NCAA

RB Bell finishing up big season at Michigan State

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RB Bell finishing up big season at Michigan State

Le'Veon Bell's 2012 season really began last January, when fellow running back Edwin Baker announced he was skipping his senior year to enter the NFL draft.

Suddenly, Bell's carry-splitting arrangement in Michigan State's backfield was a thing of the past. There was no doubt about whom the Spartans would build their running game around. But even after months of preparation, the increased workload was a bit of a shock.

``It surprised me, as many carries as I got,'' Bell said. ``I'll do whatever it takes for us to win games.''

Michigan State hasn't won as many as in seasons past, but Bell has certainly done his part. The 6-foot-2 junior enters Saturday's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Texas Christian with 1,648 yards on 350 carries - and his 266-yard effort in the regular-season finale against Minnesota is the biggest reason the Spartans are in the postseason at all.

Bell was already a big-play threat before the season. He averaged over 5 yards a carry in his first two years, running for 948 on 182 attempts as a sophomore. He and Baker seemed interchangeable at times, and sharing responsibility may have helped keep Bell fresh.

There has been little time for a breather in 2012. In the season opener - a win over Boise State - Bell ran for 210 yards on 44 carries. He also caught six passes.

Before that game, Bell's career high was 20 attempts.

Bell put on some weight before the season and is now listed at 237 pounds, although he said he was actually around 242 at one point and has slimmed down while preparing for the bowl.

Michigan State (6-6) fell out of the Big Ten title race amid a slew of close calls in conference play. The Spartans' first seven league games were decided by no more than four points, and they won only two of them. Bell ran for 188 yards in a loss to Nebraska and 140 in a defeat against Iowa despite defenses geared to slow him down.

``It seems like every team we play had a specific game plan to stop Le'Veon,'' quarterback Andrew Maxwell said.

That didn't matter against Minnesota. With Michigan State needing a win to become bowl eligible, Bell ran for 266 yards on 35 carries on a cold afternoon in a 26-10 victory. He became the seventh rusher in school history to pass the 3,000-yard mark for his career.

Bell is third in the nation in rushing at 137 yards per game. He's second in total carries, 25 behind Stefphon Jefferson of Nevada, who already played his bowl.

Throw in Bell's abilities as a pass catcher and size that makes him a fine blocker, and his football future appears bright. It's certainly possible he could follow Baker's path and declare for the NFL after his junior season.

``Right now Le'Veon is the third-leading rusher in the country. He'll have a name for himself, he'll be projected. So there's a lot of advantages to doing something like that, but there's got to be value in that,'' coach Mark Dantonio said. ``I want to be fair to him and not be selfish with our program. But there's pluses and minuses on both sides, and at some point in time you have to make decisions.''

First, Bell and the Spartans will try to finish on a high note against TCU. And here's a scary thought for the Horned Frogs: Bell says the rest after the Minnesota game really helped his legs.

No surprise there. He's ready to handle the ball early and often.

``I just want to show everybody I'm a capable back,'' Bell said. ``I just want to show the nation what I can do.''

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 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. 

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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