 South Carolina on Saturday. The SEC, ACC and Big 12 conference races were all decided on Saturday. #1 Florida grabbed the outright SEC crown by remaining unbeaten in conference play with a comfortable 18-point win over LSU in Gainesville. #4 Virginia clinched the ACC regular season title outright, as it moved to 16-1 in conference play with a dominating 19-point victory over #7 Syracuse. #6 Kansas wrapped up the regular season Big 12 title by besting #21 Oklahoma in Lawrence on Monday and taking advantage of losses by the conference’s second-place teams, #15 Iowa State and Texas, on Saturday. The outright regular season Pac-12 champion was determined on Sunday by virtue of #2 Arizona handily defeating Stanford in Tucson. With several major-conference crowns yet to be determined, the final week of the regular season promises to bring the intrigue that college basketball has become to be known for every season. The quick n’ dirty analysis of this week’s poll is after the jump.

rtc25 03.03.14

Quick n’ Dirty Analysis:

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Chaotic Weekend Builds Drama for Regular Season’s Final Act

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 3rd, 2014

It was a weekend that saw 11 ranked teams fall, an unlikely band of Shockers find a small slice of immortality (the regular season variety), and an already jumbled NCAA Tournament bubble grow exponentially more confusing. Ever predictably, the arrival of March meant great drama for college basketball fans. With one week now left in the regular season, here are three key storylines that emerged from a riveting weekend of action on the college hoops hardwood.

Last #1 Seed Up For Grabs

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, And Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Syracuse Has Suddenly Lost Three Of Four After A 25-0 Start; Can Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, and Company Right The Ship In Time To Get Back On The #1 Seed Line?

Presumptive #1 seeds Arizona, Florida and Wichita State were all able to avoid the upset bug this weekend, and barring multiple losses in the next two weeks, each seems adequately safe on the top line. But with Syracuse continuing its mini-slide in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, that fourth #1 seed has no apparent owner heading into the season’s final week. By my count, no fewer than eight teams should still be in play for the honor, although scenarios for five of those squads — Creighton, Michigan, Wisconsin, Villanova and Virginia – would almost surely include winning out through their conference tournaments, and then also getting help from elsewhere. The trio with the firmest grasp on their own fate — Duke, Kansas, and the aforementioned Orange — may not be doing as much Championship Week scoreboard watching as those five teams, but all would still likely need to win out to earn that last #1 seed. But before those three schools face the gauntlet that will be the Big 12 and ACC Tournaments, there is still business to be tended to this week. Despite a date with surging rival UNC (at Cameron), Duke may have the easiest list of chores among the three: KenPom’s predictor gives the Blue Devils a 68 percent chance of finishing off the regular season with a pair of wins. Kansas faces Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse before concluding the regular season with a visit to West Virginia; the latter contest offers a challenge sufficient enough to leave KenPom predicting that a Jayhawks’ final week sweep will occur only 60% of the time (and that number probably does not account for the likelihood that Joel Embiid sits out). Syracuse shouldn’t look past Georgia Tech on Tuesday (don’t forget those Boston College Eagles!), but its Sunday trip to Tallahassee is a significant landmine — significant enough that the Orange are expected to polish off their regular season with two wins just 48 percent of the time. The margin for error is thin for all three of these teams; a loss – no matter where it comes from – would all but end dreams of that fourth #1 seed.

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ACC M5: 03.03.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 3rd, 2014

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  1. Charlottesville Daily Progress: First things first, Virginia showed the world it was ready for the bright lights with a doubter-silencing beatdown of Syracuse to clinch the ACC regular season title (its first since Ralph Sampson). Sure, you can still bag on the unbalanced schedule and the ugly non-conference games all you want, but this Virginia team isn’t playing games. The Cavaliers were the first team this year to beat Syracuse in convincing fashion, the fans stormed the floor, and the nets were cut down. Tony Bennett compared the noise at the game to a Taylor Swift concert. With the win, three ACC teams have a shot for the final one seed (assuming one wins out).
  2. Backing the Pack: Virginia wasn’t the only team to reach emotional extremes this week. NC State also finds itself on new ground under Mark Gottfried. For the first time since he was hired, the NCAA Tournament is effectively off the table (barring a miraculous ACC Tournament run) after getting blitzed by Miami at home. This team had really over-performed most people’s (including my own) expectations, so the loss wasn’t that surprising. Though it was icing on the cake after the brutal loss to North Carolina earlier last week. Now Gottfried has to show that he can motivate a team with new goals.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Leonard Hamilton relies heavily on a mercurial sophomore class. Four play over 20 minutes a game, and Michael Ojo gets significant time off the bench. Unsurprisingly, the season has been somewhat of a roller coaster, dismantling a very good Virginia Commonwealth team early in the year and losing to Miami at home three weeks ago. The Seminoles hold a decent position on the bubble. They still have work to do, but a home finish against a reeling Syracuse team might be just what the bracketologist ordered.
  4. Washington Post: John Feinstein touches on a great point. Last week was the first big ACC game (from a national perspective) not involving Duke and North Carolina in a very long time. The last time Duke or North Carolina didn’t finish at least second in the regular season was 2003 when Wake Forest finished first and Maryland was second. Also a good point from Brian Gregory on the side effects of expansion: “I feel like I started out trying to construct a building,” Gregory said. “Just when I got the foundation built, I found out that someone has already built three new penthouse units on top of me.”
  5. Washington Post: Keeping things with Feinstein to close things out. It was Dean Smith‘s 83rd birthday Friday, so it’s worth reading a couple of anecdotes about him.

EXTRA: Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski went on Dan LeBatard’s radio show together and gave an amusing interview — especially the first few minutes. Suffice to say five years ago, no one and I mean no one would have expected Coach K to do an interview like this one.

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Virginia’s Offense Leads to ACC Crown and Optimism for What Comes Next

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 2nd, 2014

Virginia’s first outright ACC title in 33 years came about in somewhat stunning fashion, blowing out #4 Syracuse by 19 points at John Paul Jones Arena Saturday evening. Anyone who has watched Tony Bennett’s team since the calendar flipped to 2014, though, saw much of what they’ve come to expect from this squad. Their stifling defense may be the Cavaliers’ calling card, but their ultra-efficient offense is the reason they had the ability to defeat one of the nation’s best in Syracuse and are poised to make major noise in March.

Mike Tobey

Offensive production from players like Mike Tobey lifted Virginia to its first outright ACC regular season title in 33 years (Mike Ingalls)

Bennett’s club gets most of its accolades thanks to his trademark “Pack Line Defense,” a stout man-to-man philosophy that stagnates opposing sets and leads to low offensive output. But the way Virginia has been scoring the basketball in ACC play is why it’s boasting an astounding 16-1 ACC record with only a road match-up at Maryland left to close out the year. Twelve of the Cavaliers’ conference wins have come by double figures, a remarkable feat on its own right, and coming into Saturday’s game they were second only to Duke in points per possession. While their defense often translates to opportunities on the offensive end, their demonstrated ability to initiate back-breaking runs (a 20-1 run to close out Georgia Tech; a 30-5 stretch to blow out Notre Dame; a 19-7 streak to pull away from Miami in the second half) shows they have sufficient offensive punch to couple with their effort on the defensive end. On Saturday, they closed out the Orange with a 35-16 blitz over the final 15 minutes of the game, showing that they’re no longer satisfied playing methodical, plodding games in the 50’s. Virginia can now outscore you too, which has to be a frightening proposition for the teams matched up with them over the next few weeks.

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Whats Trending: Tom Izzo Dancing, Baylor Getting Baptized, Marcus Paige, and More…

Posted by Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) on February 28th, 2014

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Nick Fasulo (@nickfasuloSBN) is your weekly host.

Tom Izzo… Pony… Ride It

So Tom Izzo apparently appears in a new Werner Ladders TV commercial. That’s clever and funny and all, but SB Nation‘s Brian Floyd already made the remix for us because that is how he rolls… just laying beats over video and hitting the “UPLOAD TO YOUTUBE” button.

Yes, that would be the renowned R&B hit “Pony” by Ginuwine.

Baylor Bears Get Baptized

No for real. This is not a euphemism for getting shown up on defense while your opponent throws one down in your face. A handful of Baylor Bears were actually baptized last week. Isaiah Austin captured it all.

Scottie Wilbekin Celebrates Like A Soccer Player

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