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2018-19 College Basketball Reset: Get caught up on the college basketball season

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2018-19 College Basketball Reset: Get caught up on the college basketball season

Well it is about time that college basketball is back at center stage. Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone it is nice to have everyone joining us. 

Each team is about halfway through conference play, just a month away from the league tournaments. The landscape is pretty clear (including the bubble), so here is where the sport stands as we reset the season. 

Front Runners for Player of the Year: 

Zion Williamson, F, Duke

Even if you have been under a rock for the first three months of the season, you've heard of Zion Williamson and there is a good reason why. He is undoubtly the most electric player in college basketball this season. Perhaps, the most electric since Kevin Durant. 

Every time Duke plays, it is must-see television because of Williamson. He's lived up to the hype and has not disappointed once. It's hard to say that of an 18-year-old. 

He's a lock for 20 points and a Sportscenter worthy dunk in every game. No one can matchup against him and the biggest question surrounding his talent is when will he shut it down to prepare for the NBA.

If Williamson does not win Player Year, it will be an upset. 

R.J. Barrett, F, Duke

If it wasn't for Williamson, it might be a runaway contest for R.J. Barrett. His season has been just as impressive as Williamson's. 

Barrett, with his ability to shoot the three, is likely a better NBA prospect over his teammate. But despite being better in several statistical categories, Barrett will be second-fiddle to Williamson this season. 

Both should be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA draft and are the most dangerous post duo in the country. 

Markus Howard, G, Marquette

At 5-11, Markus Howard has been a huge performer for a Marquette team that was waiting to jump to the next level. At any moment he can rattle off 10, 12 points in a row, flipping a game on its head. 

Three times this season he's scored 40-plus points, including a 53-point highlight reel performance against Creighton.  

If you have not watched a Marquette game this season, find one to squeeze into your calendar. 

Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

Grant Williams is the face of the top team in the country. He's a ball hawk, can shoot and leads his team in nearly every statistical category - and that is as a forward on a 3pt-happy team.

He's similar in style to Barrett, but there isn't a superstar flying around above him on the roster. 

Game of the Year (so far): Duke vs. Gonzaga

This is a no contest. At the time it seemed like the rest of the college basketball season was going to go downhill after this Nov. 21 game.

Duke was flying around with a formidable NBA starting-five and some were guessing that the Blue Devils might not lose a game all year. Gonzaga was playing like a stereotypical mid-major with a chip on their shoulder and looking overmatched.

But the Zags never folded and threw the first punch of the contest. Nearly every possession the Blue Devils looked like the pendulum was swinging their way and Gonzaga responded every time. 

It culminated with Barrett being blocked on a game-tying shot in an 89-87 victory for Gonzaga.

Rui Hachimura matched up with the two superstars from  Duke, Barrett and Williamson. They combined for 45 points. Hachimura had 20. 

If the National Championship Game is anywhere close to the level of this matchup, we're in for a show. 

Breakout Star: 

Ja Morant, G, Murray State

There is not a better mid-major sophomore in college basketball. Ja Morant has turned the Murray State Racers into the dangerous team that scores 82 points a night.

And he is responsible for over 34 of those points through his points and assists. 

Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan

No one expected Michigan to return as a national championship contender this season. And no one expected Ignas Brazdeikis to be the guy to be carrying them at this point in the season.

They lead the Big Ten. A four-star freshman is leading them there.

Chris Clemons, G, Campbell

To some he's not a breakout star. He's been putting up ridiculous numbers for three years now.

As a 5-9 senior for the Campbell Camels, he's leading the country in scoring with 29.2 ppg.

Teams you need to watch: 

Buffalo

Buffalo has the experience, played in the tournament a year ago and will receive a moderate seed in the tournament if they keep it up. 

They have impressive early season victories over West Virginia and Syracuse, but some silly losses hurt their resume.

The Bulls will not be one of the Final Four contending teams, but no one will want them on their side of their bracket.

Nevada

One of the early season favorites has diminished the past several weeks, mainly because they play in the Mountain West. The Nevada Wolfpack have five starters that all could start on a high-major team and, if they all are playing to their potential, might be the best in the country.

They will be a popular pick to go far into the tournament this season. 

Wisconsin

Every year a Power 5 team with a star player will take advantage of an upset, i.e. Michigan. The Badgers have the 2018 Wolverines written all over them. Ethan Happ helps too.

Marquette

When you have a guy like Howard that can score at-will you can win any contest. Clear a path for Marquette and they will take care of business against teams seeded below them.

Four teams that can't win the National Championship: 

Virginia Tech

Too many injuries and they have an offense that only relies on their 3pt game. It does not bode well for a team looking to make a run.

Kansas

Hard to say this about a team that always wins one of the biggest conference championships of the year, but the Jayhawks without Udoka Azubuike look like just a good team. 

Purdue

Betting against Carsen Edwards is not a good strategy, but there is a severe drop-off after him on their roster. No depth for the Boilermakers. 

Tennessee

They're good yes, but there is not enough to justify having them go far in the tournament. Sure they beat Gonzaga at a neutral site, but if you have them going far you could look foolish.

Local Reset:

Virginia: A lock to make the tournament and they will go a lot farther than they did last year. They have a talented offense to match their defense.

Virginia Tech: A great year for the Hokies and they will be in barring a massive collapse.

Maryland: Should be in the tournament, not exactly sure want to think of them.

Georgetown: Their victory over St. John's gave them some bubble action, but they need to make statements to be in serious consideration.

VCU: A border-line at-large team and is more than capable of winning the A-10 Tournament in March.

George Mason: Sitting at second place in the A-10, the Patriots are looking to make some noise this season. They started conference play at 7-1.

UMBC: After a slow start, the nation's favorite underdogs reeled off five straight and are a contender in the America East conference.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs are atop Conference-USA and are 12-1 in their home building. 

Radford: Remember these guys? The ones that knocked off Notre Dame and Texas? They've lost some bad games since then but are the face of the Big South Conference.

Liberty: It will be a true shame if they do not make the tournament, either as an at-large or by winning the Atlantic Sun. The Flames only have five losses this season. 

Norfolk State: Undefeated in the MEAC, they are currently in line for the automatic bid. 

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March Madness 2019: LSU sinks Maryland on last-second shot to end Terps’ season

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March Madness 2019: LSU sinks Maryland on last-second shot to end Terps’ season

For those who put Maryland in the Sweet 16... our sincerest condolences. 

No. 3 seed LSU beat No. 6 seed UMD 69-67 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday afternoon. 

With under 30 seconds remaining, Jalen Smith’s 3-point jump shot tied the teams again at 67-67, which stuck for another 25 seconds. LSU’s Tremont Waters’ layup broke that tie and gave the Tigers the win, ending the Terrapins’ hopes of a Sweet 16 game in Washington, D.C.. 

Only three minutes into the game, LSU’s Dorius Days drained a 3-pointer and broke the 4-4 tie, commencing the catch-up game that Maryland was forced to play in the first half, which ended 38-29 LSU.

In the last quarter of the game, the Terps (finally) caught up enough to fight neck-in-neck until the final buzzer. With four minutes remaining, Smith made a 2-point turnaround hook shot to tie up the game 55-55. Under a minute later, Smith’s two free throws gave Maryland the first lead of the game at 57-55. 

Smith racked up the most points for the Terps (15), and LSU’s Skylar Mays had the most for the Tigers (16). UMD shot 33.3 percent, and LSU shot 36.9 percent. Maryland out-rebounded Louisiana both offensively (13-10) and defensively (28-24).

Under head coach Mark Turgeon, this is Maryland’s third first-weekend departure in four tournaments. The Terps made it to the Sweet 16 last in 2016, and as with Saturday’s loss to LSU, 2016 remains to be UMD’s most-recent Sweet 16 appearance. 
 

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No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

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No. 12 seed Liberty shocks Mississippi State to earn first-ever NCAA Tournament win

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Caleb Homesley scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half and Lovell Cabbil hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:16 to play to send 12th-seeded Liberty to its first NCAA Tournament win in school history, 80-76 over fifth-seeded Mississippi State on Friday night.

The Flames (29-6) were making their fourth tournament trip in school history, but lost twice as a No. 16 seed and once in the play-in game. This year's team had more respect, a higher seeding and capitalized on the opportunity.

Homesley helped rally Liberty from a 10-point deficit in the second half by scoring 14 points in a span of less than five minutes. Cabbil then hit from long range to make it 72-70 and celebrated with an enthusiastic fan section that made the cross-country trip from Virginia for the game.

Liberty did the rest at the foul line to spoil the first tournament trip for Mississippi State (23-11) in a decade.

The Flames advanced to the second round of the East Region to play the winner of the game between Saint Louis and Virginia Tech.

Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs and Reggie Perry added 21.

Cabbil finished with 18 points and Myo Baxter-Bell added 13.

Mississippi State appeared poised to take control when Peters started a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and ended it with a layup that made it 63-53 midway through the second half.

The Bulldogs had used their superior size to control the paint on both ends and had broken open a tight game before the Flames responded. Homesley was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three foul shots. He then hit two from long range to cut it to 67-64.

Homesley also hit a backdoor dunk on a feed from Cabbil to make it a one-point game before hitting a long 3-pointer late in the shoot clock to put Liberty back on top 69-67 with 2:34 to play.

After three free throws from the Bulldogs, Cabbil's 3 provided the final lead change of the night.

BIG PICTURE

Liberty: The Flames showed early that they were poised to match up with a Power 5 team. They made seven 3-pointers in the first half and led by four points before Mississippi State scored the final six to lead 37-35 at the break.

Mississippi State: Coach Ben Howland's first recruiting class for the Bulldogs finished on a down note but had an impressive run building the program. Mississippi State went to the semifinals of the NIT last year and made the tournament for the first time since 2009 this year.

UP NEXT

Liberty advances to play the winner of the game between Virginia Tech and Saint Louis.

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Wizards analysts Drew Gooden and Jimmy Patsos for a chance at great prizes.

Grand Prize: if you have the highest-scoring bracket in the NBC Sports Washington Bracket Challenge, you will win a 3-night trip for four people to Universal Resort, including round trip airfare, lodging, admission to Universal Studios and tickets to Blue Man Group.

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