Tuesday’s Shootaround: Baylor wins, Virginia survives

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No. 5 Baylor 61, Texas A&M 52: Given the way that the Aggies started this game — by digging themselves a 28-11 hole late in the first half — the way the game ended up wasn’t terrible. A nine point loss of the road to a top five team in the country is hardly a loss to be embarrassed by.

The issues that A&M has have nothing to do with the effort they give or the defense they play or the size they have on the interior. The Aggies are going to be nothing more than mediocre until they find a way to be able to consistently score points. Against Baylor, A&M shot a whopping 28.6% from the floor. They were 7-25 from three. They had all of nine assists to go along with their 13 turnovers. Khris Middleton, who is supposed to be Billy Kennedy’s best offensive weapon, was 4-17 from the floor.

Baylor wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Pierre Jackson had seven turnovers, Brady Heslip went scoreless and the Bears finished with more turnovers than assists, but when you hold a team to 28.6% shooting, you can play just about as poorly as you want and still win.

No. 23 UVA 57, LSU 52: It sounds weird saying this, but this is actually a solid win for the Cavs, their 11th in a row. LSU is probably not going to make the NCAA Tournament, but what they lack in talent they make up for in grit. Just ask Marquette, who lost a dogfight to the Tigers despite being up 13-0 in the first half. LSU had won seven in a row. Virginia got 17 points from Sammy Zeglinski and 12 points and nine boards out of Mike Scott as they used a late surge to take a lead and held LSU on a number of possessions down the stretch.

Robert Morris 70, Ohio 67: Bobby Mo put together one of the weirdest wins of the young season. Ohio had been on fire coming into this game, gaining some national recognition as one of the most impressive mid-majors early in the season. But what makes this win all the more impressive is the fact that they turned the ball over 31 times! And still won! Robert Morris shot the ball 53.2% from the field and held DJ Cooper and Walter Offutt to a combined 6-32 from the floor.

Rhode Island 78, Boston College 72 2OT: Jamal Wilson, who was averaging 16.4 ppg at the time, was kicked off the URI team two days ago. Rhody was 1-12 at the time. Since then, the Rams have won two in a row. Billy Baron had 25 to lead the way in this one.

Georgia State 58, Drexel 44: The Panthers have now won 10 straight games and are sitting at 2-0 in first place in the CAA.

Wofford 56, Wake Forest 52: Wake Forest was playing without CJ Harris, but that’s still no excuse for a team from the ACC to lose to a team from the SoCon, particularly when the SoCon is coming off of a season where they lost four starters and already have dropped games to High Point and UMKC. Travis McKie had 25 points and six boards for Wake in the loss.

Campbell 70, Coastal Carolina 65 OT: Campbell moved to 3-0 in the Big South, knocking off previously unbeaten (in the league) CCU. The Chanticleers didn’t make a field goal in overtime.

Other notable games:

– George Mason 70, William & Mary 56
– VCU 80, Hofstra 63
– Tennessee 76, Chattanooga 63
– Belmont 83, North Florida 53
– Vanderbilt 69, Miami OH 62
– Miami 99, UNC Greensboro 89
– LBSU 74, UC Irvine 60

Top performers:

Kenny Gabriel, Auburn: Gabriel had easily the most impressive performance of the night, going for 24 points, 13 boards, 10 blocks, four steals and three assists while shooting 11-13 from the floor in a 67-41 win over Bethune-Cookman.

Stan Okoye, VMI: Okoye probably had the second best game of the night, as he went for 25 points, seven boards, seven assists, four steals and three blocks in a 76-72 win over Gardner-Webb.

Keith Rendleman, UNC Wilmington: Rendleman had 24 points and 18 boards in an 80-75 win over Delaware.

Shay Shine, High Point: Its our first Shay Shine sighting of the season! The high-flying guard has 22 points in a win over Charleston Southern.

Chris Stephenson, UNC Asheville: Stephenson scored 33 points and grabbed 10 boards in a 66-56 win over Radford.

Kenny Kadji, Miami: Trevis Simpson had 36 points for UNC Greensboro, but Kadji and the Canes were too much. The big man finished with 30 points and 12 boards in a 99-89 win.

Trae Golden, Tennessee: Golden had 29 points in a 76-63 win over Chattanooga just three days after have facial surgery.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

No. 3 Michigan outlasts No. 9 Florida State to advance to Final Four

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Michigan struggled to generate consistent offense, but the Wolverines held off No. 9 seed Florida State for a 58-54 win on Saturday night during the West Regional final in Los Angeles.

The No. 3 seed Wolverines (32-7) are headed back to the Final Four under head coach John Beilein for the first time since 2013 as Michigan advanced to the Final Four for the eighth time in program history.

Making things look easy during a Thursday night blowout win over Texas A&M, Michigan made 10 first-half three-pointers to cruise to victory. During the Elite Eight, Michigan couldn’t generate any consistency from the perimeter. Only shooting 18 percent (4-for-22) from three-point range, Michigan missed ten straight three-pointers at one point as they had to grind out a win in an offensive struggle. Redshirt sophomore guard Charles Matthews paced the Wolverines with 17 points while junior big man Mo Wagner chipped in 12 points despite an 0-for-7 shooting night from three-point range.

Florida State (23-12) did its best to hang around despite having major offensive issues of their own. The Seminoles found themselves trailing by three points with under a minute left, but they couldn’t get over the hump in the final few possessions. Senior forward Phil Cofer (16 points) and junior guard P.J. Savoy (12 points) were the only two double-figure scorers for Florida State as they shot 32 percent (16-for-50) from the field and 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range.

Michigan advances to next weekend’s Final Four in San Antonio as they’ll take on No. 11 seed and national darling Loyola.

Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean gets her piece of the net

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Loyola-Chicago’s hero — their 98-year old chaplain, Sister Jean — got her reward for being the good-luck charm that got the Ramblers to the Final Four.

Think about this:

  • The Ramblers beat Miami on a game-winning three with 0.3 seconds left
  • They beat Tennessee on a jumper with 3.6 seconds left that bounced off the rim, the backboard and the rim again before going in.
  • They needed a three with 7.6 seconds left to help them hold off Nevada in the Sweet 16.
  • A senior that never averaged more than 8.3 points and that had a season-high of 14 points against something called Eureka this season went for a career-high 23 points to get the Ramblers to the Final Four.

She earned this piece of the net.

The Atlanta Falcons are trying to recruit Sister Jean from Loyola

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The Atlanta Falcons are American sports’ most cursed franchise now that the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series.

Hell, Atlanta sports in general are a minefield of terrible losses, blown seasons and heartbreak.

Which is why the Falcons, who may or may not have blown a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, are trying to get Sister Jean on their payroll:

Stay away, Falcons.

Sister Jean is ours.

Sincerely, College Basketball

No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago advances past Kansas State, to Final Four

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Sister Jean strikes again!

Ben Richardson, a senior guard who’s never averaged more than 8.3 points in a season, broke double-figures just four times during his senior year and had a season-high of 14 points that came in a game against something called Eureka, scored went 6-for-7 from three and scored a career-high 23 points for No. 11-seed Loyola-Chicago as college basketball’s latest Cinderella finished off their run to the Final Four with a 78-62 win over No. 9-seed Kansas State.

A No. 11-seed is the lowest-seeded team to ever reach a Final Four, and Loyola is just the fourth No. 11-seed to get to the Final Four. LSU did it in 1986, George Mason made it in 2006 and VCU reached the Final Four out of a play-in game in 2011.

Perhaps the most impressive part of this win was that it was never really in doubt. Kansas State led 3-2 for 17 seconds in the first half … and that’s it. The Ramblers opened the game on a 15-5 run, took a 36-24 lead into the break and led by as many as 23 points in the second half.

Perhaps this is what says it all — The Ramblers emptied their bench to let the walk-ons get some run.

In the Elite Eight.

Their bench players dribbled out the clock to send them to the Final Four.

For a team that needed game-winning jumpers in the final 10 seconds in the first three rounds of the tournament, Kansas State was the lowest seeded team that the Ramblers played in the tournament. I guess it’s fitting that they were the game they finally won comfortably.

And to be frank, this is the postseason run that we all needed this year.

Let’s start with the basics: Nobody wants to see Kansas State in the Final Four. I’m sorry Kansas State fans, but that’s the truth. This run has been fun, it might have saved Bruce Weber’s job and I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for the fight and the grit that guys like Barry Brown Jr., Cartier Diarra and Xavier Sneed play with.

But if you are going to give me the choice between seeing a miracle mid-major run to the final weekend of the college basketball season or a middling power conference program that happened to get hot against a lucky draw in the NCAA tournament, I’m taking the mid-major.

Every. Single. Time.

And I guarantee that I’m not the only one.

If we’re not going to get a blueblood, give me the little guy.

Especially when they are being led to glory by a 98-year old nun named Sister Jean.

That is the other part of this: Everything about this Loyola-Chicago team is good. They are what makes college basketball so special. They are why this event is the best sporting event in America. And they are making this run in the tournament in a year where the sport has been marred by scandal after scandal.

There was the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball that resulted in assistant coaches at four programs getting arrested. There was the arrest of the three UCLA players that turned into an international incident covered by TMZ, CNN and FOX News when LaVar Ball stood up for his son and got into a war of words with Donald Trump. There were the accusations that were levied at Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo that he covered up sexual assaults committed by players within his program. There were the reports that leaked before the start of the NCAA tournament that tied players at myriad programs with taking impermissible from a disgraced NCAA agent, and then the controversy surrounding a report that Sean Miller was caught on a wiretap discussing a payment of $100,000 for Deandre Ayton.

Anyone paying attention to college basketball from afar would think that the sport is an absolute cesspool, and whether the fact that it is may or may not be true depending the way that you view amateurism and the ability of college athletes to earn money off of their likeness, the bottom-line is this: College basketball’s public image has never been worse.

Until now.

Now we have a team from the Missouri Valley — a league that Wichita State and Creighton left because it wasn’t good enough — heading to the Final Four. We have a mid-major program whose most famous member is their 98-year old chaplain. We have a program with a head coach that is so far from the glitz and glamour of $3,000 suits that he wears outfits that look like this.

This is why college basketball is the best.

Because things like this can happen.

Tonight, we are all Ramblers.

Report: Gonzaga will decide on conference future in next few weeks

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Now that Gonzaga has been eliminated from the 2018 NCAA tournament, the school has some important decisions to make regarding its basketball future.

A report at the end of February from Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune said that the Bulldogs were among two teams targeted by the Mountain West Conference for future expansion. The Mountain West talks are becoming more of a reality since the Zags were ousted by Florida State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com is reporting that Gonzaga will make a conference decision in the next few weeks as the school is exploring the possibility of leaving the West Coast Conference.

Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth confirmed to Dodd that the Mountain West and Gonzaga are talking while also noting that rumors of BYU and Gonzaga being a package deal are false. Since the window is quickly closing to try to get new teams into leagues for the 2018-19 season the Gonzaga/Mountain West talks should be figured out within the next few weeks.

“I think we’re into that crunch period for sure if we’re going to try to get it done for the fall of 2018. At the same time, we’re not going to rush the decision because of timing,” Roth said to Dodd.

“In a perfect world, we’re going to be making a decision in the next couple of weeks here. But there is no such thing as perfect worlds in the crazy world of college athletics.”

While Gonzaga has dominated the WCC over the last 20 years, the conference hasn’t provided enough quality competition for the perennial top-25 program. That’s why the jump to the Mountain West would be intriguing. The Bulldogs would get a better yearly strength of schedule to help its tournament profile. The Mountain West would add a stable NCAA tournament contender that would also boost the national profile of the league.

“Our conference doesn’t get the national respect, and the Mountain West has better respect,” Roth said to Dodd. “Whether it’s significant enough for us to make that move, we’re trying to figure [that] out.”

As Dodd noted in his report, this move would have little to do with revenue for Gonzaga. This move would be made strictly for competitive purposes:

Such a move would seemingly have little to do with revenue, at least for Gonzaga. The Mountain West TV contract is worth approximately $18 million (about $1.5 million per school). Gonzaga’s current league, the West Coast Conference, gets a tiny fraction compared to that amount.

Based on an industry standard that basketball is worth only 25 percent of any media rights contract, jumping to the MWC would net Gonzaga only $375,000 per season.

Based on Roth’s quotes about the WCC and the level of national respect, it will be fascinating to see if this move happens in the next few weeks. It makes sense for both Gonzaga and the Mountain West to make this move. But a lot of other things also have to be figured out for such a move to take place. Once the college basketball season is over, this will be one of the biggest storylines to follow heading into next season.