Maryland Terrapins

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Tremont Waters’ late layup pushes LSU past Maryland and into the Sweet 16

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Whatever issues embroiling LSU off the court, they’re not slowing the Tigers down on it.

No. 3 seed LSU overcame its own blown 15-point lead to ultimately outlast Maryland on Saturday with a 69-67 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament to secure the Tigers’ first Sweet 16 since their 2006 Final Four run.

Skylar Mays hit two free throws to tie the game at 64 with 1 minute, 13 seconds left. The Tigers then got a stop, and Mays delivered a go-ahead 3-pointer from the win with 32.5 seconds left on the clock. The Terps, however, weren’t done as they matched Mays’ 3 with one by Jalen Smith on the ensuing possession.

Tremont Waters then came to the rescue for LSU.

The Tiger guard dribbled the clock down under 10 seconds, then attacked the rim, getting into the paint and delivering a scooping game-winning layup with under 2 seconds to play.

Mays scored 16 to lead the Tigers while Waters had 12 and Naz Reid 13 as LSU overcame shooting 28.9 percent in the second half when Maryland switched largely to zone to advance to Washington, D.C. next week.

It’s been quite the stretch for LSU under interim coach Tony Benford. After going one-and-done at the SEC tournament as the controversy surrounding coach Will Wade’s alleged wiretapped call to Christian Dawkins in which Wade reportedly said he made a “strong-ass offer” to land a recruit, LSU suddenly has its best postseason in more than a decade. How about that?

Of course, the Tigers’ success may eventually be wiped from the record book if the NCAA finds extensive wrongdoing or if the recruit in question, Javonte Smart, is retroactively declared ineligible as he’s playing for LSU despite the cloud that’s been created by what Wade allegedly said on a wiretap that was caught by an investigation that continues to sprawl and impact the sport. Even if it yet hasn’t been to the degree once thought to be imminent when the Southern District of New York announced those first batch of charges more than a year ago.

Regardless of what ultimately happens, though, this group of Tigers is going to play in the Sweet 16, even if it’s eventually stricken from the record books. There’s no Men In Black memory wipe. LSU and its fans will know they won these games, and they’ll probably give themselves extra credit for overcoming the adversity of perhaps getting caught cheating.

It’s hard to argue against LSU leaning into this. They could be looking at potential punishments to the program, and it seems likely they’ll be moving on from Wade after just two seasons. Given it’s been 13 years since they made a second weekend – much less a return to the Final Four – it’s probably best to just enjoy this run, however it may eventually be recorded. Hiring a new coach with a cloud of NCAA uncertainty over the program doesn’t usually foretell a return to prominence, ya know?

So with Minnesota or Michigan State awaiting them in D.C. next week and then potentially Duke, don’t fault LSU for getting its money’s worth out of this run. Maybe that wasn’t the best metaphor there, but you get it.

For Maryland, it’s the third first-weekend departure in four tournaments under Mark Turgeon. The Terps look to be a team that should be back again next year, even if sophomore big man Bruno Fernando opts to go pro. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center is a projected first-round draft pick, and would be a significant loss for Turgeon, but that could be the only major departure from this year’s team that went 23-11 and finished fifth in the Big Ten.

 

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.

Nebraska surprises No. 21 Maryland 69-61 in Big Ten tourney

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CHICAGO — James Palmer scored 24 points and Nebraska shut down No. 21 Maryland for the first big surprise of the Big Ten Tournament, holding off the Terrapins for a 69-61 victory on Thursday.

Using a seven-man rotation because of injuries and backup guard Nana Akenten’s suspension, the Cornhuskers harassed the Terrapins into 36 percent (18 for 50) shooting and 11 turnovers. Glynn Watson Jr. added 19 points and Isaiah Roby finished with 15.

Nebraska (17-15) earned a second win in the Big Ten tourney for the first time since 2016 and will face fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Friday afternoon. The Cornhuskers advanced with a 68-61 victory against Rutgers on Wednesday night.

Maryland (22-10) swept Nebraska during the regular season, including a 60-45 win in Lincoln on Feb. 6. But the Terrapins struggled offensively in their third loss in their last four games.

Bruno Fernando, who entered with averages of 14 points and 10.5 rebounds, was held to three points and eight boards. Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half, and Darryl Morsell finished with 14.

The Terrapins trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, but they closed to 35-30 on Morsell’s jam with 14:49 left. The Cornhuskers responded with a 9-0 run, capped by Watson’s 3-pointer with 11:59 to go.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon was whistled for a technical foul with 8:25 left after no foul was called as Morsell drove up the court on a fast break. Watson then made two foul shots and Roby converted a three-point play, extending Nebraska’s lead to 51-37 with 8:12 left.

BIG PICTURE

Nebraska: A third game in three days is one tough order for the Cornhuskers, but they have won three in a row since a four-game losing streak.

Maryland: The Terrapins showed some fight in the second half, but they had to chase the Cornhuskers after a shaky start. They had just 20 points in the first half on 29 percent shooting.

UP NEXT

Nebraska lost 62-51 to Wisconsin on Jan. 29 in their only meeting this season.

Maryland waits to see where it’s going in the NCAA Tournament.

Cowan scores 21 as No. 24 Maryland beats Minnesota 69-60

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If Maryland was feeling pressured to snap a two-game losing streak, it sure didn’t show prior to the opening tipoff against Minnesota.

The Terrapins completed their warmup session by gathering in the lane to dance to the hip-hop music blaring from the loudspeakers. They laughed and joked with the team’s two upperclassmen on Senior Night, and jumped for joy when senior Ivan Bender dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend.

And then, No. 24 Maryland kept the good times rolling, completing the regular season with a feel-good 69-60 victory Friday night.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 21 points and Jalen Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins. They were coming off a lopsided loss at Penn State and their lone Big Ten defeat at home, versus Michigan.

“We talked about having fun, but you never know if kids are going to relax or not,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We were a little uptight Sunday in that (Michigan) game.”

There was no sign of nervousness against Minnesota. The Terrapins (22-9, 13-7) led by 12 at halftime, stretched the margin to 19 in the opening three minutes of the second half and went up 54-32 with 13 minutes left.

“We had a great week of practice,” Turgeon said. “I knew we were going to play well, I knew we were going to play with energy. I didn’t think it would be quite that easy.”

Amir Coffey had 23 points and six assists for Minnesota (19-12, 9-11). The Golden Gophers’ only lead was 2-0.

Minnesota shot 27 percent before halftime, 38 percent overall and committed 13 turnovers.

“We talked about when you go on the road, you’ve got to take good shots and you can’t turn the ball over,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We didn’t do both of those in the first half.”

Bruno Fernando had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Maryland and Smith, a lanky 6-foot-10 freshman, just missed matching his career high of 21 points — set against Minnesota in 82-67 victory Jan 8.

Limited to 10 points against Michigan, Cowan topped that with a 12-point first half against Minnesota. The junior guard finished with a team-high five assists and played 37 minutes.

Asked what made the night special, Cowan replied, “Just seeing everybody playing together. Everybody smiling. Everybody just playing with heart, playing with effort. You can’t really ask for much more than that.”

Maryland led 34-22 at halftime despite missing 11 of its final 12 shots.

Minnesota had more turnovers (8) than baskets (7) in the first half and was 2 for 14 from inside the arc.

The Terrapins led 9-6 before Smith drilled successive 3-pointers to ignite an 18-7 run. Smith added a dunk during the surge and Cowan capped it with a 3 from the top of the key.

Smith started the second half with two free throws and Cowan made a layup to launch a 9-2 spurt that made it 43-24.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are a different team on the road, a problem that is not unique in the Big Ten. Minnesota finished 13-3 at home and 2-9 on the road, including 2-8 in the conference.

Maryland: The Terrapins desperately needed a blowout victory to erase the sting of the two games that preceded it. Turgeon can only hope this serves as a confidence boost heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

COLD COFFEY

Coffey scored a combined 63 points in Minnesota’s previous two games, helping the Golden Gophers beat Northwestern and Purdue. In this one, however, he went 8 for 17 from the floor and struggled before scoring 17 over the final 9:34.

“He doesn’t need to have to score 30 points for us to be a good offensive team,” Pitino said. “But in the second half, he was pretty darn good.”

FULLY ENGAGED

With only two upperclassmen on the squad, Senior Night was expected to be rather uneventful.

Bender rewrote the script by proposing to his girlfriend.

Though caught by surprise, Andrea Knezevic said yes.

UP NEXT

Both teams open play Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament at the United Center in Chicago.

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Bracketology: Race is on for No. 1 Seeds

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We’re just under two weeks away from this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show, and the race is on for the coveted spots along the No. 1 seed line.

Gonzaga seems like a lock to lead the West Region.  At this point, a loss in the West Coast Conference tournament will do little to change the Zags’ overall profile.  What it would do, however, is send ripples along the bubble, because as we stand now, the WCC appears to be a one-bid league.

Tennessee earns the final No. 1 seed today.  Kentucky and North Carolina are equally strong contenders.  And let’s not sleep on Michigan if the Wolverines win their rematch against Michigan State and surge to a Big 10 tournament title.  We also have another matchup between Duke and UNC as we await news about the availability of Zion Williamson.

NBC Sports Top 25 | Bubble Watch

On a housekeeping note … with conference tournaments beginning this week, we’ve eliminated the CAPS referring to automatic bids; those will be reserved now as teams officially punch their tickets (exceptions made for teams traditionally known by their acronym – such as VCU).

UPDATED: March 4, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION Temple vs. Seton Hall
WEST REGION Minnesota vs. Arizona State
EAST REGION Iona vs. Norfolk State
WEST REGION Prairie View vs. St. Francis (PA)

EAST Washington, DC   WEST – Anaheim        
Columbia Salt Lake City
1) Virginia 1) Gonzaga
16) Iona / Norfolk St 16) Prairie View / St. Francis
8) Auburn 8) Syracuse
9) St. John’s 9) VCU
San Jose Hartford
5) Mississippi State 5) Kansas State
12) Temple / Seton Hall 12) Minnesota / Arizona St
4) Kansas 4) Florida State
13) UC-Irvine 13) Vermont
Jacksonville Tulsa
6) Villanova 6) Nevada
11) Texas 11) Florida
3) LSU 3) Texas Tech
14) Yale 14) Texas State
Des Moines Des Moines
7) Buffalo 7) Louisville
10) Utah State 10) TCU
2) Michigan State 2) Michigan
15) Loyola-Chicago 15) Montana
MIDWEST – Kansas City SOUTH – Louisville
Columbus Columbia
1) Tennessee 1) Duke
16) Campbell 16) Sam Houston St
8) Washington 8) Baylor
9) Oklahoma 9) Ole Miss
San Jose Hartford
5) Virginia Tech 5) Maryland
12) Lipscomb 12) Belmont
4) Wisconsin 4) Marquette
13) New Mexico St 13) Old Dominion
Salt Lake City Tulsa
6) Iowa State 6) Cincinnati
11) Alabama 11) NC State
3) Houston 3) Purdue
14) South Dakota St 14) Hofstra
Jacksonville Columbus
7) Wofford 7) Iowa
10) Ohio State 10) UCF
2) North Carolina 2) Kentucky
15) Colgate 15) Wright State

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
Florida Minnesota Georgetown Providence
Texas Arizona State Clemson Memphis
NC State Temple Furman UNC-Greensboro
Alabama Seton Hall Xavier Creighton

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

Breakdown by Conference …

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

Big 10 (8): PURDUE, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Maryland, Iowa, Ohio State, Minnesota

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas

SEC (8): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Alabama

Big East (4): MARQUETTE, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall

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

Pac 12 (2): WASHINGTON, Arizona State

Mountain West (2): NEVADA, Utah State

Southern (1): WOFFORD

Atlantic 10 (1): VCU

Mid American (1): BUFFALO

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Iona (MAAC), Old Dominion (C-USA), Texas State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Sam Houston State (SLND), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Lipscomb (ASUN), Belmont (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Campbell (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Colgate (PAT), St. Francis (PA) (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

NBC Sports Top 25: Duke stays at No. 1; Purdue, Kansas State in the top ten

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I know that I’m probably going to end up getting some flack for this, but I’m sticking to my guns.

I believe that Duke is the best team in college basketball. The only team that they have lost to when they’ve been at full strength is the No. 2 team in the country, who beat them by two points on a neutral court. They swept the team that is sitting at No. 3, including a double-digit win on Virginia’s home floor. As far as we know, Zion Williamson is going to be back at some point this season, and it might be as soon as Tuesday’s game against Wake Forest.

So I’m going to leave Duke at No. 1. If Zion doesn’t play on Tuesday, then I will start worrying about whether or not he is actually going to be back in time for the game at North Carolina, the ACC tournament and, eventually, the NCAA tournament. If Zion is not going to come back to play this season, I think would slot Duke at eighth, behind Michigan and in front of Purdue, Kansas State and LSU.

One other point that I think needs to be made here: This is not necessarily how I would seed these teams if the NCAA tournament started today. If it did, Virginia and Gonzaga would be the top two seeds with Tennessee, Duke and Kentucky sliding in behind them in some order I’m not totally certain of. But even if Duke ends up as a No. 2 seed or the last No. 1 seed in the field, I would still set them as favorites to win the national title.

Beyond that, the only major change to the top ten is that I flipped Tennessee and Kentucky. I can see them being ranked either way, and I am 100 percent here for the rubber match coming in the SEC tournament title game, although it does not look like that is something that will happen.

I’ve also vaulted Purdue and Kansas State into the top ten with LSU sitting at No. 11. I really have no idea what to make of the teams sitting between No. 9 and No. 16, and I’m not sure I’d quibble with them being in any order.

Anyway, here is the full top 25:

1. Duke (25-4, Last Week: 1)
2. Gonzaga (29-2, 2)
3. Virginia (26-2, 3)
4. North Carolina (24-5, 5)
5. Tennessee (26-3, 7)
6. Texas Tech (24-5, 6)
7. Kentucky (24-5, 4)
8. Michigan (25-4, 9)
9. Purdue (22-7, 13)
10. Kansas State (22-7, 14)
11. LSU (24-5, 15)
12. Michigan State (23-6, 8)
13. Houston (27-2, 11)
14. Marquette (23-6, 10)
15. Nevada (26-3, 12)
16. Kansas (22-7, 17)
17. Virginia Tech (22-6, 19)
18. Florida State (23-6, 22)
19. Wisconsin (20-9, 16)
20. Buffalo (26-3, 22)
21. Iowa State (20-9, 18)
22. Wofford (24-4, 24)
23. Villanova (22-8, 25)
24. Cincinnati (25-4, NR)
25. UCF (22-6, NR)

Dropped Out: 20. Maryland, 21. Iowa
New Additions: 24. Cincinnati, 25. UCF