America East Vermont Stony Brook Basketball

Weekend Preview: Maryland’s on Upset Alert against Stony Brook

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Who’s Getting Upset?: Fri 8:00 p.m.: Stony Brook at Maryland (ESPN3)

The Seawolves are one of the better mid-major teams in the country this season. They have a pair of good guards in Dave Coley and Anthony Jackson and one of the nation’s preeminent glue guys in Tommy Brenton, who averages 7.7 points, 8.5 boards, 4.8 assists and 2.2 steals. And while we can talk about a myriad of different matchups with Maryland in this game, the key is going to come down to one thing: the paint. Can freshman Jameel Warney hold his own against future lottery pick Alex Len? Can Stony Brook keep the nation’s second-best offensive rebounding team off the class? If they can, they have a shot at winning this thing. If they can’t, they don’t. It’s quite simple, actually.

Who else is on Upset Alert?

  • Fri. 9:00 p.m.: Middle Tennessee State at Vanderbilt (ESPNU): Frankly, I’m not even sure if this should truly count as an upset, but since it’s a mid-major program playing at an SEC program, I’ll allow. MTSU is a grizzled, veteran team while Vandy is young and learning how to cope with the talent they lost last year.
  • Sat. 2:00 p.m.: Florida State at Charlotte (CBS College Sports): Will Michael Snaer play? That might be the biggest question for the Seminoles heading into this game. Snaer was held out of a game last week, which is a big problem; FSU doesn’t have the kind of depth or perimeter talent to survive losing a preseason all-american. Especially if Ian Miller’s not healthy yet. Charlotte got a reality check last weekend when they lost by 31 to Miami, but there is a reason this team only has one loss on the season.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: Bradley at Virginia Tech: The Hokies started out the season so well, but they’ve come back to earth a bit in their last three games, losing two of them to the likes of West Virginia and Georgia State. They are also now dealing with having an even shorter bench, as Marshall Wood is sidelined with a foot injury. Bradley is no pushover this year. Ask Michigan, who struggled to get control against the Braves. If Jarell Eddie has another off night, James Johnson’s team could be in trouble.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 8 Florida vs. Kansas State in Kansas City (ESPN2): Kansas State is going to have their hands full with the Gators, who have proven to be one of the nation’s best defensive teams this season. But the Wildcats can matchup them pound-for-pound on the front line, even if those bigs aren’t great at defending pick-and-roll actions. The key is going to end up being Rodney McGruder. He started the season slowly but had 26 points the last time out. Has he finally found his rhythm in Bruce Weber’s offense?
  • Sat. 10:00 p.m.: Canisius at No. 21 UNLV: Canisius is coming off of a win at Temple. That win at Temple came just a couple of days after the Golden Griffins gave Syracuse all they could handle in the Carrier Dome. Canisius has a couple of really good guards, led by Rhode Island transfer Billy Baron, that can get hot. They will have no answer for UNLV’s front line, but if the Rebels overlook Canisius and don’t come out with the kind of energy they need to — something UNLV has done in the past — we could be looking at an upset in the making.

Wisconsin ends No. 2 Maryland’s 27-game home win streak

Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown (30) shoots during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Maryland, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
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Just over a month ago Wisconsin lost at Northwestern, dropping to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten and had the look of a team that would have to fight simply to get into the NIT. Since then, Greg Gard’s Badgers have won seven straight games with the most recent triumph being a 70-57 victory at No. 2 Maryland. Not only did Wisconsin become the first Big Ten team to beat the Terrapins at the Xfinity Center since Maryland joined the Big Ten, but they also ended Maryland’s 27-game home win streak.

And it was Wisconsin’s offensive balance that stood out, as four starters scored in double figures led by forward Vitto Brown.

Brown, who accounted for 18 points and five rebounds in Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska Wednesday night, was even better against Maryland as he scored a career-high 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. While Bronson Koenig (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Nigel Hayes (14 and six rebounds) are the ones expected to shoulder much of the load, players such as Brown, Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter (11 points) will also be key as Wisconsin makes its push for an NCAA tournament bid.

In Wisconsin’s first five conference games Brown averaged 4.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per contest. Since then he’s averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, scoring in double figures in each of Wisconsin’s last three games.

Overall Wisconsin’s looked far more fluid offensively during this win streak, and over the last three games the Badgers have shot very well from the perimeter as they made nearly 51 percent of their attempts (12-for-26 against Maryland). Add in Wisconsin’s ability to take advantage of Maryland’s defensive rebounding issues, converting 13 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points, and it was easy to see why Wisconsin was able to grab control of the game in the first half during a 20-0 run that gave them the separation they needed.

Maryland’s issues throughout conference play remain the same, as they struggled to end defensive possessions while also turning the ball over far too often (seven times) during the aforementioned Wisconsin run. With Melo Trimble not playing at the level he’s capable of reaching (he may not be completely healthy), Maryland has some things to address during this stretch run.

But more than anything, Saturday was the product of a Wisconsin team that’s starting to click at the right time. And as crazy as it may seem, given how Wisconsin began Big Ten play, the Badgers only two games out of first place.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.