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Siyani Chambers back at Harvard after a year as a ‘manny’

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, Harvard’s Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, foresaw a more patient Siyani Chambers this season.

That isn’t some prophetic prediction. That virtue is required when recovering from an ACL tear, an injury that sidelined Chambers for all of last year.

But Walton says that because, for nine months, he witnessed Chambers’ patience on display inside his own household.

Due to an unusual set of circumstances – an ACL tear, which happened at his summer internship of all places, and an archaic Ivy League rule – led Chambers to become a nanny for Walton’s three children.

In the summer of 2015, Chambers was interning at adidas in Portland. While playing pickup, his left knee gave out. In September, Harvard officially announced that Chambers had torn his ACL and would subsequently take a leave of absence from the school.

Withdrawing from the university was the only option to preserve his final year of eligibility with the Crimson. There is no redshirting in the Ivy League. Staying in school and going to class burns a year of Ivy League eligibility whether or not that student is actually playing in games or even on a team. It’s the Ancient Eight’s way of saying, “academics over athletics.” Student-athletes can apply for a fifth year, but only if it’s based on academic reasons.

Players like Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola and Harvard’s Patrick Steeves elected to stay in school, earning an Ivy League education before becoming a graduate transfer – and becoming eligible immediately – at a different school in another conference. Both ended up transferring to George Washington.

But Chambers’ decision to remove himself from school isn’t uncommon. After suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot in October of 2014, Columbia’s leading scorer, Alex Rosenberg, removed himself from school before returning for his final season the following fall. Harvard’s Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were forced to take the same route in 2012 when they were linked to a widespread cheating scandal. They both re-enrolled the next year. Yale’s Makai Mason, whose broken foot will likely keep him out this season, is the latest Ivy League star that has to make this decision.

It’s a loophole, but not one many would like to exploit.

“It was definitely a tough decision,” Chambers said. “I didn’t want to take a year off from school and be away from my friends and teammates, guys who’ve I been with this whole time. Evan [Cummings], Patrick [Steeves], Agunwa [Okolie].”

“I wanted to finish out my career with them.”

The leave of absence meant Chambers couldn’t be on campus. He returned to his home in Golden Valley, Minnesota, for the fall semester as he began his rehabilitation. The plan was always to return to Cambridge in January. Chambers’ younger brother, Kamali, was in his freshman season at Boston University, and he wanted to be nearby to support him. The other reason was obvious: to be as close to the team as the NCAA rules would allow him to be.

But with the dorms off limits, where would he live?


Jonathan Walton was preparing to go on sabbatical at University of Penn, where he would be doing academic research for a book about ethical readings of The Bible. This meant leaving his wife, Cecily, as the sole caretaker of their three children: 12-year-old twins Elijah and Zora, and 4-year-old Baldwin.

“When I was preparing to go on sabbatical, our previous nanny got another job,” Walton said. “It was about the same time Siyani got hurt. I was talking to him, and he was explaining to me that he had to go home. The only way he could stay he was to have a job. And of course, to find a job and find a place to live and pay rent in Cambridge is just unthinkable. He told me, ‘In a perfect world I can just stay here [on campus], but I can’t stay in the dorms.’ So I went home and had a conversation with my wife, Cecily, and I said, ‘Siyani needs a job. I wonder if he can help you out.’ And she said, ‘Great idea. Ask him to see if he’s interested.’

“I asked him, ‘Do you want to become a nanny?’ It was as simple as that. And he was like, ‘Sure. Absolutely.’”

And like that, arguably the most decorated player in Harvard basketball history became a “manny.”


Chambers and Walton both began their time with the Harvard basketball program in the fall of 2012. Chambers was a freshman point guard Amaker and his staff fervently pursued, and Walton, head of the Memorial Church, was beginning a stint as the faculty fellow for the team.

Just before the fall semester, Harvard was rocked by the academic scandal that Jay Harris, the Dean of Undergraduate Education, called, “unprecedented in its scope and magnitude.” Harvard announced that nearly half – 125 students in total – of the Introduction to Congress class from the previous spring was being investigated for a take-home final. They were suspected of cheating, or worse, plagiarizing answers on the exam.

Despite multiple teams being represented in the course, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, two stars from Amaker’s budding basketball program, seemed to grab all of the headlines. In all 70 students withdrew from school, including Casey and Curry.

Walton, who had hosted an annual season tip-off, in which he invited all the players into his home, decided to start ‘Basketball Sunday.’

“We bring in the men’s and women’s teams,” Walton said. “One of the reasons was for members of the larger community can get to know these kids as human beings and what kind of standup individuals they are and that these are just nice thoughtful kids. And that sort of came out of the negative attention that Harvard basketball received during that whole ‘cheating scandal’ that wasn’t.”

“Of course that was something that impacted a lot of teams, but because of the basketball team’s success, two basketball players were featured. It was something that really upset me because these kids were thrown out there.”

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22: Siyani Chambers #1 of the Harvard Crimson reacts in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Harvard’s Siyani Chambers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Who better than the affable Chambers to lead the integration of the basketball team into the wider Harvard community?

“He is a fan favorite,” Walton added. “But one of the reasons he’s a fan favorite isn’t just because he’s fast as lightning. One of the reasons he’s a fan favorite is because everyone knows him as that nice, smiling kid. He’s always talking to children. You can stop and hold a conversation with him.”

That engagement he had with fellow students, faculty and children is why Chambers was invited into Walton’s home this past year.


Chambers moved on the third floor of the Waltons’ on-campus residence. His daily duties involved getting the children ready for school, shuttling Elijah to theatre practice and Zora to track practice. He’d go out and pick up dinner (“He can’t cook a lick,” Walton says), and help the kids with homework. He also became versed with PAW Patrol, a Nickelodeon cartoon about rescue dogs.

“We often didn’t know who was having more fun with all the PAW Patrol toys, whether it was Siyani or Baldwin,” Walton said.

“I think every day was funny and entertaining in its own way,” Chambers added. “I’m really glad I had that opportunity.”

With Elijah, Zora and Baldwin in school most of the day, it allowed for Chambers to rehab, either on his own or at Massachusetts General Hospital.

While he couldn’t be with the team, he could easily be spotted behind the bench during homes games at Lavietes Pavilion.

“He handled it beautifully,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “Didn’t surprise me at all.”

“As you can imagine our focus was geared toward our guys, as long as we knew Siyani was in a good place.”

With no games or practices to participate in, Chambers’ competitiveness was reserved for Walton Family game night, whether it they were playing Monopoly and Pictionary.

“He found himself yelling and screaming and throwing pieces when he was losing,” Walton said. “I got a sense of what his teammates felt like.”

“Siyani would stand up and be like, ‘Boy what’s wrong with you?’ He was hyper-competitive and on the other hand he was hyper-compassionate, especially with my youngest son. I think it helped his temperament and patience.”


Chambers was fully cleared over the summer, but naturally, it took almost two additional months for him to feel comfortable with his surgically repaired knee.

After the graduation of Wesley Saunders and season-ending injury suffered by Chambers, the Crimson fell to a 14-16 (6-8) record, good for a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League last season. Harvard returns all-Ivy League forward Zena Edosomwan, as well as Corey Johnson. Amaker also brought in a freshman class that includes three players in the Rivals Top 150.

Princeton was voted as the preseason favorite, but Harvard is certainly a contender, as is defending champion Yale despite the loss of Makai Mason. This March, Chambers could cap his career as the most decorated player in program history. He could potentially appear in four NCAA Tournaments and finish top-10 in scoring and top-5 in assists and steals.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22: Head coach Tommy Amaker talks to Siyani Chambers #1 of the Harvard Crimson in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker and Siyani Chambers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

“I’ve always said this about him, he’ll go down as arguably the most important player that we’ve ever had,” Amaker said. “He’s always been the most important player on our team. He hasn’t always been the best player. But there’s never been anyone as important since he’s been here with the role he plays, the position he plays, the production he’s given.”

“He’s the smartest player I’ve been around since Shane Battier.”

In a losing effort on Friday night against Stanford, in a season-opener played in Shanghai, Chambers showed no real rust, scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds and recording four assists (committing zero turnovers).

This year’s roster features almost double the freshmen and sophomores as it does upperclassmen. He’s dealing with a different kind of youth this year.

There would be times in the Walton household where Chambers would look at Elijah, Zora and Baldwin and reminisce about what he was like at their ages. And it’s possible that when he looks at a freshman like Bryce Aiken or a sophomore like Corey Johnson, he’s reminded of what he was like his first few years in college.

“When you’re a freshman or a sophomore, you’re just trying to ‘Go, go, go,’” Chambers said. “But now as a senior, I just want to take in my last year and enjoy every minute of it.”

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Some changes to the top ten

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A new college basketball top 25 is now live.

We talked about this a bit on Friday’s podcast, but I want to put it into print form.

One of the narratives of this season is that there are no great teams in college basketball. It was one of the biggest storylines back in November and December as so many of the teams that we thought would be really good this season went through struggles, and the fact that we rolled through seven No. 1 teams in the AP poll only drove that point home.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Now that we’re in mid-February, things have started to shake themselves out, and what we’ve learned is that early in the season we just didn’t actually know who the best teams in the sport were. Now that we do, there are some teams that have started to gain separation on the field. It’s pretty clear that Baylor, Gonzaga, Kansas and San Diego State are the heavy favorites to earn the four No. 1 seeds, and that point is driven home by the fact that the only loss any of those teams have suffered since Christmas came when Kansas played Baylor. Duke is rolling. Maryland is rolling. Dayton is rolling. Up until this past week, Louisville and Auburn were rolling, too.

Put it all together, and as of today, it’s pretty clear who the best teams in the country are, and it’s made doing a top 25 every week much easier than it has been in the past. I haven’t had to think all that hard about the top ten in about six weeks. I will say, that has been nice. Doing a top 25 every week can be a drag.

Having said all that, while there are some great teams in the context of this season, I don’t think that there are any teams here that we are going to be talking about as one of the best college basketball teams of *enter arbitrary cut-off point here.*

Part of the reason I say that is the lack of NBA talent on these rosters. Take, for example, the 2018 Villanova team that won the title. For my money, they are the best college basketball team that I have seen since I started doing this, and four of the five guys that started on that team are now starting in the NBA. That doesn’t include Omari Spellman, either.

Or how about this: Compare this Gonzaga team to last year’s Gonzaga team. Last year, they had two first round picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, a top 40 pick in Zach Norvell and an All-American point guard in Josh Perkins. All of them were upperclassmen. This year’s team is really good, but their best NBA prospect — Killian Tillie — can’t stay healthy and their second-best NBA prospect — Joel Ayayi — was enough of a question mark entering the season that Mark Few felt the need to go out and recruit two grad transfers to provide insurance at his position.

Don’t get me wrong, this Gonzaga team is very, very good.

And when compared to the rest of the country this year, we can probably call them great. The same can be said about Baylor, and Kansas, and maybe even San Diego State.

But as much fun as they have been to watch this season, putting them in the same conversation as the great teams from past season is a step too far.

Anyway, here is the rest of the NBC Sports college basketball top 25.



NBC SPORTS COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOP 25

1. BAYLOR (23-1, Last Week: 1)
2. GONZAGA (26-1, 2)
3. KANSAS (22-3, 3)
4. DUKE (22-3, 5)
5. SAN DIEGO STATE (26-0, 7)
6. DAYTON (23-2, 8)
7. MARYLAND (21-4, 10)
8. FLORIDA STATE (21-4, 6)
9. PENN STATE (20-5, 19)
10. LOUISVILLE (21-5, 4)
11. AUBURN (22-3, 11)
12. KENTUCKY (20-5, 12)
13. OREGON (20-6, 13)
14. SETON HALL (18-7, 9)
15. VILLANOVA (19-6, 15)
16. CREIGHTON (20-6, 21)
17. WEST VIRGINIA (18-7, 14)
18. IOWA (18-8, 16)
19. COLORADO (20-6, 20)
20. MICHIGAN (16-9, 24)
21. HOUSTON (20-6, 17)
22. ILLINOIS (16-9, 18)
23. MARUQETTE (17-7, 23)
24. BYU (21-7, NR)
25. OHIO STATE (17-8, NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 24 BYU, No. 24 Michigan
DROPPED OUT: No. 22 LSU, No. 25 Michigan State

Saturday’s Things To Know: Louisville’s a mess, Seton Hall’s messier, Maryland rallies, Baylor rolls

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It was yet another wild Saturday in college basketball, complete with crazy comebacks, top ten upsets and a career-high from the best defender on Kansas.

Here is everything you need to know from a fun day of college hoops.

1. LOUISVILLE IS A TOTAL MESS RIGHT NOW

No. 5 Louisville eliminated any and all chance that they might end up being a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday this week. After suffering what we all thought was going to be their worst loss of the season on Wednesday, losing at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals came out on Saturday and … made five first half field goals at Clemson?

Louisville trailed 31-14 at the break. They shot 15.6 percent in the first half. They were down by as many as 21 points to a team that entered the afternoon 12-12 on the season. Both Josh Pastner and Brad Brownell entered this week on the hot seat, and if they do keep their jobs this season, one of the reasons why will be that they beat Louisville this year. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

The crux of the issue seems to be Jordan Nwora, who was benched at the start of Saturday’s game after being benched down the stretch on Wednesday. He did not score his first points until late in the second half, when the game was already out of reach, and is now 2-for-11 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three in the last two games. He’s scored a total of seven points during that stretch.

So much for that All-American season.

“I don’t have all the answers right now,” head coach Chris Mack. “I just don’t. It’s my job. We’ll watch film. I’m going to have a lot of one-on-one conversations, and we’ll figure out a way to be better against Syracuse on Wednesday.

“It looks like we’re not playing for anything. Really frustrating. But it’s my job to figure it out, and I’ve failed so far.”

The fact of the matter is that this is not a talent issue for Louisville. It’s not a coaching problem, it’s not a problem with their scheme, or their personnel, or anything of the sort. The Cardinals has all the pieces that they need to get this thing right. I’m not ready to sell on them just yet.

2. SETON HALL IS, TOO

The only team in the country that had a worse Saturday that Louisville was No. 10 Seton Hall. The Pirates lost their second straight game on Saturday, falling behind by 25 points in the first half at Providence before rallying to cut the lead to two in a 74-71 loss.

Seton Hall lost at home to Creighton on Wednesday — a game where they gave up 87 points — and pulled the same stunt at home against Xavier just two weeks ago, falling behind by 22 points in the first half before rallying and making the final score respectable.

The Pirates are still sitting in first place in the Big East standings, but they have to play at Marquette and Creighton and still host Butler and Villanova before the Big East tournament starts. A league title is certainly a possibility, but given how tough their remaining schedule is, I’m not sure they are even the odds on favorite.

That’s what makes this stretch so baffling.

Seton Hall is playing for a regular season title and three times in five games they aren’t even close to ready to play?

“We have some guys with bad attitudes right now to be perfectly honest with you,” Kevin Willard said in his postgame radio interview. “When you have a bad attitude and you’re pouting and complaining that you’re not playing enough time yet your team is 10-2, you have issues.

“It’s amazing to me that, when we lost to Xavier I saw a team that bounced back and was hungry to go to Georgetown and get it. When we lost to Creighton the other day and we played terrible (in practice), and I’m sitting in practice and I’m thinking, I’ve got a guy moody that doesn’t want to go through practice who hardly played. I have another guy who played 25 minutes that can’t make a shot and didn’ have a rebound. I have another guy that got embarrassed defensively.

“I will make sure of it, come in 20 minutes that there will be a very large correction . . . The bench is going to get shortened. Either you’re going to show up and play or you’re not. I’m really disappointed in a few guys who, either they regain their focus or I’ll just play six.”

Willard did not name the grumpy-gus, but it’s worth noting: Myles Cale was a starter last year and played just seven minutes against Providence. Ike Obiagu played just five. Anthony Nelson played just two. Draw your own conclusions.

3. BAYLOR IS THE BEST BECAUSE THEY CAN LOSE A KEY PIECE AND STILL ROLL

MaCio Teague is Baylor’s second-leading scorer at 14.4 points. He’s one of their better three-point shooters and the best guy on the roster not named Jared Butler at creating his own shot. He did not play on Saturday against the second-best defensive team in the country in West Virginia, and it did not matter.

No. 1 Baylor rolled to their 22nd consecutive win, knocking off the No. 14 Mountaineers, 70-59, in a game that they led by 28 points in the first half.

And that, more or less, sums up everything that you need to know about this Baylor team. They are good enough, and balanced enough, that they can lose their second-leading scorer, a critical piece to their offense, and not even miss a beat against one of the nation’s very best teams.

4. THERE’S NO REASON TO DOUBT MARYLAND ANYMORE

If you are still among the doubters that does not believe that Maryland is capable of getting to a Final Four and winning a national title, what else do the Terrapins need to prove?

On Saturday, Maryland went into the Breslin Center and knocked off Michigan State, 67-60. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half and used a 14-0 run over the course of the final three minutes of the game to escape with a win. They are now 11-3 in the Big Ten, a game in front of Penn State and three games in front of the rest of the field in first place in the conference, and sitting on an eight-game winning streak. During that streak, they have won at Illinois, at Indiana and, on Saturday, at Michigan State.

Jalen Smith has played like an All-American over the course of the last six weeks. Aaron Wiggins is starting to re-discover his shooting stroke. Darryl Morsell has done all of the little things. Most importantly, Anthony Cowan has continued to play the role of the closer. He scored the final 11 points for Maryland on Saturday, including banging home three threes in the final two minutes.

So tell me.

If you are still one of the people that doubts Maryland, why?

And short of actually getting to Atlanta, what can they do to prove it to you?

5. YOU’RE GONNA HAVE TO GUARD MARCUS GARRETT

Entering Saturday, Marcus Garrett hadn’t made a three since January 14th. He had shot just a single three in the month of February. In his last 14 games, he was 3-for-17 from three, combined.

On Saturday, Oklahoma decided to defend No. 3 Kansas by using whoever was “guarding” Garrett to double-team Udoka Azubuike.

Garrett responded by scoring a career-high 24 points, making six threes and handing out seven assists. The Jayhawks rolled, 87-70.

6. PATRICK EWING SHOULD BE THE BIG EAST COACH OF THE YEAR

I don’t think that there is any way that Ewing will win the National Coach of the Year award because one of Scott Drew, Brian Dutcher or Anthony Grant has that covered.

He should, however, win the award for Big East Coach of the Year. Think about everything that this Georgetown program has gone through this season. They had two players transfer out of the program in December, a decision that led to NBC Sports breaking the news that one of those two players had accusations of assault and harassment hanging over his head, and that two more members of the team — both of whom would later leave the program — were involved as well.

That’s when the injuries started. Mac McClung has missed five games — including Saturday’s visit to DePaul — with a lingering foot issue. Omer Yurtseven did not play on Saturday, either, meaning that the Hoyas were down to just five scholarship players.

And they went into Indianapolis and knocked off No. 19 Butler, giving them an elite win and putting them in a position where they have a bit of room to spare when it comes to getting to the NCAA tournament.

It makes no sense.

And yet, here we are.

7. TEXAS HAS QUIT ON SHAKA SMART.

The Longhorns took on Iowa State in Ames on Saturday and got absolutely humiliated, 81-52, in a game that more or less locked Texas out of the NCAA tournament.

As one longtime Big 12 beat writer put it, “that was the worst Big 12 performance I’ve seen since a winless TCU team.”

Yikes.

8. AUBURN LOST WITHOUT ISAAC OKORO

The Tigers went into Missouri and got dropped, 85-73, playing without Isaac Okoro, who is their best player.

He was out with a hamstring injury that shouldn’t keep him out of the lineup for too long.

9. ILLINOIS LOST WITHOUT AYO DOSUNMU

The Illini lost at Rutgers, which is, apparently, the most difficult place in the country to play. Dosunmu did not play after hurting his knee against Michigan State.

10. FLORIDA STATE WON WITHOUT DEVIN VASSELL

The Seminoles needed a late rally to do it, but they held off Syracuse, 80-77. Devin Vassell didn’t play, and we don’t really know why.

Bubble Banter: Georgetown lands massive win over No. 19 Butler

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There is plenty of action happening on the bracketology bubble watch despite it being a relatively slow night for college hoops.

Dave Ommen’s latest bracketology can be found here. Rob Dauster’s Bubble Watch can be found here. The full NET rankings can be found here.

Here is everything you need to know to.

THE BUBBLE WATCH WINNERS

GEORGETOWN (NET: 55, NBC: First four out): Without question, the biggest bubble winner of the day is Georgetown, who landed their fifth Quad 1 of the season and by far their best win of the year by going into Indianapolis and knocking off Butler (12). There are two major problems with Georgetown’s NCAA tournament profile: The first is that they already have ten losses, but some of that is explainable: They are 5-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 9-10 against Quad 1 and 2 opponents. They have played 19 games against top 75 teams. That’s a lot of good games, and a 9-10 record against them is hardly a bad thing. The other issue was a lack of elite wins, but they already had a win over Creighton (19) in their back pocket, and now they can add a road win over a top 15 team to the mix. My guess would be that they slide up to a 10 seed when Dave updates our bracket on Monday morning.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 51, NBC: First four out): Abdul Ado made the biggest player of the year for the Bulldogs, tipping home a game-winning bucket with less than a second left on the clock in a 78-77 win at Arkansas (43) on Saturday.

The enormity of this win cannot be overstated. For starters, Mississippi State only had one Quad 1 entering the day, and adding a second Quad 1 win means they now have the same number as their Quad 3 losses. But the bigger issue is that MSU’s schedule down the stretch features precisely one top 65 opponent. This was their last chance at a good win for their resume until the SEC tournament, and they got it.

ALABAMA (NET: 39, NBC: Off the bubble): The Crimson Tide picked up an enormous win on Saturday, as they knocked off LSU (27) in Tuscaloosa for their second Quad 1 win of the season. Alabama is now 14-11 overall and while their 6-10 record against Quad 1 and 2 opponents is solid, a 3-6 mark on the road, a home loss to Penn (177) and just two Quad 1 wins is not a good sign. At this point, I think Alabama needs to win out during the regular season for the simple fact that their schedule is not all that strong. But they have a shot if they do.

VIRGINIA (NET: 55, NBC: 11): Tomas Woldetensae his a three with a second left on the clock to beat North Carolina (95) in Chapel Hill. The Wahoos are now 16-7 overall with a 6-6 mark against the top two Quads thanks to this win. They do have three Quad 1 wins, but just one of them — Florida State (14) at home — is a surefire Quad 1 win to go along with a Quad 3 loss at Boston College (145). Perhaps the biggest issue is that UVA has just two potential Quad 1 wins left on their schedule. They can’t afford slip-ups, and could really use a win over Duke (6) or Louisville (7) next month.

FLORIDA (NET: 38, NBC: 10): Florida blew out Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. Whoop dee doo. Florida’s resume is more or less built on a home win over Auburn (13) and a neutral court win over Xavier (44). They are 5-9 against the top two Quads without a Quad 3 or 4 loss, but this is still not a very strong resume. With two games left against Kentucky (24) and a home date with LSU (27), the Gators are not as comfortable is it may seem, but they will have chances to improve.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 34, NBC: 11): URI did what they needed to do and picked off St. Joseph’s (237) at home. They’re 19-6 overall and they have just one Quad 1 win, but they are 6-5 against the top two Quads. The loss to Brown (236) is ugly, but as long as URI avoids the landmines on their schedule, I think they can get an at-large even with a loss to Dayton at home in March.

RICHMOND (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Spiders picked up a win in the toughest game they have left on their schedule, beating VCU (42) by 18 points at home. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead. I cannot see how they are going to be able to get enough wins to jump six or seven teams that play in tougher leagues with a schedule that includes a bunch of bad teams. But stranger things have happened, and they could end up getting another shot at Dayton (5) in the Atlantic 10 tournament.

UTAH STATE (NET: 46, NBC: First four out): After beating Fresno State, the Aggies have won four in a row and seven of their last eight games, ensuring they are still in the NCAA tournament mix and fully turning around a season that looked like it was lost as recently as three weeks ago. Wins over LSU (27) and Florida (38) are nice, but with three road losses to sub-85 teams and no more chances to land marquee wins, how are they going to make up for those losses? They don’t play another top 100 team the rest of the season. I don’t see how they can get in without beating San Diego State (1) in the MWC tournament.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 41, NBC: 11): ETSU has a win at UNCG (61) and a win at LSU (27). With a 20-4 record and a loss to Mercer (205) at home, the Buccaneers have to win out and lost to only UNCG or Furman (73) in the SoCon tournament to have a chance, and even that will be a bit of a longshot. They won today.

… AND LOSERS

NORTHERN IOWA (NET: 35, NBC: 11): The Panthers lost at Loyola (102), which is hardly a bad loss, especially in the MVC, but I’m not sure that it is a loss they can afford. Their strong NET and wins at Colorado (17) and over South Carolina (66) on a neutral keep the Panthers in the conversation, but losses at Southern Illinois (148) and Illinois State (202) are killers. UNI cannot lose another game unless it is against Loyola-Chicago (102) in the MVC tournament if they really want a chance at an at-large, and even then, it will be tough.

TEXAS (NET: 71, NBC: Off the bubble): Texas lost their fourth straight game on Saturday. It was their seventh loss in nine games. They were beaten by 29 points by an Iowa State (80) team that didn’t have Tyrese Haliburton. The dream is over.

VCU (NET: 42, NBC: Next four out): The Rams are going to find themselves in a very tough spot after getting worked over at Richmond (55) on Saturday. They have now lost two in a row and three of their last four games, and if they do not beat Dayton (5) on Tuesday next week, than discussing the rest of their resume will not matter. They will not be a tournament team. We’ll talk Wednesday.

PURDUE (NET: 29, NBC: 10): The biggest issue currently facing Purdue after losing at Ohio State (23) is that they now have 12 losses on the season, including a Quad 3 loss at Nebraska (167), and the rest of their schedule is absolutely brutal. The most losses and at-large team has ever had is 15. For context, Indiana last season was 19-16 with six Quad 1 wins and nine Quad 1 and 2 wins and they were left out. Purdue is 4-9 against Quad 1 opponents and 7-11 against the top two Quads with a 3-7 record on the road. Their best road win is at Indiana (58). They’re in a tough spot right now.

ARKANSAS (NET: 43, NBC: Play-in game): The Razorbacks fell at the buzzer on Saturday when Mississippi State’s (51) Abdul Ado tipped in a missed shot with less than a second left. They ave now lost four straight games, are sitting with a 4-9 recorded against the top two Quadrants with just two Quad 1 wins — at Alabama (39) and at Indiana (58). They desperately need to get Isaiah Joe back.

STANFORD (NET: 33, NBC: First four out): The Cardinal lost their fourth straight game on Saturday night at home against Arizona (9). It was their seventh loss in the last eight games. They have an ugly Quad 3 loss to Cal (155) and just two total Quad 1 wins. Stanford will have chances down the stretch, but should we actually trust them to take advantage of those chances?

TENNESSEE (NET: 65, NBC: Next four out): The Vols fell to 14-11 on the season when they lost at South Carolina (66) on Saturday. That’s the fifth loss in the last seven games for the Vols, who still have some chances to get themselves onto the right side of the bubble but have enough work left to do that this is the last time you will see them in this space unless they get hot.

No. 11 Auburn falls at Missouri without Isaac Okoro

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Guards Dru Smith and Xavier Pinson each scored 28 points and Missouri beat No. 11 Auburn 85-73 on Saturday night.

Smith and Pinson repeatedly drove into the lane and scored for Missouri (12-13, 4-8 Southeastern Conference). Kobe Brown added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Austin Wiley led Auburn (22-3, 9-3) with 22 points and 10 rebounds, J’Von McCormick added 21 points and Samir Doughty scored 16. Auburn made just 1 of 17 3-point attempts.

Smith and Pinson combined to score 33 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half. Pinson freed himself with a crossover dribble and sank a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving Missouri a 45-32 lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Missouri’s foul trouble mounted early in the second half, with Pinson and Mitchell Smith each picking up their fourth in the first eight minutes.

Momentum swung back to Missouri when Auburn’s Devan Cambridge was ejected with 10:01 remaining. He was called for Flagrant 1 and 2 fouls on the same play. Cambridge pulled Missouri’s Javon Pickett down and then stepped on his leg while he was sitting on the court. Pickett and Dru Smith combined to make 3 of the 4 free throws. Missouri got possession of the ball, and Torrence Watson hit a 3-pointer. The total damage from the play was six points, giving Missouri a 62-46 lead.

Two minutes later, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was hit with a technical and had to be restrained by assistants. He was angered when McCormick was called for a foul while trying to get around a screen. Auburn couldn’t get the deficit below 10 points the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The Tigers are showing signs of a late-season surge. After beating Arkansas in overtime on Feb. 8, they led 25th-ranked LSU on the road for most of the game Tuesday before losing 82-78. The victory over Auburn was Missouri’s first win over a ranked team in five tries this season.

Auburn: Freshman star Isaac Okoro, who injured his hamstring Wednesday against Alabama, didn’t make the trip to Missouri. Okoro averages 13.1 points and 4.8 rebounds. He was replaced in the starting lineup by fellow freshman Allen Flanigan, who finished with five points and six rebounds.

UP NEXT

Missouri: Host Mississippi on Tuesday.

Auburn: At Georgia on Wednesday.

Cowan closes game on 11-0 run as No. 9 Maryland beats Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Anthony Cowan scored 11 of his 24 points in the final two-plus minutes, helping No. 9 Maryland beat Michigan State 67-60 with a strong finish Saturday night.

The Terrapins (21-4, 11-3 Big Ten) scored the final 14 points of the game after trailing by seven with 3:24 left. Cowman had the last 11 points on three 3-pointers and two free throws.

The Spartans (17-9, 9-6) trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and by eight early in the second half before making a surge to take the lead.

RELATED: CollegeBasketballTalk’s latest bracketology

Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman had 18 points and 11 rebounds, but he gave Jalen Smith enough space to make a 3-pointer with 3:08 remaining to start Maryland’s game-closing run. Tillman caught the wrath of coach Tom Izzo after making the mistake on defense.

Smith finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Cassius Winston had 14 points for the Spartans.

DRAWING A ROAR

Michigan State’s new football coach, Mel Tucker, fired up fans during the first half in a timeout break. The crowd roared again during halftime when Michigan State honored its 2000 national championship team.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: With eight straight wins, the Terrapins have a one-game lead over No. 13 Penn State in the conference standings.

Michigan State: The team is simply struggling, losing four of five games and two straight at home.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Terrapins may move up a little in the poll. The Spartans became the first preseason No. 1 to drop out of the poll since Kentucky did it during the 2013-14 season and they will be unranked for at least another week.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Hosts last-place Northwestern (6-18, 1-13 Big Ten) on Tuesday night.

Michigan State: Plays at Nebraska (7-18, 2-12) on Thursday night.