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NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia (AP) — Sweden’s height advantage got to South Korea.
In an effort to compensate for the disparity, South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong decided to use a backup player in goal because he is the tallest of the team’s three keepers.
The gamble worked, but a penalty still gave the Swedes a 1-0 victory on Monday at the World Cup.
“We evaluated all of our goalkeepers and we felt like with the very tall Swedish players, we thought Jo Hyeon-woo would be the best and we thought he’d be a little bit quicker,” Shin said. “So we chose him.”
At 1.89 meters (6-foot-3), Jo is tallest of the South Korean goalkeepers. But he is normally No. 3 on the list when it comes to playing time.
Shin is well-known for pulling surprises.
In World Cup warm-up matches, he switched the numbers of his players around, arguing Swedish scouts would be confused because he says “it’s very difficult for westerners to distinguish between Asians.”
Shin mentioned Sweden’s height advantage about a dozen times after the match. He even acknowledged his players “were a little bit psychologically concerned about the height of the Swedish players.”
Sweden’s starting players averaged about 1.90 meters (6-3), while South Korea’s starters averaged about 1.83 meters (6 feet).
Shin also started with Kim Shin-wook as his primary striker. He is the tallest player on South Korea’s team at 1.97 meters (6-5 1/2).
Jo did his job in goal, making a half-dozen sprawling saves until he was beaten on a second-half penalty by Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist.
Asked to name South Korea’s most important player, Sweden coach Janne Andersson didn’t hesitate.
“I think definitely,” Andersson said, “the goalie was their best.”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is upon us, so it’s time to start thinking about the future before the end of the group stage on June 28. Who has the easiest path to the knockout stage? Is it Lionel Messi and, with , and in their group? What about Neymar and , paired with , and ? Nobody knows for sure, but that’s why it is always fun to guess.
So who makes a deep run at the 2018 World Cup? And which nation lifts the trophy? Visit SportsLine now to get the complete optimal bracket for the World Cup, and see which favorites fail to advance past the quarterfinals, all from the model that’s returned an 1800 percent profit on bookmakers’ closing odds.
Below you’ll find the standings and schedule broken down by each group:
Thursday, June 14:
Friday, June 15:
Tuesday, June 19: Russia vs. Egypt, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Wednesday, June 20: Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt, 10 a.m. ET, FS1
Monday, June 25: Uruguay vs. Russia, 10 a.m. ET, Fox
Friday, June 15:
Friday, June 15:
Wednesday, June 20: Portugal vs. Morocco, 8 a.m. ET, FS1
Wednesday, June 20: Iran vs. Spain, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Monday, June 25: Iran vs. Portugal, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Monday, June 25: Spain vs. Morocco, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
Saturday, June 16:
Saturday, June 16:
Thursday, June 21: Denmark vs. Australia, 8 a.m. ET, FS1
Thursday, June 21: France vs. Peru, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Tuesday, June 26: Australia vs. Peru, 10 a.m. ET, FS1
Tuesday, June 26: Denmark vs. France, 10 a.m. ET, Fox
Saturday, June 16:
Saturday, June 16:
Thursday, June 21: Argentina vs. Croatia, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Friday, June 22: Nigeria vs. Iceland, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Tuesday, June 26: Iceland vs. Croatia, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
Tuesday, June 26: Nigeria vs. Argentina, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Sunday, June 17:
Sunday, June 17:
Friday, June 22: Brazil vs. Costa Rica, 8 a.m. ET, FS1
Friday, June 22: Serbia vs. Switzerland, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Wednesday, June 27: Serbia vs. Brazil, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Wednesday, June 27: Switzerland vs. Costa Rica, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
Sunday, June 17:
Monday, June 18:
Saturday, June 23: Germany vs. Sweden, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Saturday, June 23: South Korea vs. Mexico, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Wednesday, June 27: South Korea vs. Germany, 10 a.m. ET, FS1
Wednesday, June 27: Mexico vs. Sweden, 10 a.m. ET, Fox
Monday, June 18: Belgium vs. Panama, 11 a.m. ET, FS1
Monday, June 18: Tunisia vs. England, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
Saturday, June 23: Belgium vs. Tunisia, 8 a.m. ET, Fox
Sunday, June 24: England vs. Panama, 8 a.m. ET, FS1
Thursday, June 28: England vs. Belgium, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Thursday, June 28: Panama vs. Tunisia, 2 p.m. ET, FS1
Tuesday, June 19: Colombia vs. Japan, 8 a.m. ET, FS1
Tuesday, June 19: Poland vs. Senegal, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Sunday, June 24: Japan vs. Senegal, 11 a.m. ET, Fox
Sunday, June 24: Poland vs. Colombia, 2 p.m. ET, Fox
Thursday, June 28: Japan vs. Poland, 10 a.m. ET, FS1
Thursday, June 28: Senegal vs. Colombia, 10 a.m. ET, Fox
|Saturday, June 30|
|Match 50: Group C winner vs. Group D runner-up||10 a.m. ET||Kazan||Fox|
|Match 49: Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up||2 p.m. ET||Sochi||Fox|
|Sunday, July 1|
|Match 51: Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up||10 a.m. ET||Moscow||Fox|
|Match 52: Group D winner vs. Group C runner-up||2 p.m. ET||Nizhny Novgorod||Fox|
|Monday, July 2|
|Match 53: Group E winner vs. Group F runner-up||10 a.m. ET||Samara||FS1|
|Match 54: Group G winner vs. Group H runner-up||2 p.m. ET||Rostov||Fox|
|Tuesday, July 3|
|Match 55: Group F winner vs. Group E runner-up||10 a.m. ET||Saint Petersburg||FS1|
|Match 56: Group H winner vs. Group G runner-up||2 p.m. ET||Rostov||Fox|
|Friday, July 6|
|Match 57: Match 49 winner vs. Match 50 winner||9 a.m. ET||Nizhny Novgorod||FS1|
|Match 58: Match 53 winner vs. Match 54 winner||1 p.m. ET||Kazan||FS1|
|Saturday, July 7|
|Match 60: Match 55 winner vs. Match 66 winner||9 a.m. ET||Samara||Fox|
|Match 59: Match 51 winner vs. Match 52 winner||1 p.m. ET||Sochi||Fox|
|Tuesday, July 10|
|Match 61: Match 57 winner vs. Match 58 winner||1 p.m. ET||Saint Petersburg||Fox|
|Wednesday, July 11|
|Match 62: Match 59 winner vs. Match 60 winner||1 p.m. ET||Moscow||Fox|
|Saturday, July 14|
|Match 63: Match 61 loser vs. Match 62 loser||9 a.m. ET||Saint Petersburg||Fox|
|Sunday, July 15|
|Match 64: Match 61 winner vs. Match 62 winner||10 a.m. ET||Moscow||Fox|
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS) — A week away from the draft, while it looks like the No. 1 pick is set, teams are still gathering information and having players in for workouts.
Big men Marvin Bagley and Mo Bamba recently worked out for the Atlanta Hawks, and Jaren Jackson Jr. had a stellar workout for the Phoenix Suns. Many lottery teams are still gathering information on Michael Porter Jr., whose medical history is integral to this process.
At this point it’s important to be wary of smokescreens, and remember, trades are still possible.
USA TODAY Sports canvassed multiple league executives in shaping its latest mock draft. The actual NBA draft will be held next Thursday in New York.
Arizona • Center • Freshman
Height: 7-1 • Weight: 250
The Suns worked out several of the top prospects likely as due diligence, but it’s going to be Arizona center Deandre Ayton. Suns GM Ryan McDonough called Ayton’s workout “phenomenal,” and it would be a shock if they went another route.
Missouri • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-11 • Weight: 211
The Kings are known to be enamored with Porter but are still trying to gather the latest medical information. If they’re convinced that he’s fully healthy, he could be the combo-forward they’ve been searching for. A trade down could also be possible if they believe they could get him lower, as the Kings have no first rounders in 2019.
Duke • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-11 • Weight: 234
If Bagley learns to rely on his three-pointer a bit more, he’ll be a matchup nightmare for opposing big men. The Hawks would get immediate offensive help with this pick, and Bagley would be afforded time to improve his defense.
Real Madrid • Guard
Height: 6-8 • Weight: 220
The Grizzlies are several pieces away from contending for the postseason, but Doncic, the EuroLeague MVP, is the most polished and accomplished prospect among the elites. He immediately gives Memphis another primary ballhandler and someone capable of stretching the floor.
Michigan State • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-11 • Weight: 236
Viewed as perhaps the prospect with the most room to grow both physically and offensively, Jackson Jr. is an immediate asset on the defensive end. His length and timing are outstanding, and given his comfort from the perimeter, he could be the prototypical NBA big man in a few years.
Texas • Center • Freshman
Height: 7-1 • Weight: 225
Similar to Jackson, Bamba is already NBA-ready on the defensive end, and there’s a question as to how far he’ll be able to stretch the floor when he’s not demoralizing defenses with his patented alley-oop finishes. Bamba, who will have the longest wingspan in the NBA at 7-10, is the kind of physical freak teams may regret passing on.
Duke • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-10 • Weight: 251
Carter Jr. represents a safe, solid pick with low risk. He’s a polished, but not plodding, big man with great footwork and high basketball IQ.
Oklahoma • Guard • Freshman
Height: 6-2 • Weight: 177
Is anyone surprised that Young wasn’t able to maintain his furious scoring pace for an entire season? The Cavs may benefit because other teams tried to poke holes in his obvious talent.
Alabama • Guard • Freshman
Height: 6-2 • Weight: 183
Sexton is an aggressive, confident scorer who could thrive as the lead guard. The guard-depleted Cavs are known to be interested in Sexton as well.
Villanova • Guard • Junior
Height: 6-7 • Weight: 210
Given Bridges’ experience and strengths, he’s likely an immediate contributor at the next level, filling a wing position that nearly every team covets.
Michigan State • Forward • Sophomore
Height: 6-7 • Weight: 220
The Hornets need help all over, and Bridges is a position-less wing who could play small forward and power forward in smaller lineups. He’s a bit of a tweener in terms of ideal fit, but his raw athleticism and stature make him lottery worthy.
Miami • Guard • Freshman
Height: 6-5 • Weight: 196
The Clippers are in a unique position to draft back-to-back lottery players, affording them a chance to make a riskier move with one of their picks. Walker, a raw, physical guard, offers them a scoring mindset combined with a versatile profile on the defensive end.
Texas A&M • Center • Sophomore
Height: 6-10 • Weight: 241
As for that risk, it comes in the form of Williams. Athletic and rim-running, Williams has tantalizing tools at center for the modern NBA. He also doesn’t have much of an offensive arsenal anywhere outside of the paint, and the 47% free throw percentage is scary.
Kentucky • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-9 • Weight: 215
Not many forwards can create offense off the bounce like Knox, and it’s impossible to ignore his versatility. He’s needs to add muscle to his frame and any team must be patient with him, but there’s significant upside as he continues to develop.
Kentucky • Guard • Freshman
Height: 6-6 • Weight: 180
Give him a few years to develop more of an offensive repertoire, and Gilgeous-Alexander is an ideal NBA point guard. His length, passing and defense are all intriguing, but don’t expect him to orchestrate an NBA offense as a rookie.
Texas Tech • Guard • Freshman
Height: 6-4 • Weight: 198
Smith is a freak athlete without much more that teams can bank on. He’s stunning in transition and finishes dunks that hardly look feasible. His defensive instincts are there, too, but teams will have to grapple with what else he’s able to create on offense.
UCLA • Guard • Junior
Height: 6-1 • Weight: 185
Holiday would be less of a risk than the Bucks are typically accustomed to drafting. He’s a poised, crafty ballhandler, and with two brothers already in the league, he’s got an obvious NBA pedigree.
Oregon • Forward • Freshman
Height: 6-7 • Weight: 208
There’s potentially a lot of value in Brown, who does a lot of things well but nothing great. His defensive instincts are probably his best asset, and with the right coaching and system, he could develop a more enhanced offensive game.
Pau-Orthez (France) • Guard
Height: 6-3 • Weight: 180
The lefty guard has good outside touch, a quick first step and a deft midrange game. There usually aren’t many potentially starting-caliber guards left this late in the draft.
Cedevita (Croatia) • Forward
Height: 6-9 • Weight: 195
Musa needs to add significant bulk to his frame, not necessarily to compete offensively but because he could be a liability on defense. He’s a rangy shooter and a creative finisher with good vision; offenses won’t stall with him in the rotation.
Maryland • Forward • Sophomore
Height: 6-7 • Weight: 190
No one helped themselves more at the NBA draft combine than smooth-shooting forward Kevin Huerter, who excelled in the scrimmage portion. There is a belief that Huerter may have secured a promise, which could have swayed his decision to stay in the draft.
Boise State • Guard • Senior
Height: 6-7 • Weight: 197
There’s also a belief that Hutchison, who pulled out of the NBA draft combine, may have a first-round promise from Chicago. If that’s the case, the athletic, four-year wing would fit the bill of prospects the Bulls have drafted in the past.
Villanova • Guard • Sophomore
Height: 6-5 • Weight: 200
DiVincenzo parlayed his strong Final Four and draft combine showing into a likely first-round pick. He’s a downhill scorer, crafty finisher from multiple angles and someone who makes his teammates better.
Ohio State • Forward • Junior
Height: 6-8 • Weight: 223
Bates-Diop has good mobility, anticipation and athleticism, and his face-up game was an asset in college. As a redshirt player, there are legitimate questions as to how much he’ll improve.
Southern California • Guard • Sophomore
Height: 6-3 • Weight: 193
Despite withdrawing from USC earlier this season, Melton remains an intriguing prospect thanks to his defensive intensity and transition ability. At the draft combine he also mentioned how special it would be for him to play for his hometown Lakers.
Boston College • Guard • Junior
Height: 6-5 • Weight: 188
It’s not hard to see what scouts like about Robinson. He’s a poised, steady guard with good size who can occasionally explode to the rim. He’s a comfortable scorer who could easily command a second unit off the bench.
Georgia Tech • Guard • Sophomore
Height: 6-4 • Weight: 213
Okogie has good size and a great motor, but his offensive instincts can feel a little hectic at times. He should immediately be able to hold his own on the defensive end.
Creighton • Guard • Junior
Height: 6-4 • Weight: 200
Steady and with great length, Thomas is a low-risk, heady guard who won’t make unforced mistakes and can immediately stretch the floor with his offense.
Cincinnati • Guard • Junior
Height: 6-6 • Weight: 210
With good size and strength for his position, Evans can be an immediate contributor on the defensive end and should have no trouble in a switch-heavy defense. His three-point shooting ability could be a bonus.
Chalmette High School • Center
Height: 7-0 • Weight: 233
Robinson might be the most enigmatic prospect in the draft, with a range as high as just outside the lottery all the way until the second round. The size and talent are there, but teams could have questions about his drive and commitment after skipping his lone year in college basketball.
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CHICAGO (AP) — Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough was on stage moments after the NBA draft lottery ended, talking about the future of the Suns and mentioning how they had the best odds of picking No. 1 overall.
And then he stopped to correct himself.
“We have No. 1,” McDonough said. “I’ve got to adjust to that.”
It’s an adjustment that he and the Suns will happily be making.
The worst team in the league this season will pick first in the NBA draft on June 21, after the Suns won the draft lottery on Tuesday night. It’s the first time the Suns will have the chance to make the first overall selection.
“It’s great for our franchise,” said McDonough, whose club went 21-61 this season and missed the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year. “It’s something that you say coming into it, you don’t have any control over it so you’re not going to get nervous. And I was here dying. I could barely breathe. I needed an oxygen tank.”
The Suns have three great candidates for No. 1, all with ties to either Arizona or new Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov. Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton is widely expected to be a strong candidate to go No. 1 overall, and he was at the lottery to watch the Suns win the pick. So was Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, an Arizona native.
And Kokoskov is particularly familiar with Slovenia’s Luka Doncic, who will be coming to the NBA from Real Madrid. Kokoskov coached Slovenia — and Doncic — to the gold medal at the European championships last summer.
“We have a small target grouping in mind, but we’re not going to rule anything out at this point,” McDonough said. “I think we’ll have a great choice, no matter who we select.”
The Suns were big winners.
So were Sacramento and Atlanta.
Sacramento will pick No. 2 and Atlanta got the No. 3 pick — both of them moving up and bucking some odds to get there. The top three spots were determined by the lottery, and then spots 4-14 fell in line of reverse order of record.
Sacramento had a 18.3 percent chance entering the lottery of moving into the top three, while Atlanta’s move-up was really just a slightly bigger upset than a coin-flip — the Hawks came into the night with a 42.3 percent chance of getting picks 1, 2 or 3.
“No big deal. It’s a deep draft,” Kings vice president and general manager Vlade Divac said. “We’re going to do our job and obviously, I’m glad that we played the last two years to develop guys and try to win games. You cannot develop guys if you don’t teach them how to win.”
The Hawks, like the Suns, got their lottery result one day after introducing a new coach. Lloyd Pierce is taking over in Atlanta, with a reputation of helping great young talent develop — he’s worked with Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and LeBron James, among many others.
“For Hawks fans, it’s a big deal,” said Hawks owner Jami Gertz, who represented the franchise on stage at the lottery. “I say to Atlanta, we are on our way. Championships down the road, sooner than later. Let’s go.”
The rest of the slots, in order, went to No. 4 Memphis, No. 5 Dallas, No. 6 Orlando, No. 7 Chicago, No. 8 Cleveland, No. 9 New York, No. 10 Philadelphia, No. 11 Charlotte, No. 12 and No. 13 Los Angeles Clippers, and No. 14 Denver.
The draft is June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The lottery has been around since 1985, was tweaked to a weighted system in 1990 and will be changing again next year in an effort to discourage teams from tanking.
Going forward, the three teams with the worst regular-season records will all have 14 percent chances of winning the No. 1 pick, the fourth-worst team will have a 12.5 percent chance and the fifth-worst 10.5 percent. So there will still be a benefit to being bad, but the odds will be so similar among the bottom five teams — a 3.5 percent differential in the race for No. 1, instead of the 16.2 percent gap like this year — that the reward for losing might be lessened.
“I don’t like that word, what is it, tanking?” Divac said. “I hate it.”
Josh Jackson, who just completed his rookie season with Phoenix, represented the Suns on the stage, for the public announcement of what was drawn in secret about an hour earlier. Only a handful of team representatives, NBA officials and media knew the outcome of the lottery before it was revealed publicly and they were all sequestered until the results were aired.
Jackson said he thinks the Suns need a big man. That means his vote, for now anyway, is Ayton.
“He’s got so much potential,” Jackson said.
The Suns feel the same way about themselves. They have three picks in the first 31 in this draft, plus have some cap room to work with this summer. The plan, McDonough said, is to add some veterans to mold what will be a young core led by the likes of Devin Booker, Jackson and potentially whoever the No. 1 pick is next month.
With some more luck, Jackson won’t be going to more lotteries.
“Hopefully we won’t be sitting up here too much longer,” Jackson said.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — SAN ANTONIO – To sum things up, Villanova was feelin’ it Saturday night.
Like every night that ends in “Y” for the Wildcats.
Like all these games where they walk away with a “W” and leave their opponents shaking their heads.
Villanova moved within a win of another title, sinking a Final Four-record 18 3-pointers, while cementing itself as the most-prolific 3-point-shooting team in college history in a 95-79 runaway over Kansas.
“Well, that was just one of those nights,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Normally the third or fourth option on a team full of shooters, junior wingman Eric Paschall led the barrage, going 4 for 5 from 3, 10 for 11 overall, and finishing with a career-high 24 points.
But the hoop was as wide as the Alamodome for pretty much everyone in a Wildcats jersey.
Seven `Nova players made 3s. Villanova tied the Final Four record for 3s in game with 3:45 left in the first half. The Wildcats shot 45 percent from 3 – 5 points higher than their season average, which ranked 15th in the nation this season.
Next up is Michigan, which will try to guard the perimeter Monday night when Villanova (35-5) goes for its second title in three seasons.
Good luck with that.
Nobody has had much success this season, and in what turned out to be an unexpectedly lopsided matchup between top seeds, Kansas (31-8) certainly didn’t Saturday night. AP Player of the Year Jalen Brunson made three 3s and finished with 18 points. Omari Spellman made three, as well, in a 15-point, 13-rebound monster game.
“As good a team as I’ve played against that I can remember,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We got spread out on defense. The game plan went to crap. You get caught in between on defense, and it’s the worst thing you can do.”
About a minute into the second half, Paschall drained a 3 for Villanova’s 14th of the game, breaking a Final Four record first set by UNLV in 1987.
Much earlier, at about the 13-minute mark of the first half, Collin Gillespie spotted up and swished for `Nova’s sixth 3 of the game, which gave it the NCAA record for 3s in a season, with 442.
VMI set that record in 2007. Very few remember that team, though, because even though the importance of the long shot has grown as the decades have passed, it’s never been thought of as a guaranteed way to win consistently.
Wright’s team is laying waste to that theory and, at times, making other teams look bad while doing it.
On Saturday, the typical Villanova possession involved working the ball down low on the wing, then a skip pass across the bottom of the paint, followed by one, two or three passes around the arc until somebody got open. It usually worked. Against both the Jayhawks’ man defense and their zone. Most of `Nova’s 18 makes barely skimmed the net.
“We knew they’d have to miss some pretty decent looks, but they got anything they wanted early, and they knocked everything down,” Self said.
Villanova attempted 40 shots from 3, and only 25 from 2.
Gillespie’s record-setter gave Villanova a 22-4 lead, and at that point, Kansas had as many turnovers as points and had taken as many timeouts as it had field goals.
Self did what he could, urging his 7-foot center, Udoka Azubuike, out of the paint and into the faces of this group of hybrid forward-guards, all of whom can shoot. The big fella couldn’t get there.
The Jayhawks, back in the dome where they cut down the nets 10 years ago after their last title, made mini runs. But the deficit never got below double digits.
Devonte Graham, the senior guard who has been the glue in this Final Four season, led Kansas with 23 points. Malik Newman, who pushed his game into overdrive during the postseason, had 21. They combined to make 6 of 13 3-pointers themselves, but didn’t get much help.
Much of that was credit to the Villanova defense. Wright and co. spent more time in the postgame talking about defense and rebounding than the shooting clinic they put on.
“If we didn’t get stops, it was getting back to being a five- or six-point game,” Wright said.
But they did.
And it didn’t.
About the only drama in the second half was whether the Wildcats would top Loyola Marymount’s NCAA Tournament record of 21 3-pointers in a game (against Michigan in 1990). Didn’t happen, mainly because they didn’t need it too.
But there’s still Monday.
“They’ll be hard for anyone to deal with,” Self said, “if they shoot the ball like that.”
MICHIGAN 69, LOYOLA-CHICAGO 57
SAN ANTONIO – Staring down a 10-point, second-half deficit against an underdog that seemed nothing short of blessed during the madness of March, Moe Wagner and Michigan clamped down on Loyola-Chicago and ended one of the most memorable NCAA Tournament runs ever.
Wagner scored 24 points, Charles Matthews added 17 and the Wolverines rallied to beat the Ramblers 69-57 Saturday night in the Final Four.
The third-seeded Wolverines (33-7) will take a 14-game winning streak, the longest in the nation, into their first national championship game appearance since 2013, and second under coach Jon Beilein.
“We’re not done yet,” Michigan senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman said.
Michigan became the first team to reach the national title game without beating a top-five seed along the way. That changes Monday night at the Alamodome. No. 1 seed Villanova stands in the way of the Wolverines’ first NCAA title since 1989.
Lovable Loyola (32-6), with superfan Sister Jean courtside and their fans behind the bench standing for pretty much the entire game, could not conjure another upset. The Ramblers were the fourth 11th-seeded team to make it this far and like the previous three, the semifinals were the end of the road.
Coach Porter Moser said he was proud of players Ben Richardson, Aundre Jackson and Donte Ingram for holding it together during a postgame news conference, answering questions with red eyes and long faces.
“But it was as tough a locker room as I’ve seen because they believed they belonged and they believed like they wanted to advance,” Moser said.
Loyola had no answers for the 6-foot-11 Wagner, and its offense, so smooth and efficient on the way to San Antonio, broke down in the second half and finished with 17 turnovers.
Wagner, playing in front of his parents who made the trip from Germany, had 15 rebounds and was 10 for 16 from the field. Matthews, the Kentucky transfer and Chicago native, had a run-out dunk with 1:33 left that made it 63-53. And that was that.
Wagner became the third player in the last 40 years with a 20 and 15 game in a Final Four game , joining Hakeem Olajuwon of Houston in 1983 (then known as Akeem) and Larry Bird of Indiana State in 1979.
“Wow. If you put it like that, it’s probably cool,” Wagner said. “But to be honest, I kept looking possession by possession. We had trouble scoring the first half. We scored 22 points and that was kind of the only way we found our way to the basket, grab offensive rebounds and get second-shot opportunities.
“And I honestly just tried to do my job.”
Or, as Michigan guard Jaaron Simmon, put it: “He was a beast tonight.”
Wagner also went flying off the elevated court, chasing a loose ball, avoiding injury but taking out CBS commentator Bill Raftery’s eye glasses. It was a full night.
As the seconds ticked off, Wagner pumped his fist to the many Michigan fans who made the trek to San Antonio, while Loyola’s Jackson, who got the Ramblers rolling with a late game-winning 3 in the first round against Miami, looked toward the roof and shook his head.
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola’s big man, scored 17 points and Clayton Custer had 13 of his 15 after halftime. But facing one of the best defensive teams in the country, the best defensive team Beilein has ever had in 11 seasons in Ann Arbor, the Ramblers scored just 16 points in the final 14 minutes.
“Their length. They close the gap of opportunity really fast,” Moser said.
Custer scored seven straight points for Loyola at one point to put the Ramblers up 41-31 with 14:08 remaining.
“I don’t know if they had magic on their side,” Beilein said. “They’re good.”
Michigan refused to fade, even with point guard Zavier Simpson – whose solid play has been critical to the Wolverines’ late-season surge – playing terribly. Simpson had no points and four turnovers.
Simmons, Simpson’s backup, made a 3 and Duncan Robinson hit another a few minutes later and the deficit was down to 45-42 with 10 minutes left.
“Not dropping our heads, that was the main thing,” Simmons said. “We haven’t been down in a game for a long time. So not dropping our heads was one of the main adjustments we had to make.”
Wagner hit a 3 from right in front of the Michigan bench with 6:50 left to tie it, and moments later the Wolverines were back on top, 49-47, when Jordan Poole made two free throws.
Loyola turned it over on three straight possessions and Wagner tipped in a miss by Poole, was fouled and converted the 3-point play to put Michigan up 54-47 with just under five minutes left.
The Ramblers’ 14-game losing streak is over, along with an incredible feel-good story at a time that college basketball, engulfed in a corruption scandal, could truly use one. Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt and her favorite team , the Missouri Valley Conference champions, making their first NCAA appearance since 1985, will return to Chicago as heroes, regardless.
“It’s special to see kind of what stage we were able to get to,” said Richardson, a senior who grew up in Kansas with Custer and then convinced his friend to transfer from Iowa State to Loyola. “Despite going out this way, were going to never forget this. I think a lot of people will remember this run for a long time.”
Michigan has more work to do. The Wolverines, unranked to start the season and sitting at 19-7 in early February, will now resume the underdog role they have played much of the season, trying to win their second NCAA championship.
“This team’s had no attention at all,” Beilein said. “Until we went up to beat Michigan State we weren’t nationally ranked. Now we’re playing on Monday night.”
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The maddest of Marches is winding down, the college basketball season now headed into April. All those upsets, crazy finishes and stellar performances have brought us to San Antonio, where a Cinderella and its telegenic nun join three power programs in the Final Four.
Based on the way the bracket has gone so far, don’t be surprised if there is more madness in store.
To get you ready, we’ve got a rundown of the teams, the top players, the coaches and other tidbits about this year’s Final Four.
Villanova. The Wildcats shoot 3-pointers like no other, play suffocating defense and have that look — the one they had winning a national title two years ago.
Kansas. The other No. 1 seed to get through, the offensively gifted Jayhawks are back in San Antonio, where Bill Self won his only title in 2008.
Michigan. Stingy D or raining 3s, these scrappy Wolverines find ways to win.
Loyola-Chicago. Sister Jean gets much of the attention, but the Ramblers have rambled into the Final Four with a free-flowing, nothing-to-lose style.
Jalen Brunson, Villanova. The Wildcats’ unassuming leader is racking up player of the year awards — and possibly a second national championship.
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas. Similar attributes as Brunson, only with an added dash of dynamic-ness.
Moritz Wagner, Michigan. The big German is crafty inside, can step out to hit 3s, can guard multiple positions — a matchup nightmare.
Clayton Custer, Loyola. The sharpshooting guard gets mistaken for a non-player off the court, and is often the best in the game on it.
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola. The burly freshman gives the little Ramblers the presence they need inside at both ends.
Malik Newman, Kansas. The athletic sophomore has become dynamic No. 2 option to Graham.
Mikal Bridges, Villanova. Bridges and Brunson may be the Final Four’s best 1-2 punch.
Charles Matthews, Michigan. His late-season emergence is a big reason the Wolverines reached San Antonio.
Bill Self, Kansas. This may be the best coaching job of his career.
Jay Wright, Villanova. The coolest — and best-dressed — coach in college basketball has changed the game and put the Wildcats in position for a second national title in three years.
John Beilein, Michigan. Redefined his team and himself by turning the Wolverines into one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
Porter Moser, Loyola. A nation of college basketball fans are learning what everyone at Loyola already knew: Moser can flat-out coach.
4 — No. 11 seeds to reach the Final Four: LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), VCU (2011) and Loyola (2018).
29 — Years since Michigan’s lone NCAA title.
43.2 — Percentage of Michigan’s shots taken from 3-point range.
55 — Years since Loyola’s lone NCAA championship.
77.2 — Shooting percentage of Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike, leading the nation.
86.6 — Points per game by Villanova, tops in Division I.
Michigan: Actors James Earl Jones, Gilda Radner, Lucy Liu; H&R Block founder Henry R. Bloch; iPod inventor Tony Fadell; Walgreen’s founder Charles Walgreen; playwright Arthur Miller; Nobel Prize winner Stanley Cohen; singer Madonna; NFL player Tom Brady; MLB player Derek Jeter; President Gerald Ford.
Villanova: Actors Bradley Cooper and Maria Bello; country singer Toby Keith; singer Jim Croce; second lady of the United States Jill Biden; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland; NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.
Kansas: Actors Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, Scott Bakula and Mandy Patinkin; NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain; NFL Hall of Famer Gale Sayers; Kansas Sen. Bob Dole; FBI Director Clarence Kelley; basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith; golfer Gary Woodland.
Loyola: Actors Bob Newhart, Leslie David Baker and Jennifer Morrison; Chicago Bears owner George Halas Jr.; Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts; Disturbed singer David Draiman; Smashing Pumpkins and Perfect Circle guitarist James Iha; Dr. Scholl’s founder William Scholl; US Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley.
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The high-motion, position-less offenses are the shiny objects of this Final Four. Crisp passing, alley-oop dunks, cavalcades of 3-pointers — what’s not to like?
Behind the eye-catching, highlight-reel-inducing sparkle is a gritty underbelly.
One of sports’ deepest-rooted clichés is defense wins championships. Tired and not necessarily true, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
The Final Four of Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and Loyola-Chicago all play different brands of D and it will be worth watching that side of the ball when they hit the floor Saturday in San Antonio.
The Wolverines had been the type of team that tried outscoring teams by raining 3-pointers. Defense was what always held them back.
Coach John Beilein has made defense a point of emphasis in recent years, and Michigan has become better for it. With the help of former Illinois assistant and defensive guru, Luke Yaklich, Beilein has transformed the Wolverines from one of the Big Ten’s worst defensive teams to one of the nation’s best.
While most teams have one, maybe two strong on-the-ball defenders, Michigan has three: Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman.
The trio is quick, physical and good with their hands, making every move by ball handlers and cutters a chore.
German big man Moe Wagner is by no means a hulking presence inside, but he’s active, athletic and moves his feet well, allowing him to keep smaller players in front or soar in for backside blocks.
The Wolverines are No. 3 nationally in defensive efficiency and completely shut down an athletic Florida State team to reach the Final Four.
“If you do play good defense, it will give you a chance to win every day,” Beilein said.
The Wildcats lost a few games during the regular season they probably would like to have back, in part because their defense was nowhere near their uber-efficient offense.
Villanova’s run to a second Final Four in three years can be attributed, at least in part, to its increased ability to shut opponents down.
The Wildcats have long, athletic players with mostly interchangeable skills, allowing them to switch on screens a majority of the time. Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall are versatile, so they can guard multiple positions and players of varied skills.
Big man Omari Spellman has become a better post defender and is more active after reshaping his body.
The Wildcats are holding teams to 36 percent shooting in the NCAA Tournament and are 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
“They were so efficient offensively and picked up so many things that we were teaching offensively, that I thought it might be really tough to get them to be a good defensive team,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “They stuck with it and they’re becoming one of our best defensive teams, which I would have never thought midway through the season.”
As a mid-major team, the Ramblers are almost always undersized when going against Power Five schools.
They make up for it with discipline, tenacity and a commitment to coach Porter Moser’s methods.
Loyola’s perimeter players are active, have quick hands and often switch on the perimeter. The Ramblers also like to switch on ball screens and keep freshman center Cameron Krutwig, their last line of defense, in the paint.
Loyola is a superb transition defensive team because it rarely sends players to the offensive glass and triggers its own run-outs and transition 3-pointers with aggressive defense.
The Ramblers are 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency and have held their last 10 opponents to 68 points or less.
“It’s five guys, about being connected, working together to get a stop,” said Loyola guard Ben Richardson, the Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year. “We’re outsized in a lot of positions, but we have a lot of techniques to tap into to make up for the size.”
The Jayhawks, on paper, are the worst defensive team left in the bracket, coming in at 40th in adjusted D.
Kansas is exceptionally strong in one defensive area: Defending without fouling.
Because they don’t have a lot of depth, the Jayhawks can’t afford to foul a lot, but that also limits the number of easy points opponents get from free throws.
Udoka Azubuike is a load in the post at 7-foot, 280 pounds, and can soar in for backside blocks if a teammate gets beat. Svi Mykhailiuk showed off his defensive chops in the Elite Eight, when he repeatedly knocked Duke All-American Marvin Bagley III off the block and beat the freshman to his spots.
The Jayhawks also are playing harder after coach Bill Self called them soft midseason.
“I probably had verbally gotten after this team more and been more critical in some ways,” Self said. “But also with that being said, I think I’ve also made it real clear in many ways I’m more proud, too, because we have altered our personality traits to the point that it’s given this team the best chance.”
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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — The Final Four had been set for decades: Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky were crowned as college basketball’s royalty.
They are the bluebloods of basketball — where deep NCAA Tournament runs are the norm, NBA prospects play, hardwood rules the sports landscape and an air of superiority reigns in programs rich in tradition and with alumni rich enough to help fund state-of-the-art practice facilities or arenas.
Grandpa might tell you UCLA or Indiana should still be in the mix. Maybe the kids like Michigan State or Arizona.
But a fifth team has firmly crashed the field: Villanova. Its fans turn up their noses at the Philly schools while the team turns up the heat in the Big East and is positioned for a second national championship in three years.
The road to the best program in hoops may start where the original rules of the game are housed at Kansas, hit Tobacco Road, head to the home of the one-and-done prospect in Lexington but it ends on the Main Line, a wealthy stretch of Philadelphia suburbs home to Villanova.
Let’s take a look at the Wildcats’ resume by the numbers headed into Saturday’s Final Four game against Kansas (31-7).
— 134. Wins (and counting). The most by any program over a four-year span.
— 30. The magic number for Villanova. The Wildcats have won 33, 35, 32 games the previous three years and are 34-4 this season.
— 6. Sweet 16s under Wright.
— 3. Final Fours since 2009.
— 1. National championship under coach Jay Wright in 2016.
— 420. Wins under Wright, the most in team history.
There’s another number worth noting: $60 million. It’s the expected cost of the renovation funded by donors of Villanova’s on-campus arena when it reopens next season. The Wildcats played this season at the home of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, the Wells Fargo Center — where they went a sparkling 11-1.
Any way you count it, the Wildcats decade of dominance has turned their blood as blue as their “V” logo.
“We consistently had very good players,” Wright said. “It’s a part of guys staying healthy, guys staying in the program, good recruiting, getting lucky in recruiting over a period of time.”
The Wildcats soared to the top of the AP Top 25, earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and won another Big East Tournament title without a senior on the roster. Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo carried the Wildcats in stretches in tournament wins over Radford, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas Tech. Brunson was named Tuesday to the AP All-America team.
The 2016 team trumps the underdog ’85 champs that shocked the sport for best in Nova history.
With two more wins, this year’s team should stand alone.
KU-Villanova is regarded as a real title game of sorts before the winner plays Loyola or Michigan on Monday in San Antonio.
“The good thing is, I think our guys have a good understanding and respect for everybody in this tournament, so I don’t think they would even think that this is the national championship game,” Wright said. “Our guys wouldn’t think that way.”
Villanova might have seem more worthy of a spot alongside the Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Jayhawks and Kentucky Wildcats to the causal fan had it not been for some upsets as a single-digit seed in the tournament. The Wildcats lost in the first weekend as a 1 or 2 in 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2017. Surely another Final Four or two would have made them a more popular pick to win it all in office pools rather than a potential target as an upset special.
But it can’t be ignored that Wright has brought the program to heights that not even his mentor and 1985 championship coach Rollie Massimino could achieve.
The idea of christening a dazzling new arena with a championship banner raised to the rafters would be appropriate — hanging in the rarified air as college basketball’s top team.
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ATLANTA (AP) — Porter Moser stood in front of the scarf-clad Loyola cheering section, a bit dazed but beaming from ear to ear.
“Are you kidding me! Are you kidding me!” the Ramblers coach screamed over and over.
Loyola is headed to the Final Four .
An improbable NCAA Tournament took its craziest turn yet Saturday night, when Ben Richardson scored a career-high 23 points and the 11th-seeded Ramblers romped to a 78-62 victory over Kansas State to cap off a stunning run through the bracket-busting South Regional.
The Ramblers (32-5) matched the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four, joining LSU (1986), George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011). Those other three all lost in the national semifinals.
Don’t bet against Loyola, which emerged from a regional that produced a staggering array of upsets. The South became the first regional in tournament history to have the top four seeds — including overall No. 1 Virginia — knocked out on the opening weekend.
In the end, it was the Ramblers cutting down the nets.
After three close calls, this one was downright easy.
“We believed that we could do something like this — do something really special — because we knew we had such good chemistry and we’ve got such a good group,” said Richardson, who was named MVP of the regional. “Everyone would say we were crazy. If we said this was going to happen, people would call us crazy, but you’ve just got to believe.”
No one believes more than their 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt , who led a prayer in the locker room before the game. When it was done, she was pushed onto the confetti-covered court in her wheelchair to join the celebration.
Sister Jean donned a Final Four cap — she even turned it around backward, just to show she’s hip to the kids — and gave a gleeful thumbs-up.
She’s already looking forward to a bigger game next weekend.
“I’m going to San Antonio,” she said. “That’s going to be great.”
Also joining the celebration were several players from the Ramblers’ 1963 national championship team , which played one of the most socially significant games in college basketball history on its way to the title. It was known as the “Game of Change,” matching the Ramblers and their mostly black roster against an all-white Mississippi State team at the height of the civil rights movement, setting up an even more noteworthy contest three years later when Texas Western, with five African-American starters, defeated Kentucky in the national championship game.
Les Hunter, a member of that ’63 team, said these Ramblers are capable of bringing home another title.
“I think they’re the best right now,” Hunter said. “They work so well together. They can play with anybody — anybody — right now.”
Even with a title on its resume, this Loyola performance came out of nowhere. The Ramblers had not made the tournament since 1985 until they broke the drought by winning the Missouri Valley Conference.
Then, as if benefiting from some sort of divine intervention, the Ramblers won their first three tournament games by a total of four points .
Finally, with the Final Four on the line, they turned in a thoroughly dominating performance against the ninth-seeded Wildcats (25-12), the other half of the first 9-vs.-11 matchup in tournament history.
Not the least bit intimidated, Loyola came out in attack mode right from the start against a Kansas State team that rode a stifling defense to the regional final. Moving the ball just as you’d expect from a veteran squad with two seniors and two fourth-year juniors in the starting lineup, the Ramblers kept getting open looks and bolted to a 36-24 halftime lead.
“They jumped out to that big lead and it was tough for us to come back,” said Xavier Sneed, who led Kansas State with 16 points. “They kept their foot on the gas.”
The Ramblers shot 57 percent against a team that is used to shutting opponents down, including 9 of 18 from 3-point range.
Kansas State hit just 35 percent from the field — 6 of 26 beyond the arc.
Early on the second half, Richardson swished a 3-pointer as he was fouled by Kamau Stokes , winding up flat on his back, flashing a huge smile with his arms raised above his head. He knocked down the free throw to complete the four-point play, stretching the lead to 44-29.
Loyola led by as many as 23.
“We’re just a bunch of guys that everybody laughed at … when we thought we were going to play Division I basketball,” Clayton Custer said. “Nobody thought we could do any of this.”
They do now.
MICHIGAN 58, FLORIDA STATE 54
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Michigan is headed to its first Final Four in five years with another upset-minded opponent waiting.
The Wolverines (32-7) have tamped down three consecutive teams with designs on pulling surprises — No. 6 seed Houston, No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 9 Florida State.
Now they’ll face the most improbable opponent of all — 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in San Antonio.
“I don’t think any of us cares about rankings, seedings or none of that,” forward Moe Wagner said. “It’s about who is going to play better. They must be a really good team, that’s why they’re in the Final Four, and that’s all that matters.”
The third-seeded Wolverines withstood their own poor shooting to beat Florida State 58-54 and win the West Region title on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory. They haven’t lost since Feb. 6 against Northwestern.
Loyola (32-5) made a stunning run through the South, beating Kansas State 78-62 in the regional final to equal the lowest-seeded team ever to reach the Final Four.
The Ramblers have Sister Jean, too. Their 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, has been a social media and TV sensation during the tournament.
Not that West Regional Most Valuable Player Charles Matthews had a clue.
“I don’t know who Sister Jean is, no disrespect,” he said.
Not so for Wagner, the 6-foot-11 forward plucked out of Germany by coach John Beilein.
“I know that she didn’t have Loyola-Chicago in the Elite Eight,” Wagner said. “I know that.”
Wolverines forward Isaiah Livers knows one of Loyola’s players, having played AAU basketball against each other in Chicago.
“I’ve been watching them. They’re a really good team,” he said. “From now on, you’re going to play nothing but good teams. They’re here for a reason.”
So are the Wolverines, whose NCAA Tournament victories have involved wild swings.
They scored 99 points in the regional semifinal and 58 in the final, a 41-point swing that is the largest two-game scoring difference by any team in this year’s tournament.
After beating No. 14 Montana by 14 points in the first round, Michigan escaped by 1 against Houston on Jordan Poole’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Wolverines trounced Texas A&M by 27 points in the regional semifinals, hitting 10 of their 14 3-pointers in the first half.
Michigan got into a close one against the Seminoles, clinging to a 55-52 lead with 1:14 remaining. The Wolverines made 3 of 5 free throws in the closing seconds to hang on for their school-record 32nd win.
“I feel like we all believe in one another, but that is the special thing about this group of guys,” Matthews said. “We just take everything one day at a time and we stay connected through it all. When you have guys like that who are truly your brothers, anything’s possible.”
After playing in front of 19,665 mostly pro-Michigan fans in Los Angeles, the Wolverines can likely expect much of the country to be rooting against them in San Antonio.
“Loyola-Chicago, those people should be so proud of that team and come out strong,” Beilein said. “Loyola’s going to sell every ticket they can get. Well, Michigan’s going to sell every ticket we can get, too.”
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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports / AP) — After starting with 68 teams, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is down to just eight.
The Elite Eight.
The March Madness upsets continued through the Sweet 16, with Cinderella No. 11 Loyola-Chicago staying out for at least one more dance after defeating No. 7 Nevada, followed by No. 9 seeds Florida State and Kansas State.
Here is everything you need to know regarding coverage for Saturday’s game, along with must-read stories as one of the wildest NCAA tournaments in recent memory continues.
Time, TV: 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
RADIO CALL: Listen to the game via TuneIn
Why Kansas State will win: What the Wildcats lack in post presence with leading scorer Dean Wade still sidelined, they make up for with moxie, physicality and a knack for timely plays. Guard Barry Brown, Jr., is a beast on the defensive end — just look at what he did to Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — and they’re also getting unexpected contributions from players like guard Mike McGuirl, who averaged just 3.2 points in the regular season, and Xavier Sneed, who made five 3-pointers against Kentucky.
Why Loyola-Chicago will win: If the Ramblers can beat a physical, defensive-oriented team like Tennessee, why not a team like Kansas State that was a lesser version of the Vols for most of the season? Loyola will probably do the one thing Kentucky couldn’t: Make perimeter shots. The likes of Clayton Custer (46% from the 3-point line), Donte Ingram (39.6%) and Marques Townes (38%) make it easy for the Ramblers to play small if they have to, and freshman big man Cameron Krutwig will be hard to handle given Kansas State’s lack of post depth.
Time, TV: approx. 8:49 p.m. ET, TBS
RADIO CALL: Listen to the game via TuneIn
Why Michigan will win: When the offense clicks like it did Thursday in a rout of Texas A&M, the Wolverines are going to be hard to beat. They blew the game open in the first half by shooting better than 60% from three-point range — led by Moritz Wagner — and they ended up shooting better than 60% from the field on the day. Michigan, which has won 12 in a row, also has stepped it up on defense, allowing opposing teams to score only 63 points a game. That’s a winning combination.
Why Florida State will win: The Seminoles, who did not close the regular season with any particular fire, happen to be on a roll in the NCAA tournament. After beating Missouri in the opening round, they rallied from 12 down to beat top-seeded Xavier, then took out No. 4 Gonzaga in dominant fashion. Florida State has size, depth and knows how to share the ball.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a wild NCAA Tournament full of upsets, it’s somehow appropriate that the first ticket to the Final Four will go to a No. 9 or No. 11 seed.
And the second could go to another 9-seed.
Welcome to the madder half of the March Madness bracket. The Elite Eight games Saturday in the South and West lack the Selection Sunday favorites and instead feature a surging 3-seed (Big Ten champion Michigan), two teams who were power-conference also-rans (No. 9 seeds Florida State and Kansas State) and the upstart (11-seed Loyola-Chicago).
The Wildcats and the Ramblers meet in the first regional final to wrap up the South bracket in Atlanta, then the Wolverines and Seminoles meet in Los Angeles.
Further down the line, one of those teams will end up playing for the national championship in San Antonio.
It’s quite a feat considering three of those teams faced at least some bubble uncertainty in the final month of the regular season. And that was particularly true of the Ramblers (31-5) , who went 15-3 in their Missouri Valley Conference but could have easily been left out of the field of 68 had they not won the league tournament.
Yet, the Ramblers beat 6-seed Miami 64-62 in the first round on 3-pointer by Donte Ingram with 0.3 seconds left. Then came a 63-62 second-round win against third-seeded Tennessee on another late shot, this one a jumper from Clayton Custer with 3.6 seconds left. And finally, they held off No. 7 seed Nevada 69-68 in the Sweet 16, putting them a win away from the national semifinals for the first time since winning the 1963 national title .
“I think there’s a lot of parity in the game, and I love it for our league,” Ramblers coach Porter Moser said. “There was a lot of talk that we weren’t going to get in if we didn’t win the tournament, and we know in the Missouri Valley how good a league it is from top to bottom. And for us to get in here, I think it’s going to spark conversation about this, and I know the committees have such a hard job.”
Now they’re meeting the Wildcats in the first 9-vs-11 game in NCAA Tournament history.
Kansas State (25-11) caught a break when UMBC pulled the first 16-vs-1 upset of top overall seed Virginia, allowing the Wildcats to avoid the Cavaliers in the second round. Kansas State beat UMBC then took out Kentucky’s latest crop of touted freshmen to reach its first regional final since 2010 and second since 1988.
“We know that every team right now is trying to make history,” Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. said.
Here are things to know about the NCAA Tournament’s second week:
ROLLING AGAIN: For the second straight season, the Wolverines (31-7) got hot late in the year to win the Big Ten Tournament title and reach the NCAA regional rounds. Now they’re the closest thing to a favorite in their half of the draw.
Last year’s team lost by one to Oregon in the Sweet 16, but Michigan blew out Texas A&M on Thursday to reach its third regional final in six seasons.
“I’d prefer more games like that,” coach John Beilein said afterward. “I don’t think we’ll see any more, but I’d prefer it.”
For the record, Michigan has won 12 straight and hasn’t lost since falling at Northwestern on Feb. 6 .
LONG WAIT: The last time Florida State was in a regional final, two-sport point guard Charlie Ward was months away from claiming the Heisman Trophy as the Seminoles’ quarterback, the Fab Five ruled at Michigan — and the Seminoles were blown out by a Rick Pitino-coached Kentucky team featuring Jamal Mashburn.
That was 1993.
The balanced Seminoles (23-11) got here by upending 1-seed Xavier then beating a 32-win Gonzaga team in the Sweet 16.
“We just don’t care who plays or who scores the basket, as long as everybody’s happy,” FSU’s Braian Angola said. “We buy into the system, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
SEMBLANCE OF ORDER: The other half of the bracket looks much closer to form.
In the East, Jalen Brunson was fantastic in leading top-seeded Villanova past Press, umm, West Virginia in Friday’s Sweet 16. That pushed the Wildcats — the highest overall seed left — into Sunday’s regional final in Boston to face third-seeded Texas Tech, which beat 2-seed Purdue.
And in the Midwest, bluebloods Kansas and Duke advanced to a chalk regional final in Omaha, Nebraska. Neither had an easy time of it, with the top-seeded Jayhawks holding off fifth-seeded Clemson while the second-seeded Blue Devils beat No. 11 seed Syracuse in an Atlantic Coast Conference-heavy doubleheader.
CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: The Big 12 and ACC are leading the way entering the Elite Eight.
The Big 12 earned seven bids and has three teams (Kansas, Texas Tech and Kansas State) still alive to go with an 11-4 tournament record (.733). The ACC tied its own record with nine bids and has two left (Duke and FSU) to go with a 12-7 record (.632).
The Big East (Villanova), Big Ten (Michigan) and Missouri Valley Conference (Loyola-Chicago) have the other spots.
FAIL: ESPN says there were 17.3 million entrees into its bracket contest. And zero —as in nary a one— got the Elite Eight teams correct. So maybe you don’t have to feel so badly about your up-in-smoke picks?
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) —- Loyola-Chicago and its game-planning nun are headed to the Elite Eight. So too are Kansas State, Florida State and Michigan in this maddest of Marches.
Day 2 of the Sweet 16 has Villanova’s Jalen Brunson vs. West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, Duke’s athletes trying to solve Syracuse’s zone and the arm brace saga of Purdue’s Isaac Haas. Oh, and all those athletes between Kansas and Clemson.
No wonder sports fans love this time of the year so much.
The marquee matchup comes in the East Region Friday in Boston, where Villanova, one of two No. 1 seeds remaining, faces Press Virginia.
The Wildcats have been on a tear while everyone has been tearing up their brackets, making 31 combined 3-pointers in lopsided opening NCAA Tournament wins over Radford and Alabama. Villanova (32-4) has been even better on defense, holding its first two opponents to 37 percent shooting and less than 60 points per game.
West Virginia (26-10) is known for its defense, but rode its hot-shooting offense into the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years. The Mountaineers shot at least 50 percent in their NCAA opening wins over Murray State and Marshall, averaging 84 points per game. They also play that relentless, pressure-all-time defense that gives teams fits, especially this time of year.
“The matchup with West Virginia, it’s what you get at this point in the tournament,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Sweet 16, you’re going to play a great team that’s playing on all cylinders. You can’t get this far unless you’re really clicking right now.”
The game also will have two of the nation’s top players at the top of their games: Brunson and Carter.
Brunson is a front-runner for national player of the year. Carter is one of the nation’s top one-on-one defenders. Could be the best individual match-up of the bracket right there.
“What makes him tough? He’s smart. He’s very smart,” Carter said of Brunson. “He’s crafty. He knows how to use his body well. He knows about angles and stuff.”
BLUE DEVILS VS. ORANGE ZONE: Syracuse was not exactly an offensive juggernaut in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 60 points once in three games. The Orange (23-13) reached the Sweet 16 behind coach Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, which has limited teams to 54 points per game and limited No. 3 Michigan State to 26 percent shooting to reach the Sweet 16.
Syracuse faces its toughest test yet against the Blue Devils (28-7) in Omaha. Duke has a superb inside-out game with super frosh Marvin Bagley III in the middle and is averaging 85 points per game in the NCAA Tournament.
Something has to give.
HAAS AND THE BRACE: Purdue suffered a huge blow when Hass, the Boilermakers’ 7-foot-2 match-up nightmare, broke his right elbow in its opener against Cal State-Fullerton. Haas has not given up on the season just yet, though.
The senior big man tried to wear a brace in Purdue’s round of 32 game against Butler, but the NCAA nixed it because the brace had metal in it.
In steps Purdue’s engineering students. Given NCAA guidelines by the Purdue staff, the engineering whizzes worked through the night Monday to create a one-of-a-kind brace to hold Haas’ elbow in place.
Even with his new elbow accessory, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter all but ruled Haas out for Friday’s game against Texas Tech. Haas is still holding out hope.
“If I did play, it would just be really short minutes, I’m sure,” Haas said. “But I’ll play as many as I’m asked of.”
TIGERS AND JAYHAWKS: Kansas (29-7), the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, won its record 14th straight Big 12 title and opened the NCAA Tournament by beating Penn and Seton Hall behind a stingy defense. The Jayhawks have one of the biggest stars left in the bracket in Devonte Graham, but fifth-seeded Clemson (25-9) is on a roll, coming off a 31-pont thrashing of No. 4 seed Auburn, the third-largest win by a lower seed since 1979.
“I think we have moments where we don’t play very tough, but I also think we have some moments where our experience and our toughness definitely shows,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
SEC OUT: The SEC had the second-most teams in the NCAA Tournament with eight. Now there are none.
With Kentucky’s 61-58 loss to Kansas State Thursday night, the SEC does not have a team left in the bracket through the first half of the Sweet 16. The Wildcats were the conference’s last team standing after Texas A&M was blown out by Michigan earlier Thursday.
NEW FINAL FOUR: With Gonzaga’s loss to Florida State, this year’s Final four is guaranteed to have four different teams than last season.
Defending national champion North Carolina, which beat the Zags in the title game a year ago, lost its second-round game against Texas A&M. South Carolina and Oregon did not make this year’s NCAA Tournament.
7:07 p.m. ET, CBS
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Why Kansas will win: A balanced offense (all five starters average at least 12 points) could be fully functional. After missing the Big 12 tournament and playing limited minutes in the first two rounds while nursing a sprained knee, sophomore center Udoka Azubuike is expected to return to the starting lineup. When Azubuike is healthy, he complements a four-guard lineup that is a very difficult matchup for defenses.
Why Clemson will win: The Tigers blew out Auburn in the second round with a superlative defensive performance to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1997. Clemson’s interior defense has been very good all season, and led by junior Marcquise Reed, its trio of athletic guards will be a handful on both ends for Kansas’ perimeter players.
7:27 p.m., TBS
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Why Villanova will win: Much is made of Villanova’s offense, and rightly so. Its 86.9 points is almost a point more — .8, to be exact — than anyone else averaged this year, and it has made 12 or more three-pointers in 21 of its 36 games, including 17 in the second-round win vs. Alabama. But the Wildcats have become a much better defensive team throughout the season, limiting their last five opponents to 70 points or fewer. Radford and Alabama, its first two opponents in the NCAA tournament, were held to 37% shooting and 59 points.
Why West Virginia will win: Sagaba Konate. Second in the country with 113 blocks, he changes the game around the basket. Avoid the rim, and your shooting percentage is going to suffer. Go at him, and you risk drawing an offensive foul. Making him all the more difficult is that Villanova hasn’t faced a player like him yet this season. The Wildcats will be figuring out how to deal with him on the fly.
Approx. 9:37 p.m. ET, CBS
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Why Duke will win: Despite its youth — four freshman starters — Duke might be the most talented team in the Sweet 16. That starts with freshman big man Marvin Bagley III, who led the ACC in scoring (21.2) and rebounding (11.3). After struggling defensively during the first half of the season, the Blue Devils went almost exclusively to zone — a la Syracuse — and have won nine of 11. It plays into Syracuse’s weakness (32% three-point shooting). In the teams’ regular-season meeting, Duke allowed 44 points and won by 16.
Why Syracuse will win: The Orange barely made it into the NCAA tournament but won a play-in game, then two more with Jim Boeheim’s trademark zone — which held Michigan State to 25.8% shooting. When it’s operating well, it doesn’t just cause opponents trouble, it frustrates them, which leads to more bad shots and further frustration. Although Syracuse lost the earlier meeting, it held Duke to 60 points, its lowest offensive output. Sophomore guard Tyus Battle (19.3-point average) hasn’t really gotten going in the tournament, but has potential for a big game.
9:57 p.m., TBS
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Why Purdue will win: Isaac Haas hopes a brace made for him by Purdue’s mechanical engineering students will allow him to play a week after breaking his right elbow, but coach Matt Painter made it sound unlikely. That’s a blow, no question. But the Boilermakers figured out how to make do without their second-leading scorer in the second-round win against Butler, and the confidence and reassurance that gives them — freshman Matt Haarms in particular — is no small thing.
Why Texas Tech will win: The Red Raiders are crafty defensively. Jarrett Culver, Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith each average more than a steal per game, giving them a chance to disrupt a Purdue offense that’s still adjusting to the loss of Haas. Also, the Red Raiders have come back from deficits in each of their first two games, so they aren’t out until the final buzzer sounds.
1. Michigan shows up as the title contender we’ve been looking for. Finally, the Wolverines that looked so fabulous in the Big Ten tournament, notching wins over Michigan State and Purdue, have returned. And it’s a team that’s got national title written all over it. Michigan hammered Texas A&M, a team that beat defending champ North Carolina convincingly last weekend, by 27 points on Thursday.
Coach John Beilein’s team was firing on all cylinders. A team that needed a thrilling buzzer-beater to get to the Sweet 16 due to a stale offense, now looks like a title favorite right alongside Duke and Villanova. An exceptional defensive team, the Wolverines proved how unstoppable they can be when their offense is really clicking — shooting 62% from the floor and 58% from beyond the arc. Mo Wagner broke out of a mini slump with 21 points, while guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman cashed in with 24 points and seven assists.
NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET: See how the field of 68 has been trimmed
2. Loyola-Chicago is the most balanced clutch team left in the Dance. Loyola-Chicago is the ultimate Cinderella of 2018’s March Madness, advancing to the Elite Eight on three consecutive last-second, game-winning jumpers — over No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee and No. 7 Nevada, respectively. Except there’s no Steph Curry on this upstart mid-major. And that’s what makes the sum-of-all-the-parts Ramblers so unique and fun to watch. There’s no superstar (outside of Sister Jean, of course), but a handful of sharpshooters who can come up clutch.
In Thursday’s 69-68 win over Nevada, it was Marques Townes with the dagger with six seconds left to help Loyola punch its Elite Eight ticket. His three-pointer, assisted by Clayton Custer, shows how many weapons coach Porter Moser has at his disposal.
SportsPulse: Loyola-Chicago continues to dance in the NCAA tournament and will make an Elite Eight appearance for the first time since 1963. USA TODAY Sports
3. Kentucky choked big time. This was one of the most disappointing losses in the John Calipari era at Kentucky, as the fifth-seeded Wildcats crumbled against a Kansas State team that played tougher and with more drive. Kentucky had a red carpet rolled out to get to the Final Four, with No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Cincinnati, and No. 4 Arizona all gone. But poor free-throw shooting and defensive blunders (especially on a Barry Brown game-winning lay-up) cost this freshman-laden group against a KSU team that was playing without its best player and had major foul trouble down the stretch.
4. Kansas State continues to silence doubters. Coach Bruce Weber made sure his K-State players knew where his Wildcats were ranked on Sweet 16 boards before Thursday’s tip. He wanted them to go out and play with a chip on their shoulder. Mission accomplished. The Wildcats were impressive in their win over Kentucky, getting just enough offense and imposing their defensive will on a heavily-favored UK squad (KSU’s allowing just 51 points a game in NCAAs). Bruce Weber has put forth one of the most impressive coaching jobs in the tournament this March.
5. Florida State is a No. 9 seed playing like a No. 2. Coach Leonard Hamilton’s team was the aggressor from the get-go against a very sound Gonzaga squad and FSU used its press to frustrate the offensively potent ‘Zags. More than that, the Seminoles are stellar in transition and used a balanced offensive attack (five FSU players scored seven points or more) to advance to their first Elite Eight since 1993.
A seemingly inconsistent team that went 9-9 in ACC play has found its groove at just the right time, knocking off Xavier in the second round and using Thursday’s Sweet 16 stage to prove it belongs and is far from the No. 9 seed it earned from a back-and-forth regular season.
“Every time we thought we had something going forward, they took it right back and got a big stop or a big bucket,” Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert told reporters of FSU after the game. “A credit to how tough they are.”
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA TODAY SPORTS) — It’s called March Madness for a reason.
After an upset-filled opening weekend, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament rolls on Thursday, where the first four teams will look to advance to the Elite Eight.
While we won’t be seeing a No. 1 seed play on the opening day of the Sweet 16, Thursday’s action will feature the underdogs: Sister Jean and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, No. 9-seeds Florida State and Kansas State and No. 7-seeds Texas A&M and Nevada.
Here is everything you need to know regarding coverage, along with must-read stories as one of the wildest NCAA tournaments in recent memory continues.
7:07 p.m. ET, CBS
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Why Nevada will win: One of the best offensive teams in the country, the Wolf Pack’s ability to score means a game is never over — even if you put them in a 22-point hole, as Cincinnati did in the Round of 32. Four starters average at least 13 points, and they’re all 6-7, which can create matchup issues. Kendall Stephens set the Mountain West record for three-pointers in a season (126) and has made five or more in a game 13 times.
Why Loyola-Chicago will win: The power of Sister Jean is strong, but the real story of the Ramblers’ Sweet 16 run is that they’ve won 19 of their last 20 games. They rank third nationally in field goal percentage (50.6%) and have beaten three Power Five teams this season in Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee. They’re for real. Guard Clayton Custer, who hit the winner against the Vols, is shooting 46% for the season from three-point range.
7:37 p.m. ET, TBS
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Why Michigan will win: The Wolverines, a popular Final Four sleeper pick, know how to play defense. They haven’t shot the ball great in the tournament but held their first two opponents, Montana and Houston, to a combined 34.5% from the field. They also only allow opposing teams to score 63.1 points a game, which makes them the eighth best scoring defense in the country. The hero of the second round, freshman Jordan Poole, averages 6.2 points and 12.8 minutes per game — was Houston merely a breakout game for him? Regardless, Michigan will need Moritz Wagner (14.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg) to play well to advance.
Why Texas A&M will win: They’re huge. Three starters —Tyler Davis, Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg — are taller than 6-9. Davis (6-9, 270 pounds) and Williams (6-10, 241 pounds) in particular take up a lot of space. It’s tough for opposing teams to score just because of A&M’s length. Not to mention five players average double figures, which means they have a balanced attack. The Aggies team everyone was predicting in the preseason to make a deep tourney run seems to have finally showed up; it helps that they’re finally healthy and suspension-free.
Approx. 9:37 p.m. ET, CBS
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Why Kentucky will win: No matter what you think of the Wildcats’ inconsistency or how this roster stacks up to previous teams John Calipari has had, they’re the prohibitive favorite to get out of this region because they have lots of five-star talent who are starting to play their best basketball. Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 23 points and 6.5 assists in the NCAA tournament, lifting a team whose offensive production was in question at various points this season.
Why Kansas State will win: The size, physicality and age of Kansas State’s team could make this a sneaky tough matchup, especially if big man Dean Wade (16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds) is healthy enough to play. He sat out last weekend with a stress fracture in his foot. The Wildcats aren’t pretty on offense, but they were a top-20 defensive team this season and Bruce Weber will have a good scheme to contain penetration and force Kentucky to hit outside shots.
Approx. 10:07 p.m. ET, TBS
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Why Gonzaga will win: The guy who is arguably their best pro prospect, 6-8 sophomore forward Rui Hachimura (11.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), comes off the bench. This team might have lost a lot from the Final Four but they also returned some very good — and improved — players, led by 6-10 sophomore forward Killian Tillie (12.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg). They’re balanced, they know how to score (84.2 ppg, 10th in the country) and won’t be intimidated by the stage. Mobile 6-9 forward/center Johnathan Williams (13.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) provides matchup problems for pretty much everyone.
Why FSU will win: The Seminoles will hardly be intimidated by Gonzaga’s seed; they got to this point in part by going on a 31-14 run against Xavier in the second round to advance to the Sweet 16. They’re balanced, too, with seven players who average at least seven points, led by 6-8 senior forward Phil Cofer (12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg); that means anyone could go off at any time. Against Missouri in the second round, it was 6-9 redshirt freshman Mfiondu Kabengele, who came off the bench to score 14. And while their 9-9 conference record is somewhat underwhelming, they are battle-tested after going through the ACC.
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) — Basketball is undoubtedly a team game, but March Madness always has room for star players who can take over with highlight-reel, buzzer-beating heroics.
Now that we’re down to 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, there will be players who are crucial for their team’s advancement to the Elite Eight — either because of their takeover abilities or game-changing style of play.
Some might be stars, some might be unsung heroes. USA TODAY Sports tracks every Sweet 16 team’s most important player (in no particular order).
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola-Chicago. There’s no star player on the Ramblers’ roster, and that’s what makes them so dangerous. There’s a plethora of weapons at coach Porter Moser’s disposal. But for the hot-shooting guards to be successful on the perimeter, there has to be a little inside-out game. That’s where 6-9 center Krutwig (10.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), a true freshman who plays like a senior, comes in. His passing skills are exceptional for a big man, and his defense against the athletic bigs of Miami and Tennessee paved the way for this Cinderella’s buzzer-beating wins.
Cody Martin, Nevada. Caleb Martin has been the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer and alpha dog all season, but in the team’s stunning 22-point comeback against Cincinnati, it was twin brother Cody Martin (13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.7 apg) who sparked the resurgent Wolf Pack. Martin does a little of everything to help this team win and he’ll likely be the player to step up if his brother and elite scorer Jordan Caroline aren’t on their A-game against Loyola.
SWEET 16: Ranking teams based on title potential
Tyler Davis, Texas A&M. Davis pairs with Robert Williams to make the Aggies’ twin towers presence for this team’s formidable frontcourt. But it was Davis’ offense (18 points, nine rebounds) that fueled a dominant win over North Carolina in the second round. He’ll need another big performance against Michigan.
Mortiz Wagner, Michigan. Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater helped the Wolverines prevail over Houston, but in order for Michigan to get to the Elite Eight it’s going to need better production from the 6-11 big man. Wagner is averaging just 8.5 points in the tournament.
Dean Wade, Kansas State. The Wildcats survived without their leading scorer in wins over Creighton and UMBC to get to the Sweet 16. But Wade, who said he’s “98% sure” he will play against Kentucky after dealing with a foot injury, could give this team enough offensive firepower to pull off a big upset over the heavily-favored Wildcats. He averages 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky. The Wildcats guard came up big with 27 points, six assists and six rebounds in Kentucky’s second-round win over Buffalo. He also was huge in UK’s SEC tournament title game against Tennessee, finishing with 29 points and seven assists. The better Gilgeous-Alexander plays, the better Kentucky plays.
Terance Mann, Florida State. The junior guard wasn’t expected to play against Xavier due to a groin injury. However, he opted to play and came up big for FSU by scoring 10 points, including some crucial baskets to help the Seminoles take down a No. 1 seed.
Zach Norvell Jr., Gonzaga. The freshman guard put the team on his back in a second-round win over Ohio State, finishing with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Norvell is really blossoming as a playmaker in March. He’ll also draw a tough defensive assignment in trying to slow Florida State’s guards in the ‘Zags’ Sweet 16 matchup against the Seminoles.
Gabe DeVoe, Clemson. The 6-3 senior guard helped pilot a 31-point blowout win vs. Auburn in the second round, finishing with 22 points. He and the rest of the Tigers’ backcourt will be tasked with slowing Big 12 player of the year Devonte’ Graham, an elite scorer who usually needs to play well for Kansas to win.
Udoka Azubuike, Kansas. Coach Bill Self put it out bluntly following the Jayhawks’ win over Seton Hall in the second round. “If Udoka wasn’t able to come back from his injury, we don’t win.” The 7-foot big man missed Kansas’ three Big 12 tournament games with a knee injury. His re-emergence was crucial in helping KU get to the Sweet 16. His presence in the paint, for an undersized team, can be a difference-maker against Clemson.
Jevon Carter, West Virginia. The All-American guard is the Mountaineers’ best offensive catalyst, averaging 17.4 points and 6.6 assists. He also is a tenacious ballhawk on the defensive end. To beat Villanova, Carter will have to frustrate national player of the year Jalen Brunson in the same fashion he did Oklahoma’s Trae Young during Big 12 play.
Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova. Brunson and NBA talent Mikal Bridges will dominate most of the attention, but DiVencenzo’s offense and three-point shooting will be key for the Wildcats to escape West Virginia. His ball handling also will be needed for WVU’s press.
Tyus Battle, Syracuse. The Orange only has three capable scorers (and Battle is one of them) and relies heavily on its effective 2-3 zone. So, Battle will have to take on the scoring load and hit clutch shots — as he did against Michigan State in the second round, for this No. 11 seed to keep its unexpected tourney run going.
Trevon Duval, Duke. The Blue Devils’ point guard doesn’t demand the same type of attention as All-Americans Marvin Bagley III or Grayson Allen, but it’s Duval who has the ball in his hands a lot in close-game situations. His playmaking can be a difference-maker by getting into the seams of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. Duval averages 10.2 points and 5.6 assists, and he’s given coach Mike Krzyzewski a true point guard that he was lacking last season when the Blue Devils bowed out in the second round.
Keenan Evans, Texas Tech. The senior guard hasn’t been at 100% while dealing with a turf toe injury, but he’s been a warrior and the spark plug during the Red Raiders’ advancement. In TTU’s close win over Florida, it was Evans who drained a tie-breaking three-pointer with 2½ minutes left and assisted Zhaire Smith for an alley-oop with 30 seconds remaining. If it’s close late in the game, Texas Tech will have the ball in his hands.
Matt Haarms, Purdue. With Isaac Haas sidelined with an elbow injury, backup 7-footer Haarms is the next man up and will have the most important role in Purdue’s Sweet 16 clash against Texas Tech. A 7-3 freshman, Haarms played well through 29 minutes to help the Boilermakers advance past Butler. He’s certainly not as good as Haas, but he probably can do enough to help Purdue advance.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Results from the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday:
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Michigan freshman Jordan Poole drained a long 3-pointer at the buzzer after Houston squandered a chance to lock up a spot in the Sweet 16, giving the third-seeded Wolverines a heart-stopping victory.
Devin Davis had a chance to seal the win, but the Cougars’ gritty forward missed a pair of foul shots with 3.6 seconds left. The Wolverines (30-7) called timeout to set up a final play, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found Poole on the wing, and the shot hit nothing but net.
The officials reviewed it to make sure, but Poole had clearly gotten the shot away.
Michigan advanced to Los Angeles for a West Regional semifinal against North Carolina or Texas A&M next week.
Rob Gray scored 23 points and Davis finished with 17 for the Cougars (27-8), who were trying to reach their first Sweet 16 since the last of the Phi Slama Jama teams went to the Final Four in 1984.
GONZAGA 90, OHIO STATE 84
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Zach Norvell Jr. had 28 points, Rui Hachimura added 25 and Gonzaga reached the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season.
Norvell hit the late tiebreaking 3-pointer against UNC-Greensboro in the opening round to help the Zags (32-4) advance. The confident freshman made 6 of 11 from beyond the arc against Ohio State.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a big early lead, withstood a second-half Ohio State charge and made the big plays down the stretch to earn a spot in the West Region semifinals against the Xavier-Florida State winner in Los Angeles.
The resilient-all-season Buckeyes (25-9) rallied from an abysmal start and an 11-point halftime deficit to take a brief second-half lead before Gonzaga went on an 11-0 run to snatch it back. Keita Bates-Diop had 28 points for Ohio State, and Kam Williams finished with 19.
LOYOLA OF CHICAGO 63, TENNESSEE 62
DALLAS (AP) — Clayton Custer made a go-ahead jumper with 3.6 seconds left, sending 11th-seeded Loyola of Chicago to the Sweet 16.
Custer’s winner, which took a friendly bounce off the rim, came two days after Donte Ingram’s buzzer-beating 3 for Loyola against Miami, surely to the delight of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old nun, team chaplain and primary booster watching from her wheelchair on a platform near the main TV cameras.
The Ramblers (30-5) broke the school record for wins set by the 1963 NCAA championship team. The small Catholic college in the heart of Chicago will play the Cincinnati-Nevada winner in the regional semifinals Thursday in Atlanta.
No. 3 seed Tennessee (26-7) took its only lead of the second half on a three-point play by Grant Williams with 20 seconds remaining.
After Loyola almost lost the ball on an out-of-bounds call confirmed on replay, Custer took the inbounds pass with 10 seconds left, dribbled left and then right, pulled up and let go of the winner.
KENTUCKY 95, BUFFALO 75
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 27 points and Kentucky pulled away for the victory.
Gilgeous-Alexander went 10 for 12 and made both of his 3-point attempts to send fifth-seeded Kentucky (26-10) to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season.
Coming into the day, the basketball world was still reverberating from Maryland-Baltimore County’s 16 vs. 1 stunner over Virginia the night before. Villanova and Duke both rolled early; the evening slate started with Kentucky, and the Wildcats, with their all-freshman starting lineup, trailed only once: 2-0.
It wasn’t a runaway until the last 7 minutes.
Buffalo (27-9), which got here with a 21-point blowout over Arizona, twice trimmed a double-digit lead to five midway through the second half.
Gilgeous-Alexander answered both times — once with a 3-pointer to extend the lead to eight, then again a few minutes later with a three-point play that started a 12-2 run and put the game away.
VILLANOVA 81, ALABAMA 58
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mikal Bridges scored 23 points, helping No. 1 seed Villanova to an impressive victory.
The Wildcats (32-4) are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since they won the 2016 national championship. Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth — and yes, The Big Ragu — look every bit the favorite to make it two in three years.
Villanova plays Friday in Boston against the Marshall-West Virginia winner.
Collin Sexton led Alabama (20-16) with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting. The star guard has to decide if he’ll join the ranks of the one-and-done freshman.
TEXAS TECH 69, FLORIDA 66
DALLAS (AP) — Keenan Evans made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left, sending Texas Tech to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.
Evans finished with 22 points, and Zhaire Smith had 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. The third-seeded Red Raiders (26-9) will face Purdue or Butler next Friday night in Boston.
Jalen Hudson scored 23 points for Florida (21-13). Egor Koulechov had 12 points, and Chris Chiozza finished with 11.
KANSAS 83, SETON HALL 79
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Malik Newman scored 28 points, Udoka Azubuike stood toe-to-toe with Seton Hall’s bruising Angel Delgado, and No. 1 seed Kansas advanced to its third consecutive Sweet 16.
Svi Mykhailiuk added 16 points and Lagerald Vick had 13 for the Jayhawks (29-7), who converted on every crucial play down the stretch to advance to the semifinals of the Midwest Region.
They’ll take on the winner of Sunday’s game between Auburn and Clemson in Omaha, Nebraska.
Delgado finished with 24 points and 23 rebounds in a virtuoso effort for the No. 8 seed Pirates (22-11), who snapped a four-game NCAA Tournament skid in the opening round.
Khadeen Carrington finished with 28 points, many of them on 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and Myles Powell added 14 as the pair of guards tried in vain to keep Seton Hall alive.
DUKE 87, RHODE ISLAND 62
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Marvin Bagley had 22 points and nine rebounds, leading Duke to its 26th trip to the Sweet 16.
It was Mike Krzyzewski’s 1,099th victory, breaking a tie with late Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt for the most wins by a basketball coach in NCAA history.
Duke shot 57 percent (29 of 51) from the floor and finished with 20 assists. The Blue Devils (28-7) will play either Michigan State or Syracuse in the Midwest Region semifinals in Omaha, Nebraska next Friday.
E.C. Matthews led Rhode Island (26-8) with 21 points but the Rams looked confounded at times by Duke’s much improved zone defense. A weakness during a mini-swoon in late January, the Blue Devils are no longer treating defense like a chore they’re forced to complete before getting the ball back in their hands.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) —- Results from the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday:
PURDUE 74, CAL STATE FULLERTON 48
DETROIT (AP) — Purdue center Isaac Haas broke his right elbow during a win over Cal State Fullerton and will miss the rest of the NCAA Tournament.
The 7-foot-2, 290-pound senior went down while taking a hard foul midway through the second half. Haas, who averaged 14.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, had nine points and 10 rebounds in the first-round victory.
The second-seeded Boilermakers (29-6) will play Butler on Sunday.
Kyle Allman scored 21 for the Titans (20-12).
MARSHALL 81, WICHITA STATE 75
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jon Elmore scored 27 points and 13th-seeded Marshall toppled fourth-seeded Wichita State for its first NCAA Tournament victory.
The Thundering Herd (25-10) had been 0-5 in the tourney, with its last appearance in 1987.
Marshall became the second No. 13 seed to win this week. Buffalo did it Thursday night, beating Arizona.
Conner Frankamp scored 27 points for Wichita State (25-8).
WEST VIRGINIA 85, MURRAY STATE 68
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jevon Carter scored 21 points, had eight assists and six steals as No. 5 seed West Virginia overwhelmed 12th-seeded Murray State.
The Mountaineers (25-10) advanced to the round of 32 for the third time in the past four seasons. Next up for West Virginia is a Mountain State showdown with 13th-seeded Marshall far away from home.
Terrell Miller scored 27 points for Murray State (26-6).
BUTLER 79, ARKANSAS 62
DETROIT (AP) — Kelan Martin scored 27 points and Kamar Baldwin added 24 to lift 10th-seeded Butler over seventh-seeded Arkansas.
The Bulldogs (21-13) raced to a 21-2 lead in the opening minutes. Although Arkansas wiped out that entire deficit before halftime, Butler took control again early in the second.
The Bulldogs now play an in-state rival, second-seeded Purdue.
Jaylen Barford scored 15 points for Arkansas (23-12).
UMBC 75, VIRGINIA 54
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It finally happened — a 16 ousting a 1 in March Madness.
Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 74-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.
Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.
But the Cavaliers couldn’t get anything generated on offense and the nation’s top-ranked defense couldn’t contain American East Conference champions.
The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.
Lyles was the catalyst.
He diced up Virginia’s defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.
Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.
The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.
Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.
A Tony Bennett timeout couldn’t stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3’s and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC’s lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.
A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of “UMBC” rang through the arena.
It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.
UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.
Virginia: This isn’t the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.
UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.
CINCINNATI 68, GEORGIA STATE 53
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jarron Cumberland set career highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds as Cincinnati recovered after blowing a 10-point lead in the second half.
The second-seeded Bearcats (31-4) advanced to play seventh-seeded Nevada.
After trailing 42-32 early in the second half, 15th-seeded Georgia State (24-11) rallied to take a pair of one-point leads, its last one coming on a driving bank shot from D’Marcus Simonds with 9:30 left.
NEVADA 87, TEXAS 83, OT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Caleb Martin scored 18 points and made two huge 3-pointers in overtime as seventh-seeded Nevada rallied for its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2007.
Nevada (28-7) erased a 14-point, second-half deficit and tied it at 68 when Jordan Caroline hit one of two free throws with 3.8 seconds left in regulation. The Wolf Pack trailed by four early in an overtime period that featured 34 total points.
Kerwin Roach II had a career-high 26 points for Texas (19-15).
KANSAS STATE 69, CREIGHTON 59
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Barry Brown scored 18 points and ninth-seeded Kansas State never trailed despite playing without top scorer Dean Wade.
Mike McGuirl added 17 points for the Wildcats (23-11). Wade had been expected to play after suffering a stress fracture in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, but never got on the floor.
Marcus Foster, thrown off the Kansas State team after the 2015 season for multiple violations of team rules, finished with five points on 2-of-11 shooting for Creighton (21-12).
CLEMSON 79, NEW MEXICO STATE 68
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Shelton Mitchell scored a season-high 23 points, Gabe DeVoe had 22 and Clemson beat New Mexico State to out a perfect first round for No. 5 seeds.
The 5-12 line is usually one of the top spots for March Madness upsets, but Clemson (24-9) shot 56 percent from the field while advancing out of the first round for the first time since 1997. It was the Tigers’ first win in the NCAA tourney since the First Four in 2011.
Clemson was nearly flawless at the offensive end against the 12th-seeded champions of the WAC. It made 9 of 11 shots during one stretch on its way to a 12-point lead at halftime.
Zach Lofton led New Mexico State (28-6) with 29 points.
SYRACUSE 57, TCU 52
DETROIT (AP) — Marek Dolezaj scored 17 points before fouling out and 11th-seeded Syracuse shut down sixth-seeded TCU.
The Orange (22-13) won for the second time in the tournament, holding off the Horned Frogs with another impressive defensive effort. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field.
TCU (21-12) is still without an NCAA Tournament victory since 1987, when coach Jamie Dixon was a player. This was the school’s first appearance since 1998, and it was short-lived.
There was little doubt who won the much-anticipated matchup between TCU’s excellent offense and Syracuse’s zone defense. The Horned Frogs were held 31 points below their season average.
MICHIGAN STATE 82, BUCKNELL 78
DETROIT (AP) — Miles Bridges outlasted Zach Thomas, scoring 29 points and grabbing nine rebounds to help third-seeded Michigan State beat Bucknell.
Thomas fouled out on a technical with 6:06 left and finished with 27 points. He put on a show in the first half, scoring 20 points and making all three of his shots beyond the 3-point arc.
The Spartans (30-4) made the most of playing about 75 miles from campus.
Leading by 15 points with 2 minutes left, Michigan State won by a slim margin after Bucknell (25-10) made a late flurry of long-range shots.
AUBURN 62, COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON 58
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jared Harper made a clutch 3-pointer with 1:17 to go — his only basket of the game — and Auburn held off No. 13 College of Charleston.
The Tigers (26-7) avoided being the second No. 4 seed to be upset at Viejas Arena. Marshall beat fourth-seeded Wichita State earlier in the day.
Auburn, playing under the cloud of a federal investigation, survived a poor shooting performance to win in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.
Jarrell Brantley scored 24 for the Cougars (26-8), the CAA champs who made their first NCAA Tournament since 1999.
FLORIDA STATE 67, MISSOURI 54
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ninth-seeded Florida State has lots of guys who can score, and the Seminoles used that depth to win their fourth straight NCAA Tournament opener.
Mfiondu Kabengele scored 14 points, and Florida State beat No. 8 seed Missouri.
PJ Savoy had 12 points and Phil Cofer scored 11. A total of 10 Seminoles scored at least two points apiece — by halftime — as they wore out Missouri, which had only eight healthy players available.
This was the first trip to the tournament for every player on the roster for Missouri (20-13). Even with new players and a new coach in Cuonzo Martin, the Tigers head home from their first NCAA trip since 2013 with the program’s fourth straight loss in a first round.
XAVIER 102, TEXAS SOUTHERN 83
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Xavier looked every bit like a No. 1 seed its first time around in the role at an NCAA Tournament.
J.P. Macura scored 18 of his career-high 29 points in the first half, and Xavier routed No. 16 seed Texas Southern in its tournament opener.
Trevon Bluiett added 26 points and Kerem Kanter had 24 for the Musketeers (29-5).
Texas Southern (16-20) came in having won the first NCAA Tournament game in program history, a First Four win over North Carolina Central in Dayton on Wednesday night.
NORTH CAROLINA 84, LIPSCOMB 66
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kenny Williams scored 18 points and defending national champion North Carolina took its time before opening up to beat Lipscomb.
Theo Pinson had 15 points and flirted with a triple-double for the second-seeded Tar Heels (26-10). North Carolina next plays Texas A&M.
Playing for the first time in the NCAA tourney, the 15th-seeded Bisons (23-10) held an early six-point edge. They led 33-31 with under four minutes left in the first half before North Carolina went on a 12-1 run to take control by the break.
TEXAS A&M 73, PROVIDENCE 69
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Admon Gilder scored 18 points to help Texas A&M hold off Providence.
Robert Williams and Tyler Davis both had double-doubles for the seventh-seeded Aggies (21-12). The teams were tied at 50 with about 9 minutes left but Texas A&M responded with a 12-2.
Rodney Bullock scored 22 points for the 10th-seeded Friars (21-14).
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — DAYTON, Ohio – The basketball was still high in the air – flung to start the celebration – when the buzzer sounded and the Bonnies’ long-awaited March celebration commenced. Players chest-bumped on court. Coach Mark Schmidt jumped and waved his arms.
The crowd at the University of Dayton Arena – a place where St. Bonaventure is usually booed – got caught up in the moment, too. And why not? It had been 48 years since anyone saw something like this out of St. Bonaventure.
Courtney Stockard returned from a hamstring injury and scored 26 points, and Jaylen Adams hit a jumper and three free throws in the final minute Tuesday night, rallying the Bonnies to a 65-58 victory over UCLA and their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970.
At long last, it was time to party in March .
“It can’t get better,” Schmidt said.
They’ll have more chances. The 11th-seeded Bonnies (26-7) will play sixth-seeded Florida (20-12) in Dallas on Thursday night in the East region. They did interviews, showered and headed for a flight to their next destination.
“Florida’s got four or five days on us, so we’ll be watching tape on the plane,” Schmidt said. “We’ve got a 2 a.m. flight, but it couldn’t be a better flight. Ever.”
St. Bonaventure set a school record with its 26th win. Stockard got the Bonnies in position for the drought-busting tournament victory by leading a late 12-0 run. Adams – who missed 14 of his first 15 shots – closed it out in the final 49 seconds.
“I’m still not 100 percent,” Stockard said, “but I’m feeling way better than when I did when I left the Richmond game. So I can’t really let an opportunity like this pass.”
UCLA (21-12) was surprised that it got relegated to the First Four for the first time in its history – the Bruins have been to 18 Final Fours. They had trouble making shots against the Bonnies’ zone defense and matched their season high with 20 turnovers, a disappointing ending to a season that started with an international incident .
Freshmen Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and LiAngelo Ball were accused of shoplifting during a trip to China in November. All three were suspended for the season, and Ball left the school.
UCLA’s Aaron Holiday led the Pac-12 in scoring but couldn’t put his touch on the First Four game. He scored 20 points but had 10 turnovers, including three in the final 29 seconds as the game slipped away.
“I felt like we matched them pretty well,” Holiday said. “We just turned the ball over too much.”
Adams is the Bonnies’ all-time leading scorer as a guard but had a rough time as well until the final minute. He finished with eight points on 2-of-16 shooting.
RADFORD 71, LIU-BROOKLYN 61
DAYTON, Ohio – Carlik Jones had a substantial and loud cheering section at University of Dayton Arena, a lot of folks traveling about an hour up Interstate 75 from his Cincinnati hometown to see him play for Radford in a First Four game.
Jones didn’t disappoint them. The redshirt freshman guard was the engine that drove the Highlanders, scoring 12 points to go with career highs in rebounds with 11 and assists with seven as Radford beat LIU Brooklyn 71-61 on Tuesday night to get its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.
“It’s just big to be able to come back home and perform in front of my family and friends that haven’t been able to see me play,” Jones said. “And it’s just been a good feeling.”
Radford didn’t play its prettiest game, but the team from rural southwest Virginia will celebrate briefly before heading to Pittsburgh to play No. 1 seed Villanova on Thursday. The Big South champion Highlanders are making their third tournament appearance and first since 2009.
Ed Polite Jr. had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Travis Fields Jr. also scored 13 for Radford.
Despite hitting just 7 of 23 shots from the floor in the second half, LIU Brooklyn managed to stay within striking distance, even taking the lead briefly early in the second half. The Northeast Conference champion Blackbirds got to within a point with five minutes left, but a 9-1 surge by the Highlanders opened up the lead.
“We remained calm,” Polite said. “Basketball is about a game of runs. So we knew they’re a good team, so they’re going to make shots. So we just had to remain focused and go with the game plan. And that’s to pressure them even though they’re a fast-paced team and don’t give them any easy baskets.”
The Blackbirds went without a field goal in the last seven minutes of the game and shot 30.4 percent in the second half. Each team committed 15 turnovers.
“I thought (Radford) did a nice job grinding it out on the offensive end of the floor and taking time off the clock to where we couldn’t get moving.” LIU Brooklyn coach Derek Kellogg said.
Jashaun Agosto scored 16 points and Raiquan Clark added 14 for LIU Brooklyn, which is winless in seven trips to the tournament.
Radford led 30-28 at the end of a sloppy first half after leading by as many as nine. The Blackbirds scored 11 of their points on nine turnovers by Radford but were just 3 for 13 from beyond the 3-point line in the half.
(PhatzRadio Sports / AP / USA Today Sports) — From the top seed in the NCAA Tournament – Virginia – to those that barely made it into the bracket – Arizona State and Syracuse – it feels as though everyone involved in March Madness is on the bubble this year.
College basketball is in trouble.
The brackets came out Sunday, replete with the usual fanfare that accompanies America’s biggest office pool. Villanova, Kansas and Xavier joined Virginia as No. 1 seeds, but they, along with the other 64 contenders, will play against the backdrop of an investigation-riddled season in which bribes and payoffs made bigger headlines than 3s and layups.
The tournament begins Tuesday with opening-round games featuring a matchup of bubble teams UCLA and St. Bonaventure, then kicks into full swing Thursday and Friday at eight sites around the country.
The Final Four is March 31 and April 2 in San Antonio. Shortly after that, a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to deliver recommendations from an investigation triggered by an FBI probe that led to charges last fall against assistant coaches, agents, employees of apparel companies and others.
No fewer than a dozen teams in the tournament have been named either in the FBI investigation or in media reports that allege coaches and others have directed payments and improper benefits to recruits and players – thus, breaking rules that go to the core of the amateur-sports code that defines both the NCAA and the “student-athletes” who make this billion-dollar business run.
They range from teams that made it into the tournament off the so-called bubble – Alabama – to one of the best teams in the country. Arizona, a No. 4 seed in the South, has been roiled by a report that wiretaps caught coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to freshman Deandre Ayton. Miller has strongly denied the accusation, though the story line figures to follow the Wildcats through what could be a long run in the tournament.
The chairman of the NCAA selection committee, Bruce Rasmussen, has said the investigations played no part of the bracket-filling process.
And yet, it’s hard to imagine there weren’t some sighs of relief in the NCAA offices when some bubble teams’ names were left out of the field. For instance, Louisville has lost its coach (Rick Pitino), athletic director (Tom Jurich) and latest national title (2013) in the culmination of scandals that have slammed that program for the better part of this decade.
Given the widespread nature of this corruption, there’s at least a chance that whoever cuts down the nets in San Antonio could eventually suffer the same fate as the Cardinals.
More certain is that once this party is over, change of some sort will be coming.
“I don’t think it’s just going to be a little blip on the radar,” said John Tauer, the championship-winning coach at Division III St. Thomas in Minnesota, who doubles as a social psychology professor. “I think this runs deep enough and involves enough people in programs that something’s got to change.”
For now, though, hoops – and there was plenty to discuss after the Big Reveal:
Middle Tennessee coach Kermit Davis thinks this year’s team is better than last year’s team that knocked off Minnesota in the first round of the NCAAs and 2016’s team that pulled off perhaps the greatest bracket-buster of all-time in an upset of Michigan State as a No. 15 seed.
“I think we have a Sweet 16 team,” Davis told USA TODAY Sports by phone. “That’s the frustrating part, you know you have a team that’s built for the second-weekend, but you’ve got to get that opportunity.”
BRACKET ANALYSIS: Selection committee valued early wins, not late failures
The Blue Raiders, sadly, won’t get the opportunity to play Cinderella again this year, and were one of the first teams left out of the field of 68 as a notable snub on Selection Sunday. MTSU (24-7) lacked marquee wins, but had the most true road wins of any team in the country (12), presented a top-10 non-conference strength of schedule and held a 33 RPI.
“We did exactly what the selection committee wanted us to do,” Davis said. “We did everything we possibly could. Of course, we’d like to have more wins (the Blue Raiders lost one-possession games to Auburn, USC and Miami). At our level, it’s trying to be literally perfect. …It is a tough world we live in (as a mid-major conference member). It’s a grind for us because you cannot slip up one bit. You lose just one game to a C-USA team and then all the pundits put us out.”
It was likely the Blue Raiders’ early Conference USA tourney exit to Southern Mississippi, a gigantic résumé stain, that knocked them out of the NCAA field. Two losses to eventual tourney champ Marshall, a team that went down-to-the-wire against Xavier, didn’t help MTSU’s cause but were way less costly. Middle Tennessee had won 11 games in a row and was playing some of its best basketball before losing to Marshall in the regular-season finale on March 3 and Southern Miss. this past week.
“We just had a six-day period where we weren’t playing our best basketball offensively,” Davis said. “It just happened at the wrong time. You hope you can be judged based on an entire season instead of a six-day period by the committee, but unfortunately those two losses (were costly).”
Davis had his team practice on Friday, with the idea that the Blue Raiders would be playing Tuesday regardless — in the NCAAs for a play-in game in Dayton or the NIT as a No. 1 seed for a home game. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the latter.
Here’s a look at six other teams that got snubbed the selection committee this March.
The biggest head-scratcher of Selection Sunday — outside of Syracuse making the field — is how the Trojans (23-11, 12-6) got snubbed, especially after reaching the Pac-12 tournament final before falling to Arizona. UCLA, which beat the Trojans twice, got in. USC had a 34 RPI. this pick is a testament to the committee paying no attention to conference standings, where USC finished second behind only Arizona and proved to be the second-best team in the league in the tournament in Vegas. The committee instead honored a team that struggled in the Pac 12, Arizona State, based on a pretty non-conference portfolio.
Coach Randy Bennett’s team has been here before. And once again, a weak schedule is the culprit to a snub. Of the Gaels’ 28 wins, 24 of them came against teams outside the top 100. Just breathe that in. Saint Mary’s (28-5, 16-2) beat Gonzaga but its RPI in the 40s and strength of schedule in the 160s weren’t enough to make up for the lack of marquee victories on this deceiving profile.
Notre Dame was the team knocked out by Davidson’s last-second win against Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 final, according to the committee chair Bruce Rasmussen — surely a hard pill for this group to swallow. The Fighting Irish (20-14, 8-10) might have needed one more marquee win to punch their ticket and came up short against Duke in the ACC tourney quarterfinals. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after that game, “I hope they can get in because I think they can beat anybody.” Notre Dame was a completely different team since Bonzie Colson, a preseason All-American, came back from injury. But as lenient as the committee can be to injuries (ND lost seven in a row with Colson out), it still wasn’t enough, as it was hard to rationalize Notre Dame’s résumé (RPI in the 60s, non-conference strength of schedule of 170, just two Q1 wins) over some of the at-large candidates that snuck in.
The Golden Eagles (19-13, 9-9 Big East) have an RPI in the 50s and non-conference strength of schedule of 137, but the Big East Conference figured to be a saving grace, as it made their overall SoS top-25. There’s no good eye candy on the résumé as far as marquee victories go, but Marquette did have two victories over fellow bubble team Creighton, which squeaked into the field of 68. Did the wrong Big East team get in?
The Cardinals (20-13, 9-9 ACC) likely had their season dashed on a buzzer-beating loss to Virginia on March 1. They managed to beat Florida State in the ACC tourney but there’s still not enough meat on this profile (just three top-50 wins). There are no bad losses and an RPI in the 30s to make a serious case, but Louisville just didn’t capitalize on the many Quadrant 1 opportunities it had in the ACC, and that’s something the committee will harp on.
The Cowboys (19-14, 8-10) swept Kansas in the regular season — a feat that looks all the more better following the Jayhawks’ impressive Big 12 tournament title and No. 1 NCAA seed status. OSU also has wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech. Ah, the luxuries of playing in the Big 12. But that served as a doubled edged sword that came in the form of a stretch that saw OSU lose seven of 10. That and the rest of the Cowboys’ portfolio is relatively bare. There are no bad losses on this résumé, but no other bubble team had an RPI in the 80s (flirting with the 90s) and a staggeringly ugly non-conference strength of schedule of 295. Baylor also didn’t make it from the Big 12, but the Cowboys were ahead of the Bears on USA TODAY Sports’ final bracketology.
NCAA tourney language explainer
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CINCINNATI – Trevon Bluiett scored 23 points in his final game at the Cintas Center, and No. 3 Xavier never trailed while beating Providence 84-74 on Wednesday night, clinching at least a share of its first Big East championship.
The Musketeers (26-4, 14-3) can win it outright by beating DePaul on Saturday and end Villanova’s run of four straight regular season titles.
Bluiett will leave Xavier as its second all-time scorer. He made the game’s first basket on a driving layup, and finished off the Friars with a dunk and a pair of free throws in the final minute. Quentin Goodin added 18 points, one shy of his career high.
Providence (18-12, 9-8) waqs led by Maliek White with 15 points.
NEWARK, N.J. – Mikal Bridges scored 23 points, Jalen Brunson made big plays down the stretch and No. 4 Villanova avoided consecutive losses for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
Brunson, who was 1 of 8 from the field midway through the second half, finished with 14 points, including two free throws in the waning seconds of overtime to give Villanova (26-4, 13-4 Big East) a 69-66 lead.
Khadeen Carrington closed out the scoring with two free throws with a second to play to finish off a 23-point night for Seton Hall (20-10, 9-8), However, he also missed a free throw with 11.6 seconds left in regulation that could have given the Pirates a late one-point lead.
CLEMSON, S.C. – Marcquise Reed scored 22 points and Clemson won a program-record 11th Atlantic Coast Conference game.
The Tigers (22-7, 11-6) had won 10 league games six times in 64 years as ACC members, but have never before won this many conference games in a regular season.
Florida State (19-10, 8-9) closed to 64-61 on Phil Cofer’s 3-pointer with 2:58 remaining, but got no closer.
Gabe DeVoe had 13 points while Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas had 11 points each for the Tigers.
Cofer led the Seminoles with 21 points.
LAS VEGAS – Cody Martin scored 26 and Jordan Caroline added 22 to lead Nevada to an easy victory over UNLV.
Martin, who was 10 of 18 from the field, also had nine rebounds, seven assists, and three steals as the rivals split their regular season meetings.
Caleb Martin added 19 points for the Wolf Pack, who converted nine of their first 13 three-point attempts to pull away early on the Rebels’ Senior Night.
Nevada (26-5, 15-2 Mountain West Conference) had clinched the conference regular season title outright on Tuesday when second-place Boise State lost at San Diego State.
Kendall Stephens had 14 points and Josh Hall had 10 points for the winners, who have won the conference for the second straight year.
Brandon McCoy led UNLV (19-11, 8-9) with 19 points and 17 rebounds, while Shakur Juiston added 14 points and 14 rebounds.
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kevin Knox had 22 points and Quade Green added 18, including eight during a 15-5 second-half run that helped Kentucky pull away.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 17 points, Wenyen Gabriel 15 and PJ Washington 10 as the Wildcats (21-9, 10-7 Southeastern Conference) won their fourth consecutive game and home finale, the first without departing seniors under coach John Calipari. Green had two 3-pointers and a layup during the run that provided an 82-69 lead with 6:40 remaining.
Terence Davis had 26 points for the Rebels (12-18, 5-12), who lost for the ninth time in 11 games.
DALLAS – Rob Gray had 19 points and nine assists and Corey Davis Jr. added 17 points to lead Houston.
The Cougars (23-6, 13-4 American) have won seven of eight games and are a half-game behind second-place Wichita State.
SMU (16-14, 6-11) has lost seven of eight games since leading scorer Shake Milton was sidelined with a hand injury.
Jahmal McMurray scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half to lead the Mustangs.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Alex Sharp scored 19 points and Wake Forest set a record for defense in an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game on Wednesday night with a 72-38 first-round win over Pittsburgh.
Pitt’s 38 points are the fewest in an ACC Tournament game. The previous record was 39 by Duke in 1978 and Virginia Tech in 2013.
The 11th-seeded Demon Deacons (14-16), who set a program record for largest tourney win, take on sixth-seeded Miami on Thursday night.
Amber Campbell and Elisa Penna added 14 points each for Wake Forest, which led 32-22 at the half and then shot 54 percent in the second half. Tyra Whitehead had 10.
Any hope the Panthers had of coming back were dashed in the third quarter when they were outscored 25-5. Wake Forest was 8 of 13 from the field while Pitt was 2 of 10 with eight turnovers.
Pittsburgh (10-20), which ended the season with a seven-game losing streak, got 18 points from Yachine Diop and Alayna Gribble had 11. The Panthers shot 28 percent, had 17 turnovers and was pounded 40-6 on points in the paint.
PENN ST. 83, ILLINOIS 57
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Teniya Page set a Penn State Big Ten Tournament record with a career-high 38 points and the Nittany Lions cruised to an 83-57 win over Illinois in a first-round game on Wednesday.
Page, who scored 35 points in the tournament last year to tie the record, was 14 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range, and 6 of 9 from the foul line. She also had four rebounds, four assists and two steals. The 38 points is second in tournament history behind the 43 Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell had against Rutgers two years ago.
The 11th-seeded Nittany Lions (16-14) advanced to face No. 6 seed Michigan on Thursday night.
Page scored 13 straight points in a 15-0 run and 18 points overall in the second quarter when the Nittany Lions erased a seven-point deficit to take a 33-27 halftime lead. She also had 15 points in the third quarter as Penn State got the lead into double figures for good.
Alex Wittinger and Brandi Beasley had 21 points apiece for the Illini (9-22), who have lost 18 straight. Wittinger, who had the first triple-double by a Penn State opponent in the regular-season meeting, also had 10 rebounds.
GEORGIA TECH 61, CLEMSON 52
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Francesca Pan scored 18 points to help Georgia Tech beat Clemson 61-52 in Wednesday’s first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Kierra Fletcher added 12 points for the 10th-seeded Yellow Jackets (18-12), who shot 46 percent and led by as many as 16. They also finished with 15 points off turnovers.
Georgia Tech advanced to Thursday’s second round to face Virginia, the tournament’s No. 7 seed.
Kobi Thornton had 13 points and 13 rebounds for 15th-seeded Clemson (11-19), which lost its 11th straight game. The Tigers shot just 29 percent and made 4 of 18 3-pointers.
Clemson got as close as four points midway through the fourth quarter but couldn’t complete a comeback.
OLE MISS 48, FLORIDA 43
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Madinah Muhammad scored 14 points Wednesday as 14th-seeded Mississippi snapped a 13-game losing streak by defeating 11th-seeded Florida 48-43 in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Ole Miss (12-18) hadn’t won since a 78-75 double-overtime triumph over Florida on Jan. 7. The Rebels next play Thursday against No. 14 Missouri, this tournament’s sixth seed.
The Rebels trailed 16-11 early in the second quarter before pulling ahead for good with a 21-3 spurt that lasted into the second half. Florida (11-19) had no baskets and just three points for a stretch of 8 minutes, 24 seconds.
Ole Miss won despite shooting just 27.8 percent (15 of 54). Florida had 20 turnovers and shot 28 percent (14 of 50).
Haley Lorenzen scored 14 points for Florida. Paulina Hersler had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Funda Nakkasoglu also had 11 points.
Ole Miss’ Shelby Gibson had 10 points in just 16 minutes before fouling out.
No. 22 BELMONT 88, MURRARY STATE 64
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Kylee Smith and Sally McCabe had double-doubles, Darby Maggard hit five 3-pointers and No. 22 Belmont, the top seed, opened the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on Wednesday with an 88-64 win over eighth-seeded Murray State.
The Bears (29-3), who have 20 consecutive victories and 44 straight over OVC foes, play in the semifinals on Friday against the winner of Thursday’s first-round matchup between fourth-seeded Jacksonville State and No. 5 Morehead State.
Smith had 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and McCabe had 19 points and 13 rebounds. Maggard had 15 points and Maura Muensterman 12, also on all 3-pointers, and Jenny Roy had 10 rebounds and eight points. Belmont led 32-25 at the half and shot 62 percent in the second half, making 10 of 18 from distance.
Maggard had three 3’s in the last three minutes of the third quarter, the first coming when the Racers (11-19) had closed within one and the third making it 58-48 at the end of the period. She also opened the fourth with a shot from distance as Belmont won going away.
Brian Bethea had 21 points for the Racers with Ke’Shunan James adding 17 with 11 rebounds.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Ja’Quan Newton hit a running 30-footer at the horn to help Miami upset No. 9 North Carolina 91-88 in a wild finish Tuesday night.
Newton’s heave off his left foot came immediately after UNC’s Joel Berry II hit a tough 3 of his own to tie the game with 4.1 seconds left. Miami pushed the ball upcourt for Newton’s shot over Berry, then the Hurricanes immediately mobbed Newton near midcourt.
The shot capped a game that saw Miami (21-8, 10-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) squander a 16-point second-half lead.
Chris Lykes scored 18 points to lead Miami, which shot 55 percent.
Berry matched his career high with 31 points for the Tar Heels (22-8, 11-6), who lost their final home game to snap a six-game winning streak.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Daniel Gafford had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Arkansas to its sixth win in seven games.
Gafford was 10 of 15 from the field, including seven dunks, and matched his career high with seven blocks for the Razorbacks (21-9, 10-7 Southeastern Conference), who won for the fourth time at home over a ranked team this season.
Mustapha Heron scored 28 points and Jared Harper had 20 to lead the Tigers (24-6, 12-5), who could have clinched at least a share of the regular season SEC title with a win.
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Admiral Schofield had 24 points and Lamonte Turner added 12 for the Volunteers, who pulled away in the second half.
Schofield also had seven rebounds and shot 9 of 18 from the field for the Volunteers (22-7, 12-5 SEC), who made 13 of their final 15 field goal attempts.
Quinndary Weatherspoon led Mississippi State (21-9, 9-8) with 17 points. Nick Weatherspoon had 11 points and Aric Holman finished with 10 for the Bulldogs.
KINGSTON, R.I. – James Demery scored 21 points and Taylor Funk had 17 for Saint Joseph’s.
Shavar Newkirk added 14 points for the Hawks (14-15, 9-8 A 10), who posted their first true road victory over a ranked team since beating No. 15 Georgetown on Jan. 2, 1979.
Jared Terrell scored 19 points with seven rebounds and E.C. Matthews had 13 points for Rhode Island (23-5, 15-2). It was the Rams’ second loss in four games after a school record 16-game winning streak.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Before Texas’ senior night game, Brooke McCarty’s grandmother, Cindy Deville, performed a stirring version of the National Anthem.
McCarty dabbed tears from her eyes.
“But not during the game,” McCarty later said. “There was just happiness.”
Indeed, McCarty and fellow senior Ariel Atkins were too busy repeating something they have done so many other times during their four seasons at Texas: lead the Longhorns to victory.
McCarty scored 17 points, Atkins added 15, helping No. 7 Texas beat Oklahoma 79-66 on Tuesday night in the final regular season game for both teams.
The two guards contributed in other areas well. Atkins produced seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. McCarty had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
McCarty, who converted 3 of 6 3-pointers, has hit 16 of 25 in her last four games after a snapping a long slump.
Junior Lashann Higgs pitched in 16 points.
Texas (24-5, 15-3 Big 12) is 104-30 since Atkins and McCarty joined the program.
Coach Karen Aston doesn’t even want to consider life without those two.
“It will be weird,” Aston said. “These guys were impact from players from the second they arrived.”
Vionise Pierre-Louis led Oklahoma (16-13, 11-7) with 19 points. Shaina Pellington and Ana llanusa, both candidates for Big 12 freshman of the year, scored 15 and 14 points for the Sooners.
Atkins tweaked her ankle while landing after making a jump shot with 6:35 left in the third quarter. She went straight to the bench but returned less than two minute later and made a 3-point basket and an assist before the period ended.
Texas made an 8-0 push during the final 1:42 of the first half to take a 40-32 lead. Atkins led the surge with two baskets, an assist and a steal that led to a fast-break layup by Higgs for the final points of the half.
“Ariel Atkins, I told her, ‘I toyed with sending you flowers today, because your career is almost over,'” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. “I just think she’s phenomenal. She’s a competitor, she’s skilled and athletic. When her team needs something, she rises up.”
There’s a different look to the Atlantic Coast Conference women’s tournament this year.
The tournament begins Wednesday with three first-round games, and for the first time since the league’s expansion to 15 schools, the top seed doesn’t belong to Notre Dame. Instead, that honor goes to fourth-ranked Louisville.
Meanwhile the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish hold the second seed and will have to advance through the other half of the bracket.
The Cardinals (29-2) and the Irish (27-2) were clearly the league’s top two teams this season. While they shared the regular-season championship , Louisville earned the top seed because it won the only head-to-head matchup 100-67 on Jan. 11. The only thing that kept the Cardinals from the outright league title was a one-point loss to Florida State 10 days later.
“Going into the ACC Tournament, we’re going to see the same teams again,” Louisville senior Myisha Hines-Allen said. “So we just want that same celebration, so we have to keep playing hard.”
Notre Dame has won all four of the ACC Tournaments in which it has appeared, and has yet to lose a league tournament game in its new conference. The Irish, who have won 12 straight games, have earned at least a share of its seventh straight conference title — five in the ACC, two in the Big East — despite a roster ravaged by injuries.
“They handled the adversity and that’s the kind of thing that we want to teach them,” coach Muffet McGraw said. “I couldn’t be prouder of any team. This is definitely the most rewarding championship I think we’ve had.”
Some other things to watch this week at the ACC women’s tournament:
IN THE POLLS: Notre Dame and Louisville are the only top-10 teams in the field, the third time in five years that just two teams were in the top 10 during the tournament. Third-seeded Florida State (24-5) checks in at No. 11 in the latest poll, fourth-seeded Duke (22-7) is 18th and fifth-seeded North Carolina State (22-7) is at No. 23.
LONGSHOT: Looking for an off-the-radar pick to bust the bracket? Maybe eighth-seeded Syracuse could pull an upset or two. The Orange (22-7) enter on a five-game winning streak and their high-pressure style could be tough to handle with only one day to prepare. They’re in Louisville’s half of the bracket and were competitive against the Cardinals in the regular season, losing 84-77 on Feb. 4.
NO BUBBLE TROUBLE: The NCAA Tournament picture seems pretty clear for the ACC, which looks like it will place eight teams in the 64-team bracket. And three of them — Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida State — seem like locks for top-four seeds, meaning they would host four-team NCAA subregionals . So the big question is whether another ACC team — either Duke or N.C. State — will make it four NCAA hosts from the conference.
BACK HOME: The tournament has returned to Greensboro after it was held in Conway, South Carolina, last year amid the conference’s public stance against the since-partially repealed “bathroom bill” in North Carolina.
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Chris Clarke tipped in a missed shot with 4 seconds remaining Monday night, and Virginia Tech stunned No. 5 Duke 64-63.
The Hokies (21-9, 10-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) had trailed almost the entire game before Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s jumper sailed over the rim and Clarke grabbed it and laid it in.
Alexander-Walker led the Hokies with 17 points, Justin Bibbs had 14 on his Senior Night and Kerry Blackshear Jr. added 13.
Grayson Allen led Duke (24-6, 12-5) with 22 points, but his 3-point try before the buzzer missed. Wendell Carter Jr. grabbed the rebound, but the clock ran out before his layup went through.
The victory boosts the Hokies’ NCAA Tournament prospects. They also have a road victory at No. 1 Virginia and a home victory against No. 18 Clemson.
NO. 6 KANSAS 80, TEXAS 70
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Svi Mykhailiuk had 17 points, Devonte Graham added 10 and 11 assists and Kansas beat Texas.
The Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4 Big 12) used a strong night from seniors Mykhailiuk and Graham in what was the pair and walk-on Clay Young’s senior night and final game in Allen Fieldhouse. Their powerful start helped them control the game early, forcing the Longhorns (17-13, 7-10 Big 12) to burn four timeouts in the first half.
Kerwin Roach II led the way for Texas, scoring 18 points and dishing out eight assists just days after hitting the game-winner against Oklahoma State. Jacob Young posted 14 points and five rebounds.
The Longhorns were without star freshman Mo Bamba, who missed the game with a toe injury.
NO. 20 WEST VIRGINIA 84, NO. 12 TEXAS TECH 74
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Jevon Carter scored 21 points and Daxter Miles Jr. added 18 in their final home game, and West Virginia rode a hot start to beat Texas Tech.
West Virginia (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) broke a second-place tie with the Red Raiders (22-8, 10-7) and moved closer to earning the No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament with one game left.
Sagaba Konate added 16 points, Esa Ahmad had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and James “Beetle” Bolden scored 10 for the Mountaineers, who have won three straight.
Freshman guard Jarrett Culver scored 26 points, Niem Stevenson added 24 and Zhaire Smith scored 12 for Texas Tech, which lost its fourth straight. The Red Raiders were without injured starters Justin Gray, Keenan Evans and Zach Smith.
1. There wasn’t much slippage last week from the team’s occupying the Top 10 after that cluster went just 10-9 in Week 16. They combined to go 15-3 and eight of the 10 skated through the week without a loss. That trend held true for the remaining teams as well. Nos. 11-25 went 23-4 and the pecking order largely went unchanged – which probably means another week of chaos is in store.
2. Just when we thought the Virginia D couldn’t do anything else to wow us, the Cavaliers nearly double up Pitt in a game in which they scored only 66 points. In the 66-37 win for top-ranked UVA, the Panthers were held to 11-of-46 shooting – or 23 percent – and the starters combined to make only two field goals. Virginia conceded just 91 points to Pitt and Georgia Tech and gave itself even more breathing room at the top of the poll.
3. For a seven-game stretch, Texas Tech looked like the top contender out of the tough Big 12 Conference, but the Red Raiders hit two more speed bumps last week, bringing their losing streak to three games (four after a loss to West Vriginia on Monday night). TT has time to recover and the fact that those first three losses came by a combined 12 points should be encouraging for the fans in Lubbock. The Red Raiders can still grab a high NCAA Tournament seed and challenge Kansas in the Big 12 tourney.
4. Michigan State won a Big Ten regular season championship on Sunday, but the best news out of East Lansing over the weekend was not the Spartans’ 68-63 win over Wisconsin. Star forward Miles Bridges was cleared by the NCAA after he was named in a Phatzradio! Sports report that alleged his family accepted $400 from an agent. But Sunday’s win over the Badgers showed what the Spartans can be without their preseason All-American: they won despite Bridges shooting 3-of-15 from the field and 0-of-7 from the three-point line.
5. Loyola of Chicago isn’t necessarily a hot Top 25 pick – just six voters have the Ramblers ranked, up four from last week – but the regular-season Missouri Valley Conference champions own one of the nation’s top defensive ratings (7th in total defense at 63.4 ppg) and picked up a quality win over Florida earlier in the year. Joe Lunardi currently has Loyola as a No. 12 seed in his latest bracketology and the Ramblers seem more than capable of pulling a 12 over 5, or 13 over 6 upset in March.
Arizona – Well, how far can Deandre Ayton carry these Wildcats? If the freshman sensation can stay eligible through the end of the season – and mind you, that is a big “if” – Arizona, even without a head coach (Sean Miller) and All-American guard (Allonzo Trier), will have a chance to win just about every game it plays in simply because the Wildcats will have the best player on the floor. That’s not a great formula for success, but it’s the best-case scenario for a program currently shoulder-deep in turmoil.
Gonzaga’s resume doesn’t do the Bulldogs any favors this time of year and it’s safe to assume that’s how a 27-win team drops one place in the poll after picking up two quality WCC wins on the road. The Zags won’t care too much about that, though, and should be healthy and rested when they return to the court Saturday for the quarterfinal round of the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
Michigan State (17)
(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — Cassius Winston scored 20 points and went 6 for 6 from the 3-point line, and No. 2 Michigan State held off Wisconsin 68-63 on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin, to earn the outright regular-season Big Ten title.
(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — Winston hit two 3s during an 11-2 run in the second half – the second with a defender in his face from well beyond the arc – to lead the Spartans (28-3, 16-2).
Brad Davison finished with 30 points for Wisconsin (14-17, 7-11), including a 3 with 4.7 seconds left that had hometown fans holding out hope for an upset.
Miles Bridges wrapped up the Spartans’ 12th straight win with two foul shots. The star forward had 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting in his first game since getting cleared by the NCAA following a Phatzradio! Sports article on Friday that identified him as one of many players who may have received improper benefits.
(9) Purdue 84, Minnesota 60: Dakota Mathias matched his career high with 25 points and left to a standing ovation in his final home game as Purdue blew out Minnesota in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Carsen Edwards had 18 points for the Boilermakers (26-5, 15-3 Big Ten), who won their third straight after a three-game skid.
Minnesota (15-16, 4-14) was led by Nate Mason with 18 points and Jordan Murphy who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Golden Gophers have lost 10 of their last 11.
For Mathias and his teammates, it was almost a perfect ending to one of the best seasons in school history. The one glaring omission: a championship celebration. Their slim hopes slipped away when No. 2 Michigan State beat Wisconsin earlier in the day.
(11) Cincinnati 82, Tulsa 74: Gary Clark led a 24-4 run that put Cincinnati ahead to stay early in the second half, and the Bearcats held on to beat Tulsa in Highland Heights, Kentucky, and preserve their one-game lead in the American Athletic Conference heading into the final week.
Cincinnati (25-4, 14-2) stayed ahead of No. 13 Wichita State (23-5, 13-3) in the race for the regular-season title. The Shockers won on Cincinnati’s home court 76-72 a week ago.
Wichita State plays at UCF on Thursday and hosts Cincinnati next Sunday in a potential showdown game. The Bearcats play at Tulane on Thursday before heading to Wichita State.
Tulsa (17-11, 10-7) led by eight points early in the second before Clark scored during the decisive run. Junior Etou scored 21 for Tulsa, which had its six-game winning streak snapped.
(20) Nevada 92, Colorado State 83: Caleb Martin scored 25 points, Jordan Caroline had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Nevada beat Colorado State in Reno, Nevada, to earn the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament.
Cody Martin, Caleb’s twin brother, had 17 points and 10 assists for the Wolf Pack (25-5, 14-2 Mountain West), who clinched at least a share of the regular-season championship for the second consecutive year. Nevada has road games against UNLV and San Diego State remaining, but has a two-game lead over second-place Boise State and holds the tiebreaker over the Broncos.
Prentiss Nixon had 27 points and 10 rebounds for Colorado State (11-19, 4-13). Anthony Bonner added 19 points and Nico Carvarcho had 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Rams, who kept the game tight until the waning moments.
(23) Houston 109, East Carolina 58: Rob Gray had 19 points and 11 assists, and host Houston used a huge first half to rout East Carolina.
Armoni Brooks added 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from 3-point range for the Cougars (22-6, 12-4 American), who shot 67 percent from the field. Corey Davis Jr. chipped in with 16 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
Houston had runs of 22-0 and 11-0, then closed the half on a 14-1 run to build a 62-13 lead.
East Carolina (10-17, 4-12), which has lost three straight, shot 22 percent and committed 10 turnovers in the first half. B.J. Tyson finished with 24 points to lead the Pirates.
North Carolina State 92, (25) Florida State 72: Allerik Freeman scored 25 points to help North Carolina State beat Florida State in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Torin Dorn added 19 points and Sam Hunt had 14 for the Wolfpack (20-9, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who opened the game with a 9-2 spurt and never trailed.
N.C. State won its fourth consecutive ACC regular-season game in the same season for the first time since 2006.
Omer Yurtseven scored 13 points and Markell Johnson had 12 for the Wolfpack, who led by as many as 28 points in the second half.
Trent Forrest led Florida State (19-9, 8-8) with 16 points.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — OMAHA, Neb. – Marcus Foster scored 28 points, Davion Mintz gave Creighton the lead for good early in overtime, and the Bluejays defeated the highest-ranked opponent in program history with an 89-83 upset of No. 3 Villanova on Saturday.
Creighton (20-9, 9-7 Big East), playing without injured starting forward Ronnie Harrell Jr., ended a three-game conference losing streak and won for the first time in nine games against Villanova since 2014. The Bluejays also avenged a 20-point road loss to Villanova on Feb. 1.
Villanova (25-4, 12-4) squandered an eight-point lead with 4 1/2 minutes left and missed seven of its last nine shots before a meaningless layup at the end of overtime.
Creighton’s Khyri Thomas made five straight 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes to set a career high and finished with 24 points. Ballock added 13 and Epperson had all 12 of his points after halftime.
Jalen Brunson led the Wildcats with 22 points, Mikal Bridges had 18 and Omari Spellman added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
PITTSBURGH – Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half against Pittsburgh and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright.
Freshman guard De’Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn’t take big offensive efforts from Virginia’s regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.
The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn’t make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
DURHAM, N.C. – Marvin Bagley III had 19 points in his return from a sprained knee, and Duke beat Syracuse for its fifth straight win.
Wendell Carter Jr. added 16 points for the Blue Devils (24-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who forced 17 turnovers. The Orange matched their season-low scoring total, set Feb. 3 in a loss to No. 1 Virginia.
Bagley, the ACC’s leading scorer (21.2 per game) and rebounder (11.4 per game), missed four games after injuring his right knee in a loss at North Carolina on Feb. 8.
Tyus Battle, who ranks third in the league with an average of 20.1 points per game, scored 12 to lead the Orange (18-11, 7-9), who lost their third in four games.
LUBBOCK, Texas – Devonte Graham scored 26 points and Kansas set an NCAA record with its 14th straight regular-season conference championship, beating Texas Tech to clinch at least a tie for the Big 12 title.
Graham hit a tiebreaking jumper with 1:30 remaining to help Kansas (23-6, 12-4) to its fourth straight win and a two-game lead over the Red Raiders, who have lost three in a row for the first time this season. The Jayhawks never trailed.
All 14 of the titles have come under coach Bill Self, who finished second in his first season at KU.
The current skid for the Red Raiders (22-7, 10-6) started when leading scorer Keenan Evans injured a toe in the first half of a loss to Baylor that pulled Kansas even in the Big 12 race.
Zhaire Smith scored 20 points and fellow freshman Jarrett Culver had 18 for Texas Tech, which dropped its second straight game since reaching the highest ranking in school history.
PROVO, Utah – Johnathan Williams scored 16 points, and Gonzaga beat BYU to clinch another West Coast Conference championship.
The Bulldogs (27-4, 17-1) have won at least a share of 18 of the past 19 regular-season conference championships, including each of the past six seasons.
Zach Norvell Jr. had 15 points and five rebounds for Gonzaga, which got off to a fast start and also played well right after halftime.
Yoeli Childs led BYU (22-9, 11-7) with 19 points and eight rebounds.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – KeVaughn Allen bounced back from his first scoreless game in more than three years with 24 points, including two huge 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and Florida beat Auburn.
Jalen Hudson added 19 points for the Gators, including a pivotal three-point play with 26.8 seconds remaining.
Auburn’s Jared Harper and Bryce Brown missed off-balance 3-pointers in the final minute, and the Gators closed it out from the charity stripe.
It was Florida’s 11th consecutive win in the series and a huge boost to the team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
The Gators (18-11, 9-7 Southeastern Conference) had dropped three straight and six of eight in league play. The win over the Tigers (24-5, 12-4) could be enough to put Florida in the 68-team field for the second straight season.
DALLAS – Markis McDuffie scored a season-high 26 points off the bench, including nine during the first four minutes of the second half, to lead Wichita State over SMU.
The Shockers (23-5, 13-3 American Athletic Conference) have won six straight games and are one-half game behind first-place Cincinnati. Wichita State will host Cincinnati on March 4 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
SMU (16-13, 6-10) lost for the sixth time in seven games since leading scorer Shake Milton (18 points per game) was sidelined with a hand injury.
Jahmal McMurray led SMU with 28 points.
EUGENE, Ore. – Arizona played without coach Sean Miller and lost at Oregon at the end of a difficult day for the troubled Wildcats program.
Miller sat out a day after ESPN reported he was heard on an FBI wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to current Wildcats freshman Deandre Ayton. The Wildcats also were without guard Allonzo Trier, who tested positive for the same banned substance that cost him 19 games last season.
The school did not specify why Miller didn’t coach against Oregon or if he will sit out any other games.
Ayton had 28 points and 16 rebounds for Arizona (22-7, 12-4 Pac-12), and Rawle Alkins added 24 points.
Oregon (19-10, 9-7) used a stellar performance at the line and a balanced attack to pick up its second straight win. Elijah Brown scored 22 of his season-high 30 points after halftime.
CLEMSON, S.C. – Gabe DeVoe scored 25 points and Shelton Mitchell added 14 as he returned from two games missed with a concussion, leading Clemson past Georgia Tech.
The Tigers (21-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast) ended the game on a 29-14 run after leading scorer Josh Okogie picked up his fourth foul for the Yellow Jackets (11-18, 4-12) with 11:44 to go.
Georgia Tech missed 11 of its last 12 shots and turned the ball over four times in the final seven minutes to lose their seventh straight game and 11th of 12.
The Tigers ended a three-game losing streak, two of them while Mitchell was recovering from a concussion suffered in the final minute at Florida State on Feb. 14.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 22 of his career-high 28 points in the decisive first half, and Michigan easily defeated Maryland for its fifth straight victory.
Using runs of 9-0 and 16-3, the Wolverines built a 54-24 halftime lead and cruised to the finish. Michigan went 17 for 28 from the floor in the first half, including 11 for 19 from 3-point range.
The Wolverines (24-7, 13-5 Big Ten) have clinched the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, but can earn a No. 4 seed and a double bye if Nebraska loses to Penn State on Sunday.
Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 17 for Maryland (19-12, 8-10), which suffered its most lopsided home loss since a 104-72 defeat against Duke on Jan 3, 1998.
OXFORD, Miss. – Admiral Schofield scored 23 points, Jordan Bowden scored 15, Lamonte Turner scored 13 and Tennessee beat Mississippi.
The Volunteers (21-7, 11-5 SEC) jumped out to a 29-9 lead in the first 10 minutes and held off a rally by Ole Miss in the second half to earn the key road victory.
Neither team shot well from the floor with Tennessee shooting 39 percent and Ole Miss shooting 34 percent.
The Rebels (12-17, 5-11) struggled from long distance. Ole Miss shot 4 percent (1-for-23) from three-point range.
Breein Tyree led the Rebels with 17 points.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jevon Carter scored 24 points and made some history as West Virginia pulled away to beat Iowa State.
With 15:59 left in the first half, Carter picked up his first assist of the game, setting up a 3-pointer by Esa Ahmad to become the first major-conference player in NCAA history to record more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.
Ahmad had 18 points and 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. Sagaba Konate added 14 points along with six blocks, and Daxter Miles scored 14 points for West Virginia (21-8, 10-6 Big 12).
Lindell Wigginton led Iowa State (13-15, 4-12) with 29 points.
MORAGA, Calif. – Jock Landale had 19 points and eight rebounds in his final home game, and Saint Mary’s beat Santa Clara.
Emmett Naar added 12 points and Calvin Hermanson had 10 on Senior Day for Saint Mary’s (27-4, 16-2 West Coast Conference). Jordan Ford scored 13.
The Gaels have won three straight since their school-record 19-game winning streak ended with back-to-back losses.
A matchup of the top two scorers in the WCC fizzled out quickly when Santa Clara’s KJ Feagin limped off the court with a sprained left ankle with 7:16 left in the first half. He did not return.
Henry Caruso had 14 points and seven rebounds for Santa Clara (11-19, 8-10).
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Nick King scored 22 points, Giddy Potts had 17 and Middle Tennessee celebrated its first game as a ranked team by beating UAB.
The Blue Raiders (23-5, 15-1 Conference USA) entered the AP poll for the first time on Monday, but hadn’t played since an 87-70 victory at Louisiana Tech last Saturday. They showed no signs of any rust, jumping to a 40-19 halftime lead against the Blazers.
Potts made five of Middle Tennessee’s 11 3-pointers. Brandon Walters scored 16 points, and Antwain Johnson had 11.
Zack Bryant led UAB (17-12, 8-8) with 13 points.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Sabrina Ionescu scored 16 points and No. 8 Oregon moved a step closer to its first Pac-12 title in 18 years, beating Arizona State 57-44 Friday night to end a 15-game losing streak in Tempe.
Oregon (26-4, 15-2 Pac-12) won the first meeting by shutting down Arizona State in the third quarter. The Ducks took control of the rematch with similar blueprint.
Trailing by one at halftime, Oregon hounded the Sun Devils (19-10, 10-7) into one missed shot after another to build an 11-point lead. Arizona State scored eight points in the quarter and went 4 for 17 from the floor.
The Ducks broke the school record for wins in a season and matched the mark for conference wins, set in 1998-99. They had not beaten Arizona State on the road since 2000.
No. 22 GREEN BAY 78, OAKLAND 48
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Jessica Lindstrom posted her 15th double-double this season with 16 points and 13 rebounds and No. 22 Green Bay defeated Oakland to win the outright Horizon League regular-season crown.
Allie LeClaire scored 13 points to move into the program’s top 10 all-time scoring leaders and Karly Murphy and Mackenzie Wolf added 10 points each for the Phoenix (25-3, 15-2), who have won 20 consecutive conference titles.
Sha’Keya Graves scored 15 points and Taylor Gleason and Leah Somerfield 11 each for the Golden Grizzlies (13-15, 6-11).
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Keita Bates-Diop finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds and C.J. Jackson made a long 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left in double overtime to give No. 16 Ohio State an 80-78 victory at Indiana on Friday night.
With the win, the Buckeyes (24-7, 15-3) can claim a share of the conference crown in coach Chris Holtmann’s first season – if No. 2 Michigan State loses at Wisconsin on Sunday.
Juwan Morgan scored 18 points and Robert Johnson added 17 to lead the Hoosiers (16-14, 9-9). But Johnson, playing what could be his final home game, couldn’t make the dramatic half-court heave at the buzzer to win a wild game that was tighter than expected.
KINGSTON, Rhode Island – Jeff Dowtin scored 20 points, E.C. Matthews added 18 and Rhode Island wrapped up its first outright Atlantic-10 regular-season title with a victory over Dayton.
Jared Terrell had 17 points to help the Rams (22-5, 15-1) win for the 18th time in 19 games. It was their second straight after their school-record 16-game winning streak was halted by St. Bonaventure last Friday night.
In 1980-81, the Rams tied Duquesne for a share of the conference title, their only other regular-season A-10 championship.
When the game ended, blue and white confetti – the school colors – and streamers fell from the ceiling. Terrell climbed the scorer’s table, waving to the crowd. Jalen Crutcher led the Flyers (13-15, 7-9) with 12 points.
As February draws to a close, Selection Sunday will be just two weeks away by the time the weekend concludes.
Opportunities are growing scarce for teams to improve their NCAA tournament credentials, making each successive game take on added significance.
Here are some matchups to watch for fans of both the hunters and the hunted.
Saturday, 4:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
It looked like this might be a head-to-head showdown for first place in the crowded Big 12. But the Red Raiders have dropped their last two contests to fall a game behind the Jayhawks. KU is now in the driver’s seat in its bid to run its streak of regular-season conference crowns to 14. Texas Tech is clearly not the same threat with team leader Keenan Evans anything short of full speed. But even if he is able to contribute at his usually high level on Saturday, the Jayhawks are coming off their best outing of a season in a romp against Oklahoma and appear to be rounding into March form.
BRACKETOLOGY: Projecting the NCAA tournament field of 68
BUBBLE TRACKER: Which teams are in and which are out?
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, Fox
The Wildcats are back on track in pursuit of a No. 1 seed for the third time in four seasons. They’ve rediscovered their shooting touch and have also regained the services of reserve guard Phil Booth, a solid two-way contributor whose absence was felt. The Bluejays are trending in the wrong direction, entering this vital home date on a three-game conference losing streak. The most recent was a disheartening 23-point setback at Butler that has them sliding dangerously close to the bubble. That said, the perspective would changed drastically with a win against Villanova.
Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
On the plus side for the Orange, they probably gave their best effort of the season Wednesday night. It wasn’t enough, however, as a red-hot North Carolina team made enough plays down the stretch to get out of the Carrier Dome with a four-point win. This trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium is another opportunity for that elusive marquee victory, but the Blue Devils are just as hot with four wins while Marvin Bagley III has been sidelined with a knee injjury. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski appears to have borrowed a page from Jim Boeheim’s playbook, as his team’s defense has been much more effective since switching almost exclusively to zone.
Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, SECN
Once ranked in the top 10, the Gators now find themselves in an almost unfathomable six-way tie for third place in the middling SEC after a three-game losing streak. This home date with the surprising league leaders is a chance to pick up a distinguishing result, but their recent level of play makes that seem unlikely. The Tigers, meanwhile, passed their first test without injured forward Anfernee McLemore in impressive fashion against Alabama Wednesday night. But even with the regular-season tile almost secured, they still need to keep pushing for a No. 1 seed.
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Even with a win against the Bulldogs, BYU would not have anything resembling an at-large case. What a victory here would do, however, is give the Cougars a needed shot of confidence for the upcoming West Coast Conference tournament. But Gonzaga, as it often does, is gaining momentum late in the season. The catalyst has been Johnathan Williams, whose recent string of double doubles has helped take the pressure off the Zags’ backcourt scorers.
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Ty Jerome scored 18 points and top-ranked Virginia held off depleted Georgia Tech 65-54 on Wednesday night, clinching the regular season title and top seed next month in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Virginia (25-2, 14-1) won its eighth regular-season title and third in five years.
The Cavaliers also got nine points each from De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite. They led just 31-30 at halftime and didn’t open a double-digit lead until just 5:14 remained.
Ben Lammers scored 22 points to lead the Yellow Jackets (11-17, 4-11). They lost their sixth in a row and 10th in the last 11 games.
No. 3 Villanova 93, DePaul 62
PHILADELPHIA – Mikal Bridges scored 27 points and Phil Booth added 14 in his return to the lineup to lead Villanova past DePaul on Wednesday night.
Booth played 16 minutes, going 4 for 6 from the field and 2 for 4 from the arc in his comeback from a broken right hand that sidelined him seven games.
Eric Paschall had 16 points, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points and seven assists to help the Wildcats (25-3, 12-3 Big East) beat DePaul for the 16th straight time.
Max Strus scored 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-17, 3-12).
No. 4 Xavier 89, Georgetown 77
WASHINGTON – Naji Marshall scored a career-high 21 points and Xavier beat Georgetown, bouncing back from its loss to No. 3 Villanova.
J.P. Macura added 20 points, including four 3-pointers, and Quentin Goodin had 19 points to help the Musketeers (25-4, 13-3 Big East) swept the season series with Georgetown for the second straight season.
Jamorko Pickett tied a career high with 21 points for Georgetown (15-11, 5-10).
No. 5 Duke 82, Louisville 56
DURHAM, N.C. – Grayson Allen scored 28 points and Duke routed Louisville.
Freshman big man Wendell Carter Jr. finished with 18 points and a season-high five assists, and Gary Trent Jr. had 11 points to help the Blue Devils (23-5, 11-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their fourth straight game – all coming with star freshman Marvin Bagley III out with a sprained knee.
Ray Spalding scored 17 points, and V.J. King and Deng Adel had 10 apiece for Louisville (18-10, 8-7), playing for the first time since an NCAA panel upheld sanctions against the program in the wake of its sex scandal – which cost the school about $600,000 in tournament revenue, 123 victories and its most recent national championship.
Oklahoma State 79, No. 6 Texas Tech
STILLWATER, Okla. – Kendall Smith scored 21 points to help Oklahoma State stun Texas Tech.
Lindy Waters added a career-high 18 points, and Jeffrey Carroll had 14 points. The Cowboys (16-12, 6-9 Big 12) got a huge boost to their hopes of gaining an NCAA Tournament bid.
Zhaire Smith scored 18 points, and Jarrett Culver added 15 for Tech (22-6, 10-5), which needed a win to tie Kansas for the Big 12 lead. The Red Raiders lost their second straight.
Tech’s Keenan Evans, the Big 12’s No. 2 scorer, finished with two points on 1-for-7 shooting.
No. 10 North Carolina 78, Syracuse 74
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Theo Pinson scored a career-high 23 points, Joel Berry II added 18, including the tiebreaking layup with 1:36 left, and North Carolina held off Syracuse.
North Carolina (22-7, 11-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won six straight, but this was the most difficult against a team fighting for its postseason life. Syracuse (18-10, 7-8) was coming off an important road victory over Miami and was teetering on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering the game.
Tyus Battle scored 26 points, and Frank Howard had 23 for Syracuse.
No. 12 Auburn 90, Alabama 71
AUBURN, Ala. – Jared Harper scored 21 points, Chuma Okeke had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Auburn beat rival Alabama even without ailing star Mustapha Heron.
Down to seven scholarship players, the Tigers (24-4, 12-3 Southeastern Conference) turned a five-point halftime lead into a blowout thanks largely to big performances from Okeke and Malik Dunbar off the bench.
Auburn responded with Heron out with a stomach ailment a game after center Anfernee McLemore was lost for the rest of the season to an ankle injury.
Collin Sexton scored 25 points for the Crimson Tide (17-11, 8-7).
No. 13 Wichita State 93, Tulane 86
WICHITA, Kan. – Shaquille Morris had 25 points and nine rebounds to help No. 13 Wichita State outlast Tulane.
Conner Frankamp scored six of his 18 points in the final four minutes, Markis McDuffie had 15 points and C.J. Keyser added 11 for the Shockers (22-5, 12-3 American Athletic Conference).
Melvin Frazier scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half for Tulane (13-14, 4-11). He also had 11 rebounds.
Virginia Tech 65, No. 15 Clemson 58
BLACKSBURG, Va. – Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 14 points each for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies (20-8, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won six of their last eight games to move into a tie for fifth place in the conference standings. Marcquise Reed led Clmeson (20-7, 9-6) with 23 points.
No. 17 Michigan 72, Penn State 63
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Duncan Robinson scored 19 points and Moritz Wagner added 18 for Michigan.
Jordan Poole had 13 for the Wolverines (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) who won their fourth straight.
Tony Carr scored 21 points, and Lamar Stevens added 19 for the Nittany Lions (19-11, 9-8).
No. 19 Tennessee 62, Florida 57
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Grant Williams bounced back from one of his worst performances of the season to score 23 points for Tennessee.
Williams had a season-low five points Saturday in a 73-62 loss at Georgia. The Tennessee scoring leader responded Wednesday by shooting 8 of 13 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the foul line.
Admiral Schofield added 16 points and eight rebounds for Tennessee (20-7, 10-5 Southeastern Conference). Jalen Hudson had 13 points for Florida (17-11, 8-7).
No. 20 Nevada 80, San Jose State 67
RENO, Nev. – Kendall Stephens scored a career-high 30 points and Nevada hit 14 3-pointers.
Jordan Caroline and Hallice Cooke had 15 points apiece for the Wolf Pack (24-5, 13-2 Mountain West). Cooke scored all his points on 3-pointers in the first half as the Wolf Pack opened a double-digit lead.
Ryan Wellage had 22 points and nine rebounds for San Jose State (3-23, 0-15).
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — EAST LANSING, Mich. – Miles Bridges scored 19 points, Joshua Langford had 16 and No. 2 Michigan State beat Illinois 81-61 on Tuesday night, sealing a share of the Big Ten championship.
The Spartans (27-3, 15-2 Big Ten) have won 11 straight and can claim the conference title outright if they win at Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Fighting Illini (13-16, 3-13) were coming off a win over Nebraska and looked like they were building momentum, competing well enough to trail the Spartans by just three points at halftime.
Michigan State, though, opened the second half with a 12-1 run to take control and went on to build 20-plus-point leads. The cushion allowed coach Tom Izzo to put his three seniors in and out of the game in the final minutes, giving each of them an opportunity to kiss the school’s logo at midcourt and get an ovation from the crowd.
No. 16 Ohio State 79, Rutgers 52
COLUMBUS, Ohio – C.J. Jackson scored 18 points to help Ohio State rout Rutgers.
Kaleb Wesson added 14, and Kam Williams, playing his last home game, had 13 as the Buckeyes (23-7, 14-3 Big Ten) got a feel-good win on senior night, coming on the heels of tough road losses to Penn State and Michigan that dropped them out of first place in the conference.
Corey Sanders had 12 points for the Scarlet Knights (13-17, 3-14). They’ve lost eight of their last nine games.
No. 18 Rhode Island 95, La Salle 93, OT
PHILADELPHIA – Jeff Dowtin scored 25 points, including four key free throws in the final seconds, as Rhode Island clinched a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a hard-fought victory at La Salle.
The Rams (22-4, 14-1 Atlantic 10) trailed 30-18 midway through the first half before going on a 14-0 run and taking a 39-37 halftime lead.
Rhode Island never trailed in the second half and led 81-78 with three seconds left. The Rams purposely fouled Pookie Powell, who made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second. Tony Washington snared the long rebound and made the putback to tie the game at 81 at the end of regulation.
Cyril Langevine scored four straight points to give the Rams a 91-87 lead with 2:20 left in OT. Trailing 91-90, La Salle had two chances to take its first lead since the first half, but couldn’t convert.
Dowtin hit two free throws to give La Salle a 3-point lead, and the Rams again intentionally fouled Powell, this time with 3.2 seconds left. Powell again made the first – and accidentally made the second. After Dowtin made two more, the Explorers tried the same tactic yet again but were called for a lane violation.
Saul Phiri added 16 points, and Miles Brookins scored 13 for La Salle (11-17, 5-10).
No. 21 West Virginia 71, Baylor 60
WACO, Texas – Jevon Carter and Esa Ahmad both scored 15 points as West Virginia beat Baylor, ending the Bears’ five-game winning streak that had been the longest in the Big 12 Conference.
The Mountaineers (20-8, 9-6 Big 12) were pretty much in control throughout the game, and led by as many as 28 points early in the second half.
Baylor (17-11, 7-8) managed to get within 55-43 with after Terry Maston’s jumper. But that was the last of eight straight points for the Bears that capped off a 21-5 run.
Their momentum was gone when Daxter Miles made a 3-pointer while being fouled and converted the free throw for a four-point play with just under 7 minutes left. That was Miles’ only made 3-pointer in six shots from long range.
Sagaba Konate had 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocks for West Virginia.
WOMEN’S TUESDAY NIGHT ROUNDUP:
(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports) — Aaron Barzilai has always self-identified as a numbers nerd. A former captain of the MIT basketball team, Barzilai likes to say his game was “Steve Kerr without the shot.”
That meant Barzilai, 45, didn’t have any sort future in the NBA — at least not on the floor. But as a PhD student at Stanford from 1993-2000, he started to tinker with statistics, years before analytics became part of the general sports lexicon.
“Like most grad school students, I was very good at coming up with projects to work on that were not my thesis,” Barzilai told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. “I would think about stuff like, ‘Hmm, maybe I could invent a better BCS formula.’”
Then he read a story in Sports Illustrated‘s 2005 NBA preview issue detailing how “the Moneyball math of baseball has come to the NBA,” and referenced Dean Oliver’s book Basketball on Paper. Barzilai thought he might have stumbled onto his own niche.
Thirteen years later, Barzilai has done exactly that, though it’s come in an unlikely arena. Barzilai is the owner and operator of HerHoopStats.com, an advanced analytics site that tracks data like points per possession and offensive rebounding rate. It’s been billed as the women’s equivalent to KenPom.com, the men’s college basketball analytics site frequently referenced by coaches, schools, analysts and even the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Analytics have exploded in popularity over the last decade, with data-driven decisions becoming the norm for coaches and front offices. Fans are numbers junkies, too. Friday and Saturday, Boston will host the 12th Annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an event that’s grown from 100 initial attendees to more than 4,000 in 2016.
But there’s been a noticeable void in the women’s game.
In a March 2016 Players Tribune article, WNBA All-Star Sue Bird — widely considered the best point guard in the women’s game — made a case for advanced analytics in the WNBA.
“The disparity between NBA data — even data across all male sports — and WNBA data is glaring,” Bird wrote. “Data for the WNBA is relegated to basic information: points, rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers, blocks. While worthy of being noted, those are the most rudimentary numbers in our game. Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. … Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.”
Stats help hammer home the points coaches want to make to their teams, Barzilai said. But first, they’ve gotta be able to get their hands on the numbers.
Barzilai spent 2008-2015 working in the NBA, first with the Memphis Grizzlies as an analytics consultant — reporting directly to general manager Chris Wallace — and then as the director of analytics for the 76ers until 2015, when new management took over.
In July, he got a call from Alex Varlan, a former co-worker in Philadelphia who had just taken the video coordinator position with the Tennessee women’s basketball program. Varlan asked if Barzilai knew of any good options for women’s analytics sites. When Barzilai couldn’t find any, Varlan and he concluded that Barzilai could and should build his own.
“My theory is that what we’ve done is something between a business and a public service,” Barzilai explained. “You can find stuff pretty easily on (all-time NCAA leading scorer) Kelsey Plum or (South Carolina All-American) A’ja Wilson … but maybe your niece is the top 10 percent in the country in assist rate, and she plays for a mid-major school, so you don’t know that. We’re trying to unlock that information.”
By the end of August, after a month of background research, Barzilai had brought on two programmers and started building the site. He’s had experience in this type of entrepreneurial space before: Barzilai said he was the first person to regularly publish NBA plus/minus data — now a stat found in every NBA box score — on his website BasketballValue.com in 2007.
In the first week of December 2017, HerHoopStats.com went live. By the new year, it was being referenced on ESPN broadcasts.
Longtime analyst Debbie Antonelli is a fan.
Before each game Antonelli works, Barzilai emails her five interesting stats on the teams she’ll see in person. Then Antonelli uses those numbers in the broadcast, giving HerHoopStats.com a shout out. In last Sunday’s North Carolina State-Wake Forest game, for example, she pointed out that the Wolfpack are No. 1 in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, then explained why — because they do a great job of going under screens, keeping teams in front, and making opponents score over the top, all of which puts North Carolina State in an ideal rebounding position.
“You can’t give a number like that in basketball, men or women, unless you explain what it means — I have to give you the ‘why,’” Antonelli told USA TODAY Sports. “These stats, it helps grow our game — it makes N.C. State look good, it makes (coach) Wes Moore looks good. … We didn’t have this in the women’s game, and we needed it.”
Barzilai stresses that the site people see now is “definitely version 1.0, if not 0.1,” and has plans to grow and add more data, even before the Final Four next month. HerHoopStats.com already shows national rankings and percentiles, so the next logical step is conference rankings and percentiles. Win probability is also on the to-do list, as is growing readership. Grace Dickman, a senior guard at Division III Macalaster College, helps run social media, where Barzilai hopes HerHoopStats.com can get better at “visualization of the data.”
Feedback from coaches, fans, pundits and sports information directors helps him understand what needs to come next.
“Analytics are not anything that would take away from my own two eyes scouting a team and watching team dynamics, but these (numbers) tell me a true percentage of what’s going on,” Louisville associate head coach Stephanie Norman told USA TODAY Sports, adding that she appreciates that “you don’t need a PhD to understand Aaron’s site.”
“This is a business (on the women’s side) that’s been untapped,” Norman said. “I find it intriguing. … It can be really useful for players to analyze themselves. And as a fan, I’d be all in—you pay $20, and you get so much inside scoop.”
Watching his website, still in its infancy, get recognized on ESPN broadcasts was “the kind of moment that helps energize and inspire us to work on it even more,” Barzilai said. “It makes me feel good that we’re making a contribution in a space that’s been underserved.”
As for if he’s gotten any feedback from the point guard queen herself, no, Barzilai said, he still hasn’t talked with Bird. But they’re both at Sloan this week, and he’s hopeful to chat with her there.
Statically, the odds of them crossing paths are in his favor.
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Middle Tennessee has upset power-conference teams in the past two NCAA Tournaments and reached 20 wins for the third straight season. Now the Blue Raiders have another milestone: their first appearance in the AP Top 25 poll.
Middle Tennessee checked in at No. 24 in Monday’s latest poll and will play as a ranked team for the first time Saturday at home against UAB as part the week’s national Top 25 schedule.
“The sustainability part is what you strive for,” coach Kermit Davis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just think it’s the culture of it. Since I’ve been here, you’re just striving to kind of get your brand like a Gonzaga or a Butler or schools that just kind of do it every year.”
The Blue Raiders (22-5, 14-1 Conference USA) are certainly doing that these days.
Two seasons ago, they won 25 games and pulled the biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament by beating Final Four favorite and second-seeded Michigan State in the opening round. They followed that by winning 31 games last year and beating fifth-seeded Minnesota in the first round in 2017.
Along the way, Middle Tennessee has gone 23-3 in road games over two seasons, including a 12-1 mark after Saturday’s win at Louisiana Tech.
The Blue Raiders are led by Alabama graduate transfer Nick King, who started his career at Memphis. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 21.4 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Middle Tennessee is trying to maintain its hold on the Conference USA lead with Old Dominion and Western Kentucky sitting a game back in the loss column. The Blue Raiders have three home games left, including March 1 against the Hilltoppers.
Davis said he doesn’t think that the ranking will be a distraction — “If we get beat, that’s not going to be the reason why,” he said — but it is something Davis said the Blue Raiders plan to savor with a few days off before playing again.
“It’s great for our players, it’s great for our fan base,” Davis said. “You’re trying to grow your fan base, so it is (important). We all understand that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and big games. But you better believe it, the Middle Tennessee faithful around the country will love seeing their name in the AP poll.”
Top-ranked Virginia (24-2, 13-1) can wrap up the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season race this week. They lead fifth-ranked Duke by three games in the loss column and own the head-to-head tiebreaker from their win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 27 , so they can clinch at least a share of the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed for the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn by beating Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
Win that one, and they travel to Pittsburgh — now 0-15 in the league — to claim the regular-season race outright Saturday.
There’s a top-10 matchup in the Big 12 this week with No. 8 Kansas visiting No. 6 Texas Tech on Saturday, with the Jayhawks seeking to avenge an 85-73 home loss to the Red Raiders on Jan. 2.
That’s part of a test-filled weekend for some top-tier teams, with No. 2 Michigan State (at Wisconsin), No. 3 Villanova (at Creighton) and No. 6 Gonzaga (at BYU) all playing on the road.
Baylor (17-10, 6-7 Big 12) has vaulted itself into NCAA Tournament contention with five straight wins. Now the Bears are on the edge of the AP Top 25 with a couple of chances to play their way into next week’s poll — and strengthen that postseason resume.
The Bears host No. 21 West Virginia on Tuesday then travel to TCU — which has been ranked earlier this season — on Saturday.
And in the Southeastern Conference, both Kentucky and Arkansas are within reach of the rankings entering Tuesday’s matchup. The Razorbacks also visit Alabama on Saturday.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Devonte Graham had 23 points and seven assists, Malik Newman added 20 and No. 8 Kansas beat Oklahoma 104-74 on Monday night.
The Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4 Big 12) controlled things early, jumping out to a 10-0 lead less than four minutes into the game and forcing Lon Kruger to burn a timeout before the first media break. The Sooners (16-11, 6-9 Big 12) never recovered.
Kameron McGusty led the way for Oklahoma with 22 points while Jamuni McNeace added 18 in his first career start.
It was a cold shooting night for Trae Young, who missed 10 of his 13 shots. His 11 points were a season-low. He did have nine assists.
Kansas broke the 100-point threshold for the first time since December as six Jayhawks scored in double figures.
The win marks No. 300 all-time in Big 12 play for the Jayhawks. Only two other schools (Texas, Oklahoma) have surpassed the 200 mark.
Big Picture: Kansas now sits a half-game ahead of Texas Tech atop the Big 12 standings after gaining a game on the Red Raiders when they fell to Baylor Saturday.
Oklahoma has now dropped its last six games, and has fallen to No. 8 in the Big 12. The skid has led some to speculate that the Sooners could miss the NCAA Tournament.
|2||Michigan State (19)||26-3||1,565||2|
|22||Saint Mary’s (Cal.)||25-4||291||15|
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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP) — Landry Shamut scored 19 points, and No. 19 Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak, beating No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72 on Sunday in Highland Heights, Kentucky, to leave the American Athletic Conference race wide open.
The Shockers (21-5, 11-3) beat a Top 5 team on the road for the first time since 1964. They led most of the way, building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and holding on. Shaquille Morris’ dunk with 5 seconds left finished it off.
The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) had their 39-game home-court winning streak snapped. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season, falling to 0-3 with losses to Xavier and Florida.
Cincinnati and Wichita State were expected to contend for the title in the Shockers’ first season in the AAC. Wichita State gave itself a chance with a solid all-around game led by its point guard. Shamut had 16 points in the first half, when the Shockers shredded the nation’s second-ranked defense to take control.
(6) Purdue 76, Penn State 73: Carsen Edwards scored 27 points to lead the Boilermakers (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten) past the Nittany Lions (19-10, 9-7) in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Dakota Mathias added 18 points and Isaac Haas had 12 points and six rebounds for the Boilermakers, who snapped a season-worst three-game skid.
Tony Carr had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, Shep Garner had 17 points and Lamar Stevens had 13 points and six rebounds for the Nittany Lions. The loss ended a stretch of six wins in seven games.
Ryan Cline’s 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining gave Purdue a 61-58 lead, and the Boilers never trailed the rest of the way.
(22) Michigan 74, (8) Ohio State 62: Jordan Poole scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half to help the Wolverines (22-7, 11-5 Big Ten) take the lead, and it never trailed in the second half against the Buckeyes (22-7, 13-3) in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Wolverines beat a rival and helped out another rival, giving No. 2 Michigan State a one-game lead atop the conference standings with two games left in the regular season.
The Buckeyes have fallen out of first place by losing consecutive Big Ten games for the first time this season.
Michigan’s Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 17 points, Zavier Simpson had 13 points and Moe Wagner added 12.
Jae’Sean Tate had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who last lead was 18-17 midway through the first half.
(12) Duke 66, (11) Clemson 57: Gary Trent Jr. hit three foul shots with 1:31 left to put Duke ahead for good and the Blue Devils (22-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat in the Tigers (20-6, 9-5), South Carolina.
Duke won its third straight game without Bagley, its leading scorer and rebounder who’s sidelined because of a strained right knee.
Wendell Carter Jr. followed Trent’s foul shots with an inside bucket and the Tigers could not respond in losing for the first time at home this season.
Grayson Allen had 19 points for Duke, all but two in the opening half. Carter had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas led Clemson with 13 points apiece.