NCAA

Pagano, Colts getting back to business as usual

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Pagano, Colts getting back to business as usual

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Chuck Pagano beat the traffic and a blizzard into work Wednesday morning - all in an effort to beat the Texans.

After spending the last three months fighting leukemia, the inspirational Colts coach arrived early at the team complex. He met briefly with his players to give them a succinct message about this week's game plan, then stepped onto the practice field for the first time since Sept. 26.

It seemed nothing had changed.

``From Day 1, we set goals for ourselves, and after watching what this team has done over the course of the season, the last 12 weeks, it's just not in our DNA,'' Pagano said when asked about resting his starters Sunday against Houston. ``Our families deserve it, our fans deserve to see our best game regardless of the circumstances. They're going to roll the ball out there and our job is to win a ballgame and that's what we're going to do.''

While Pagano wanted to take a business-as-usual approach into his first regular workday, it certainly wasn't easy amid all the outside stuff.

Up to a foot of wind-whipped snow had fallen in parts of Indianapolis, creating hazardous driving conditions. Pagano said he arrived at the team complex so early, he had no trouble driving. And though he considered moving up the scheduled afternoon practice so players could return home, Pagano decided against it because forecasters were hopeful the road conditions would improve as the snow tapered off late in the afternoon.

The snowiest day of the year was no deterrent for Pagano, who returned to the team complex Monday, met briefly with players who gave him a standing ovation, and spent about 30 minutes answering questions from reporters. On Wednesday, he strolled onto the team's indoor practice field for the first time in three months, presided over the full-scale practice in the afternoon and savored every precious moment.

``Any time you just get removed from where you're supposed to be on a daily basis - I've been doing this for the last 28 years of my life and then all of a sudden to be taken away from it, and then to be blessed to get back before the end of the season - it's a great feeling,'' he said. ``It's just good to be back around the players and practice and coaching again.''

Playing to win what would normally be a meaningless game is a stark contrast from previous Colts playoff years. Starters were routinely held out of late-season games that had no bearing on playoff position.

The most glaring example came in 2009 when the Colts were 14-0, yet yanked their starters in the third quarter of a home game against the New York Jets. Indy lost the game, played some starters one series the next week in snowy Buffalo, and lost a few weeks later to New Orleans in the Super Bowl.

But after making this year's historic turnaround from 2-14 to 10-5, and enduring the emotional roller-coaster of losing a head coach for 12 weeks and now getting him back, the Colts want to play. They are locked into the AFC's No. 5 seed and will open the playoffs on the road against the AFC's No. 4 seed, Baltimore or New England.

Players embraced Pagano's choice.

``I think there is something to be said about keeping your momentum going and I think it could be a positive thing,'' outside linebacker Dwight Freeney said. ``I think guys who are banged up, they shouldn't play. But I think that guys who can play, should play. Yeah, you're risking getting hurt, but that's just what it is. It's part of the game.''

The Colts want to win this one for another reason: their coach.

With Pagano out, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians went 9-3, tying the league record for wins after a midseason coaching change. He led the Colts within one victory of the second-greatest turnaround in league history with nine more wins than the previous season.

Pagano, though, was fighting a much larger battle. On Nov. 5, his oncologist, Dr. Larry Cripe, announced that the cancer was in complete remission. A month later, Pagano completed the final round of treatment and last week Cripe told reporters Pagano had been given medical clearance to return to the sideline.

``I think we're really getting everything back to normal, but I think everyone in the building is just glad to have him around,'' safety Antoine Bethea said. ``We want things rolling like we've had, but with Chuck added.''

Pagano did say center Samson Satele and backup running back Delone Carter would miss the Texans game because of ankle injuries. He made it clear a handful of others such as running back Donald Brown and defensive end Cory Redding could wind up on the bench to recover from injuries.

Otherwise, Pagano expects this to be just another game week.

``We're going to approach it just like we approached the first three and the way they approached the last 12,'' he said. ``We'd all like to win 11 games, that's our goal and that's our focus.''

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No. 7 Maryland takes down Northwestern for 9th straight win

No. 7 Maryland takes down Northwestern for 9th straight win

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Jalen Smith had 22 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for his ninth consecutive double-double, and No. 7 Maryland extended its winning streak to nine games by defeating Northwestern 76-67 Tuesday night.

Smith achieved his 17th double-double of the season by halftime. In two games against Northwestern this season, the 6-foot-10 sophomore has 47 points and 30 rebounds.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 19 for the Terrapins (22-4, 12-3 Big Ten), who never trailed in improving their record at home to 15-0. The victory, combined with Penn State's loss to Illinois, left first-place Maryland with a two-game lead with five games to go.

Ryan Young scored 17 and Boo Buie added 15 for the Wildcats (6-19, 1-14) in their 10th successive defeat.

Down by 12 at halftime, Northwestern trailed only 50-46 with 10:45 left. It was 63-57 before a dunk by Smith, two free throws by Cowan and layup by Aaron Wiggins put the Terps up 69-57 with 3:23 remaining.

When the teams met at Northwestern a month ago, the Terrapins rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to win 77-66. This time, Maryland took charge at the outset.

Smith had 10 points and six rebounds in the opening seven minutes to stake the Terps to a 17-6 lead. After the Wildcats closed to 25-22, Darryl Morsell, Wiggins and Eric Ayala hit successive 3s and Cowan added a free throw for a 13-point cushion.

A late dunk by Smith made it 37-25 at halftime.

MOVING ON UP

Cowan passed Tom McMillen to move into eighth place on Maryland's career scoring list. Cowan, a senior guard, has 1,809 points and is 49 short of catching Lonny Baxter for seventh. The school record is 2,269 by Juan Dixon.

BIG PICTURE

Northwestern: The Wildcats can take solace in making a game of it on the road against a Top 10 team. But what Northwestern could use instead of a moral victory is a real one, a feat the Wildcats haven't accomplished since Jan. 11 against Nebraska.

Maryland: One week after squeezing past lowly Nebraska at home, the Terrapins left nothing to chance against an overmatched opponent. It wasn't a blowout, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Maryland now stands two wins away from a perfect season at home.

UP NEXT

Northwestern hosts Minnesota on Sunday, the rematch of a game the Wildcats lost 77-68 on Jan. 5.

Maryland faces No. 25 Ohio State on Sunday to begin a stretch in which the Terrapins play three of four on the road.

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If Georgetown wants to make the NCAA Tournament, they must beat Providence

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If Georgetown wants to make the NCAA Tournament, they must beat Providence

An improbable upset over No. 19 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse suddenly vaulted the Georgetown Hoyas into the NCAA Tournament conversation over the weekend. 

They pulled out the victory with only seven scholarship players, missing their top two scorers on the season. But no matter how they accomplished the feat, they win drew attention across the country. Any team in the Big East conference that just pulled out a road victory against the ranked Butler Bulldogs has to have postseason aspirations, right? 

There was a surprising revelation when evaluating the Hoyas: The don't have that bad of a tournament resume. 

Yes, at 15-10 (5-7 Big East) the Hoyas can be considered a bubble team. They're ranked 46th in the NET, 47th in KenPom, 60th in BPI and are the last team in Joe Lunardi's bracketology projection as of this writing. Their surprising win over Butler, along with an atrocious bubble this season, has helped them get there.

Now is when the season gets important for the Hoyas, though. One loss to a subpar team could derail that. On Wednesday they host Providence for their second matchup of the season. If they lose, the Hoyas can kiss an at-large bid goodbye. 

Georgetown's resume is contingent on them avoiding bad losses. Their worst loss on the season was to a solid UNC Greensboro team. Every other one is qualified as a Quadrant 1 loss according to the NET. They are 10-1 in non-Q1 situations. 

Bad losses are abound in college basketball this season, even from the top teams. Those losses have Virginia, VCU and Alabama stuck on the bubble. Somehow, the scrappy Hoyas have kept them off their resume. 

Losing to Providence would be a bad loss for the Hoyas. It would be their worst loss to date, according to the NET. Providence (NET: 58) is, in fact, one of those teams with a handful of poor losses (9-4 vs. sub-Q1 opponents). And while Providence is also in consideration for the NCAA Tournament, it would crush the Hoyas' outlook since they don't have the Q1 wins to offset a loss like that. This contest being at home for the Hoyas makes it even more imperative that they come out on top.

Beating the Friars at home will not likely be enough for the Hoyas to make the tournament. They'll have to also beat Xavier, DePaul and likely find some magic in one of their other three games. 

The Hoyas can get there, but their quest for the NCAA Tournament starts by beating Providence. 

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