2019-20 RTC16: Week 16

Posted by Walker Carey on March 9th, 2020

The final week of the regular season saw the resolution to many conference championship battles. In the SEC, #7 Kentucky secured the outright championship last week. In the Big 12, #1 Kansas clinched a share of the league title with a win over TCU on Tuesday and earned the outright crown with a win at Texas Tech on Saturday. The ACC saw #4 Florida Statewhich was picked to finish fifth in the preseason — take home the outright league title with wins over Notre Dame and Boston College coupled with #15 Louisville falling at Virginia. #14 Oregon used comfortable home wins over California and Stanford along with some help via UCLA and Arizona State losing to earn the outright Pac-12 title. The Big Ten and Big East races ended with three teams earning the privilege to hang a banner. #8 Michigan State, #13 Maryland and Wisconsin shared the Big Ten title while #9 Creighton, #10 Villanova and #12 Seton Hall split the Big East crown. This regular season was defined by the unexpected, so be on high alert for some surprises as the postseason hits its stride later this. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty is after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: Let’s Dance…

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 9th, 2020

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

After a January 18 loss at Boise State, Utah State’s record fell to 14-6 (3-4 Mountain West) with a NET Ranking of 83rd and any bubble hope seemingly out of reach. After a stretch of winning 11 of its next 13 games, however, Utah State found itself playing for a Mountain West title over the weekend against San Diego State. After a tightly fought second half, the Aggies had possession with the score tied and the clock winding down…

Sam Merrill’s game-winner was his sixth made three of the game. The star guard played every second of the game, scored 27 points and helped carry the Aggies right into the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. The senior averaged 27.7 points per game in the MW Tournament and is the type of player than can definitely wreck opponent’s dreams next week.

While winning the Mountain West title would have capped a tremendous pre-NCAA Tournament season for the Aztecs, Jon Rothstein outlines below why San Diego State’s loss could end up benefitting the team in the long run. The roughly 125-mile trip from Viejas Arena to Staples Center definitely beats the 2,800 miles between San Diego and Madison Square Garden (if the Aztecs had gotten the #1 Seed in the East Region).

Belmont last year made the NCAA Tournament in head coach Rick Byrd’s final season leading the Bruins. Entering the season, the school needed to not only replace Byrd, but also the team’s two-leading scorers — Dylan Windler (21.3 PPG) and Kevin McClain (16.8 PPG). New head coach Casey Alexander began the season with a shaky loss to Illinois State and an even more surprising defeat at the hands of SIU-Edwardsville, but things started to click by OVC play. Down a point to Murray State on Saturday, Belmont went to a program classic, the backdoor cut. Like last year’s team, the Bruins are dancing.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Teams Battle For Positioning As Others Fight for a Chance to Dance

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 6th, 2020

This weekend will send the first few teams dancing as conference tournaments are already underway in several leagues. Elsewhere, the power conferences enter their regular season finales with conference titles on the line. Here are 10 questions I have for just some of what will take place on the hardwood this weekend:

  1. Which Big East front-runner will gain the edge for a Big East Tourney run? (Seton Hall @ Creighton, Saturday, 2:30 PM EDT, Fox) With a win in Omaha, Seton Hall would guarantee itself a Big East title and the top seed in the upcoming Big East tournament. The #1 seed will open next week’s event against one of the three Big East teams not currently positioned to make the NCAA Tournament. In Creighton’s win at Seton Hall, the four Bluejays scored 18 points.
  2. After clinching no worse than a share of the Big 12 title, will Kansas be focused as it heads to Lubbock? (Kansas @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 2 PM EDT, ESPN) The Jayhawks have won 15 straight games and are a win away from winning the Big 12 regular season title outright. In Kansas’ two most recent games, they trailed with a little more than 14 minutes to go. Despite getting just five points from Udoka Azubuike in the first match-up with Texas Tech, Kansas never found itself behind on the scoreboard.
  3. Can Jay Huff keep up his recent level of play? (Louisville @ Virginia, Saturday, 4 PM EDT, ESPN) After dominating Duke on the defensive end of the floor last week, Virginia’s Jay Huff put an offensive show against Miami in the Cavaliers’ midweek win. Huff tied his career-high of 17 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. The big man has now scored 32 points over his last two games, the most of any two-game stretch during his career.
  4. Will UCLA’s recent improbable run of success continue? (UCLA @ USC, Saturday, 3:15 PM EDT, CBS) Mick Cronin’s Bruins can earn at worst a share of the Pac-12 title with a win over USC this weekend. UCLA has won seven straight games, but they will take on a Trojans team that beat the Bruins by 11 points in early January. In that match-up, foul trouble limited USC’s Onyeka Okongwu to just four points, yet the Trojans still posted 1.17 points per possession behind a 60 percent day from inside the arc and 7-of-14 shooting beyond it.
  5. Can West Virginia find any offense as it hosts Baylor? (Baylor @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EDT, ESPN+) There is no denying that West Virginia is an elite defensive and rebounding squad, capable of frustrating any opponent to great lengths. Unfortunately for Bob Huggins, this Mountaineers team is one of his worst offensive groups. Going back to the 1996-97 season, no Huggins team has logged a worse three-point or free-throw percentage. Poor shooting and a high turnover rate have derailed what was a very promising start.
  6. Will returning home help Maryland turn its play around? (Michigan @ Maryland, Sunday, Noon EDT, Fox) Had Minnesota not collapsed against Maryland last week, the Terps would be heading into their regular season finale with four straight defeats. After catching fire late from three-point range in the win at Michigan State, Anthony Cowan has made just 3-of-21 from distance over his last four games. Maryland returns to the Xfinity Center, however, where it has gone 15-1 so far on the season.
  7. Can Richmond keep its bubble hopes alive? (Richmond @ Duquesne, Friday, 7 PM EDT) After going 25-40 over the last two seasons, Chris Mooney now has Richmond sitting at 23-7 heading into its season finale. A win at Duquesne would make the Spiders 3-2 against Quad 2 opponents. Richmond currently has the second best in-conference defensive efficiency of any Atlantic 10 team over the past five years.
  8. Will San Diego State make it through the Mountain West Tournament unscathed? (MWC Final, Saturday, 5:30 PM EDT, CBS) A San Diego State Mountain West tournament championship would almost certainly lock up at least a #2 seed for the Aztecs in March Madness. Brian Dutcher’s squad has needed recent second-half rallies to avoid picking up their second loss, though. A title game matchup against a Utah State team that is among the Bracket Matrix’s first four out could be the final Mountain West test for San Diego State.
  9. Will the Missouri Valley Tournament come down to another thriller between Loyola (Chicago) and Northern Iowa? (MVC Final, Sunday, 2:10 PM EDT, CBS) Top seeds Loyola (Chicago) and Northern Iowa sit on opposite sides of the draw in “Arch Madness.” Both regular season matchups required overtime, with each team winning at home. Conference Player of the Year AJ Green of Northern Iowa made 39.4 percent of his three-point attempts on the regular season, but connected on just 6-of-18 attempts against the Ramblers.
  10. Can Liberty hold off a red-hot Ahsan Asadullah of Lipscomb? (A-Sun Final, Lipscomb @ Liberty, Sunday, 3 PM EDT, ESPN) Ritchie McKay’s Liberty Flames are the defending Atlantic Sun champs and the conference’s top seed this season. They take on a Lipscomb squad that is coming off a recent upset at North Florida. Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah had 40 points and 14 rebounds in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals and followed that up with 27 and 19 at North Florida.

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What’s Trending: Goodbye February, Hello March!

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 3rd, 2020

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

Three words that the entire college basketball community has been waiting for have finally been spoken. Take it away, Jon…

The look back at what transpired on the court last week begins with a piece of history, thanks to Dayton. Two minutes and ten seconds into the Flyers’ weekend game against Davidson, Dayton’s Jalen Crutcher missed a jumper. It would end up being the Flyers’ only miss from inside the three-point line for the entire game. Anthony Grant’s team would go on to make 27-of-28 from two-point range in their 82-67 win over Davidson, which, incidentially, also clinched the Atlantic 10 title.

Dayton leads the nation in effective field goal percentage and two-point field-goal percentage this season, and the Flyers are in position to become just the fifth team to shoot above 60 percent on their two-point attempts over the past 15 seasons. Dayton’s 59.7 percent effective field-goal percentage has only been topped in the past 15 seasons by the Lonzo Ball UCLA team of 2016-17. Of course, Dayton shooting those high percentages should not be surprising when Obi Toppin is doing this…

Big Ten-leading Maryland began the week by trailing Minnesota by 16 points at the half. Down by a pair with the clock winding its way towards zero, the ball made its way into the hands of junior Darryl Morsell. The Terps had gone 5-of-27 from beyond the arc before Morsell found the range for his first made three of the game…

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2019-20 RTC16: Week 15

Posted by Walker Carey on March 2nd, 2020

In case you have not heard by now, “This is March.” With the calendar finally turning to college basketball’s premier month, the regular season is winding down. And continuing with the unexpected nature of this season, several ranked teams were once again tripped up by unranked foes over the weekend. #13 Duke was the week’s most notable victim. The Blue Devils’ first loss came last Tuesday at Wake Forest when they blew a nine-point lead with 1:21 to play in regulation and ended up losing by 12 in double-overtime. Mike Krzyzewski‘s group then suffered its second loss of the week on Saturday when it was unable to overcome Virginia’s stifling defense in a 52-50 defeat. #4 Baylor had developed a well-earned reputation as one of the surest things in the country this season, but that reputation took a hit Saturday when the Bears suffered their second defeat in three games at TCU. #8 Florida State and #11 Creighton also joined the party in suffering upset losses on the road with the Seminoles falling at Clemson and the Bluejays getting hit with a flurry of three-pointers in a 20-point loss at St. John’s. If the trend of ranked teams taking unexpected losses continues throughout the rest of this month, it is likely this March will go down as one to remember. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Will Rematches Lead to Similar Results?

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 28th, 2020

The end of February and beginning of March is upon the college basketball world. As the number of days remaining in the regular season dwindles to single digits, the importance of each game grows. Here are 10 questions I have for some of the meaningful match-ups this weekend:

  1. Coming off of its late rally against Minnesota, will Maryland be ready for a full 40 minutes of Michigan State? (Michigan State @ Maryland, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) In the earlier match-up between these two teams in East Lansing, Maryland jumped out to an early 15-point lead before falling behind 60-53 with 3:24 to go. Anthony Cowan’s heroics from deep ultimately saved the Terps and led to pole position atop the Big Ten. It was a game in which Michigan State made just 21 percent of its three-point attempts.
  2. Will Penn State’s bench be a difference-maker as it looks to sweep Iowa? (Penn State @ Iowa, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) The Nittany Lions’ bench is averaging 21.6 points per game over the team’s last five games. In their win against Iowa earlier in the season, the Penn State bench scored 46 of the team’s 89 points, while Iowa’s bench managed just eight points of its own.
  3. Will Marquette get productive showings from anyone other than Markus Howard? (Seton Hall @ Marquette, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) In the first showdown between Markus Howard and Myles Powell this season, each dynamic scorer finished with more than 20 points (Howard: 27, Powell: 23). For Marquette, though, the rest of the team went just 3-of-11 from inside the arc, 6-of-19 from beyond it, and 4-of-9 at the charity stripe.
  4. After dropping its last two road games at NC State and Wake Forest, how does Duke fare at Virginia? (Duke @ Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) As Rush the ACC noted earlier in the week, Duke on the road has been a very different looking team compared to Duke at home. In Duke’s nine road ACC games, the Blue Devils have trailed after the opening 10 minutes in eight of those games. At home, Tony Bennett’s team has held its ACC opponents to an average of just 9.4 points in the opening 10 minutes of action.
  5. Can UCLA slow the Arizona offense again and gain a big win for its resume? (Arizona @ UCLA, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN) In UCLA’s win at the McKale Center earlier this month, the Bruins held Arizona to just 52 points on 25.4 percent shooting from the field. It was the worst home shooting night in Arizona history. The Bruins limited Arizona freshman Nico Mannion to a season-low five points on 2-of-14 shooting.
  6. Will any defensive changes for Saint Mary’s work in slowing Gonzaga? (Saint Mary’s @ Gonzaga, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) In Gonzaga’s lopsided win over the Gaels earlier in the year, Corey Kispert’s jumper at the 8:03 mark of the first half pushed the lead to 22 points as Gonzaga led 34-12. Mark Few’s squad made 16 of their first 17 shots from the field. The only thing that slowed Gonzaga in the opening minutes was turnovers, as the Bulldogs committed seven in the first 10 minutes.
  7. Will Auburn be able to win the battle of the backboard and free throw line on the road at Rupp? (Auburn @ Kentucky, Saturday, 3:45 PM EST, CBS) In Auburn’s home win over Kentucky on February 1, the Tigers were +11 in free-throw makes (33 FTM), +20 in free-throw attempts (44 FTA), +14 on the glass, and won the turnover battle. On the season, Kentucky has averaged 9.6 more made free throws at home than its opponents.
  8. Can Michigan keep winning on the road? (Michigan @ Ohio State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS) After dropping its first four road tests in league play, Michigan has won its last four Big Ten tests away from the Crisler Center. In its loss against Ohio State earlier in the season, 31 of Michigan’s 60 field goal attempts were from three-point range, its highest three-point rate on the season, a rate much higher than its season average.
  9. Has Stanford stabilized itself after its tough midseason stretch? (Colorado @ Stanford, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPNU) The Cardinal have won three straight games after a stretch where it lost seven of eight. Stanford takes on a Colorado team it lost to earlier in the month. That match-up is remembered for a scary scene involving Oscar da Silva’s head injury. Since returning from the injury suffered in that game, da Silva has scored 15 or more points in each of his four games.
  10. Can Davidson ruin Dayton’s quest for A-10 perfection? (Davidson @ Dayton, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Bob McKillop’s Wildcats are shooting an Atlantic 10 best 37.3 percent from beyond the arc in league play while also holding opponents to a league-low 44.2 percent on field goal attempts from inside the arc. Slowing Dayton is easier said than done as the Flyers lead in the nation in effective field goal percentage and two-point shooting percentage.

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What’s Trending: Shuffling Of The Top Five

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 24th, 2020

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

Prior to Saturday’s game in Waco, Kansas had won 11 consecutive contests since its loss to Baylor in Lawrence. The rematch between the Big 12’s two best teams also pitted the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the national polls against each other.

In the first match-up, Baylor held Udoka Azubuike to only six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Devon Dotson to just nine points before he left the game with an injury. Kansas, however, was quick to establish both of its stars in the rematch. Azubuike contributed 13 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting en route to a game-high 23 points, and, as a team, the Jayhawks scored 42 points in the paint — 16 more than they had in the first match-up.

https://twitter.com/KUHoops/status/1231619477189615616?s=20

After the impressive win, Kansas seemed to solidify itself as the “team to beat” in the eyes of many national media. A year removed from having its run of regular season Big 12 championships ended, Kansas is now in prime position to again finish at the top of the conference.

As dominant as Udoka Azubuike was down low against Baylor, there are still reservations in the one-game setting that is the NCAA Tournament. He remains a sub-50 percent free-throw shooter who has scored 12 or fewer points in 14 games this season. Hack-a-Doke will be present in the NCAA Tournament, so the question is whether he will let that impact his ability to alter a game defensively and on the glass?

While Azubuike and Dotson make all the difference on the floor, the other thing that few can argue with is the genius that is Bill Self on the sideline. According to Synergy Sports data, the Jayhawks rank in the 97th percentile in side out of bounds sets and in the 85th percentile in after time out efficiency. Self’s ability to tweak things can make all the difference for what is already an immensely talented team.

https://twitter.com/RobDauster/status/1231312239573061638?s=20

While Kansas was able to pass its road test on Saturday, Gonzaga did not have the same luck, falling in Provo against a hot BYU team. After shooting 62 percent on its two-point attempts in its first match-up against Gonzaga, BYU made another strong 63 percent of its shots from inside the arc in this match-up. With 11 made threes on 40.7 percent shooting from deep, BYU posted 1.25 points per possession total on its way to 91 points.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week 14

Posted by Walker Carey on February 24th, 2020

Saturday was among the most chaotic regular season days in recent college basketball history. It started with #1 Kansas going to #2 Baylor and using a dominant 23-point, 19-rebound effort from senior big man Udoka Azubuike to hand the Bears their first loss since November 8. The victory was extra sweet for the Jayhawks as it earned some revenge from a 67-55 home loss to Baylor back on January 11. #5 San Diego State then saw its dream of an undefeated season come to an end with a stunning 66-63 home upset loss to UNLV. What made the defeat even more surprising that the Aztecs only led once during the game at 2-0. It would be foolish to write off San Diego State now, however, as one loss should not define a team that started the season by winning its first 26 contests. The chaos concluded late night in Provo when #3 Gonzaga fell for the first time since November 29 in a convincing 91-78 loss to #14 BYU. The Cougars were electric offensively, hitting 53.2 percent of their field goals with senior forward Yoeli Childs acting as the best player on the court, contributing 28 points and 10 rebounds to a winning effort. If Saturday was any sign of things to come, we should be in for an exciting March packed with impressive performances and unexpected results. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Tests For the Top Teams

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 21st, 2020

Selection Sunday is now fewer than 30 days away. This weekend includes a number of resume-building opportunities for some teams and big tests for others at the top of the projected NCAA Tournament seed list. Here are 10 questions I have for some of what will take place this weekend.

  1. What impact will a healthy Devon Dotson have on the rematch between the best two teams in the nation? (Kansas @ Baylor, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) Dotson played in only 28 minutes in the first match-up against Baylor as he was dealing with discomfort from a hip pointer. Over his last 10 games, though, Dotson is averaging 19 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field. The likely All-American will be tested by the ferocious Baylor defense.
  2. Can BYU’s defense keep up with its offense? (Gonzaga @ BYU, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first game of the season between BYU and Gonzaga, the Cougars made 62.2 percent of their two-point attempts, hit 6-of-20 from beyond the arc, and yet still lost to the Zags by 23 points. Unfortunately for BYU, its defense simultaneously surrendered 1.24 points per possession to Gonzaga, and that was with Filip Petrusev only scoring five points. Since that game, Petrusev has scored at least 15 or more points in each of his last six games.
  3. Can the Wolfpack solidify their Tournament hopes with another big home win? (Florida State @ N.C. State, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) Following up on its convincing victory against Duke with a subsequent win over Florida State would almost certainly put NC State on the right side of the bubble. Kevin Keatts’ team has held visiting teams to an average three-point percentage below 30 percent, including against a Duke squad on Wednesday night that made just 23.5 percent of its three-point attempts.
  4. Will Oregon’s season-long road struggles surface again at the McKale Center? (Oregon @ Arizona, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN) After Thursday night’s loss to Arizona State, Oregon is now just 6-7 away from Eugene. While the Ducks outscore opponents by 17.6 points per game at home, they have been outscored a couple points per game on the road.
  5. Will the “35%” mark be the key in Columbus? (Maryland @ Ohio State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS) Ohio State is shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range on the season, and a Big Ten-best 36.7 percent in league play. The Buckeyes are 15-1 when they make more than 35% of their three-point attempts in a game and just 2-8 when they do not. In the team’s eight Big Ten defeats, Kaleb Wesson has made just 8-of-31 (25.8%) of his attempts, a far cry from his season mark of 41.6 percent.
  6. Have the Gators turned a corner or has their recent success been the result of a favorable stretch? (Florida @ Kentucky, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) After a 4-4 record in January, Florida has won five of six games in February. The Gators are shooting an SEC best 38.2 percent from beyond the arc in SEC action.
  7. Is VCU facing a must-win game this weekend? (VCU @ Saint Louis, Friday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2) After VCU’s January 28 win at Richmond, the Rams sat at 16-5 (6-2 Atlantic 10) and had a NET Ranking of 33rd. Since that game, VCU has lost four of five contests and its NET Ranking has fallen to 49th. The Rams are 2-8 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games and need to end their recent skid quickly to stay relevant. Friday night’s game against Saint Louis is one of two remaining games that currently would qualify as a Quad 1 or 2 game on VCU’s schedule.
  8. Can Cincinnati put an end to its recent stretch of nail-biters? (Wichita State @ Cincinnati, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) The Bearcats have now played four consecutive overtime games (2-2), pushing their season total of overtime games to an incredible seven. In Cincinnati’s most recent loss to UCF, it had a half-court shot in double-overtime waved off after the ball was determined to still be in the hands of Jarron Cumberland.
  9. Will USC’s Isaiah Mobley continue to show his recent improvements if teammate Onyeka Okongwu returns from injury? (USC @ Utah, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPNU) With Okongwu out of the USC lineup over the last two games, freshman Isaiah Mobley has stepped up his game. Mobley scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in last week’s wins against the Washington schools. In USC’s five games prior to that, Mobley had scored just 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds during 91 minutes of action.
  10. Which version of Trevion Williams will Purdue get this weekend? (Michigan @ Purdue, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) While Michigan got the best of Purdue in double-overtime in the first match-up between these two teams, it was nearly spoiled by the Boilermakers’ Trevion Williams, who scored 36 points and hauled in 20 rebounds. Since that game, Williams has been held to under 10 points in five of 11 games.

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What’s Trending: A Week of Statement Like Performances — Both Good and Bad

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 17th, 2020

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

After beginning conference play 3-3, many were ready to dismiss Maryland’s chances of contending in the Big Ten this season. Since then, the Terrapins had completely turned things around, winning seven straight games including three straight on the road. Over the weekend, Maryland built a 39-24 lead with 2:57 to go in the first half, but the Spartans seemed to take control of the game as Michigan State led 60-53 with just 3:24 to go. That’s when Maryland’s Anthony Cowan took over…

Over Cowan’s last six games, he is averaging 20.5 points per game on 42 percent three-point shooting. Over that period, he has also tallied 31 assists to just 15 turnovers. He has attacked the paint relentlessly, having made eight or more free throws in four of the six games during this stretch.

Note to future Maryland opponents, slapping the floor late would not be advised…

As far as Michigan State goes, they began the week on a three-game losing streak. After blowing a 20-point second-half lead at Illinois, they found themselves down a point against Illinois, but Xavier Tillman’s 11th rebound of the game proved to be the difference…

For Michigan State — a team that started the year 13-3 and 5-0 in league play — this past week and the college basketball season as a whole can best be summed up like this…

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