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Your Day Two NCAA Tournament Preview

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Well that was fun, right? I’ll take a botched attempt at handicapping the bracket for excitement from noon to midnight over beers too. Who cares if all my upset specials failed to come through, or that one of my Final Four teams was eliminated from the field just two hours into the fun, it’s part of what makes this great, and I don’t feel different about myself.

Can today match the drama of yesterday? That remains to be seen, but the opportunity is certainly there, especially late at night when the first round comes to a close with a trio of “anything goes” match-ups.

The “St. Patrick’s Day Hangover” Session

  • Best Game: #9 Villanova vs. #8 George Mason (2:10 EST; TNT) – Wanna know about a major guilty pleasure of mine? Watching implosions, and your Villanova Wildcats are just that, for a second consecutive season. There’s no reason they can’t down George Mason but, as losers of their last five, the odds are stacked against them. Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a summer league game last August; we’d love to see a bit of a spectacular scoring effort like that this afternoon.
  • Lamest Game: #15 Akron vs. #2 Notre Dame (1:40; TBS) – Not the lamest game of the day, but the Zips are just happy to be here, finishing tied for fifth in the MAC this season. Given the Irish’s 1.15 PPP (points-per-possession) and their 40 percent three point shooting clip, this could be over early.
  • Also be mindful of: #13 Oakland vs. #4 Texas (12:15; CBS) – I wasn’t sure if Morehead State could hang with Louisville because they relied too much on an interior player, and not a perimeter player, but they proved me wrong. Same rules apply here. Maybe the Grizzlies future pro, Keith Benson, will be too much inside for the Longhorns.

The “Hit the Gym” Session

  • The best (and only) game you need to watch this late afternoon: #12 Memphis vs. #5 Arizona (2:45; CBS) – Claim a treadmill or something and get plugged in for this excellent 5/12 match-up, because there’s no need to channel surf for the next few hours. Unless you enjoy lopsided upsets (Duke-Hampton; Ohio State-UTSA), or low scoring snoozers (Texas A&M-Florida State) you can focus on Josh Pastner vs. his alma mater in what could be a nice up-and-down game.

The “The Weekend is Finally Here” Session

  • Best Game: #11 Marquette vs. #6 Xavier (7:27; truTV) – Xavier and Michigan State are the only two schools to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three tournaments. The Musketeers have their work cut out for them here, though, as the Golden Eagles are a bit more physical and know how to get to the line. The best match-up? Anyone vs. Jimmy Butler. Marquette’s do-everything player can play just about every position. It will be interesting to see who checks him.
  • Lamest Game: #16 Boston University vs. #1 Kansas (6:50; TBS) – Head to Faneuil Hall in Downtown Boston and ask 100 people at random which local school is in the field of 68. I’m willing to bet less than a third correctly name the Terriers. This will be over quick, and nobody will lose sleep over it.
  • Also be mindful of: #15 Long Island vs. #2 North Carolina (7:15; CBS) – It won’t end in an upset, but the Blackbirds are the nation’s fourth highest scoring team at 82-points per game. Sure most of that came against lesser competition, but it will be fun to watch this likely 75+ possession game unfold.

The “Night Cap” Session

  • Best Game: #11 VCU vs. # 6 Georgetown (9:50; TNT) – The Hoyas have always have the talent, but they’ve only one a single tournament game in the past two seasons, in which they were a No. 3 and No. 2 seed. They’ve underperformed, and CAA squads have a penchant for overachieving. Yesterday, Clemson was able to hang with West Virginia following their First Four game. I don’t think the Rams are going to be tired here, or not competitive.
  • Lamest Game: #14 Indiana State vs. #3 Syracuse (9:57; truTV) – Only a 43 percent FG shooting team, the Sycamores will likely struggle against Syracuse’s zone. They also don’t have an impact player listed over 6’6″. Rick Jackson loves this.
  • Also be mindful of: #10 Georgia vs. #7 Washington (9:45; CBS) – A lot of athleticism will be on display here, but I expect the Huskies depth to wear the Bulldogs down. They’ll force tempo, probably employ some pressing and enjoy a deeper rotation en route to a date with North Carolina. Plus, Lorenzo Romar’s kids didn’t travel 2,800 miles to lose.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelin

No. 15 Cincinnati extends home streak, beats Memphis 87-74

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 04:  Troy Caupain #10 of the Cincinnati Bearcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Fifth Third Arena on February 4, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI (AP) After a dominant first half, No. 15 Cincinnati relaxed and wound up sweating one out.

Jacob Evans III scored 12 of his 15 points during the Bearcats’ lopsided first half on Thursday night, and they let most of a big lead slip away before holding on for their 25th straight home victory, 87-74 over Memphis.

Cincinnati (25-3, 14-1 American Athletic) led by as many as 24 points during its highest-scoring opening half in conference play this season, pulling ahead 51-32 at the break. The Tigers cut the lead to six points before fading.

“We got off to a big lead, and in the second half I feel we started to coast a little bit,” Evans said. “We can’t do that. If we want to make a deep run in March, we can’t take a half off against any team. Our energy on defense went down.”

The Bearcats’ front line dominated on offense. Gary Clark had 13 points and nine rebounds while Kyle Washington had 16 points and six rebounds. The problem was the sluggish defense in the second half, which left shooters open.

“For about 30 minutes, I thought we played about as well as we can play,” coach Mick Cronin said. “My halftime speech gets an F. I talked to our guys about defense. Our defense was nonexistent for most of the second half. We learned our lessons.”

Memphis (18-10, 8-7 ) has dropped a season-high three straight. Jeremiah Martin led the Tigers with 23 points and 11 assists. Dedric Lawson had 21 points with 10 rebounds.

“They were a little bit intimidated to start the first half because (Cincinnati) was making shots,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “And when you get in a hole like that, it’s tough.”

The Tigers cut the lead to 75-69 on Martin’s three-point play with 5:18 left. Evans’ 3-pointer – his only basket of the second half – ended the comeback. It was his only 3-pointer of the game.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: Lawson got his 35th double-double, the sixth-most by an active player. His 18 double-doubles this season are a career high for the sophomore. He has 282 rebounds this season. The AAC record is 321 by UConn’s Daniel Hamilton.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ 25 straight home wins match the second-longest streak at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. The arena record is 41 straight wins from 1997-2000.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bearcats have won four straight since a 60-51 loss at SMU on Feb. 12, minimizing the damage of their only conference loss.

BAD START

The Tigers were playing from behind the entire time because of their horrible start. They missed 10 of their first 15 shots – Lawson was 0 for 3 – while the Bearcats rolled out to a 26-11 lead.

LOOKING UP

Lawson got a loose ball while sitting under the basket in the second half and took a shot that bounced off the rim. After the slow start, he ended up 9 of 16 from the field.

CUMBERLAND BACK

Freshman Jarron Cumberland sat out Cincinnati’s last game because of a curfew violation. He was back on Thursday and had nine points in 22 minutes.

UP NEXT

Memphis: The Tigers host Houston on Saturday. They won at Houston 79-67 in overtime on Jan. 19.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at Central Florida on Saturday. They beat Central Florida 60-50 on Feb. 8.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Five Maine players suspended following a fight over locker room music

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Bob Walsh of the Maine Black Bears prepares for their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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There wasn’t much love being spread in the Maine basketball locker room on Valentine’s Day.

A locker room fight led to the suspensions of five players, including the team’s leading scorer. According to Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News, who obtained the police report, the incident was the result of teammates Wes Myers and Marko Pirovic arguing over locker room music on Feb. 14.

Myers wanted the music off, Pirovic, who stands five inches taller and outweighs Myers by 25 pounds, refused. This led to both throwing punches, one of which connected on Pirovic’s face, breaking his jaw.

Jaquan McKennon, Ilija Stojiljkovic and Dusan Majstorovic were all suspended, but reinstated on Wednesday, for telling head trainer Ryan Taylor that Pirovic’s injuries resulted from him falling in the shower.

Myers, a junior guard averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game, remains suspended indefinitely.

Pirovic declined to press charges. All involved could still face punishment from the university, according to the Bangor Daily News.

It’s been a long season for the Black Bears. Maine owns the America East’s worst record at 6-24 (3-12). Outside of a modest three-game winning streak in late January, the Black Bears have not won a game in 2017. They close out the regular season on Saturday at home against Binghamton.

How did Gary Clark catch that alley-oop?

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 24:  Gary Clark #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats shoots the ball against the Tulane Green Wave at Fifth Third Arena on January 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.

Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?

Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.

Cassius Winston ends half with half-court 3-pointer

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Cassius Winston #5 in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.

The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.

Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.

Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.

 

CBT Podcast: Mark Titus recaps Wednesday’s games

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.

Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom