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NCAA Basketball News and Notes: February 15, 2019

This Weekend’s Slate Of Noteworthy Games

With the regular season winding down, every game has major implications for conference championships and playoff seeding. Here is a rundown of three of the biggest games for the weekend:

No. 1 Tennessee at No. 5 Kentucky

The best game of the weekend will be tipping off at 7:00 on Saturday when the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers (23-1) travel to the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (20-4). This SEC showdown should be quite a matchup featuring two dynamic teams that both hope to play deep into March. For the Volunteers, they are being led by Grant Williams (19.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks per game). Tennessee has five players averaging double-digit scoring. For Kentucky, they are led by forward PJ Washington (14.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks) and guard Keldon Johnson (14 points, 5.3 rebounds). Total, they have four players averaging 11.6 points or more.

No. 24 Maryland at No. 6 Michigan

This could be somewhat of a make-or-break type game for the Michigan Wolverines. Basically, it will be interesting to see how they bounce back after having been upset by unranked Penn State, 75-69, on Tuesday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much easier as they host No. 24 Maryland. Michigan is being led by forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who is averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. For Maryland, who is coming off of a big 70-56 win against No. 12 Purdue, they are led by both Anthony Cowan Jr. (16 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1 steal) and Bruno Fernando (14.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.9 blocks).

No. 23 Iowa State at No. 18 Kansas State

In this BIG 12 matchup, the No. 18 Kansas State Wildcats (19-5, 9-2 in the BIG12) host No. 23 Iowa State (18-6, 7-4 in the BIG12). For Iowa State, they are coming off of a disappointing 92-83 loss to TCU last Saturday. On the other hand, Kansas State has been rolling. They have won four in a row, most recently 71-64 over Texas. Iowa State is being led by guard Marial Shayok. This season, Shayok is averaging 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1 steal per game. For Kansas State, their go-to players have been Barry Brown Jr. (15.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2 steals) and Dean Wade (13.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists).

Crazy Rally Fuels Fire On How Good Duke Can Be

If you didn’t watch the Duke-Louisville game, you might not believe what transpired. Down by 23 points, the Duke Blue Devils went from the outhouse to the penthouse in a matter of about 10 minutes. Between Zion Williamson showing his muscles both offensively and defensively and Cam Reddish shooting daggers from the outside (he hit all four of his threes during their run), Duke was able to overcome the deficit and do the unthinkable. They not only came back from 23 points down, they did it in convincing style. When the dust settled, Duke came out with a 71-69 win to move to 22-2 on the season. Leading the was Zion Williamson (27 points, 12 rebounds), Cam Reddish (22 points, 2 assists, 3 rebounds) and RJ Barrett (13 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds). For the Cardinals, Jordan Nwora led Louisville scorers with 23 points, 3 assists, and 12 rebounds.

LSU Wins On Controversy

LSU got a big win over No. 5 Kentucky Tuesday, but it wasn’t without a little controversy. LSU won the game 73-71 on a last-second offensive rebound tip-in, but the question was whether it was legitimate or was it goaltending. Technically, the review showed that LSU’s Kavell Bigby-Williams did touch the ball while it was inside the cylinder, but that is not a call that can be reversed by officials via replay. All they could look at was whether it had left his hands before time expired and, as a result, LSU got the win. While controversy may have ended it, the game itself was fantastic. For LSU, Tremont Waters led the way with 15 points and 5 assists in 38 minutes of play. For Kentucky, PJ Washington led all scorers with 20 points, also adding 9 rebounds and 3 assists for the game.

Tennessee Cruising, But Schedule About To Get Tough

As mentioned earlier, the Tennessee Volunteers have been almost untouchable, having won 19 games in a row. That streak is going to be a whole lot tougher to continue, though. With only 9 games left in the regular season, the Volunteers’ schedule is inundated with teams that will test their ranking. They have two games left against No. 5 Kentucky, one at home and one away. They also have to travel to No. 19 LSU. If those three aren’t bad enough, their unranked schedule isn’t much more forgiving. They also have both Mississippi and Mississippi State, both of whom have been ranked at different points throughout the season. Needless to say, if they are going to remain at No. 1, they are going to earn it.

West Virginia Boots Two Starters

It has been a rough season for West Virginia, and it is only getting worse. The Mountaineers announced Monday that forwards Esa Ahmad and Wesley Harris have been booted from the team for a violation of athletic department policies. Having already lost Sagaba Konate for the year due to injury, this just makes a struggling team even worse. On the season, Ahmad has been averaging 12 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists, while shooting 46.2% from the field. For Harris, he was averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Both players were averaging over 25 minutes a game and will be huge losses to fill for a West Virginia team who has already had its depth tested.

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