Previewing your college hoops weekend

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Game of the Weekend: Sat. 1:30 pm: No. 16 Mississippi State @ No. 13 Florida

At the end of the day, the SEC is Kentucky and every body else. That’s not an insult directed at the rest of the league, the Wildcats are just that good. The battle for second place is where the intrigue is going to come into play and, at times, there have been four teams that have looked like they deserved that title. Mississippi State are two of them.

This is an interesting game for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, Florida is at their best when they play inside-out, getting Patric Young touches and allowing him to create opportunities for his talented perimeter players by drawing attention from the defense. But Young is playing on a bad ankle, one that has forced him to come off of the bench, and Mississippi State has one of the best front lines in the country. Arnett Moultrie has a legitimate shot to win SEC player of the year and Wendell Lewis and Renardo Sidney are both capable of posting double-doubles.

But the Gators will have the advantage in the back court. If they go four guards, they should be able to neutralize that size advantage by forcing MSU’s bigs — who aren’t the best defenders to begin with — to come out of defend on the perimeter. Dee Bost has been terrific defensively this year, but can Rodney Hood stay in front of a Mike Rosario or a Kenny Boynton?

I think that Florida pulls this game out. Mississippi State is inconsistent and will be playing on the road and I just think the mismatches end up benefitting Florida more than they do the Bulldogs.

Sat. 1:00 pm: West Virginia @ No. 4 Syracuse: I’m not sure anyone knows who the second best team in the Big East is. Some days, it looks like Georgetown. Others, it looks like UConn or Cincinnati. At one point, the Mountaineers looked like they were that team. And, at times, they probably still can be. But right now, the only place they are getting consistency from is Kevin Jones, who is probably the Big East’s player of the year at this point. Truck Bryant alternates between great and bad, Deniz Kilicli looks like he has the basketball IQ of a river otter and the rest of that team are freshmen. Which ‘Eers team shows up? Perhaps the bigger question, however, is whether or not Fab Melo plays.

Sat. 1:00 pm: Texas @ No. 7 Baylor: Baylor headed into last week with an undefeated record and a chance to solidify themselves, but that backfired. They got drilled by Kansas in the Phog and lost to Missouri at home. Texas is in the midst of that stretch right now, as they have Baylor and Missouri back to back. The Longhorns have dug themselves a bit of a hole, as they have lost four of their first seven Big 12 games. This is the kind of game they have to get if they want a shot at making the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Middle Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt: There may not be a team in the country flying as far under the radar as Middle Tennessee State is right now. They are currently sitting at 20-2 overall with wins over Ole Miss, Belmont and UCLA. The Blue Raiders can play. But Vanderbilt has slowly turned into the team that they have the potential to be. The biggest change? On the defensive end, where the addition of Festus Ezeli has and completely changed the complexion of this group. But if they overlook MTSU, they will get upset.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Washington @ Arizona: Washington is starting to look like a team that could take control of the Pac-12. They certainly have the talent to. The issue with Washington has been consistency this season, especially on the road. Will they show up for this game? You’d think with the way that these two programs have performed over the last decade or so would make this into a bit of a rivalry game, one that the Huskies will be motivated for.

Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 21 Virginia @ North Carolina State: Florida State may have struggled early in the season, but after a blowout win over North Carolina and a win at Duke, its pretty safe to say that they are the third best team in the ACC. After that? The answer may like in the winner of this game. NC State, who currently sits at 4-2 in the league, got embarrassed by UNC on Thursday night and could really use a win. But UVA could as well. They needed a late run at home to knock off BC and bounce back from a loss at Virginia Tech.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 20 St. Mary’s @ BYU: St. Mary’s looks like they are ready to take control of the WCC regular season race. They are now more than halfway through league play and own a 9-0 record, winning the first matchup with both Gonzaga and BYU. But both of those games took place in Moraga, and while they were fairly dominating victories, its tough to put too much stock in them until the Gaels prove their ability on the road. They made a bit of a statement on Thursday night at Loyola, but the nation will take notice with a win over BYU.

Sat. 9:00 pm: Marshall @ Memphis: Memphis caught a break on Thursday. During an incident in the Tiger’s win over Rice on Wednesday, both Will Barton and Tarik Black left the bench and were subsequently tossed from the game. There was some speculation that they would get suspended for this game, but Marshall had no such luck. They also didn’t have any luck this week, as they lost at home to UAB and followed that up by booting Justin Coleman, a former top 50 recruit, off of the team. The Thundering Herd are currently sitting at 4-2 in the league, a game behind Memphis. Falling two games off the pace would be a tough thing to recover from.

Sun. 1:00 pm: No. 22 Michigan @ No. 3 Ohio State: This is the second best game of the weekend, and it also happens to be the most interesting matchup. For starters, the Wolverines are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Jared Sullinger. As good as Michigan is, they aren’t exactly loaded in their front court, particularly if Jon Horford doesn’t play. That’s not the only interesting matchup, however. Trey Burke has been arguably the biggest surprise freshman in the country, but he will be going up against one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Aaron Craft. Throw in Michigan’s complicated and unique offensive attack and the quality of Ohio State’s defense (the best in the country), and this has all the making of a classic. Or a blowout.

Sun. 8:30 pm: Stanford @ Cal: The top of the Pac-12 is a disaster. Four teams are tied for first place at 6-2, including Cal, who many believe is the favorite to win the league. Stanford is currently sitting tied for second place at 5-3, but they’ve lost two in a row, both of which came on the road. With the way that the Pac-12 is starting to stack up, every game is going to matter if these teams end up wanting a shot at a league title or an at-large bid.

Who’s getting upset?: Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 5 Kansas @ Iowa State

Call me crazy. Go ahead. Do it. You might be right. Thomas Robinson is the best player in the country. Tyshawn Taylor is in the midst of one of those stretches that make Kansas fans believe he can be one of the best point guards in the country. Jeff Withey is blocking everything in sight. And in the process, the Jayhawks have not only climbed to the top of the Big 12 (a two game lead over both Baylor and Missouri), but to the top five of the national rankings. They are rightfully considered one of the best teams in the country.

But Iowa State has plenty of talent on their roster. As much of a matchup problem as Robinson is going to be for the Cyclones, Royce White is going to cause just as many problems for the Jayhawks. At 6’8″, 270 lb, he leads Fred Hoiberg’s team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks and can play power forward and the point. The key, however, isn’t going to be White. Its going to be Chris Babb, Chris Allen and Scott Christopherson. If they are hitting their threes, the Cyclones have a real chance.

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 18 Marquette @ Villanova: The struggles of the Wildcats have been well documented, but they have been playing much better of late. They hung tough at Cincinnati and at Louisville. They knocked off Seton Hall and St. John’s as well. Over the last four games, Maalik Wayns has turned into exactly the kind of player we expected him to be when he enrolled. The Golden Eagles have gotten back on track after a rough patch in the middle of the season, but they also have a tendency to get off to slow starts. We all know how tough it is to win on the road in league play.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 1 Kentucky @ LSU: Yeah, I know. This is a stretch. But Kentucky has a habit of starting slow on the road. LSU, on the other hand, is a tough team to beat at home. They knocked off Marquette. They beat Ole Miss by 26. They beat Auburn (I know) in overtime (trust me, I know). The Tigers are a tough, gritty defensive team with a talented big man in Justin Hamilton. If the Wildcats come out half asleep again, the Tigers might be able to steal one.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 10 Georgetown @ Pitt: Pitt has had a very, very bad start to Big East play. That’s not a secret. But what also isn’t a secret is that they had been playing without Tray Woodall. Well, guess who is back? After struggling in his first game back against Louisville, Woodall had 17 points, nine assists, went 4-4 from three and committed just one turnover in Pitt’s first win in the league against Providence. Is that what the Panthers needed to jump start their season?

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 12 San Diego State @ Colorado State: San Diego State is the best team in the Mountain West. They have a loaded perimeter attack and enough interior presence to hold their own. But Colorado State is a tough team. Where the Rams struggle, however, is on the road. At home, they have been tough. With the amount of travel that the Aztecs have logged this week, might those tired legs and hotel stays be catching up to them?

Mid-major matchup of the Weekend: Fri. 9:00 pm: Boston U. @ Stony Brook

The America East may be way on the national radar, but that doesn’t mean that a game between the two teams tied for first place is irrelevant. After dropping their opener to Vermont, BU has won seven straight games, including a 61-55 win over the Seawolves at home two weeks ago. The loss to BU is the only one that Stony Brook has suffered in league play, however. Keep an eye on Darryl Partin, who is averaging 19.8 ppg.

Fri. 7:00 pm: Fairfield @ Iona: Coming into the season, Fairfield and Iona were the two overwhelming favorites in the MAAC, but their seasons have gone in completely different directions. After a disappointing non-conference schedule, the Stags lost three straight games to start out league play. Iona? If they were capable of protecting an 18 point lead, they would be sitting at 9-0 in the conference with a two game lead on the pack. The truth of the matter is that these two teams have the most talent in the conference, which means that this should be quite an entertaining game.

Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 23 Harvard @ Yale: This game features one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend. Yale big man Greg Mangano has NBA aspirations and put up 26 points and 15 boards against Patric Young of Florida. But Harvard may have the best front line in the Ivy League with Keith Wright and Kyle Casey. Yale came into this season with a chip on their shoulder with everyone talking about Harvard and Princeton. Now is a chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Sat. 11:00 am: Ohio @ Ball State: If anyone can figure out what is going on in the MAC, feel free to share it with me. After starting the season out on fire, Ohio lost three of four in the middle of the year. They’ve bounced back with three straight wins, but still sit a game behind Akron in the eastern division. They happen to have the same record as Ball State, who is tied for first in the west.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Valparaiso @ Milwaukee: There are four teams sitting within a game at the top of the Horizon League, and these are two of them. The Panthers are at the end of the toughest portion of their schedule, going 1-2 against Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Butler. Valpo, on the other hand, lost their last game at Green Bay, dropping them a game off the pace. Depending on what happens in the Cleveland State game, the loser of this game could end up two games behind first place in the league standings.

Sat. 4:00 pm: VCU @ Georgia State: Georgia State started off league play strong, but they have trailed off of late, losing three of their last four games. VCU came into the season as one of the league favorites, and they have performed that way, sitting at 8-2 in conference play and just one game of the pace set by George Mason. One of those losses came to Georgia State in Richmond. Revenge?

Sat. 4:30 pm: Campbell @ UNC-Asheville: If you haven’t had a chance to see UNC-Asheville play, its worth it. With JP Primm and Matt Dickey, they have one of the most dynamic back courts at the mid-major level. Those two have carried the Bulldogs to first place in the Big South, but Campbell is in the mix. They are led by 6’4″ guard Darren White, a James Madison transfer that is averaging 18.6 ppg, but the guy you have to tune in to see is Eric Griffin, a high-flying, 6’8″ forward capable of some spectacular things on a basketball court.

Sat. 7:05 pm: Cleveland State @ Youngstown State: The Horizon is as muddled as any league in the country. How muddled? Cleveland State is currently sitting in first place in the league. Youngstown State is a game behind them and all alone in fourth place. The Vikings, who are my pick to win the league, won the first matchup between these two at Youngstown State. Will the Penguins get their revenge?

Sat. 8:00 pm: Denver @ Arkansas-Little Rock: Middle Tennessee State has a stranglehold on the eastern division of the Sun Belt, but the western division is wide open. Four of the six teams are within a game of first place. And who is in first place? Denver and UALR. The Pioneers had a strong non-conference schedule, including a win over St. Mary’s, while the Trojans struggled through the early part of the season. That all can be erased, however, with a strong showing in league play.

No. 22 Tennessee beats No. 3 Kansas 64-50 for Atlantis title

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Tennessee’s players proved to be determined defenders and relentless rebounders, along with having the kind of toughness to ensure the reigning national champions would have little chance to get comfortable.

It was all enough to give the 22nd-ranked Volunteers a title of their own, along with the blueprint that coach Rick Barnes hopes they follow the rest of the year.

Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points while Tennessee locked down on third-ranked Kansas in a 64-50 win Friday night in the championship game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, snapping the Jayhawks’ 17-game winning streak.

Vescovi hit five 3-pointers as the tournament’s most valuable player for the Volunteers (5-1), who dominated the glass, overcame their own turnover troubles and made the Jayhawks work for clean looks. And for the third time in as many days, Tennessee won without leading scorer Josiah-Jordan James (knee soreness).

Perhaps that’s why reserve guard Zakai Zeigler, who had 14 points and four steals, showed up wearing sunglasses to the postgame news conference after the Volunteers had danced and hollered through the on-court trophy ceremony.

“We know if you can’t stop the man in front of you, then you’ll have no shot at winning the game,” Zeigler said, adding: “We just like to play defense, and we just happen to be good at it.”

The Vols held the Jayhawks to 32.1% shooting, bothering them with size and length around the rim. They also took the ball right at the Jayhawks with 5-foot-9 Zeigler leading the way, down to him refusing to let go of a jump ball and trading words with 6-8 forward Jalen Wilson.

Zeigler’s night included a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock at the 7-minute mark to push Tennessee’s lead to 56-38. He followed with another big one from the right wing with 4:42 left after Kansas had closed within 11.

Wilson and Joseph Yesefu each scored 14 points to lead the Jayhawks (6-1), who shot 28.6% in the first half and never warmed up. They made 5 of 21 3-pointers in what was an all-around rough night, from losing starting guard Dajuan Harris to fouls with 9 minutes left to failing to keep the Vols off the glass (45-27).

“We played a team tonight that was older and more mature and obviously played stronger and tougher,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t handle the situation near as well as what I would hope a poised team would.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a win over Butler, then grinded through an overtime win against Southern California in Thursday’s semifinals. This time, Tennessee played in front the entire way en route to its first title in three tries at the Atlantis resort.

“I think the main thing from the whole week was stay together through tough times, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Vescovi said.

Kansas: The Jayhawks didn’t have an easy first two days in the Bahamas. First came a battle to the final minutes with North Carolina State. Then came Thursday’s overtime win against Wisconsin on Bobby Pettiford Jr.’s last-second putback. But they never looked in any type of offensive flow this time with their smaller lineup.

“I feel like if we were able to get them out of place and not just have them standing there, waiting to contest a layup, that could’ve gave us some better chances at finishing at the rim,” Wilson said.

STRONG RUN

Tennessee held its three Atlantis opponents to 36.9% shooting and 15 of 59 (25.4%) from 3-point range. The Volunteers also averaged a +9 rebounding margin, ending with having Jonas Aidoo (nine) leading five players snagging at least six rebounds against Kansas.

“You can be a good defensive team but if you can’t be a great one if you give them second and third shots,” Barnes said.

SIDELINED

Beyond Harris’ foul trouble, the Jayhawks played most of the way without Pettiford, who exited midway through the first half grabbing at his right leg.

Afterward, Self said he would be out “for a while” with a hamstring strain.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers return home to host McNeese State on Wednesday.

Kansas: The Jayhawks host Texas Southern on Monday.

BYU erases 23-point deficit, beats Dayton in overtime 79-75

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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NASSAU, Bahamas – Gideon George scored 21 points and combined with Jaxson Robinson and Rudi Williams for BYU’s 15 overtime points as the Cougars came back from a 23-point deficit to beat Dayton 79-75 in overtime Friday.

BYU’s victory came in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

George’s 3-pointer with 2:19 left in regulation gave BYU (4-3) its first lead after Dayton scored the first 10 points of the game and led 32-9 with six minutes left in the first half.

Mike Sharavjamts’ basket gave the lead back to Dayton but George’s free throw with a minute left sent the game into overtime.

Dayton got the first points in overtime but Robinson’s 3-pointer gave BYU the lead for good halfway through the extra period.

Robinson had 14 points, Dallin Hall 12 and Williams 11 to join George in double figures for BYU.

DaRon Holmes II scored 21 points and Sharavjamts 15 for Dayton (3-4). The Flyers lost starting guards Kobe Elvis and Malachi Smith to lower-body injuries in the second half, Smith with with just seconds left in regulation.

Portland beats Villanova 83-71 in Phil Knight Invitational

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Moses Wood scored 16 points and Portland beat Villanova 83-71 on Friday in the Phil Knight Invitational.

Villanova (2-4) has lost three straight games, including an overtime loss to Iowa State on Thursday to drop below .500 for the first time since March 7, 2012.

Vasilije Vucinic’s layup with 4:16 remaining in the first half gave Portland the lead for good. The Pilots had an eight-point lead at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half.

Wood added six rebounds and three blocks for the Pilots (5-3). Tyler Robertson scored 15 points while shooting 6 for 12 (1 for 5 from 3-point range) and added seven rebounds and eight assists. Kristian Sjolund recorded 14 points and shot 5 for 7 (2 for 3 from 3-point range).

Caleb Daniels finished with 18 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats. Villanova also got 14 points from Jordan Longino. Brandon Slater had 11 points.

Caleb Grill, Iowa State topples No. 1 North Carolina 70-65

Syndication: The Des Moines Register
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Caleb Grill has followed T.J. Otzelberger from South Dakota State to UNLV and now back to Iowa State hoping the pair could share a moment like they did Friday.

Taking down the No. 1 team in the country was another bookmark moment in a long journey for the pair.

“I’m actually really enjoying sitting next to him from this moment right now just thinking about how long we’ve known each other and how cool this really was,” Otzelberger said.

Grill hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points and Iowa State rallied in the final five minutes to stun No. 1 North Carolina 70-65 in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational.

Iowa State (5-0) picked up just its third win over a team ranked No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Cyclones are 3-22 against No. 1 teams, with the other wins coming against Kansas in 1957 and Oklahoma in 2016.

The Cyclones can now add North Carolina (5-1) to the list.

“I was just staying the course of the game. I never really thought about it and the game just kind of came to me,” Grill said.

Grill was averaging 7.3 points and had made just 4 of 24 3-point attempts for the season entering Friday. But he couldn’t be stopped from beyond the arc, hitting a pair of big 3s to spark Iowa State’s late rally. His deep fadeaway jumper just inside the 3-point line with 1:40 left gave Iowa State a 63-61 lead and the Cyclones did just enough at the free throw line in the final minute to close out the upset victory.

Grill’s previous career high was 27 points while playing for UNLV in the 2020-21 season against Alabama. He also hit seven 3-pointers in that game.

Grill originally signed with South Dakota State when Otzelberger was the coach there. He was released from his commitment when Otzelberger took the head job at UNLV and started his career at Iowa State before deciding to join his coach in Las Vegas.

When Otzelberger returned to Ames, Grill followed again.

“Just having him be the first person that really had belief in me, it’s just really special what he’s done for me and my family and everything we’ve done,” Grill said.

Jaren Holmes added 22 points and the Cyclones withstood off shooting games from Aljaz Kunc and Gabe Kalscheur, who combined for three points and missed all eight of their shot attempts. Both were averaging double figures scoring for Iowa State.

RJ Davis led North Carolina with 15 points, Armando Bacot added 14 and Caleb Love scored 12. But the Tar Heels will lament a series of mistakes in the closing minutes that allowed Iowa State to rally.

“We had wide open threes. We were able to get to the basket. We were able to get whatever we wanted, we just didn’t make those shots,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said.

North Carolina led 57-49 after Leaky Black’s layup with 5:43 left, but missed four of its final six shots and had four turnovers during that span.

“We turned the ball over a couple of times and you just can’t do that in late-game situations,” Davis said. “You have to be sound and discipline and you have to do that on both ends of the floor and we just didn’t do it.”

NO. 1 LOSSES

North Carolina lost as the No. 1 team in the country for the first time since Nov. 21, 2015 when it lost 71-67 at Northern Iowa. The Tar Heels also lost as No. 1 to UNLV in 2011 at a Thanksgiving tournament.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Pete Nance wasn’t able to contribute in the same way he did in Thursday’s opening round. Nance, who tied his career high with 28 points against Portland, didn’t score for the first 27 minutes and finished with seven points.

Iowa State: The Cyclones were playing a No. 1 team from outside their conference for the first time since 1999 when they faced Cincinnati in the championship game of the Big Island Invitational.

UP NEXT

Iowa State will face either No. 18 Alabama or No. 20 UConn in the championship game while the Tar Heels will face the loser for third place.

No. 8 Duke locks down late, holds off Xavier 71-64

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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PORTLAND, Ore. – After a shaky offensive performance in the opening round of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament, Duke coach Jon Scheyer wanted to see Jeremy Roach get back to playing more instinctively, especially at the offensive end of the floor.

Roach responded with a season-high 21 points, Mark Mitchell added 16 and No. 8 Duke withstood Xavier’s second-half comeback for a 71-64 win on Friday.

The Blue Devils (6-1) advanced to the championship game thanks to the play of their standout guard and another strong defensive effort. Roach came one point shy of matching his career high, and the Blue Devils rebounded after an unexpectedly tight victory over Oregon State in the opening round of the event.

Roach was 3 of 14 shooting against Oregon State as the Blue Devils scored a season-low 54 points. He made 9 of 15 shots and had five assists against Xavier.

“There’s a lot that falls on your shoulders so you can end up overthinking it a little bit,” Scheyer said. “The thing that I love for him today is he just was him. And when he’s that way, he is to me the best guard in the country.”

The Musketeers (4-2) were held to two points over the final five minutes and missed their last four shot attempts. Souley Boum scored 23 points and Adam Kunkel had 13. Kunkel didn’t play the last 11 minutes after taking a hard fall committing a foul.

Xavier leading scorer Jack Nudge was 1 of 13 shooting and finished with five points.

“Jack played a great effort. He really did. He was ready for the game. He just had one of those nights where the ball didn’t go in the basket,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said.

At the same time, Miller was disappointed in what he called the “fracturing” he saw from his team.

“There were spurts and segments of the game where I thought we reflected our style, how we’re trying to play, whether it be defense and offense. But there were way too many segments of the game, if not most of the game, where we were at times in our own way,” Miller said.

Mitchell scored seven points in the opening minutes of the second half, including a pair of layups, and he hit a 3-pointer from the wing that gave Duke a 49-36 lead, its largest of the game.

That’s when Xavier’s comeback started. The Musketeers pulled within three points on several occasions, but Duke answered each time. Desmond Claude’s driving layup pulled Xavier within 63-60 with 5:51 left, but Ryan Young scored for Duke and Xavier didn’t make another basket.

Roach’s jumper with 2:40 left pushed Duke’s lead to 69-62.

“We like to play inside out but I mean, when guys are hitting shots it just opens up for everybody else,” Roach said. “Just try to continue to be consistent hitting shots and I think we’ll be fine.”

Kyle Filipowski had 12 points and was not Duke’s leading scorer for the first time in five games.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: The Blue Devils’ dominance on the backboards finally came to an end. Duke had outrebounded each of its first six opponents by double figures, the longest such stretch in school history. But Xavier’s interior size limited Duke to a 33-32 advantage on the glass. The Blue Devils had 12 second-chance points.

Xavier: The Musketeers played an Atlantic Coast Conference team for the first time since beating Virginia Tech in last year’s NIT Season Tip-Off. Xavier dropped to 0-2 against ranked opponents this season, having lost to Indiana last week. The Musketeers will play another ranked foe in Sunday’s third-place game.

UP NEXT

Duke will face the Gonzaga-Purdue winner in the championship game on Sunday, while Xavier will play the loser.