That NCAA tournament bubble’s getting awfully crowded

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We’ve slowly started to weed through some bubble teams.  Not that we won’t have any more surprises.  It’s been challenging to pare teams down and provide some separation.  As we head into March, Kansas State, UCLA, and George Mason move off the bubble as teams that should be in the Field of 68. 

Fortunately, we added Colorado back to the bubble before the CU’s victory over Texas.   Maryland missed a chance to join the conversation by falling at North Carolina on Sunday.  Washington State picked up a road win at Washington Sunday night and now owns a sweep of the Huskies.  Both remain on the bubble with two games left before the Pac-10 tournament.  Teams falling off the bubble at this point: Wichita State and Minnesota

Expect a few more teams to leave the bubble as we head into Championship Week.  We may not have a clear picture about the bottom of the bracket until the Friday or Saturday before the bracket is released. 

Bubble Banter highlights the teams we believe are on the NCAA Bubble. If a team isn’t listed, they aren’t a bubble team at the time of the update. RPI and SOS data is credited to CollegeRPI.com.

UPDATED: Monday, February 28

Automatic Bids (31): None decided | Total Spots (68): Number of total teams in the Field.

  • Projected Locks (22): Teams who project to have secured a spot in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
  • Should Be In (9): These teams are teams in solid position to receive an at-large bid.
  • Bubble: (28): Teams projected to be at or near the cutline for being selected as at-large candidates.
  • Spots available (12): Number of projected available openings for the bracket.
  • Leaving the Bubble: Kansas State (SBI), UCLA (SBI), George Mason (SBI), Wichita State (off), Minnesota (off)
  • Joining the Bubble: None
  • Notes: RPI and SOS data are through 10 p.m. ET (Feb. 27) | Washington/Washington State were updated Feb. 28.
Atlantic 10
Locks: Xavier, Temple | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Richmond
  • Richmond (22-7 | 11-3) | RPI: 62 | SOS: 138 | – Not much has changed for the Spiders. Their win Saturday at Charlotte holds them steady. The win over Purdue continues to be a major helping point, and wins at Dayton and over VCU are okay, too. Richmond can’t afford a loss at St. Joseph’s before a final home date with Duquesne. It may still take a run to the A-10 tournament final depending on what happens around them.
ACC
Locks: Duke, North Carolina | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Boston College, Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech
  • Boston College (17-11 | 7-7) | RPI: 46 | SOS: 18 | – The Eagles won at Virginia to avoid an untimely bad loss. Next up is a trip to Virginia Tech – which just upset Duke. BC has still lost 6 of 9 and remains just 1-5 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Texas AM). The Eagles need to beat Tech and then take care of Wake to improve their standing heading into the ACC Tournament. A loss in either will put some added pressure on the Eagles to win a couple of games in the league tourney.
  • Clemson (19-9 | 8-6) | RPI:69 | SOS: 97 | – After taking care of Wake Forest, it’s off to Duke before a home date with Virginia Tech. Both are critical games, and you have to figure the Blue Devils are going to be feisty after losing at Virginia Tech on Saturday. That said, beating Duke is Clemson’s last chance for a marquis victory. Other than a home win over Florida State, the resume is very average. Clemson has non-league losses to Old Dominion, Michigan, and South Carolina.
  • Florida State (20-8 | 10-4) | RPI: 48 | SOS: 88 | – Overall, Florida State remains in pretty good position given its strong ACC record. A weak non-conferense SOS (no. 227), could still be concerning if FSU stumbles down the stretch. The Seminoles are just 2-4 vs. Top 50 teams, but they do have a home win over Duke. They also beat Baylor in Hawaii. Finishing third in the ACC standings will likely be enough. At this point, that looks promising. FSU closes with North Carolina at home and NC State on the Road.
  • Virginia Tech (19-8 | 9-5) | RPI: 53 | SOS: 85 | – Beating Duke gives the Hokies the type of marquis victory they missed last season. It’s not enough to take VT off the bubble, but their tournament odds certainly improved Saturday night. The Hokies are 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams to go along with three sub-100 RPI losses. Next up, BC arrives before a trip to Clemson. Both have their own spots on the bubble. Winning both would make the ACC Tournament a whole lot easier. A split means that Va. Tech would need to avoid a first-round upset in the league tournament.
BIG EAST
Locks: Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s | Should Be In: West Virginia | Bubble: Cincinnati, Marquette
  • Cincinnati (22-7 | 9-7) | RPI: 41 | SOS: 81 | – The win at Georgetown gave UC’s profile a huge boost. It also guaranteed the Bearcats at least a 9-9 finish in the Big East. That’s why Sunday’s loss at home to Connecticut isn’t cause for alarm – provided the Bearcats don’t begin a free-fall that ends in a first-round exit in the Big East Tournament. UC is 4-6 vs. Top 50 RPI teams (Xavier, St. John’s, Louisville, G’town) – a pretty solid mark. While the albatross of a horrible non-conference schedule (No. 281) still lingers, the Bearcats have done enough within the Big East to lessen its impact. One more win should be enough for UC to secure a spot and move off the bubble.
  • Marquette (18-11 | 9-7) | RPI: 51 | SOS: 30 | – After a huge win at Connecticut on Thursday, Marquette kept it rolling with a strong home victory over Providence on Sunday. That’s three straight for MU. The Golden Eagles are 4-10 vs. Top 25 RPI teams – an amazing number of high-level games. A schedule like that helps – if you can find enough victories. Up next is a visit from Cincinnati before a closing contest at Seton Hall. Winning both should be enough to move the Golden Eagles off the bubble. A split wouldn’t be horrible, but it would create some urgency to win at least one game in New York.
BIG 10
Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin | Should Be In: None | Bubble: Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State
  • Illinois (18-11 | 8-8) | RPI: 40 | SOS: 17 | – Illinois avoided major problems by taking care of Iowa at home Saturday. Up next is a trip to Purdue – a very difficult challenge. Then, it’s home to Indiana. As long as the Illini take care of the Hoosiers at home, their propsects are favorable heading into the Big Ten Tournament. A loss would put a lot of pressure on Illinois to win a couple of games in Indy. Good wins include N. Carolina, at Gonzaga, Wisconsin, and Michigan State. If it’s a close call among Big Ten teams, the Illini beat both Michigan and Minnesota – teams they played only once in the Big Ten rotation. The loss at UIC is a major sore point.
  • Michigan State (15-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 38 | SOS: 5 | The Spartans were dominated at home Sunday by Purdue after winning two straight. That makes the last two games (Iowa, at Michigan) very important. Michigan State is now just 3-9 vs. Top 50 teams – thanks to Minnesota’s free-fall. Can MSU get to 10 league wins? That might be what it takes to have a chance heading into the Big Ten Tournament. A strong schedule will help, but MSU is squarely on the cutline as we move into March.
  • Michigan (17-12 | 8-9) | RPI: 57 | SOS: 20 | Winning at Minnesota wasn’t a great win, but it knocked the Gophers off the bubble and keeps the Wolverines in the conversation. While there’s not a lot to love about the Wolverine’s profile (2-8 vs. Top 50 teams), they have won 7 of 10 and were a last-second banked-in three pointer at the buzzer from beating Wisconsin. Michigan closes at home against Michigan State. A weak bubble continues to help. Much like Marquette, Michigan has several close losses and a solid strength of schedule. On another note, Michigan lost to Illinois in its only matchup with the Illini; just something to keep in mind. On the flip side, the Wolverines swept Penn State.
  • Penn State (15-12 | 8-8) | RPI: 56 | SOS: 9 | Surprisingly, Penn State gained some bubble ground with its win at Northwestern. For one, it was the Lions’ second road win. It also moved them back to .500 in league play. Penn State has three solid victories at home (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State). That’s more than some other teams at the cutline. The flip side is that PSU was swept by Michigan and is still just 2-8 in road games. Up next is a visit from Ohio State, followed by a trip to Minnesota. A split would keep PSU in the conversation heading to the Big 10 Tournament. A pair of losses probably ends the Lions’ run.
BIG 12
Locks: Kansas, Texas | Should Be In: Missouri, Texas AM, Kansas State | Bubble: Baylor, Colorado
  • Baylor (17-10 | 7-7) | RPI: 72 | SOS: 48 | – Baylor has been a hard team to figure out. Major talent with very average results. Last week the Bears lost a home game to Texas Tech and were blown out at Missouri. Then on Saturday, Baylor took care of Texas AM at home, giving the Bears a season sweep of the Aggies. Most likely, that’s a match-up issue. Either way, Baylor is just 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams – both of those the wins over Texas AM. Against the Top 100, the Bears are 5-7 – a lower win total than some other bubble teams. Out of conference, the Bears failed to win a Top 100 RPI game and their non-league SOS ranks No. 209. Now, it’s off to Oklahoma State before a closing game at home with Texas. Winning both would be huge. A split will require the Bears to do some work at the Big 12 Tournament. Two losses would be a major blow.
  • Colorado (17-11 | 7-7) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 73 | – Home wins don’t get much bigger than beating a potential No. 1 seed – ask Virginia Tech. The Buffs certainly improved their at-large hopes with a win over Texas on Saturday. It gives Colorado a 5-7 mark vs. Top 50 teams – a pretty solid total – especially compared to a team like Baylor. Elswhere, however, CU has struggled as a 9-11 mark vs. Top 200 teams suggests. The problem is a horrific non-conference SOS (No. 322). That could give the Selection Committee a reason to leave the Buffaloes at home. Up next is a trip to Iowa State before a home date with Nebraska. Winning both would be advised. A split will keep CU in the at-large picture. Among Colorado’s achievements is a sweep of Kansas State.
MOUNTAIN WEST
Locks: BYU, San Diego State | Should Be In: UNLV | Bubble: Colorado State
  • Colorado State (17-10 | 8-6) | RPI: 47 | SOS: 38 | – The Rams’ at-large hopes took a major hit after the loss at Air Force on Saturday. CSU’s best wins are UNLV and Southern Miss and the Rams’ once strong Mountain West record has fallen a bit. It’ll likely take a win at San Diego State on March 5 to stay in the at-large picture. A loss to Utah in between would be devastating. CSU is 2-5 vs. the Top 50 and 4-7 vs. the Top 100. Early losses to Sam Houston and Hampton remain obstacles.
PAC 10
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: Arizona, UCLA | Bubble: Washington, Washington State
  • Washington (19-9 | 10-6) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 64 | – The loss to Washington State at home could put the Huskies on a dangerous path. UW has now been swept by the Cougars and other than a couple more league wins, their profiles are starting to become very similar. Once a solid tournament team, the Huskies are just 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-7 vs. the Top 100. Remaining home games with Southern Cal and UCLA are very important now. Winning both might be enough, a split would mean there’s work to do at the Pac-10 Tournament to secure a spot.
  • Washington State (18-10 | 8-8) | RPI: 76 | SOS: 93 | – After pulling an upset in Washington Sunday night, the Cougars now own a season sweep of the Huskies. It also keeps WSU in the at-large discussion. With a weak bubble, who knows. Overall, WSU is still just 2-5 vs. Top 50 teams (both Washington) and 6-7 vs. Top 100 teams. Other notable wins are Gonzaga and Baylor. UCLA and Southern Cal visit to close the season. WCU might need both. A split would keep them in the at-large conversation heading into the Pac-10 Tournament.
SEC
Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt | Should Be In: Tennessee | Bubble: Georgia, Alabama
  • Georgia (19-9 | 8-6) | RPI: 37 | SOS: 29 | – The Bulldogs’ win at Tennessee last week added another Top 50 win to a resume in need of quality wins. After a loss at Florida, Georgia rebounded to beat South Carolina at home – a key victory. Up next is LSU before a road trip to Alabama. A loss to LSU would be problematic. A split would keep Georgia on the right side of the cutline, but might require win or two at the SEC Tournament. Winning out would put Georgia in good position.
  • Alabama (19-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 89 | SOS: 139 | – Losing at Ole Miss Saturday wasn’t a killer, but it does lessen the Tide’s margin down the stretch. How much wiggle room Alabama has depends largely on how the Committee views an overall dominant performance in the SEC West. The Tide’s closing games are at Florida and home to Georgia. Winning both would be best, a split would be testy, and losing both would mean the need for a long run at the SEC Tournament. Whether the Committee will overlook the Tide’s poor start (losses to St. Peter’s, Iowa, Seton Hall) largely depends on how the Tide finish.
BEST OF THE REST
Locks: NONE | Should Be In: George Mason | Bubble: Butler, Cleveland State, Missouri State, Old Dominion, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Utah State
  • Butler (20-9 | 13-5) | RPI: 45 | SOS: 79 | – Butler finished its regular season with 7 straight wins to earn the 2-seed and double bye in the Horizon League Tournament. A win over Florida State in Hawaii could still help, but the victory over Washington State isn’t what it once was – although the Cougars could rally. It’s the five league losses – including a sweep by Milwaukee – that’s holding Butler back. Getting to the Horizon League final would put BU right on the cutline.
  • Cleveland State (22-7 | 13-5) | RPI: 39 | SOS: 107 | – Vikings have to reach the Horizon League Tournament final to stay on the bubble.
  • Missouri State (23-7 | 15-3) | RPI: 43 | SOS: 126 | – Missouri State wrapped up the Missouri Valley title by beating Wichita State a second time on Saturday. That helps. However, the Bears’ best non-conference win is Pacific, and they have only two Top 100 RPI wins (both Wichita State). MSU has to reach the MVC Tournament final. After that, we’ll see.
  • Memphis (21-8 | 9-5) | RPI: 33 | SOS: 40 | – A lopsided loss at UTEP after being upset by Rice has knocked the Tigers’ profile down a few pegs. Memphis was also blown out in their prime-time matchups with Kansas, Georgetown and Tennessee. Even with a sweep of both UAB and Southern Miss, the Tigers can’t afford another C-USA loss before the conference tournament. The win at Gonzaga may help, but the Tigers have lost a lot of momentum.
  • UAB (20-7 | 10-4) | RPI: 31 | SOS: 71 | – Thanks to UAB and Memphis losing – and a win at Houston on Saturday – UAB finds itself back on top of Conference USA. An outright title might be necessary to be a solid at-large candidate on Selection Sunday. UAB is 0-5 vs. Top 50 teams but 7-6 vs. the Top 100. Their only bad loss is at Arizona State in November – so that’s somewhat a plus. UAB closes at Southern Miss and hosts East Carolina this week.
  • Southern Mississippi (18-7 | 9-5) | RPI: 42 | SOS: 87 | – After winning 6 of 7, Southern Miss lost at Central Florida to fall out of the C-USA lead. Finding a way to win the outright C-USA title remains USM’s best hope for at-large consideration. The Eagles have a win at California and beat UAB in their first meeting. Southern Miss hosts UAB this week in what could be an elimination game. USM is still just 1-3 vs. Top 50 teams and 6-6 vs. the Top 100. Losses to Colorado State and Mississippi won’t help; neither will a non-conference SOS ranked No. 240.
  • Old Dominion (24-6 | 14-4) | RPI: 27 | SOS: 74 | – ODU ended its regular season by beating William & Mary. The Monarchs finished tied for second in a good Colonial conference. While ODU is in good shape, we’ll leave them here until they win a game or two in the CAA Tournament. Good wins include Xavier, George Mason and Cleveland State. ODU played the No. 15 non-conference schedule and came within 3-points of beating Georetown.
  • VCU (21-10 | 12-6) | RPI: 66 | SOS: 108 | – After losing 4 of 5 down the stretch, VCU is barely holding onto a bubble spot.  Any loss before an appearance in the CAA final will end the Rams’ hopes.
  • Gonzaga (20-9 | 11-3) | RPI: 65 | SOS: 94 | – Gonzaga has won 8 of 9 and moved above the immediate cutline after winning at St. Mary’s in OT on Thursday. The ‘Zags followed it up with an easy win over San Diego on Saturday. They have wins over Xavier, Marquette, and Baylor. The Zags’ home loss to Memphis could still hamper the Bulldogs’ at-large chances, but a strong non-conference strength of schedule bodes well. A 2-6 mark vs. Top 50 RPI teams is somewhat concerning, but a 7-7 mark vs. the Top 100 helps.
  • St. Mary’s (21-7 | 11-3) | RPI: 49 | SOS: 113 | – The Gaels are a perfect example of why we don’t rush to move teams off the bubble. St. Mary’s lost three straight before beating Portland on Saturday. That leaves SMU in a tie with Gonzaga atop the West Coast Conference. An early win over St. John’s helps, and St. Mary’s split with Gonzaga. But the rest of the resume is light (1-4 vs. Top 50 teams and 4-6 vs. the Top 100). In the at-large discussion, the Gaels would currently fall behind Gonzaga.
  • Utah State (25-3 | 13-1) | RPI: 19 | SOS: 102 | – The Aggies have two remaining WAC road games. Win both and it could be hard to leave the Aggies out unless they trip up early in the WAC Tournament. What’s holding USU back is a very light 2-2 mark vs. Top 100 teams – and one of those is Long Beach State (No. 92 on Sunday). That’s why the BracketBuster win at St. Mary’s was huge. Even so, we can’t put USU in the Field of 68 right now.

Flagler, No. 6 Baylor rally late, top No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63

Baylor vs. Gonzaga
USA Today
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — In a rematch of the 2021 national championship game, Adam Flagler hit a pair of 3s as No. 6 Baylor scored the final eight points to rally past No. 14 Gonzaga 64-63 Friday night.

Gonzaga’s Rasir Bolton missed a wild, driving layup try at the buzzer.

Two seasons ago, Baylor beat the then-undefeated Zags 86-70 to win its first title. This time, the Bears didn’t take the lead for good until Jalen Bridges made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Adam is a great leader, but no one knew he wasn’t feeling well today,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “To be honest, some players wouldn’t have played. He played through the pain and left it all out on the court. As a coach, I appreciate that.”

The Bears (6-2) trailed 63-56 before Flagler hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left. Flagler’s 3 with just over a minute to play cut Baylor’s deficit to 63-62.

After a Gonzaga shot clock violation, Flagler’s 3-point attempt for the lead was off the mark, but Bridges was fouled by Drew Timme on the rebound attempt. Bridges hit two foul shots to put Baylor ahead.

The Zags (5-3) had a final chance when Bolton caught an inbounds pass near his own foul line with 4.6 seconds remaining. He drove the lane, but his off-balance shot went high off the glass and missed as the buzzer sounded.

“We took two balls down hill and tried to make plays at the rim. At that point in the game, those are tough,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “It’s very disappointing. They made plays, man.”

Freshman Keyonte George had 18 points and seven rebounds for Baylor. Flagler had 11 points and Langston Love added 10.

“I trust my work. I was able to knock them down,” George said. “My teammates believe in me each and every day. They give me that confidence in a big game to make big shots like that.”

Malchi Smith scored 16 points for Gonzaga. Anton Watson added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Timme had nine points.

Baylor led by as many as 12 in the first half before Gonzaga closed to five at the break.

Watson’s basket put Gonzaga ahead 41-40. From there, the teams swapped leads over the next 13 minutes as the second half featured two ties and 14 lead changes.

A thunderous dunk from Smith gave Gonzaga its seven-point lead with under two minutes to go.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The win was a big rebound for Baylor after its 26-point loss to Marquette earlier in the week. The loss was the Bears’ most lopsided since they fell to Kansas 82-56 in 2007

Gonzaga: After opening the season ranked No. 2 in the AP preseason poll, the Zags have now lost two of three.

STAR WATCH

Timme began the night leading the Bulldogs in scoring at 20 points per game. He was hampered by foul trouble against Baylor and got his first field goal with six minutes remaining. He fouled out with 16 seconds to play.

REMATCH PLAYERS

Four players on the floor Friday night had significant minutes in the championship game two years ago including Flagler, Timme and Watson, along with Baylor’s Flo Thamba.

UP NEXT

Baylor: The Bears return home to host Tarleton on Tuesday before playing Washington State on Sunday in Dallas for the Pac 12 Coast-to-Coast Challenge.

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to Spokane for three straight beginning Monday when they face Kent State for the first time in school history.

Carr scores 19, No. 2 Texas beats No. 7 Creighton 72-67

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas had pressured Creighton’s shooters into a miserable night, only to watch a late flurry of 3-pointers start swishing.

An 11-point Longhorns lead was down to three.

That hardly rattled Marcus Carr and the second-ranked Longhorns, who stepped up with big late shots of their own and steady free-throw shooting to secure another impressive early-season victory, 72-67 over the seventh-ranked Bluejays on Thursday night.

Carr scored 19 points and made two free throws with 10 seconds left as Texas held off Creighton’s furious late-game rally.

Creighton struggled through a wretched 3-point shooting night, but pulled within 62-59 thanks in part to five points in a row by Baylor Scheierman. Carr’s baseline jumper and an easy layup by Tyrese Hunter when Creighton lost him on an inbound pass with 46 seconds left stretched the Longhorns’ lead again.

That didn’t quite close the door on Creighton, which got two more 3-pointers from Scheierman, who had missed his first nine attempts. That forced Texas to finish it from the free-throw line behind Carr and Brock Cunningham. Cunningham’s two free throws with 4 seconds left were his only points of the game.

“There’s going to be a bunch of times one of us has to go down there and knock down a bunch of free throws,” Carr said. “We talk about it all the time.”

The matchup was part of the Big 12-Big East Battle and Texas earned its second win over a top-10 opponent in its new arena. The Longhorns (6-0) beat then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 16 and have their highest ranking since they were No. 1 during the 2009-2010 season.

“I don’t think we’ve proven anything,” Texas coach Chris Beard said. “We’re just a team that’s trying to get better.”

Hunter scored 15 points for Texas.

Ryan Kalkbrenner had 20 points and 13 rebounds for Creighton (6-2), and Ryan Nembhard scored 17 points. The Bluejays were 4 of 27 on 3-pointers.

Scheierman, a 44% shooter from beyond the arc this season, made three 3s in a row late. His off-balance shot from the right corner over a defender pulled the Bluejays within 68-65 with 11.4 seconds left.

Scheierman finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“The reality is you are gonna have nights,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “It just happens. We don’t ever want him to stop shooting.”

BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Kalkbrenner was all but unstoppable on a 9-of-10 shooting night for the Bluejays, who kept launching from long range instead of looking for their 7-foot-1 center.

Texas: The Longhorns couldn’t force their usual numbers of turnovers and fast-break points, but were exceptionally clean with the ball on offense. Texas had just three turnovers that Creighton turned into three points.

FORMER TEAMMATES

Texas senior forward Christian Bishop played three seasons at Creighton before transferring prior to last season. He finished with six points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

“We understood what this game was, not just for our team but for Christian,” Carr said.

TIRED TEAM

McDermott suggested his team maybe just wore out. The Bluejays went 2-1 in the Maui Invitational last week and then played their first game of the season on an opponent’s home court.

“Three games in three days against ranked teams (in Hawaii) and then to come in here,” McDermott said. “That’s a lot to ask of my team.”

UP NEXT

Creighton hosts in-state rival Nebraska on Sunday.

Texas plays No. 16 Illinois in New York City on Dec. 6 in the Jimmy V Classic.

No. 20 Maryland upsets No. 7 Notre Dame at the buzzer, 74-72

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Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Diamond Miller scored 31 points, including the game-winner at the buzzer, to lead No. 20 Maryland to a 74-72 victory over seventh-ranked Notre Dame on Thursday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Irish guard Sonia Cintron’s layup had tied the game with 15 seconds left off before Maryland held for the last shot. Miller hit a contested mid-range jumper just before time expired to give the Terrapins a victory over a top-10 opponent. It was the 15th lead change of the game.

Miller also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds to go along with five assists. Shyanne Sellers added 17 points.

Maryland (7-2) picked up its first win over Notre Dame (6-1) since 2007.

Cintron’s double-double led the Irish with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Notre Dame’s leading scorer Olivia Miles got off to a slow start on Thursday due to foul trouble. She scored 12 of her 14 points in the final 15 minutes of the game to go along with seven assists and two steals.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins picked up their second top-20 win of the season ahead of the upcoming Big Ten opener.

Notre Dame: The Irish have had issues with foul trouble this season, a problem that persisted on Thursday. Miles played just 25 minutes, including the majority of the fourth quarter, due to picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns to College Park for the program’s Big Ten opener Sunday against Nebraska.

Notre Dame: Stays home to host No. 3 UConn Sunday.

Virginia’s depth helping its rapid climb in the AP Top 25

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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The starting five is the same, but that is where comparisons between the Virginia team that has climbed to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 and last year’s NIT quarterfinalists ends.

Yes, one more year together and a trip to Italy has made the first five significantly better, but part of the credit for that surely goes to another group: the reinforcements. They’ve helped the Cavaliers (6-0) already knock off No. 6 Baylor, No. 16 Illinois and Michigan.

Virginia has scored 70 points or more in its first six game for the first time since the 2003-04 season, and coach Tony Bennett said it was the offense – and not UVA’s signature relentless defense – that saved them in a 70-68 victory this week at Michigan in the ACC/Bg Ten Challenge.

“Our offense kind of kept us in it in the first half,” Bennett said, before the team put it all together, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit to disappoint a raucous Wolverines crowd.

Reece Beekman was the offensive catalyst, scoring 15 of his 18 points before halftime, but four others joined him in double figures, including Jayden Gardner. His foul-line jumper with 39.9 seconds left provided the last of his 11 points, and the winning margin.

Gardner, who led Virginia in scoring last season (15.3 ppg), is averaging 11.5 this year.

“We’ve got a lot of capable scorers and we’re just gonna keep playing together. And we’re playing very unselfish basketball right now,” Gardner said after scoring 24 against Maryland Eastern Shore. He went into the game with 31 points through four games.

“He’s not the most jumping type of guy, but he’s got so much power,” Hawks coach Jason Crafton said of Gardner, an East Carolina transfer with 2,068 career points. “That low center of gravity and the flexibility that he has to be able to get under people and hold his position is elite. When he wants the ball at a certain spot, he can get it there.”

The leader remains guard Kihei Clark, who already has a place in Virginia history, having retrieved a loose ball and fed Mamadi Diakite for a jumper that sent the Cavs’ Elite Eight game against Purdue into overtime on the way to winning the 2019 national championship.

Newcomers Ben Vander Plas, a transfer from Ohio, and freshman Isaac McKneely have given Bennett more options, and more scoring power than a year ago.

As a junior, Vander Plas had 17 points for No. 13 seed Ohio when the Bobcats upset Virginia 62-58 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

He scored seven straight in the second half against the Wolverines, twice scoring inside and then swishing a 3-pointer while trying to slow down bruising big man Hunter Dickinson.

“Ben, yeah. Just his poise and composure in the post, took advantage of some mismatches and he really gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. Vander Plas is the son of a teammate of Bennett’s at Green Bay, and his first name is a tribute to Bennett’s father, Dick.

McKneely scored 15 and made 4 of 6 3-point tries in an 89-42 victory against Monmouth

“He was standing in front of our bench. I’m like, `Listen, we’re not helping off him,”‘ Monmouth coach King Rice said he told his team, pointing at McKneely, a two-time player of the year in West Virginia. “And he kind of looked at me and I said, `Yeah, you, because you make all of them,’ and he started laughing.”

Ryan Dunn also made quite the impression on Rice in his first collegiate appearance, scoring 13 points with six rebounds and three blocks in almost 27 minutes.

“I was in the building when De’Andre Hunter came off the bench and had a breakout game,” Rice said of Hunter, now with the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Dunn reminds me a lot of Hunter, and you can tell he’s young. But when he grows into that body with that skill set, he’ll be giving people problems for a long, long time.”

The Cavaliers open Atlantic Coast Conference play against Florida State, then host top-ranked Houston, which beat them 67-47 last season, a week later.

“A good schedule for sure and it tests you, it kind of shows you, win or lose, you see where you’ve got some holes,” Bennett said.

So far, the Cavaliers have been able to fill them all.

No. 4 Arizona turning heads early in the season

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David Cruz/USA TODAY Sports
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TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd knew there was talent on his roster. He wasn’t exactly sure how good the team would be.

The former longtime Gonzaga assistant had a similar view of last year’s team and that one turned out to be pretty good, running all the way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

This year’s team could end up being even better.

Buoyed by transfers and improved returning players, Arizona has rolled through the early part of its schedule, climbing to No. 4 in this week’s AP Top 25 after winning the Maui Invitational.

“I learned that we’re good,” Lloyd said. “We’re tough. We’re gritty. I think there’s going to be some great things for us to really double down on and some things to show our guys where we went the wrong way.”

Lloyd had a superb first season in the desert, earning coach of the year honors last season with a team that lost three players to the NBA.

The Wildcats (6-0) had to replace three NBA players again this season. Again, they made a seamless transition.

Improvement on the part of the returning players has been a big part of it.

Oumar Ballo, considered a project as a freshman at Gonzaga, has transformed into one of the nation’s best big men. The 7-foot, 260-pound center from Mali has vastly improved his footwork and developed patience in the post, setting himself up for good shots instead of trying to bull his way to the basket.

Ballo is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 76.7% from the field, fourth-best nationally. He was named Maui Invitational MVP after finishing with 30 points and 13 rebounds against No. 7 Creighton in the title game.

Not bad for a player who averaged 2.5 points and 6.3 minutes per game two years ago at Gonzaga.

“When he struggled, I still believed in him,” Lloyd said. “I didn’t need for him to be instantly successful for me to reaffirm my belief in him. When he struggled, we continued to love him and work with him and then he continued to hang in there and I think it is a great story.”

Fellow big man Azuolas Tubelis has made a few strides of his own, adding strength and toughness to his athletic, fluid game. The 6-10 forward leads Arizona with 19.3 points per game while grabbing 8.0 rebounds.

Fiery point guard Kerr Kriisa has rounded into a reliable floor leader, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 51% from the 3-point arc.

“I don’t pay attention to the antics because they don’t mean anything to me,” Lloyd said. “I know maybe that draws attention to him from other people but when it comes to just pure basketball, I mean he is doing a good job and I think he is really showing something.”

So is Courtney Ramey.

The Texas transfer has given the Wildcats a huge boost in his first season in Tucson, providing hounding defense, leadership and another scoring option. He’s averaging 16 points per game and has hit 10 of 16 from 3-point range so far this season.

Campbell transfer Cedric Henderson Jr. has provided an athletic lift off the bench and 7-foot Estonian Henri Veesaar has given Arizona solid minutes.

The mix of new and old has helped Arizona lead the nation with 97.5 points a game and rank second with 21.8 assists per game. The Wildcats climbed 10 spots in this week’s poll after wins over Cincinnati, No. 24 San Diego State and Creighton.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play Thursday at Utah.

“It was good to get the recognition, but we’re not satisfied,” Ramey said. “Our ultimate goal is to be No. 1 at the end of the season and be the final two teams playing, so I think the regular season matters but it’s not the ultimate goal for us.”

The Wildcats are certainly off to a good start.