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Ten Things To Know: College basketball’s wildest day of the season

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THAT WAS THE BEST DAY OF THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL SEASON!!!

We had game-winners. We had upsets. We had game-winners that landed upsets. We had upsets that earned automatic bids. We even had a game-winner that landed an upset for a team that earned an automatic bid.

What a wild and wonderful day of basketball.

I can’t imagine a better way to put a bow on the regular season and get ready for tournament hoops.

Here are the ten things you need to know from Saturday.

1. UTAH STATE IS DANCING, BABY!!! SHOUTS TO SAM MERRILL.

Sam Merrill hit this shot to beat San Diego State, win the Mountain West tournament and earn Utah State an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

He scored 83 points in three games in Las Vegas this week. That’s pretty impressive.

2. BELMONT IS TOO, SHOUTS TO LIBERTY.

Belmont beat Murray Sate to win the Ohio Valley’s automatic bid, and they did it on this beautiful backdoor play drawn up by Casey Alexander:

The play, according to the broadcast, was called Liberty.

Might it be derived from this?

3. DID WEST VIRGINIA PUT NO. 4 BAYLOR’S 1-SEED IN JEOPARDY?

For weeks, the four projected No. 1 seeds in the 2020 NCAA tournament have stayed the same. Kansas and Baylor dominated the Big 12. They’ve seemingly been ranked in the top five all season. San Diego State and Gonzaga have mostly steamrolled their respective conferences on the West Coast.

After No. 4 Baylor’s road loss at West Virginia, however, the No. 1 seed line is intriguing for the first time in months.

With three losses in the last five games –including road losses to unranked TCU and West Virginia — the Bears aren’t exactly playing their best ball over the final few weeks.

If Baylor ends up with an early exit in next week’s Big 12 tournament could they be in trouble? That remains to be seen — especially after another potential No. 1 seed in San Diego State fell to Utah State on Saturday. But there are a few teams on the current No. 2 line who are knocking on the door. And it makes for a fun storyline to follow for the final week of the season.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

4. WE HAVE A THREE-WAY TIE ATOP THE BIG EAST

After Seton Hall beat Marquette in Milwaukee last weekend, the Pirates were sitting two games in front of both Villanova and Creighton in the Big East regular season standings with two games left to play.

Based on the way this season has gone, it should come as no surprise that the Pirates went ahead and lost to both Villanova and Creighton this week, meaning that we will be ending this season with a three-way tie for first in the league. Tri-champions, if you will.

And honestly, after watching three months worth of Big East basketball, that seems like the right outcome. Villanova, Creighton and Seton Hall all looked like clearly the best team in the league at different stretches during the year, and I am all the way here for four days in the world’s most famous arena to try and determine the one true champion of the Big East.

5. NO. 6 KENTUCKY LANDS MIRACLE COMEBACK WIN AT FLORIDA

A crazy week for Kentucky continued with the Wildcats taking an inspired SEC road win at Florida.

Finding themselves down 18 points, Kentucky used a furious rally — without two starting guards — to knock off one of the league’s most talented teams. Playing without Ashton Hagans (personal reasons) and with guard Immanuel Quickley limited to only 21 minutes before fouling out, the Wildcats manufactured an unlikely road win with their backs against the wall.

The final nine minutes saw Kentucky will their way into the lead. Quickley was glued to the bench with his disqualification. It was big man Nick Richards who shined the final 20 minutes. Going to work with Florida center Kerry Blackshear Jr. exiting with a wrist injury, Richards scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.

A few days after blowing its own 17-point lead in an ugly home loss to Tennessee, this is one of the biggest wins of the season for Kentucky. Although the Wildcats comfortably claimed the SEC title awhile ago, Kentucky is still in the mix for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. And if Baylor continues its recent slide, and Kentucky can mount a run in the SEC tournament, this win could be a focal point.

6. DID WISCONSIN REALLY WIN A SHARE OF THE BIG TEN TITLE?

A month ago, it was easy to picture Wisconsin missing the NCAA tournament.

A blowout loss at Minnesota on Feb. 5 put the Badgers at 13-10 and a mediocre 6-6 in the Big Ten. Greg Gard’s ballclub were losers in four out of the last six games.

Even worse, off-the-court storylines overshadowed the on-court product.

Brad Davison became a national story with a low-blow against Iowa. That play resulted in a suspension. Kobe King, one of the team’s key perimeter scoring threats and a starter, shockingly transferred from the school with a month left in the season. A Wisconsin staff member resigned over the use of a racial epithet.

Wisconsin was in a major tailspin they couldn’t seem to correct. Then, something miraculous happened. Gard and the Badgers pulled it all together and rattled off eight straight Big Ten wins.

And here we stand, on March 7, with Wisconsin claiming a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a 60-56 road win at Indiana. Down by eight with 8:52 left, the Badgers clamped down on defense and shut down the Indiana offense. Nate Reuvers paced four double-figure Wisconsin scorers with 17 points. It wasn’t flashy, but the Badgers found a way to get it done for another tough road win.

It’s part of one of the more remarkable turnarounds in college basketball this season. Wisconsin was facing as much off-court scrutiny as any team in the country. The Badgers were sluggish in the middle of a brutal Big Ten schedule.

This group rallied around each other and figured things out once King left the program. Now at a notable 16-5 since Ohio State transfer Micah Potter joined the lineup, the Badgers are one of the hottest teams in the country. And, depending on what Maryland and Michigan State do on Sunday, Wisconsin still has an outside chance at being outright Big Ten champs.

Who could have possibly seen this coming?

7. JONAH MATHEWS ENDED UCLA’S DREAM OF A PAC-12 TITLE

UCLA has finally taken the lead at USC thanks to a pair of Cody Riley free throws when Mathews, on his senior night, did this:

Thanks to Oregon’s win over Stanford on Saturday night, the Bruins dream of winning at least a share of the Pac-12 regular season title died a quick death.

8. FLORIDA STATE WON THE ACC, BUT DUKE AND VIRGINIA IMPRESSED

Duke looked as good as they have in a long time in a win over rival North Carolina on Saturday night, and Virginia won for the 10th time in their last 11 games by beating Louisville at home, but none of that mattered.

No. 7 Florida State blew out Boston College at home on Saturday, earning themselves the outright ACC regular season title, the first time they have won a regular season title since 1989. As hard as it may be to believe, Florida State, Miami, Virginia (four times) and North Carolina (five times) have won regular season ACC titles since the last time Duke won one.

9. RUTGERS IS DANCING

The biggest bubble news of the day came in West Lafayette, Indiana, when Rutgers knocked off Purdue in overtime. The Scarlet Knights got a road win they desperately needed, and it looks like they are headed for the NCAA tournament.

All of our bubble content can be found here.

10. TEXAS GETS TEXAS TECH IN A KNOCKOUT GAME IN THE BIG 12 TOURNAMENT

Texas and Texas Tech are both very much on the bubble right now. According to the latest Bracketology from our Dave Ommen, they are both sitting in a play-in game at this point.

They will play each other in the first round of the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday. That will be fun.

No. 24 Wisconsin rallies to beat Indiana, clinch share of Big Ten title

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Brad Davison and a bunch of Wisconsin players jumped around as the buzzer sounded Saturday, celebrating the end of a five-year Big Ten title drought.

They just wished assistant coach Howard Moore could have been there with them.

Ten months after an automobile accident killed his wife, Jen, and 9-year-old daughter, Jaidyn, and left him with severe burns, Moore was first and foremost in the team’s thoughts after No. 24 Wisconsin beat Indiana 60-56.

“This whole period, this whole year we’ve been thinking about him,” Davison said. “Not a day goes by that we don’t think about him, and obviously this season was dedicated to him. So to go out like this with a regular-season Big Ten championship is crazy.”

Moore’s 13-year-old son, Jerell, suffered minor injuries in the crash that also killed the wrong-way driver who ran into the family’s vehicle. In July, Howard Moore suffered a heart attack and the players haven’t seen him since last summer.

The Badgers assured themselves at least a share of the Big Ten title. Losses by ninth-ranked Maryland and No. 15 Michigan State on Sunday would give Wisconsin the outright title.

“As soon as I can, I am going to take that trophy over to see Howard and let him rub it, and kiss it, and hold it,” coach Greg Gard said. “I cannot be prouder of these three guys that have been through hell and back in the last nine months that we had to face as a team and personally. They’ve stuck together. They’ve been phenomenal. I do not even have words to describe how good they have been.”

All season, Wisconsin players have worn warmup shirts with “4 Moore” on the back. Gard took note of that after this win.

“How ironic that the final difference is four points?” Gard said.

RELATEDBubble Watch | Bracketology | Conference Tournaments

The Badgers’ achievement this season included a months-long battle with the NCAA over Micah Potter’s eligibility and an uncharacteristic 5-5 start.

Davison’s tiebreaking 3-pointer with 4:05 left gave Wisconsin the lead for good. The Badgers excelled on the other end of the floor, too, holding Indiana to one basket in the final 10 minutes.

Nate Reuvers finished with 17 points and Potter added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Davison made two free throws with 7.1 seconds to seal the win and had 11 points.

Wisconsin (21-10, 14-6) has won eight straight.

Meanwhile, the Hoosiers (19-12, 9-11) lost for the third in four games — and this was one that got away. Indiana broke a 34-34 second-half tie with a 13-5 run and still appeared to be in control after taking a 51-44 lead at the 6:52 mark.

Instead, the Badgers scored 12 straight, forced 12 straight errant shots and never trailed after Davison’s 3. Devonte Green scored all 16 of his points in the first half to lead the Hoosiers.

“They did a great job of being able to claw and hang, and then I thought their front court really finished us off,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said.

Gard found the closing chapter to be fitting.

“That last seven minutes was kind of a microcosm of what we’ve gone through, to fight uphill and find a way to battle back,” he said. “This has been unbelievable — the guts, the heart, the toughness of this group, how they’ve matured. They didn’t have it in November. They have it in March.”

BIG PICTURE

Wisconsin: The Badgers didn’t follow the traditional script. But they dug down late, found a way to continue their recent dominance in the Indiana series and now head into the conference tournament with momentum and confidence.

Indiana: The Hoosiers may have done enough already to make the NCAA Tournament. But a win over another ranked team might have assured them of a spot in the 68-team field. Instead, Miller must wait a few more days to see if he can record his first 20-win season at Indiana.

STAT PACK

Wisconsin: D’Mitrik Trice missed his first six shots and was shut out in the first half but still managed to finish with four points to become the first junior in school history with 1,000 points, 300 assists and 300 steals. He also had five assists and five rebounds. …Reuvers also had seven rebounds. … Aleem Ford had 12 points.

Indiana: Green got a rare start on senior day and made five of his first eight shots. He finished 6 of 17, going 3 of 8 on 3s. … Race Thompson had seven points and 11 rebounds. … Aljami Durham had nine points and Justin Smith had seven.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: Will make another trip to Indiana for Friday’s quarterfinal round game in the Big Ten Tournament.

Indiana: Must wait for Sunday’s conference games to finish before determining which team and when they will play in the Big Ten tourney at Indianapolis.

No. 24 Wisconsin moves into first with win over Northwestern

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MADISON, Wis. — Nate Reuvers scored 11 points as No. 24 Wisconsin struggled through a poor offensive performance in a 63-48 win over Northwestern on Wednesday night.

The win moved the Badgers (20-10, 13-6 Big Ten) into a three-way for first place in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin was not effective with the ball against a team that has the 12th-worst defense in the league, giving up more than 70 points a game, and is in last place in the conference.

Northwestern (7-22, 2-17) dug itself two holes, but only found its way out of only one.

The Wildcats, who shoot 42% from the field on average, started the game 1 for 10 with five turnovers in the first nine minutes. After trailing by 17 points with 5:48 left, Northwestern cut the Wisconsin lead to 32-28 just before half.

The Wildcats’ offensive woes resurfaced after the break as they started 1 for 12 and fell behind 48-33 with 8:51 left.

Wisconsin struggled to maintain consistency on offense. The Badgers rely heavily on the 3-point shot, averaging nearly nine a game and shooting 35% from the arc. They made the first 3-pointer they took on consecutive possessions to start the game. From there, Wisconsin made 5 of their next 22.

Pete Nance led Northwestern with 14 points.

BIG PICTURE

Northwestern: The season has been a struggle for the Wildcats. They showed fight at times, but lacked any kind of offensive attack to give them a chance at the upset.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have gone from a 5-5 start in December to a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten, joining Maryland and Michigan State with one game to play in the regular season.

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Penn State on Saturday.

Wisconsin: Travels to Indiana on Saturday.

Kobe King leaves Wisconsin program

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Kobe King is leaving the Wisconsin basketball program.

The Badgers’ second-leading scorer announced his decision on Instagram on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore guard previously didn’t travel with Wisconsin on Monday when they lost on the road to Iowa. According to a report from Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday, King was frustrated with the direction of the team.

“After talking with family and friends I have decided that the best step for my future basketball aspirations, as well as my love for the game, is to immediately step away from the University of Wisconsin Men’s basketball program,” King said in his Instagram post. “This has been a very tough decision for me, however after spending almost 3 years in the Wisconsin program, I have realized this program is not the right fit [sic] me as a player and person.”

Kobe King was Wisconsin’s leading scorer during Big Ten conference play. The guard averaged 10.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game this season. The past three games, King struggled to find his place in the Badger offense. Scoreless in 28 minutes during a loss to Purdue, King was only 7-for-27 shooting his last three games.

With big man Micah Potter gaining eligibility at mid-season, it cut into shots for everyone in the Wisconsin offense. It’s hard to say if that’s a direct reason for King’s departure. King was certainly getting fewer touches once Potter joined the rotation.

One thing is certain: King wasn’t happy with how things were going.  It’s clear that King is going through a difficult time in his basketball career. Between not traveling to Iowa, and the comments about losing his love for the game, that’s not hard to figure out.

It’ll be interesting to see how Wisconsin responds to this. The Badgers have dropped three of their last four games. Wisconsin is still fighting for an NCAA tournament bid. Losing King is going to hurt, however, as his athleticism was needed among Wisconsin’s perimeter group.

Tuesday’s Things To Know: Brad Davison’s legend grows, Isaiah Moss gets hot for Kansas, Villanova has DePaul’s number

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Thursday had suspensions, an NCAA eligibility reversal and a monster dunk. Plus, Clemson suddenly being untouchable to traditional powerhouses from the state of North Carolina.

Here’s everything else you need to know from around the country:

1. Brad Davison gets a little more unlikeable in the Big Ten

Every league has a guy that everyone just seems to despise. Everyone except his own team, of course. A player that just drives fans of opposing conference teams insane. Usually, he’s not the best player on a team, but certainly a very good one that impacts winning in annoyingly effective ways. Typically, he’s an upperclassmen, with familiarity breeding contempt. Maybe the best-known of these guys recently on a national level is Grayson Allen. Excellent player, loved by Duke and absolutely loathed by just about anyone else.

Wisconsin’s Brad Davison is absolutely one of those dudes, and he showed exactly why in helping the Badgers knock off No. 17 Maryland in Madison, 56-54.

It started with an absolutely God-awful offensive possession by the Badgers generally and Davison, specifically. Davison put the possession, with Wisconsin down one with under 20 seconds to play, in serious jeopardy when he picked up his dribble on the perimeter without a plan. A couple passes later, he got it back and had to heave an airball that resulted in a shot clock violation and putting Wisconsin in serious trouble.

That’s when Davison stepped in with a helluva couple plays that are sure to make him reviled in College Park, joining campuses across the conference in that club.

Maryland’s Darryl Morsell struggled to inbound the ball after the shot clock violation, and tried to put his pass in a small window. It got deflected back toward the baseline, where it hung up and Morsell stood watching. Davison came flying in and battled the ball at Morsell, who was, of course, standing out of bounds.

Badgers ball.

Wisconsin then inbounded the ball into the short corner to Davison, who promptly drilled an off-balanced 3-pointer to put the Badgers up two. Maryland couldn’t score on the ensuing possession, and certainly will be boarding the plane make east tonight muttering about how maddening Brad Davison is.

Davison takes a lot of heat for his, um, talent (?) for drawing charges, but the same basketball IQ, grittiness, and ruthlessness that it takes to draw all those offensive fouls are also what it takes to put together two back-to-back plays like this. The rest of the Big Ten might curse him, but they’d sure like to have him on their teams.

2. Kansas gets big contribution from Isaiah Moss

If you’re going to criticize Kansas and start finding reasons why the Jayhawks might not win the Big 12 or get to a Final Four, you could do worse than starting at their 3-point shooting. The Jayhawks shoot a good-but-not-great 36.1 percent from deep while only taking 32.7 percent of their shots from distance, which is 280th in the country.

Isaiah Moss looked like a real answer to that issue.

The Iowa transfer made 6 of 11 from distance to help the Jayhawks keep Oklahoma at bay, 66-52, in Norman and bounce back from Saturday’s home loss to No. 2 Baylor.

The Jayhawks were without Devon Dotson, who is ailing with a hip injury that Kansas is calling a hip pointer and a deep bruise.  That made Moss’ emergence even more important.

Kansas has just three players that have attempted at least 50 3-pointers in Dotson (29.8 percent), Ochai Agbaji (38.6 percent) and Moss, who was shooting 33.9 percent before his outburst against the Sooners. Moss shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range as a junior in Iowa City, and came to Lawrence with the hope he could provide the boost that his shooting could provide – both on the scoreboard and from a spacing perspective with Udoka Azubuike needing all the relief he can get from double- and triple-teams.

Moss, who has been hampered by injury, hasn’t been fully able to do that for the Jayhawks, but if this performance is a sign of things to come and not a flash in the pan – and Moss’ historical numbers suggest this is something he’s capable of – than it could go a long way in making what is already a dynamic Kansas offense even better.

3. DePaul’s tumble continues

Think back to late November and early December, when DePaul was beating Iowa, Minnesota and Texas Tech. Could the Blue Demons, in Year 5 in the return of coach Dave Leitao, be on track for a return to the NCAA tournament? It sure looked like it.

Now, not quite as much.

DePaul lost its fourth-straight game to start Big East play with a 79-75 overtime loss to Villanova on the road. It was the Blue Demons’ 19th-straight loss to the Wildcats.

DePaul’s hot start to the season now seems awfully long ago with its offense seriously faltering and a defense that’s not much better. Those NCAA tournament dreams now seem to be fading fast.

Potter leads Wisconsin to 58-49 win over No. 20 Penn State

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Micah Potter scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead Wisconsin over No. 20 Penn State 58-49 on Saturday.

Brad Davison had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the Badgers (10-6, 3-2 Big Ten), who bounced back nicely after losing 71-70 to Illinois on Wednesday night. Kobe King added 10 points.

It was a successful start to a key stretch for Wisconsin, which hosts No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday night and visits No. 8 Michigan State on Friday.

Lamar Stevens had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Nittany Lions (12-4, 2-3), who had won 13 in a row at home. Isaiah Brockington scored 15 points.

Wisconsin never trailed and led by as many as 12 with 14:13 to play.

Myreon Jones gave Penn State some life when he hit an off-balance 3-pointer that sparked a 10-2 run that cut the Badgers’ lead to four.

But the Nittany Lions missed their next three shots, all 3-pointers, and Wisconsin got baskets on back-to-back possessions, with a 3 from Davison putting the game out of reach.

Both teams got off to a sluggish start. It took nearly five minutes for either team to find the basket.

The Badgers went 0 for 7 from the floor before Potter hit a layup. Potter then hit two 3s and another layup before Stevens snapped Penn State’s 0-for-12 skid with a turnaround jumper.

Brockington made a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left to cut Wisconsin’s halftime lead to 31-22.

BIG PICTURE

While Potter was the biggest star for Wisconsin, the Badgers have gotten contributions from up and down the lineup all season. They entered with one of the most balanced lineups in the Big Ten, with all five starters averaging over 8.5 points per game.

Penn State hadn’t scored fewer than 58 points in a game this season. Now the Nittany Lions have struggled offensively in back-to-back outings. They lost 72-61 to Rutgers on Tuesday night.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin hosts Maryland on Tuesday.

Penn State visits Minnesota on Wednesday.