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Wednesday’s Things to Know: Markus Howard drops 53; Houston’s unbeaten season ends; Auburn, Ohio St lose on road

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Chaos dictated the early portion of college basketball’s schedule on Wednesday night. With five ranked teams playing on the road in conference games, strange things were bound to happen. We ended up with a 50-point outing, two road upsets to unranked teams and an undefeated season ending all within the first few hours of the night.

Here are the things to know about Wednesday night in college hoops.

Markus Howard drops 53, Sam Hauser’s heroic regulation buzzer-beater lift No. 21 Marquette over Creighton

Things got dramatic in the Big East as Marquette outlasted Creighton for a 106-104 overtime win.

At the end of regulation, with Marquette down by three, Creighton turned the ball over on an inbounds pass with 0.8 seconds left. Sam Hauser and the Golden Eagles took advantage by nailing the controversial game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Junior guard Markus Howard took over from there as he finished with 53 points — with 14 points coming in overtime. It marked Howard’s third time with 45 or more points in his career — the first college player to do that since Jodie Meeks. For the first time in 20 years, college hoops also has a player with two career 50-point games. And Howard’s only a 19-year-old junior.

No. 17 Houston’s unbeaten season ends in controversial fashion at Temple

College hoops is only down to Michigan and Virginia among college basketball’s undefeated teams after Temple knocked off No. 17 Houston in AAC play on Wednesday night.

The game ended on a controversial charge call on a potential game-tying lay-up by the Cougars’ Corey Davis Jr. as Houston lost its undefeated season in dramatic fashion. Over the past two seasons, Houston has some of the most dramatic losses in college basketball as they’ll look to bounce back and stay atop a crowded field in the American.

Temple also joins the AAC conference race with a more intriguing case as they’ve now taken down the league’s best team early in conference play. In Fran Dunphy’s final season, the Owls now have a much better postseason case after a win like this.

Ole Miss enhances its profile with big win SEC win over No. 11 Auburn 

Things got more interesting in the SEC on Wednesday night as Ole Miss held off No. 11 Auburn, 82-67, for a quality upset win. Finding themselves in bubble range after a surprising start to the season, the Rebels might have just given themselves the kind of signature win they were looking for by knocking off last season’s co-SEC champion.

Terence Davis came through with a monster game of 27 points and 12 rebounds as he put Ole Miss on his back during stretches of this game. Previously with only wins over Baylor and on the road at Vanderbilt to open SEC play, now the Rebels have the type of win they can build around.

Auburn’s loss means they’ll need to do more to keep up with Tennessee in the SEC. And they’re 0-2 in true road games on the season.

Also, who saw Ole Miss and South Carolina as being 2-0 in the SEC while teams like the Tigers and Kentucky would be 1-1? The SEC has already been wild to start this conference season.

Rutgers knocks off No. 16 Ohio State for biggest win of Steve Pikiell’s career

And finally in the Big Ten, Rutgers claimed its most important win of the Steve-Pikiell era with a 64-61 home Big Ten win over Ohio State.

The Scarlet Knights really don’t have much of a shot at the NCAA tournament with an 8-6 record at this point, but it shows the progress the program has made. Big Ten basketball is also as brutal as ever as the league, top-to-bottom, is incredibly tough. The young backcourt of Montez Mathis (16 points) and Geo Baker (15 points) came through while Ron Harper Jr. chipped in 12 points.

Ohio State could fall out of the top 25 with its latest loss as they fell behind in the first half of a back-and-forth game. With a late lead, the Buckeyes dropped control, and eventually the game, as a young team looked inconsistent down the stretch. Big man Kaleb Wesson scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the Buckeyes.

Markus Howard’s 53 points overshadowed by controversy in Marquette win at Creighton

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Markus Howard’s unbelievable season continued on Wednesday in a way that only Markus Howard can do it.

The 6-foot Marquette star became the first Division I player in 20 years to score 50 points twice in his career, the first player since Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks to score at least 45 points three times in one season and now owns the top four single-game scoring marks in Marquette history after he went for a career-high 53 points in a 106-104 win at Creighton.

In a season full of unbelievable performances by the 19-year old junior, this was as incredible as any of them. Howard scored those 53 points on 15-for-26 shooting. He was 10-for-14 from three. 14 of those 53 points came in overtime, including the first 11 that Marquette scored in the extra period in just 2:30.

Should I mention that he also finished with six assists?

As incredible as Howard was, it was the sixth of his assists on the night that is going to dominate the conversation in Omaha for the next couple of days, because Marquette may have been given the gift of a game-tying three.

Before we get into the controversy, the stupidity: Martin Krampelj could have ended this game. With 0.8 seconds left and taking the ball out under Marquette’s basket, Creighton threw a pass 60 feet down the floor to Krampelj, and all he had to do was get a touch on it and the clock would have run out. But he let the ball go over his head and, as it was rolling out of bounds, he did not chase it down until it was too late.

So the Golden Eagles got the ball out of bounds under their own basket with a chance to tie the game and force overtime, and they did just that:

Maybe not so much.

It is quite clear that, based on this picture from a USA Today Sports photographer, the ball was still in Hauser’s hand when the buzzer went off.

But it’s hard to tell on the replay — based on the video that was shown on the broadcast, the image was too blurry to definitively tell either way. It looks bad now, but I think that, upon review, the referees made the right decision. (Full disclosure: I didn’t think he got the shot off in real time.)

But that is neither here nor there.

Because the shot counted.

Markus Howard scored 14 of his 53 points in overtime.

And No. 18 Marquette escaped one of the tougher road venues in the Big East with a win they really needed to avoid falling off the pace set by Villanova.

Bracketology: Duke leads opening field of 68

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With a new year upon us, the countdown to Selection Sunday is officially underway.

Through two months of play, Duke reigns over the NCAA’s new NET rankings (No. 1 through games on January 1) and also reigns over our opening in-season bracket.

The Blue Devils are joined on the top line by Kansas (Midwest), Michigan (South), and Tennessee (West).

Virginia, Gonzaga, Nevada, and Michigan State are next in line.

With conference play just beginning, we’re at an awkward stage.

Some teams have tested themselves against tough schedules.

Others have largely filled up their resumes with holiday cupcakes.

We’ll learn lot more about both groups in the next two months.

UPDATED: January 3, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION VCU vs. UCF
SOUTH REGION Purdue vs. Temple
EAST REGION Morgan State vs. Niagara
MIDWEST REGION Abilene Christian vs. St. Francis (NY)

EAST Washington, DC              MIDWEST – Kansas City
Columbia, SC Tulsa
1) DUKE 1) KANSAS
16) MORGAN ST / NIAGARA  16) AB-CHRISTIAN / ST. FRANCIS 
8) Villanova 8) Iowa
9) Maryland 9) LSU
San Jose Des Moines
5) Mississippi State 5) North Carolina
12) OLD DOMINION 12) UNC-GREENSBORO
4) HOUSTON 4) Wisconsin
13) LIPSCOMB 13) TEXAS STATE
Tulsa Hartford
6) NC State 6) BUFFALO
11) VCU / UCF 11) Kansas State
3) Texas Tech 3) Ohio State
14) SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 14) PENN
Columbus Salt Lake City
7) SETON HALL 7) Louisville
10) Clemson 10) Florida
2) Michigan State 2) GONZAGA
15) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 15) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
WEST – Anaheim SOUTH – Louisville
Columbia, SC Columbus
1) TENNESSEE 1) MICHIGAN
16) TEXAS SOUTHERN 16) LEHIGH
8) Minnesota 8) St. John’s
9) Iowa State 9) TCU
Salt Lake City Des Moines
5) Marquette 5) Virginia Tech
12) CHARLESTON 12) Purdue / Temple
4) Oklahoma 4) Kentucky
13) NEW MEXICO ST 13) BELMONT
Jacksonville Jacksonville
6) Auburn 6) Cincinnati
11) Texas 11) SAINT LOUIS
3) Indiana 3) Florida State
14) UC-IRVINE 14) VERMONT
Hartford San Jose
7) ARIZONA STATE 7) Nebraska
10) Creighton 10) Washington
2) Virginia 2) NEVADA
15) RADFORD 15) MONTANA

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Clemson VCU Vanderbilt Butler
Washington UCF Syracuse Ole Miss
Texas Purdue Arizona Notre Dame
Kansas State Temple Missouri Alabama

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

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (10): Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, Purdue

ACC (8): Duke, Virginia, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Clemson

SEC (6): Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Auburn, LSU, Florida

BIG 12 (6): Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU, Texas, Kansas State

Big East (5): Seton Hall, Marquette, St. John’s, Villanova, Creighton

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

Pac 12 (2): Arizona State, Washington

Atlantic 10 (2): Saint Louis, VCU

Mountain West (1): Nevada

West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE BID LEAGUES: Southern Illinois (MVC), Niagara (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Penn (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Abilene Christian (SLND), UNC-Greensboro (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Charleston (CAA), Radford (BSO), Morgan State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), St. Francis-NY (NEC), Texas Southern (SWAC)

NBC Sports Top 25: Michigan rising, Kansas falling

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The hardest thing for me to do when ranking teams is to decide between who looks the best when you are watching a team play and who has the most impressive body of work to date.

Because they are, in essence, two different things.

Rankings based off of the body of work that a team has put together is fine, but in essence those rankings are essentially a replacement for NCAA tournament seedings. Think about it like this — Furman won at Villanova, which means that Furman will get credit for that win should they find their way into the NCAA tournament, but how many people truly believe that Furman is the better basketball team?

Put another way, if Furman and Villanova played tomorrow on a neutral court and you had to bet your rent money on one of those two teams winning, you’re betting on Villanova.

Because you think they’re the better basketball team.

This is why I think that ranking Duke No. 1 was and still is valid, but that’s not a fight I’m going to fight anymore. We live in a world where people demand a two-point win on a neutral floor to be definitive proof one team is better than another, and I just don’t have the time or the energy to argue about it anymore. Y’all won.

But it does create something of a conundrum when dealing with Michigan, Kansas and Virginia. Michigan has made this decision a bit easier by sandblasting North Carolina and Purdue this week, so the argument can be made that their overall resume is now stronger than that of Kansas. That said, the Jayhawks have neutral court wins over a top six team in Tennessee, a top 15 team in Michigan State and over Marquette, who just beat a top 15 Kansas State team by double-figures on Saturday.

That resume is better than Virginia’s. It’s better than Duke’s. Hell, it’s probably better than Gonzaga’s.

But I am going to rank them fifth this week because — and I do believe Jayhawk fans will agree with me here — Kansas has not looked right yet this season. I’m not sure if Quentin Grimes has actually made a shot since the first half of the Champions Classic. Udoka Azubuike can’t seem to stay out of foul trouble, and when he’s not on the floor Kansas doesn’t look the same. Charlie Moore hasn’t been great. The bench is looking less and less like it’s all that deep. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Lagerald Vick, who has repeatedly had absolutely massive games and hit clutch shots to keep Kansas undefeated.

Winning ugly is still winning, and there is something to say for that. Those concerns haven’t cost them yet, but this is something that Bill Self is going to have to figure out.

And until he does, Kansas is going to drop in my top 25.

Anyway, here is the rest of the top 25:

1. Gonzaga (8-0, Last Week: 1)
2. Duke (7-1, 3)
3. Michigan (8-0, 6)
4. Virginia (7-0, 4)
5. Kansas (6-0, 2)
6. Tennessee (6-1, 5)
7. Nevada (8-0, 7)
8. Auburn (6-1, 9)
9. North Carolina (6-1, 8)
10. Florida State (6-1, 13)
11. Texas Tech (7-0, 19)
12. Kentucky (7-1, 14)
13. Michigan State (6-2, 12)
14. Virginia Tech (6-1, 11)
15. Wisconsin (7-1, 20)
16. Kansas State (6-1, 10)
17. N.C. State (7-1, 17)
18. Purdue (5-3, 18)
19. Ohio State (7-1, 16)
20. Arizona State (7-0, 24)
21. Creighton (6-2, UR)
22. Buffalo (7-0, 22)
23. Iowa (6-1, 21)
24. Nebraska (7-1, UR)
25. Mississippi State (6-1, 25)

New Additions: 21. Creighton, 24. Nebraska
Dropped Out: 15. Oregon, 23. Clemson

Norvell’s 28 points rallies No. 1 Zags past Creighton 103-92

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OMAHA, Neb. — Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. got off to a slow start against Creighton for the second year in a row. Like last year, he finished with a flurry.

Norvell scored 23 of his career-high 28 points in the second half, and top-ranked Gonzaga wiped out an early double-digit deficit and beat Creighton 103-92 on Saturday.

Norvell’s shot was off throughout the first 20 minutes. Coming out of halftime, coach Mark Few drew up a play just for him. Norvell took a pass from Rui Hachimura, went hard to the basket and converted a three-point play. He scored nine of the Zags’ first 11 points of the half.

“When he makes his first one,” Few said, “it’s game on.”

Norvell has had a habit of starting slowly. Gonzaga, missing two key players because of injury, needed all the points he could provide against a high-scoring Creighton team.

“I wanted to be aggressive starting off the half, get myself a chance to get going,” Norvell said, “and it went well.”

Last year, Norvell scored all 21 of his points in the second half in a 91-74 come-from-behind victory over the Bluejays in Spokane, Washington.

“We played 40 minutes of pretty good basketball against them the last two years,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said. “Unfortunately, those 40 minutes didn’t happen the same day. They are a problem to get stopped.”

The Bulldogs (8-0), who took over the No. 1 ranking this week after beating Duke in the Maui Invitational, overcame a boisterous crowd of more than 18,000 at the CHI Health Center to win in their first true road game.

“It was just a great basketball game, and I’m not saying that just because we ended up on top,” Few said. “It was really high-level play going on, high-level shot-making. Creighton’s offense is really something special.”

Norvell said the Zags can build off the win.

“It was big-time for us,” he said. “Coming into an environment like this with a good crowd, a well-coached opponent and knowing they would play really hard, we knew it was going to be a battle. We wanted to take the fight to them. It didn’t go well for us the first half. They made some tough shots. We were able to stay with it, stay poised and confident, and we were able to get a win.”

The Zags, down 48-41 at halftime, took their first lead since early in the game on a Corey Kispert 3-pointer that put them up 66-65. They held Creighton (6-2) scoreless for nearly four minutes in the middle of the second half while going on a 12-0 run to go up 84-73. Norvell hit two 3-pointers and a layup during the spurt while Creighton missed five shots and turned over the ball three times.

“He’s a rhythm guy, he’s a rhythm guy in practice,” Few said of Norvell. “He missed a couple real easy shots in the first half. You can always tell the way it’s coming off his hand. It takes a special, confident, courageous player to keep taking shots like that. He’s definitely that.”

NUMBERS TO NOTE

Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke added 27 points and 10 rebounds and Hachimura had 22 points and 11 boards for the Bulldogs. Josh Perkins had 13 points to go with a career-high 13 assists. … Norvell was 1 for 6 on 3-pointers in the first half and 5 for 11 in the second. … The Zags upped their scoring average to 98.4 points, second in the nation. … Ty-Shon Alexander led the Bluejays with 27 points. Damien Jefferson had 15 and Martin Krampelj 10.

THE BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: With Geno Crandall (hand) and Killian Tillie (ankle) out because of injuries, this was a major test. The Zags had trailed for only 23 of a possible 280 minutes coming into the game, and they had to play from behind most of the afternoon until they took control in the last 10 minutes.

Creighton: The Bluejays fell short of knocking off a No. 1 opponent for the first time in three tries. But they are much further ahead of where most expected them to be after getting picked ninth in the 10-team Big East.

Creighton wins second annual Cayman Islands Classic

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Sophomore Ty-Shon Alexander made seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 36 points to lead Creighton past No. 16 Clemson 87-82 on Wednesday night in the championship game of the second annual Cayman Islands Classic.

Alexander, who was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, was 9-of-16 shooting, missing just five from distance, and made all 11 of his free throws.

Clemson’s Marcquise Reed completed a 3-point play with 28 seconds left and Elijah Thomas forced a turnover on an inbound play, leading to Shelton Mitchell’s shot inside to pull to 83-80. Davion Mintz answered with two free throws at the other end, and after Reed was off on a 3-pointer, Mintz sealed it with a dunk.

Creighton (5-1) has back-to-back home games against Montana and No. 3 Gonzaga, which upset top-ranked Duke 89-87 earlier Wednesday in Maui.

Reed was 11 of 22 from the floor and scored 27 points for Clemson (5-1), reaching 1,001 points with the team. David Skara had eight points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Monday against Nebraska.