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Purdue’s Carsen Edwards declaring for 2019 NBA Draft

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Purdue’s Carsen Edwards is declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft, he announced on Sunday.

Following a memorable 2019 NCAA tournament in which he dropped two separate 42-point outings to help lead the Boilermakers to the Elite Eight, Edwards is planning on signing an agent and staying in the draft.

A 6-foot-1 junior known for his electric perimeter scoring ability, Edwards put up 24.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season. While Edwards was one of the main national storylines during the NCAA tournament, his play was up-and-down during the season for Purdue as he shot 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range.

Edwards should be one of the draft’s most intriguing prospects thanks to his perimeter abilities and inconsistent play. In the right system, Edwards could thrive as a microwave scorer. But Edwards also has some questions about his ability to play lead guard, as well as what kind of contributions he’ll bring on the defensive end.

WATCH: Michigan State’s Xavier Tillman posterizes Duke

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Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman put down one of the better poster dunks of the 2019 NCAA tournament in the Elite Eight against Duke on Sunday.

Tillman drove to his right and threw down on Duke’s Javin DeLaurier, getting a memorable and-one dunk to push the Spartans lead to four during a tight second half. No. 2 seed Michigan State and No. 1 seed Duke are battling for the last spot in the Final Four in Minneapolis next weekend as the winner faces No. 3 seed Texas Tech.

Michigan State runs by Big Ten rival Minnesota to advance to Sweet 16

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Michigan State jumped out to a big early lead and maintained a comfortable cushion from there in dispatching Big Ten rival Minnesota, 70-50, in the NCAA tournament’s East Region on Saturday.

Winners of seven straight games, No. 2 seed Michigan State (30-6) started out 5-for-5 from the floor with five different players scoring as it was a precursor to how Saturday’s game would unfold. Dominating on the interior, the Spartans destroyed Minnesota on the glass (45 to 18) while getting balanced scoring from their veteran roster.

Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston led the Spartans with 13 points and nine assists as his personal 7-0 run lifted the Spartans back into blowout territory after an early 8-0 Minnesota second-half run cut Michigan State’s lead to single digits.

Sophomore big man Xavier Tillman led Michigan State in scoring with 14 points while Kenny Goins, Matt McQuaid, Nick Ward and Aaron Henry all had nine points each.

Advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since a Final Four run in 2015, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and his players deserve a tremendous amount of credit for reaching the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. For the past three seasons, the Spartans have fallen short of lofty expectations as rosters with NBA draft picks (Denzel Valentine, Deyonta Davis, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr.) didn’t come to play in March. Remarkably, this was the longest stretch of Izzo’s Hall-of-Fame career at Michigan State without making it to the tournament’s second weekend.

With a roster gutted with injuries to veterans like Joshua Langford and Kyle Ahrens this season, Michigan State reverted back to classic Spartans basketball as they’re one of the most tough and cohesive teams in the country. Even without bonafide pro talent, Michigan State still has an All-American floor general in Winston and a bevy of great role players who know what to do on both ends of the floor.

Michigan State will need to clean up some turnover issues (22 against Minnesota) if they want to advance. But the Spartans look like they’re in strong shape in most other ways heading into next week as they advance to face No. 3 seed LSU in a Friday Sweet 16 clash in Washington D.C.

A matchup between Big Ten and SEC regular-season champions, that game should feature some fun individual matchups to look forward to. At point guard, Winston and the Tigers’ Tremont Waters (LSU’s hero against Maryland) are both All-American-caliber players. And the matchup of LSU’s Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams banging against the Spartans’ Ward and Tillman on the interior should be a fascinating frontcourt battle.

Minnesota (22-14) struggled to generate consistent offense without a healthy Jordan Murphy — reverting back to poor perimeter shooting (2-for-22 from three) after Thursday’s outlier shooting performance in a win over No. 7 seed Louisville. Murphy, a senior forward and double-double machine, played only four minutes in the first half and went scoreless before exiting until the game’s final moments with back spasms. In a touching March moment, Murphy returned to the floor for a possession with the game out of hand to receive one final curtain call as he never missed a practice or game during his four-year career at Minnesota.

Without Murphy’s consistency, the Golden Gophers only had three players score in the first half as they had a difficult time figuring out Michigan State’s stingy defense. Amir Coffey led Minnesota with 27 points as he was the only members of the Gophers able to generate his own looks. After 24 points against the Cardinals on Thursday, freshman shooter Gabe Kalscheur didn’t register a field goal as he finished with two points. Point guard Isaiah Washington was Minnesota’s only other double-figure scorer with 11 points.

Following last season’s immensely disappointing 15-17 season, Minnesota and head coach Richard Pitino deserves a lot of credit for bouncing back with a Round of 32 appearance. Some preseason polls had Minnesota finishing near the bottom of the Big Ten, with Pitino on many “Hot Seat” lists, as the Golden Gophers defied critics with a strong comeback season.

The loss of Murphy and guard Dupree McBrayer will hurt, but if Coffey returns, Minnesota will have a go-to player and some intriguing guys around him. Freshmen Daniel Oturu and Kalscheur are both double-figure scorers and other role guys like Michael Hurt and Washington could also return. If Minnesota can add another impact recruit or grad transfer, they could be in the mix for another NCAA tournament appearance in 2020.

The rare inter-conference matchup in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Spartans and Golden Gophers played because of the Big Ten’s high number of tourney bids coupled with the selection committee’s relaxed policy if conference foes only play once during the regular season. The Spartans handily beat the Gophers at home on Feb. 9 with a 79-55 win earlier this season.

No. 10 Iowa rallies past No. 7 Cincinnati

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Iowa rallied from a slow start to get past No. 7 seed Cincinnati with a 79-72 win on Friday in a South Region NCAA tournament game in Columbus.

Cincinnati generated an early 18-5 lead in the first half as they fed off of the Bearcat-friendly Columbus crowd only to see the No. 10-seed Hawkeyes get hot in the second half.

Things turned in Iowa’s favor about midway through the first half when the Hawkeyes started working the ball more inside. Behind sophomore big man Luka Garza (20 points, 8-for-11 shooting), the Hawkeyes were able to establish an inside presence while opening up the team’s perimeter-shooting options.

In the second half, freshman Joe Wieskamp (19 points) and the Hawkeyes started to make an abundance of threes as they finished 11-for-22 (50 percent) from the perimeter — including a blistering 7-for-10 mark in the second half. Junior guard Jordan Bohannon also tallied 13 points while Nicholas Baer added 10 points as Iowa outscored Cincinnati 48-36 in the second half.

Using the hot shooting of senior point guard Justin Jenifer (19 points), Cincinnati appeared to be completely in the driver’s seat in the first half. But once Iowa started responding with a flurry of second-half threes, the Bearcats struggled to play from behind in the final minutes. Jarron Cumberland (18 points) didn’t get rolling as a scorer until the second half while big man Nysier Brooks (11 points) fouled out with a few minutes left. Tre Scott also finished with 10 points on the afternoon for the Bearcats. Cincinnati struggled to match Iowa’s hot perimeter shooting as they were 6-for-27 from three-point range (24 percent) on the day.

This is a great comeback win for Iowa, as they overcame the bad start by working to take better shots. Forcing a lot of early looks, once the Hawkeyes started getting Garza comfortable on the block, it opened up looks for their shooters. It’s also notable that junior forward Tyler Cook, one of Iowa’s best players, was limited to only five points on 1-for-9 shooting.

Iowa was playing sluggish basketball the final three weeks of the regular season. Friday’s second half was a reminder of how dangerous the Hawkeyes can be if they are hitting shots. And for Iowa to rally when Cook was playing this poorly is yet another positive sign that the Hawkeyes are not to be taken lightly going forward.

With Iowa’s win, the Big Ten now moves to 6-0 in the 2019 NCAA tournament after a 5-0 start on Thursday. Iowa advances to face the winner of No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 15 seed Colgate on Sunday in Columbus.

No. 6 Maryland escapes No. 11 Belmont

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Maryland and Belmont engaged in a back-and-forth first-round matchup in Jacksonville on Thursday as the No. 4 seed Terrapins advanced in the East Region of the NCAA tournament with a 79-77 victory.

Belmont had a chance to go ahead trailing 78-77 on what could have been the game’s final possession but an errant backdoor pass from Grayson Murphy became a turnover as Maryland’s Eric Ayala tipped to ball as the Terps recovered the ball. Darryl Morsell (18 points) made one of two free throws for Maryland and Belmont had a final game-winning attempt from Dylan Windler — but his desperation half-court heave fell short.

Trailing by six at the half, the Terps (23-10) came roaring back in the second half behind a balanced effort. Despite an off-day from starting point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. (nine points on 3-for-18 shooting), Maryland got strong efforts from four other players. The frontcourt of Jalen Smith (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Bruno Fernando (14 points, 13 rebounds) both tallied double-doubles and Smith’s emphatic and-one dunk with under two minutes left gave Maryland a two-possession lead. Eric Ayala (12 points) also finished in double-figures for the Terps.

Belmont (27-6) had a monster outing from senior Dylan Windler as he finished with a game-high 35 points — including a very good 7-for-14 day from three-point territory. After advancing past Temple in the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday night, the Bruins looked like they could pull off the potential upset until the game’s final possessions. Guard Kevin McClain also had a solid day with 19 points. But nobody else on the Belmont roster could muster more than six points in the game.

Maryland is heading to the second round as they play No. 3 seed LSU on Saturday in Jacksonville. That matchup will feature a great frontcourt battle between Smith and Fernando going against LSU’s Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams. The matchup at point guard could be the difference, however, as Cowan will need to play better going against a strong lead guard in the Tigers’ Tremont Waters.

The Terps have to be pleased that they escaped with this win as they struggled from three-point range (6-for-22 for 27 percent) while Cowan had a horrible shooting day. If Cowan can return to his normal form, then Saturday’s second-round matchup should be pretty evenly matched.

Kaleb Wesson returning to Ohio State following suspension

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Ohio State big man Kaleb Wesson is returning to the lineup following a three-game suspension, Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann announced on Monday.

Out for an undisclosed violation of athletic department policy, Wesson is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Buckeyes this season. Putting up 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, Wesson gives Ohio State one of the best post-scoring options in the country when he’s in the lineup.

Losing all three games when Wesson was out, Ohio State has been in a freefall over the last few weeks. The Buckeyes are currently in an uneasy position on the bubble as they enter this week’s Big Ten tournament. Facing Indiana in the opening round on Thursday, that game could ultimately decide an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament since both teams are fighting for a bid.

Wesson and Ohio State won the regular-season matchup at Indiana on Feb. 10 as he tallied 10 points in a three-point victory.