Dez Wells2

The Little Dances: Championship Week Day 12 Preview

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The NCAA Tournament doesn’t get going until March 19, but for the real college hoops fans, the days leading up to Selection Sunday is when the madness really begins. Over the next two weeks teams will fight for the postseason lives. Bubbles will burst and tickets will be punched, and Cinderellas will be born. This is the real March Madness.

Today is the day. 13 automatic bids will be handed out today, the most of any day during Championship Week. The day is highlighted by the final game in the Big East for both Syracuse and Louisville. Make sure to keep your eye on the MAC championship, where Akron and Ohio meet in a battle between current powerhouse and former champ.

Today is the last Saturday of the non-March Madness portion of the 2012-2013 college hoops season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

Here’s what to watch for on Saturday.

Game of the Night: Kansas State vs. Kansas
You know what they say about beating the same team three times in the same season, right? The Jayhawks will go for the sweep against their Sunflower State rivals. Because of Duke’s loss to Maryland on Friday night, a spot on the top line in the NCAA tournament could be for grabs.

– Watch this too: Michigan State vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes and Spartans meet in a rematch of last year’s title game. Ohio State enters the game having won six-straight. Both teams held serve on their home courts during the regular season. Can Aaron Craft shut down Keith Appling again? Can the Spartans reduce DeShaun Thomas’ offensive production?

Player to Watch: Dez Wells, Maryland
There is not a more athletic and dynamic combo-guard in the country than Maryland’s Dez Wells. When the sophomore is match-up nightmare when he asserts himself into the game, and he’s done just that in the Terrapins two previous ACC tournament games. In the quarterfinals against top-seed Duke, Wells scored a career-high 30 points to keep the Terrapins tournament hopes alive for another 24 hours. He’s going to have to repeat his performance against North Carolina, who swept the regular season series with the Terps.

He’s good too: Chaz Williams, UMass
The Brooklyn-native has played his best basketball of the season in front of his family and friends at the Barclays Center this week, propelling upstart UMass into the Atlantic-10 semifinals agaisnt VCU. The one-on-one match-up between Williams and VCU defensive mastermind Briante Weber will be fun to watch and may detrmine whether or not the Minuteman can sneak in the back door of March Madness.

Saturday’s Schedule:

America East Conference Finals
11:30 a.m. – Alabany (4) vs. Vermont (2)

Atlantic Coast Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – North Carolina State (5) vs. Miami (1)
3 p.m. – Maryland (7) vs. North Carolina (3)

Atlantic 10 Conference Semifinals
1:30 p.m. – Butler (5) vs. Saint Louis (1)
4 p.m. – UMass (6) vs. VCU (2)

Big 12 Conference Finals
6 p.m. – Kansas State (2) vs. Kansas (1)

Big East Conference Finals
8:30 p.m. – Syracuse (5) vs. Louisville (2)

Big Sky Conference Finals
9 p.m. – Weber State (2) vs. Montana (1)

Big Ten Conference Semifinals
1:40 p.m. – Wisconsin (4) vs. Indiana (1)
4 p.m. – Michigan State (3) vs. Ohio State (2)

Big West Conference Finals
10:30 p.m. – UC-Irvine (4) vs. Pacific (2)

Conference-USA Finals
11:35 a.m. – Southern Mississippi (2) vs. Memphis (1)

Great West Conference Finals
8:30 p.m. – Houston Baptist (4) at Chicago State (3)

Mid-American Conference Finals
6:30 p.m. – Ohio (2) vs. Akron (1)

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Finals
5 p.m. – North Carolina A&T (7) vs. Morgan State (5)

Mountain West Conference Finals
6 p.m. – UNLV (3) vs. New Mexico (1)

Pac-12 Conference Finals
11 p.m. – Oregon (3) vs. UCLA (1)

Southeastern Conference Semifinals
1 p.m. – Alabama (4) vs. Florida (1)
3 p.m. – Vanderbilt (10) vs. (3) Ole Miss

Southland Conference Finals
8:30 p.m. – Northwestern State (2) vs. Stephen F. Austin (1)

Southwestern Athletic Conference Finals
4:30 p.m. – Prairie View A&M (4) vs. Southern (1)

Western Athletic Conference Finals
11 p.m. – UT-Arlington (4) vs. New Mexico State (3)

You can find Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir

Williams helps No. 3 North Carolina beats Radford 95-50

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Kenny Williams #24 of the North Carolina Tar Heels pushed the ball up court during the second half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game against the Chaminade Silverswords at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Kenny Williams III finally had the shooting flurry that third-ranked North Carolina has been waiting to see.

The sophomore had 14 of his career-high 19 points in the opening five minutes, helping the Tar Heels build a huge early lead and beat Radford 95-50 on Sunday.

Williams made his first five shots, including all four 3-point tries, during that opening flurry. Quite a change for a player who was buried on the bench for a veteran team last year, making just 1 of 13 3-pointers and seeing his confidence suffer as a result.

“I’ve been waiting a year-and-a-half for a game like that,” Williams said. “I don’t want to say I knew it was coming, but with the confidence I have right now, I kind of expected it.”

While Williams’ play stood out, the Tar Heels (8-1) got a scare when they lost point guard Joel Berry II to a sprained left ankle early in the second half. The junior, averaging 16 points, came up hobbled as he drove into the paint and fell to the floor. He got up and walked slowly to the locker room for evaluation with 17:36 left, but didn’t return to the UNC bench with the Tar Heels up big.

Coach Roy Williams said Berry would have X-rays to confirm the sprain diagnosis and he was hopeful that Berry would be able to practice before Wednesday’s game against Davidson.

“We’ll have to wait and see what they say (Monday),” Williams said, “but I’m encouraged about it right now.”

The Tar Heels (8-1) were coming off a loss at No. 13 Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. They had no trouble in this one, running out to an 18-4 lead behind Kenny Williams’ opening burst and shooting 57 percent in the first half to build a 51-27 lead by the break.

Justin Cousin scored 14 points to lead the Highlanders (3-5), who shot 31 percent.

“Tough team, man,” Radford coach Mike Jones said. “They’re so big and physical. We played some good defense inside and they made the shot over us and that’s going to happen.”

BIG PICTURE

Radford: The Highlanders, picked sixth in the Big South Conference, had no way to slow the Tar Heels’ early tear. And that led to a fourth loss by double-digit margins, three coming by at least 21 points. Still, Radford isn’t likely to run up against a team such as UNC in the Big South, either.

UNC: The big shooting performance from Williams and Berry’s injury stood out here, with the Tar Heels potentially bolstering their perimeter scoring punch while seeing their floor leader go down to an injury.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Tar Heels will slide a bit in the AP Top 25 when the new poll comes out Monday, though losing on the road to a team ranked No. 13 nationally likely won’t cause a big drop.

POINT GUARDS

If Berry sits out, senior Nate Britt – who has played both guard positions in his career – would appear to be the next man up at the point. Freshman Seventh Woods also will figure into the mix; he had nine points in 22 minutes – both season highs – while getting plenty of work after Berry’s exit.

WILLIAMS’ SHOT

Williams, a 6-foot-4 wing from Midlothian, Virginia, made 5 of 6 3-pointers with a good-looking and confident stroke. Four of those came in the opening minutes, the last one a wide-open look from the left wing that brought Smith Center fans to a roar.

Williams said he worked in the offseason to minimize how much his guide hand pushes on the ball to affect his release.

“He’s put in a lot of time,” Roy Williams said. “I said even last year when he wasn’t putting the ball in the basket that he was going to be a good defensive player and I’m not sure he’s not our best perimeter defender right now.”

UP NEXT

Radford: The Highlanders host Elon on Saturday.

UNC: The Tar Heels play at home against Davidson on Wednesday night.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell suspended

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Sindarius Thornwell #0 of the South Carolina Gamecocks drives to the basket defended by Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange in the second half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has been suspended indefinitely due to a violation of athletic department policy, the school announced on Sunday.

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists for the Gamecocks, who are undefeated and sitting at No. 20 nationally. Thornwell is the reigning SEC Player of the Week.

South Carolina plays FIU in Columbia at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Melo Trimble’s heroics get him a shout-out from Wale in a song

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  Melo Trimble #2 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates after hitting the game winning shot as they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 69-68 during the championship game of the Barclays Center Classic at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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For the fourth time in the first three weeks of the college basketball season, Melo Trimble won a game for Maryland.

His two free throws in the final ten seconds gave the Terps a come-from-behind, 71-70 win over Oklahoma State in College Park, and the win not only was the sixth time this season that the Terps have won a game decided by six points or less, it improved Trimble’s record in those games to 26-5.

26-5!

That’s an insane statistic, one that should allow Maryland fans to truly appreciate just how valuable their junior point guard is.

At least one Maryland fan does. Rapper Wale, who hails from Maryland, just outside DC, made sure to name-drop his favorite Terp in a verse in a song he released on Saturday night:

And you better believe that Trimble is aware of it:

"My therapist terrible , I'm uh Terp Melo Trimbling" @wale

A photo posted by Melo Trimble (@olem__) on

Rick Pitino on Grand Canyon: ‘The toughest crowd I’ve ever faced’

Rick Pitino
AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after his No. 14 Cardinals struggled to put away a tough Grand Canyon team on the road had some kind – and hyperbolic – words to say about the atmosphere.

“This, in college basketball in my 40 plus year, was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” he said.

Umm, but Rick, you’ve coached in the Big East and the ACC! This was tougher than any of those crowds?

“Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that crowd tonight,” he said.

Well, now.

That seems like a bit much, but to be fair, the atmosphere there was, shall we say, lit:

POSTERIZED: Charlotte’s Najee Garvin nearly jumps over defender

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This is what you don’t try to take charges.