NCAA

No. 7 Hoosiers hold off No. 13 Spartans 75-70

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No. 7 Hoosiers hold off No. 13 Spartans 75-70

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana was playing for so much more than the Big Ten lead against Michigan State.

Tom Crean was facing an old friend and former boss in Tom Izzo. Cody Zeller was trying to rebound from the worst offensive night of his career. And Victor Oladipo, well, he just wanted to show a national television audience what the Hoosiers could do.

Oladipo and No. 7 Indiana didn't let anyone down.

The junior guard scored 21 points, had seven rebounds and six steals, leading No. 7 Indiana past No. 13 Michigan State 75-70.

``For us to get this win in this environment, for us to make the plays that we made, especially at the end, for us to make the defensive stops that we made to get the buckets that we needed to get, I thought was huge,'' Crean said.

Zeller made only two baskets Sunday, two more than he had in Wednesday's win over Penn State, and still played a key role. The second basket came on a layup with 1:38 left, which gave Indiana a two-possession lead. Zeller then took a charge with 14.3 seconds left, which essentially sealed the game.

But the Big Ten's preseason player of the year was overshadowed again by Oladipo.

Not only did he put up big numbers on the stat sheet, he opened the game with a steal and dunk, consistently came up with big plays and had 15 deflections in the first half, a number Crean said he had never seen from a player before.

How good was he? Even Izzo was impressed.

``Oladipo just plays so hard,'' the Spartans coach said. ``He's the Ray Lewis of college basketball.''

The Hoosiers (18-2, 6-1 Big Ten) are hoping Oladipo can deliver the same result as the Ravens star linebacker did with Crean's brother-in-law, John Harbaugh: Playing for a championship.

And if Oladipo keeps playing like this, he just might.

Oladipo was 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line, had three blocks and was helping to open things up for everyone else when he wasn't putting the ball in the basket or poking it away.

Christian Watford finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Yogi Ferrell had 11 points, and Jordan Hulls made three 3-pointers, finished with 10 points and four assists and closed out the game by making 1 of 2 free throws.

Indiana has now won three in a row since losing to Wisconsin, has won two straight over the Spartans and has nine wins over ranked teams at home over the past 24 months and is back in the driver's seat in the Big Ten.

``It just shows we can run,'' Oladipo said. ``Transition is a big deal on our team, and for me to get those steals and start our break, that was huge for us. My guys did a good job of playing defense and running on the break.''

The Spartans were led by Gary Harris. The 2012 Indiana Mr. Basketball made five 3-pointers, finished with 21 points and was resoundingly booed in his first trip back to his home state. Adreian Payne added 18 points and doubled his season total by making three 3s. The only other Spartan in double figures was Branden Dawson, another Indiana native who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

But this was no typical game for the Spartans (17-4, 6-2).

They allowed Indiana to shoot 50.9 percent from the field, committed 19 turnovers and essentially fought to a draw on rebounds. Keith Appling fouled out with a little more than five minutes to go, and during the final three minutes, when the Spartans have been so good, they struggled to get anything right.

``Down the stretch, we were really sucking air and that caused us not to jam or step up or switch,'' Izzo said. ``Indiana's a good basketball team, though. I still think, top to bottom, they're the best team because of depth.''

Indiana left no doubt about it Sunday.

After Michigan State took a 31-30 lead late in the first half, Indiana answered with a 3 from Will Sheehey and another 3 from Hulls. Ferrell's 3 to close the half gave Indiana 44-38 lead.

Oladipo's two free throws with 16:28 to go extended the lead to 50-43, but when it looked like the Hoosiers might pull away, Harris dashed those hopes by making back-to-back 3s over the next 50 seconds to get the Spartans within 50-49.

Indiana never led by more than six the rest of the way, but with Oladipo leading the defense, Michigan State never managed to tie the score or take the lead, either.

The Hoosiers final sealed it in the final 98 seconds with Zeller's layup, the charge and Hulls' free throw.

``He (Oladipo) was a tremendous difference from the start of the game,'' Crean said. ``If you're not cerebral like that and at the same time, quick, it's hard to defend like that. But he's been good. We knew he was going to play well on the offensive end and to take away things on the defensive end, too.''

2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

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2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

The Big South conference had a surprising start to their league play this year with preseason favorites UNC-Asheville and Winthrop losing two of their first three games.  Since, things have settled down in the Big South with those two squads separating themselves from the pack late in the season.

This 2017-18 season, the Big South is a single bid conference but does have opportunities to get a couple of teams into the NIT. Depending on how this tournament plays out, there may be two or three teams in the second biggest tournament in the country.

READ MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLE WATCH

Like always the tournament will be hosted at multiple sites. The first round will be on campus-sites with the No.7 and No. 8 teams hosting their respective games. From there, the remaining teams will head to Asheville, NC for two rounds as the Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed. The highest remaining team will then host the championship game.

Home-court advantage will clearly be a factor for which ever team hosts, but it has also been a theme of the Big South. Combined, the entire conference is 88-38 at their home court. Only Liberty has a winning record on the road at 5-4. The host of the quarterfinals and semifinals, UNC-Asheville, is 13-1 at Kimmel Arena. The lone loss being against Liberty.

Only one year in this format, Winthrop won the championship in 2016-17 as the hosts.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION:

When is the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be Tues. Feb 27, March 1-2, and the Big South championship is on March 4.

Where is the Big South Tournament?
The Big South tournament will primarily be hosted at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, North Carolina. The higher seeds will host the first round match-ups. The Big South Championship will also be at the highest seed’s home court.

How to watch the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be televised as a part of ESPN’s family of networks, excluding the first round. The first round can be seen on the Big South Network, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be streamed on ESPN3, and ESPN will televise the Big South Championship.

Who is the defending Big South Champion?

The Winthrop Eagles won the 2016-17 Big South Championship after hosting the main portion of the tournament. It was the Eagles 11th Big South Championship in their history, the most ever in the Big South.

2018 BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT BRACKET:

First Round – Tuesday, Feb. 27

No. 9 Presbyterian at No. 8 Charleston Southern 7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)
No. 10 Longwood at No. 7 High Point                     7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)

Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 1

7/10 Winner vs. No. 2 Radford                     1:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 6 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Winthrop   3:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
8/9 Winner at No. 1 UNC Asheville              7:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 5 Liberty vs. No. 4 Campbell                  9:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Semifinals - Friday, March 2

TBD vs. TBD                          6:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
TBD vs. TBD                          8:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Big South Championship - Sunday, March 4

TBD vs. TBD                          1:00pm, higher seed host (ESPN)

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PREVIEW:

Even as the No. 3 seed and losers of their last two games, Winthrop is probably still the favorite heading into the tournament. Their offense is one of the highest scoring in all of college basketball (80.7 ppg), with Xavier Cooks scoring 17.6 ppg (3rd in Big South). However, the Eagles’ offense is not powered entirely behind three-point shooting, it is done with balance on both sides of the ball. They have the best two-point shooting percentage in the league (47.3 percent), lead the Big South in rebounding averages, blocks, and field goal defense. In addition, their guards’ three point shooting ability is pretty good too at 37.5 percent and making 9.5 deep balls a game.

However, when they go quiet from long range or another team matches their three-point shooting for a contest, they are susceptible. Also as defending champs, they have been here before and are motivated to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

As the Big South tournament hosts, UNC Asheville will have a leg up on the competition, but they have not been as dominant as a top seed should be. The Bulldogs are one of the most consistent teams in the conference with all five starters scoring in double figures each game. If one is betting, they are the safe bet to win it all based on what is mentioned above.

While Radford was a pleasant surprise throughout league play, do not anticipate that they will be a contender. They are eighth in scoring in the conference (68.2) and around the same mark when it comes to shooting. Their defense has bailed them out as probably one of the top defensive units in the league, but their leading scorer is a post player, Ed Polite Jr.  (13.6 ppg) and if shut down in the paint, there is no offense.

Liberty is the darkhorse in the Big South Tournament. The do boast the best defensive numbers in the conference (64.0 points against per game) and have a high-powered offense, although it is spotty.  Two players are shooting well above 40 percent or better from behind the arc. Dominating the boards, they limit other team’s second chance opportunities. Do not bet against the Flames in a one-on-one contest.

PICK: No. 3 Winthrop

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

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Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

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