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NCAA Basketball News and Notes: March 1, 2019

Weekend Slate Of Games

With the calendar switching over to March, basketball fans everywhere are getting ready for March Madness. Before that, though, there is a pretty solid weekend of games coming up and here is a rundown of a few of those games:

No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats (24-4) at No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (25-3)

This SEC showdown consists of two teams tied at 13-2 in the conference. Kentucky comes into this game rolling, having won 14 of their last 15 games. Their lone loss was to No. 13 LSU, 73-71, back on February 12. Aside from that, though, they have been dominant. One example of their dominance was back on February 16, when they beat Tennessee 86-69 at home. This time, playing on the road, the Volunteers hope that it will be a different story and they can get some redemption for their blowout loss. Leading the way for Kentucky this season have been PJ Washington (15 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks) and Tyler Herro (14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1 steal). For the Volunteers, the leaders have been Grant Williams (19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks) and Admiral Schofield (16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds).

No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2) at Saint Mary’s Gaels (19-10)

Admittedly, this isn’t necessarily the most exciting matchup, but this West Coast Conference game does feature the top two teams in the conference. Also, recently appointed No. 1 Gonzaga will get another chance to prove its dominance after taking care of Pacific on Thursday. Leading the way for the Bulldogs this season is Rui Hachmiura, who is averaging 20.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1 steal. Additionally, both Brandon Clarke and Zach Norvell Jr. are averaging over 16 points per game. For St. Mary’s, it has been Jordan Ford (21.8 points, 1.4 steals) and Malik Fitts (15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals) leading the way.

No. 9 Michigan Wolverines (24-4) at No. 17 Maryland Terrapins (21-8)

After losing to Michigan State at home last Sunday, Michigan is looking to get back on track in a hurry. They started that process with an 82-53 win over Nebraska on Thursday and will look to continue against Maryland on Sunday. All of that will lead up to a rematch with Michigan State next week. For the Wolverines, Ignas Brazdeikis has been leading the way with 14.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. For Maryland, they come into this Big Ten matchup having just been upset 78-61 by unranked Penn State. Also looking to get back on track, they will face a tough Michigan team before finishing the regular season against Minnesota. Leading the way for the Terrapins have been Anthony Cowan Jr. (15.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists) and Bruno Fernando (14.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks).

Zion-less Blue Devils Look Vulnerable

Another game without Zion Williamson led to another loss for the Duke Blue Devils. Against No. 20 Virginia Tech, Duke lost 77-72 on Tuesday. The biggest issue for Duke without Williamson is their lack of an inside presence. In both of their losses, against North Carolina and Virginia Tech, it has been the big men that have exposed Duke. First, for North Carolina, it was Luke Maye going off for 30 points and 15 rebounds. In the game with Virginia Tech, it was Kerry Blackshear Jr., who went off for 23 points and 10 rebounds. In the loss, RJ Barrett (21 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) and Cam Reddish (17 points, 6 rebounds) played well, but until Zion returns—if he returns—it is a Duke team that is a whole lot less scary, which is a bad thing for Duke fans as March Madness approaches.

Hawkeyes Coach Suspended

Fran McCaffery did the crime, now he will serve the time. In a blowout loss to Ohio State, one that saw his No. 22 Iowa Hawkeyes lose by 20, McCaffery was hit with a technical late in the game. If that was all that had happened, all would be good, and life would move on. Unfortunately, McCaffery engaged in a profanity-laced tirade on the refs after the game, which has now led to his suspension. Iowa’s athletic director, Gary Barta, announced that McCaffery will be suspended for two games for his outburst. In addition, Iowa was fined by the Big Ten, and they also issued McCaffery a public reprimand. McCaffery is not immune to issues with the refs, but this was only his second technical of the season. What may have gotten to him the most, though, was Iowa’s inconsistent play. Their loss to Ohio State on Tuesday puts them at 2-2 in their last 4 games. Their next game is against Rutgers on Saturday, followed by a Big Ten showdown with No. 19 Wisconsin next Thursday, both games that McCaffery will have to miss.

Bad Look For Ole Miss

What should have been a celebration of an outstanding game on Wednesday night sadly turned into a disgraced look for Ole Miss and their fans. Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker to No. 7 Tennessee, 73-71, but it is what happened after the horn blew that is getting the headlines. At the end of the game, Tennessee’s Grant Williams helped the Volunteers take the lead with just 4.3 seconds left. After that, Ole Miss’ Devontae Shuler drove the court, setting for a deep three as he made contact with defenders. A whistle blew, but rather than it being a call against the defense, possibly leading to free throws and the chance to win, Shuler was called for an offensive foul. Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis was livid, throwing his jacket, and fans littered the floor with trash, upset by the game-ending call. It was obviously an emotional call in what was an electric atmosphere, but sadly, fans of Ole Miss jeopardized the safety of the players and certainly gave their institution a bad look, if only for that one night.

Spartans Take Over Control Of Big Ten

Tom Izzo may have his Michigan State Spartans peaking at the right time. They have won five games in a row, including a huge 77-70 victory over Michigan on the road last Sunday. What was especially impressive is that they did it without Nick Ward nor Joshua Langford. Instead, they had some unsung heroes step up to support Cassius Winston, who scored 27 points and had 8 assists. Some of those players that stepped up included Kenny Goins (16 points, 11 rebounds), Xavier Tillman (14 points, 5 rebounds) and Matt McQuaid (13 points, 5 rebounds). That victory has not only catapulted them into being ranked 6th in the nation, but it also puts them into the lead in the Big Ten. The Spartans face both Indiana and Nebraska before they are pitted with a rematch against Michigan, this time at home, in the final game of the regular season.

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