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Markus Howard’s 38 points paces No. 10 Marquette in win over No. 14 Villanova

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Markus Howard scored 38 points and Sacar Anim added 18 as No. 10 Marquette knocked off No. 14 Villanova, 66-65, in Milwaukee to keep the Big East title race interesting over the final month of the season.

Entering the day, Villanova held a two-game lead on first place in the Big East standings over the Golden Eagles, and a win would have locked them into a fifth Big East regular season title in the last six seasons. Early on, it looked like Marquette was going to cruise to an easy victory, as they jumped out to a 47-32 lead midway through the second half.

Villanova responded by hitting six straight threes during a 23-6 run, taking a 55-53 lead.

Phil Booth led the way for Villanova with 19 points while Eric Paschall added 17.

Here are three things we can take away from this result:

1. MARKUS HOWARD IS A BAD MAN, BUT PHIL BOOTH MIGHT BE THE BEST PRO IN THIS GAME

Markus Howard is sensational.

Anyone that reads this space should know by now how I feel about him. He had 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting, hitting 5-for-11 from three, despite the fact that both of the Hauser brothers played about as poorly has they are capable of playing.

That said, the turnover that Howard committed on the final possession of the game drives home a point that I’ve made about Howard before: He struggles when dealing with length and athleticism, and that has me wondering just what his ceiling is as an NBA player. I’m also an Eric Paschall guy, but seeing him get roasted by Sacar Anim — who was terrific, by the way — is concerning for his pro prospects as well.

Which is why I think that Phil Booth has a very real chance to be the best NBA player on either of these two teams.

There isn’t much that he can’t do on a basketball court. He’s a knockdown shooter. He’s capable of creating his own shot off the dribble — the behind-the-back step-back that he hit in the deep corner with 2:19 left was an NBA move. He can pass. He can defend on the perimeter. With just over a minute left, Steve Wojciechowski called a timeout and drew up a play designed to get Sam Hauser isolated on Booth, who was giving up five inches, and Booth held his own and forced a missed shot.

Hell, I think the only bad decision that he made in this game was when he opted not to shoot here:

Howard is probably going to end up being the Big East Player of the Year, and he’ll deserve it when he gets it.

But Booth has 10-year NBA rotation player written all over him.

2. THEO JOHN’S FOUL ISSUES MAY COST MARQUETTE COME MARCH

One of the biggest reasons that Marquette has improved on the defensive end of the floor this season is that Theo John has really grown into the role of eraser at the rim. He’s averaging 4.4 blocks per 40 minutes, and while his rebounding numbers aren’t amazing, he does a good enough job at ending defensive possessions.

The problem with John is that he just can’t stay out of foul trouble, and he is particularly susceptible to picking up fouls when he is forced to defend on the perimeter. He played just 16 minutes against Villanova before fouling out, which makes sense given the fact that the Wildcats opted to use a frontline that consisted of Eric Paschall, Jermaine Samuels and Saddiq Bey.

At some point during the NCAA tournament, Marquette is going to run into a team that can space the floor and force John into situations where he has to move his feet on the perimeter. Whether or not he is able to do that and stay out of foul trouble may be what determines whether or not the Golden Eagles get out of the first weekend.

3. JERMAINE SAMUELS AND SACAR ANIM ARE WAKING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME

It may be a little unfair to say that Anim is just now waking up, but I do think that he has been playing his best basketball over the course of the last couple of weeks. He had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting against Villanova, which came after he scored 14 points at Butler and finished with 11 points in the loss to St. John’s. He’s also made 6-for-9 from three over the last four games. Out Marquette’s perimeter weapons, he is the one that opposing coaches are going to want to force to make shots — that’s what Villanova did — and when he does, Marquette can do things like beat Villanova.

Samuels, on the other hand, is actually waking up. He’s seen him minutes take a major jump in the last month, and while he’s never going to be looked at as much of an offensive threat right now, he is producing on the glass and defensively. What happened on Saturday was that Marquette helped off of Samuels — he had taken just a single three in his last five games — and dared him to beat them. He made a pair of threes during Villanova’s 23-6 run to get back into the game.

The athleticism and toughness Samuels brings on the defensive end of the floor is something that Villanova has to have right now, and anything that he can provide from a scoring perspective is found money. If he gets to a point where he’s consistently a 7-9 point-per-game guy that makes threes when defenses don’t guard him, he’ll be a difference-maker for Jay Wright just like he was on Saturday.

Nike ‘working to identify issue’ that caused Zion Williamson’s shoe to blow out

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Nike released a statement on Thursday saying that they are “working to identify the issue” that caused the left shoe of Duke star Zion Williamson to burst open, leading to the 285 pound freshman to slip and injure his right knee.

“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said in a statement obtained by ESPN. “The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

The injury was termed a “mild knee sprain” by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game.

“The knee is stable,” he added. “We don’t know how long he’ll be out.”

Nike stock dropped 1% the morning after the incident.

No. 1 Duke lost 88-72 to No. 8 North Carolina at home on Wednesday evening after the injury, which occurred just 30 seconds into the game.

Dan Patrick Show: Should Zion Williamson end Duke career after knee injury?

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Duke’s Zion Williamson faces a tough decision following a scary knee injury against North Carolina: try and return for March Madness or rest up for the NBA.

DAUSTER | Zion should do whatever makes him happy

Dan Patrick Show: Nike stock drops after Zion shoe incident

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After Zion Williamson blew out his shoe, Nike stock dropped a full one percent the morning after.

Bracketology: The Zion Williamson factor for Duke

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The pertinent question this morning is the health of Zion Williamson.  Foremost, because he’s an exceptional talent and life is bigger than basketball.

The secondary component is how his injury impacts Duke – both on the court and, subsequently, the Blue Devils’ standing on the Seed List.

If last night were the eve of Selection Sunday, the Committee would be forced to make a tough decision: evaluating Duke while Zion’s future availability is unknown.

Since a decision related to today’s bracket had to be made quickly in the wee hours of the morning with little information, Duke stays put, largely because the Blue Devils own a season sweep of Virginia, and two of its losses occurred with less than a full roster.

Once we know more about Zion’s status, further review will ensue.

BRACKET UPDATE: February 21, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
SOUTH REGION Temple vs. Alabama
MIDWEST REGION UCF vs. Utah State
EAST REGION ST. FRANCIS (PA) vs. CANISIUS
WEST REGION NORFOLK ST vs. PRAIRIE VIEW

EAST Washington, DC   SOUTH – Louisville                   
Columbia Columbus
1) DUKE 1) Virginia
16) ST. FRANCIS / CANISIUS 16) LEHIGH
8) Ole Miss 8) Auburn
9) Ohio State 9) WOFFORD
Jacksonville Salt Lake City
5) Iowa State 5) Maryland
12) BELMONT 12) Temple / Alabama
4) LSU 4) Texas Tech
13) OLD DOMINION 13) LIBERTY
Hartford Hartford
6) Louisville 6) Villanova
11) Florida 11) VCU
3) MARQUETTE 3) Purdue
14) YALE 14) TEXAS STATE
Des Moines Columbus
7) BUFFALO 7) Cincinnati
10) Texas 10) TCU
2) Michigan 2) Kentucky
15) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 15) NORTHERN KENTUCKY
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Salt Lake City Columbia
1) GONZAGA 1) TENNESSEE
16) PR VIEW / NORFOLK ST 16) SAM HOUSTON ST
8) Baylor 8) St. John’s
9) Minnesota 9) Syracuse
San Jose San Jose
5) Florida State 5) KANSAS STATE
12) NEW MEXICO ST 12) UCF / Utah State
4) NEVADA 4) Wisconsin
13) HOFSTRA 13) VERMONT
Tulsa Tulsa
6) Virginia Tech 6) Iowa
11) Seton Hall 11) Arizona State
3) Kansas 3) HOUSTON
14) UC-IRVINE 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Des Moines Jacksonville
7) WASHINGTON 7) Mississippi State
10) NC State 10) Oklahoma
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) North Carolina
15) MONTANA 15) RADFORD

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
TCU Temple Clemson Nebraska
Seton Hall UCF Georgetown UNC-Greensboro
Arizona State Utah State Butler Lipscomb
Florida Alabama Furman Dayton

TOP SEED LINE: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Tennessee, and Gonzaga

Breakdown by Conference …

ACC (8): DUKE, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State

Big 10 (8): MICHIGAN STATE, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): KANSAS STATE, Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, TCU

SEC (8): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, St. John’s, Seton Hall

American (4): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple, UCF

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Canisius (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Liberty (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Report: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim hits, kills pedestrian on highway

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Jim Boeheim struck and killed a pedestrian walking outside of his car on I-690 on Wednesday night, just hours after his Syracuse Orange beat No. 18 Louisville at the Carrier Dome.

The man — identified as 51-year old Jorge Jimenez of Syracuse — was in a car with four other people that lost control on the highway, struck a guard rail and came to rest in the middle of the road, according to police. At some point, he got out of the car and was walking along the highway, which is when Boeheim hit him as he tried to avoid the disabled vehicle, which was in the road.

“I am heartbroked that a member of our community died as a result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. “Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”

The incident occurred at 11:22 p.m. ET.

Boeheim remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. He was given a field sobriety test at the scene and police determined that he was not impaired at the time. Speeds could not be determined, according to police, but Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick told WSYR that Boeheim was driving at the proper speed for a highway.

“We are saddened by the death of a member of our Central New York community,” Syracuse AD Jim Wildhack said. “On behalf of Chancellor Kent Syverud and the entire Syracuse University community, we extend our deepest condolences to all impacted by this tragic accident. Coach Boeheim is in contact with local authorities and cooperating fully. Out of respect for those grieving, there will be no further comment at this time.”