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NCAAB Notebook: Juwan Howard suspended after dust-up

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Jason Ence

February 22nd, 2022

It was an exciting and somewhat chaotic weekend in college basketball. Let’s dive into the fallout from the Michigan-Wisconsin handshake line, examine how Auburn’s road struggles could cost the Tigers a top seed, and check in on the Big Ten title race.

Howard, players suspended for punches

As if things weren’t going badly enough for Juwan Howard and the Michigan Wolverines the past two months, Sunday saw them give a figurative—and nearly literal—black eye to the college basketball world. After a 14-point defeat at the hands of the Badgers, words were exchanged between Howard and Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard.

After getting in Gard’s face, players and staff for both teams separated the men, before Howard struck Wisconsin assist Joe Krabbenhoft in the face. Howard was handed a five-game suspension on Monday evening, which rules him out for the rest of the regular season, and he was fined $40,000 for his actions. Gard did not receive a suspension, but was fined $10,000.

Meanwhile, three players were suspended - Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate from Michigan, and Jahcobi Neath from Wisconsin - for one game each. The Neath suspension should not hurt Wisconsin’s chances to win the conference, as he averages less than two points per game.

Many around college basketball wondered if Howard would lose his job for the incident, but that does not appear to be happening. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Michigan as one of the last four teams in the tournament as of Tuesday morning’s Bracketology, but they still have to face Illinois, Iowa, and Ohio State without their head coach. They will need to beat at least Rutgers and Michigan State at home or else Howard’s season might come down to the Big Ten tournament.

Big games coming in Big Ten title race

Speaking of Wisconsin’s title hopes, the Big Ten has three teams within one game of each other in the standings. Purdue sits in first place at the moment with a 13-4 record, while Illinois and Wisconsin could equal that mark should they win their games in hand.

Big Ten Conference Winner 2021/2022

Mon, March 14 2022, 1:00 AM

Purdue Boilermakers


Wisconsin Badgers


Illinois Fighting Illini


Ohio State Buckeyes


Rutgers Scarlet Knights


Michigan State Spartans


That will be easier said than done for the Badgers, who travel to Minnesota on Wednesday night, while the Fighting Illini will square off with fourth-place Ohio State on Thursday. Wisconsin has the easier schedule for the most part of the two, but will host Purdue on March 1 in a game that could decide the regular-season champion.

Should Illinois and Wisconsin both win this week, it sets up an epic race to the finish. Illinois would need some help, with the winners of the Purdue-Wisconsin game also dropping another before the end, but they also will have to beat Iowa to end the season.

Auburn’s road woes continue

The Tigers are still a No. 1 seed in ESPN’s latest Bracketology, but that is no longer as secure a place as it was just three weeks ago. While they are 24-3 on the season, their frailties away from home are beginning to show up.

As we pointed out in our notebook a few weeks ago, the Tigers were barely skirting by on the road, but now they have tasted defeat in each of their last two road games. The previous two away trips saw them barely defeat lowly Georgia and Missouri, teams with a combined five conference wins this season, by a combined three points.

Two road games remain, the biggest one coming on Saturday when they visit a Tennessee team that is coming off a home beat down of Kentucky last Tuesday night. Should the Tigers slip up yet again—or lose convincingly—it could open the door for Kentucky or Purdue to sneak onto the one-line.

What’s going on with Xavier?

A 14-3 start had Xavier looking strong. The Musketeers' first three defeats came on the road at Iowa State, at Villanova, and a four-point defeat in the rematch with the Wildcats. They looked like a solid tournament team that would finish near the top of the Big East.

Since then, they have gone just 3-6, albeit with three of those defeats coming by four points or less, and have won just one of their last five games. More troubling, the Musketeers have allowed more than a point per possession over the past month, and are coming of a 13-point defeat at home to St. John’s and an 11-point road loss to UConn. They now sit at 7-8 in conference play, and travel Wednesday night to Providence in a game that could see them lose seven out of 10.

ESPN’s latest Bracketology has the Musketeers sitting as a No. 7 seed, and while they should be safe to make the tournament they likely need to go at least 2-2 down the stretch and win a game in the Big East tournament to not be a double-digit seed.