Previewing your College Hoops Weekend

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UPSET ALERT

Sat. 3:00 pm: No. 10 Syracuse @ Marquette: It’s too early to say Marquette is desperate. They have wins over Notre Dame and West Virginia in their back pocket. Their “bad loss” is to Gonzaga. They even have a better-than-you-think non-conference win over Bucknell. They may have dropped eight games this season, but each of those eight games have come by eight points or less. Andy Glocker earlier this week tweeted about how Marquette was the third “unluckiest” team in the country.

If you remember, the same thing happened to Marquette last season. They dropped close game after close game until this same weekend. On January 30th, Jimmy Butler scored with 2.4 seconds left as Marquette knocked off UConn on the road, sparking a strong finish to the season and, eventually, a six seed in the NCAA Tournament. Could Syracuse be Marquette’s 2011 UConn?

The Orange are reeling right now. They have lost three games in a row, the last two coming to teams that took advantage of good looks from the perimeter against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Marquette has plenty of perimeter talent, they have a couple of versatile forwards in Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler, and while their backs aren’t quite up against the wall yet, they are getting closer and closer.

The one area where Syracuse can really take advantage is up front. Led by Rick Jackson, Syracuse has a big and athletic front line that is capable of dominating the offensive glass. If Marquette’s shots are falling and they are limiting the Orange to one shot a possession, they should be able to land another marquee Big East win at home.

UPSET SPECIAL

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 9 BYU @ New Mexico: I know, its blasphemy to pick against The Jimmer Show. I don’t want to say New Mexico is better than their 2-4 mark in the MWC would indicate, but they are definitely more talented. They are playing what amounts to a do-or-die game in terms of their at-large bid, and they are doing it in front of one of the toughest home crowds in the country. The Cougars are coming off of an emotional high, knocking off San Diego State at home in what may be the most hyped game in the history of the conference. Without question, this has all the makings of a let-down game for BYU. Can the Lobos take advantage?

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 15 Wisconsin @ Penn State: This has been a different Penn State team the past five games. After knocking off both Michigan State and Illinois at home, the Nittany Lions nearly pulled off upsets at both Ohio State and Purdue. Jeff Brooks has developed into a nice compliment for the talented Talor Battle and the all-important home court advantage will be in the Nits favor. Can Penn State do it again?

Sat. 4:00 pm: Georgia @ No. 16 Kentucky: The Bulldogs have already beaten Kentucky once this season, notching a 77-70 win in Athens in which Trey Thompkins dominated the Wildcat front line. Georgia has lost a couple of tough home games in a row to Tennessee and Florida, and is really in need of a bounce back victory. Don’t be fooled by the names, either. These two teams are much closer in talent level than Kentucky and Georgia have been in quite some time. If Thompkins once again has a big game, and Travis Leslie and Gerald Robinson play as well as they are capable of, a sweep of the Wildcats is very possible.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Kansas State @ No. 6 Kansas: Kansas State has been a conundrum this season. They’ve lost games they aren’t supposed to be losing, they haven’t gotten the performance out of Jacob Pullen that we all expected, and they seemingly have a new suspension — either announced or unannounced — every other game. That said, there is still some talent on this team. Whether or not Thomas Robinson is back in uniform, there is no doubt that this past week has been emotionally and physically draining on this team. After flying to Colorado for a game against the Buffaloes, the Jayhawks headed to DC for the funeral of Robinson’s mother. K-State has a chance to take advantage here.

Sun. 10:00 pm: No. 17 Washington @ Washington State: You would be hard-pressed to find anyone playing the point better than Isaiah Thomas right now, and his play has lifted the play of the Huskies. But don’t be fooled by the lack of hype, this game is an intense rivalry, and Washington State is probably more talented than you think they are. Between Klay Thompson, Reggie Moore, and Faisal Aden, this Cougars have a number of scorers on their perimeter while DeAngelo Casto can matchup with Matthew Bryan-Amaning inside.

BEST MATCHUPS

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 19 Louisville @ No. 5 UConn: Louisville is a dangerous team, both to play and to bet on. They rely heavily on the three pointer, and when they are going down, the Cardinals are a difficult team to beat. UConn, however, has looked better than they have all season. Kemba Walker has come back to earth since his hot start — mainly since defenses have begun keying in on him. But with the emergence of Jeremy Lamb as a secondary scorer, Shabazz Napier as a second ball handler, and Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi inside, the Huskies have become more balanced with each passing game. The funny part? This may not even be the best noon tip in the Big East …

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 20 Georgetown @ No. 7 Villanova: I had written off the Hoyas two weeks ago, but after winning three straight games — including a beat down of a St. John’s team that already owns a win over the Hoyas — Georgetown has bounced back quite nicely. Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are still a bit too inconsistent, but Jason Clark rediscovered his stroke while Hollis Thompson was terrific coming off the bench on Wednesday. Villanova, however, was embarrassed at Providence just four days after a statement win at Syracuse. The Wildcats are a tough team to figure out, but they may be the only team in the country than can go back court star for back court star with the Hoyas.

Sat. 12:00 pm: Xavier @ Richmond: This is the most important Atlantic 10 game to date. Xavier comes in undefeated in the conference while the Spiders are sitting just a game back. Tu Holloway and Kevin Anderson will provide us with arguably the best individual matchup of the day, but my concern for Xavier is how they will matchup with Justin Harper. Harper is a 6’10” power forward with a faceup game and a deadly three point stroke. Who can matchup with him on Xavier?

Sat. 1:00 pm: No. 18 Minnesota @ No. 12 Purdue: Minnesota will get their first real test without a point guard on the roster against Purdue after a tune up this week against Iowa. Tubby went with three bigs in the starting lineup on Wednesday, and it worked out pretty well. While Purdue has barely on big with the strength to matchup with Minnesota, the Boilermakers will create their own matchup problems. Can Blake Hoffarber stay in front of Lewis Jackson? Will anyone be able to guard JaJuan Johnson?

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 13 Missouri @ No. 8 Texas: This could very well be the best game of the day, and its a game that is going to come down to the defenses. Missouri, as you all should be well aware, runs a system known as the fastest 40 minutes in basketball. They press, the attack in transition, they force turnovers, and they look to score before you can set up your defense. Texas, on the other hand, runs a typical, physical man-to-man in the half court. The key for Texas? Forcing Missouri to play against a set defense. If they don’t turn the ball over and prevent fast breaks — by scoring and by getting to the foul line — they will make it that much more difficult for Missouri to win in Austin.

Sun. 8:00 pm: Northern Iowa @ Missouri State: The MVC is always good for a quality game or three, but this is the best of the bunch this weekend. Missouri State is all alone in first place in the league, but the Panthers have come on strong after a slow start in conference play. A win for the Panthers would keep them within a game of first place and in striking distance for a regular season title. If the Bears win, they can all but eliminate UNI from the race.

BEST STORYLINES

Saturday

  • 11:00 am: Temple @ St. Joe’s: It wasn’t long ago that this was one of the most anticipated games of the entire A-10 season? Seems like a long time ago, right?
  • 1:00 pm: No. 23 Florida @ Mississippi State: Florida State’s win at Georgia was nice. It would be even nicer if they could follow that up with a win in Starkville.
  • 1:30 pm: Colorado @ Baylor: Everyone gets excited about the upsets of top 25 teams, but games like this — between two bubble dwellers — are also quite important to the NCAA Tournament.
  • 2:00 pm: NC State @ UNC: The Tar Heels, despite all the issues they have had this season, are 4-1 in the ACC. NC State? Not so much.
  • 2:00 pm: No. 11 Texas A&M @ Nebraska: The Cornhuskers have been a tough out on their home court this season, which means that A&M better not be looking ahead to their Big Monday game against Texas.
  • 2:00 pm: Butler @ Valpo: This is a huge game in the Horizon League standings. Believe it or not, Butler is third in the Horizon right now. Valpo is tied for first in the loss column.
  • 6:00 pm: No. 1 Ohio State @ Northwestern: I’m done trying to predict when Northwestern will win a big game. It doesn’t help that John Shurna apparently suffered a concussion against Minnesota.
  • 6:00 pm: Arkansas @ No. 22 Vanderbilt: Can we cancel the game and just have a three point shooting contest between Rotnei Clarke and John Jenkins?
  • 6:00 pm: North Texas @ Denver: First place in the Western Division of the Sun Belt is on the line as the Mean Green visit the Pioneers. Its game like these that piqued Tony Mitchell’s interest.
  • 6:30 pm: Mississippi Valley State @ Jackson State: Three teams are tied for first in the SWAC. These are two of them.
  • 7:00 pm: No. 24 St. Mary’s @ Portland: If you like three point shooting there will be plenty of it in this game.
  • 7:00 pm: Memphis @ Marshall: How long can this Tiger winning streak last? Its currently at five, and started with a win over Marshall.
  • 8:00 pm: No. 2 Pitt @ Rutgers: Read this story from Adam Zagoria about a Rutgers assistant whose son is battling epilepsy, and see if you can avoid rooting for the Scarlett Knights.
  • 8:00 pm: West Virginia @ Cincinnati: A huge bubble matchup in the middle of the Big East. It will be interesting to see if Casey Mitchell is in uniform for this one. With Cincy’s size inside, his shooting could be the difference.
  • 10:00 pm: Wyoming @ No. 4 San Diego State: Does anyone else expect the Aztecs to make a statement on poor Wyoming after getting Jimmered?
  • 12:00 am: No. 25 Utah State @ Hawaii: If you are up, and sober, when this game comes on, why not? The Aggies are really good! I promise!

Sunday

  • 1:00 pm: No. 3 Duke @ St. John’s: I know that St. John’s is having a better year this year than usual, but it will be interesting to see if Madison Square Garden has more Duke fans or Johnnie’s fans.
  • 2:00 pm: Dayton @ Duquesne: Duquesne is undefeated and currently one of the favorites to win the Atlantic 10. Dayton was one of the favorites to win the league in the preseason. Can the Flyers turn it around?
  • 5:30 pm: Miami FL @ Virginia Tech: Simply put, Virginia Tech cannot afford a loss in the middle of the ACC, especially not one to a 1-5 team.
  • 6:00 pm: Indiana @ Michigan State: Two great programs playing a fairly meaningless game. How much farther will the Spartans fall?
  • 7:45 pm: Georgia Tech @ Maryland: Did you see what I said about Virginia Tech?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Tulane secures 101-94 OT win over Cincinnati

Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ORLEANS – Kevin Cross and Jalen Cook scored 27 points each as Tulane took down Cincinnati 101-94 in overtime on Tuesday night.

Cross added 15 rebounds and six assists for the Green Wave (16-7, 9-3 American Athletic Conference). Cook added 14 assists. Jaylen Forbes scored 24 points and shot 6 for 15 (3 for 6 from 3-point range) and 9 of 9 from the free throw line.

Landers Nolley II finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Bearcats (16-9, 7-5). Ody Oguama added 16 points and 13 rebounds for Cincinnati. In addition, David Dejulius finished with 12 points, eight assists and three steals.

Tulane entered halftime down 37-28. Cross paced the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points. Forbes scored 18 second-half points and hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining in regulation to send the game to overtime.

Tulane scored seven unanswered points to break a tie and lead with 42 seconds left in overtime.

No. 16 Oklahoma women take 1st lead in OT, rally past Baylor

Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman
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WACO, Texas – Ana Llanusa and Skylar Vann each scored 20 points and No. 16 Oklahoma took its first lead of the game in overtime before rallying past Baylor 98-92 on Tuesday night.

The Sooners trailed for 39 minutes in regulation and were down 75-63 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Baylor turned it over twice on inbounds plays in the closing seconds of regulation and Taylor Robertson tied at 83-all on a wide-open 3-pointer with 14 seconds left.

Llanusa started overtime with a 3-pointer, and she finished with eight points during the extra session. Baylor never led in overtime, shooting 2 of 6.

Robertson, who tied Danielle Robinson’s program record of 140 starts, finished with 14 points and three 3s for Oklahoma (19-4, 9-3 Big 12), which trails Texas (18-6, 9-2) in the hunt for its first conference title since 2009. Nevaeh Tot added 13 points, Liz Scott added 11 points and eight rebounds and Madi Williams had nine points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The Sooners, the nation’s No. 3 scoring offense at 86.5 points per game, have scored at least 88 points 14 times this season, seven in conference.

Caitlin Bickle scored a career-high 30 points with four 3s and Sarah Andrews added 20 points for Baylor (16-7, 7-4). Freshman Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 14 points and 17 rebounds and Ja’Mee Asberry scored 11. Jaden Owens had 14 of Baylor’s 25 assists on 32 field goals.

Bickle was 8 of 11 from the field, including 4 of 7 from distance, and Littlepage-Buggs recorded her sixth double-double in the last seven games.

It was the first time in 20 years the Sooners were ranked in game against an unranked Bears squad. Oklahoma continues its road trip at Kansas State on Sunday. Baylor plays at Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Newton has triple-double, No. 21 UConn tops No. 10 Marquette

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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HARTFORD, Conn. – UConn appears to have its mojo back.

Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and Tristen Newton recorded his second triple-double of the season as No. 21 Connecticut ran away from No. 10 Marquette 87-72 on Tuesday night.

Newton had 12 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (19-6, 8-6 Big East), who won their third straight game after losing six of eight. They started the season 14-0, rising to No. 2 in the AP Top 25.

“Teams go through tough stretches during the course of the season,” coach Dan Hurley said. “The bottom line is we’re 19-6. You know, we beat some of the best teams in the country.”

Adama Sanogo added 18 points, while Alex Karaban and Nahiem Alleyne each chipped in with 13 for Connecticut, which never trailed.

Tyler Kolek had 17 points to lead Marquette (19-6, 11-3), which had its five-game winning streak snapped. Ben Gold and Stevie Mitchell each scored 12.

The Huskies outrebounded Marquette 48-24 and used 21 offensive boards to help them get 27 second-chance points. The Huskies also had 20 assists on 31 baskets, while holding Marquette to just seven assists.

UConn opened the game on a 22-6 run, highlighted by a fast-break lob from Newton to Andre Jackson for a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. The Huskies made their first four 3-point shots, three by Hawkins, who had 14 points in the first half.

A hook shot by Sanogo gave UConn its first 20-point lead at 32-12 .

A late first-half run by Marquette cut the margin to 43-29, but Alleyne hit a 3-pointer from almost half court to send UConn into the break with a 17-point cushion.

Another 3-pointer from Alleyne gave the Huskies a 59-38 lead in the second half.

UConn led by 25 before Marquette went on an 8-0 run to pull within 17. But the Golden Eagles never threatened to get back in the game.

“We won two or three games in January,” Hawkins said. “It was definitely a tough stretch, definitely going to shake your confidence. But you just have to stay the course, trust the process and that’s what we did and that’s what we’re going to continue to do during this last stretch.”

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles had won nine of 10. They are trying to win a regular-season conference title after being picked ninth in the preseason poll by the league’s coaches.

UConn: Entered 1-5 against the top five teams in the Big East and 1-3 versus ranked opponents. UConn lost 82-76 at Marquette on Jan. 11 after leading by 11 points in the first half.

“The rankings mean nothing,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s amazing the disparity – no disrespect to anyone here – between what the ranking means to media and fans in the middle of a season and what it means to players and coaches. It just doesn’t mean anything.”

BACK FROM INJURY

Marquette’s Sean Jones, who missed the previous three games with a wrist injury, had 11 points in just over 19 minutes. He came down hard on the wrist in the second half, but appeared to shake it off and continued playing.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE

Newton’s first triple-double came in November against Buffalo, when he had 22 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He joined Shabazz Napier as the only Huskies players to get more than one.

“My amigos right here, they were going crazy hitting shots,” Newton said. “They were boxing out and I was getting the rebound, so I just had the easy job, just get them the ball.”

UP NEXT

Marquette: At last-place Georgetown on Saturday.

UConn: Will visit No. 23 Creighton on Saturday.

Jackson-Davis leads No. 18 Indiana past No. 24 Rutgers 66-60

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The milestone moments keep piling up for Trayce Jackson-Davis.

Only one really mattered Tuesday night.

While he scored 20 points to become the sixth player in Hoosiers’ history with 2,000 and the first among that group with 1,000 career rebounds, the most satisfying celebration came after No. 18 Indiana beat No. 24 Rutgers 66-60 – Jackson-Davis’ first win in the series.

“I think that’s the last team in the Big Ten I hadn’t beaten,” Jackson-Davis said after finishing with 18 rebounds and six assists.

From the moment Jackson-Davis announced he would attend Indiana, the expectations were great even as critics contended the results were underwhelming.

Nobody’s complaining now. Jackson-Davis now has 2,004 points, 1,035 rebounds, a school-record 242 blocks and ranks fourth all-time with 44 double-doubles after breaking a tie with Steve Downing.

After helping the Hoosiers snap a five-year NCAA Tournament drought last season and falling out of the rankings after three straight January losses, Jackson-Davis has almost single-handedly led the Hoosiers (17-7, 8-5 Big Ten) into a second-place tie by winning seven of eight.

And his dominance is starting to open things up for his teammate. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

“I think we’ve gotten a lot better playing around Trayce, giving him space,” Miller Kopp said after scoring 18 points. “It comes down to getting better at what the coaches are asking us to do and we’re all feeling more comfortable with where our looks are coming from.”

It certainly showed against the Scarlet Knights (16-8, 8-5), who had won six straight over Indiana including a 15-point blowout in December.

This time, though, they spent most of the game playing catchup. Clifford Omoruyi had 15 points, Cam Spencer had 14 and nobody else made more than three baskets.

“It’s a one-possession game with three minutes left, but I look at the (free throw) disparity and you can’t defend the foul line,” coach Steve Pikiell said. “Give Indiana credit, they got there. Tracye Jackson-Davis was a problem.”

The Hoosiers started fast and then scored 12 straight points to take a 30-14 lead midway through the first half but even without injured starting forward Mawot Mag, Rutgers charged back. It closed the first half on an 11-2 run, then tied it at 38 when Spencer opened the second half with a 3-pointer.

Kopp broke the tie with his third 3 of the game to start an 11-0 run and Jackson-Davis’ monumental basket, a putback dunk off his own miss, made it 54-44 with 11:13 to go.

The Scarlet Knights could have tied it on Caleb McConnell’s 3 with 3:02 left, but it bounced off the back of the rim and the Hoosiers closed Jackson-Davis’ big win with a 7-2 spurt.

“He’s a man who’s done a lot since he’s been here,” said coach Mike Woodson, who is 57 points ahead of Jackson-Davis on the Hoosiers’ scoring list. “He’s a phenomenal player who does a lot of beautiful things on the court. To get 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds says a lot.”

BIG PICTURE

Rutgers: Mag missed his first game with a torn ACL in his right knee and Rutgers struggled against Indiana’s size and speed. There could be similar challenges over the final eight regular-season games.

Indiana: Woodson’s team is playing, at times, like the conference’s preseason pick to win the league title. When the Hoosiers make perimeter shots and defend well, they’re a difficult matchup for anyone. They just need fewer lulls.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The victory should help solidify Indiana’s top-20 status – at least until it hits the road for their next two games. Losing Mag and Tuesday’s game may make Rutgers’ return to the rankings short-lived regardless of what happens later this week.

UP NEXT

Rutgers: Visits Illinois on Saturday

Indiana: Heads to Michigan on Saturday.

Pitt moves into 1st-place ACC tie destroying Louisville

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH – Nike Sibande scored 15 points off the bench, nine Pittsburgh players entered the scoring column and the Panthers demolished Louisville 91-57 on Tuesday night and moved into a first-place tie with Clemson in the ACC.

Entering play Tuesday, the top five teams in the ACC were separated by just a game in the standings. A win by No. 8 Virginia against No. 22 North Carolina State Tuesday would create a three-way tie for first between Clemson, Pitt and the Cavaliers.

Against Louisville, the Panthers (17-7, 10-3) distributed 23 assists on 28-made baskets. Defensively, Pitt held Louisville (3-21, 1-12) to 27.6% (16 for 58) shooting and outrebounded the Cardinals 37-30. Mike James scored 11 points for Louisville.

El Ellis made a pair of foul shots to bring Louisville into a 14-all tie with 13:36 before halftime. Pitt then went on a 16-2 run over nearly the next five minutes. Six-different Panthers scored during the run. Nate Santos’ 3-pointer with 9:38 before the break made it 27-16 and Pitt led by double digits the rest of the way. A 47-27 halftime lead turned into a 58-28 margin just 1:59 into the second half.

With the win, the Panthers reached double digits in conference wins for just the second time in 10 ACC seasons. Pitt went 11-7 in its first year in the ACC following its 12-6 campaign in its final year in the Big East in 2012-13.

Louisville will continue its road trip when it takes on No. 19 Miami on Saturday. Pitt travels to face Florida State on Saturday.