Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Brunson leads No 4 Villanova to rout of Penn

Leave a comment

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — The venue, and its deafening noise, was different, but the result was the same for Villanova. The fourth-ranked Wildcats rolled past yet another Philadelphia opponent.

Jalen Brunson had 17 points to lead five players in double figures as Villanova routed Penn 90-62 on Wednesday night.

Omari Spellman, Mikal Bridges and Phil Bridges added 14 points apiece and Donte DiVincenzo scored 12 for the Wildcats (7-0), who remained undefeated while winning their 19th in a row against Philadelphia Big 5 rivals.

“I don’t like thinking about it,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said of the streak. “We know if you don’t bring it, you’re going to get beat. We never lose respect for those teams.”

The Big 5 also includes Temple, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s.

“They have a degree of confidence in themselves and each other,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said. “All of us (Big 5 coaches) are motivated to reach the bar Jay has set. I do feel we want to end that streak.”

The famed Philadelphia City Series started in 1956, but Wednesday’s game was the first to be played at Jake Nevin Field House. It became the 10th venue for a Big 5 contest, most of which have been held at The Palestra.

A bandbox gym on Villanova’s campus that seats 2,220, Nevin — known as the “Cat House” in its heyday — last hosted a Wildcats game on Jan. 4, 1986. Villanova is playing most of its home games this season at Wells Fargo Center, home court of the 76ers, while its regular on-campus arena gets a makeover.

It was noticeable immediately that with fans practically right on top of the court and a building well-built for acoustics, that it was going to be noisy — really noisy.

“It was a wild atmosphere,” Wright said. “You can’t hear anything. It’s a difficult place to play for everybody, including the home team.”

Brunson gave up on trying to listen to Wright calling plays.

“I tried reading his lips,” Brunson said.

And Spellman said he had to ask Bridges “50 times” the play.

Villanova shot an efficient 57 percent in the opening half to take a 46-28 lead. Nine Wildcats scored in the opening 20 minutes, led by Spellman’s 10 points.

The Wildcats were in total control after halftime and the advantage reached as much as 74-47 on Bridges’ fastbreak dunk with 8:38 remaining.

Villanova finished shooting 57 percent from the field, including 50 percent from beyond the arc.

AJ Brodeur paced Penn with 15 points and Darnell Foreman had 13 for the Quakers (5-4).

Donahue wasn’t displeased with Penn’s effort, instead crediting the Wildcats for their typically strong performance.

“They’re such a good, disciplined, tough team,” he said. “There’s never a team I’ve played against that’s smarter, tougher and more unselfish.”

HONORS ALL AROUND

Villanova also honored the late Rollie Massimino as 21 members of the former coach’s family were on hand.

Also introduced to the crowd were many former Wildcats who played at Nevin Field House.

NOVEMBER REIGN

The Wildcats have won 27 straight games in November.

PENN DOMINANCE

The victory was Villanova’s 15th straight against Penn.

MEAL TICKETS NEEDED

A mistake by Wright with the pregame schedule forced the Wildcats to go to the school’s cafeteria for their pregame meal rather than in their regular, private location.

BIG PICTURE

Penn: The Quakers are tuning up for the start of the Ivy League season, which begins for them Jan. 5 against archrival Princeton.

Villanova: The Wildcats will look to continue their dominance of the Philadelphia rivals on Saturday at Saint Joseph’s. They’ll host La Salle at the Wells Fargo Center on Dec. 10 and finish the Big 5 at Temple on Dec. 13.

UP NEXT

Penn: At Howard on Monday night.

Villanova: At Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night.

___

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

No. 17 Michigan beats Maryland 85-61 for 5th straight win

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 22 of his career-high 28 points in the decisive first half, and No. 17 Michigan easily defeated Maryland 85-61 Saturday for its fifth straight victory.

Using runs of 9-0 and 16-3, the Wolverines built a 54-24 halftime lead and cruised to the finish. Michigan went 17 for 28 from the floor in the first half, including 11 for 19 from 3-point range.

The Wolverines (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten) have clinched the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, but can earn a No. 4 seed and a double bye if Nebraska loses to Penn State on Sunday.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 17 for Maryland, which suffered its most lopsided home loss since a 104-72 defeat against Duke on Jan 3, 1998.

The Terrapins (19-12, 8-10) were 15-2 at home and lost to Michigan on the road by just one point on Jan. 15, which made the blowout that much more surprising.

Abdur-Rahkman made six 3-pointers in the first half and also led the Wolverines with five rebounds and four assists. The senior guard cooled off in the second half, but nevertheless surpassed his previous career best of 26 points.

After Michigan rattled off 10 straight points to take a 20-12 lead, Kevin Huerter hit a 3 for Maryland before Jaaron Simmons launched the pivotal 16-3 run with a long-range jumper. Jordan Poole chipped in with a pair of 3-pointers and another by Abdur-Rahkman made it 34-18.

The Wolverines had three turnovers in their opening four possessions, but added only one more before halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The Wolverines have plenty of momentum to bring into the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan won it all last year, and again appears ready to take on the big boys in the conference.

Maryland: A flat performance at home means the Terrapins have to win the Big Ten Tournament to extend their run of appearances in the NCAA Tournament to four.

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS

Former Maryland WR Torrey Smith, who earned his second career Super Bowl ring this season, returned to his alma mater to promote a charity basketball tournament next month in Baltimore. Also, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the brother of Michigan football Jim Harbaugh, sat courtside.

UP NEXT

Michigan: Big Ten Tournament in New York.

Maryland: Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

Mark Emmert hints at changes coming to rules regulating agents in college basketball

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
1 Comment

Whatever changes Mark Emmert has planned, they’re going to happen quickly.

In an interview with CBS Sports prior to the start of Saturday’s college hoops action, Emmert said that the “systemic changes” that he is hoping to implement will, ideally, be in place for the start of the 2018-2019 season.

“They’re going to be putting forth their recommendations and bringing them forward during the month of April, and then the boards are going to act on them and act on them quickly,” Emmert said. “We need to act and have changes in place before tipoff of next season. Failure to do that will really erode everyone’s confidence in what this wonderful game is truly all about.”

What are the changes going to be?

Emmert didn’t spill the beans there, but it does seems like the NCAA will consider changing the rules involving agents and college basketball players. When asked why there’s a difference between the way the NCAA views hockey/baseball players and basketball players with regards to agents, Emmert said, “It makes perfect sense to me that it ought to be very different than it is now.”

This would be the smart move to make. Of Friday, I wrote a long column about how the only way to clean up college basketball is to allow players to have agents and to eliminate amateurism. This would not entirely solve the problem, but it would be a major step in the right direction.

Emmert also said that he hopes that the eligibility concerns involving the players that are mentioned in these reports will be figured out by the start of the NCAA tournament. The process for determining this is simple: Right now, the onus falls on the school. They essentially have three options:

  1. They can provisionally suspend the player, keeping them out of competition until they can determine whether or not a violation took place. This is why Collin Sexton and Jeffery Carroll missed time earlier this season.
  2. They can self-report a violation, announce that the player is ineligible and immediately apply for reinstatement with the NCAA. The player would have to make restitution for the impermissible benefits and, depending on the value of those benefits, they’d face some kind of suspension. This is like what happened with the Georgia Tech players earlier this season.
  3. They can announce that they do not believe any violations occurred, play out the rest of the season and hope that no evidence pops up that proves the guys that played were ineligible at the time.

At this time, we are still waiting to hear from Alabama on Collin Sexton, Michigan State on Miles Bridges and Arizona on Deandre Ayton and Sean Miller.

Chimezie Metu cleared to play by USC

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

USC has cleared junior forward Chimezie Metu as he’ll be allowed to play on Saturday against Utah, the school announced.

The 6-foot-11 Metu is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Trojans this season as he was one of the players named in the Friday reports that linked him to NBA agent Andy Miller and Christian Dawkins.

The Trojans are the latest school to allow their player to play after the reports as they follow schools like Duke and Kentucky, as they also did the same with allowing Wendell Carter Jr. and Kevin Knox Jr. to play.

It’s also noted in the release that USC is reviewing Bennie Boatwright’s eligibility as well even though he’s out for the season with a knee injury.

On Friday, Yahoo Sports reported a wide-scale payment operation from Miller and Dawkins in order to recruit players for Miller’s agency. The records allege that Bennie Boatwright Sr. received about $2,000. The records also allege that Metu or his advisor, Johnnie Parker, also got $2,000.

Although the allegations look serious, Dawkins has also proven to be untrustworthy in many instances and it’s hard to tell what might be real and what might be a cover for another expense. It’s hard to prove a lot of these things presented in a business expenses spreadsheet. USC is backing Metu by saying he never received anything that would harm his eligibility as they try to make a final push at Arizona before the postseason.

Bubble Banter: There will be some NCAA tournament bids determined today

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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 Saturday.

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.

WINNERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 43, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: 10): The Friars avoided what could have been a disastrous loss by handing on to beat Georgetown in Washington D.C. on Saturday. The Friars had lost two in a row — at Butler and Seton Hall at home — and play at Xavier on Wednesday, meaning that they would be staring a four-game losing streak in the face had they lost at Georgetown. As it stands, Providence is 3-7 against Quadrant 1, which includes home wins over Xavier and Villanova, but they’ve also lost two Quadrant 3 and one Quadrant 4 games.

SETON HALL (RPI: 21, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 8): Seton Hall stumbled their way onto the bubble by losing four straight to start February, but they’re rebounded with three straight wins. Surviving a postponed game at Providence might have been what put the Pirates in the Dance. I think they are a lock with one more win.

TCU (RPI: 20, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): The Horned Frogs have just about punched their ticket. A win over Baylor today was yet another good win. They now have four Quadrant 1 and four Quadrant 2 wins without a single loss outside the top two Quadrants. If they lose out it will be interesting, so I would say they need one more win to lock up a bid.

LOSERS

BAYLOR (RPI: 58, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling to 16-12 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12. They are in a tough spot now. They have four Quadrant 1 wins but they are just 4-10 in those Quadrant 1 games. All 12 of their losses, however, are “good” losses, and they still play Oklahoma at home and Kansas State on the road before the Big 12 tournament. I don’t think they can get a big with 14 losses, so I think they need to win two more during the regular season and maybe another one in the Big 12 tournament.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 64, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette took their worst loss of the season on Saturday afternoon, going into Chicago and losing at DePaul, the first Quadrant 3 loss for the Golden Eagles. They are now 16-12 on the season and 7-9 in the Big East with just four Quadrant 1 wins. I don’t think the dream is dead yet, but the biggest issue Marquette currently faces is that they cannot help themselves without winning a game or two in the Big East tournament.

YET TO PLAY

LOUISVILLE
VIRGINIA TECH
SMU
MIAMI
LSU
TEXAS
USC
UTAH
MISSISSIPPI STATE
TEXAS A&M
WASHINGTON
ALABAMA
KANSAS STATE
OKLAHOMA
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE
ST. BONAVENTURE
FLORIDA

Marvin Bagley III returning to Duke lineup against Syracuse after knee injury

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Duke star freshman Marvin Bagley III will be available for the Blue Devils on Saturday when they play Syracuse in an ACC home game.

Bagley missed the past four games due to a knee strain that he suffered in the Feb. 8 game against North Carolina. During Bagley’s absence, the Blue Devils went 4-0 as their defense looked very good and senior Grayson Allen became an aggressive scorer.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of changes Duke makes with Bagley’s return. Watching Bagley’s health and seeing how many minutes he plays will be another subplot to watch against the Orange.