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Thursday’s Three Things to Know: Big Ten leaders struggle, Arizona prevails and Cincy falls

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Michigan State won Thursday without even playing.

The Spartans’ fellow Big Ten championship contenders, Ohio State and Purdue, both loss in rather spectacular fashion.

For Purdue, it was a night in Madison devoid of offense that cost them huge against the rebuilding Badgers. For the Buckeyes, it was an absolute beatdown at the hands of Penn State.

It, simply, was a devastating night for both teams’ Big Ten title hopes. Ohio State had a chance to stay alone in first, but instead got blown out by a good – but not great – team. Purdue’s issue look longer and potentially more dangerous as the Boilermakers have now lost three games in a row, the latest coming against a very down Wisconsin team that’s not even within shouting distance of .500.

Now the Spartans not only have the inside track to the title. Tom Izzo’s team clearly has the easiest path to the end of the regular season with Northwestern, Illinois and Wisconsin, all of whom are ranked outside the KenPom top-80, left on the slate. Ohio State, while still tied with the Spartans and owning the head-to-head tiebreaker over them, have road trips to Michigan and Indiana. Purdue, which is a game behind the Boilers and Spartans, has Penn State at home before finishing up against Illinois and Minnesota.

The Big Ten has been weird all season, but it looks as though things will finish up as expected – with Michigan State on top.


Arizona would seem to have the Pac-12 all locked up after beating rival Arizona State, 77-70, in Tempe.

It was a wild game with the Wildcats leading by as many as 18 in the first half and trailing by as many as seven in the early goings of the second half. Ultimately, Arizona State just didn’t have enough to escape a season sweep by their intrastate foe.

Deandre Ayton continues to look like the top pick in June’s NBA Draft as he had 25 points on 8 of 12 shooting along with 16 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. The man is a monster.
Trae Holder scored 2, but the Sun Devils made just 7 of 25 3-pointers and had 14 turnovers.

Arizona is now two games up on UCLA and USC with four games to play on the Pac-12 slate. The Wildcats have battled plenty of issues this season – both on and off the floor – but they’re the toast of the conference. How they hold up against the rest of the country next month is what’s really interesting.


For the first time in over two months, Cincinnati lost.

The Bearcats were bested by Houston, 67-62, on Thursday to take their first loss since Dec. 9.
Cincy still has a two-game cushion on the rest of the AAC, so the loss is far from a killer given how strong the fifth-ranked Bearcats’ resume already is, but it does bring to light whatever lingering doubt there is about a team that’s run roughshod over its conference.

The Bearcats really haven’t been all that good against the best competition they’ve played, as Rob Dauster details here.

No. 1 Villanova makes 17 threes, routs No. 9 Alabama

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On paper, this matchup set up perfectly for No. 9-seed Alabama.

The Crimson Tide are the longest and most athletic team that No. 1 seed Villanova has faced off with in months. They entered the day as one of college basketball’s best at defending the three-point line. They have the kind of dynamic play maker at the point guard spot that can give Villanova fits in Collin Sexton.

All of the dots connected.

What I failed to mention there, however, is that Villanova has an uncanny ability to absolutely bury anyone in their path in an avalanche of threes, and that is precisely what happened to the Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon.

Mikal Bridges, who scored just a single point in the first half, scored 16 of his 23 points in the first four minutes of the second half as Villanova took a game that was close for 20 minutes and turned it into a massacre. The Wildcats outscored Alabama 49-31 in the second half — a number that was limited as the Wildcats took their foot off the gas down the stretch — en route to an 81-58 win.

Villanova will advance to the Sweet 16 to face the winner of tomorrow’s game between No. 5 West Virginia and No. 13 Marshall.

Bridges led the way for Villanova on Saturday, but they may not have been in the position that they were in if it was not for Donte DiVincenzo. The redshirt sophomore caught fire in the first half, scored all 18 points his points and hitting five threes to put Villanova ahead by five at the break. Divincenzo also added five assists, his play-making a difference-maker with Jalen Brunson on the bench with a pair of early fouls.

And that should terrify everyone in the East Region.

Hell, that should be a statement to everyone in this tournament.

Villanova just de-pantsed one of the teams that best matched up with them, a team that has a lottery pick running the point and an NBA player and coach on the sideline. And they did it without much coming from their all-american point guard, the guy that was named the NBC Sports National Player of the Year.

Brunson finished with just 12 points and four assists, and honestly, did you even notice? This was the Bridges show in the second half when Villanova made their run. It was DiVincenzo’s show in the first half when Villanova needed someone to keep them close. We’ve seen Phil Booth take over games. (Anyone remember the 2016 national title game? He had 20.) Omari Spellman can pop off for 25 from time to time.

The Wildcats are just so dangerous.

And when they play like they did today, they are damn near unbeatable.

Police: Thief steals electronics from UNC basketball program

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Police say someone stole thousands of dollars in electronics from the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team locker room and office while they were away for the ACC tournament.

UNC-Chapel Hill campus police said on Twitter that the break-in happened at the Dean Smith Center on March 9, and they released images of a man they believe may have been involved.

A police report says the thief managed to get into the team locker room and basketball office without forced entry, according to The Herald-Sun.

The report says the thief stole a PlayStation 4, Xbox One and clothing worth $2,900 that belonged to the athletic department. Police say the thief also stole a laptop worth $1,200 and a financial document worth about $3,000 belonging to one of the players.

No upsets over here: No. 1 seed UConn women set scoring records in first round game

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The No. 1 overall seed on the men’s side of the NCAA tournament made history on Friday night.

They because the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the first round of the tournament, as Virginia lost to UMBC, if you were still unaware.

Over on the women’s side, the bracket is nowhere near as broken, because UConn’s women made history, too. They set NCAA tournament records for … well, almost everything it seems like.

The Huskies were up 55-19 at the end of the first quarter of their first round game against St. Francis (PA). Those 55 points are an NCAA tournament record. They held a 94-31 lead at the half, another NCAA tournament record, and held on to win 140-52.

The 140 points that Geno Auriemma’s team scored was an NCAA tournament record. The 88 points that they won by was one point short of an NCAA tournament record 89 points that was set by Baylor in a win over Texas Southern last season.

Oh, and the Huskies set the record for more assists in an NCAA tournament game — 38 — for good measure.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say that the fans in Storrs had a better weekend than the fans in Charlottesville. Hopefully, that will allow them to forget the fact that the men’s basketball program has become a laughing stock.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Maryland Governor calls UMBC upset, so does NBC Sports’ writer son

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Never before in the history of the NCAA tournament as a No. 16 seed upset a No. 1 seed.

That was until Friday night, when UMBC sent the No. 1 overall seed Virginia packing.

And if you thought no one had picked that upset, you were wrong.

Let’s start with the Maryland Governor, who was clearly a homer in picking UMBC to not only beat Virginia, but to win a national title:

Never say never, but … that’s never going to happen bud.

But how about this: My son, who is two years old and based his picks on his hard and fast rule of “all the doggies”, called this upset!

He also called Penn over Kansas, Fullerton over Purdue and Butler winning a national title, but whatever.

That bracket is actually pretty good!

VIDEO: Virginia’s Ty Jerome does not appreciate dumb question after UMBC loss

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You have to give Virginia some credit.

After losing to No. 16 seed UMBC in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the players on that roster faced the music. They went up to the dais and answered question from reporters on national television.

There is no way they enjoyed that.

And you can tell because Ty Jerome had absolutely no interest in answering dumb questions from reporters:

He was not amused.