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College basketball: For Villanova and other teams mentioned in NCAA’s ‘bracket reveal,’ not the best week

The Philadelphia Inquirer — Joe Juliano The Philadelphia Inquirer

Feb. 14--The week in college basketball began with the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee conducting its preliminary bracket reveal -- with no real surprises -- of the top 16 teams in the Big Dance with a little more than a month remaining until Selection Sunday.

And in the handful of days since the “sneak peek” at the committee’s selection process, eight of those teams, including Villanova, have lost and one, West Virginia, has gone down twice. That’s an indication of how competitive the games are and how things will constantly change up to the final bracket on March 15.

Here are some of the top games scheduled for Saturday:

No. 9 Maryland at Michigan State, 6 p.m., ESPN

The Terrapins (20-4, 10-3) have vaulted to the top of the Big Ten thanks to a seven-game winning streak. The run has coincided with the improved play of 6-foot-10 center Jalen Smith, who has notched double-doubles in his last seven games while averaging 18.7 points and 12.0 rebounds.

Jalen Smith saves the game to Maryland men's basketball's win streak alive. Clutch. pic.twitter.com/RpPoqBJiWm

-- Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) February 12, 2020

Meanwhile, the Spartans (17-8, 9-5) picked up a gritty 70-69 win Tuesday night at Illinois, breaking a three-game losing streak that caused them to become the first preseason No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll to fall out of the rankings since Kentucky in the 2013-14 season.

The Terps are tied for the longest current winning streak in the Big Ten. The other team? That would be Penn State, which stands one game behind Maryland entering a home game Saturday against Northwestern.

Notre Dame at No. 7 Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN

You could say the ACC schedule-maker wasn’t very kind to the Blue Devils (21-3, 11-2 ACC), having them go up against No. 8 Florida State two days after their epic 98-96 overtime win at North Carolina in which they rallied from a 13-point deficit late in the second half.

But Duke, playing at home, pulled out a 70-65 victory over the Seminoles despite 21 turnovers and drew praise from coach Mike Krzyzewski, who told reporters, “Not many teams would’ve won after Saturday. I’m so damn proud of them, man. I wish you could feel what I feel.”

One night later, the Fighting Irish (15-9, 6-7) were involved in a defense-driven overtime battle against Virginia that they lost, 50-49, when they were outscored by 3-2 in the extra period. Notre Dame’s John Mooney leads the nation in rebounding, and his 20 double-doubles are tied for first.

"If John Mooney is not one of the top 25 players in the country, then I don't know anything about college basketball. It's absolutely a joke that he's not one of the top 25." - Jim Boeheim pic.twitter.com/HIHwU3MDhx

-- Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) January 23, 2020

No. 14 West Virginia at No. 1 Baylor, 4 p.m., ESPN Plus

A difficult week continues for the Mountaineers (18-6, 6-5 Big 12), who are entering the second game of a back-to-back against top-3 opponents. They went scoreless at home in the final 5 minutes, 7 seconds when Kansas closed with a 9-0 run to win, 58-49. Now they have to go to Baylor, winner of 21 straight.

It will be a defensive duel in Waco. The Bears (22-1, 11-0) are fifth in the nation in points allowed at 58.3 per game, while West Virginia is 14th, giving up an average of 61.5. Both teams are in the top 16 of Division I in field-goal percentage defense, and the Mountaineers have outrebounded opponents by an average of 8.8.

No. 10 Seton Hall at Providence, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network

The Pirates (18-6, 10-2) followed up their big victory last weekend over Villanova with an 87-82 home loss to Creighton and saw their Big East lead cut to two games. The Hall’s Myles Powell had an off-night with 12 points on 3-for-16 shooting. The bad news for the Friars (13-12, 6-6) is that the Pirates are 6-0 in conference road games.

No. 11 Auburn at Missouri, 6 p.m., ESPN2

Auburn (22-2, 9-2 SEC) must like to live on the edge, winning three straight overtime games to improve to 5-0 in extra periods. The latest came against Alabama on Wednesday night when it survived an onslaught of 22 three-point baskets by the Crimson Tide in 59 attempts, both SEC records. Missouri (11-13, 3-8) is 12th in the conference but owns a 9-3 home record.

No. 2 Gonzaga at Pepperdine, 10 p.m., ESPN

Well, we mentioned last week that the Bulldogs (25-1, 11-0 West Coast Conference) were in for a tough test at St. Mary’s, and they wound up defeating the Gaels by 30. The Waves (13-12, 6-5) don’t really scare anyone (1-7 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games), but they have a good point guard in Colbey Ross, who is fourth in the nation averaging 7.3 assists.

What else is happening?

No. 3 Kansas (21-3, 10-1 Big 12) has been effective at both ends of the court, ranking in the top 10 nationally in offensive and defensive field-goal percentage. In their game Saturday (noon, ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks will be looking for a sweep of their season series against Oklahoma (16-8, 6-5).

Coming off a game Tuesday night in which it clinched the regular season Mountain West title, undefeated and fourth-ranked San Diego State (25-0, 14-0) continues its quest for perfection on the road against Boise State (17-9, 9-5) on Sunday (4 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Expatriate of the week

Freshman guard Isaiah Wong, a two-time player of the year in the Philadelphia Catholic League during his time at Bonner-Prendergast, has put together an impressive stretch at Miami. The 6-foot-3 Wong became the first freshman to post back-to-back 20-point games for the Hurricanes since 2001, scoring 21 Wednesday night against Boston College after a season-high 23 last Saturday vs. Florida State. Wong has started his last six games, averaging 16.7 points and shooting 59.3% overall and 62.5% from three-point range.

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