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Thursday’s Things to Know: Arizona can’t finish at Oregon, Wichita State takes early American lead and Michigan wins in 2OT

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Thursday night start with significant news that Washington point guard Quade Green will be academically ineligible for at least the next two months, and then things really got interesting.  Here’s what you need to know from a night of overtimes and early jockeying for conference positioning.

1. Arizona misses huge chance in Eugene

Arizona blew a massive opportunity Thursday night.

The Wildcats had a chance to firmly establish themselves as the Pac-12’s premier team, put themselves in the league’s driver’s seat and land a major NCAA tournament resume win when they led No. 9 Oregon by six with less than 2 minutes left in the game at Knight Arena. For a team whose best win was at home against Illinois in the season’s first week, that’s an opportunity you can’t miss.

Which is exactly what Arizona did.

Oregon scored six-straight points over the final 1:38 of regulation, including a game-tying jumper by Payton Pritchard with 28 seconds remaining, and the Wildcats missed two shots and then turned it over in the final possession of overtime to fall to the Ducks, 74-73, in frustrating fashion.

Arizona got a tough whistle down the stretch Zeke Nnaji maybe getting fouled on a potential game-winner with 5 seconds left without drawing a call, and then when officials blowing a play dead when it appeared Pritchard threw the ball back toward an unguarded basket before landing out of bounds. That makes it tough, but it’s a conference road game against a top-10 opponent. It’s gonna be tough.

The loss is obviously not something that’s going to hurt Arizona – a lot of teams are going to lose in Eugene over the next two months – but a win could have been monumentally helpful. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s just examine it from a public perception angle. The Wildcats were ranked 24th, and, given how AP voters typically behave, will probably fall outside the top-25, even if that’s silly considering they lost on the road to a top-10 team. Arizona may have showed itself to be the best team in the Pac-12 by taking Oregon to OT and nearly winning in Eugene, but there’s a pretty good chance Arizona is playing without a number next to its name next week.

To the things that really matter. Arizona has two “good” losses – at Baylor, vs. Gonzaga – and one whatever loss, St. John’s on a neutral, and that’s why the computers like them, but their resume is pretty thin with something pretty important: Good wins. It’s been two months since they beat a perfectly fine but not particularly remarkable Illini team in Tucson, and their best win since then depends on how you feel about New Mexico State, Arizona State and Wake Forest. And no one feels that great about that trio of teams.

A win at Oregon would have not only been a statement, but a serious NCAA tournament resume builder, something that isn’t exactly in strong supply across the Pac-12.  The league once again isn’t great, and that means needle-moving wins aren’t a plentiful resource. To outplay Oregon for most of the night Thursday on the Ducks’ floor only to return home with an L is a pretty tough pill to swallow if you’re Sean Miller or his players.

Arizona’s performance made me pretty confident that they’re the best team in the Pac-12, but my opinion is worth less than the Wildcats’ Nov. 24 win against Long Beach State (KenPom No. 305).

2. Shockers knock off Memphis

Even without James Wiseman, Memphis has a roster that can compete for an AAC championship. The Tigers ripped off a series of wins without the potential No. 1 NBA draft pick, both before and after he decided to hang up his sneakers for the season. Wins against N.C. State and Tennessee are enough to believe in Penny Hardaway’s team even without the stellar freshman. These Tigers still have a chance.

But they’re not the frontrunners.

Wichita State looks to have staked a claim to that status with their 76-67 win over the Tigers on Thursday night at Koch Arena.

The Shockers led by as many as 19 points despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from the 3-point line. They did it thanks to 35 trips to the free-throw line and a defense that produced 18 turnovers and held the Tigers to 35.7 percent from the floor while going a ghastly 4 of 21 from 3-point range. Gregg Marshall’s team had six players score at least eight points while Jamarius Burton led the way with 16.

Wichita State is now 2-0 in the American with the best league win across the conference to date. They’re just a little more than a week away from butting heads with another – probably their chief – AAC  contender, Houston, in Wichita.

3. Michigan survives 2OT to beat Purdue

I don’t know if anyone was actually worried about Michigan after Cassius Winston and Michigan State pretty well thumped them Sunday, but getting big performances from Zavier Simpson, Franz Wagner and Jon Teske to overcome 36 points and 20 rebounds from Trevion Williams and beat Purdue 84-78 in double-overtime might help calm some nerves.

Simpson had 22 and nine assists,  Teske had 18 points and nine rebounds and Wagner had 15 points and five boards to help power the Wolverines, who are still without second-leading scorer and 50-percent 3-point shooter Isaiah Livers. The junior wing has now missed three-straight games since suffering a groin injury in the early minutes of Michigan’s win against Presbyterian on Dec. 21.

Livers is a huge piece of the Wolverines’ puzzle, and without him their offense shrinks considering the importance of his 3-point shooting.

That doesn’t, however, explain how badly Michigan has gotten beaten inside throughout Big Ten play, with Williams’ huge night the latest in a line of big nights, as noted by The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn:

Michigan might not be the slumbering giant they appeared to be after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis (both Iowa State and North Carolina – Michigan’s first two wins in the Bahamas – are in free fall), but if they can get Livers back soon and figure out a way to contain opposing big men, they’ve got a chance to hang around in a Big Ten race that Michigan State is currently in solid control of.

No. 19 Michigan survives double overtime against Purdue

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zavier Simpson scored 22 points, Jon Teske added 18 and Michigan’s seniors made big shots late as the 19th-ranked Wolverines outlasted Purdue 84-78 in double overtime on Thursday night.

Freshman Franz Wagner had 15 points for Michigan (11-4, 2-2 Big Ten), which avoided a third straight Big Ten loss.

Purdue sophomore Trevion Williams had career highs with 36 points and 20 rebounds but missed a shot to win at the regulation buzzer.

In the first overtime, Eric Hunter Jr. missed a contested jump shot for Purdue (9-7, 2-3), and Simpson’s desperation 3-pointer on the run also missed for Michigan at the buzzer.

Michigan left little to chance in the second overtime, scoring the first nine points of the session. Teske had a three-point play, followed by 3-pointers from Simpson and Wagner.

Williams, who went to Henry Ford Academy in nearby Detroit, rushed a shot at the end of regulation while Wagner contested.

It was Williams’ sixth double-digit scoring output in the last seven games after he had just one in the first nine. His previous career highs were 18 points and 16 rebounds, both achieved last month at Nebraska.

Isaiah Thompson added 14 points and Eric Hunter Jr. scored 10 points for Purdue.

David DeJulius made three free throws in the final minute, finishing with 11 points for Michigan.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: The Boilermakers lost another chance for a resume builder, falling to 1-3 against ranked teams.

Michigan: The Wolverines responded to losing two straight Big Ten games, including at rival Michigan State on Sunday, with a hard-fought home win.

BIG MAN DOWN

Purdue junior center Matt Haarms fell awkwardly in the first half and left the game with an unspecified injury. He did not return.

STILL OUT

Michigan was playing its third straight game without junior Isaiah Livers, who has a groin injury. Livers is averaging 13.6 points per game, second on the Wolverines.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Purdue continues a three-game stretch against ranked opponents Sunday against No. 8 Michigan State. After that, the Boilermakers face No. 12 Maryland.

Michigan: In just their fifth conference game, the Wolverines already have a rematch, visiting Iowa on Sunday. Michigan topped the Hawkeyes 103-91 on Dec. 6.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: No. 5 Michigan loses again, Badgers drop fourth in five

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What looked to be a quiet night in college basketball ended up creating some noise, with a top-five upset leading the charge. Here’s everything you need to know from around the country.

1. Illinois gives No. 5 Michigan second loss in three games

Michigan is learning a lesson so many Midwestern tourists to the Bahamas learn upon returning home in December.

It was a helluva lot nicer down there.

The fifth-ranked Wolverines suffered their second loss in their three games since their expectations-busting Battle 4 Atlantis championship two weeks ago, this one coming to Illinois in a 71-62 setback.

Certainly, there’s no reason to completely abandon Juwan Howard’s team given both those losses were true road games, and one came against the top-ranked team in the country. Teams are going to lose road games, and maybe no one is going to win at the KFC Yum! Center other than Louisville this season. This Wolverines team was dismantling North Carolina and Gonzaga not so long ago, after all.

Their loss to the Illini seems to be more about an off-shooting night than any sort of structural problem. The Wolverines entered the night as a top-25 3-point shooting team, but connected on just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent), including 1 of 6 in the second half, in Champaign.

Sometimes, it’s not just your night.

As ‘meh’ as I am for the loss for the Wolverines, it’s a major victory for Brad Underwood’s Illinois. Prior to tonight, the Illini’s best win was KenPom No. 173 Hawaii at home.  All three top-100 teams they faced – No. 14 Arizona, No. 83 Miami and No. 9 Maryland – all beat them, with the Hurricanes and Terps games both last week.

Stopping a two-game losing streak and getting your first marquee win of the season against the team that had become something of a national darling is a really nice way to spend a Wednesday night.

It was an encouraging performance for the Illini, which had a balanced attack and a breakout performance from center Kofi Cockburn. The 7-foot center had 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. It was a fantastic night for him, but, unfortunately, it’ll likely be remembered most by his celebration late in the game that left an official injured after a celebratory fist pump accidentally smacked referee Lewis Garrison in the head.

2. Wisconsin drops fourth in five at Rutgers

Things aren’t looking so hot in Madison right now.

The Badgers lost for the fourth time in five games, this one a 72-65 defeat at Rutgers.

Now, it’s early, but Wisconsin looks well off from being an NCAA tournament team now with a 5-5 record, albeit with quality wins against Marquette and Indiana on the resume. If the Badgers can’t find the consistency and success necessary to get a berth, it’ll be the second time in three years they’ll have missed the dance after going every single year from 1999-2017. I imagine that would get some people a little concerned about the trajectory Greg Gard’s program is on after he inherited the powerhouse program after Bo Ryan’s abrupt mid-2015-16 retirement.

The result Wednesday has to be especially disappointing given it comes on the heels of a 20-point win over the Hoosiers in Madison. That may be the silver lining for the Badgers as all five of their losses have come away from the Kohl Center.

Rutgers won despite making fewer 3s and free throws thanks to the 14 offensive rebounds it collected and by winning the turnover margin (14 to 11). Geo Baker scored 22 to lead the way.

3. Low-major, big stats

Let’s give it up to some of the little guys that had huge nights.

Lavar Batts, a 6-foot-3 sophomore for UNC Asheville – made 14 of 17 shots from the floor, 3 of 5 from distance and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line to score 40, albeit in a losing effort to South Carolina State, 90-85. Batts is the 11th player this year to hit 40 points in a game against Division I competition.

Michigan’s Juwan Howard commits minor NCAA violation by publicly talking about recruit

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Michigan head coach Juwan Howard is still learning the ropes of college basketball.

The former NBA star and assistant coach took the Wolverines head coaching job in late May as he’s trying to figure out the subtle nuances that come with recruiting. Howard appeared to commit a secondary NCAA violation on Monday during a radio appearance on the Jim Rome Show.

In an interview with guest hosts the Sklar Brothers — known for their comedic take on sports; “Cheap Seats” is an underrated gem — Howard was asked about Michigan recruit Franz Wagner, the younger brother of former Wolverines star Moritz Wagner. Since Franz is uncommitted, and could stay overseas instead of playing college basketball, Howard speaking publicly about his future recruiting decision is technically an NCAA violation.

“Our communication has been great,” Howard said of Franz on the show. “Right now, he is making a decision if he is going to play with his national team to represent his country in the (FIBA) World Cup championship tournament. I highly recommend that he does. That’s a chance of a lifetime.

“At the end of the day, we’ve been communicating on whenever that process is over with, we’d love to have him on campus, wear a Michigan jersey just like his brother, and at some point compete for the University of Michigan and help this team in any way possible, and become a student-athlete at the university.”

The Sklar Brothers were jokingly pushing Howard to announce Franz’s potential commitment on the show as they are Michigan alums who are former classmates with the Fab Five standout. Clearly, the question-and-answer of this particular part of the segment is light-hearted and not Howard trying to give a hard pitch on the air.

Michigan will likely report a secondary violation with the NCAA — which usually results in a slap on the wrist. If anything, it’s a learning experience for Howard as he continues to figure out the NCAA’s rules.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Howard’s answer, however, is Franz’s potential decision timeline. The national team dilemma for the FIBA World Cup is an interesting one as the event doesn’t start until late August. It means that Germany, where the Wagners are from, will likely have to make some national team decisions soon before training camp begins — which could lead to a potential decision from Franz on playing at Michigan.

H/t: Dylan Burkhardt of UMHoops.com

Juwan Howard adds former St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli to Michigan staff

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It’s the line that gets dropped and repeated time and again when a coach with minimal experience or a lack of regional ties gets a head coaching gig.

“The staff will be so important.”

It’s cliched at this point, but it’s also true. A head coach sometimes is only as good as the three people he hires to be his assistants. The three people that will recruit the players to the program and help guide the day-to-day as much – if not more – than anyone. It gets repeated because it’s true. A coach fortifying his program with smart and pragmatic hires is paramount.

Juwan Howard appears to have just done exactly that at Michigan.

The newly-appointed Wolverines coach is adding former St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli to his staff, giving the first-time head coach who has never spent time on a bench at the collegiate level the benefit of an experienced, veteran head coach of over 20 years who has been a National Coach of the Year while winning and recruiting big at a mid-major program.

It is, to use another cliche, a home run hire.

Martelli, who was awkwardly fired from St. Joe’s after 24 years this spring, knows the college game as well as maybe anyone in the country. Whether it’s advice on recruiting, practice plans, games strategy, booster relations or working with an administration and compliance, Martelli is going to be able to give Howard an informed opinion on nearly any question that gets posed. Martelli has the precise profile of a former head coach that Howard was looking to add.

Sure, Martelli may not be a powerhouse on the recruiting trail for Michigan, but Howard’s NBA ties, as well as those of his other reported hire of Howard Eisley, and the college know-how and continuity of Saddi Washington, who is expected to be retained from John Beilein’s staff, the Wolverines should be pretty well set on the trail. Getting players is always the first step, but helping them win is the next – and often helps with the first. Martelli can be of serious service there, especially for Howard, who has experience as an assistant with the Miami Heat but whose last college experience came as a player 25 years ago.

One of the best signs that someone has the chops to make it in coaching – and maybe in any industry – is when they know what they don’t know. Howard’s hiring of Martelli suggests he’s  aware of the shortcomings on his resume, and immediately sought to buttress those weaknesses with someone who has serious, high-level experience. There’s a long way to go before we can even begin to judge the Howard era in Ann Arbor, but the first steps seem to be on the right path.

Juwan Howard tears up during Michigan introduction

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The idea of a “Michigan Man” being the one needed to take over the Wolverine program from John Beilein was probably overplayed. There’s nothing that would preclude a coach – say like Billy Donovan or Tony Bennett or Jay Wright – who hadn’t spent time in a Michigan uniform or an Ann Arbor classroom from finding success with a wealthy – both in tradition and financial resources – program.

Michigan ties aren’t what’s ultimately going make or break the Wolverine program going forward.

***LARRY DAVID VOICE***

Having said that…

Juwan Howard’s reaction during his introductory press conference Thursday showed why having a deep connection – and care for – the program could go a long way.

“Tears of joy. I said I wasn’t going to cry. I guess that never happens when you’re excited about something so special to you, that means so much,” Howard said. “Last time I had a press conference in this building was 1994. I declared that I was going to go to the NBA. It felt like I was letting down my teammates because I didn’t do what I came here to do, which was bring a championship to this university. The university that I care so much about. I guess you can see that now.”

Whoever Michigan hired was going to work like a crazy person to keep the Wolverines on the trajectory that Beilein had set, but it’s clear that this is more than a job at a school for Howard, who came back to his alma mater after spending the last few years as a Miami Heat assistant. A college job is more than just Xs and Os, and selling your school and program – to recruits and boosters – is a big a part of it as anything.

It doesn’t appear that part of the job will be all that difficult for Howard.