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What to look forward to on this Championship Week Saturday

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I often look most forward to the Saturday of Championship Week. Over Selection Sunday, over the traditional day one of the NCAA Tournament, over the release of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s  holiday performance schedule. So, in theory, I would naturally be elated to light a few candles, curl up with a nice blanket, and cook a pot of tea while an abundance of really important games play themselves out.

I’m kidding about all that soft stuff, but Saturday truly is the reason why Championship Week is the new March Madness. But with the continued parity playing out even in the bracket format, what I’m most looking forward to isn’t as entirely match-up focused as I initially planned. There’s still plenty of storylines teeming to play out this afternoon and evening, so here’s your high-level primer to make sure you know what to look for.

  • Dayton – This might be the first time “looking forward to” and Dayton have been penned together in the same sentence, but the Flyers – traditionally one of the most underachieving programs of the past 10 years – might actually be dancing this season following an upset of rival Xavier yesterday. With talented players like the brothers Chris (Wright and Johnson), it’s about time this crop of players position themselves to join the field of 68.
  • Illinois Fans – Just how can this team falter down the stretch for a second consecutive season? Back in October, on paper these guys looked like an Elite Eight team but here they are with a second consecutive dreadful close to the season, highlighted by yesterday’s blown opportunity against Michigan. Can’t wait to see how Champaign reacts to this mess. Oh wait, they’re already questioning Bruce Weber’s commitment.
  • A Pac 10 game worth watching – Is there a more less exciting BCS conference tournament than this one? After watching roughly 30 seconds of an early round game, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd said the Staples Center  matched the energy level of an insurance convention. That’s not very nice, but so very true. With the finals finally set in place, Arizona-Washington should play out nicely, based on what we’ve already seen from them this season.
  • BYU-SDSU Round III – It’s always been deemed very difficult for a team of similar skill level three times in a season. Heck we saw BYU down nemesis New Mexico, proving just that theory. So now, the Cougars will try to tackle this challenge against the Aztecs,  and its especially important with a fourth No. 1 seed still begging to be taken.
  • Kentucky – You can’t mask the fact that the Georgia Dome physically has zilch in common with Rupp Arena, and the Wildcats were pretty nervous when playing away from Lexington this season. They’re in the semis, and have a real opportunity to distinguish themselves from a fairly mediocre SEC field.
  • That game in the Garden – But you already knew that. And, besides, Dauster is blanketing the coverage.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

King Rice
AP
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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.