College Basketball Nation: Dallas Lauderdale



NEWARK, N.J. -- The whippersnappers steal the limelight. It’s what kids do. They come in all shiny and pretty like a new penny, and everybody pays attention to them.

Even here, they surrounded the freshman after the game, the whiz kid who struggled again all night only to make the impossible shot, the game winner.

It’s not that Brandon Knight didn’t deserve the attention. His leaner, a rise-out-of-the-ashes, over-a-defender shot that deserved extra points for difficulty, once again saved the day for Kentucky.

Twice now in the tournament he has struggled for 39 minutes only to make up for it in a flick of a wrist, beating Princeton on a drive to the hoop in the opening game and now ousting No. 1 seed Ohio State 62-60 on a jumper with five seconds remaining.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Knight
Howard Smith/US PresswireFor the second time in this NCAA tourney, Brandon Knight made the game-winning shot for Kentucky.
“Brandon does that on purpose,’’ teammate Doron Lamb deadpanned. “He misses them all in the first half and the second, and then makes it at the end. We call it the okie-doke.’’

The okie-doke technically decided the game, but this game wasn’t really won by Knight.

It was won by three upperclassmen, a commodity as rare as “I Love Louisville” T-shirts in the city of Lexington.

Josh Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller put Kentucky into an Elite Eight blue-blood battle against North Carolina.

Ohio State brought five seniors to the floor to the Wildcats’ one (Harrellson). The powerful Buckeyes, with longtime starters William Buford, David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale and Jon Diebler, owned a depth and breadth of experience Kentucky simply doesn’t have.

Sure, the UK players have logged plenty of time on campus, but not quite so much on the floor.

Yet together the trio scored 39 of the Cats’ 62 points and had 19 of their 32 rebounds.

And as good as those statistics are, they alone don’t tell all of what those three did. It was their ferociousness, their attitude that changed this game in Kentucky’s favor.

“Our freshmen were OK today,’’ coach John Calipari said. “Our veteran players who were not significant a year ago, who have now taken over this team, that’s why we’re still playing. It’s because of those guys.’’

Frankly, Ohio State is not playing anymore because its guys didn’t deliver. The Buckeyes, a team that looked absolutely unstoppable a weekend ago against George Mason, looked overwhelmed.

OSU shot just 33 percent for the game and was 7-of-27 outside the paint. Buford, who missed a jumper as the buzzer sounded, was only 2-of-16; Diebler drained four 3-pointers, but besides the final one, which would have sent it to overtime were it not for Knight, they were largely unimportant; Lauderdale didn’t take a single shot; and Lighty was only 5-of-12 from the floor.

“It hurts because we felt like we could make a run at the championship,’’ Diebler said. “Obviously every team wants to finish in Houston. You can’t take away what we did this year in the regular season, but it does kind of hurt to end like this.’’

Kentucky knows the pain of finishing before you’re supposed to. A year ago, the Wildcats -- with more NBA talent than the current Cleveland Cavaliers roster -- were predestined to a weekend in Indianapolis. West Virginia halted those plans a game early, upsetting UK in the Elite Eight.

Most of that roster pocketed that bad memory in their suitcases on the way to the NBA, leaving only Harrellson, Miller and Liggins to remember it.

“You can’t rely on freshmen in games like this,’’ Liggins said. “This was on us. We were the guys who knew what it felt like to play in a game like this and lose.’’

Still, these three aren’t supposed to do this. Harrellson dominated the conversation at the start of the season because of who he is not -- namely Enes Kanter. When the Turkish player was declared ineligible by the NCAA, it was practically a statewide day of mourning in Kentucky.

[+] EnlargeKentucky's Josh Harrellson
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesKentucky veterans DeAndre Liggins (34) and Josh Harrellson celebrate a last-minute victory over No. 1 seed Ohio State.
There is no longer mourning. Instead, Harrellson has more than ably filled the void, bolstering his numbers from 1.3 points per game last season to 7.3 this season.

Against Ohio State, in a matchup in which he was supposed to lose his lunch, he stood toe to toe with Jared Sullinger, putting up 17 points and 10 rebounds to Sullinger’s 21 and 16. It was the big man’s third double-double in his past five games.

And then there is Liggins.

When Calipari took the job at Kentucky, he said, everyone told him to get rid of Liggins, that he wasn’t good enough or worth the effort to keep around. Instead, Calipari elected to keep him, reaping the rewards for the decision Friday night.

Liggins spent the night before the game unable to sleep. He was anxious, not anxious as in nervous, but anxious as in ready -- ready to silence the doubters and ready to prove that this Kentucky team, far more a work in progress than the last, was every bit as good as the last.

“I knew everybody was picking us to lose,’’ Liggins said.

And probably even those picking UK to win didn’t figure Liggins for the hero. He had 11 points combined in the first two games of the NCAA tournament and had been good defensively but forgettable offensively for much of the past few weeks.

Against the Buckeyes, he either scored or assisted on 12 of the Wildcats’ final 18 points.

“DeAndre carried us,’’ Miller said. “If he wasn’t scoring, he was creating for someone else. We would have gotten blown out if it wasn’t for him.’’

Instead, the Wildcats stayed neck and neck with a team that looked like an offensive juggernaut only a weekend ago. Kentucky completely forced Ohio State out of its comfort zone, using its speed to fly to the ball and its length to contest every shot. By halftime, virtually the entire UK roster had two fouls, yet the Wildcats kept coming, blocking 11 shots and forcing OSU into just 6-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc.

Which was why when Diebler drained a 3-pointer with 21 seconds to play, there was a momentary sense of dread.

“I was so down on myself,’’ said Liggins, who was defending Diebler.

And then along came the kid, the one who doesn’t know any better, doesn’t realize how rare it is to make a game-winning shot in the NCAA tournament, let alone two -- who doesn’t understand that when you’re two of your previous nine, the likelihood that you end up the hero is rare.

“It was like in the Princeton game; Coach just had faith in me,’’ Knight said. “I had a lot of confidence. It felt good when it left my hands.’’

The ignorance of innocence and the value of experience.

Perhaps Kentucky has found the combination to success.

Ohio State crushes competition

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
8:43
PM ET


CLEVELAND -- On Saturday night, Ohio State senior and Cleveland native David Lighty took all his teammates to his family's church. The parishioners treated the Buckeyes to a feast of soul food.

Then at Sunday morning's shootaround, four Ohio State players were presented their diplomas. They couldn't walk in the school's winter graduation ceremony held at the same time a few hours south in Columbus, so they put on some mortarboards at half court of Quicken Loans Arena and spelled out O-H-I-O.

The Buckeyes might have been on the road this weekend, but they made Cleveland feel like home. And boy did they ever look comfortable here.

In an NCAA tournament that has already seen one No. 1 seed (Pittsburgh) lose and another (Duke) barely hang on, Ohio State emphatically showed why it deserved to be the top overall seed. Sunday's 98-66 destruction of No. 8 seed George Mason said it all.

"We're trying to make a statement," guard William Buford said. "We want to let everybody know we mean business."

Message transmitted. The Buckeyes won their two games here by a total of 62 points. They shot 58.6 percent from the field in the two games and 56 percent on 3-pointers.

There were no squeaky parts on this machine. Ask George Mason. Patriots coach Jim Larranaga's strategy was to try and slow down center Jared Sullinger and sharpshooter Jon Diebler, hoping Buford wouldn't go off like he did against Texas San-Antonio. Buford didn't, but Lighty -- normally the team's defensive stopper and glue guy -- erupted for 25 points on 7-of-7 3-point shooting.

George Mason couldn't concentrate on the perimeter because of the presence of Sullinger, who had 18 points and eight rebounds in just 22 minutes. Point guard Aaron Craft came off the bench to dish out 15 assists, including a 40-foot wraparound dart out of a trap to Sullinger for a dunk in the first half. Diebler and Buford still got their points, and Ohio State hit 16 of its first 23 3-point attempts.

How can you stop all of that?

"You've got great shooters outside and you've also got power post men sitting in the block," George Mason guard Cam Long said. "So when you're trying to shut down one thing, they've got other things that open up. And if you try to shut down the block, they've got the 3s that open up. So it's definitely a hard thing to guard."

"Just so many weapons on our team," Lighty said. "And everyone was clicking on high cylinders tonight. When that's happening, it's pretty hard to beat us."

Championship teams also catch some breaks along the way, and the Buckeyes got one when George Mason starter Luke Hancock -- who had 18 points and the winning 3-pointer against Villanova on Friday -- fell ill. Hancock apparently picked up a stomach bug that had him vomiting in the team hotel all Saturday night, and when he tried to go to the arena on Sunday, he got dizzy and had to stay back.

Even without Hancock, George Mason jumped out to an 11-2 lead. The Patriots were fired up -- a little too much so for the Buckeyes' tastes.

"They were talking a little bit of junk, and that ticked us off," Buford said.

A bear when poked roars back. Ohio State outscored George Mason 50-15 the rest of the first half, allowing only one field goal the final 10 minutes in a devastating 26-4 run before intermission.

"We finished the game pretty well," Ohio State forward Dallas Lauderdale said in an understatement. "It was a wake-up call seeing Butler knocking off Pitt. We're on a mission."

In order to derail that mission, somebody is going to have to make the Buckeyes feel a lot less comfortable than they were in Cleveland.

Preview: Sunday in Cleveland

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
8:02
AM ET


CLEVELAND -- The four remaining teams in this East Region pod know how to move on in March. All four have been to a Final Four since 2003, and three of them have national championship trophies encased in glass back home.

Beyond that, we've got the top overall seed (Ohio State) taking on a mid-major power (George Mason). Then it's a Big East grudge match between Syracuse and Marquette in which the lower seed had the upper hand earlier this season.

Let's rock and roll in Cleveland.

No. 8 George Mason (27-6) vs. No. 1 Ohio State (33-2), 5:15 p.m. ET

What to watch: The 3-point arc. Ohio State has been on fire from the outside lately, and the Buckeyes are nearly impossible to beat when William Buford and Jon Diebler are as dialed in as they've been from 3-point range. George Mason was a good shooting team this season (39.4 percent on 3s) but struggled with shot selection against Villanova. The Patriots were able to turn that into a defensive slugfest, but that's probably not going to work against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are holding opponents to 32 percent shooting on 3s in four postseason games.

Who to watch: Jared Sullinger didn't have to do a whole lot in the romp against Texas San-Antonio on Friday, but the Ohio State big man will be a key player against George Mason. The Patriots had a hard time keeping Nova's post players off the glass in the last round, and Sullinger is much more of a load than any of those Wildcats. George Mason will have to clamp down on Buford and Diebler like they did against the Wildcats' Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher in the second half while still accounting for Sullinger inside.

You can bet the Bucks will keep a close eye on George Mason guard Luke Hancock, who had 18 points and the clinching 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in Friday's win against Villanova. Forward Mike Morrison also had a big game on Friday, and the Patriots will need the 6-foot-9 junior to help contain Sullinger.

Why to watch: George Mason is tired of the 2006 comparisons, but that Final Four team beat some of the sport's heavyweights on its way to glory, including a No. 1 seed in UConn. This team will have to take the same path through a powerful Ohio State club that is firing on all cylinders. And the crowd will be heavily on the Buckeyes' side.

What they're saying: "I don't think you want to be an underdog. You probably want to be in Ohio State's position of being the No. 1 overall [seed]. But we're ready to play against a good team. We have confidence in ourselves. We're not worried about being called the underdog." -- George Mason's Hancock.

"Our defense needs to be at its very best on first shots. We've got to limit second shots. But the biggest thing is, based on the way we played yesterday, we've really got to encourage our guys to understand that we're going to have to put the ball in the basket [Sunday]." -- George Mason coach Jim Larranaga

"With us, it's pick your poison. Whatever you want to do, we have a way to counter it." -- Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale.

"I think they're kind of similar to us. They've got a lot of different guys that can do a lot of different things, from driving the ball, to 3-point shooting, to post-ups. They've got a lot of trigger-pullers within the course of their offense. They do a good job moving the basketball. I think that's the big key -- you have to defend all five guys. And with a one-day prep, you've got to have a great understanding of what all five guys on the floor are capable of doing, because, as I said, they're multi-dimensional players." -- Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

Of note: A win by George Mason would set the school single-season record for victories. The 2006 Final Four team won 27 games. ... Sunday is the winter graduation ceremony at Ohio State, and Diebler, David Lighty and Lauderdale all earned their degrees last week. They'll be a bit too busy to walk in the ceremony, however. ... Watch the pace. Ohio State is 23-0 when scoring at least 75 points. George Mason is 3-5 when opponents score at least 70.

No. 11 Marquette (21-14) vs. No. 3 Syracuse (27-7), approx. 7:40 p.m. ET

What to watch: We went to Cleveland, and a Big East tournament semifinal broke out. These teams might be league rivals, but because the Big East is so big, it's not like they play each other all the time. In fact, they met only once this season, and Marquette won 76-70 back on Jan. 29. The Golden Eagles guards penetrated the Orange's 2-3 zone and got to the rim, shooting 33 free throws and getting the Syracuse post players in foul trouble. They even outrebounded the Orange that night in Milwaukee. Syracuse has a distinct size advantage, but Marquette hopes to neutralize that with quickness.

Who to watch: Syracuse's Rick Jackson had a big night against Indiana State on Friday with 23 points and seven rebounds. Marquette doesn't have many guys who can match his 6-foot-9, 240-pound body. But Golden Eagles forward Jae Crowder had 25 points and seven rebounds in the first matchup of the Orange.

Guards Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom will be key for Marquette against the zone. Syracuse guards Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche will have to do a good job handling the Golden Eagles' pressure on the perimeter and slowing down Butler and Johnson-Odom.

Why to watch: Syracuse is a dangerous tournament team because of its length in that zone, which can overwhelm unfamiliar opponents. But Marquette knows the zone and is coming off a terrific performance against Xavier on Friday night. This might be an 11 vs. 3 matchup on paper, but this has all the makings of a hard-fought, Big East-style game.

What they're saying: "You've got to move the ball more than once, and we can't fall into taking quick shots. The key thing is to get it in the middle or behind the zone. We pretty much know where we can get into the gaps and make plays for each other, by us already having seen it." -- Marquette guard Dwight Buycks

"The first time around, our defense wasn't as good as it is now. Our defense is much improved, and it should mess them up a little because we'll be quicker in getting to spots we weren't able to get to in the game we lost to them." -- Syracuse guard Brandon Triche.

"I told one of our assistants, when we were leaving [Madison Square] Garden, after Louisville beat us the [in the Big East tournament], I'm so thankful that we don't have to talk about or prepare or play against a Big East program until next Christmas. And so on Sunday we're doing the Selection Show and they show Xavier first, they're the higher seed, then they show us. Everybody's like rah, rah, rah. And then the next team that pops up is Syracuse." -- Marquette coach Buzz Williams.

Of note: The Jan. 29 game was the last of a four-game losing streak for Syracuse. Orange players said their strong second-half effort in that game helped them get their season back on track by playing with more effort. ... Marquette has lost its second game in the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years and hasn't won two games since the 2003 Final Four run. ... If Marquette hits a big 3, you can be sure to see players making the "3-point goggles" gesture. The Golden Eagles claim to be the first college team to adopt the new trend, which started with the Portland Trail Blazers this season. Marquette grad Wesley Matthews told the Golden Eagles about it, and they have run with it. The goggles made an appearance in Friday's win against Xavier.
http://scores.espn.go.com/ncb/conversation?gameId=310790183


CLEVELAND -- This city has known more than its share of sports disappointments, from The Drive to The Decision, from Jordan over Ehlo to Modell's moving vans. Maybe this weekend can provide a little brightness.

Two Ohio schools are here for the East Regional second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament, including the bracket's No. 1 overall seed. Xavier coach Chris Mack, who was born in Cleveland, wasn't above a little pandering for support.

"If it helps sway the Clevelanders to come to the game ... Drew Carey, forever; Art Modell, never," he said.

Ticket sales shouldn't be a problem for the afternoon slate of events, as No. 1 Ohio State takes the floor in its home state. Starter David Lighty is from Cleveland, while big man Dallas Lauderdale and reserve Eddie Days hail from just outside the city limits. They spent the past several days scrambling for extra tickets.

"I got a couple extra tickets, but I know 80 million people here," Lighty said.

The Buckeyes would love nothing more than to begin a championship run in their home away from home. But first things first. Let's take a look at the Friday afternoon session:

No. 8 George Mason (26-6) vs. No. 9 Villanova (21-11), 2:10 p.m. ET (TBS)

What to watch: Which Villanova team shows up -- the one that began the season 16-1 or the one that wheezed to a 5-10 finish, including a first-round upset in the Big East tournament to South Florida? George Mason knows something about streakiness, too, having won a school-record 16 straight games before bowing out of the Colonial Athletic tournament against VCU. This shapes up as a good matchup of athletic, guard-oriented teams that like to get up and down the floor.

Who to watch: Like with 1980s teen movies, you have to watch the two Coreys when it comes to Villanova. Senior guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher make the Wildcats go, but both battled injuries during the team's slide -- Stokes had turf toe and hamstring problems, while Fisher dealt with knee tendinitis. They will have had nine days off before this game to get well, and both they say they are healthy now. Cam Long is George Mason's top scorer and a guy who can stroke it from long range.

Why to watch: Villanova looked like it was heading for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed before its late-season malaise. George Mason probably would have been seeded higher than No. 8 if it had won its conference tournament. So both these teams are talented and could get on a roll if everything comes together. It should be an entertaining game to watch. And the last time George Mason earned an at-large bid was 2006, when the Patriots advanced all the way to the Final Four.

What they're saying: "I never get tired of talking about '06. Who would get tired of people talking about a great time in your life? It just brings back great memories every time it's mentioned. And whether I'm at the barber shop getting a haircut or in the airport or restaurant, someone always comes up to me or even the guys on my staff or the players on the team, and they talk about, 'Hey, I was at the game,' or 'I met my wife at a bar the night you guys beat Connecticut.' And our president, Dr. Alan Merten, uses the quote that it's the gift that keeps on giving." -- George Mason coach Jim Larranaga on remembering the magical 2006 run.

"Being the underdog is good, but we don't consider ourselves being the underdog. We know how good we are." -- Villanova guard Corey Fisher.

Of note: Larranaga said he wasn't concerned about the ankle injuries that starters Andre Cornelius and Luke Hancock suffered during Tuesday's practice before the team left for Cleveland. Both practiced during the public workout Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena. ... The two teams played last season in Puerto Rico, with Villanova winning by one point.

No. 1 Ohio State (32-2) vs. No. 16 UT San Antonio (20-13), Approx 4:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

What to watch: The top overall seed in the tournament begins what it hopes is a six-game run. Texas-San Antonio won its first-ever NCAA tournament game on Wednesday in Dayton but will need a miracle to upset the Buckeyes in a virtual road game.

Who to watch: Take your pick among the star-studded Buckeyes starting lineup, but the guy to keep an eye on is freshman Jared Sullinger. On an otherwise veteran team, he's the newbie, and he said he feels like a high school freshman all over again this week. Still, UTSA doesn't have the size inside to handle him. For the Roadrunners, guard Melvin Johnson III scored 29 points in the First Four win over Alabama State. If he gets hot again, he could shoot his team into the game.

Why to watch: Because you want to see how Ohio State comes out in its first game, since many of you picked the Buckeyes to at least make the Final Four in your bracket. Realistically, this should be little more than a warmup game for nation's top-ranked team.

What they're saying: "Anything is possible in the tournament. If you're not ready to play, you'll end up getting beat. Every team is in the tournament for a reason. They wouldn't be here if they weren't great." -- Ohio State guard David Lighty.

Of note: A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 of course, but Ohio State coach Thad Matta was an assistant on the Western Carolina team that nearly shocked top-seeded Purdue in the 1996 first round. "I definitely know what those guys are thinking over there," he said of UTSA. ... Wednesday's win by the Roadrunners was the first NCAA tournament victory in any sport in the 30-year history of the school.

Expert predictions: ACC/Big Ten Challenge

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
7:24
PM ET
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the dominant storyline in college basketball over the next few nights, so might as well put our writers and contributors on the spot with predictions, right?

For what it’s worth, the group consensus for each game adds up to a 6-5 Big Ten victory over the ACC. But it’s actually even closer than that. In the highly anticipated Iowa-Wake Forest matchup, our panel took the Hawkeyes by a 5-4 margin. If one of those five had picked the Deacons, we’d be projecting an ACC overall victory.

Sounds to us like an event worth tuning in to …

MONDAY

VIRGINIA AT MINNESOTA (ESPN2, 7 ET)

Jay Bilas: Minnesota -- Tubby Smith has depth and guard play, and Tony Bennett doesn't.
Eamonn Brennan: Minnesota – The Gophers are a complete and balanced team, even if Al Nolen and Rodney Williams miss the game due to injury; Tony Bennett's rebounding Virginia squad is, well, not.
Fran Fraschilla:
Minnesota -- The Gophers are one of the country's early-season surprises and they are at home in the friendly confines of Williams Arena. This will be ugly.
Doug Gottlieb:
Minnesota -- Despite not having Al Nolen, Minnesota is still loaded. Maverick Ahanmisi was a late signee who is a year older than most freshmen, and that maturity will come in handy.
Andy Katz:
Minnesota – The Gophers are depleted with injuries, but likely get Devoe Joseph back and are too strong, too tall and too deep for rebuilding Virginia.
Diamond Leung:
Minnesota -- Minnesota might be banged up, but Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe should be able to dominate.
Joe Lunardi:
Minnesota -- The shorthanded Gophers are still too much for the Cavs at this point.
Dana O’Neil:
Minnesota -- Even without Al Nolen and Rodney Williams, the red-hot Gophers are too talented for the still struggling Cavaliers.
Jay Williams:
Minnesota -- Even though they won't have starters Al Nolen and Rodney Williams due to injuries, I expect Blake Hoffarber, Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III to dominate.

TUESDAY

GEORGIA TECH AT NORTHWESTERN (ESPN2, 7 ET)

Bilas: Northwestern -- The Wildcats will spread the Jackets out and keep them on a string between open 3s and backdoor cuts.
Brennan: Northwestern -- Facing its first real "test" of the season, Northwestern's matchup zone and tricky Princeton offense will give Georgia Tech fits.
Fraschilla:
Northwestern -- Sadly, even a win over the Yellow Jackets won't mean much in March. Too much John Shurna in this one.
Gottlieb:
Northwestern -- Tech played well this weekend, but the travel and Juice Thompson will be too much.
Katz:
Northwestern -- If we’re going to take the Wildcats seriously, they have to win a game like this at home against the inferior Yellow Jackets.
Leung:
Northwestern -- The Wildcats should stay undefeated playing on their home court and with John Shurna playing well.
Lunardi: Northwestern -- A solid win over Creighton sets the Wildcats up nicely for another victory.
O’Neil: Northwestern -- John Shurna has been terrific all season for a Wildcat team dreaming of -- gasp! -- an NCAA bid.
Williams: Northwestern -- This is the year Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament because of Shurna and Thompson.

IOWA AT WAKE FOREST (ESPNU, 7 ET)

Bilas: Iowa -- Wake Forest will have a hard time beating anyone this season.
Brennan: Iowa -- Because as bad as Iowa is, Wake Forest is -- somehow -- worse.
Fraschilla: Wake Forest -- Someone has to win, right?
Gottlieb: Iowa -- Hawkeyes are coming off a win. Fran McCaffery will dial up something.
Katz: Wake Forest -- I can’t see the Demon Deacons losing four home games before Dec. 1.
Leung: Iowa -- Between the two, Iowa has shown a few more signs of life.
Lunardi: Wake Forest -- Neither team has played a true road game, so you have to go with Wake at home.
O’Neil: Wake Forest -- Because as bad as the Demon Deacons have looked early, the Hawkeyes have looked worse.
Williams: Iowa -- After watching Wake lose to Stetson, VCU and Winthrop, I give the edge to Iowa on the road.

OHIO STATE AT FLORIDA STATE (ESPN, 7:30 ET)

Bilas: Ohio State -- Florida State can really guard, but scoring efficiently is a problem the Seminoles have and the Buckeyes don't.
Brennan: Ohio State – FSU’s defense will keep this one close, but the interior offensive rebounding of Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale will be too much for the Noles to manage.
Fraschilla: Ohio State – The Leon County Civic Center is not the home court the Seminoles deserve.
Gottlieb: FSU's Chris Singleton has put up insane numbers with two triple-doubles, but OSU has the athletes to guard him and his compadres.
Katz: Ohio State -- The Buckeyes won at Florida and have a better inside game than Florida State, although FSU’s Chris Singleton will likely put up the best numbers.
Leung: Ohio State -- Despite the all-around talents of FSU's Chris Singleton, Ohio State has too many weapons, including Jared Sullinger in the middle.
Lunardi: Ohio State -- Buckeyes complete the Sunshine State sweep in Tallahassee.
O’Neil: Ohio State -- Tough follow for the Seminoles after an emotional, disappointing loss to the Gators. Plus, Jared Sullinger is the why to all questions about the Buckeyes.
Williams: Florida State -- Yes, I call the upset here. Xavier Gibson and Bernard James will give Mr. Sullinger a lot to deal with down low.

MICHIGAN AT CLEMSON (ESPN2, 9 ET)

Bilas: Clemson -- The Tigers are at home, and Michigan hasn't won away from home.
Brennan: Clemson -- Michigan might not be as bad as we thought, but it is not good enough to beat a capable Clemson team, whose only loss was a one-point neutral-court defeat to ODU.
Fraschilla: Clemson -- Early returns about new coach Brad Brownell are positive.
Gottlieb: Michigan -- Searching for an upset here, the 1-3-1 proves tough to tame. The Wolverines appear a bit better than expected, though they will suffer in conference.
Katz: Clemson -- The Tigers, regardless of coach, are too tough at home against similar-level teams.
Leung: Clemson -- Tigers coach Brad Brownell is fitting right in and has enough weapons to win this one.
Lunardi: Clemson -- The Wolverines are a long way from being able to win at Littlejohn.
O’Neil: Clemson -- The Wolverines have done little to prove they're over what ailed them last season.
Williams: Clemson -- After losses to both Syracuse and UTEP, I don't see the Wolverines bouncing back at Littlejohn Coliseum.

NORTH CAROLINA AT ILLINOIS (ESPN, 9:30 ET)

Bilas: Illinois -- North Carolina doesn't push the ball and get easy baskets, and Illinois is at home.
Brennan: Illinois -- The Illini have home-court advantage, but they also have the benefit of a veteran team that can match up with the athletic -- and as yet thoroughly disappointing -- Tar Heels.
Fraschilla: Illinois -- Are the Heels losing their mystique?
Gottlieb: Illinois -- Better guards, at home, and though Illinois does not have great strength inside, neither does UNC. Illini by more than 10.
Katz: Illinois -- The Tar Heels are still searching for a leader and the Illini need this game too much to prove their relevance.
Leung: Illinois -- It appears that catching the Tar Heels early is the way to go, and an Illini team with size can play with anyone.
Lunardi: Illinois -- What once looked like a toss-up should be a comfortable win for the Illini.
O’Neil: Illinois -- The Illini play with grit and determination, traits sorely lacking so far this season for the Tar Heels.
Williams: Illinois -- UNC does not have the poise or experience to win this one on the road.

WEDNESDAY

NC STATE AT WISCONSIN (ESPN2, 7:15 ET)

Bilas: Wisconsin -- The game is at the Kohl Center, isn't it? Next question.
Brennan: Wisconsin -- Besides the immense advantage provided by the Kohl Center, the Badgers are, for all their early-season warts, one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. The Wolfpack without senior forward Tracy Smith are one of the worst.
Fraschilla: Wisconsin -- Anywhere but the Kohl Center, I'd give the Wolfpack an even chance to win.
Gottlieb: Wisconsin -- NC State has better talent, but Wisconsin will use Jordan Taylor off ball screens and Jon Leuer is a great fit for what Wisconsin does and Bo Ryan is great at what he does. Frankly, the Wolfpack might become bored with the tedious pace of the Badgers.
Katz: Wisconsin -- The Wolfpack are without Tracy Smith and to beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center you have to be full strength.
Leung: Wisconsin -- Jon Leuer is just too much to handle, and the Badgers are playing at home.
Lunardi: Wisconsin -- The Badgers figure to be extra cranky after losing the Old Spice title game.
O’Neil: Wisconsin -- I’m guessing practice hasn't been fun for the Badgers since their uncharacteristic slide against Notre Dame. Someone will feel the brunt of that frustration.
Williams: Wisconsin -- The Badgers have compiled a 138-11 (.926) home record under coach Bo Ryan heading into the season. Enough said.

INDIANA AT BOSTON COLLEGE (ESPNU, 7:15 ET)

Bilas: Boston College – The Eagles are at home and Reggie Jackson can really score.
Brennan: Boston College -- Boston College has one awful loss (to Yale) and one solid win (over Texas A&M), so let’s give it a slight advantage over an Indiana team that has yet to leave Assembly Hall -- or play a non-cupcake opponent.
Fraschilla: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson hits it out of the park in the Eagles’ win.
Gottlieb: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson is the best player on the floor. The Eagles use the lessons learned in giving away leads in Orlando to help them beat IU.
Katz: Indiana -- The Eagles own more talent but lack focus in finishing games, something the Hoosiers seem to have now.
Leung: Boston College -- The easy part of Indiana's schedule is over.
Lunardi: Boston College -- BC is coming off a very good showing at the Old Spice and should win at home.
O’Neil: Indiana -- The recruiting good news for the Hoosiers spurs a much-needed good win on the court.
Williams: Boston College -- When Reggie Jackson is allowed to probe with the dribble and is on his game, BC is a tough team.

PURDUE AT VIRGINIA TECH (ESPN, 7:30 ET)

Bilas: Virginia Tech -- Purdue is not only missing Robbie Hummel, but really missing Chris Kramer.
Brennan: Purdue -- Both teams have played solid defense and both have had their struggles offensively, but JaJuan Johnson should provide too many matchup problems for a shallow Va. Tech front line.
Fraschilla: Virginia Tech -- Hokies are desperate for a quality nonconference win.
Gottlieb: Virginia Tech -- Virginia Tech struggles with pressure defense (see Purdue). Purdue struggles to score against legit defenses without Robbie Hummel. Hokies in a great game.
Katz: Virginia Tech -- The Boilermakers are still a formidable bunch, but winning in Blacksburg is hardly an easy task, especially when the Hokies are a top-three ACC team.
Leung: Virginia Tech -- The Boilers are showing they're not the same team without Robbie Hummel, and they'll have their hands full containing Malcolm Delaney.
Lunardi: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies want to stockpile every nonconference scalp they can get.
O’Neil: Virginia Tech -- Neither team has exactly been lighting it up offensively, but the Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who can score, and the home court.
Williams: Virginia Tech -- Purdue simply doesn't have the same scoring punch like the Hokies' Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson and Jeff Allen.

MARYLAND AT PENN STATE (ESPN2, 9:15 ET)

Bilas: Maryland -- Although a road game, the Terps have more talent.
Brennan: Maryland -- Maryland forward Jordan Williams is a budding star, and unless Talor Battle can sprout about 10 inches by Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions won’t be able to stop him.
Fraschilla: Maryland -- The Terps should grind out a road win in State College.
Gottlieb: Maryland -- The Terps are better inside with Jordan Williams and though Talor Battle can win a game on his own, Maryland's size and pressure in the backcourt should hurt his percentages.
Katz: Maryland -- Penn State is having a hard time being relevant while the Terps continue to play tougher, no matter the venue.
Leung: Maryland -- The Terrapins' only losses are single-digit ones to Pitt and Illinois, so Penn State should be no problem.
Lunardi: Maryland -- Penn State isn't the most athletic bunch and was already exposed by Ole Miss.
O’Neil: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions would need to borrow one of JoePa's linebackers to have a player to contend with Jordan Williams.
Williams: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions will have no answer inside for the Terps’ Jordan Williams.

MICHIGAN STATE AT DUKE (ESPN, 9:30 ET)

Bilas: Duke -- Michigan State is turning it over too much right now, and Duke's defensive pressure should capitalize.
Brennan: Duke -- After Duke’s dominant win over Kansas State and Michigan State’s sluggish start in Maui, the Blue Devils look miles ahead of the field. This early in the season, the Spartans won’t be able to close the gap in Cameron.
Fraschilla: Duke -- Tough place for ANYONE to win.
Gottlieb: Duke -- Derrick Nix is back and he should help with the depth of Michigan State inside, but MSU struggled with the quickness of Washington and UConn. Duke's pressure and athleticism are similar.
Katz: Duke -- The Spartans aren’t in March form yet, while the Blue Devils look like they’ve already made plans for Houston.
Leung: Duke -- In case you missed the CBE Classic, the Blue Devils are just better than everyone else right now.
Lunardi: Duke -- Won't make the same mistake of picking against Duke this week.
O’Neil: Michigan State -- I'll admit I'm not 100 percent in on this pick, especially with Duke playing at home. But after a few humbling visits to the other part of Tobacco Road in recent years, a disappointing loss to UConn and a tongue-lashing after a lackluster effort against Tennessee Tech, I think the Spartans are due for a show-me win.
Williams: Duke -- Duke is hands-down the best team in the country and the energy within Cameron will be too much for Michigan State to handle.


The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be the dominant storyline in college basketball over the next few nights, so might as well put our writers and contributors on the spot with predictions, right?

For what it’s worth, the group consensus for each game adds up to a 6-5 Big Ten victory over the ACC. But it’s actually even closer than that. In the highly anticipated Iowa-Wake Forest matchup, our panel took the Hawkeyes by a 5-4 margin. If one of those five had picked the Deacons, we’d be projected an ACC overall victory.

Sounds to us like an event worth tuning into …

<strong>Monday</strong>

<strong>Virginia at Minnesota (ESPN2, 7 ET)</strong>
Jay Bilas: Minnesota -- Tubby has depth and guard play, and Tony Bennett doesn't.
Eamonn Brennan: Minnesota – The Gophers are a complete and balanced team, even if <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36271">Al Nolen</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=45983">Rodney Williams</a> miss the game due to injury; Tony Bennett's rebounding Virginia squad is, well, not.
Fran Fraschilla: Minnesota -- The Gophers are one of the country's early-season surprises and they are at home in the friendly confines of Williams Arena. This will be ugly.
Doug Gottlieb: Minnesota -- Despite not having Al Nolen, Minnesota is still loaded. <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51535">Maverick Ahanmisi</a> was a late signee who is a year older than most freshman, and that maturity will come in handy.
Andy Katz: Minnesota – The Gophers are depleted with injuries, but likely get <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41567">Devoe Joseph</a> back and are too strong, too tall, too deep for rebuilding Virginia.
Diamond Leung: Minnesota -- Minnesota might be banged up, but <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36270">Blake Hoffarber</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36628">Trevor Mbakwe</a> should be able to dominate.
Joe Lunardi: Minnesota -- The shorthanded Gophers are still too much for the Cavs at this point.
Dana O’Neil: Minnesota -- Even without Al Nolen and Rodney Williams, the red-hot Gophers are too talented for the still struggling Cavaliers.
Jay Williams: Minnesota -- Even though they won't have starters Al Nolen & Rodney Williams due to injuries, I expect Blake Hoffarber, Trevor Mbakwe and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41568">Ralph Sampson III</a> to dominate.

<strong>Tuesday</strong>

<strong>Georgia Tech at Northwestern (ESPN2, 7 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Northwestern -- The Wildcats will spread the Jackets out and keep them on a string between open 3s and backdoor cuts.
Brennan: Northwestern -- Facing its first real "test" of the season, Northwestern's matchup zone and tricky Princeton offense will give Georgia Tech fits.
Fraschilla: Northwestern -- Sadly, even a win over the Yellow Jackets won't mean much in March. Too much Shurna in this one.
Gottlieb: Northwestern -- Tech played well this weekend, but the travel and Juice Thompson will be too much.
Katz: Northwestern -- If we’re going to take the Wildcats seriously they have to win a game like this at home against the inferior Yellow Jackets.
Leung: Northwestern -- The Wildcats should stay undefeated playing on their homecourt and with <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41742">John Shurna</a> playing well.
Lunardi: Northwestern -- A solid win over Creighton sets the Wildcats up nicely for another victory.
O’Neil: Northwestern -- John Shurna has been terrific all season for a Wildcat team dreaming of -- gasp! -- an NCAA bid.
Williams: Northwestern -- This is the year Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament because of Shurna and Thompson.

<strong>Iowa at Wake Forest (ESPNU, 7 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Iowa -- Wake Forest will have a hard time beating anyone this season.
Brennan: Iowa -- Because as bad as Iowa is, Wake Forest is -- somehow -- worse.
Fraschilla: Wake Forest -- Someone has to win, right?
Gottlieb: Iowa -- Hawkeyes are coming off a win. Fran McCaffery will dial up something.
Katz: Wake Forest -- I can’t see the Demon Deacons losing four home games before Dec. 1.
Leung: Iowa -- Between the two, Iowa has shown a few more signs of life.
Lunardi: Wake Forest -- Neither team has played a true road game, so you have to go with Wake at home.
O’Neil: Wake Forest -- Because as bad as the Demon Deacons have looked early, the Hawkeyes have looked worse.
Williams: Iowa -- After watching Wake lose to Stetson, VCU and Winthrop, I give the edge to Iowa on the road.

<strong>Ohio State at Florida State (ESPN, 7:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Ohio State -- Florida State can really guard, but scoring efficiently is a problem the Seminoles have and the Buckeyes don't.
Brennan: Ohio State – FSU’s defense will keep this one close, but the interior offensive rebounding of <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51405">Jared Sullinger</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36134">Dallas Lauderdale</a> will be too much for the Noles to manage.
Fraschilla: Ohio State – The Leon County Civic Center is not the homecourt the Seminoles deserve.
Gottlieb: FSU's <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40974">Chris Singleton</a> has put up insane numbers with two triple-doubles, but OSU has the athletes to guard him and his compadres.
Katz: Ohio State -- The Buckeyes won at Florida and have a better inside game than Florida State, although FSU’s Chris Singleton will likely put up the best numbers.
Leung: Ohio State -- Despite the all-around talents of FSU's Chris Singleton, Ohio State has too many weapons, including Jared Sullinger in the middle.
Lunardi: Ohio State -- Buckeyes complete the Sunshine State sweep in Tallahassee.
O’Neil: Ohio State -- Tough follow for the Seminoles after an emotional, disappointing loss to the Gators. Plus, Jared Sullinger is the why to all questions about the Buckeyes.
Williams: Florida State -- Yes, I call the upset here. <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40971">Xavier Gibson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=51353">Bernard James</a> will give Mr. Sullinger a lot to deal with down low.

<strong>Michigan at Clemson (ESPN2, 9 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Clemson -- The Tigers are at home, and Michigan hasn't won away from home.
Brennan: Clemson -- Michigan might not be as bad as we thought, but it is not good enough to beat a capable Clemson team, whose only loss was a one-point neutral-court defeat to ODU.
Fraschilla: Clemson -- Early returns about new coach Brad Brownell are positive.
Gottlieb: Michigan -- Searching for an upset here, the 1-3-1 proves tough to tame. The Wolverines appear a bit better than expected, though they will suffer in conference.
Katz: Clemson -- The Tigers, regardless of coach, are too tough at home against similar-level teams.
Leung: Clemson -- Tigers coach Brad Brownell is fitting right in and has enough weapons to win this one.
Lunardi: Clemson -- The Wolverines are a long way from being able to win at Littlejohn.
O’Neil: Clemson -- The Wolverines have done little to prove they're over what ailed them last season.
Williams: Clemson -- After losses to both Syracuse and UTEP, I don't see the Wolverines bouncing back at Littlejohn Coliseum.

<strong>North Carolina at Illinois (ESPN, 9:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Illinois -- North Carolina doesn't push the ball and get easy baskets, and Illinois is at home.
Brennan: Illinois -- The Illini have homecourt advantage, but they also have the benefit of a veteran team that can match up with the athletic -- and as yet thoroughly disappointing -- Tar Heels.
Fraschilla: Illinois -- Are the Heels losing their mystique?
Gottlieb: Illinois -- Better guards, at home, and though Illinois does not have great strength inside, neither does UNC. Illini by more than 10.
Katz: Illinois -- The Tar Heels are still searching for a leader and the Illini need this game too much to prove their relevance.
Leung: Illinois -- It appears that catching the Tar Heels early is the way to go, and an Illini team with size can play with anyone.
Lunardi: Illinois -- What once looked like a toss-up should be a comfortable win for the Illini.
O’Neil: Illinois -- The Illini play with grit and determination, traits sorely lacking so far this season for the Tar Heels.
Williams: Illinois -- UNC does not have the poise or experience to win this one on the road.

<strong>Wednesday</strong>

<strong>NC State at Wisconsin (ESPN2, 7:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Wisconsin -- The game is at the Kohl Center, isn't it? Next question.
Brennan: Wisconsin -- Besides the immense advantage provided by the Kohl Center, the Badgers are, for all their early-season warts, one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. The Wolfpack without senior forward <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36377">Tracy Smith</a> are one of the worst.
Fraschilla: Wisconsin -- Anywhere but the Kohl Center, I'd give the Wolfpack an even chance to win.
Gottlieb: Wisconsin -- NC State has better talent, but Wisconsin will use <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41152">Jordan Taylor</a> off ball screens and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36138">Jon Leuer</a> is a great fit got what Wisconsin does and Bo Ryan is great at what he does. Frankly, the Wolfpack might become bored with the tedious pace of the Badgers.
Katz: Wisconsin -- The Wolfpack are without Tracy Smith and to beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center you have to be full strength.
Leung: Wisconsin -- Jon Leuer is just too much to handle, and the Badgers are playing at home.
Lunardi: Wisconsin -- The Badgers figure to be extra cranky after losing the Old Spice title game.
O’Neil: Wisconsin -- I’m guessing practice hasn't been fun for the Badgers since their uncharacteristic slide against Notre Dame. Someone will feel the brunt of that frustration.
Williams: Wisconsin -- The Badgers have compiled a 138-11(.926) home record under head coach Bo Ryan heading into the season. Enough said.

<strong>Indiana at Boston College (ESPNU, 7:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Boston College – The Eagles are at home and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=41460">Reggie Jackson</a> can really score.
Brennan: Boston College -- Boston College has one awful loss (to Yale) and one solid win (over Texas A&M), so let’s give it a slight advantage over an Indiana team that has yet to leave Assembly Hall -- or play a non-cupcake opponent.
Fraschilla: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson hits it out of the park in the Eagles’ win.
Gottlieb: Boston College -- Reggie Jackson is the best player on the floor. The Eagles use the lessons learned in giving away leads in Orlando to help them beat IU.
Katz: Indiana -- The Eagles own more talent but lack focus in finishing games, something the Hoosiers seem to have now.
Leung: Boston College -- The easy part of Indiana's schedule is over.
Lunardi: Boston College -- BC is coming off a very good showing at the Old Spice and should win at home.
O’Neil: Indiana -- The recruiting good news for the Hoosiers spurs a much-needed good win on the court.
Williams: Boston College -- When Reggie Jackson is allowed to probe with the dribble and is on his game, BC is a tough team.

<strong>Purdue at Virginia Tech (ESPN, 7:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Virginia Tech -- Purdue is not only missing Hummel, but really missing Chris Kramer.
Brennan: Purdue -- Both teams have played solid defense and both have had their struggles offensively, but <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36150">JaJuan Johnson</a> should provide too many matchup problems for a shallow Va. Tech front line.
Fraschilla: Virginia Tech -- Hokies are desperate for a quality nonconference win.
Gottlieb: Virginia Tech -- Virginia Tech struggles with pressure defense (see Purdue). Purdue struggles to score against legit defenses without <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36149">Robbie Hummel</a>. Hokies in a great game.
Katz: Virginia Tech -- The Boilermakers are still a formidable bunch, but winning in Blacksburg is hardly an easy task, especially when the Hokies are a top-three ACC team.
Leung: Virginia Tech -- The Boilers are showing they're not the same team without Robbie Hummel, and they'll have their hands full containing <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36544">Malcolm Delaney</a>.
Lunardi: Virginia Tech -- The Hokies want to stockpile every nonconference scalp they can get.
O’Neil: Virginia Tech -- Neither team has exactly been lighting it up offensively, but the Hokies have Malcolm Delaney, who can score, and the homecourt.
Williams: Virginia Tech -- Purdue simply doesn't have the same scoring punch like the Hokies' Malcolm Delaney, <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=40725">Dorenzo Hudson</a> and <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=31599">Jeff Allen</a>.

<strong>Maryland at Penn State (ESPN2, 9:15 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Maryland -- Although a road game, the Terps have more talent.
Brennan: Maryland -- Maryland forward <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=45916">Jordan Williams</a> is a budding star, and unless <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=36465">Talor Battle</a> can sprout about 10 inches by Wednesday night, the Nittany Lions won’t be able to stop him.
Fraschilla: Maryland -- The Terps should grind out a road win in State College.
Gottlieb: Maryland -- The Terps are better inside with Jordan Williams and though Talor Battle can win a game on his own, Maryland's size and pressure in the backcourt should hurt his percentages.
Katz: Maryland -- Penn State is having a hard time being relevant while the Terps continue to play tougher, no matter the venue.
Leung: Maryland -- The Terrapins' only losses are single-digit ones to Pitt and Illinois, so Penn State should be no problem.
Lunardi: Maryland -- Penn State isn't the most athletic bunch and was already exposed by Ole Miss.
O’Neil: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions would need to borrow one of JoePa's linebackers to have a player to contend with Jordan Williams.
Williams: Maryland -- The Nittany Lions will have no answer inside for the Terps’ Jordan Williams.

<strong>Michigan State at Duke (ESPN, 9:30 ET)</strong>
Bilas: Duke -- Michigan State is turning it over too much right now, and Duke's defensive pressure should capitalize.
Brennan: Duke -- After Duke’s dominant win over Kansas State and Michigan State’s sluggish start in Maui, the Blue Devils look miles ahead of the field. This early in the season, the Spartans won’t be able to close the gap in Cameron.
Fraschilla: Duke -- Tough place for ANYONE to win.
Gottlieb: <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/player/profile?playerId=46227">Derrick Nix</a> is back and he should help with the depth of Michigan State inside, but MSU struggled with the quickness of Washington and UConn. Duke's pressure and athleticism is similar.
Katz: Duke -- The Spartans aren’t in March form yet, while the Blue Devils look like they’ve already made plans for Houston.
Leung: Duke -- In case you missed the CBE Classic, the Blue Devils are just better than everyone else right now.
Lunardi: Duke -- Won't make the same mistake of picking against Duke this week.
O’Neil: Michigan State -- I'll admit I'm not 100 percent in on this pick, especially with Duke playing at home. But after a few humbling visits to the other part of Tobacco Road in recent years, a disappointing loss to UConn and a tongue-lashing after a lackluster effort against Tennessee Tech, I think the Spartans are due for a show-me win.
Williams: Duke -- Duke is hands-down the best team in the country and the energy within Cameron will be too much for Michigan State to handle.

Big-time individual numbers in Week 1

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
2:52
PM ET
These guys really know how to fill up a stat sheet, and here are the stories behind their numbers:
  • Florida State forward Chris Singleton had a triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals in a win against UNC Greensboro. It was the third triple-double in school history and the first time in ACC history a triple-double involved those categories. The 10 steals set a school record, and just for good measure, he had six assists and four blocks. "Chris contributes for us when he's not scoring," coach Leonard Hamilton told the Tallahassee Democrat. "He is quick and has such long arms that he makes things difficult for opponents."
  • Idaho State guard Broderick Gilchrest briefly led the nation in scoring when he hung a career-high 39 points on Colorado in a season-opening loss. But two days later, the entire team only managed 42 points in a loss to Arizona, with Gilchrest scoring four of them.
  • Virginia Commonwealth senior Joey Rodriguez dished out a school-record 17 assists in a win against UNC Greensboro (two days before Singleton's game against the Spartans). Rodriguez also had 22 points, four steals and four rebounds, and according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he did it on a sprained ankle. "Statistically, it's tough to ask for a better night out of a point guard," coach Shaka Smart said.
  • Ohio State senior Dallas Lauderdale had eight blocks in a win against North Carolina A&T and was two blocks away from a triple-double on a day when he notched the first double-double of his career. He downplayed the blocks, saying, "It's not necessarily a good thing because it means the guards are getting driven on, but I was happy to do what could to help the team."
  • Saint Mary's freshman Stephen Holt made his debut memorable with a school-record nine steals in a win against the College of Idaho. Holt was in the lineup because sophomore Matthew Dellavedova came off the bench while nursing a hamstring injury, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The drill, you know it. Here are five things I can't wait to see in the Big Ten this season:

1. How -- and whether -- Purdue recovers

At the risk of overplaying the Robbie Hummel story (he was, after all, the story of Big Ten media day, too), I'm going with this at No. 1. To me, there is no greater intrigue in the league this season than in finding out just what effect Hummel's ACL tear will have on his team in 2010-11. We know from last year's injury that the forward added far more to Purdue's offense than to its defense. Purdue's offensive efficiency drastically declined after Hummel's first ACL tear last February (thanks in large part to a couple of 40-point stinkers in games against Michigan State and Minnesota, the latter of which saw the Boilermakers score 11 points in the first half), but there was some sign Purdue had righted the points-per-possession ship during their run to the Sweet 16. Defensively, the Boilers were not only fine, they were better with Hummel out; coach Matt Painter changed his team's style, focusing less on offensive rebounds demanding his team get behind the ball with all five players. With Chris Kramer still patrolling the perimeter, and a much more careful Boilermakers team on the floor, Purdue ended the season with the third-most efficient defense in the country.

The problem is that not all of Hummel's contributions, even on the offensive end, are quantifiable. Hummel's versatility as a point forward with 3-point range opened the lane for JaJuan Johnson and made it difficult to impossible to double the big man on the elbow and short post. Hummel drew a high number of fouls, distributed the ball well without turning it over, and was in many ways a glue guy who played with the efficiency of a star. Kramer's defense (and sneaky good, fourth-option-type offense) is also a major loss. Painter is a more than capable coach with more time than last year to figure out how to replace Hummel (and now Kramer), and he has a large amount of depth to utilize in that process. But it's hard to imagine these Boilermakers being as good as last year's pre-ACL version.

[+] EnlargeKalin Lucas
Matthew O'Haren/Icon SMIThe return of a healthy Kalin Lucas makes the Spartans one of the nation's most talented teams.
2. A healthy Kalin Lucas

It's no wonder Michigan State is ranked just behind Duke in just about everyone's preseason top 25. The Spartans went to their second-straight Final Four in 2009-10 without the help of their best player, guard Kalin Lucas, who was a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year until an Achilles tear forced him to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. The 2010-11 version gets Lucas -- and everyone not named Raymar Morgan and Chris Allen -- back. Toss in a talented recruiting class with at least one likely contributor (freshman Keith Appling) already in the mix, and you get a loaded, experienced team as talented as any in the country. The real draw, though, is Lucas -- how he recovers, how he leads, and how he closes his Michigan State career after being forced to watch from the sidelines during last year's triumphant and unexpected finish.

3. Bruce Weber's best team in years

Even in down years, Bruce Weber's teams did one thing. They defended. Weber is a defensive coach, and his ability to get his players to play stifling man-to-man defense out to 30 feet has been one reason why a lack of talent in the post-Deron Williams era hasn't gotten him in more trouble with his fan base. But no such problem exists this season: Illinois returns all five starters from last year's team. Three seniors, including All-Big Ten preseason pick Demetri McCamey, are back. Last year's two highly touted freshman -- Brandon Paul and Big Ten freshman of the year D.J. Richardson -- will look to make the freshman-to-sophomore leap. And another big-time recruiting class, including forward Jereme Richmond, the No. 23-ranked player in the class of 2010, shouldn't need much time to make an impact. There is no small amount of expectation surrounding this team: The Big Ten's media picked Illinois to finish fourth behind Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue, and the Illini are ranked No. 13 in the AP preseason poll. That's a big jump in expectations for a defensively mediocre team that limped to an NIT finish last season, but it's a warranted one. Now Weber just has to remember how to get his guys to play defense. With all that talent, the offensive end -- and an NCAA tournament bid -- should take care of itself.

4. Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger

[+] EnlargeJared Sullinger
AP Photo/Terry GilliamJared Sullinger, the No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2010, replaces Evan Turner in OSU's lineup.
Losing a high-usage player of the year like Evan Turner isn't the sort of thing your program is supposed to immediately overcome. But Sullinger, the No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2010, could push the 2010-11 version of the Buckeyes to be even better than last year's team. The four non-Turner starters -- versatile guards William Buford and David Lighty, sharpshooter Jon Diebler, and bruising center Dallas Lauderdale -- return. By plugging Sullinger (not to mention top small forward prospect DeShaun Thomas) in, Ohio State won't have to play four guards this season. They won't lack frontcourt depth when Lauderdale gets in foul trouble. They won't have to play their starters an insane number of minutes. And, if Sullinger plays to expectations, they'll have as effective a low-block scorer as any team in the country. It's hard to pick Ohio State over Michigan State to start the season, but by the end of it, Ohio State could very well deserve that distinction. They might just be the second-best team in the country.

5. Another ho-hum Wisconsin season

And rest assured, denizens of Madison: I mean "ho-hum" in the most complimentary way possible. This is a stat I've written before, but one that bears repeating: In Bo Ryan's tenure, the Badgers have failed to finish worse than fourth in the Big Ten exactly zero times. In nine seasons, the Badgers have failed to win 20 games only twice, and failed to win more than 24 games three times. The man and his program are models of consistency. That consistency hasn't exactly translated into tournament success; Ryan's teams have been past the second round of the NCAA tournament only three times in his tenure, and they've gotten past the Sweet 16 just once. But, still, how good must it feel to be a Wisconsin fan? To know, before the season even starts, that your team is going to be in the Big Ten mix?

That feeling shouldn't change this season. Wisconsin lost guards Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon, but it returned Jordan Taylor and potential Big Ten Player of the Year Jon Leuer, an efficient high-usage forward who rebounds on the defensive end and scores from everywhere on offense. He's perfect for Ryan's slow-swing system, and Ryan's system is perfect for the Big Ten. The Badgers will have to make sure last year's stellar turnover rate stays something near to stellar, and the loss of those experienced guards will be an early challenge, but would you wager, even in a very tough Big Ten, on a Bo Ryan team finishing outside the league's top four? There's no reason to start now.
MILWAUKEE -- Some quick halftime thoughts from a relatively ugly first half in Milwaukee:

  • Georgia Tech hasn't quite dominated in the post the way it should. Gani Lawal had a good half, but counterpart Derrick Favors has been relatively invisible. More drastic is the Yellow Jackets' paucity of offensive rebounds -- Georgia Tech didn't grab a single offensive rebound until there were about four minutes left, and even that rebound was quickly slapped away by Ohio State's defense. Thus far, the combination of Dallas Lauderdale and OSU's athletic guards have been enough to keep the Jackets away from the basket.
  • [+] EnlargeEvan Turner
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesOhio State's Evan Turner led all scorers with 16 first-half points.
  • Some of that might have to do with OSU's defense, which starts as a 1-3-1 full-court trap and then switches either to a half-court zone or into man-to-man, based on the calls relayed by OSU's bench to Turner, who then signals the defense with a hand signal. The half-court zone has been effective because it places a defender on the front and help sides of Lawal, making it difficult for him to get good catches in the post. It's also led to some open jumpers for Georgia Tech.
  • Not that it's mattered -- both teams shot putrid percentages in the first half, especially from beyond the arc. Ohio State made just two of its 11 3s; Georgia Tech went 2-for-8. Georgia Tech has done a good job making things difficult for the Buckeyes' shooters. (Jon Diebler especially has felt pressure coming off high screens.) But there have been plenty of open looks, too. OSU just isn't hitting them.
  • As I hinted above, this has not been a pretty game. Obviously, the shooting hasn't been great, but we've also had a combined 21 turnovers. Georgia Tech has 12 of them, but still, you have to think the Jackets like this level of ugliness.
  • In obligatory Evan Turner Watch news, Turner has played better much than his ugly first-round performance, scoring 16 points and adding three steals, two rebounds and two assists. Not to nitpick, but Turner hasn't been his typically efficient self today: Those 16 points came on 6-of-15 shooting, and he has just as many turnovers as assists. So far in this tournament, Turner has been an ineffective shooter; he's at his best when he's driving to the rim, using his perfect footwork, and scoring layups.
  • Is it just me, but when Ohio State fans do their famous "O-H-I-O" chant, are the O's not completely indistinguishable from the I's? I guess the message still comes across. But it is funny to sit and pretend the Buckeyes' backers are chanting I-H-I-I. (OK, maybe it is just me.)
Jon DieblerJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJon Diebler filled a void for Ohio after Evan Turner struggled against UC Santa Barbara.
MILWAUKEE -- You almost have to feel for the Gauchos. UC Santa Barbara clawed, fought, stripped, poked, prodded -- and, yes, hacked -- Evan Turner into one of the worst games the surefire national player of the year has had in all of 2009-10.

It didn't matter. Not one bit.

With Turner off, Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler more than picked up his star teammate's slack -- scoring 23 points, hitting a barrage of 3-pointers and giving the Buckeyes an easy 68-51 win over the No. 15-seeded Gauchos Friday night.

"Evan was struggling a little bit," Diebler said. "He did a good job of finding the open guy."

By the time Turner came out of the game with less than four minutes left, he looked as frustrated as he has, well, maybe ever. UCSB had a very clear strategy for dealing with the Buckeyes' star -- harassment.

For the most part, it worked: The usually demure Turner was noticeably agitated throughout the second half, smiling incredulously at times, shaking his head at others. (Even after he was removed, Turner was sharing what appeared to be friendly conversations with the referees, even if the referees didn't seem quite so friendly in return.) Turner finished with a very un-Evan nine points on 2-of-14 shooting. (Though he did add 10 rebounds.)

"I thought there was a couple things that were happening that I was trying to get changed as well," OSU coach Thad Matta said, when asked about Turner's body language. "Evan's got to keep his composure and keep playing through it. He'll be all right."

Fortunately, the Buckeyes aren't a one-man team. Fortunately, Diebler -- along with fellow guard William Buford, who finished with 16 points -- weren't a focus of UCSB's campaign of irritation. OSU big man Dallas Lauderdale anchored the Buckeyes' middle, turning away eight Gauchos shots and grabbing 12 rebounds in the process.

Diebler's performance was especially impressive, given the guard has spent much of the past week suffering from the flu. Diebler didn't practice Tuesday and was sick at practice on Thursday; he ate for the first time in several days Friday. Feeling better, the sharpshooting guard played all 40 minutes Friday night.

"I was feeling pretty good," Diebler said. "Now I'm really tired, and really hungry. I can't wait to go back to the hotel and eat."

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2010 Big Ten tournament has reached the semifinals. Here's a look at the two matchups on tap today at Conseco Fieldhouse.

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)

Records: Ohio State (25-7), Illinois (19-13)

Season series: The Buckeyes swept two games from Illinois and did so in convincing fashion, pummeling the Illini 72-53 in Champaign and 73-57 in Columbus.

Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Minnesota in the championship game Sunday (CBS, 3:30 p.m. ET).

What to watch for Ohio State: Evan Turner's legend grew Friday as the National Player of the Year frontrunner hit a 37-foot shot as time expired to lift the Buckeyes to a 69-68 victory over Michigan. Turner has been very good against Illinois this season, averaging 16 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two meetings. Ohio State called Friday's game a wake-up call after a 10-day layoff, and Turner and his teammates need to reclaim their defensive swagger. Illinois big men Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis turned in one of their best performances Friday against Wisconsin, and it'll be important for Buckeyes center Dallas Lauderdale to stay out of foul trouble. Buckeyes sharpshooter Jon Diebler was on fire in his last game against Illinois, swishing 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range.

What to watch for Illinois: The Illini likely put themselves in the NCAA tournament with the Wisconsin win, but they can virtually guarantee a spot with a win today. Star guard Demetri McCamey comes off one of his more complete performances of the season (13 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), and he'll need an even better effort against the Buckeyes and Turner, his former high school teammate in Chicago. Tisdale did a nice job of extending Wisconsin's defense Friday, hitting two 3-pointers and several long 2-pointers. If he can bring Lauderdale or David Lighty away from the bucket, it should free up opportunities for others. D.J. Richardson looked like a freshman for much of Friday's quarterfinal win, but he found his shooting stroke late and never lost confidence. He needs to be a factor today if Illinois plans to advance.

Quotable:

Ohio State forward David Lighty: "It's a wake-up call. Watching games [Thursday], watching Syracuse go down, watching Kansas go down to the wire almost and things like that, it's kind of like we almost did the same thing. We have to get our minds right. It's like second lift, second wind for us."

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber: "No matter what, [Ohio State has] to be feeling relieved about [Friday's win], and then second, 'We kicked Illini butt two times.' I hope we can have a little bit of a mental edge."

No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (CBS, 25 minutes after Ohio State-Illinois game)


Records: Purdue (27-4), Minnesota (20-12)

Season series: Purdue crushed Minnesota 79-60 in West Lafayette on Jan. 5 and found a way to escape Williams Arena with a 59-58 win Feb. 24 after losing star forward Robbie Hummel to a season-ending knee injury in the first half.

Advancement: Winner faces Ohio State or Illinois on Sunday in the championship.

What to watch for Purdue: The Boilermakers missed 10 of their first 11 shots Friday against Northwestern and likely can't afford another slow start against surging Minnesota. Juniors E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are really answering the bell in Hummel's absence, and both men need strong performances again today. Johnson recorded a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in the 1-point win at Minnesota, while Moore recorded 18 points and five assists in the teams' first meeting. The Boilers amped up their defensive intensity Friday and will try to fluster Gophers guards Devoe Joseph, Lawrence Westbrook and Blake Hoffarber. Purdue won Friday without much from senior guards Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, who struggled with poor shooting and cramps. Both men need to be better today.

What to watch for Minnesota: The Gophers have put themselves firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, and they probably will put themselves into the field of 65 by beating Purdue. Aside from an ugly loss at Michigan on March 2, Minnesota has played pretty good ball the last three and a half weeks. Minnesota already has avenged a 1-point home loss to Michigan State and looks to do the same against Purdue. The Gophers' interior defense needs to be good on Johnson, but Tubby Smith is getting very solid play from forward Damian Johnson and center Colton Iverson right now. Minnesota has more length from Purdue and needs center Ralph Sampson III to bounce back from a poor performance Friday (0 points, 2 rebounds). Remember that Sampson had the best game of his career against Purdue in Minneapolis, recording 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

Quotable:

Purdue coach Matt Painter: "Our next opponent, no matter who it is, we have to out rebound them, but if we don't, we have to shoot the ball better. We're not going to get out rebounded and shoot the way we did [Friday] and win basketball games. You've got to understand how you're going to win, but you've also got to understand how you're going to lose and be proactive about that as a coach and really drill that home to your players."

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith: "We're as talented as anybody when we play the right way. I think every coach in America feels that way about their team, especially when they get to this level. If you don't feel that way, you're not going to win any games. I've got as much confidence in this team as in any team I've ever coached."
INDIANAPOLIS -- No one is going to accuse Evan Turner of being a copycat.

OK, maybe just this once.

When West Virginia star Da'Sean Butler banked in a 3-pointer to beat Cincinnati in the Big East tournament Thursday night, Turner and his Ohio State teammate Dallas Lauderdale were watching. So, too, was Michigan guard Laval Lucas-Perry.


Brian Spurlock/US PresswireOhio State junior Evan Turner's 3-pointer at the buzzer gave the Buckeyes a thrilling win over Michigan.
"My boy, Da'Sean," Turner remembers saying after Butler's shot went through the net. "I'm going to have to make a shot, too."

Less than 24 hours later, he did, and an even more memorable one at that. Turner drained a 37-footer as time expired to help top seed Ohio State escape a major scare from No. 8 seed Michigan with a 69-68 win in Friday's Big Ten tournament quarterfinal matchup.

Unlike Butler's bomb, Turner's saved Ohio State from a loss that would have taken the Buckeyes out of consideration for a No. 1 seed. And Turner didn't even use the glass.

But the parallels between the two 3-pointers -- both by star players on Final Four contenders in conference tournaments against lower-seeded foes -- are too obvious to ignore.

"When Butler hit that shot, [Turner] was like, 'Wow, that's incredible,'" Lauderdale said. "I was like, 'That's what good players do.' And lo and behold ..."

In many ways, Turner was a poor candidate to hit such an incredible shot. He said he'd never hit one quite like that in a game.

The final play itself, which took place with just 2.2 seconds left, reminded Turner of the final play in last year's NCAA tournament first-round matchup against Siena. He had a chance to win the game in double overtime, but his 15-foot leaner missed at the buzzer.

Turner isn't known for his 3-point shooting and only attempts shots like Friday's while joking around with teammates at the end of practice.

And even then, he's not even good at making them. According to Lauderdale, little-used senior guard Jeremie Simmons owns the gym.

"He's usually the one who's way off," Lauderdale said of Turner. "We shoot the halfcourt shots and he's usually way too short, way too left, way too much to the right."

But with the game on the line, Lauderdale knew things would be different.

"We knew he could," Lauderdale said. "He took the shot with full confidence."

Michigan's defensive strategy on the final play still seemed very questionable, given Turner's reputation and the time left on the clock. The Wolverines had done a decent job double-teaming Turner all game, but they sagged off and let him receive the pass, take two dribbles and fire the shot against only one defender.

Despite the low-percentage shot, Turner and his teammates were surprised Michigan didn't deny the ball or swarm Turner.

"The whole game, they were swarming me," Turner said. "They gave me one good look. Being open, it felt a little bit free.

"I felt like I was in the gym by myself."

Lucas-Perry had a perfect view of Turner's heroics from under the basket. He pegged Turner's chances at making it at "six percent."

"I was underneath the rim and I was like, 'Dang, this is good,' and he made it," Lucas-Perry said. "It was in the air for about 20 seconds it felt like.

"It was like the West Virginia shot last night, when Da'Sean Butler hit that 3 against Cincinnati. It was just [Turner] had it at halfcourt."

INDIANAPOLIS -- Four quarterfinal matchups in the Big Ten tournament are on tap today.

Let's take a quick look at each one.

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 8 seed Michigan (ESPN, noon ET)

Records: Ohio State (24-7), Michigan (15-16)

Season series: The teams split two matchups, with Michigan winning 73-64 in Ann Arbor and Ohio State prevailing 66-55 in Columbus on Feb. 27.

Advancement: Winner faces Wisconsin or Illinois in Saturday's first semifinal (CBS, 1:40 p.m. ET)

What to watch for Ohio State: National Player of the Year front-runner Evan Turner makes his first appearance in the Big Ten tournament, as Ohio State eyes a possible No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes could sneak in to the top line, but only if they win the Big Ten tournament. Turner had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the teams' last meeting after sitting out a Jan. 3 game at Michigan with a broken back. Ohio State ranks second in the Big Ten in scoring defense (60.4 ppg) and will try to contain Michigan star forward DeShawn Sims with Dallas Lauderdale.

What to watch for Michigan: The Wolverines need a complete performance to beat the surging Buckeyes, and they'll look for big things from guard Manny Harris, who looked good in Thursday's first-round win against Iowa (22 points, 9 rebounds). Michigan played stifling defense for most of the Iowa win and needs a similar effort against Turner, David Lighty and William Buford. The good news is U-M seems to match up decently with Ohio State this year. "We beat them for a whole game, beat them for a half," Wolverines forward Zack Novak said Thursday. "They got us for one half this year, so we’re confident going in."

No. 4 seed Wisconsin vs. No. 5 seed Illinois (ESPN, 25 minutes after Michigan-Ohio State)

Records: Wisconsin (23-7), Illinois (18-13)

Season series: The teams split two meetings, with each squad winning on the other's home floor. Illinois stunned Madison at the Kohl Center on Feb. 9, but Wisconsin surged to a 72-57 rout Sunday in Champaign.

Advancement: Winner plays Ohio State or Michigan in Saturday's first semifinal.

What to watch for Wisconsin: The Badgers might be the hottest team in this tournament, having won four consecutive games. It's no secret the surge has coincided with the healthy return of forward Jon Leuer, who won Big Ten Player of the Week honors last week. Leuer (14.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and forward Keaton Nankivil (8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) really balance out Wisconsin's offense and will put pressure on Illinois bigs Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis. The Badgers flustered Illinois star Demetri McCamey in Sunday's win and need a similar defensive effort from Jordan Taylor.

What to watch for Illinois: McCamey's sideline confrontation with head coach Bruce Weber generated plenty of national attention, and it will be interesting to see how the mercurial star responds today. Illinois needs its best player to be at his best against a jelling Badgers team. The Illini are only 1-5 since their win in Madison and need to find other ways to score if the outside shots aren't falling. They also must rebound better after Wisconsin crashed the offensive glass well in Sunday's game.

No. 2 seed Purdue vs. No. 7 seed Northwestern (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET)

Records: Purdue (26-4), Northwestern (20-12)

Season series: Northwestern won the teams' only meeting, 72-64, on Jan. 16, which marked Purdue's last loss with a healthy Robbie Hummel.

Advancement: Winner faces Michigan State or Minnesota in Saturday's second semifinal (CBS, 25 minutes after first semifinal).

What to watch for Purdue: After a rough start in its first game without Hummel, Purdue rallied last week for two wins. The Boilers need a strong effort today from center JaJuan Johnson, who was a nonfactor before fouling out against Northwestern the last time the teams met. Senior guard Chris Kramer also had a rough outing in Evanston and needs to be a bigger factor on both ends of the floor. Purdue's suffocating man-to-man defense could be the difference tonight. "Instead of someone picking you up at 21 feet, they pick you up at 90 feet," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said.

What to watch for Northwestern: The Wildcats actually match up well against Purdue. They have won two of the teams' last three meetings and choked away a big lead in the only defeat. Standout freshman wing Drew Crawford is very banged-up -- he had at least three ice packs on his body after Thursday's win -- so Northwestern needs production from other spots. Point guard Michael Thompson stepped up big against Indiana (16 points), but senior guard Jeremy Nash and sophomore center Luka Mirkovic need stronger performances today.

No. 3 seed Michigan State vs. No. 6 seed Minnesota (Big Ten Network, 25 minutes after Purdue-Northwestern game)

Records: Michigan State (24-7), Minnesota (19-12)

Season series: Michigan State won both meetings, but only by a combined eight points. After a 60-53 win in East Lansing, the Spartans needed a huge shot from Kalin Lucas to outlast Minnesota, 65-64, on Jan. 23 at Williams Arena.

Advancement: Winner faces Purdue or Northwestern in Saturday's second semifinal.

What to watch for Michigan State: The Spartans come off of a strong showing against Michigan on Sunday but will be without junior guard Chris Allen, who is suspended for the game. Allen ranks fourth on the team in scoring (9.1 ppg), and his absence will put a bigger burden on starting shooting guard Durrell Summers. Michigan State's front line has played better as of late and needs a strong performance against Minnesota bigs Damian Johnson, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. The Spartans haven't been great defensively this year, but they have held their last six opponents to just 57.2 points per game.

What to watch for Minnesota: After two blowout wins against bottom feeders, the Gophers can really boost their NCAA tournament hopes with a win today. They paced Michigan State in both games and endured one of several heartbreaking losses in the meeting at The Barn. If seniors Johnson and Lawrence Westbrook continue to answer the bell like they did Thursday, and if Devoe Joseph builds on a strong performance, Minnesota will be tough to beat. "Last time we played Michigan State we lost by one point," Joseph said, "and we made a lot of mistakes in the last four minutes, so I definitely think we can pull off the upset."

Halftime observations: Ohio State-Purdue

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
7:38
PM ET
Purdue now has played two of the most impressive first halves of any team in the country in consecutive weeks.

Halftime observations from Purdue 36, Ohio State 23:

  • Last week the Boilermakers went into East Lansing and took a 14-point lead on Michigan State at intermission, on their way to a 12-point victory. Now the Boilers have put a 13-point choke hold on Ohio State on the road, shooting 60 percent from the field (57 percent from 3-point range) and limiting the Buckeyes to one assist.
  • Purdue has a power trio of Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, and they trade off starring roles. Tonight it’s Johnson’s world – he has 15 points, four rebounds and three assists at halftime. Ohio State postman Dallas Lauderdale has had no idea how to combat the lanky junior Johnson.
  • If it weren’t for Evan Turner, this would be a Little Bighorn-level wipeout. Turner, my leading candidate for national Player of the Year, has 13 of Ohio State’s 23 points, four of its 12 rebounds and the lone assist. He’s made 6 of 13 shots against a rotating array of defenders, while the rest of the Buckeyes are 3 of 11.
  • William Buford, Ohio State’s second-leading scorer, did not scratch while playing the entire 20 minutes. Buford was 0 for 2 with one rebound and one blocked shot.
  • This game could really be out of hand if Purdue were a little tighter with its ball handling and passing. The Boilermakers have committed nine turnovers, while averaging just 10.8 per game in Big Ten play. Then again, Ohio State has turned it over 10 times, including four errors by Turner.
  • A late-arriving, lackadaisical crowd hasn’t helped Ohio State create much homecourt atmosphere or generated any significant animosity toward the Boilers. The vibe at Purdue home games is roughly 400 times more boisterous.
The first thing you learn in journalism school, besides that "media is changing" -- $35,000 a year is the going rate to learn this all-important and otherwise unobtainable lesson -- is that you shouldn't write the following sentence, like, ever: "It was a tale of two halves." It's a worthless, uninteresting cliche, and my jaded journalism professors were totally right.

But sometimes, the cliche is applicable. It happens. I'm still not going to write it, but it happens. So it was today in Morgantown, W.Va., as the Mountaineers recovered from a 40-28 halftime deficit to take a 71-65 win over Ohio State.

If you didn't know any better, you would have thought two entirely different teams showed up. First Half: West Virginia was a bumbling squad unable to handle Evan Turner or William Buford; Second Half: West Virginia was a tough defensive beast up to the task of defending Turner, arguably the country's best player. This can be explained in two ways: 1) West Virginia playing much better basketball in the second half, naturally; and 2) Ohio State playing three of its starters (Turner, Buford, and David Lighty) the entire 40 minutes and its other two top guys, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale (awesome name, by the way) 29 and 32 minutes, respectively. This is not a deep team. And for as well-conditioned as athletes like Turner and Buford are, 40 straight minutes of basketball in a hostile environment against a physical team like West Virginia is a recipe for collapse.

In any case, West Virginia's 14-point comeback was the second such comeback we've seen today, and it vindicated the Mountaineers' ugly first half. Losing to Ohio State at home is nothing to be ashamed of, but doing so while playing that poorly would have been. Instead, Bob Huggins can breathe easy.

Halftime thoughts from OSU-Butler

December, 12, 2009
12/12/09
1:05
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State is playing its first game without triple-threat leader Evan Turner. Butler played the final seven minutes of the first half without foul-proned big man Matt Howard.

The result, so far, is a virtual draw. The No. 15 Buckeyes used a late 16-0 run to take the lead and hold a 36-34 advantage over the 20th-ranked Bulldogs at halftime here at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Ohio State looked lost early on without Turner, who injured his back last weekend and is out eight weeks. Butler led by as many as 11 as it continually cracked Thad Matta's zone defense for easy looks.

But after Howard -- who has fouled out of five games already this season -- picked up his second personal with a little more than seven minutes to go in the half, the momentum swung the other way. The Bulldogs went 6:20 without scoring until Gordon Hayward ended the drought with a short baseline jumper. Hayward, who also caught an alley-oop for a layup with one second to go, leads all scorers with 15 points.

Matta started senior guard P.J. Hill in place of Turner, but Hill has failed to contribute anything in the box score other than a foul. David Lighty leads the Buckeyes with 12 points, while Dallas Lauderdale added 10.

Ohio State shot 52.2 percent in the first half, but Butler countered that with a 21-15 rebound advantage.

SPONSORED HEADLINES