Non-BCS schools inching closer to routine ‘upsets’

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Want to know the formula to how a non-BCS school pulls off that upset against a Big East, Big Ten or ACC school? Of course you do. So does every “mid-major” coach in the country.

Those coaches are working on it, though. Soon that blueprint will be easy to read and easier to execute. It’s just a matter of time.

“I think college basketball is getting to the point where mid-majors are beating Big East teams,” Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson told Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post. “I don’t think there’s a lot of room for moral victories anymore. I think these guys know that.”

That’s the opening to a solid story by Duffy, who details what schools like Wagner and Long Beach State have done this season to pull off upsets. (The obvious answer? Play Pitt.) But it went a little deeper than that, too, focusing on how teams make the transition from the “near upset” to ensuring those final few minutes don’t play out as we’ve become accustomed to.

Namely, where the big boys always win.

Wagner coach Dan Hurley says much of it relies on a team’s mental toughness and attitude. But Duffy notes that a team such as Long Beach State (or ’06 George Mason) is often filled with experienced, more physically developed players who can handle younger players, even if those younger players have more “talent.”

But in the end, it just comes down to making shots and keeping cool. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

“You get butterflies, but once you see that first basket drop, it all goes away, and it’s back to basketball,” LBSU forward T.J. Robinson told Duffy. “Because at the end of the day, we all just play basketball.”

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VIDEOS: Rhode Island, Maryland exchange heated words in Cancun

Dan Hurley
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No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.

Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.

But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.

It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:

After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”:

Wayne Selden stars as Kansas wins the title in Maui

Wayne Selden Jr., Jeff Roberson
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The last time we wrote about Wayne Selden in this space, it was my colleague Scott Phillips who questioned, after a poor performance in the Champions Classic, whether or not Selden is capable of bring a primary scorer for a team with NCAA title aspirations.

At the time, it wasn’t an unfair question to ask.

Selden is a former top 15 recruit. He is a guy who was expected to go one-and-done that played poorly in the first big game of his third year on campus. But after three days it Maui, it appears that the old Wayne Selden is gone.

[MORE: Kansas got Cheick Diallo news today]

He capped an MVP performance in the Maui Invitational with 25 points and seven boards on 8-for-11 shooting as the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks knocked off No. 19 Vanderbilt, 70-63, in the title game. Selden was terrific for the entire weekend, averaging 21.5 points in the two games against Division I competition and shooting 12-for-17 from beyond the arc in the three game tournament.

It was the best that we’ve seen Selden play during his Jayhawk career, and it came in a game the Jayhawks desperately needed it. Vanderbilt is a damn good team. They’re ranked 19th, which may actually be too low, and they seem to clearly be the biggest challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. They jumped out to a double-digit lead on Kansas in the first half as the Jayhawks seemed to be sleep-walking early in the game.

Enter Selden. He drilled three threes in the first half and scored 13 of the 26 Jayhawk points to keep them close. In other words, he played like a star on a night Kansas desperately needed someone to step up and play like a star. Remember: this is a dude that had enough talent and potential in high school to be considered a McDonald’s All-American and a potential lottery pick. The ability is there:

(That move is filthy.)

The question has always been whether or not he is capable of putting it all together, of being the guy that can be relied upon to make the big play in the big moment, to carry a team with title aspirations.

And to be fair, the jury is still out in that regard. Are we just going to ignore those four free throws he clanged down the stretch?

But seeing Selden have this kind of performance in a game like this against a team that is this good is unquestionably a positive for Kansas moving forward.