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Penn State, Nebraska now have eight-day wait to find out NCAA tournament fate

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NEW YORK — With more than a week between the end of the Big Ten tournament and Selection Sunday, the league’s only two bubble teams will have a long time to sit and wait to see if the résumé that they have put together will be strong enough to get them a bid to the Big Dance.

And considering that there will be six power conference tournaments played during their week off, it’s hard to imagine that what Nebraska and Penn State are sitting on in the clubhouse will be enough to last. There are going to be a lot of bubble teams playing a lot of games in the next eight days, and rooting for them all to lose is going to be a grueling task.

It will, however, give those two coaches — Tim Miles and Pat Chambers — plenty of time to think about all that went wrong this season, and what they could have done differently.

“I might have switched a screen against Kansas,” Miles said. “That would have made me feel a hell of a lot better.”

Nebraska, after getting smoked by Michigan in the quarterfinals on Friday, is projected by most bracket experts as ending up on the wrong side of the bubble despite a 13-5 mark in Big Ten play. They have just a single Quadrant 1 win — Michigan at home — and will enter Selection Sunday with a 4-9 record against the top two Quadrants with a road loss to Illinois.

“To be 13-5 and we’re sitting here asking if they’re going to be in the NCAA tournament, almost sounds ridiculous to me,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said on Friday.

If it wasn’t for Ohio State, the Nittany Lions wouldn’t even be that close. Penn State has Chris Holtmann’s number. They swept the Buckeyes, beating them at home, in Columbus and in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. That, however, is the only team they beat in Quadrant 1. They’re 3-8 against those Quadrant 1 opponents with just five total wins against the top two Quadrants with a pair of Quadrant 3 losses and the black mark of a Quadrant 4 loss to Minnesota.

“I’m an optimist. I’m very positive. I believe we’re going to be in,” Chambers said, adding that his team has, as he put it, “NCAA tournament talent.”

“You can ask the Big Ten coaches that we played the last month. No one wants to see us in the NCAA tournament.”

Unfortunately, no Big Ten coaches are on the Selection Committee, which is unfortunate because that is what it may have taken for the committee to look at the Big Ten and think of it as anything more than a four-bid league.

Case in point: “I’ve read that this is a decidedly down year [for the Big Ten],” Miles said. “I don’t know who the hell decided that.”

I understand he’s campaigning for inclusion into the dance, so I’ll forgive Miles for this one, but if we’re being honest here, the Big Ten made that decision. And in the end, that may be what the killer is for both of these teams. Losing at home to Minnesota was not, at the time, a terrible loss for the Nittany Lions — not when Josh Reaves was not on the floor. Losing at Northwestern would not have appeared to be a bad loss at the start of the year, not when the Wildcats were projected as a top 20 team in the preseason. A home loss to a program like Wisconsin should not be a bad loss for a bubble team, but it is this season, same with a loss at Indiana.

And that is, quite simply, what it comes down to.

There weren’t enough good wins available in the league, not when the teams that were, and are annually, supposed to be good drove off a cliff.

It was particularly difficult for Nebraska, who only had one game against each of the top four teams in the conference. Three of those games came on the road, and they won the one they got at home.

“I believe we’re an NCAA tournament team,” Miles said. “I don’t think [today] undoes what we’ve already accomplished.”

“We’ve won games away from home. We’ve beaten teams that we should beat. To go through that type of season, won eight of our last nine, we showed we can win away from home. Thirteen league wins.”

If Nebraska didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all.

And what that likely means is that Nebraska will have to sweat out eight days of agony before going through the Selection Show without hearing their name called.

Late run sparks Villanova past West Virginia, into Elite Eight

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BOSTON — It is always just a matter of time before the avalanche comes.

And when it does, you better hope that lead you have is big enough to withstand what’s coming.

For No. 5-seed West Virginia, it was not. With 11 minutes left on Friday night in Boston’s TD Garden, the Mountaineers led 60-54 and had seemingly wrestled control of the game from the No. 1-seed in the East Region. Less than five minutes later, after the Wildcats hit four of their next five threes, Villanova had taken a 76-66 lead by going on a 22-6 run, and West Virginia was never able to recover.

Jalen Brunson led the way for the top-seeded Wildcats with 27 points and four assists while Omari Spellman finished with 18 points, eight boards and three blocks and Mikal Bridges chipped in with 16 points despite playing relatively poorly — by his standards — on Friday.

With a 90-78 win, Villanova advanced to the Elite Eight and a date with the winner of tonight’s game No. 2 Purdue-No. 3 Texas Tech.

That’s the way that it works with this Villanova team. Armed with the most potent, high-volume three-point shooting attack in college basketball — maybe in the history of college basketball — fans of their opponents are just waiting for the inevitable.

On Friday night, Villanova shot 13-for-24 from three, which is damned-impressive and exactly what we expect at the same time, but the game was won during that five-minute surge when West Virginia just didn’t have an answer.

VIDEO: Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall with mammoth dunks for Villanova

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Villanova took the lead on West Virginia and turned the tide of momentum with a pair of emphatic dunks in transition.

It started with Omari Spellman, who had an unbelievable sequence, spiking a shot into the floor before throwing down a put-back dunk all over a defender:

A couple of possessions later, Eric Paschall finally did the impossible.

He dunked on Sagaba Konate:

I am having way too much fun at this game.

No. 1 Kansas into Elite Eight with win over No. 5 Clemson

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OMAHA, Neb. — Once Kansas found its stride, Clemson had little chance of keeping pace – even after a late stumble.

The No. 1 Jayhawks ran away from the No. 5 Tigers with a second-half flurry that powered them to a 80-76 victory Friday night at CenturyLink Center to put them in the Elite Eight on Sunday against either Duke or Syracuse.

Kansas moves on to the Midwest Region final on the back of a second-half offense that Clemson had nearly no success in slowing until the final minutes, when the Tigers turned a 20-point laugher into  a six-point nail-biter.

Malik Newman paced Kansas with 17 points while Devonte Graham 16 and Udoka Azubuike 14 and 11 rebounds.

Clemson got 31 points from senior Gabe DeVoe, but there just wasn’t enough help around him for the Tigers to keep things competitive after the Jayhawks hit them with three-consecutive 3s in the opening minutes of the second half to open up a 20-point lead.

Clemson was already hanging on by a threat after it shot just 35.7 percent from the floor and committed eight turnovers. DeVoe’s 12 first-half points kept the Tigers afloat, but they never enjoyed a lead before halftime.

The Jayhawks, meanwhile, had five players  score at least six points in the first half, including 10 from Azubuike, Their usual strengths – 3-point shooting (4 of 13) and Devonte Graham (1 of 7) – were absent in the first half, but Clemson was unable to take advantage as Kansas continued to get quality looks inside and stops on defense.

The Jayhawks previously played Syracuse in December, beating the Orange by 16 on a neutral floor in Miami. They haven’t faced the Blue Devils, though they have already shared a building with them once this year in the Champion’s Classic. Kansas topped Kentucky, 65-61, while Duke defeated Michigan State, 88-81, that November night in Chicago.

VIDEO: Mikal Bridges tries to dunk on Sagaba Konate, gets denied

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There really is nothing better in this world than seeing someone who is typically a great dunker take flight to try and dunk on Sagaba Konate of West Virginia, because it never, EVER ends well for the dunker.

See: Bridges, Mikal:

Auburn AD Greene gives Bruce Pearl a vote of confidence

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Speaking publicly for the first time about head coach Bruce Pearl, new Auburn athletic director gave his embattled head coach a vote of confidence.

Greene was on an in-house podcast produced with the voice of Auburn sports, and was asked about Pearl’s standing in a pod that lasted less than five minutes and felt more like a press release than anything else.

“He’s been a tremendous blessing for the Auburn family,” Greene said. “The FBI investigation is a long process. We’re going through that process to make sure that we, as a university, are doing what it is that we’re supposed to do to comply. Coach Pearl has been excellent in that regard and I look forward to continuing to work with him as we continue to do the very best to support he, his staff and the student athletes of Auburn University.”

This is the first time since former assistant coach Chuck Person was arrested that a member of the Auburn athletic department had spoken so positively about Pearl. In the fall, Auburn’s president Steven Leath lamented Pearl’s lack of cooperation in the investigation, but just last week released a statement saying Pearl is “working with university officials as part of our due diligence.” Pearl said after his team’s 84-53 loss to Clemson in the second round of the NCAA tournament that he would like to return.

There has been speculation that Pearl’s job was in jeopardy ever since Auburn was mixed up in the FBI’s complaint. Two players were forced to sit out this entire season after the FBI alleged they had received money funneled through Person from a runner for an agent and a financial advisor.

“One of the challenges that we have facing the industry is college basketball,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we work incredibly hard to clean up the game, to make it as pure as it can possibly be so that our student-athletes can enjoy the intercollegiate athletic experience. one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that the state of college basketball is not in a good place right now and I’m a little bit disappointed that auburn is involved in that, but that doesn’t take away from the excellent job that Coach Pearl has done.”