John Beilein

Big Ten releases conference schedule: Michigan, Wisconsin meet January 24

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In recent years the Big Ten has been one of the nation’s best conferences, and that’s expected to once again be the case in 2014-15 with Final Four participant Wisconsin seen by many as the early favorite. Thursday evening the conference released its schedule for the upcoming year, with there now being 14 programs to account for with Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (American Athletic Conference) now members of the Big Ten.

Among the highlights on the schedule is the lone meeting between Wisconsin and reigning regular season champion Michigan, which is scheduled to take place on January 24 in Ann Arbor. The Badgers and Wolverines met twice last season, with the visiting team winning both meetings. And the announcement of their lone meeting led to a humorous tweet from Michigan’s official Twitter account Thursday evening.

In addition to rivals Michigan State and Ohio State, Michigan will face Illinois, Northwestern and Rutgers twice in 2014-15. As for Wisconsin, they’ll have home-and-home series with Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State. Michigan State, which won the Big Ten tournament title last season, will welcome the Terrapins to the Big Ten on December 30 in Maryland’s Big Ten debut. The Spartans will play home-and-home series against Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Northwestern.

Ohio State and Nebraska, which finished the 2013-14 season tied for fourth place, meet just once in 2014-15 with the Huskers visiting Columbus on February 26. Ohio State won two of the three meetings last year, with the second victory coming in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes will have to get used to life without Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross, but Thad Matta returns some key pieces and will also add a talented recruiting class. As for Nebraska, most of Tim Miles’ rotation from last year’s NCAA tournament team is back with junior forward Terran Petteway leading the way.

While one newcomer (Maryland) will begin its conference season on the road Rutgers was a bit more fortunate, as they’ll host Northwestern on December 30 in its league debut. And with the addition of two teams the Big Ten also announced that the conference tournament will begin on Wednesday, March 11, with the event now spanning five days.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: