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Four Takeaways from No. 10 Miami’s win at No. 12 Minnesota

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After beginning the season with five consecutive wins, the toughest of which coming against La Salle in Lonnie Walker IV’s “homecoming,” No. 10 Miami was going to answer some questions about itself one way or another in Wednesday’s game at No. 12 Minnesota. The Hurricanes passed that test, beating the Golden Gophers 86-81 behind a balanced offensive effort in which Jim Larrañaga’s team found its way into the paint for much of the night.

1. Miami’s perimeter options make the Hurricanes a nightmare to defend.

This group of Hurricanes isn’t as experienced across the board as Larrañaga’s best teams at Miami have been, but what they do share with those teams is having a host of options capable of breaking down defenses off the dribble. JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown Jr., Chris Lykes and the aforementioned Walker are all capable of making plays, either for themselves or their teammates. Miami was able to break down the Minnesota defense on a consistent basis, either by using the dribble to beat a defender straight-up or in ball-screen actions.

The Hurricanes shot 50.7 percent from the field and 10-for-25 from three, with many of those looks coming by way of dribble penetration that opened up shooters such as Brown, Anthony Lawrence II and D.J. Vasiljevic. To make plays offensively against the teams Miami beat for its first five wins is one thing; to go on the road in a tough environment against a quality opponent and do it is another.

2. The value of Dupree McBrayer was evident in Minnesota’s first defeat of the year.

This was part of the reason why Miami was so successful with its dribble penetration. With McBrayer, who was sidelined with a right leg injury, out of the lineup Minnesota went up against a team loaded with quality ball-handlers without an athletic off-guard who at 6-foot-5 has some size to him as well. Isaiah Washington made his first collegiate start as a result, and while the focus of some may be the freshman’s off shooting night (6-for-17 FG, 14 points) what Minnesota lost defensively was of even greater importance.

McBrayer’s a solid defender, and his versatility offensively — as he can operate either with or without the ball in his hands — makes the junior a valuable member of Richard Pitino’s rotation. It was clear that Minnesota missed McBrayer’s presence, especially when Miami was able to get rolling offensively via dribble penetration.

3. Dewan Huell continues to build on his positive start to the season.

With his 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting Huell, a McDonald’s All-American out of high school, scored in double figures for the sixth consecutive game this season. By comparison, as a freshman the 6-foot-11 Miami native reached double figures six times the entire season. With his athleticism Huell was able to finish multiple pick and roll actions above the rim, and despite the low rebound total (two) he more than held his own against the Minnesota tandem of Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch.

Huell’s play throughout the night afforded Miami the luxury of being able to devote more defensive attention to Murphy, who still went off for 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks (he’s that damn good). Miami shaded its defense towards Murphy for much of the night, and while he still got his Minnesota’s experienced front court tandem was not able to dominate the game. Lynch added 12 points, ten rebounds and seven blocked shots in a solid effort.

4. The Big Ten really needed Minnesota to come through.

With its win at Providence and Saturday’s neutral site win over Alabama, Minnesota’s got some quality results on its early-season résumé. As for the rest of the Big Ten outside of Michigan State and Purdue? Not so much, with Maryland having two wins over KenPom Top 100 teams in Butler and Bucknell. And given how much the Big Ten has struggled in this edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Minnesota finding a way to come back and defend its home court would have provided a needed boost in what has been a rough week for the Big Ten.

Minnesota will be fine; Washington and Nate Mason should get more comfortable sharing the court as two primary ball-handlers and McBrayer’s eventual return will help as well. But a team that’s gotten off to a good start to the season could have given its slumping conference a much-needed boost by beating a Miami team that at minimum has the look of an ACC title contender.

Rutgers lands upset win over No. 15 Seton Hall

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Corey Sanders scored 22 points and Deshawn Freeman added 12 points and 16 boards as Rutgers landed the biggest win of the Steve Pikiell era to date, erasing a 13-point deficit to knock off in-state rival No. 15 Seton Hall, 71-65.

The Scarlet Knights finished the game on a 17-2 run over the final six minutes of the game, answering a 9-0 Seton Hall run that put the Pirates up 63-54. Rutgers did not lead until a free throw from Sanders with 2:22 left put them up 64-63.

The win was the first for Rutgers over Seton Hall in four tries, roughly the time frame that the Pirates have been relevant nationally, and it is precisely what Pikiell needed to continue building a program in Piscataway. Rutgers is now 10-3 on the season, but their three losses have all come to teams are in – or getting votes in – the top 25: Florida State, at Minnesota and Michigan State. As the saying goes, it isn’t really a rivalry until both teams have a chance to win the game, and this win proves just that.

But that’s not the only reason to be bullish on this program. Rutgers is also starting to recruit a little bit better. They sold out the RAC for this game.

He still has a long way to go, and building something out of nothing in the Big Ten is never going to be simple, but Pikiell has this thing going in the right direction.

As far as the Pirates are concerned, there is some reason to be worried here. A team with this kind of veteran presence should not be getting rattled and blowing leads down the stretch. Khadeen Carrington, who is making the adjustment to playing the point this season, was 4-for-17 from the floor with five turnovers, and he struggled to make plays when Seton Hall needed them in the final minutes. Angel Delgado finished just 3-for-9 from the floor.

I’m not sure this is the kind of situation where you need to be worried about their long-term prospects, but it is something to monitor.

No. 17 Purdue takes down Butler in Crossroads Classic

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The annual Crossroads Classic opened with No. 17 Purdue running past Butler for a solid 82-67 win on Saturday afternoon. The Boilermakers continued a recent strong stretch of play with another road or neutral win against a power-conference opponent.

Here are three takeaways from this one.

1. Purdue is the second best team in the Big Ten (and the gap might be growing).

The Big Ten is a mess so far. Only Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State are 2-0 in league play. The Buckeyes aren’t expected to maintain their surprising hot start. Obviously, others in the Big Ten like Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern could all be dangerous. But those four teams have also been underwhelming and have a lot of glaring holes.

For the current moment, Purdue (11-2) clearly looks like the second best team in the Big Ten. And the gap seems to be getting wider during a seven-game winning streak. Outside of a weird two-game stretch at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Boilermakers have put together a solid stretch that now includes road or neutral wins over Arizona, Maryland and Butler in the last few weeks.

Purdue has experience, unique size with 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 7-foot-3 Matt Haarms, and capable perimeter shooters who can space the floor. The Boilermakers have good defenders at multiple positions. They outplayed Butler in nearly every facet of the game during a solid win on Saturday. Carsen Edwards (18 points) has matured as a solid leading scorer and plenty of players around him are double-figure scorers.

Butler isn’t likely to be a second-weekend NCAA tournament team, but they’re a solid postseason-caliber group that the Boilermakers made look silly for much of the game. Purdue knows itself. The Boilermakers know their personnel and they’re a veteran group. There’s a lot to like about Purdue at this point in the season.

2. Butler struggles mightily against length

Butler’s offense couldn’t get much of anything going on Saturday. The Bulldogs were ice-cold from the perimeter (7-for-22 from three-point range) and they didn’t fare much better when they tried to go inside (26-for-69).

The Bulldogs haven’t been a very good perimeter team in general this season — entering Saturday’s game with only 31 percent three-point shooting — and those problems were very apparent against Purdue. Without an ability to space the floor, attackers like Kelan Martin (15 points) and Kamar Baldwin (13 points) struggled to get anything going with the drive as the Boilermakers had a great defensive game plan to limit Butler’s looks. Senior big man Tyler Wideman (seven points) also had a hard time finishing over the length of players like Haas and Haarms at the rim.

Paul Jorgenson (15 points) had a big second half and he has been solid at times this season as a floor-spacing threat. The Bulldogs need more help for him on the outside. Sean McDermott has been labeled as a perimeter specialist, but he’s also returning from a recent injury and the Bulldogs are slowly bringing him back.

Butler’s offense is at its best when they can rely on Martin and Baldwin to attack. That wasn’t even close to the case on Saturday as both struggled to get going. It meant Butler didn’t stand much of a chance.

3. Purdue has some late-game turnover issues

Purdue has been generally solid with closing out games this season but they weren’t able to do so against Butler on Saturday.

It looked like the Boilermakers were going to cruise to an easy win before turnovers became an issue and Butler crept back in this one. While Purdue maintained most of its defensive intensity, its offense took a foot off the gas as Butler’s aggressiveness defending on the perimeter led to 18 Boilermaker turnovers.

Purdue is great at closing out games from the free-throw line if they need to. But their ball handlers need to limit turnovers and continue to run good offense if they build up a lead.

Purdue had trouble at times defending late leads last season. They’re now 10-0 this season when they have a halftime lead. Could this be an issue that comes back once again? It doesn’t seem likely but the second half on Saturday brought some ugly flashbacks.

VIDEO: Miami’s Lonnie Walker skies for ridiculous putback dunk

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Miami freshman guard Lonnie Walker timed this one perfectly.

The 6-foot-4 McDonald’s All-American came from across the floor to hammer home a left-handed putback on Saturday as Walker showed why many consider him to be a potential one-and-done prospect.

After a career-high 26 points in a win over Boston on Tuesday, it appears that Walker might be gaining confidence as ACC season approaches.

VIDEO: Memphis’ Jimario Rivers catches lob on Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud

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Memphis senior forward Jimario Rivers caught a tough one-handed alley-oop on Saturday as Louisville senior big man Anas Mahmoud found himself on the receiving end.

This is one of the better lobs we’ve seen this season. Rivers got way up there for this one.

Northern Colorado basketball placed on probation by NCAA

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA placed the University of Northern Colorado men’s basketball program on three years’ probation among other sanctions Friday after finding academic fraud and recruiting violations by ex-coach B.J. Hill and some of his assistants.

The violations by Hill and eight members of his staff over a four-year span included completing coursework for prospects, paying for classes prospects needed to become academically eligible and arranging off-campus practice sessions with an academically ineligible student-athlete.

In addition to probation, penalties in the case include a one-year postseason ban (already served) for the men’s basketball team; a financial penalty; scholarship and recruiting restrictions; and a vacation of records.

Seven coaches received “show cause” orders, including a six-year penalty for the head coach, five years for two assistant coaches, four years for another assistant coach and three years for two assistant coaches and the graduate assistant. During the show cause periods, if an NCAA school hires the coach, that school must demonstrate why restrictions on the coach’s athletically related duties should not apply.

The NCAA concurred with the university’s self-imposed one-year postseason ban last season, a reduction of three scholarships and recruiting restrictions. Also, the school must return all proceeds from its 2011 NCAA Tournament appearance.

The rules violations spanned four years under Hill, a first-time head coach who personally completed coursework for a prospect and enlisted an athletic director to do the same, the NCAA found.

The NCAA said Hill recruited ineligible players, then broke rules to get them on the court.

Hill was fired last year when the NCAA began looking into the violations. He had gone 86-98 with two postseason appearances in six seasons after taking over the program in 2010 following a stint as an assistant in Greeley to current Colorado coach Tad Boyle.

The NCAA commended the university for its “exemplary cooperation” in the case and said Hill “admitted that he failed in his responsibilities to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff.”

The panel said two assistant coaches violated ethical conduct rules for lying to investigators and a third failed to cooperate with the probe.