Nick Faust, Seth Allen, Logan Aronhalt

Team of the Week: Maryland Terrapins


Team of the Week: Maryland Terrapins

Maryland may as well have been playing a tournament game on Saturday when they hosted No. 2 Duke. After putting together a non-conference schedule that featured Kentucky and … well … nothing else, the Terps had dug themselves a massive hole heading into ACC play. With a home win over NC State the only relevant victory on their NCAA tournament resume, Duke was the last chance for the Terps to pick up a marquee victory.

And they got it.

Now, this doesn’t ensure Maryland’s ticket to the dance. They still need to win at least five of their last six regular season games. They have to beat both North Carolina and Virginia. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but beating Duke gives them a chance to do that. Had they lost, Maryland could have conceivably won 11 ACC games and missed out on the NCAA tournament.

Teams deserving a shout out:

Georgetown: Believe it or not, the team that could barely crack 40 points back in December and that lost by 28 points at home to Pitt in early January is now tied for the lead in the Big East after beating Marquette at home and winning at Cincinnati. The Hoyas get two games against Syracuse in their final six games. The Big East title is within their reach.

Weber State: The Wildcats had a big week. Not only did they go 3-0 in the Big Sky and move to within a game of first place, they did so by beating previously-undefeated Montana 87-63 on Thursday night. The Grizzlies had owned WSU of late, and while it may not be enough to get them the league’s regular season title, having the confidence that they can actually beat Montana if important.

Colorado State: The Rams made their way one step closer to winning the Mountain West as they knocked off San Diego State on Wednesday night, following that up by surviving a 45 point performance by Michael Lyons in a win at Air Force. CSU has their biggest week of the season coming up, as they visit UNLV and host New Mexico.

Memphis: The Tigers do the same thing every season —  they struggle through the non-conference portion of their schedule and then become a completely different team in Conference USA play. This week, the Tigers blew out Central Florida at home and then went into Huntington, WV, and knocked off Marshall by a dozen.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes won at Penn State and beat Minnesota at home, extending their winning streak to three games and putting themselves into a position where they can make a run at an at-large bid. The problem? The Hawkeyes only have two potential good wins left on their schedule. They’ll like need to win four of their last five games — including No. 1 Indiana at home — if they truly want to go dancing.

They were good, too: Cal, Gonzaga, Illinois, Providence

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.