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Big Ten Offseason Reset: Michigan State, Maryland headline deepest league in America

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking Big Ten.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

MICHIGAN STATE’S TITLE PUSH: It’s been discussed seemingly every year how the Big Ten hasn’t won a national championship since 2000.

With Virginia becoming the latest ACC program to take a title as Michigan State fell short in the Final Four once again, it’s only natural to think about what could have been.

Thankfully for the Big Ten’s title hopes, Michigan State is arguably the No. 1 team in the country entering this season. The Spartans have Preseason Player of the Year favorite in Cassius Winston and guard Josh Langford should return to health. Perhaps most importantly, Xavier Tillman looked like a huge threat down the stretch last season as the loss of Nick Ward shouldn’t even hurt the Spartans that much. And keep an eye on Aaron Henry.

Michigan State has everything they need to make it back to the Final Four as they bring experience, talent and an intriguing underclass group to the table. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if this Spartans team broke the Big Ten’s drought by winning it all next season.

JUWAN HOWARD REPLACING JOHN BEILEIN AT MICHIGAN: John Beilein going to the Cleveland Cavaliers in late May was the biggest coaching change of this offseason as a veteran Final Four coach and consistent top-25 presence opted to try his hand overseeing the highest level.

Replacing Beilein will be a proud alum in Juwan Howard, a Fab Five stalwart and 19-year NBA veteran. While it’s easy to be skeptical of an NBA guy taking over a program after recent failures elsewhere, Howard has six seasons of experience as an assistant coach with the Heat as he learned from one of the NBA’s best in Erik Spoelstra.

Juwan Howard (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

But Howard has never been a head coach, worked in the college game or recruited. Howard has been seen this spring at Nike EYBL events as he has a feel for the current recruiting landscape and how things work. It’s also very tough to replace a man who took a program to two Final Fours and had one of the best development programs in the nation.

Losing three key starters (more on that below) and assistant coach and defensive guru Luke Yaklich will also be a hit. There’s also reason to remain optimistic thanks to the return of veteran floor general Zavier Simpson and big man Jon Teske. Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks also return along with a talented sophomore class. And former Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli joining the staff as an assistant should ease the transition a bit for Howard.

Howard guiding a semi-experienced Michigan team as a first-year head coach will be one of the most fascinating subplots of this season in college basketball.

MARYLAND IS A TOP-10 THREAT: When Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith returned to school it gave the Terrapins one of the most intriguing teams in the country heading into the season.

Losing a double-double machine and elite big man in Bruno Fernando will undoubtedly hurt Maryland. The good news is that most of the rest of the team is back. Cowan is one of the league’s elite point guards as he’s got Smith back on the interior to ease things up for him. Smith’s sophomore classmates Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Ricky Lindo Jr. should also take a leap while junior Darryl Morsell is also returning.

The inside-outside combo of Cowan and Smith should be one of the league’s best and if multiple sophomores take a step up then Maryland could be a major threat for the Big Ten title. Top-35 in offense and defense in KenPom last season, the Terps are balanced, have all-league players at key positions and upside at multiple spots. Alert Scott Van Pelt. It could be a fun season for Maryland.

THE BIG TEN REMAINS INCREDIBLY DEEP: Although the Big Ten didn’t get a national title last March, they were the most impressive league in the NCAA tournament, getting eight teams into the field and going 7-1 in the first round.

This season looks no different for the Big Ten, as top-to-bottom it could be the toughest league in the country. Although some programs are in rebuilding mode, there is a strong case for many of the second and third-tier teams in the league thanks to star power and returning veteran experience. It’s not out of the question that the Big Ten could field double-digit teams in the field if things go as they could.

As long as the league’s teams don’t beat up on each other too badly then the Big Ten should be primed for another memorable season as the league has a lot of quality teams once again.

FRED HOIBERG TAKES OVER NEBRASKA: Juwan Howard isn’t the only new head coach in the league with an NBA background.

Following a failed trip to coach the Bulls, Fred Hoiberg is back in the college game as he takes over at Nebraska for Tim Miles. During a five-year stint at Iowa State in the first half of the decade, Hoiberg made four NCAA tournament appearances and the Round of 32 or better three times as he quickly turned around his sinking alma mater.

With a rabid fan base and great home court advantage in Lincoln, Hoiberg will try to create a turnaround similar to what he oversaw in Ames. Incredibly, Hoiberg has already turned over most of the Nebraska roster. Isaiah Roby leaving means two returning players from last season as he’s already loaded the roster with new players. Hoiberg was at his best taking transfers with the Cyclones, so it’ll be interesting to see his recruiting patterns in his new home.

Anthony Cowan (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE

  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: After becoming a cult hero in the NCAA tournament, Edwards turned pro and got picked in the second round by the Celtics. The Boilermakers will have a tough time replacing his volume scoring.
  • ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin: One of the Big Ten’s most prolific players is finally out of eligibility for the Badgers. It will feel incredibly strange seeing Wisconsin without Happ on the floor.
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State: The bruising junior big man decided to leave the Spartans as he ended up signing with the Hawks. Ward’s minutes declined at the end of the season as Xavier Tillman became the main interior presence.
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland: It’s nearly impossible to replace a double-double per game on 60 percent shooting but the Terps move on without their big man. Fernando was an early-second-round pick who ended up with the Hawks.
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, IGGY BRAZDEIKIS and JORDAN POOLE, Michigan: The three top scorers from the Wolverines all departed for the pros as Howard will have to plug in many new pieces his first season. Not only could the group really score but they were all on the floor for one of the nation’s premier defenses.
  • EUGENE OMORUYI, Rutgers: Unknown compared to many on this list, Omoruyi’s transfer to Oregon gutted a Scarlet Knights team trying to turn the corner. He was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder last season.
  • AMIR COFFEY, Minnesota: The Golden Gophers might have been intriguing had Coffey returned on the wing but he opted to go pro and landed a two-way deal with the Clippers.
  • ROMEO LANGFORD and JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana: This duo accounted for 32 pointer per game for the Hoosiers last season as Langford went No. 14 to the Celtics.
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa: Leading scorer and rebounder for the Hawkeyes last season, Cook’s departure to the pros hurt a Hawkeyes deep with big tournament aspirations.

WHO’S BACK

  • CASSIUS WINSTON, JOSHUA LANGFORD and XAVIER TILLMAN, Michigan State: There might not be a more talented and experienced returning trio in the sport. Winston is a senior and National Player of the Year threat who controls the entire game for the Spartans. Langford is another senior and double-figure scorer returning from injury while Tillman improved immensely the final weeks of the season.
  • ANTHONY COWAN and JALEN SMITH, Maryland: Besides for Michigan State, this is the top inside-outside duo returning in the Big Ten this season. Cowan returned to school, where he was a huge offensive threat for the Terps last season. Smith is an NBA prospect who should command more touches with Fernando leaving.
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State: The Big Ten’s best post scorer is back for another season after flirting with the NBA. The 6-foot-9, 270-pound, highly-skilled big man doesn’t have many peers in college hoops as he’s the key to Ohio State’s offense.
  • AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois: After a promising freshman year, Dosunmu didn’t even entertain the NBA Draft process as he returned to Illinois. A lockdown defender who can score going to the rim, Dosunmu is a consistent jumper away from a potential lottery selection.
  • LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State: With 1,660 career points and an All-Big Ten First Team season already under his belt, this senior forward is one of the nation’s most underrated players. Stevens is a three-pointer away from being a total monster.

WHO’S COMING

  • ROCKET WATTS, Michigan State: One of the best names in college hoops next year doubles as a major second-unit perimeter scoring threat who could wind up playing a big part in a Final Four run. The 6-foot-2 Watts can really fill it up.
  • C.J. WALKER and D.J. CARTON, Ohio State: Ohio State overhauls its perimeter with this duo. Walker transfers from Florida State and provides experience at point while Carton is the best player in a loaded recruiting class, a high-flying guard with big upside.
  • TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana: Whenever Mr. Basketball in Indiana ends up a Hoosier its a huge deal. This 6-foot-9 big man will be asked to come in and play right away as his rebounding and athleticism helped make him a near five-star prospect.
  • KOFI COCKBURN, Illinois: Listed a 7-foot-0, 290 pounds on the team’s official roster, this top-50 prospect is going to be a load to handle on the interior. Cockburn’s addition gives Illinois a very talented frontcourt.
  • YVAN OUEDRAOGO, Nebraska: The sweet-shooting 6-foot-9 French big man nearly averaged a double-double at last summer’s FIBA U16 European Championships. It was considered a coup when Hoiberg landed Ouedraogo this spring.
  • JAHAAD PROCTOR, Purdue: Losing Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline means this graduate transfer guard will get a ton of shots. The second-team All-Big South selection put up 19.5 points per game at High Point last season.
  • PAT SPENCER, Northwestern: College basketball’s most interesting transfer this season, Spencer is a former star Division I lacrosse player grad transferring to the Wildcats as a potential rotation guard for his final year of college eligibility.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-BIG TEN TEAM

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State (BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR)
JALEN SMITH, Maryland
AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State

Kaleb Wesson (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. MICHIGAN STATE: It’s title or bust for the Spartans as they look like the possible team to break the Big Ten’s title drought. Winston is an elite college basketball player and a healthy Langford is a lethal secondary scorer. Tillman looked scary by the end of last season while Aaron Henry and Kyle Ahrens are more returning contributors. Michigan State has the experience of making it last year and most of the returning pieces to get there again.

2. MARYLAND: Expectations are sky-high for the Terps as more than a few feel they’re top-10 worthy. Since they only lost Bruno Fernando from a promising team, Maryland has a lot to like. Anthony Cowan is the league’s best point guard besides Cassius Winston and Jalen Smith, Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala and Darryl Morsell all return. There’s a ton of talent in place to make a national statement this season.

3. OHIO STATE: A year ahead of schedule making the Round of 32 last season, Kaleb Wesson’s return gives the Buckeyes a ton of threats. Wesson is the league’s premier interior scoring talent and he’s surrounded by returning experience and a top-flight recruiting class with multiple top-50 prospects. The Buckeyes getting consistent guard play from new pieces and sophomores Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad

4. MICHIGAN: Things will be drastically different in Ann Arbor as only Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske are back in the starting lineup. The Wolverines still have decent upper class talent with Isaiah Livers and Eli Brooks while the four-man sophomore class needs to take a step up this season with the depleted recruiting class. Landing Franz Wagner, Mo’s little brother, would also be a monster move at this point in the offseason.

5. PURDUE: One of the league’s deepest frontcourts makes up for the loss of Edwards and Cline. Matt Haarms, Trevion Williams, Evan Boudreaux and Aaron Wheeler all proved themselves last season. Nojel Eastern is one of the league’s best defenders as he also returns. Proctor should help with the scoring but the Boilermakers need to find points to replace a volume-shooting backcourt.

6. IOWA: Returning three noted scorers in center Luka Garza and guards Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp will help the Hawkeyes as they should still put up points in bunches. Ryan Kreiner and Connon McCaffery also have plenty of experience while Patrick McCaffery, a four-star forward, also joins the roster this season. Getting stops will be key to Iowa’s season as an improved defense saw them make the Round of 32 last season.

7. ILLINOIS: The top four scorers all return as Ayo Dosunmu, Trent Frazier and Giorgi Bezhanishvili were all credible double-figure scorers last season. Guard Andres Feliz is another player who can contribute points and center Kofi Cockburn’s addition gives the Illini a much-needed interior force. This team has massive upside but hasn’t tasted real success.

8. WISCONSIN: If Wisconsin can improve its inconsistent scoring and shooting then they should be a dangerous team. A thin frontcourt that returns only Nathan Reuvers and Aleem Ford is a concern but the perimeter of D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison is talented. Kobe King or Brevin Pritzl making a leap would help while the Badgers have a big group of inexperienced bigs to try out.

9. INDIANA: Losing Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan is going to be tough to overcome as the Hoosiers lack a clear go-to option. A team full of former role guys like Devonte Green, Al Durham and Justin Smith will have to step up. The Hoosiers have depth. Archie Miller has developed good teams in the past. Can this group improve enough to make a major leap this season?

10. PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions have experienced pieces in Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins while grad transfer Curtis Jones helps with guard depth following the loss of Rasir Bolton to transfer. Myles Dread is also back but the Nittany Lions will be playing a lot of unproven pieces. How far can Stevens carry this team?

11. RUTGERS: Finding a go-to player will be key now that Omoruyi is gone as the Scarlet Knights still return three starters and gain some solid transfers. The promising perimeter of Geo Baker, Montez Mathis and Ron Harper Jr. still have room to get better. Sophomore big man Myles Johnson came on strong the end of last season. But where does star power and scoring come from?

12. MINNESOTA: The loss of Amir Coffey stings but there’s a very intriguing sophomore core in place. Double-figure scorers Gabe Kalscheur and Daniel Oturu both return while Pitt transfer Marcus Carr and Vanderbilt transfer Peyton Willis enters the backcourt after redshirt years. Finding production outside of those the starting lineup could be the key to Minnesota’s season.

13. NORTHWESTERN: The last-place team loses its top three scorers while likely relying on a very young frontcourt and unstable point guard situation. The Wildcats really need young pieces to step up like freshmen center Jared Jones and forward Robbie Beran while senior A.J. Turner has to become a go-to presence.

14. NEBRASKA: First-year head coach Fred Hoiberg has already turned over much of the Nebraska roster. It’s a clear rebuilding year. Hoiberg was always at his best at Iowa State with an experienced roster, so the Huskers are still likely a few years away.

Women’s Wednesday: Kobe Bryant’s impact on women’s basketball

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“His legacy will live on. You’ll feel Kobe Bryant.”

Dawn Staley’s words ring true as the world continues to mourn the untimely and tragic passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, as well as his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.  

Staley, the head coach for the South Carolina women’s basketball team, is a Hall of Fame coach and player and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. She was also a friend of Kobe’s, growing up in Philadelphia and sharing a gym with him under the watch of the 76ers’ John Lucas. The two also participated in the Olympic games together. 

The Laker legend is known worldwide for his impact on the NBA, with five championship titles, two Finals MVPs, and more.

While his resume is endless, Staley also remembers “The Black Mamba” for the father he was to four daughters, and the impact he had on women’s basketball. 

“Kobe was like no other when it came to supporting women’s basketball,” Staley expressed.

“He single-handedly took women’s basketball to another level by showing up at the games, by giving interviews and expressing what he felt was in his heart about women’s basketball. Once you’re able to see women’s basketball in that light, it helps grow the game, especially when it’s someone as powerful as Kobe Bryant, and as thoughtful, as detailed, as he was.”

Staley stressed the impact that Gianna’s love of the game had on her father being a fierce advocate for women’s basketball, saying, “I think Kobe would have been like this in whatever his daughters chose to have a passion about.”

“He thought long term and expressed things that no other professional men’s basketball player would ever say, that there are players in the WNBA that could play in the NBA,” the Gamecocks coach explained. “Kobe saw what he was instilling in his daughter. He probably wanted to say those things about Gigi… that she could one day play in the NBA.” 

After his retirement, Kobe could be found sitting courtside with his daughter, affectionately nicknamed “Gigi,” but he could also be found coaching at Mamba Sports Academy, where he was the head coach for Gigi’s team, the Los Angeles Lady Mambas.

Gigi dreamed of playing for UConn, and frequently went to Husky games with her dad. The pair also championed other top women’s programs, such as Oregon. 

“If you look at every single player that he has touched — Sabrina Ionescu, or the entire Oregon women’s basketball team,” Staley said, with emotion evident in her voice. “You look at UConn. Gigi wanted to go to UConn, she was fascinated with what accomplishments and traditions UConn stood for. We feel [her loss], there is a big void.”

Kobe’s passion for basketball, paired with the love he had for Gigi, has left many thinking that he would have become more involved in the WNBA in years to come. 

“I think women’s basketball would’ve grown to the point where Kobe would’ve put more of his money into it, because I know he put money into the Mamba Academy,” Staley said. “I’m sure he eventually would’ve gotten around to maybe even buying a team or buying into the league in some form or fashion.”

The devastating helicopter crash that took nine lives — including two other young girls, GiGi’s teammates, taken far too early — reminds us all of the fragility of life, and how quickly it can be taken away from us. 

In the wake of this tragedy, people are turning towards love and one another. 

Timelines are flooded with stories and anecdotes about Kobe, his relationship with his wife, Vanessa, and four daughters. Buildings and memorials all over the country are lit up in purple and gold, while tributes for the all-star pour in from as far away as the Philippines. 

Kobe has left a lasting legacy, one that Staley won’t forget.

“I hope with several of the NBA players, when they speak on keeping Kobe’s legacy alive, they will bring the women’s game along with it.

“Because that’s what Kobe Bryant was doing.”

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

UConn faced off against the U.S. national team on Monday night, putting up impressive show but ultimately falling short of an upset in a 79-64 loss. Fiver former Huskies dressed for the national team’s exhibition game.

Alongside many NBA teams, UConn and Team USA took honorary shot clock violations to start the game as a tribute to Kobe Bryant. 

The Huskies set up a stunning memorial for the late Gianna Bryant, who dreamt of playing for UConn one day, on their bench:

– The top teams in the county took care of business this weekend, with not a single ranked team upset by a lower-ranked team on Saturday or Sunday. 

– South Carolina maintained its No. 1 spot atop the polls, with 26 first-place votes from the AP panel, after an 88-53 rout of Georgia on Sunday. Baylor is No. 2 once again as well. 

– The rest of the top-10 reflects the talent among the top teams, with UConn and Oregon swapping spots as Oregon notched two back-to-back wins over rival Oregon State to take No. 3 in the rankings from the Huskies. The Ducks beat the Beavers 76-64 on Friday, outscoring Oregon State 45-29 in the first half, and then again on Sunday, 66-57.

When asked about her mentor and friend Kobe Bryant after the game, Sabrina Ionescu replied that “this season’s for him”:

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu continued on her record-breaking rampage, toppling Gary Payton’s passing record as the all-time leader for Pac-12’s men and women’s assists. She is now No. 7 on the women’s career assists list.

– In another in-state rivalry, then-No. 18 Arizona secured the 59-53 upset over then-No. 16 Arizona State. The Wildcats jumped up to No. 16 while the Sun Devils dropped to 19.

– No. 7 N.C. State continues to impress with a 76-68 win over rival North Carolina. 

– And in the Play Of The Week: Anna Makurat goes behind the back to Christyn Williams for the layup in STYLE:

“I trust the SEC office will do the right thing,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says after bump from official

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Tennessee 63-58 loss to Texas A&M wasn’t without some controversy.

In the final seconds of the game, official Mike Nance appeared to bump into Vols coach Rick Barnes, who was standing stationary on the sideline, and the two exchanged words.

“I really have a lot of confidence in the SEC office that they are going to look at that,” Barnes said after the game about the incident, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I believe they will look at this game and take it apart. I just think they will do that. That shouldn’t happen in any way shape or form. I would like to say what I want to say, but I won’t because I trust the SEC office will do the right thing.”

Nance was headed to the monitor to review a call when the bump occurred, and Nance appeared to ask Barnes if the coach initiated the contact.

“Coach (Bob) Knight told me a long time ago that in a game officials are going to miss seven to nine or 10, 11, 12 calls,” Barnes said. “He kept going up every year. He said, ‘You just hope things aren’t egregious at any point in time.'”

Coach K screams at Duke fans, defending Jeff Capel

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In one of the stranger things that we’ve seen in college basketball this season, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski went off on the Cameron Crazies for what he believed was a shot they were taking at former Duke player Jeff Capel.

The crazies were chanting, “Jeff Capel sit with us.” Coach K thought he heard something else.

Check out the video:

After the game, Coach K acknowledged that he misheard what the fans said, adding that he will apologize for the mishap.

“I made a mistake,” he said. “But I’d rather make a mistake for the protection of my guy.

“I love Jeff. I erred on that side. I just hope the ACC doesn’t fine me like they did [Mike] Brey.”

He ended the back and forth with this: “Jeff can sit with me anytime.”

 

Tuesday’s Things to Know: Villanova gears up for big stretch, Auburn wins ugly in 2OT and Rutgers keeps rolling

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The headliner of Tuesday night was Virginia regaining an NCAA tournament pulse with a win over No. 5 Florida State, but there were plenty of other developments on the bubble across the country.  Here’s what else you need to know:

1. Villanova runs streak to seven ahead of grueling stretch

Jay Wright’s team had little trouble winning its seventh-straight Tuesday with a 79-59 victory at Madison Square Garden over St. John’s. Saddiq Bey was brilliant, scoring 23 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 9 from deep. Collin Gillespie was equally great, going for 17 points, 13 boards and six assists while Jeremiah Robinson-Early had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Cole Swider and Justin Moore both had 11 to put all five Wildcat starters in double-figures to help offset the absence of the injured Jermaine Samuels.

The victory, while unremarkable given St. John’s mediocrity, keeps momentum for Villanova heading into a huge stretch that very well could decide the Big East. They’ve got Creighton at home Saturday before a trip to No. 16 Butler and then back-to-back home games against No. 10 Seton Hall and Marquette, which handed the ‘Cats their lone conference loss this season.

How Villanova emerges from this four-game stretch – and subsequently what the Big East landscape looks like – will likely be determined by a couple of things. If the ‘Cats are going to make it through in the conference driver’s seat, it’ll probably because Villanova’s defense proves for real. The Cats’ defense this season on the whole has been fine, ranking 60th nationally on KenPom, but it’s been the best in the Big East during conference play. They’ve been stingier both inside and outside the arc while improving on the glass. They’ve kept opponents from launching a lot of 3s and have mostly kept them off the line.

Wright’s team is going to be fine offensively, even if they haven’t been elite in Big East play yet. If the defense holds up, the ‘Cats are going to be sitting pretty come March.

2. No. 17 Auburn comes from behind to win in 2OT

Things were looking pretty dire for Auburn. The Tigers narrowly avoided a third loss in four games over the weekend when they blew a big lead to a sub-.500 Iowa State team, and then they fell behind by 19 in the second half Tuesday at Ole Miss.

It turned out to be nothing to be worried about, unless you were on your couch hoping to watch good overtime basketball.

The Tigers narrowly escaped, 83-82, against the Rebels, overcoming a huge deficit and mistakes of their own making that could have negated their comeback but instead will be footnotes.

Auburn shot 56 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from 3-point range in the second half to mount its comeback while Ole Miss shot just 33 percent. They nearly gave the game away, though, after taking a two-point lead in the final seconds of overtime. The Tigers missed a jumper that would have put them up four with 25 seconds left, but the shot missed and they inexplicably fouled on the rebound to allow Ole Miss to tie the game with 22 seconds left on free throws. After a missed 3 in a tie game by Danjel Purifoy, Ole Miss gave Auburn a gift it just wouldn’t accept. Devontae Shuler’s inbounds pass under the basket with 2 seconds left went astray and was headed out of bounds, which would have resulted in no time coming off the clock and Auburn getting the ball on the baseline, but Isaac Okoro, for some reason, grabbed the ball, waited a second and called timeout. Samir Doughty’s forthcoming 3 out of the huddle as time expired miss to send things to 2OT.

Ole Miss led by as many as four in overtime, but Auburn took the lead with 1:41 left. The two teams traded missed opportunities for the remainder of the game, leaving the Tigers with a win.

College basketball: Not always pretty, but rarely boring.

3. Rutgers continues to build its case

It’s been 29 years since Rutgers last made the NCAA tournament. It’s been 13 since the Scarlet Knights even finished above .500 in a season. Both those streaks seem incredibly likely to fall in just a handful of weeks.

Rutgers ran its overall record to 16-5 and its Big Ten mark to 7-3 with a 70-63 victory Tuesday at home against Purdue.

Steve Pikiell’s team is building a bulletproof resume after losses to St. Bonaventure and Pittsburgh in the first month of the season made it seem as the status quo would be very much in place in Piscataway this winter. Since then, the only three losses Rutgers have taken have all been on the road to high-quality opponents, with Michigan State, Illinois and Iowa the only teams able to get the best of them.

Rutgers is doing it o the strength of a top-10 defense that overcomes an offense that can be clunky at times, especially at the 3-point line. Defense as stout as the Scarlet Knights are playing, though, makes up for a lot of deficiencies on the other end.

Bubble Banter: Virginia, Mississippi State the biggest winners of the night

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It was a wild night on the bubble on Tuesday night, as 12 teams with their NCAA tournament hopes still up in the air were in action.

A full bubble watch breakdown can be found here. Here are tonight’s winners and losers:

WINNERS

VIRGINIA (NET: 58, NBC: Off the bubble): It is impossible to overstate just how big a win over Florida State (15) for a Virginia team that entered the night without a top 50 win to their name. They had one Quad 1 win on their resume — at Syracuse (64) — to go along with wins over Virginia Tech (50) at home and Arizona State (56) on a neutral floor. That’s it. When combined with a pair of Quad 3 losses — South Carolina (89) at home and at Boston College (153) — there’s a reason that the Wahoos were completely out of the NCAA tournament picture entering the day.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that a win over a top 20 team at home is really going to change all that much. But with just three more games against the top of the ACC left on their schedule, this was an opportunity that could not slip through their fingers.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (NET: 48, NBC: Off the bubble): The Bulldogs added a critical road win on Tuesday night, going into Gainesville and knocking off Florida (37). It’s the second Quad 1 win in six days for Mississippi State, who needs to add some pop to the top of a resume that includes a pair of Quad 3 losses. This will help.

MICHIGAN (NET: 35, NBC: 10): Michigan entered Tuesday night having lost four games in a row and five of their last six and were playing without Isaiah Livers and Zavier Simpson at Nebraska (158). They could not lost this game. They did not.

RHODE ISLAND (NET: 47, NBC: First four out): Rhode Island is in a spot where they probably cannot afford to take a loss to anyone other than Dayton (5), who they play twice, the rest of the season. On Tuesday night, the Rams beat George Mason. Next up: VCU (39) on Friday night.

UTAH STATE (NET: 62, NBC: Off the bubble): Utah State absolutely could not lose at Wyoming (299) on Tuesday, and they didn’t. The Aggies have neutral site wins over LSU (25) and Florida (37), which is enough to keep them in this discussion despite road losses at Boise State (102), UNLV (130) and Air Force (184). They make the trip to Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State (2) on Saturday, and that feels like a must-win for Utah State at this point.

LOSERS

TENNESSEE (NET: 55, NBC: Next four out): The Vols took a loss that they just could not afford to take on Tuesday, falling to a bad Texas A&M (149) at home. It’s their first Quad 3 loss, meaning that now half of their eight losses are outside the Quad 1 level. With just two Quad 1 wins, neither of which came against a top 35 opponent, Tennessee is backing themselves into a corner. The good news? They still play eight Quad 1 games, and that doesn’t include Florida at home. The Vols can survive this if they get hot.

SYRACUSE (NET: 64, NBC: Off the bubble): The Orange saw their five game winning streak come to an end on Tuesday as they fell at Clemson (81). This is not a terrible loss, but for a team that is already trying to make up ground on the field, these are the kind of losses that really hurt.

RICHMOND (NET: 54, NBC: First four out): Tuesday’s visit to the Siegel Center was Richmond’s last shot at getting a Quad 1 win dueing the regular season. They lost to VCU (39) by 17 points. For my money, the Spiders’ at-large hopes are more or less dead.

ST. JOHN’S (NET: 67, NBC: 10): The Johnnies lost for the seventh time in their last nine games when Villanova (14) waltzed into MSG and beat the Red Storm by 20. That’s not ideal. St. John’s is still in the mix because of wins over West Virginia (7) and Arizona (10), the latter of which came on a neutral court. But with road games left against Villanova, Seton Hall (12) and Butler (9), Mike Anderson’s club has backed themselves into a corner.

PURDUE (NET: 36, NBC: Next four out): The Boilermakers dropped to 11-10 on the season with a 70-63 loss at Rutgers (23) on Tuesday night. That means Purdue has dropped five of their last seven games. They’re 2-7 against Quad 1 opponents with a 29 point win over Michigan State (8), but there are a lot of losses on their resume already and the Big Ten is a bear.

VIRGINIA TECH (NET: 50, NBC: First four out): The Hokies did themselves no favors by losing at Miami (106) on Tuesday night. In the last three days, they’ve suffered their two worst losses of the season. The Hokies also have a non-conference SOS that ranks 341st, which eliminates much of their margin for error. The good news? They still have pair of Quad 1 wins — including Michigan State (10) on a neutral — and four of their five Quad 1 and 2 wins came away from home. It’s not all bad.

GEORGETOWN (NET: 52, NBC: Next four out): The Hoyas lost their third straight game on Tuesday night and have now dropped six of their last eight. Making things worse is that they were up by 13 points on Butler (9) late in the first half. This was their best chance to land an elite win this season. They still get Villanova (14) and Seton Hall (12) at home, but the biggest issue with Georgetown’s tournament chances is that they are trending in the wrong direction with just seven scholarship players.