College Basketball Week in Review: C.J. Fair, Northwestern, highlight great week

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: C.J. Fair, Syracuse

C.J. Fair played his best game of the season in the biggest game of the year. The 6-foot-8 senior went for 28 points and five boards as Syracuse knocked off Duke in overtime at the Carrier Dome, a win that gave them a three-game lead in the ACC over the Blue Devils and catapulted the still-undefeated Orange to the top spot in the top 25.

What made Fair’s performance all the more important is that it came in a game where Syracuse absolutely needed him to come up huge. If there has been a knock of Fair this season, it’s that he hasn’t made the jump from super-productive to superstar. He puts up numbers, but the guy that has seemingly made all the big plays for Syracuse this season has been star freshman Tyler Ennis. On Saturday, it was Fair that made the biggest shots and that took advantage of the fact that the smaller Blue Devils simply had no one that was going to be able to matchup with him.

Syracuse is somewhat overlooked when it comes to national title contenders. The trendy picks have been Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas with a little bit of Florida added in. If Fair continues to play the way he did on Saturday, that won’t be the case much longer.

They were good, too:

  • Juwan Staten, West Virginia: The Mountaineers had a 2-0 week, knocking off Baylor and Baylor and Kansas State in Morgantown. Staten starred in both, going for 15 points and nine assists against Baylor and 35 points and five assists in the win over KSU.
  • Johnny O’Bryant, LSU: O’Bryant was the star as the Tigers won two games this week, going for 29 points and nine boards in a win over Kentucky and 23 points, nine boards and four assists as LSU beat Arkansas.
  • Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Kilpatrick had 28 points in Cincinnati’s win at Louisville on Thursday, following that up with 18 points as the Bearcats remained undefeated in the AAC with a win over South Florida
  • Tyler Haws, BYU: Haws scored 71 points in two wins this week. He’s now averaging 35.5 points in his last four games. That’s not too shabby.
  • Doug McDermott, Creighton: McDermott scored 39 points and hit the game-winning three-pointer as the Bluejays beat St. John’s 63-60 in Omaha on Tuesday night.

source:  TEAM OF THE WEEK: Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern is in fourth place in the Big Ten.


The Wildcats, undermanned under first-year coach Chris Collins, are currently sitting at 5-5 in Big Ten play, which slots them ahead of Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. If you try to tell me you predicted that, you’re a liar.

This week, it was a pair of road wins in tough environments that got Northwestern all the attention, as the Wildcats knocked off Wisconsin at the Kohl Center and Minnesota at The Barn extending their road-winning streak to three games; they also beat Indiana at Assembly Hall.

Northwestern has won four of their last five and five of their last seven games. Since giving up 93 points to Iowa on January 9th, the Wildcats have allowed more than 56 points just twice, with one of those games being a 63-60 double-overtime win against Purdue. Winning with defense? I’d think so: Northwestern scores 0.003 PPP more than Grambling, good for 316th nationally. They’re improving, at least. A week ago they were 320th nationally.

They were good, too:

  • Texas Longhorns: Texas became the first team to knock off Kansas in the Big 12 this season, laying the wood to the Jayhawks on Saturday thanks to 23 points from Isaiah Taylor. The Longhorns are now just a game behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings.
  • Tennessee Volunteers: If Tennessee makes sense to you, please explain them to me. After getting embarrassed by Florida last weekend, the Vols beat Ole Miss and Alabama this week. Jordan McRae bounced back from a 1-for-15 performance against Florida to average 26.0 points and 4.0 assists this week while Jarnell Stokes posted 35 points and 30 boards in the two wins.
  • Davidson Wildcats: Davidson beat Chattanooga, who had been undefeated in SoCon play, by 43 points on Thursday, following that up with a win over The Citadel on Saturday. The SoCon title still runs through Steph Curry’s school.
  • St. Joseph’s Hawks: There isn’t a hotter team in the Atlantic 10 right now. St. Joe’s has won six of their last seven and 11 of their last 13 games. They are 5-2 in the A-10 and the only two losses came on the road. This week will be huge: they host both Saint Louis and VCU, the two teams currently ahead of them in the league standings.
  • UNLV Runnin’ Rebels: UNLV has won four in a row after a disastrous start to the season. They erased an 11-point deficit in the final 3:29 to beat Boise State at home on Saturday.

No. 11 Syracuse upsets No. 3 Michigan State to advance to Sweet Sixteen

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Syracuse continued its string of upsets in the 2018 NCAA tournament on Sunday afternoon as the No. 11 seed Orange knocked off No. 3 seed Michigan State, 55-53, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the Midwest Regional.

Winners of three straight games after knocking off Arizona State in the First Four and TCU in the first round, Syracuse (23-13) pulled off another impressive victory in front of a very pro-Michigan State crowd in Detroit. Dictating the slow tempo with its 2-3 zone, Syracuse’s defense kept them in the game despite extreme foul trouble, cold perimeter shooting and issues on the defensive glass.

The Orange had to deal with guard Frank Howard (13 points) fouling out with over six minutes left in the game. Center Paschal Chukwu earned three fouls in the first half and had a tough time getting in a rhythm. Tyus Battle led the Orange with 17 points while Oshae Brissett chipped in 15 points to lead the Syracuse offense. Despite making only one three-pointer (1-for-8) and giving up 29 offensive rebounds to Michigan State, the Orange are moving on with another surprising win.

Although the Orange were literally the last team to make it into the field of 68 — and many had a gripe with their inclusion in the 2018 NCAA tournament — they are headed back to the Sweet Sixteen, as a double-digit seed, for the second time in three years.

Syracuse faced a similar situation when they made the Final Four run in 2016. Not many people thought the No. 10 seed Orange deserved to be in the field that year either. But Boeheim and his team surprised everybody by making it to the national semifinals before eventually falling to North Carolina.

The 2016 version of the Orange had multiple pros and four double-figure scorers. Tyler Lydon, Michael Gbinije, Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson all came up huge at times during the team’s NCAA tournament run. Richardson’s second-half domination of Malcolm Brogdon and No. 1 seed Virginia in the Elite Eight might have single-handedly contributed to him being a first-round pick.

The 2018 version of the Orange doesn’t have nearly as much offensive firepower. Battle is a highly-touted former McDonald’s All-American who is capable of going for big scoring games. Brissett has developed his offensive game significantly to the point of also being a steady scorer. Battle and Brissett also don’t have nearly as many weapons around them to help. Howard is only other player besides the duo on the Syracuse roster averaging more than six points per game this season. As a team, Syracuse is only shooting 32 percent from three-point range — one of the worst marks in the country.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim deserves a lot of credit for taking this offensively-challenged team with a short bench to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. Detractors might get annoyed by Syracuse’s reliance on the 2-3 zone, but it seems to be working out pretty well for the Orange during the past few NCAA tournaments. The ACC and its coaches seem more prepared to face Syracuse’s 2-3 zone during conference play. But the quick turnaround of the NCAA tournament might make the 2-3 zone a bit tougher to prepare for.

As Wally Szczerbiak astutely noted in the pregame show, Syracuse’s zone makes teams take a lot of awkward shots that they aren’t accustomed to taking. Unfortunately for the Orange, they face a No. 2 seed in Duke in the next round that will already be well-versed on their zone. The Orange and Blue Devils played each other in the ACC in February as Duke won a home game by double-digits in Marvin Bagley III’s return from injury.

It’s not an ideal matchup for Syracuse, but then again, they also took down Virginia with a 16-point second-half comeback two years ago. This year’s tournament has already taught us that anything is possible.

Michigan State (30-5) saw its season end in disappointing fashion as they shot only 25 percent (17-for-66) from the field and 21 percent (8-for-37) from three-point range. Point guard Cassius Winston led Michigan State with 15 points while All-American forward Miles Bridges struggled to a 4-for-18 shooting day to finish with 11 points.

Winston, Bridges, Josh Langford and Matt McQuaid were the only four players to attempt three-pointers for Michigan State on Sunday. None of them could get going. McQuaid’s only make came on an unlikely circus buzzer-beater that was blocked and caught in mid-air.

While a cold-shooting day was the main reason for Michigan State’s demise, head coach Tom Izzo will also be questioned for his strange frontcourt rotation. Senior Ben Carter (23 minutes) and freshman Xavier Tillman (22 minutes) both received more playing time than potential top-10 pick Jaren Jackson Jr. (15 minutes). Veteran senior Gavin Schilling didn’t play after playing 10 minutes per game during the season. Kenny Goins only played three minutes after averaging 14 minutes per contest.

Tillman (12 rebounds) deserved minutes because of his activity on the glass. But Carter had a pedestrian stat line of two points, two rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes of action. In a tight, one-possession game with the season on the line, Carter looked timid in the middle of the Syracuse 2-3 zone. It certainly didn’t help a Michigan State offense that desperately needed a jumpstart from literally anyone who could help.

Jackson has admittedly struggled down the stretch of his freshman season since a scintillating 27-point outing in a Big Ten win over Minnesota in February. He’s also a 39 percent three-point shooter on the season who could have been another floor-spacing option for Michigan State to try. He only attempted four field goals in what will likely be his final college game. It’ll be fascinating to hear Izzo’s logic behind his frontcourt rotation.

This is also a really bad loss for the Spartans. For the second time in three seasons, Michigan State was bounced before the second weekend when many people considered them serious national title contenders. On the recruiting trail, rivals will point out that a top draft pick like Jackson only played 15 minutes in the loss. Bridges generated a lot of positive headlines the last two seasons. The sophomore is also likely headed to the NBA after never making it past the second round.

The Spartans will probably lose a lot of talent this offseason with two potential lottery picks leaving. And with uncertainty looming about Michigan State’s future thanks to an explosive sexual misconduct investigation that was revealed during the season, it’s hard to say how the Spartans will look next season. Athletic director Mark Hollis already resigned and head coach Tom Izzo has fielded numerous questions about the report. That story probably isn’t going away anytime soon.

A program once known for consistency and stability is now facing a potentially tumultuous offseason.

VIDEO: Chennedy Carter caps Texas A&M comeback with filthy game-winner

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No. 4-seed Texas A&M erased a 15-point fourth quarter deficit to knock off No. 5-seed DePaul, 80-79.

The game-winning bucket came courtesy of Chennedy Carter, who won the game with this filthy, filthy move:

VIDEO: Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid makes circus buzzer-beater off a blocked shot

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Michigan State is in the midst of a battle with No. 11 seed Syracuse in the second round of the Midwest Region.

The No. 3 seed Spartans are having a tough time adjusting to the Orange’s length in the 2-3 zone as a low-scoring and slow-paced game has made it close.

Thankfully for Michigan State, guard Matt McQuaid nailed a circus buzzer-beating three-pointer after Syracuse’s Matt Moyer blocked his first attempt. The ridiculous bank shot at the end of the first half gave the Spartans a 25-22 lead.

McQuaid’s unlikely buzzer-beater had a lot of things happening in one play. It’s one of the more unique basketball plays we’ll see in the NCAA tournament.

It also provided a great photo of McQuaid about to release the second attempt in mid-air. So many great reactions in that photo.

No Haas, no problem: No. 2 Purdue sneaks past No. 10 Butler, into Sweet 16

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No Haas, no harm.

Playing without Isaac Haas, their senior 7-footer who fractured his elbow in an opening round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, the Boilermakers shot 11-for-24 from three and got a valiant effort from their other 7-footer, freshman Matt Haarms, in a 76-73 win over No. 10-seed Butler.

The second-seeded Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. They’ll take on No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Region semifinals on Friday evening in Boston.

Purdue was led by 20 points from Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s senior leader, who scored 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting as his partner in crime, sophomore Carsen Edwards, shot just 4-for-17 from the floor and finished with 13 points. The biggest shot of the night came from another senior, Dakota Mathias, who buried a three with 14 seconds left that put Purdue up five.

But the real story here was Haarms.

The freshman will be thrust into a critical role for the Boilermakers throughout the rest of this tournament, and I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that the Boilermakers will go as far as he allows them to go. Haarms is the only big man currently on the Purdue roster that played any kind of meaningful minutes this season. Purdue played roughly 100 possessions during the regular season without Haas or Haarms on the floor, and it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of those possessions were played during garbage time, when the walk-ons were on the floor.

Haarms finished with seven boards, six boards and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes, doing a good enough job in the role that he was asked to play to keep Butler from lighting up the Boilermakers in pick-and-roll actions and in protecting the rim. He is certainly a better defender than Haas, particularly in space, but he is no where near the threat that Haas is on the offensive end of the floor. It limits what Purdue can do offensively, and with a game coming up against one of college basketball’s best defensive teams, a group that prides themselves on their ability to run teams off the three point line, we could be looking at a situation where Purdue really needs that interior presence.

What Haarms can provide will be a difference-maker.

I hope he’s ready for it.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole got a hero’s welcome in Michigan’s locker room

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Jordan Poole hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three to send Michigan into the Sweet 16.

And as you might expect, when he made his way back into the Wolverine, he was greeted with a wall of water:

Let’s see that from another angle:

I can never see enough of these videos, but perhaps this is the best part: Two weeks ago, after Michigan won the Big Ten tournament, John Beilein was absolutely drenched in the locker room, having to go to his press conference sopping wet, cold and wearing a towel around his shoulders.

So on Saturday night, he did the smart thing. He wore a poncho and goggles and went on the offensive: