Travis Hines

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No. 16 Michigan State gets a piece of B1G title with win over No. 19 Ohio State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Cassius Winston scored 27 points and No. 16 Michigan State beat No. 19 Ohio State 80-69 on Sunday to win a third straight Big Ten championship.

The Spartans (22-9, 14-6 Big Ten) shared the conference title with No. 9 Maryland and No. 24 Wisconsin and they will be the second-seeded team at the Big Ten Tournament behind the Badgers.

The Buckeyes (21-10, 11-9) had won four straight and six of their previous seven games.

Ohio State’s leading scorer, Kaleb Wesson, was held to eight points on 1-of-8 shooting after entering the day averaging 14-plus points per game.

RELATED: NBC SPORTS’ LATEST BRACKETOLOGY

Michigan State was in control of much of the evening and pulled away with a 16-4 run late in the game. The Spartans were ahead 38-32 at halftime.

Rocket Watts scored 19 points, Xavier Tillman had 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals while Aaron Henry added 12 points for the Spartans.

Duane Washington had 16 points, CJ Walker scored 14, E.J. Liddell had 12 and Luther Muhammad added 10 points for the Buckeyes.

TIED AT THE TOP

Michigan State had to win to move into a three-way tie for the championship. The Badgers clinched a share of the Big Ten title with a victory Saturday at Indiana and will be the top-seeded team at the Big Ten Tournament. The Terrapins beat No. 25 Michigan earlier on Sunday to also earn a share of the championship and will be the third-seeded team in Indianapolis.

BIG PICTURE

Ohio State: The Buckeyes should get a boost in the postseason with the expected return of Kyle Young, who missed his fourth straight game with a high ankle sprain. The junior forward, who has a protective boot on his right foot, averages seven-plus points and nearly six rebounds per game.

Michigan State: The Spartans are playing their best late in the season as they usually have done in Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo’s 25 seasons. They started the season ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history and seem to have some momentum going into the postseason.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The surging Spartans will likely move up in the poll on Monday with their fifth straight win and the Buckeyes will probably hold onto a spot toward the bottom of the AP Top 25.

UP NEXT

Ohio State: Goes to the conference tournament, trying to improve its seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State: Shoots to repeat as Big Ten Tournament champion.

Introducing Cinderella: Liberty heading back to the NCAA tournament

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Lipscomb tripped Liberty up in the two teams’ regular-season finale, costing the Flames an outright Atlantic Sun championship. Liberty wouldn’t let the Bisons cost them anything else.

The Flames dominated Lipscomb on Sunday to earn an ASun conference tournament championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a 73-57 victory on their home court. It’ll be the second-straight trip to the Big Dance for coach Ritchie McKay and the Flames, who shot 53.8 percent from the field and 40.7 percent on 27 attempts from 3-point range against Lipscomb.

LEAGUE: Atlantic Sun

COACH: Ritchie McKay

RECORD: 30-4, 13-3 ASun

RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

METRICS:

  • NET: 70
  • KENPOM: 79
  • TORVIK: 77

PROJECTED SEED: The Flames have put together an impressive season, and they’ll likely get rewarded with a 13-seed for their work.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: Akron is the only KenPom top-100 victory Liberty has on its resume, but it does also have a Power 5 notch with a win over Vanderbilt.

WHY LIBERTY CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

Maybe the best reason to believe the Flames can win an NCAA tournament game is because we’ve seen them do it recently. Liberty, as a 12-seed, defeated fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the first round last year before losing to Virginia Tech in the second round. Much of the nucleus of that team returned this season, making Liberty a formidable opponent for the high-major it is likely to draw given a defense that is punishing to shooters and excellent on the glass along with an offense that is excellent at converting inside the 3-point arc.

WHY LIBERTY WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

Last year’s Flames had more experience against high-major opponents, with four games against the biggest programs in the country. This year’s time faced just one, a Vanderbilt team that won three SEC games. The only top-225 KenPom opponent Liberty has played in 2020 is North Florida (167). This team isn’t quite as battled tested as last year’s group. If they play an athletic team that wants to push the pace, that could be trouble, too, for a team that ranks 352nd out of 353 nationally in tempo.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Caleb Homesley had one of the best first-round performances of the NCAA tournament last year, going for 30 points on 10 of 16 shooting (including 5 of 11 from deep) to upset the Bulldogs. As a senior this season, Homesley is averaging 15.3 points,  5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 47.1 percent from the floor and 37 percent from 3-point range.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

Liberty’s fate, like most double-digit seeds, will likely be tied to the matchup the Flames get from the committee on Selection Sunday. They’re veteran, experienced and have had a wildly successful season. They’ll be entering the tournament with confidence and the knowledge that they can win a game in this format. If they aren’t able to dictate pace, however, the talent gap could be exposed quickly.

Introducing Cinderella: Bradley going to its second-straight NCAA tournament

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Bradley hasn’t been anywhere near being the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference the last two seasons, but that hasn’t stopped the Braves from securing the conference’s automatic bid in back-to-back years.

The fourth-seeded Braves won the MVC tourney Saturday with an 80-66 triumph over Valparaiso in St. Louis to go to its second-straight NCAA tournament under coach Brad Wardle.

Darrell Brown scored 21 points while Elijah Childs had 17,  Ja’Shone Henry 16 and Nate Kennell 14 for Bradley, which shot 48.3 percent from the field while making 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range.

LEAGUE: Missouri Valley Conference

COACH: Brian Wardle

RECORD: 23-11, 11-7 MVC

RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

METRICS:

  • NET: 106
  • KENPOM: 113
  • TORVIK: 109

PROJECTED SEED: Bradley’s resume isn’t overly strong, but the relative strength of the Missouri Valley Conference should be enough to keep them off the 16- or 15-line with a No. 14 seed.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: The Braves’ best win – and their only over a high-major opponent – was against Kansas State, which finished last in the Big 12, in November. They beat Missouri State twice and Indiana State once for three top-120 KenPom wins during conference play.

WHY BRADLEY CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The Missouri Valley Conference isn’t what it once was when Wichita State and Creighton were counted among its members, but it’s among the strongest one-bid leagues in the country if Northern Iowa, by far the league’s best team, is left out after losing in the conference tournament quarterfinals. Bradley has played against solid competition all winter. And while the Braves don’t launch 3s at a prolific rate, they are excellent at making the ones they do take, ranking 32nd nationally with a 36.8 percent success rate on 3s. Six-foot-6 senior Nate Kennell has shot 44 percent on 186 attempts from distance. He could be a difference-maker in a single-game setting. Darrell Brown and Elijah Childs are proven scorers as well with NCAA tournament experience.

WHY BRADLEY WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

The Braves’ defense is going to be their biggest issue. They’re solid enough – teams have an eFG% of 46.3 – but they give up a ton of 3-point attempts, don’t generate any turnovers and are just OK on the defensive glass. A skilled and/or physical offense is going to cause serious problems for Bradley.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Bradley is back in the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season after two surprising runs through the MVC conference championship. Last year, they knocked off reigning Final Four participant and top-seeded Loyola Chicago in the semifinals before outlasting Northern Iowa in the title game to earn the automatic bid as the No. 5 seed. If you’re a Michigan State fan – or bettor or aggressive bracket-picker – you might remember Elijah Childs and Darrell Brown scoring a combined 36 points to stay within shouting distance of the Final Four-bound Spartans in the first round. Both are back for a second NCAA tourney with the Braves.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

Bradley could find itself as a trendy upset pick – depending on its matchup – given the fact it has NCAA tournament experience, talented offensive players and the ability to connect from distance at a high clip. Veteran players and strong 3-point shooting is a formidable underdog combination. Still, though, the defense is going to be the Achilles heel, and if a more talented and athletic high-major program can push tempo, Bradley is probably going to find itself in trouble.

No. 9 Maryland defeats No. 25 Michigan for co-Big Ten title

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Anthony Cowan Jr. had 20 points and eight assists in his final home game at Maryland, and the ninth-ranked Terrapins beat No. 25 Michigan 83-70 on Sunday to earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.

Eric Ayala scored 19, Jalen Smith had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Aaron Wiggins added 15 points for the Terps (24-7, 14-6). Cowan, a senior guard, went 7 for 11 from the floor and hit six free throws in the final minute.

Maryland moved into a first-place tie with Wisconsin, and Michigan State had a chance to make it a three-way deadlock by defeating Ohio State later on Sunday. If two or more teams tie atop the standings at the end of the season, it is a shared championship.

Immediately after the game, Maryland was presented a Big Ten championship trophy, its first since joining the league in 2014. Wisconsin, however, is assured the top seed in the conference tournament this week by virtue of owing the best record in games involving the first-place teams.

RELATED: NBC SPORTS’ LATEST BRACKETOLOGY

The Terrapins held a two-game lead with five games to go, but lost three of four before defeating the Wolverines to finish 16-1 at home.

Reserve sophomore guard David DeJulius scored a career-high 20 points for Michigan (19-12, 10-10). The Wolverines closed their first regular season under rookie coach Juwan Howard by dropping three of four.

Michigan went 9 for 13 from the floor to start the second half, outscoring Maryland 25-15 to cut a 13-point deficit to 56-53 with 10 minutes left. Zavier Simpson led the surge with nine points on 4-for-4 shooting.

The Terps eased the pressure with a 9-2 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Ayala. After that, the margin never dipped below seven points.

After a sellout crowd saluted Cowan and two other seniors, the Terrapins trailed early before Ayala scored six points in a 14-2 run that made it 18-9. Minutes later, Wiggins had a 3-pointer and a dunk in a 7-0 spurt that upped the margin to 12.

Smith ended the half with a 35-foot heave at the buzzer that hit the bottom of the net and put Maryland up 41-28.

COWAN LEGACY

Cowan made his school-record 130th consecutive start. He ranks first on the Maryland career list for free throws made (579), seventh in scoring, fifth in assists and third in 3-pointers made.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: The hot and cold Wolverines enter the postseason in the midst of a cool spell. Michigan opened 7-0, then lost eight of 12. A 7-1 stretch followed before the current 1-3 slide.

Maryland: This was a must-win game entering the postseason. After blowing an opportunity to win their first outright title since 2001-02, the Terps got some momentum back and salvaged a piece of the crown.

UP NEXT

Michigan opens play in the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

Maryland begins play in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday.

Introducing Cinderella: Winthrop wins the Big South

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Hampton, which finished 8-10 in the Big South and is ranked outside the top-300 on KenPom, looked like it might pull a monster upset in the Big South final to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016. The Pirates led Winthrop, the conference tournament’s two seed, for the league’s automatic bid by 15 before the midway point of the first half.

It didn’t hold up, though.

The Eagles dominated the second half to put Hampton away and claim a 76-68 victory and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2017 with the Big South’s automatic bid. Winthrop shot 66 percent from the field in the second half to pull away. Freshman DJ Burns scored 16 points in 18 minutes for Winthrop.

LEAGUE: Big South

COACH: Pat Kelsey

RECORD: 24-10, 15-3 Big South

RELATED: Bubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

METRICS:

  • NET: 146
  • KENPOM: 138
  • TORVIK: 160

PROJECTED SEED: Winthrop won 14-straight from December into February, but lost three games – Radford, Gardner Webb and Hampton – over the last month of the season, and the Eagles are likely destined for a 16 seed.

WHO DID THEY BEAT?: There’s no question that Winthrop’s best win of the season came in November when they went on the road to defeat St. Mary’s 61-59 in Moraga. They played East Tennessee State, Duke, TCU and Furman tough, but to defeats as well.

WHY WINTHROP CAN WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

Certainly the competition in the Big South isn’t going to intimidate any of the teams Winthrop is likely to be matched up against in the NCAA tournament, but the Eagles did rip through 14-straight games this winter. If nothing else, that’s a sign of being able to consistently play at a high level. The Eagles play at a fast pace, and if they get the right matchup, they might be able to dictate tempo enough to create some problems for a high-major with their ability to score near the basket.

WHY WINTHROP WON’T WIN AN NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME

It’s been a long time since Winthrop played a fellow NCAA tournament team, and the competition they’re likely to face – probably a top-two seed – is going to be a major upgrade from the programs they’ve been going up against for the better part of three months. The Eagles also aren’t elite any any area, which makes pulling an upset against a more talented team all the more difficult. The biggest issue, though, is their defense, which ranks 250th nationally in effective field goal percentage.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey first came into your life as Skip Prosser’s point guard at Xavier for three seasons in the late 1990s that resulted in two NCAA tournaments for the Musketeers. After assistant stops at Xavier and Wake Forest, he took over Winthrop in 2013 and has turned in four 20-win seasons with this being the second NCAA tournament appearance for his Eagles. The 44-year-old could be a name that gets mentioned for mid-major gigs during this go-round of the coaching carousel after getting Winthrop another automatic bid. He reportedly was close to replacing John Brannen at Northern Kentucky last spring.

AUTOMATIC BID OUTLOOK

Like any team facing a No. 1 or No. 2, Winthrop is going to have a heck of a time trying to get into the second round. With just one senior in the rotation, though, this could be a great dress rehearsal for 2020-21 when the Eagles theoretically could be even better with added experience. If it’s going to happen for Winthrop this season, though, the Eagles probably will want a contrasting style matchup, forcing walk-it-up teams like Kansas, Baylor, San Diego State or Dayton to push the pace, even if that might expose the talent gap.

No. 21 Houston bounces back with win over Memphis

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HOUSTON — Fabian White Jr. had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Quentin Grimes added 17 points and No. 21 Houston defeated Memphis 64-57 on Sunday.

Grimes had 15 second-half points, which led a big run for the Cougars (23-8, 13-5 American Athletic Conference). Nate Hinton had 13 points for Houston, which shot 34%, including 48% in the second half.

The Cougars forced 17 turnovers by Memphis, which they turned into 18 points. Houston also had a 45-41 advantage in rebounding and a 17-8 advantage in second-chance points.

Houston will finish at least in a tie for second in the AAC.

Precious Achiuwa had 25 points and 15 rebounds and Lester Quinones added 10 points for Memphis (21-10, 10-8). The Tigers shot 36%, including 6 of 24 on 3-pointers.

Trailing 41-39 midway through the second half, Grimes ignited Houston to a 17-2 run to give the Cougars a 53-43 lead on a layup with 3:15 remaining.

Memphis led 30-26 at the half behind 16 points from Achiuwa.

BIG PICTURE

Memphis: The Tigers missed a chance to help their NCAA Tournament resume and fell to 2-3 this season against ranked opponents. … Excluding Achiuwa and Quinones, Memphis shot 5 for 19 from the field. … The Tigers were 5-6 on the road this season.

Houston: The Cougars had another poor shooting first half, hitting 22%, including missing their last nine field goals over the final 5:13 of the half. … Houston finished the season 14-2 at home and won its last 10 straight at home. … Houston was 8-0 following a loss this season.

UP NEXT

The American Athletic Conference Tournament in Fort Worth. Houston earned a bye into the quarterfinals and will play on Friday, while Memphis will play on Thursday in the first round.