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The Morning Dish – Friday, February 19, 2016

February 19, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

Is it possible Minnesota found a way to beat not just one team but two on Thursday?

When the final book is written on the 2015-16 season, the Golden Gophers’ 68-63 triumph over Maryland will go down as one of the very biggest “how’d that happen?” results in a season that has had plenty of them. Minnesota came into the game having lost 14 straight games. It lost at home earlier this year to South Dakota, South Dakota State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Yet the Gophers beat the Terrapins, a team knocking on the door for a No. 1 ranking less than two weeks ago.

Besides showing that a seriously struggling team had some fight left in it, this game also indicated some problems for Maryland, at least this week. Including a decisive home loss to Wisconsin on Saturday, this marks the second straight underwhelming performance by the Terps, and especially by Melo Trimble. The All-American guard is 4-for-25 from the field over the last two games with 11 turnovers, and when he’s average (at best, in this case), Maryland starts creeping into that category, too.

Getting beaten by Minnesota does have to make one at least ponder whether Wisconsin’s win at Maryland is diminished in some way. Clearly, the Terps are in a funk, and while it was believable that the Badgers might’ve induced that given their win streak, the issues for Maryland are obviously deeper. Again, at least for this week.

Add in that Wisconsin never really made it close in a 69-57 loss to Michigan State last night. Will the selection committee cast a wary eye on what is certainly Wisconsin’s biggest win of the season?

Don’t bet on it. And that’s probably how it should be.

Wisconsin will most likely suffer no ill from Maryland’s rough week, so long as the Terps’ slide doesn’t continue to the end of the season. It’s just a fact that when a BCS school picks up a win such as the Badgers’ over the Terps that there are few questions asked. At the same time, this scenario also kind of follows the same lines as when a team beats a squad that is down a key player or two.

If one wants to give a losing team something of a break for not having all its pieces that’s one thing, but it’s unfair to punish the team that may have beaten such a team. Wisconsin had no control over wherever Maryland may be at in this stage of the season. The Badgers simply went in and got the job done.

Besides, Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament fate likely will be decided in the next two weeks anyway. The Badgers still have road trips to Iowa and Purdue (and Minnesota…) plus a home date with Michigan. Even a split in those games just might have Bucky’s team in good shape, something almost impossible to imagine a month ago.

Side Dishes

  • Connecticut topped SMU 68-62 in Hartford, using an 8-0 run late in the second half to get the upper hand in what was otherwise an even game. The Huskies got their 19th win and another quality win. Also in the AAC, Tulsa outlasted Cincinnati 70-68 in overtime, surviving a bizarre finish that saw both teams miss numerous chances.
  • Utah won at UCLA 75-73, likely ensuring that even the selection committee’s eye test won’t be able to get the Bruins in as an at-large this year. Also in the Pac-12, California finally got a road win, defeating Washington 78-75. The return of Tyrone Wallace was huge-18 points off the bench.
  • The CAA is still up for grabs for the time being after William & Mary dumped UNC Wilmington 87-69 thanks to one of the Tribe’s patented every-so-often offensive explosions, an incredible 38-8 run over the game’s final 10 minutes. Hofstra is now a game behind the Seahawks after Rokas Gustys scored with 2.7 seconds left for an 84-82 win over Towson.
  • Saint Mary’s looked about ready to see its NCAA at-large chances go up in smoke, but a late rally ended with Joe Rahon’s banker at the buzzer for a 74-72 win at Portland.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock is now 23-3 after a workmanlike 57-49 win at Georgia State. Make it 11 road wins now for the Trojans, whose loss at Texas Tech also is looking better by the day.
  • Taking over sole possession of first place in the Summit League is IPFW, after the Mastodons handled South Dakota State 91-79 with three guys scoring at least 20 points-John Konchar and Max Landis with 22 each and Michael Calder with 20.
  • North Florida shot 68.4% from the field and nailed 17 three-pointers in blasting NJIT 107-71. The Ospreys remain tied for first in the Atlantic Sun with Jacksonville after the Dolphins edged South Carolina Upstate 81-76.
  • Yale’s push for the Ivy League title and its first NCAA bid in 54 years got tougher with the news that starting guard Jack Montague has taken a personal leave from the team. Montague started the Bulldogs’ first 20 games before missing the team’s two wins last weekend. He is a team captain, averages just under 10 points per game and is one of the top three-point shooters in the Ivy.
  • A mostly disappointing season for UC Riverside has now seen star forward Taylor Johns dismissed from the team prior to the Highlanders’ 65-55 home loss to UC Santa Barbara Thursday. According to the Riverside Press Enterprise, the dismissal was for violation of team rules and related to a suspension for five games earlier in the season. Johns was averaging 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this year, and the strong 6-foot-7 forward was an all-Big West selection a year ago and easily one of the top frontcourt players in the league. Riverside was considered a darkhorse candidate to make a run at the Big West title this year but is now 4-8 in league play (13-15 overall) after the loss to UCSB.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Get your fish fry early, then take some time to check out Akron. There’s a good chance you’ll see the Zips in March; on this night they are at Kent State, which struggles to score but will provide a physical challenge (6 p.m. EST, ESPNU).
  • Richmond and VCU has developed into one of those throw-out-the-records rivalries. The city foes meet again (7 p.m., ESPN2) and will try to top a first meeting that included overtime-seemingly a regularity between these two-plus 11 ties and 20 lead changes.
  • Huge game in the Ivy League-Yale is undefeated atop the conference, but Princeton actually has the league’s best RPI at a solid 39. The Tigers host the Bulldogs, trailing by 1 1/2 games but just one loss in league play.
  • Oakland and Valparaiso square off for the second time this year in the Horizon, this one at the Valpo ARC (8 p.m., ESPNU). The Crusaders stifled Kahlil Felder in the first meeting, winning by 17, and can just about wrap up the regular season title with a win.
  • Finally…oh, look here. The night wraps up with just a little friendly between Iona and Monmouth (10 p.m., ESPNU). The first meeting was wildly entertaining before, during and after, if not necessarily always channeled properly. This one might be more tame. Might. Besides all the storylines, the Gaels are nipping at the Hawks’ heels in the MAAC standings, though Monmouth clinches the regular season title with a win here.

Have a terrific Friday and a great weekend.

Twitter: @HoopvilleAdam
E-mail: hoopvilleadam@yahoo.com

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