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No. 3 Villanova routs No. 15 Xavier as Hart, Jenkins score 20 apiece

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Kris Jenkins hit four threes and scored a team-high 20 points to lead five players in double-figures as No. 3 Villanova made something of a statement with a 79-54 win over No. 15 Xavier.

The Musketeers took a 24-16 lead at one point in the first half, but Villanova responded with a 23-4 run at the end of the first half and the start of the second half to blow the game open. The game was never in doubt in the second half.

Here are four things we can take away from yet another dominant Villanova win in The Pavilion:

1. It’s never going to be easy to win in The Pavilion: If anyone not named Villanova is going to win the Big East this season, they’re probably going to have to win at Villanova, and if there’s anything that we’ve learned over the course of the last three-and-a-half seasons, it’s that winning in Philly is not an easy thing to do when you’re not playing the 76ers.

Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins have lost just seven Big East games in their careers; 14 games in total. Just two of those losses came at home, and both of those home losses came in the Wells Fargo Center – the NBA arena downtown – instead of the The Pavilion – the facility on campus. Villanova has never lost a home game out of conference, either, meaning that there is not a single player on Jay Wright’s roster that has ever lost a game in The Pavilion.

Xavier is a really good team, one that, with Myles Davis back in the lineup, has as much of an argument for being the second-best team in the league as Butler or Creighton.

And they still, for the second consecutive season, got utterly humiliated by Villanova in that building.

2. The Wildcats don’t need Josh Hart to play well to be great: Yes, Hart finished with 20 points, six boards and five assists, but the majority of his damage came after the game was more-or-less decided. I think even he would admit that he put up those numbers despite not playing his best basketball, and that’s a scary thing to think about with this team, because Josh Hart is the current leader in the clubhouse for the National Player of the Year award. On Tuesday night, it was Jenkins that carried the Wildcats early on, as he hit three of his four threes and sparked the run at the end of the first half.

And it was probably nice for Villanova fans to see Jenkins get into a rhythm again. After a somewhat slow start to the season, he’s hit for at least 20 points in three of the last four games and has at least three threes in all five of Villanova’s Big East games.

3. You can’t go small against Villanova: That’s their bread and butter. You don’t want to let them get their death lineup – Brunson, DiVincenzo/Booth, Bridges, Hart and Jenkins – on the floor without having to risk dealing with a big man on the interior. That’s precisely what Xavier did late in the second half, and it cost them. The Musketeers scored just 30 points in the final 28 minutes of the game, and on the night shot just 29.3 percent from the floor. Some of that are just the issues that Xavier has in their roster construction – we’ll get to that in a second – but much of that number is simply a result of Villanova’s effectiveness when they can switch every exchange without have to worry about Jalen Brunson ending up trying to guard a 6-foot-10 center in the post.

4. Xavier cannot fall into the trap of trying to be a three-point shooting team: They just simply don’t have enough good shooters to do it, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in Philly. Xavier was 5-for-10 from three during the stretch when they opened up a 24-16 lead on Villanova. They finished the night going 6-for-32 from beyond the arc, meaning that in the final 28 minutes of the game, they shot 22 three-pointers and made just a single one.

That’s a problem. The return of Myles Davis – who was 0-for-4 in his first game back with the team after a 15-game suspension – should help solve that. His return should also help open up their half court offense as well, as he’s one of the best playmakers and facilitators on the roster. But his presence on the floor doesn’t change the fact that 28 threes were shot by his teammates.

And, quite frankly, if Xavier is going to try to win games that way, it’s not going to be all that effective.

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

No. 12 Duke beats No. 11 Clemson as defensive resurgence continues

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Grayson Allen finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, scoring 17 of his points in the first half, and Wendell Carter added 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks as No. 12 Duke won their fourth straight game without Marvin Bagley III, 66-57.

No. 11 Clemson was short-handed as well, and that’s something that needs to be noted. Not only are they playing without Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL earlier this year, but Shelton Mitchell was not in the lineup after suffering a nasty concussion at Florida State on Wednesday.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed when the bracket reveal occurred last Sunday, but like Ohio State and Oklahoma, they have now lost back-to-back games; 11 of the top 16 teams have lost a game in the last week.

But the story here more than anything is Duke.

Yes, Allen finished with 19 points and continues to play well without Bagley on the floor. Getting him into a rhythm is critically important for this team. He was averaging 14.7 points in 24 games with Bagley. He is averaging 22.3 points in the last three games that Bagley has missed, and that does not include the 37-point outburst he had when Bagley went down with an injury against Michigan State.

Coach K also has had a chance to develop some confidence in his bench. Javin DeLaurier had 10 boards on Sunday. Marques Bolden didn’t play a done of minutes, but he still finished with five points, three boards and a pair of blocks. He was, generally speaking, a positive influence on the game.

But here is the most important and perplexing nugget: Duke, for the third straight game, was excellent defensively. They’ve now allowed fewer than 1.0 points-per-possession in each of the last three games. They are clearly not the same time offensively without Bagley’s presence on the floor, but it is impossible to ignore what they have been defensively in the last 10 days without him.

The question we need to ask is whether or not that will continue once Bagley makes his return.

Because the only thing standing between Duke and a Final Four is their inability to defend.

No. 8 Ohio State falls at No. 22 Michigan, Michigan State moves into first in Big Ten

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After all of the drama and the speculation about whether or not Ohio State or Purdue was the best team in the Big Ten, water has seemingly found its level.

On Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor, No. 8 Ohio State lost their second straight game, falling 74-62 at No. 22 Michigan and allowing No. 2 Michigan State — who had one of college basketball’s greatest comebacks on Saturday at Northwestern — to slide into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with just one week left of the regular season.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 17 points while Jordan Poole added 15 off the bench in the win.

The Wolverines did a good job of slowing down Ohio State’s all-american forward, Keita Bates-Diop. KBD finished with 17 points and seven boards, but he shot just 5-for-17 from the floor. Jae-Sean Tate led the way with 20 points and 15 boards for the Buckeyes.

There was a special moment before this game even started as Austin Hatch, a two-time survivor of plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, took part in the team’s Senior Day.

VIDEO: Michigan celebrates plane crash survivor Austin Hatch’s Senior Day

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If you don’t know the story of Michigan senior Austin Hatch, you should.

He’s survived two plane crashes in his life. The first, in 2003, robbed him of his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother. In 2011, to celebrate his commitment to the Wolverines, Hatch’s father flew them up to the family’s vacation home, but the plane crashed into a garage killing Hatch’s dad and his stepmom and leaving Austin critically injured.

He had a severe brain trauma, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and in order to manage the swelling in his brain, he was put into a medically-induced coma for eight months.

He managed to return and even played for the Wolverines during the 2014-15 season, but he eventually made the decision to retire from basketball at the end of the year. He did, however, remain a part of the program and on Sunday, during Michigan’s Senior Day, he warmed up with the team and was introduced to the crowd as a starter and no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying:

Bubble Banter: All of Sunday’s bubble action in one place

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Sunday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

YET TO PLAY

SETON HALL
NEBRASKA
HOUSTON
TEMPLE
PENN STATE