It’s the game-winning shot: Who ya got?

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The 2011-2012 has already provided it’s fair share of legendary buzzer-beaters, and there is still three weeks remaining in the regular season.

When the game is on the line. Who do you want taking the final shot?

Does your team have one go-to player, or do they have a handful of guys capable of hitting the big shot? A big shot can erase a lot of early-game mistakes. As the games start to become more meaningful, late-game situations are going to become life-or-death.

Some teams are lucky enough to have more than one guy who is mentally tough enough to take and make the big shot. Some teams are just good at running late-game sets, and some teams have a handful of guys who can make a big shot when put in the position to do so. But some teams just need one guy to take the game over. Sometimes it’s the best player, and sometimes it’s somebody you’d least expect. It’s called clutch. Some guys have it, others don’t.

Creighton
The Hero: Doug McDermott
Back-up Plan: Antoine Young
Strategy: At this point, Young might have to be considered the hero. After all, he hit the game-winner against Long Beach State, and hit a huge three against Northern Iowa that would have won the game if not for UNI’s Anthony James. But clearly, McDermott has to be considered option No.1. Let him seal-off his player and feed him the ball on the high block. If the double-team comes, which it probably will, he can kick it to Young for the dagger.

Duke
The Hero: Austin Rivers
Back-up Plan: Seth Curry/Ryan Kelly
Strategy: The Dukies have shown their late-game moxie in recent weeks, beginning with Rivers’ soon-to-be legendary game-winner against North Carolina and ending with the team’s 20-point comeback to defeat North Carolina State. Rivers is a one-on-one nightmare, and Duke has a plethora of outstanding marksmen. Let Rivers create his own shot. If it’s not there, look for Seth Curry to come off of a screen, or find Ryan Kelly in the corner for a spot-up 3-pointer. Curry and Rivers are the best options on the team, but even Andre Dawkins is capable of hitting a big shot.

Florida State
The Hero: Michael Snaer
Back-up Plan: Deividas Dulkys/Ian Miller
Strategy: The game-plan is simple for if you are on offense or defense. For Florida State, you get the ball to Snaer in transition. Force the defense to collapse and hit Snaer of a 3-pointer on the wing. He did it against Duke and he did it against Virginia Tech. If you are the defense, force one of the other four players to beat you. You need to shut-off Snaer. If Luke Loucks is going to drive to the basket, make him take the tough shot. Just don’t let Snaer get the ball on the wing. Dulkys is a good second option, just ask North Carolina. But Snaer is always the first option to take the big shot.

Georgetown
The Hero: Hollis Thompson
Back-up Plan: Jason Clark/Markel Starks
Strategy: Thompson isn’t one to create his own shot. In fact, Georgetown’s offense isn’t built to do that either. But the junior forward has the confidence and the ability to take and make a tough shot with the game hanging in the balance. If the defense shuts off Thompson, Clark has the tools to create space and hit a 3-pointer, or drive to the basket and sink a mid-range jumper.

Iowa State
The Hero: Royce White
Back-up Plan: Scott Christopherson/Chris Allen
Strategy: Let White create his own shot. He’s a tough assignment for almost anyone. He’s got range, size, strength, and stellar ball-handling. He’s also very good at making off-balanced shots. More times than not, White is going to do it himself. But if the double-team comes and he does pass it, Scott Christopherson  shoots 44% from beyond the arc, and has the mental fortitude to make a big shot.

Louisville
The Hero: Peyton Siva
Back-up Plan: Russ Smith/Kyle Kuric
Strategy: There are not many players in the country that are capable of staying in front of Peyton Siva. It could be argued that he’s the quickest player in the country. If he gets to the lane, he’s got the athleticism needed to make a tough shot. He still makes some questionable decisions handling the ball, but has other options when trouble arises. Russ Smith is an the epitome of “a gunner” and Kyle Kuric seems to thrive in pressure situations. Just ask Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette, Charleston and Vanderbilt.

Marquette
The Hero: Darius Johnson-Odom
Back-up Plan: Jae Crowder/Junior Cadougan
Strategy: Both DJO and Crowder are experienced players with the mental toughness needed to make a big shot. DJO can spot up and hit a big shot, or can take his man off the dribble. If he can’t get a good look, Crowder is as good a second option as you will  find. He’s a match-up nightmare, so he can force a big man to play him on the perimeter where he can beat him one-on-one, or he can back-down a smaller player in the post. Every game Marquette is involved in seems to come down to the final shot, so you know they are battle-tested.

Michigan
The Hero: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Back-up Plan: Trey Burke/Zach Novak
Strategy: Trey Burke is going to be handling the ball. He should give it up to Hardaway and let him create his own shot with Zach Novak spotting up on the wing or in the corner. Another option would be to let Burke drive and create, hoping a double-team comes which frees up Hardaway to take the big shot. But don’t let Burke’s freshman status fool you, he’s capable of making a big shot too.

Missouri
The Hero: Marcus Denmon/Michael Dixon
Back-up Plan: Kim English/Phil Pressey/Matt Pressey/Ricardo Ratliffe
Strategy: While Marcus Denmon might be “The Hero”, he’s certainly not the only go-to option. In fact, anybody on the court in a Missouri uniform can make a big shot. Phil Pressey can handle the ball and create space for Denmon or English to beat their men or take a big shot. Michael Dixon is always capable of beating his man, and Ricardo Ratliffe rarely misses from inside. This team has a wealth of experience in taking clutch shots, so for Missouri, the open man is the best option.

Murray State
The Hero: Isaiah Canaan
Back-up Plan: Donte Poole/Jewuan Long
Strategy: For the past two months, the Racers have taken everybody’s best shot. Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, and Morehead State all had leads against the Racers, but could not put this team away. Why? Because this team can shoot their way back into any game. Isaiah Canaan has made five or more 3-pointers in seven games season and has scored 30 or more four times. If Murray State needs a game-winning shot, he’s going to be the guy to do so. But if for some reason he can’t, Donte Poole and Jewuan Long are good shooters who are capable of making big plays.

Ohio State
The Hero: William Buford
Back-up Plan: Jared Sullinger/Aaron Craft
Strategy: Jared Sullinger may be the best player on the team, but with the game on the line, Buford should be the guy taking the big shot. A smart defense would let Craft beat them, so getting Buford open quickly with space to operate is key. But Buford is capable of making a tough shot, so denying him the ball is a-must. If there is time on the clock to work with, having Sully post-up his man wouldn’t be a bad option. But Buford should be the guy to get it done.

Oral Roberts
The Hero: Dominique Morrison
Back-up Plan: Warren Niles, Rod Pearson
Strategy: Morrison has one of the prettiest mid-range jumpers in the country, and has the ability to hit a tough shot from anywhere. He beat Rice earlier in the season with a nice fade-away stroke, and he’s the type of player that thrives in the clutch. He’s also got two sidekicks like Warren Niles and Rod Pearson, both of whom have sank game-winners earlier in the season. With “DoMo” and company, the Golden Eagles have a bevy of options when the game is on the line. Oh, and that includes big man Damen Bell-Halter, who hit one of this season’s most amazing buzzer-beaters.

UNLV
The Hero: Chace Stanback
Back-up Plan: Anthony Marshall/Mike Moser
Strategy: If the Rebels are playing on the road, it’s likely that they will need some magic in order to win. All four of their losses have come outside of Las Vegas. If you’re an opposing coach, You cannot let Chace Stanback beat you. Sure, Anthony Marshall can make plays in the clutch, and Mike Moser is a tough assignment. But Stanback is an assassin. If you are going to a close game, make sure you force somebody else to beat you.

Washington
The Hero: Tony Wroten Jr.
Back-up Plan: C.J Wilcox/Terrence Ross
Strategy: The Huskies are notorious for post-season magic. Most of it came from Isaiah Thomas, who is in the NBA now, but freshman Tony Wroten Jr. has shown flashes of late-game prowess. He’s a tough assignment one-on-one or without the ball. If you try to show help-side defense, C.J. Wilcox can make you pay. Even if this team isn’t part of March Madness, look for the Huskies to make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Xavier
The Hero: Tu Holloway
Back-up Plan: Mark Lyons/Brad Redford
Strategy: This has been a long season for the Muskies. Sure, this team might not be able to orchestrate a late-game rally like they did against Vanderbilt earlier in the year, but if they are already in a close-game, Xavier has the guys to make the big shots. Tu Holloway’s resume speaks for itself. He hit a careers-worth of big-time shots in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and even though his leadership has been questioned, he still has big-shot capabillities. With as streaky as Holloway has been this season, Mark Lyons might be a better option. he’s field-goal and 3-point % is way up from last year. But the real question is if this team can put themselves in the position to make a game-winning shot.

Honorable Mention
Iona: Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Michael Glover, Scott Machado
Michigan State: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Keith Appling
Northern Iowa: Anthony James
Oklahoma State: Keiton Page
Princeton: Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis
Syracuse: Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine
Temple: Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez
UNC-Asheville: Matt Dickey
Virginia Commonwealth: Bradford Burgess
Weber State: Damian Lillard

Saturday Recap: Kansas, Villanova earn big wins, Michigan State matches largest comeback win of last decade

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PLAYER OF THE DAY

What’s the best way to shake off a 3-for-18 day that included a 1-for-13 showing from three-point range? By making nine straight three-pointers the next game.

That’s exactly what Notre Dame senior point guard Matt Farrell pulled off in a Saturday afternoon ACC road win at Boston College. With the Irish desperately needing wins to stay in the NCAA tournament picture, Farrell let it fly for 37 points while going 10-for-12 from three-point range.

Farrell also added seven assists and only turned the ball over twice even though he navigated Notre Dame’s high-octane offense through the full 40 minutes.

RELATED: All of Saturday’s Bubble Banter in one place

THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS

  • MIKAL BRIDGES AND DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova: With Jalen Brunson having a slow afternoon, these two picked up the slack for Villanova. Bridges knocked down four first-half three-pointers on the way to 25 points for the Wildcats. DiVincenzo helped extinguish a Xavier second-half run with some big three-pointers, finishing with 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
  • CALEB AND CODY MARTIN, Nevada: Playing its first game without starting point guard Lindsey Drew, the Martin twins stepped up in a road win at Utah State. Cody played point guard and dropped 30 points on 13-for-18 shooting while adding nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. Caleb added 23 points and six rebounds.
  • JOEL BERRY II, North Carolina: The senior point guard put together a solid overall game in a road win for the Tar Heels over Louisville. Berry finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists while knocking down five three-pointers.
  • FLETCHER MCGEE, Wofford: You might remember the junior guard for his performance in helping the Terriers stun North Carolina earlier this season. McGee had a monster outing to top that game in a win over Chattanooga. Knocking in a school-record 11 three-pointers, McGee had 45 points on 17-for-26 shooting.

TEAM OF THE DAY

Mark this one down as a tie. Kansas and Villanova both picked off fellow top-25 teams. More importantly, they both end Saturday tied for first place in their respective leagues after entering the day in second place.

Although the Jayhawks needed some help and got it with Baylor’s huge upset win over No. 7 Texas Tech, Kansas deserves credit on its own for its second-half, double-digit comeback win over No. 20 West Virginia. Now tied atop the Big 12 with the Red Raiders, Kansas will get a crack at Texas Tech in Lubbock next Saturday.

As for the Wildcats, they continued their domination of No. 4 Xavier with a convincing road win over the Musketeers. While Villanova has struggled with perimeter shooting the past few games, they had no such issues in this one as 11 first-half threes helped them gain control.

GAME OF THE DAY

As if this season hasn’t produced enough insane outcomes to begin with, things got even crazier on Saturday when No. 2 Michigan State rallied to beat Northwestern for a Big Ten road win.

The Spartans found themselves down by 27 points and still came back to win. It matches the largest comeback from the last decade of college basketball. The Big Ten has never had a bigger men’s basketball comeback.

It was a strange game in which the Spartans didn’t even need star sophomore Miles Bridges to have a big game to win one of the biggest comebacks in college basketball history.

WTF???? OF THE DAY

This win probability chart from Michigan State’s unlikely victory over Northwestern is ridiculous. We all understand how you feel, Chris Collins.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

We went this long without talking about Trae Young, so here’s the mandatory update. Texas actually came out of this one as the big story thanks to a huge Big 12 road win over Oklahoma. Dylan Osetkowski paced the Longhorns with 21 points while Young finished with 26 points on 7-for-21 shooting. This one really helps the bubble case for Texas.

Syracuse and Baylor were among the other teams earning huge bubble wins on Saturday as the Orange beat Miami and the Bears knocked off No. 7 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders also lost Keenan Evans to injury in that one as another this is yet another subplot to keep an eye on in the hectic Big 12 race.

Another wild day in the SEC as three ranked teams lost to unranked teams. South Carolina took down No. 10 Auburn but the biggest news in that one could be the Tigers’ loss of leading shot blocker Anfernee McLemore to injuryGeorgia raced past No. 18 Tennessee behind a big effort from Yante MatenAnd Arkansas earned another important resume win by handling No. 21 Texas A&M.

Of course, you can’t talk SEC with Kentucky as the Wildcats had some positive news. They snapped a four-game losing streak as Kentucky took down Alabama.

In the ACC, No. 14 North Carolina won its first game at Louisville as they knocked off the Cardinals.

Williams leads No. 9 Gonzaga over Pepperdine 81-67

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SPOKANE, Wash. — Pepperdine had closed within two points with more than seven minutes left, and forwards Johnathan Williams and Killian Tillie of No. 9 Gonzaga rose to meet the challenge.

Williams had two dunks and a block, and Tillie hit a couple of 3-pointers, to sink the Waves 81-67 on Saturday night.

“I’m playing with confidence,” said Williams, who had 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for his sixth consecutive double-double. It’s rebound first. Points will come second. It’s been working for me.”

Coach Mark Few said Williams’ exceptional play during February was not a surprise.

“When he plays assertively, athletically … he’s a handful,” Few said. “He’s cutting loose a little bit.”

Tillie and Josh Perkins each scored 15 points for Gonzaga (25-4, 15-1 West Coast), which has won nine consecutive games and remains in first place in the West Coast Conference.

Colbey Ross scored 21 points for Pepperdine (4-24, 1-15), which has lost seven straight.

“Give them credit,” Williams said about Pepperdine. “They played a hell of a game out there. It was gut-check time.”

Gonzaga has won 35 straight games against Pepperdine dating to 2002. The Waves have not won in Spokane since 1998.

“They dialed it up defensively late in the game and got on a run,” Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson said of Gonzaga.

“We talked about not letting the crowd get in our heads, but it did,” Wilson said. “They went on a couple runs and the more the crowd was in the game, the better they played.”

Gonzaga hit four 3-pointers during an early 20-6 run to take a 26-12 lead.

Gonzaga began missing and Pepperdine clawed back to trail just 34-28 late in the first.

The Zags led 39-32 at halftime, after holding the Waves to 41 percent shooting.

Three 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the second half lifted the Bulldogs to a 54-40 lead.

But the Waves came back and a basket by Trae Berhow cut Gonzaga’s lead to 66-64 with 7:32 left. Tillie hit a 3-pointer and Williams dunked to push Gonzaga’s lead back to seven.

The Waves were scoreless for more than six minutes, missing seven shots, as the Zags built a 77-64 lead.

“In the end we were solid in the last four minutes,” Few said. “We were making plays at the end. We started the game well, but we couldn’t quite put them away (until the closing minutes).”

WEIRD SHOOTING

Gonzaga shot nearly 57 percent from 3-point range (13 of 23), but just 53 percent from the free throw line (8 of 15). Pepperdine shot 41.4 percent in each half.

TWENTY FIVE WINS

Gonzaga has won at least 25 games for 11 consecutive seasons, trailing only Kansas’ streak of 12. “That’s really significant,” Few said. “Those are hard to come by. I don’t take them for granted.”

BIG PICTURE

Pepperdine: The school announced earlier this week that Coach Marty Wilson, in his seventh season, will not return next year. “I was blessed to be able to coach at my alma mater for seven years,” Wilson said. “Not many people get that opportunity.” Few said the close game was a sign of how much Wilson’s players respect him. Nine of the Waves have missed games with injuries this season. Ross leads all WCC freshmen in scoring at 14.3 points per game.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs and No. 3 Villanova are the only teams in the nation that have six players averaging at least 10 points per game. The Zags are seeking a 20th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. This was senior night for Williams and Silas Melson.

UP NEXT

Pepperdine plays at No. 15 Saint Mary’s next Thursday.

Gonzaga, which wrapped up its home season on Saturday, plays at San Diego next Thursday.

Bubble Banter: Texas, Syracuse, Baylor land massive wins

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Longhorns landed a massive, massive win for their NCAA tournament chances on Saturday afternoon when they went into Norman and picked off Oklahoma. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and put them into a position where a 2-2 finish to Big 12 play keeps them at 8-10 in the league. That’s relevant because no team more than two games below .500 in league play has reached the NCAA tournament since the early 90s. The Longhorns are now 6-7 against Quadrant 1 opponents with some elite wins in that mix — Texas Tech, at Alabama, a sweep of Oklahoma Butler on a neutral — and no losses worse than Quadrant 2. Texas is going to have a very real chance to be an NCAA tournament team with 14 losses this season.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 41, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): The Orange hold their bubble future in their own hands, and they got started in the right direction on Saturday by going into Coral Gables and picking off Miami. That’s their third Quadrant 1 win — assuming that Buffalo, who is currently 30th in the RPI, remains top 30 — but a Quadrant 3 loss and the lack of a truly marquee victory is a glaring hole in their résumé. The good news? This is the remaining schedule for the Orange: UNC, at Duke, at Boston College, Clemson. Go 2-2 in that stretch and they will enter the ACC tournament in pretty good shape.

BAYLOR (RPI: 58, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: Play-in game): What seemed like a pipe dream a few weeks ago now is within their grasp: The Bears are on their way to playing their way into the tournament now after winning their fifth straight game against Texas Tech on Saturday night. They are now 4-8 against Quadrant 1 with no losses outside the top two Quadrants. But they are 16-10 already with games left against West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma and at Kansas State. I think they need a split.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 59, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Next four out): The Golden Eagles are going to ensure that things are, at the least, interesting for them down the stretch. Entering today, they had lost five of their last six games. Then they dug themselves a 20-point hole against Creighton Then they lost Markus Howard to a hip injury. And then they came back and won on the road. This is big because it is their fourth Quadrant 1 win of the season, but it is bigger because it’s their last Quadrant 1 game of the season. They’ll have a real shot at getting in if they can win out: Saint John’s, at DePaul, at Georgetown, Creighton.

LSU (RPI: 72, KenPom: 64, NBC seed: Next four out): The Tigers picked up another Quadrant 1 win on Saturday, knocking off Missouri at home and ending their five game winning streak. LSU is now 15-11 on the season and 6-8 in the SEC, but they are also 7-5 against Quadrant 1 opponents. Only one of their 11 losses came against a Quadrant 3 opponent. Here’s the kicker: Their last four games are all very winnable: Vanderbilt, at Georgia, at South Carolina, Mississippi State. If they can get to the SEC tournament with a 19-11 record, I think they’ll be in the NCAA tournament.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: 10): The Wildcats did what they needed to do on Saturday, dispatching Iowa State in Manhattan and setting themselves up for a critical stretch run. They play the following four games: Texas, at Oklahoma, at TCU, Baylor. Given that Kansas State has a Quadrant 2 loss and that their non-conference SOS is in the 320s, I would think they need two of those wins to feel comfortable. But here’s the catch: if they don’t win either road game, they’ll enter the Big 12 tournament with a 3-9 mark against Quadrant 1 opponents. The Selection Committee told us how much they value quality wins when the bracket was revealed last weekend. Would three Quadrant 1 wins be enough with seven Quadrant 2 wins? It might be, but I don’t think I would want to bet on it.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 52, KenPom: 103, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Huskies snapped a three-game losing streak by blowing out Colorado at home on Saturday, but this team is in a tough spot right now. While every other team on the bubble will have chances to improve their profile, Washington has just one Quadrant 2 game and three Quadrant 3 games left.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 30, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 9): The Razorbacks landed their fifth Quadrant 1 win of the season. They are now 19-8 on the year and have just one loss outside of Quadrant 1. At this point, Arkansas is going to be moved off of the bubble for us. They’re in if they don’t do anything stupid the rest of the way.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 59, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 9): The Hokies beat the breaks off of Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, meaning they finished their three game road trip at 2-1 with a win at Virginia. Not bad. The rest of VT’s schedule looks like this: Clemson, Louisville, Duke, at Miami. With a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 325, I still think the Hokies need to win two of these games.

UCLA (RPI: 54, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Play-in game): UCLA likely kept themselves on the right side of the bubble for now, as they picked off Oregon at home on Senior Night. I still think that if the Bruins want to feel safe on Selection Sunday they are going to need to win out. As it stands, they have just two Quadrant 1 wins and two Quadrant 3 losses. They finish the season like this: at Utah, at Colorado, at USC.

BUTLER (RPI: 40, KenPom: 26, NBC seed: 10): The Bulldogs added another Quadrant 2 win to their profile on Saturday with an impressive win over Providence at home. Butler is 3-9 against Quadrant 1 opponents with three Quadrant 1 games left on their schedule: Creighton, at St. John’s, at Seton Hall. I think they’ll probably be in if they win one of those three games, but I would recommend winning two.

SAINT MARY’S (RPI: 31, KenPom: 19, NBC seed: 9): The Gaels ended their two-game losing streak by beating Portland on the road. They will be in the tournament as long as they don’t lose to anyone not named Gonzaga the rest of the way. The might be OK if it is BYU they lose to in the WCC tournament, but I would not recommend betting on that.

USC (RPI: 45, KenPom: 54, NBC seed: First four out): Simply put: USC could not afford to lost to Oregon State at home. They didn’t. I think they need to win out during the regular season to have a real chance at getting into the NCAA tournament. They only have two Quadrant 1 wins and only play one more Quadrant 1 opponent in the regular season.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 51, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: 11): The Wolfpack did what they needed to do by going into Winston-Salem and knocking off Wake Forest. Kevin Keatts’ club is in a good spot, but they are not a lock. They have some legitimately great wins this season, but they have already lost nine games this season and have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. They’re in a good spot, but their margin for error is a little bit lower than other bubble teams since they have no more Quadrant 1 opponents on their schedule.

TCU (RPI: 24, KenPom: 20, NBC seed: 10): The Horned Frogs took care of business at home against Oklahoma State on Saturday, which is something that is not as easy as it would seem this season. TCU is 4-7 against Quadrant 1 and 6-9 against the top two Quadrants. Their final four games: at Iowa State, Baylor, Kansas State, at Texas Tech. Win two of those and they should be fine.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 26, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: 11): The Blue Raiders did their job. They won at Louisiana Tech. They have home games left against UAB, Western Kentucky and Marshall before the Conference USA tournament. Win those, and as long as they take a loss to Western Kentucky in the league tournament, they might have a shot. They only have one Quadrant 1 win, but they would be 26-6 on the season.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 67, NBC seed: 8): Losing at Butler doesn’t exactly hurt Providence’s profile. Quadrant 1 road losses are what they are. The Friars are interesting because they have five Quadrant 1 wins but two Quadrant 3 losses and a hideous, Quadrant 4 loss to DePaul at home. I think they need two more wins (Seton Hall, at Xavier, at Georgetown, St. John’s) to lock up their at-large bid.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: 11): The Cardinals got worked at home by North Carolina on Saturday. The worry for this group is that they just don’t have all that many great wins. Their two Quadrant 1 wins are at Florida State and at Notre Dame, and they have just one other Quadrant 2 win. The good news? Their last four games — at Duke, at Virginia Tech, Virginia, at N.C. State — are all Quadrant 1. They will be able to play their way in.

 

No. 7 Texas Tech lost to Baylor, but did they lose Keenan Evans, too?

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Baylor won their fifth game in a row on Saturday night, 59-57.

They beat No. 7 Texas Tech in Waco.

Texas Tech is now stuck in a tie for first place in the Big 12 with Kansas, blowing the one-game lead they entered the day with.

Baylor?

They’re probably going to the NCAA tournament.

But none of that is really the story of the night.

Because Keenan Evans, Texas Tech’s leading scorer and all-american point guard, did not play in the second half after suffering what head coach Chris Beard called a toe injury in the first half. He has not had x-rays on the toe yet — there were no x-ray machines in the Ferrell Center — but suffice to say that the Red Raider season hinges on what those results say.

Make no mistake: Evans could very well be a first-team all-american. Hell, if he returns healthy and Trae Young’s slide doesn’t stop, you can make a valid case that Evans should be the Big 12 Player of the Year come March. He’s a big shot maker and, as we saw down the stretch against Baylor, one of the only guys on this Texas Tech roster that can create a shot.

If he is out for any significant amount of time, it totally changes the trajectory of the Big 12 title race and the chances that the Red Raiders have at making a deep run into the NCAA tournament.

So here’s to hoping that Evans, a senior that has now played through two coaching regimes, can return healthy and reap the spoils of the work he’s put in by getting a chance to play his way to a Final Four in San Antonio.

Martin brothers lead No. 24 Nevada past Utah State, 93-87

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LOGAN, Utah — Cody Martin made the loss of starting point guard Lindsey Drew sting a little bit less for Nevada.

Martin led the 24th-ranked Wolf Pack to one of their finest all-around offensive performances of the season in a 93-87 win over Utah State on Saturday. The junior scored a career-high 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting.

Martin took over point guard duties after Drew ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Wednesday’s 77-72 victory over Boise State. Against Utah State, it was up to Martin to both facilitate and initiate the offense.

“It’s hard to try to pick up his role because he’s a really really big part of our team,” Martin said. “Our biggest facilitator. One of our leaders. He’s a really good player, so you can’t really take his spot. The biggest thing for me is to try to be a little bit more aggressive, make sure I take care of the ball.”

Nevada didn’t miss a beat.

The Wolf Pack (23-5, 11-2 Mountain West) shot 59.3 percent from the field — including 11-of-21 from 3-point range — to pull away from the Aggies. Caleb Martin, Cody’s twin brother, added 23 points and Jordan Caroline chipped in with 20 points for the Wolf Pack.

Koby McEwen scored a career-high 32 points and Sam Merrill added 16 to lead Utah State. The Aggies (14-14, 7-8) have lost 14 straight to ranked opponents and fell to the Wolf Pack at home for just the second time in five games.

“That’s as hard a team to defend as I’ve seen come through here in a long time,” Aggies coach Tim Duryea said. “Our guys, effort-wise, (were) good on the defensive end. We did a lot of really good things, but they made tough shot after tough shot after tough shot.”

Utah State was the hotter team from the field early, going 13 of 19 (68.4 percent) in the first 12 minutes. Nevada used a 17-0 run late in the first half to take its first double-digit lead at 47-37. Cody Martin converted a four-point play to ignite the run, and Hallice Cooke and Kendall Stephens put the Wolf Pack in front with back-to-back 3-pointers.

Nevada ultimately took a 52-40 halftime lead as Utah State missed 12 of 13 shots over the final 7:19 of the first half.

“When we get defensive stops, we get up the floor so quick,” Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman said. “When we made those stops, we got into that spurtability where we could just run, run, run and get transition threes or layups.”

The Aggies trimmed the lead to 72-66 on a dunk from DeAngelo Isby with 8:32 left. Nevada kept Utah State from getting any closer by hitting six straight baskets over a five-minute stretch. Caroline finished the string with a 3-pointer that put the Wolf Pack up 87-75 with 3:10 remaining.

McEwen ran off eight points in a minute, capped by a hammer dunk, to cut Nevada’s lead to 91-87 with 14.6 seconds left. Caleb Martin sealed the win on a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds remaining.

BIG PICTURE

Nevada: The Wolf Pack opened up a 1 1/2 -game lead over Boise State atop the Mountain West standings and avoided a loss that could have damaged their NCAA Tournament hopes. With three of its four remaining games coming against the lower half of the league, Nevada can clinch at least a share of the regular season title in the week ahead.

Utah State: The Aggies feasted on a steady diet 3-pointers from the opening tip and it ultimately cost them. Utah State hit 6 of 10 from beyond the arc through the first 12 minutes, but went 1 of 10 over the next eight minutes. The Aggies finished 10 of 33 (30.3 percent) from the perimeter.

NEW PLAYBOOK

With Drew sidelined up to 9 months, Musselman started virtually from scratch with Nevada’s offense before handing it over to Cody Martin. He installed a new offensive package and condensed the playbook to make it simpler. This meant scrapping a lot of plays that Drew could run well because of his experience.

The simplified approach worked. Nevada’s shooting percentage was a season-best for a Utah State opponent. The Wolf Pack were just the sixth team this season to shoot better than 50 percent against the Aggies.

Cody Martin kept his offensive outburst in perspective.

“I’m not going to come off this game thinking I’m going to shoot 40 shots,” Martin said. “I’m just going to keep approaching the game like I normally do: facilitate, play hard and be a leader, stay engaged and play defense.”

UP NEXT

Nevada: The Wolf Pack host San Jose State on Wednesday.

Utah State: The Aggies visit Air Force on Saturday.