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Frank Kaminsky trolls Arizona after high school teammate Sean O’Mara gets winning basket for Xavier

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No. 11 seed Xavier’s upset win over No. 2 seed Arizona left a lot of people stunned late Thursday night. Naturally, people took to Twitter to share their opinions of the Musketeers advancing to the Elite Eight to face No. 1 seed Gonzaga.

Some of those with comments on Arizona’s loss included members of Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams in 2014 and 2015. You might recall that the Badgers eliminated the Wildcats in both years in the Elite Eight to make the trips to the Final Four–so there is some history here between the two schools.

The Twitter comments started with former Wisconsin guard Ben Brust questioning Arizona head coach Sean Miller for going away from his big men. Brust’s “should have kept touching the big Serb” comment would indicate that getting touches for Arizona center Dusan Ristic was important–although others were pointing out freshman Lauri Markkanen’s minimal involvement in the Arizona offense during the last 10 minutes.

That’s when former Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky entered the discussion and promptly shut things down.

Wisconsin’s personal history with Arizona hit closer for Kaminsky than a normal game when Xavier junior big man Sean O’Mara scored the game-winning bucket for the Musketeers with just under a minute left.

There’s a major connection here. O’Mara hails from Benet Academy in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, the same high school program that produced Kaminsky.

So Kaminsky made sure to mention that after the loss.

When Kaminsky was a senior and Benet started its season 29-0 and was nationally ranked in the USA Today High School rankings, O’Mara was the freshman big man that Kaminsky was beating up in practice every day.

While Kaminsky has turned into a productive member of the Charlotte Hornets rotation this season, O’Mara is having himself a solid 2017 NCAA Tournament run as he’s averaging 12.3 points a game after putting up 6.1 per game during the regular season.

We definitely know who Kaminsky will be rooting for when it comes to the West Region.

Michigan caps best story of Championship Week by winning Big Ten Tournament title over Wisconsin

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Michigan finished off the best story of Championship Week by winning the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday with a 71-56 win over Wisconsin.

After getting in a scary plane crash shortly before take-off earlier this week, the Wolverines drove to the event and picked off Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin in the last four days.

Beating three of the top four teams in the Big Ten is impressive and the committee is going to have an interesting decision when it comes to seeding Michigan because they are playing very well at the moment.

Senior Derrick Walton Jr. continues to have a tremendous stretch as he led the Wolverines with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds while D.J. Wilson (17 points) and Zak Irvin (15 points) both finished in double-figures.

If Walton is playing like this then he has a ton of weapons around him and a lot of players who can stretch the floor at multiple positions. John Beilein teams can be tough to prepare for in the NCAA tournament and having to face this red-hot Michigan team is not going to be fun next week.

Wisconsin (25-9) had 15 points from Bronson Koenig while Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ both had 14 points and 11 rebounds each.

March Madness 2017: Big Ten Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big Ten Player of the Year: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

A no-brainer for this award, Swanigan posted a ridiculous 25 double-doubles this season while averaging 18.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Nearly unguardable in the post without a double team at the college level, Swanigan has expanded his offensive game as he hurts defenses from every level of the floor. A 44 percent three-point shooter who also makes 79 percent of his free throws, Swanigan has rare touch for a player his size.

Big Ten Coach of the Year: Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Minnesota looked like they might be in serious trouble entering this season but Pitino has done a remarkable job of helping turn things around while saving his job. After only eight Big Ten wins the last two seasons, the Golden Gophers finished with 11 Big Ten wins this season as they finished in fourth place. Mixing veterans, transfers and true freshmen, Minnesota has a top-15 defense and the future looks solid.

First-Team All-Big Ten:

  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue (POY)
  • Melo Trimble, Maryland: The Terps lost four starters but Trimble (16.9 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.4 rpg) was once again one of the nation’s most clutch players. Trimble scored Maryland’s game-winning points five times in the final 30 seconds this season.
  • Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ clearly emerged as Wisconsin’s best player this season, putting up 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Defensively, Happ is perhaps the Big Ten’s best player.
  • Peter Jok, Iowa: One of the nation’s best offensive players, Jok scored in bunches (2o.2 ppg) but also improved his all-around game (5.7 rpg, 2.7 apg) while leading the Big Ten in free-throw percentage at 92 percent.
  • Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan: Finally healthy for a full season, Walton was brilliant in his senior season as he gets a slight nod over Nate Mason. Walton had good numbers (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) and was very efficient (43% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT)

Second Team All-Big Ten:

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota
  • Miles Bridges, Michigan State
  • Tai Webster, Nebraska
  • Malcolm Hill, Illinois
  • Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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The Big Ten Tournament moves east to Washington D.C. for the first time this season as it will be very intriguing to see which fanbases travel to catch this event.

As for the tournament action itself, this has been a strange year for the Big Ten.

Since the committee didn’t give the Big Ten a top-four seed during February’s early bracket reveal, we know that the conference likely has work to do to get even one top-four seed. With the way Purdue has played lately, they have the best chance to win this event and gain a respectable seed, but the Big Ten is going to have to prove itself in March with some pretty undesirable seeds.

The Bracket 

When: March 8-12

Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

Final: Sunday, March 12, 3 p.m. EST

Favorite: Purdue

The Boilermakers are the easy favorite for this event as they won the Big Ten regular season by two full games and enter this week as winners of eight of their last nine games. With the Big Ten’s best player in Caleb Swanigan and a great supporting cast that was built to play around Swanigan’s unique skillset, the Boilers are motivated to earn a better NCAA tournament seed by winning this event. Matt Painter made that clear in the postgame interview following the Northwestern win.

And if they lose?: Wisconsin

Based solely on recent play, Wisconsin has no business being in the title conversation this week. The Badgers had lost five of six games before Sunday’s win over Minnesota as they went into a freefall. But the rest of the Big Ten is still very mediocre and Wisconsin has a veteran group that knows how to win in tournament settings. The win over the Golden Gophers was convincing enough that Wisconsin might have figured things out just in time.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 21: Reggie Lynch #22 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers fouls Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers while shooting the ball during the second half of the game on January 21, 2017 at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Ethan Happ (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Maryland: As long as Melo Trimble is on the floor, you can’t count out Maryland. One of the nation’s elite guards is still great in close games and he has plenty of talent around him.
  • Minnesota: The Big Ten’s biggest surprise has an elite defense anchored by Reggie Lynch, one of the nation’s best shot blockers, and an offense led by breakout guard Nate Mason.

Sleeper: Iowa

The Hawkeyes have quietly crept into the bubble picture by winning four straight — including impressive road wins at Wisconsin and Maryland. The Big Ten Tournament draw also happens to lay out very nicely for Iowa. Potential matchups in the first three rounds come against Indiana, Wisconsin and Maryland — three of the four teams Iowa just beat. With something to play for, a potent star senior scorer in Peter Jok and a favorable draw, Iowa could be a team to watch in D.C.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Illinois: A shocking road loss to Rutgers might leave Illinois out either way. A win over Michigan in the first round has to happen at the very least and Illinois might even have to beat No. 1 seed Purdue to get in.
  • Iowa: If Iowa beats Indiana and gets the best of the Badgers again in the quarterfinals then they might be dancing.

Defining moment of the season: The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great moments this season but Purdue clinching the Big Ten title against rival Indiana on Senior Day was pretty cool.

CBT Prediction: Purdue over Wisconsin

No. 11 Wisconsin takes down No. 23 Maryland

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Wisconsin snapped a two-game losing streak with a 71-60 Big Ten home win over No. 23 Maryland on Sunday. With senior guard Bronson Koenig returning to the rotation after missing the Michigan loss with injury, the No. 11 Badgers looked more like themselves for the first time in the last few games.

Here are some takeaways from this one.

1. This was an ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly game (just the way Wisconsin wanted)

Sorry to make you read the word “ugly” four times but I felt it was completely necessary to hammer home the point that this basketball game was not a pleasant viewing experience (and this has nothing to do with pace or style of play).

Wisconsin only shot 41 percent from the field, 16 percent from three-point range and 54 percent from the free-throw line and still won by double digits because they were the older and more physical team. While the Terps were able to hang in the game until the final five minutes or so because of junior guard Melo Trimble’s scoring punch, a younger Maryland team was physically dominated by Wisconsin for most of the game.

The Badgers owned the glass (44 to 27), got to the free-throw line 37 times and did a nice job of getting Maryland’s bigs into foul trouble.

Even though Wisconsin couldn’t generate a lot of consistent offense, they had enough from guys like Nigel Hayes (19 points) and Ethan Happ (20 points) to feel comfortable once they built a bit of a cushion. Wisconsin winning ugly isn’t any sort of new phenomenon, but it does bode well for the Badgers that they handled Maryland this easily despite such a poor shooting game.

2. Maryland needs even more help for Melo to be elite

Maryland has been able to stay in the top 25 this season because junior Melo Trimble has had a lot of help from a talented freshman class. Anthony Cowan has given the Terps another attacking guard, Kevin Huerter is one of the Big Ten’s better all-around freshmen and Justin Jackson has given Maryland a nice dose of athleticism.

Those three freshmen had a game to forget in Madison on Sunday. While Trimble went for 27 points, those three freshmen went a combined 3-for-15 from the field as they just didn’t show up to play during a very important game for conference implications.

Freshmen are going to have off games but this was the biggest game of Maryland’s season and they didn’t look ready to play.

Looking to fire up his team in the second half, head coach Mark Turgeon even went on the floor during a Wisconsin possession and basically forced the officials to whistle him for a technical foul. Even after trying to rally his team with that tech, the Terps didn’t fair much better.

It is also concerning that center Michael Cekovsky went down with an ankle injury in the second half. Cekovsky grabbed his ankle and left the game — looking noticeably frustrated on the bench — and that could be something to watch for Maryland in these final few weeks. Although Cekovsky is only a reserve big man, his 10-point showing on Sunday was one of his best games since returning from injury as he was just starting to look more comfortable.

Losing Cekovsky could hurt, but thankfully for Maryland, the remaining schedule isn’t too daunting. Three of four games come at home and the only road game comes at Rutgers. Even with Sunday’s lackluster effort, Maryland can stay in the Big Ten race if they continue to win.

Wisconsin shows no rust in breezing by Florida A&M

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) Score 11 points. Grab eight rebounds. Help sing the national anthem.

Vitto Brown did a little bit of everything Friday night as No. 14 Wisconsin breezed by Florida A&M 90-37.

Brown, who performed the “Star Spangled Banner” with his family’s singing group “Shades of Brown” before the game, was averaging less than four rebounds a game coming in.

“I was just tired of being 6-8 and in good shape and not getting any rebounds,” Brown said. “I wanted to make my mark on the game.”

The game came after an eight-day layoff for the Badgers (11-2) as they finished final exams. But they showed few signs of rust.

They led Florida A&M (2-11) by 10 points 5 minutes into the game, pushed the lead to 20 with less than 4 minutes to go in the half and had it up to 38 midway through the second half before coach Greg Gard pulled all of his starters.

Reserve D’Mitrik Trice scored 14 points, while Bronson Koenig, who added eight points, played 22 minutes, the most of any starter.

Gard noted such lopsided games can often get sloppy, but the Badgers never lost focus. Even though Gard went deep into his bench with 15 players seeing time, Wisconsin’s shooting percentage actually went up in the second half. The Badgers finished 34 of 65, including 12 of 27 from beyond the 3-point line.

“That’s a testament to them that they stayed disciplined and focused on the things that make us good,” Gard said.

Florida A&M, playing on consecutive nights, struggled on offense, shooting just 26 percent.

Elijah Mays and Brendon Myles led Florida A&M with nine points each. The Panthers were without leading scorer Desmond Williams, who is averaging 16 points a game. Coach Byron Samuels said Williams was injured Thursday night.

“Sometimes we look at reasons to make excuses for why something did or didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m not in that category.”

BIG PICTURE

Florida A&M: The Panthers have lost 10 straight, and their only wins on the season are against non-Division I programs. No one expected this to be pretty.

Wisconsin: Finals are done. The non-conference schedule is done. Bring on the Big Ten.

GARD THE GRADER

Gard said he would give his team somewhere between a B and a B-minus for its performance over the nonconference schedule, which includes wins over five teams in the top 100 of Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. It also, though, includes a 15-point loss to North Carolina in the Maui Invitational. Gard noted the “mountain gets a lot steeper” with Big Ten play coming up. “We’ve got room to get better. We have to get better,” Gard said.

ROAD, UNFRIENDLY ROAD

It’s nothing new for teams from smaller conferences to hit the road a lot in November and December. Still, Florida A&M had rare road games on consecutive nights. They lost to Samford by 20 in Alabama on Thursday night before heading to Wisconsin. Samuels noted players are used to multiple games in a day thanks to AAU and several straight days during conference tournaments. “They’re young, they’re strong, they’re in the best shapes of their lives. They should be able to play back-to-back nights,” he said.

UP NEXT

Florida A&M: The Rattlers travel to Howard on Jan. 4 for their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener.

Wisconsin: The Badgers open Big Ten play at home Tuesday against Rutgers.

 

Unselfish Nigel Hayes leads No. 17 Wisconsin past No. 22 Syracuse for easy win

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Wisconsin looked like a veteran team with an efficient offense as they easily beat No. 22 Syracuse, 77-60, on Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

The No. 17 Badgers showed tremendous patience moving the ball and they took a lot of good shots as they were able to pick apart Syracuse’s 2-3 zone by moving it from side-to-side.

This was the kind of Wisconsin that looked like it could hang with anyone in the country as they shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range.

And it’s all because senior forward Nigel Hayes didn’t hunt his own shot.

Hayes has been criticized the last two seasons for taking too many three-pointers and showing poor shot selection as he’s transitioned from role player to go-to guy. The last two seasons he’s shot 29 percent from three-point range but he’s still attempting over 3.8 per game.

But the version of Hayes we saw against Syracuse was a major reminder of why he’s considered one of the Big Ten’s best players. Playing at the elbows against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, Hayes showed his gifted passing ability while also taking smarter shots. Hayes finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists — missing a triple-double only because he was 4-for-11 from the field.

Although he didn’t shoot a great percentage, Hayes was able to move the ball from side-to-side or get it down low to sophomore Ethan Happ as Syracuse’s defense had no response. Happ is Wisconsin’s most productive and efficient player on most nights and he finished with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting with 13 rebounds.

And Hayes didn’t shoot a three-pointer for the second consecutive game.

After going 1-for-7 from three-point range in the Maui Invitational loss to North Carolina, clearly, Hayes received the message — if you can’t hit three-pointers on the soft rims of Maui, it might be time to re-evaluate your shot selection.

Hayes has taken better shots since returning to the mainland and if he continues to get Happ more touches while not hunting threes then it could be huge for Wisconsin’s offensive efficiency. This version of Wisconsin’s offense looked really balanced and strong.

Because the Badgers can also put Vitto Brown at the top of the key — or anywhere on the floor since he can pass and hit threes — their guards could attack from the wings against Syracuse’s zone with good side-to-side movement. This enabled senior Bronson Koenig to finish with 20 points on 6-for-9 three-point shooting as he had an outstanding game on the offensive end.

Syracuse was led by Andrew White’s 14 points while senior center DaJuan Coleman finished with 12 points. The Orange’s 2-3 zone still has a lot of room for improvement, and since it’s a bigger lineup with three forwards, they have trouble with some quicker lineups.

Offensively, the Orange also don’t have a true identity right now and some guys are trying to do too much on their own. Sophomore Tyler Lydon also seemed content to hang on the perimeter as a catch-and-shoot option as he finished with nine points on 4-for-9 shooting. Lydon was only 1-for-6 from three-point range.

The Orange had to battle foul trouble in the first half and struggled to catch up once they fell behind in the first half. Syracuse didn’t appear prepared for this kind of road test and they’ve now dropped two straight after falling to South Carolina in Brooklyn this weekend. Syracuse still has plenty of talent but they have to fix some things quickly before ACC play.