Indiana, a team that owns wins over No. 3 Kansas and No. 12 North Carolina, needed three overtimes and a career-high 31 points and 11 boards from Thomas Bryant to get past Penn State at home on Wednesday night.
Penn State is 12-11 on the season.
A loss would have been all kinds of disastrous for Indiana, even if it came without O.G. Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. It would have put them in a situation where getting into the NCAA tournament would be a real question mark – it still may be – and the flame under Tom Crean’s seat would have only gotten hotter.
And while the Hoosiers survived, did they deserve it?
At the end of the first overtime, Josh Newkirk scored on a buzzer-beating layup that tied the game and forced a second overtime. The shot was as close to coming after the buzzer as humanly possible.
To see the latest NBC Sports bracket projection, click here. The seedings listed below are from this bracket.
Syracuse (RPI: 90, KenPom: 55, bubble): Wins over Wake Forest and Florida State last week put Syracuse back into the conversation. Adding a win over another bubble team in N.C. State on the road helps, too. It’s the first true road win for the Orange. They still have a lot of work to do to make up for the losses to UConn, St. John’s and Boston College, but if this team has figured it out – and if John Gillon keeps doing what he did on Wednesday – Syracuse has the horses to make a run at this. They play four games against Virginia, Duke and Louisville the rest of the year and three of them come at home.
Indiana (RPI: 79, KenPom: 40, No. 7 seed): The Hoosiers avoided what would have been a disastrous loss at home against Penn State, taking home a thrilling, triple-overtime win despite playing without James Blackmon Jr., who is dealing with a “lower leg injury”. Indiana is in a weird spot. They have two phenomenal wins over Kansas and North Carolina, but both of those wins came with O.G. Anunoby in the lineup; he’s out for the year with a knee injury. Without Anunoby, they haven’t been overly impressive, and they still have to play a monster schedule down the stretch: five of their remaining eight – and four of their final five – games are on the road, and they play Purdue twice and at Wisconsin.
TCU (RPI: 49, KenPom: 42, play-in game): The Horned Frogs picked up a critical road win on Wednesday, going into Manhattan and knocking off Kansas State in overtime. It’s their first road win over a team not named Texas and just their fourth top 100 win of the season. The biggest obstacle for TCU right now is a lack of quality wins. If they can simply protect their home court the rest of Big 12 play, they should be in a good spot on Selection Sunday.
VCU (RPI: 31, KenPom: 45, play-in game): VCU is in a tougher spot than they are used to being in. After beating just one top 50 opponent in the non-conference – Middle Tennessee State – the Rams are playing out a conference slate in a league that isn’t exactly loaded with marquee wins. With losses to Davison and Fordham already, it would behoove VCU to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat.
Clemson (RPI: 41, KenPom: 31, first four out): Clemson had a rough start to ACC play, but the computers love them. After beating Georgia Tech – a better win than you may realize – on Wednesday, they now have eight top 65 wins to go with three top 35 wins, two of which came on the road.
Arkansas (RPI: 29, KenPom: 52, No. 8 seed): The Razorbacks are in a pretty good spot right now. They have a pair of top 50 road wins and, sitting at 17-5 on the season, have just one bad loss, at home to Mississippi State. Beating Alabama at home, another top 100 win, certainly helps their cause.
Wichita State (RPI: 78, KenPom: 20, first four out): The Shockers avoided what would have been an awful loss to Drake, coming back from eight points down in the second half to win. I don’t think Wichita State can afford another loss in league play and still be able to get an at-large bid.
Illinois State (RPI: 37, KenPom: 38, No. 10 seed): The Redhawks are in a slightly better position than Wichita State, but the fact remains that the Missouri Valley has the look of a one-bid league this season. It would behoove ISU to lose to no one other that the Shockers.
N.C. State (RPI: 61, KenPom: 81, No. 11 seed): The Wolfpack landed a massive win at Duke last Monday that thrust them back into the discussion for an at-large bid. They backed that up by getting dropped by 25 points at Louisville and blowing a 17-point second half lead and losing to Syracuse at home. The loss to Louisville is one thing. Dropping a winnable game against an underperforming Syracuse team? That one is going to hurt.
Kansas State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed): The Wildcats looked like a safe bet to dance two weeks ago, and they looked like one of the nation’s most underrated team when they were 15-4 on the season with a pair of losses due to tough-luck calls in the final seconds. Since then, they’ve lost three in a row to bubble teams and now sit here in early February with just two wins over the RPI top 125.
Texas Tech (RPI: 71, KenPom: 41, No. 11 seed): The quickest way for a Big 12 team to kill their standing on the bubble is to lose to Texas. Texas Tech … lost to Texas. That’s not a good look for a team with just three top 50 wins.
Marquette (RPI: 53, KenPom: 32, No. 9 seed): Marquette beat Creighton on the road and Villanova at home in back-to-back games to put themselves in a position were comfortably on the right side of the bubble. They followed that up with a home loss to Providence and, on Wednesday, a 14-point loss at St. John’s. Back to the bubble it is.
Miami (RPI: 62, KenPom: 33, bubble): Miami fell at home to No. 15 Florida State tonight. It wasn’t the most flattering performance – they lost by 18 – and it will help folks to forget that they’re just four days removed from dominating North Carolina at home. But a loss to a top 15 team anywhere is never going to be a big deal, but missing out on an opportunity to get a win like that at home does make their margin for error in a conference as tough as the ACC just that much more difficult.
Seton Hall (RPI: 42, KenPom: 58, No. 11 seed): The Pirates had a chance to land a really nice road win over Xavier, who was playing their first game without Edmond Sumner. Seton Hall has just two top 100 wins. Later this month, they play three straight home games against Villanova, Creighton and Xavier. Winning two of those would be ideal.
Georgia Tech (RPI: 60, KenPom: 71, No. 11 seed): The Yellow Jackets missed out on a chance to bolster their résumé on Wednesday, losing at Clemson, but a road loss to a top 50 team isn’t going to hurt anyone.
Virginia Tech (RPI: 39, KenPom: 51, No. 8 seed): It’s hard to be too critical of anyone for losing at No. 9 Virginia.
Bragg was charged after University of Kansas police discovered two glass smoking devices with residue during an investigation into the alleged rape of a 16-year old girl in McCarthy Hall, the building where the Kansas basketball players live. He was suspended indefinitely from the team last Thursday, two days before Kansas visited Baylor.
The No. 3 Jayhawks host No. 2 Baylor on Wednesday night.
The penalty is the result the NCAA finding that Tyndall, while the head coach at Southern Miss, had directed staff members to commit academic fraud while trying to get incoming recruits eligible to play and that he made payments to academic non-qualifiers who were not on scholarship.
Tyndall filed an appeal with the NCAA Infractions Committee stating, essentially, that his penalty, one of the most severe ever given out by the NCAA, was the result of one witness that had lied to them after the NCAA had granted him immunity.
I challenge you to find a team that, this season, is more fascinatingly confusing than the No. 17 Maryland Terrapins.
The Terps are 20-2 on the season, their 8-1 Big Ten record putting them in a tie for first place in the league with No. 10 Wisconsin, a game ahead of No. 25 Northwestern and two games in front of No. 23 Purdue. They’re undefeated on the road, which, with three freshmen starters, is almost as impressive as their 9-1 record in games decided by six points or less.
But they’re also a team that no one has paid much, if any, attention to this season. Part of that is because of the disappointment that was 2015-16, a year where Maryland entered the year as a preseason national title favorite and ended the year as a No. 5 seed getting picked off by Kansas in the Sweet 16. Part of it is because the youth on the roster this year led to depressed expectations; there wasn’t much hype coming out of College Park in October.
But perhaps the biggest part of it is that the Terps are the only team in the top 25 that has yet to play a team that was, at the time they played, or is, currently, ranked.
Think about it like this: Every team ranked above Maryland this week has played at least one game that has drawn the collective eyeballs of the college basketball world. With the exception of Northwestern, the same can be said for every team ranked below them. Saint Mary’s had their showdown with Gonzaga. Cincinnati played SMU on ESPN and squared off with Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout. Butler beat then-No. 1 Villanova. Creighton hosted then-No. 1 Villanova as a top ten team. Florida squared off with Duke at Madison Square Garden.
They’ve yet to play a game that we had to watch. I had a friend – who lives in DC, who played college basketball, whose father is a Maryland fan, who was in attendance for the Miracle Minute in 2001 – ask me yesterday how it was possible that the Terps could be 20-2 and he couldn’t name a player in the program other than Melo Trimble.
I’m sure he’s far from the only college basketball fan that thinks Justin Jackson is just a player on North Carolina or struggles to pronounce Kevin Huerter’s last name.
SO WHAT MAKES MARYLAND SO INTERESTING?
Maryland is a team that sits at the crossroads of a pair of dueling narratives.
Is that 9-1 record in close games an example of how clutch they are, or is it simply a result of being lucky?
There is a large segment of the sports world that does not believe that it is possible to be ‘clutch’, that players don’t simply become better shooters – or passers, or pitchers, or goal scorers – simply because it is late in the game. There are smart people with a much better understanding of math that can roll out numbers that will confirm this. There are also smart people that can provide data on why certain players are, in fact, ‘clutch’. That debate exists, and while it’s not a debate that I want to dive into here, it’s worth noting because Maryland – specifically Melo Trimble – is either the most clutch or the luckiest player in college basketball during his time with Maryland.
Maryland is 9-1 in games decided by six points or less this season, and in four of those nine games, Trimble has scored the game-winning points in the final 30 seconds. That doesn’t count Tuesday night’s game at Ohio State, where Trimble scored Maryland’s final seven points to hold off a late charge from the Buckeyes.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Trimble is now 29-6 in games decided by six points or less in his three seasons in College Park.
1. The Terps have a habit of playing close games. For example, they’re on a seven-game winning streak in the Big Ten right now, and only one of those games – a 12-point home win against Rutgers – was decided by double-figures.
2. It’s not a fluke that Maryland is winning those close games. It’s because they have Trimble. I don’t care what the math says, when you win 29 out of 35 two-possession games over a three-year span with three totally different supporting casts, it’s not by accident. Trimble is college basketball’s best closer.
And that brings us to the second coming-together of the narratives: results-based metrics vs. predictive metrics. Maryland is currently sitting at 18th in the RPI, a number that all-but locks them into the NCAA tournament at what should be a pretty good seed. The RPI’s formula, however, doesn’t factor in margin of victory – meaning that Maryland’s six-point win over American goes down as a win, not a game against a bad team they almost lost. KenPom’s formula does, and Maryland is ranked 39th on KenPom, a number that would put them squarely on the bubble given the fact that they don’t have many good wins.
As it stands, Maryland has just one RPI top 25 win and three total RPI top 50 wins. It’s not crazy to think that, come Selection Sunday, none of those three wins – at Minnesota, Kansas State, Oklahoma State – will be over NCAA tournament teams.
Still, 20-2 says a lot, which is why we can’t simply judge them on their tournament profile.
SO WHAT MAKES THEM GOOD?
It starts with Melo Trimble, who has long been rated as one of the country’s elite point guard but who has been asked to play off the ball this season with the addition of Anthony Cowan, a star freshman point guard from Bowie, Maryland.
And while Cowan, who is the team’s third-leading scorer and leader in assists, has been terrific this season, he hasn’t even been the best freshmen on the Terps. That title belongs to Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward from Canada by way of Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, Jackson is a player that may end up playing himself right into the NBA Draft. His physical profile is what NBA teams salivate over. He’s 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he can play the three and guard the four, he has range out of the three-point line. In his last two games, Jackson is averaged 25.0 points and 11.0 boards while shooting 9-for-12 from beyond the arc.
That production probably isn’t sustainable, but it is a glimpse into just what he is capable of doing.
Kevin Huerter, a sharpshooting 6-foot-7 freshman from Upstate New York, got off to a bit of a slow start this season but, in conference play, is shooting a crisp 46 percent from beyond the arc while firing up 5.5 triples a night. He had 26 points and seven threes against Nebraska. He had 19 points and five threes against Minnesota. Perhaps most importantly, he’s proven as a big shot maker and a guy that can be relied upon to make a play defensively. Ask Georgetown. He had the game-saving block in Maryland’s comeback win.
Throw in a quartet of bigs, led by defensive stopper Damonte Dodd and his more offensive-minded counterpart Michal Cekovsky (think the College Park version of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter), that anchor a lineup that has thrived playing small-ball as well as snipers off the bench in Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens, and Mark Turgeon has himself a good, balanced roster, one that is still getting better.
That’s the beauty of having a roster full of freshmen.
As the cliché, come March, freshmen are sophomores, and the best thing about sophomores is that they’re better than they were as freshmen.
So this is where we are with this team.
Their all-american has a nasty habit of struggling for the first 30 minutes of a game before going into takeover mode down the stretch.
Their freshmen have been inconsistent but, individually, good enough to carry the team for stretches, or an entire half, sometimes even a full game.
They haven’t played anyone, let alone beaten anyone, and they play everyone close, regardless of how good the opponent is, but they almost always win those close games.
And the final point is what makes Saturday so important.
No. 17 Maryland will host No. 23 Purdue. It’s the best team that the Terps have played this season. It’s the chance for them to get a quality win on their résumé. And, frankly, it’s a chance for them to prove to the nation that they are the real deal. They play the first game of the day, on ESPN, in a timeslot where they will compete with Duke hosting a bad Pitt team and boring Virginia playing on the road against a mediocre version of Syracuse.
If the Terps plan on making a statement this season, this is the time to do it.