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How Wisconsin's win over Iowa helps Maryland in one way, not another

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How Wisconsin's win over Iowa helps Maryland in one way, not another

Wisconsin's 67-59 victory over Iowa on Wednesday continued the trend toward unpredictability in the Big Ten this season. In some ways the Badgers winning will help Maryland down the stretch. In others, it keeps a different part of the race tight. Allow for some explanation.

The most obvious way it helps is simply wins and losses on a resume. Iowa losing to Wisconsin does not greatly change how the nation views the Hawkeyes, but Wisconsin beating Iowa gives a real indication that the Badgers are coming together under interim head coach Greg Gard and are worthy of an NCAA tournament berth. 

Maryland's road win over Wisconsin now looks better and its home loss to Wisconsin does not look quite as bad. The value of the Terrapins' win over Iowa is largely unchanged. How else does it help?

Just about a week ago, it appeared Iowa had the most favorable path to a Big Ten regular-season title. Now after back-to-back losses to Penn State on the road and Wisconsin at home, the conference is still mainly a three-team race.

Iowa, following those losses, stands at 11-4 in the Big Ten with Ohio State and Michigan remaining on the road and Indiana at home. Indiana is 12-3 with Illinois and Iowa on the road and Maryland at home remaining. Maryland is 11-4 with Purdue and Indiana remaining on the road and Illinois at home. 

Maryland could win out and finish with a 14-4 record. If that were to happen then that could put Indiana -- at best -- at 14-4 as well because Maryland winning out would have to include a Hoosier loss. Iowa has the opportunity just like Indiana or Maryland to win out and finish 14-4 and that would require beating the Hoosiers.

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But there is another way to look at this where Wisconsin's win over Iowa actually does Maryland no favors.

Of course the aim is to win a share of the conference title, but another pressing goal for Maryland is to finish among the conference's top four teams and secure a double bye in the conference tournament. Yes, winning out takes care of that. But if Maryland were to drop another game or especially two, Wisconsin being on the upswing makes this race tougher.

Why is it so key to get a Top 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament?

The Terrapins face Indiana to finish the regular season on March 6. A double bye would mean not having to play until March 11, as opposed to the previous round on March 10. But more than that, a double bye eliminates the need to play another game and beyond that eliminates the possibility of taking a bad loss to a pesky team like Northwestern or Penn State -- teams hovering around the 12-seed in the Big Ten that a, say, No. 5 seed could face.

It should be clear by now that almost anyone can beat anyone else in this conference on a given night. Maryland has already found that out the hard way.

In that pursuit of a double bye, now entering the conversation are the surging Badgers (10-5) and Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans (10-5) to add to the three above-mentioned teams who are already vying for a conference title. That's before mentioning six-loss Michigan, Ohio State, and Purdue.

Had the Badgers lost to Iowa, it would have opened up some breathing room in the Top 4 conversation for Maryland (11-4). The more teams in the mix, the more your own losses make you sweat. A Hawkeye win would have put the Badgers at six conference losses and another step back in the race.

Instead, Maryland gets the aforementioned benefits of a Wisconsin win but now has to know that winning its final three games is the surest path forward in the crowded race for a Top 4 seed.

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

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Palmer's big 2nd half lifts Huskers past Maryland

LINCOLN, Neb. -- James Palmer Jr. scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half, Isaiah Roby had all 11 of his after half, and Nebraska held off Maryland 70-66 on Tuesday night.

Palmer and Roby combined for 35 of the Cornhuskers' 40 second-half points, and they secured their first 20-win season since 2008. They won a sixth straight conference game for the first time in 20 years.

Palmer scored 15 straight points for the Huskers (20-8, 11-4 Big Ten) over a 10-minute span that ended when Roby hit one of two free throws with 2:57 left for a 64-59 lead. Roby had a double-double, with 10 rebounds, and he also blocked three shots.

The Terps (17-11, 6-9) had a chance to take the lead with a minute to play, but Glynn Watson Jr. blocked Anthony Cowan Jr.'s 3-point try, Evan Taylor came up with the loose ball and got it to Watson.

Watson missed a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, and Roby got the rebound and was immediately fouled. He made both free throws for a 66-63 lead. Kevin Huerter's layin cut it to one point before Watson made two free throws.

Huerter went to the line with 2.8 seconds left, and after making the first free throw he intentionally missed the second. Palmer got the rebound, was fouled and put the game away with two free throws.

Bruno Fernando led the Terps with 21 points and nine rebounds. Huerter added 12 points and Darryl Morsell had 11.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terps' fading NCAA Tournament hopes might have been dashed with their seventh straight road loss.

Nebraska: The Huskers are resting firmly on the NCAA bubble and absolutely needed this win. They got it, thanks to Palmer and Roby's efforts in the second half.

UP NEXT

Maryland hosts Rutgers on Saturday. It's the teams' only meeting this season.

Nebraska visits Illinois. The Huskers beat the Illini 64-63 in Lincoln on Jan. 15.

RELATED: DMV College Basketball Power Rankings: Missed opportunities

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Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss

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USA TODAY Sports

Maryland overwhelmed by Penn State in close loss

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Lamar Stevens feels like he's playing his most consistent basketball right now, a bad omen for upcoming opponents considering Penn State expects its hybrid forward to do a little bit of everything.

Just like he did on Wednesday.

Stevens scored 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting with 14 in the second half to lift Penn State over Maryland 74-70.

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"Lamar really stepped up for us," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We needed every one of those points that he had tonight."

Tony Carr added 16 points, Josh Reaves scored 14, and Mike Watkins added 11 for the Nittany Lions (17-9, 7-6 Big Ten Conference), who equaled their previous best mark for conference victories under Chambers.

"The best teams always find ways to win," Stevens said. "We locked down when we had to, got huge stops, huge rebounds and I think that's a huge step for this team."

With Maryland (16-10, 5-8) up 20-14 midway through the first half, Stevens nailed his first of two 3-pointers to spark a quick 9-0 run that helped Penn State take control.

He rolled layups off his fingers and sank midrange jumpers on multiple back-to-back possessions in the second half, where he scored 11 of his team's first 20 points.

"He made some incredible, incredible shots," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He was terrific, he was so efficient."

Stevens added four rebounds, two assists and was 3-for-4 on free throws with all three makes coming in the final 5:48 as Maryland threatened.

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Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 15 points while Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando added 13 apiece.

Darryl Morsell had 10 points for the Terrapins, who cut a 10-point deficit with 8:11 to play to just three with 1:13 left.

"I didn't think we competed in the first half defensively," Turgeon said. "I thought in the second half, we were really trying hard."

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: The Terrapins' disappointing season continues and they have dropped to 7-7 since stalwart forward Justin Jackson's season was ended by a torn shoulder ligament in late December. Although they shot better than their season average, the Terrapins were badly outplayed in the paint, getting outscored 32-22 and outrebounded 27-23.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are playing an exciting brand of basketball as of late. They have a combined 22 dunks over their last three home games and opponents are finding it hard to play fast against a team that thrives on speed.