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Friday’s Things To Know: Thrillers in the ACC and Big East, lurking bid thieves and Minnesota advances

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markis McDuffie, Wichita State

Duke’s Zion Williamson has a really good argument to be in this spot, as he went for 31 points and 11 rebounds and scored the game-winning basket in Duke’s ACC semifinal win over North Carolina. But since he was one of the choices Thursday we’ll spread the wealth a bit and go with Wichita State’s Markis McDuffie, who accounted for 34 points, 12 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots in the Shockers’ 80-74 win over Temple.

There are two potential bid thieves lurking in the American, with both Wichita State and and host Memphis in the semifinals. And with Gregg Marshall’s group having won six straight and 11 of its last 13 games, Cincinnati will be dealing with a team that is playing its best basketball of the season at the right time Saturday afternoon.

FRIDAY’S BUBBLE BANTER

TEAM OF THE DAY: Minnesota

Facing Purdue for the second time in ten days, Richard Pitino’s team had the opportunity to strengthen its standing with regards to an at-large bid. The Golden Gophers did just that, beating the Boilermakers 75-73 to advance to the Big Ten semifinals where they’ll face Michigan Saturday afternoon. Jordan Murphy scored 27 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists, and Minnesota limited Carsen Edwards to 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Andrew Nembhard, Florida

One of the bubble teams that improved its NCAA tournament profiles Friday was Florida, which beat top-seed LSU 76-73 in the first SEC quarterfinal of the day. Nembhard’s three-pointer with one second remaining, which came 13 seconds after LSU’s Naz Reid tied the game with a triple of his own, was the difference.

FRIDAY’S WINNERS

Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles controlled the action for much of their ACC semifinal matchup with Virginia, winning by the final score of 69-59. Florida State controlled the glass, shot 57% from the field and its reserves outscored Virginia’s by a 28-8 margin. Regardless of what happens against Duke Saturday night, keep an eye on where Florida State is seeded on Sunday. This group can do some damage.

Duke: As noted above, Zion Williamson’s put-back was the difference in the Blue Devils’ thrilling win over North Carolina. But it’s worth noting that Duke received valuable contributions from Jordan Goldwire and Antonio Vrankovic when the game could have gotten away from them in the first half. For a team that isn’t the deepest, that could be the most important development moving forward.

San Diego State: For the second consecutive year Nevada has failed to reach the Mountain West final as the top seed, with Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs pulling away for the 65-56 win in Las Vegas. The Aztecs, who won the automatic bid last year, is now one win away from a repeat. Utah State, which whipped Fresno State in the other semifinal, will be the opponent. And if San Diego State wins, a bubble will burst.

Oregon: For all the jokes made about the Pac-12 possibly being a one-bid league earlier this season, the conference is now 40 minutes away from getting three teams in. Dana Altman’s Ducks outlasted 2-seed Arizona State 79-75 in overtime to advance to Saturday’s final, where top-seed Washington will be the opposition.

Iowa State: The Cyclones haven’t been the most consistent team this season, but Steve Prohm’s team advanced to the Big 12 title game with a 63-59 win over top-seed Kansas State. Marial Shayok scored 21 points and Michael Jacobson grabbed 16 rebounds for Iowa State, which will face three-seed Kansas Saturday night in Kansas City.

Michigan and Kentucky: Not only did both teams win their respective conference tournament openers in comfortable fashion, with the Wolverines handling Iowa and the Wildcats beating Alabama, both welcomed back key contributors that missed time due to injury. Michigan’s Charles Matthews played 25 minutes against Iowa, and while he didn’t shoot the ball well (1-for-9 from the field, five points) the redshirt senior’s defense was key. As for Kentucky, Reid Travis accounted for eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in 23 minutes of action.

Rhode Island: The Rams’ dream of a third straight NCAA tournament appearance isn’t dead yet, as URI beat Atlantic 10 regular season champion VCU 75-70 in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal. Another winner here: the Atlantic 10, which will be a two-bid league with VCU now in need of an at-large bid.

Admiral Schofield: Instead of listing Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard in the category below, we’ll be positive and list Schofield as a winner for what he did in the second half of the Volunteers’ 83-76 win over the Bulldogs.

FRIDAY’S LOSERS

Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ stay at the Big Ten tournament came to an end Friday, as Tim Miles’ depleted team ran out of gas down the stretch in a quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin. And let’s just say that athletic director Bill Moos’ statement did not provide much in the way of clarity when it comes to Miles’ status moving forward. He’ll make a decision whenever Nebraska’s season comes to an end, as the team waits to see if it will receive an NIT bid.

Ohio State: Depending upon who’s asked the Buckeyes may have locked up an NCAA tournament bid with their second round win over Indiana on Thursday. Chris Holtmann’s team missed out on an opportunity to remove any doubt Friday, as it fell behind top-seed Michigan State by a significant margin before having its second half rally fall short. Ohio State may be in good shape, but the best thing for a bubble team at this point is to “live to fight another day.”

Temple: Could the American end up receiving five NCAA tournament bids? It’s certainly possible as Memphis and Wichita State are still alive. But Temple, which lost to Wichita State Friday night, will have an uncomfortable wait for Selection Sunday. And with this being Fran Dunphy’s final season at the helm, to not reach the Big Dance at this point would be crushing.

Xavier: The Musketeers survived Creighton on Thursday, and were just one stop away from knocking off Villanova in Friday’s Big East semifinals. But Eric Paschall’s follow tied the game in the final seconds of regulation, and Villanova would go on to win 71-67 in overtime. Travis Steele’s team missed out on what would have been a huge win for their NCAA tournament hopes, which could have used the boost.

Sam Houston State: The Bearkats entered the Southland tournament as the top seed after going 16-2 in conference play, with the league bracket advancing the team directly to the semifinals. Their hopes of an NCAA tournament bid slipped away Friday, as 4-seed New Orleans won 79-76 with Jorge Rosa scoring 18 points to lead the way. Sam Houston State’s loss also means that there’s one less available at-large bid in the Postseason NIT. New Orleans will face 2-seed Abilene Christian, which has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a Division I member, in Saturday’s final.

The officials in the Seton Hall vs. Marquette game: Three ejections, 57 personal fouls, nine technicals and 85 free throws in a game the Pirates won 81-79. While the game didn’t lack for excitement, it was quite clear early on that the officials needed to do a bit more to keep things under control. They didn’t do that.

FINAL THOUGHT

Practically every year the conversation regarding the NCAA tournament bubble is that it’s the weakest that it’s ever been, and this year is no exception. One team that finds itself in the conversation for an at-large bid is Texas, which dropped to 16-16 with its Big 12 quarterfinal loss to Kansas Thursday night.

Shaka Smart’s team is 9-15 in Quadrant 1/2 games this season, with the Longhorns’ best win coming against North Carolina on a neutral court Thanksgiving night. Ranked 37th in the NET and boasting the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, there are some numbers that work in Texas’ favor. But with a .500 record and a strength of record ranking of 57, there are numbers that work against the Longhorns as well…as is the case for any team.

Will the selection committee make history and select an at-large team with a .500 record for the first time ever? Or will a team like a Belmont (5-3 vs. Quadrant 1/2) or UNCG (4-6), which put up gaudy win totals but also don’t have as many opportunities to pick up Quadrant 1/2 victories, hear its name called on Sunday? This is a question that comes up every March regardless of the metrics used, but the Texas question makes this year’s process even more interesting.

I’m betting that at least one of the exceptional at-large candidates that hail from non-power conferences will be sent to Dayton.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot to be ‘out a while’

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North Carolina’s freshman center Armando Bacot suffered a left ankle injury in the first half of Wednesday night’s game against Ohio State and did not return.

Bacot, who came down on a defender’s foot and had to be helped off of the floor, immediately when back to the locker.

“It was swollen by the time he got to the locker room,” coach Roy Williams said. “My guess is he’ll be out a while.”

The 6-foot-10 Bacot was averaging 11.7 points and 9.6 boards and was coming off of his best game of the season, when he posted 23 points, 12 boards and six blocks while playing a season-high 30 minutes against Oregon.

Michigan, Kentucky schedule basketball game in London

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan and Kentucky have agreed to play a basketball game in London next season as part of a three-year deal that also includes a home-and-home series between the two programs.

Michigan announced the deal Thursday. The teams will play at O2 Arena in London in December 2020. The teams will meet at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor in 2021 and at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena in 2022.

“When the idea of playing Kentucky came up, we knew it would be an exciting opportunity, not only for ourselves, but for our fans as well,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “What a unique three-game series. First, we get to showcase collegiate basketball overseas in London before playing that traditional home-and-home series in front of two of the nation’s best basketball environments.”

The teams have met seven times previously, with Kentucky holding a 5-2 edge. The Wildcats beat Michigan in a 2014 Elite Eight game in their most recent contest. When Howard was a player at Michigan, his Wolverines beat Kentucky in a 1993 national semifinal.

Film Room: How Ohio State handed North Carolina their worst loss in nearly two decades

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At this point, no one should be surprised when Chris Holtmann does something smart as a head coach, and I certainly was not surprised to see him find a way to smother North Carolina on the defensive side of the ball on Wednesday night.

In a 74-49 win in the Dean Dome, the worst home loss the Tar Heels have taken since 2002, when Matt Doherty was in charge, the Buckeyes held North Carolina to just 27.8 percent shooting from the floor. They shot 25.6 percent on two-point field goal attempts, the lowest number of the Roy Williams era. And I think so much of it had to do with what Holtmann did defensively on Cole Anthony.

The game-plan was, frankly, pretty simple. When Anthony had the ball, Ohio State climbed up in him, they hedged hard on all ball-screens and they sent bodies at him whenever he put the ball on the floor to drive. They made a conscious decision to force Anthony into either playing 1-on-2 and 1-on-3 or giving the ball up to a teammate. As soon as he gave the ball up, they face-guarded him. Full denial, even if it meant playing 4-on-4 for the rest of that possession.

And it worked.

Starting point guard C.J. Walker did the heavy lifting on Anthony, but he was hardly the only one. Luther Muhammad started out on Anthony before getting into four trouble and playing just nine minutes. D.J. Carton, Andre Wesson and Duane Washington all took a shot at UNC’s freshman stud as well. That’s a lot of bodies, all of whom have some size, some length and some athleticism and happen to be good individual defenders. Anthony got tired before they did.

This method was effective mainly due to the fact that because is one of the nation’s elite defenses. Combining all those athletic wings with a center in Kaleb Wesson that dropped the baby fat this summer is a luxury for Holtmann.

But it wasn’t all Ohio State.

Because what became painfully obvious for those that had not yet recognized it is that North Carolina has a startling lack of offensive weaponry. It’s almost like losing five NBA players to the draft is tough to deal with.

No matter who is on the floor with him, defenses are going to dedicate the majority of their attention to Anthony. He’s a game-changing talent. We saw him blow the game wide open against Notre Dame in the opener. He’s going to be the most dangerous player on the floor in just about every game he plays this season. But with a limited supporting cast to rely on, this is the decision Ohio State forced Roy Williams into:

1. Allow Anthony to go full iso-ball and try to win this game on his own taking deep, contested threes off the dribble or driving into two or three defenders; or

2. Run offense for the other guys on the roster even if the shots they are getting are tough shots for them. To put this into context, watch the clip below:

North Carolina ran that first play for Cam Johnson, the No. 11 pick in the draft, last season. This year it’s Brandon Robinson. In past seasons, the guy getting the post touch in the second clip was Kennedy Meeks, or Luke Maye, or Brice Johnson. Last night, it was Brandon Huffman. When they’re running pick-and-pop action like the third clip, it’s Garrison Brooks, not Maye, that is taking those jumpers.

If you’re coaching against North Carolina, I think you’re just five with Brooks shooting 17-footers. That’s the shot you live with.

Now, to be clear, Robinson is not a bad player. In fact, he’s significantly better than I realized coming into the season. And the x-factor here is that Armando Bacot played just seven minutes before spraining his ankle. He may “be our for a while,” as Roy Williams put it after the game, and even then, he’s been much better was a guy that cleans up misses than as a go-to scorer in the post. According to Synergy, he’s scored just .769 points-per-possession on post-ups, which is in the 42nd percentile nationally. You just saw all four of the post-up buckets he’s scored against high-major foes this season.

Bacot is a monster on the offensive glass, and his return will help keep defenses honest because of that. Sell out on a Cole Anthony drive like this, and Bacot is putting that miss back with a tip-dunk.

But that only mitigates the issue North Carolina has this season.

They don’t have enough talent around Cole Anthony.

Three Things to Know: Big Ten dominates, DePaul stays perfect, Georgetown wins

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It turned out to be a pretty wild night of basketball Wednesday. Purdue absolutely stomped Virginia. Villanova had trouble with Penn. Ohio State thumped North Carolina.

There is more where that came from, though, so here’s what else you need to know from a busy night of hoops around the country.

1. The Big Ten dominated the ACC in the challenge’s final night

As noted above, the Big Ten not only took care of business in the two highest-profile games of the third and final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, but absolutely walloped their opponents. Truly, Purdue and Ohio State embarrassed Virginia and North Carolina.

That wasn’t the limits of the Big Ten’s success, however.

Third-ranked Maryland decimated Notre Dame (72-51) and Penn State smacked Wake Forest (76-54). Georgia Tech did beat Nebraska (73-56), and NC State outlasted Wisconsin (69-54), in the lower-tier games.

What we learned Wednesday was that the Big Ten’s strength at the top of the conference is legit, which may have been somewhat in question – at least in the immediate, attention-span deficient times we live in – after Michigan and Michigan State took losses to Louisville and Duke, respectively, last night.

The headliners, though, are what count Wednesday. What Purdue and Ohio State did sends the message that the Big Ten looks to have a real claim on being the country’s toughest conference.

2. DePaul trending up, Texas Tech not so much

Given just how bad DePaul has been in recent years – they avoided finishing out of the Big East cellar just twice in 10 years – it’s been fair to wonder how real this undefeated start to the season has been.

By beating Texas Tech, 65-60 in overtime, the Blue Demons made some progress in quieting doubts about the potential of this being a tournament team.

Dave Leitao’s team now has three wins against top-75 KenPom teams, with two (Minnesota and Iowa) coming on the road. They also knocked off Boston College on the road. Hey, the Eagles are still an ACC team.

Their statistical profile still isn’t great – they don’t shoot it all that well, they don’t take a lot of 3s and they aren’t strong on the boards – but they’re winning. All they’re doing is winning, actually.

It’s certainly a team with a lot of improved talent, and at some point, talent and track record have to take over from a history of losing.

That time appears to be quickly approaching.

As for Texas Tech, Chris Beard’s preseason top-10 team has now lost three straight to a trio of teams – Iowa, Creighton and DePaul – that aren’t expected to compete for conference titles, even if they ultimately prove themselves solid, tournament-level teams.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising to see the Red Raiders struggle given the amount of turnover from last year’s national runners-up, but unless they figure out a way to beat top-ranked Louisville on a neutral floor Tuesday, they’re going to enter conference play with the best win on their resume being Eastern Illinois (KenPom: 245). That’s not a great place to be.

3. Georgetown wins at Oklahoma State

This is a hard one to get a handle on.

On one hand, the Hoyas got a nice road win against a solid Oklahoma State team after losing two major contributors earlier this week.

On the other hand, Georgetown had two players on the floor against the Cowboys who are facing serious accusations of wrongdoing. Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing released a statement saying no player gets “special treatment,” but it still seems strange to see the Hoyas allow players under an unsettled cloud of accusations to take the floor.

A road win against a Big 12 opponent, even if the Cowboys were down a starter, is going to help the Hoyas build a resume that’s going to be much harder to compile without James Akinjo – whose departure is separate from any legal issues his former teammates are having – and Josh LeBlanc, but the way this is being handled makes that seem beside the point.

No. 6 Ohio State hands No. 7 UNC worst home loss in 17 years

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Duane Washington scored 14 points, E.J. Liddell added 12 points off the bench and Ohio State held Cole Anthony to 4-for-15 shooting as the No. 6 Buckeyes went into the Dean Dome and treated No. 7 North Carolina like they were the Michigan football team.

The final score was 74-49. It’s North Carolina’s worst loss since losing by 26 points at Miami in 2013. It’s their worst home loss since the Matt Doherty era, when then-No. 1 Duke won by 29 points in the Dean Dome in 2002.

That isn’t pretty.

Here are the three things to take away from this performance:

1. NORTH CAROLINA DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH HELP FOR COLE ANTHONY

Cole Anthony is a stud. He’s one of the most entertaining scorers in all of college basketball, and he is going to spend the majority of this season putting up absolutely monstrous numbers.

The problem is that he is going to have to put up those numbers if the Tar Heels are going to have a chance to win at anywhere near the level they expect, because there is a real dearth of scoring firepower on the roster around him.

You want proof?

The Tar Heels have yet to break 80 points in a single game this season. That’s not the norm for Roy Williams’ teams.

Now, to be clear, North Carolina played the majority of this game without Armando Bacot – we’ll get to that – and he is the second-best scoring option on this roster. So that certainly played a role in UNC’s struggles, as did the fact that Ohio State is the second-best defensive team in the country, according to KenPom.

But there are going to be plenty of games this season where the Tar Heels have to square off with teams that are really good defensively. And this game was played in the Dean Dome. UNC cannot blame a 27.4 percent shooting performance entirely on their opponent.

The truth is this simple: The Tar Heels have a bunch of pieces on their roster that should thrive in a role. Brandon Robinson is a good defender, a good passer and a guy that can make open jumpers. Garrison Brooks can get to the offensive glass and bang in the paint defensively. Leaky Black has the kind of length and versatility everyone is looking for.

But none of them have played well enough to be the third-option offensively for a team with ACC title and Final Four aspirations. The grad transfers, Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, are nothing more than bench options, and rightfully so.

That means the Tar Heels are in a tough spot.

2. ARMANDO BACOT’S ANKLE INJURY SOUNDS BAD

I just spent 400 words explaining to you why North Carolina needs secondary scoring options alongside Cole Anthony.

Their best secondary scorer is Armando Bacot. He sprained his left ankle in the first five minutes of Wednesday night’s game. Roy Williams told reporters after the game that “he may be out awhile.”

North Carolina plays at Virginia on Sunday. They play at Gonzaga Dec. 18th. Uh oh.

3. THIS WAS AN OHIO STATE-MENT

First and foremost, yes.

I said that.

It wasn’t an editor.

It was me.

And it was good.

Second of all, this isn’t exactly breaking news, but this Ohio State team is awesome. As of this very moment, they rank second overall on KenPom, behind only Louisville. They are the nation’s second-best defense, and they are allowing just 0.781 points-per-possession on the season. (That’s really good.)

We all thought we knew this already. The Buckeyes beat Cincinnati at home. They blew out Villanova at home. But Cincinnati has been terrible since then, Villanova was playing their first road game of the season with a really young team and we had yet to see the Buckeyes play away from home. Like Louisville on Tuesday night, this was a chance for Ohio State to make themselves known on a national stage with everyone watching.

They did.

But here’s why this win was so impressive to me: It’s the second-worst loss that North Carolina has experienced at home in the last 56 years, and it came on a night where Luther Muhammad played just nine minutes and Kaleb Wesson finished with just 10 points, nine boards and six turnovers.

The Buckeyes can win when their best players don’t play well, because A) They’re deep and balanced, B) They are a team built on their defense and C) They are as well-coached as anyone in the country.

The Big Ten is absolutely loaded at the top this year.

And Ohio State may be the best of the bunch.

Which means they may be the best team in the country.

Who saw that coming?