It’s the game-winning shot: Who ya got?

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The 2011-2012 has already provided it’s fair share of legendary buzzer-beaters, and there is still three weeks remaining in the regular season.

When the game is on the line. Who do you want taking the final shot?

Does your team have one go-to player, or do they have a handful of guys capable of hitting the big shot? A big shot can erase a lot of early-game mistakes. As the games start to become more meaningful, late-game situations are going to become life-or-death.

Some teams are lucky enough to have more than one guy who is mentally tough enough to take and make the big shot. Some teams are just good at running late-game sets, and some teams have a handful of guys who can make a big shot when put in the position to do so. But some teams just need one guy to take the game over. Sometimes it’s the best player, and sometimes it’s somebody you’d least expect. It’s called clutch. Some guys have it, others don’t.

Creighton
The Hero: Doug McDermott
Back-up Plan: Antoine Young
Strategy: At this point, Young might have to be considered the hero. After all, he hit the game-winner against Long Beach State, and hit a huge three against Northern Iowa that would have won the game if not for UNI’s Anthony James. But clearly, McDermott has to be considered option No.1. Let him seal-off his player and feed him the ball on the high block. If the double-team comes, which it probably will, he can kick it to Young for the dagger.

Duke
The Hero: Austin Rivers
Back-up Plan: Seth Curry/Ryan Kelly
Strategy: The Dukies have shown their late-game moxie in recent weeks, beginning with Rivers’ soon-to-be legendary game-winner against North Carolina and ending with the team’s 20-point comeback to defeat North Carolina State. Rivers is a one-on-one nightmare, and Duke has a plethora of outstanding marksmen. Let Rivers create his own shot. If it’s not there, look for Seth Curry to come off of a screen, or find Ryan Kelly in the corner for a spot-up 3-pointer. Curry and Rivers are the best options on the team, but even Andre Dawkins is capable of hitting a big shot.

Florida State
The Hero: Michael Snaer
Back-up Plan: Deividas Dulkys/Ian Miller
Strategy: The game-plan is simple for if you are on offense or defense. For Florida State, you get the ball to Snaer in transition. Force the defense to collapse and hit Snaer of a 3-pointer on the wing. He did it against Duke and he did it against Virginia Tech. If you are the defense, force one of the other four players to beat you. You need to shut-off Snaer. If Luke Loucks is going to drive to the basket, make him take the tough shot. Just don’t let Snaer get the ball on the wing. Dulkys is a good second option, just ask North Carolina. But Snaer is always the first option to take the big shot.

Georgetown
The Hero: Hollis Thompson
Back-up Plan: Jason Clark/Markel Starks
Strategy: Thompson isn’t one to create his own shot. In fact, Georgetown’s offense isn’t built to do that either. But the junior forward has the confidence and the ability to take and make a tough shot with the game hanging in the balance. If the defense shuts off Thompson, Clark has the tools to create space and hit a 3-pointer, or drive to the basket and sink a mid-range jumper.

Iowa State
The Hero: Royce White
Back-up Plan: Scott Christopherson/Chris Allen
Strategy: Let White create his own shot. He’s a tough assignment for almost anyone. He’s got range, size, strength, and stellar ball-handling. He’s also very good at making off-balanced shots. More times than not, White is going to do it himself. But if the double-team comes and he does pass it, Scott Christopherson  shoots 44% from beyond the arc, and has the mental fortitude to make a big shot.

Louisville
The Hero: Peyton Siva
Back-up Plan: Russ Smith/Kyle Kuric
Strategy: There are not many players in the country that are capable of staying in front of Peyton Siva. It could be argued that he’s the quickest player in the country. If he gets to the lane, he’s got the athleticism needed to make a tough shot. He still makes some questionable decisions handling the ball, but has other options when trouble arises. Russ Smith is an the epitome of “a gunner” and Kyle Kuric seems to thrive in pressure situations. Just ask Syracuse, West Virginia, Marquette, Charleston and Vanderbilt.

Marquette
The Hero: Darius Johnson-Odom
Back-up Plan: Jae Crowder/Junior Cadougan
Strategy: Both DJO and Crowder are experienced players with the mental toughness needed to make a big shot. DJO can spot up and hit a big shot, or can take his man off the dribble. If he can’t get a good look, Crowder is as good a second option as you will  find. He’s a match-up nightmare, so he can force a big man to play him on the perimeter where he can beat him one-on-one, or he can back-down a smaller player in the post. Every game Marquette is involved in seems to come down to the final shot, so you know they are battle-tested.

Michigan
The Hero: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Back-up Plan: Trey Burke/Zach Novak
Strategy: Trey Burke is going to be handling the ball. He should give it up to Hardaway and let him create his own shot with Zach Novak spotting up on the wing or in the corner. Another option would be to let Burke drive and create, hoping a double-team comes which frees up Hardaway to take the big shot. But don’t let Burke’s freshman status fool you, he’s capable of making a big shot too.

Missouri
The Hero: Marcus Denmon/Michael Dixon
Back-up Plan: Kim English/Phil Pressey/Matt Pressey/Ricardo Ratliffe
Strategy: While Marcus Denmon might be “The Hero”, he’s certainly not the only go-to option. In fact, anybody on the court in a Missouri uniform can make a big shot. Phil Pressey can handle the ball and create space for Denmon or English to beat their men or take a big shot. Michael Dixon is always capable of beating his man, and Ricardo Ratliffe rarely misses from inside. This team has a wealth of experience in taking clutch shots, so for Missouri, the open man is the best option.

Murray State
The Hero: Isaiah Canaan
Back-up Plan: Donte Poole/Jewuan Long
Strategy: For the past two months, the Racers have taken everybody’s best shot. Eastern Kentucky, Austin Peay, Jacksonville State, Tennessee Tech, and Morehead State all had leads against the Racers, but could not put this team away. Why? Because this team can shoot their way back into any game. Isaiah Canaan has made five or more 3-pointers in seven games season and has scored 30 or more four times. If Murray State needs a game-winning shot, he’s going to be the guy to do so. But if for some reason he can’t, Donte Poole and Jewuan Long are good shooters who are capable of making big plays.

Ohio State
The Hero: William Buford
Back-up Plan: Jared Sullinger/Aaron Craft
Strategy: Jared Sullinger may be the best player on the team, but with the game on the line, Buford should be the guy taking the big shot. A smart defense would let Craft beat them, so getting Buford open quickly with space to operate is key. But Buford is capable of making a tough shot, so denying him the ball is a-must. If there is time on the clock to work with, having Sully post-up his man wouldn’t be a bad option. But Buford should be the guy to get it done.

Oral Roberts
The Hero: Dominique Morrison
Back-up Plan: Warren Niles, Rod Pearson
Strategy: Morrison has one of the prettiest mid-range jumpers in the country, and has the ability to hit a tough shot from anywhere. He beat Rice earlier in the season with a nice fade-away stroke, and he’s the type of player that thrives in the clutch. He’s also got two sidekicks like Warren Niles and Rod Pearson, both of whom have sank game-winners earlier in the season. With “DoMo” and company, the Golden Eagles have a bevy of options when the game is on the line. Oh, and that includes big man Damen Bell-Halter, who hit one of this season’s most amazing buzzer-beaters.

UNLV
The Hero: Chace Stanback
Back-up Plan: Anthony Marshall/Mike Moser
Strategy: If the Rebels are playing on the road, it’s likely that they will need some magic in order to win. All four of their losses have come outside of Las Vegas. If you’re an opposing coach, You cannot let Chace Stanback beat you. Sure, Anthony Marshall can make plays in the clutch, and Mike Moser is a tough assignment. But Stanback is an assassin. If you are going to a close game, make sure you force somebody else to beat you.

Washington
The Hero: Tony Wroten Jr.
Back-up Plan: C.J Wilcox/Terrence Ross
Strategy: The Huskies are notorious for post-season magic. Most of it came from Isaiah Thomas, who is in the NBA now, but freshman Tony Wroten Jr. has shown flashes of late-game prowess. He’s a tough assignment one-on-one or without the ball. If you try to show help-side defense, C.J. Wilcox can make you pay. Even if this team isn’t part of March Madness, look for the Huskies to make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Xavier
The Hero: Tu Holloway
Back-up Plan: Mark Lyons/Brad Redford
Strategy: This has been a long season for the Muskies. Sure, this team might not be able to orchestrate a late-game rally like they did against Vanderbilt earlier in the year, but if they are already in a close-game, Xavier has the guys to make the big shots. Tu Holloway’s resume speaks for itself. He hit a careers-worth of big-time shots in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and even though his leadership has been questioned, he still has big-shot capabillities. With as streaky as Holloway has been this season, Mark Lyons might be a better option. he’s field-goal and 3-point % is way up from last year. But the real question is if this team can put themselves in the position to make a game-winning shot.

Honorable Mention
Iona: Lamont “MoMo” Jones, Michael Glover, Scott Machado
Michigan State: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Keith Appling
Northern Iowa: Anthony James
Oklahoma State: Keiton Page
Princeton: Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis
Syracuse: Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine
Temple: Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez
UNC-Asheville: Matt Dickey
Virginia Commonwealth: Bradford Burgess
Weber State: Damian Lillard

Pro golfer, Wisconsin fan Steve Stricker does not like J.P. Macura

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Wisconsin resident, Badger fan and pro golfer Steve Stricker was not happy after UW lost to Xavier on Thursday night.

For starters, his team lost.

That sucks.

Then J.P. Macura went and rubbed it in everyone’s face, doing the Gator Chomp at the student section after he threw down an alley-oop with less than a minute left:

Stricker was not having any of it:

Me?

I loved it.

And maybe, just maybe, the fact that Wisconsin’s entire student section spent the game telling Macura that he’s an a****** had something to do with his reaction.

Also … how many middle fingers do you see in this picture?

Thank you Badger fans. What a hostile environment.. I appreciate the love

A post shared by Jp Macura (@jpmacura) on

Lonnie Walker hurt as No. 11 Hurricanes beat A&M 90-59

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker IV twisted his left ankle Thursday night, and coach Jim Larranaga was sore himself after the latest lopsided win by the 11th-ranked Miami Hurricanes.

Larranaga said Walker wasn’t seriously hurt, and the coach seemed more concerned about his team’s effort and focus in a 90-59 victory over Florida A&M.

“I didn’t think we were very good from start to finish,” Larranaga said. “We need to play a whole lot harder, and better defensively. We looked sluggish. I told the team I was extremely disappointed in our effort.”

Walker was assisted to the locker room in the first half after stepping on another player. The Hurricanes are scheduled to play La Salle next Wednesday in Walker’s hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.

“We won’t know for a couple of days, but I think he’s fine,” Larranaga said.

Is he likely to play in the next game?

“Oh, he’s going to play in Reading,” Larranaga said.

Trump urges 3 UCLA players to thank China leader for release

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump urged three suspended UCLA basketball players on Thursday to thank China’s president for their freedom after they shoplifted in China.

The president’s suggestion came a day after he tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump. They were headed for 10 years in jail.”

The trio apologized that day and publicly thanked Trump, who was in Asia last week, for his help. On Thursday morning, the president sent another tweet: “You’re welcome. go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible.”

In the same tweet, Trump said, “HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

Later in the day, as he rallied House Republicans before a crucial vote on a tax overhaul, Trump talked about his efforts to release the players

Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas said Trump “personally engaged the Chinese president and it turned out the way it did,” with the players released. He said China is known for being “extremely punitive” with criminal suspects, adding: “This could have been a disaster for those families.”

Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were detained in Hangzhou for questioning last week before the Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai. The rest of the team returned home Saturday.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero said the shoplifting occurred when the team had 90 minutes of free time on Nov. 6 in Hangzhou. He said the three took items from three stores.

The players are suspended indefinitely, and coach Steve Alford says they will have to earn their way back onto the team.

Weekend Preview: We’ve reached the oversaturation point of early-season exempt events

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Typically, I use these Weekend Previews to discuss the best games of the weekend, but this weekend, there just aren’t any games that are actually worth talking about.

So I’m going to go on a rant instead.

We’ve officially reached the point of over-saturation when it comes to the early-season exempt events.

This is the second weekend of the college basketball season and we’re right in the middle of what should be one of the better weeks of college hoops. The Gavitt Games are happening, the Champions Classic more or less lived up to the hype and, starting on Thursday, we dove head first into tropical locale tournament season.

Except … these events all suck.

The Charleston Classic started on Thursday. Auburn beat Indiana State to advance and take on Temple, who dispatched Old Dominion. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Clemson and Hofstra, because Hofstra upset Dayton in the first round. There are four mid-major teams in the Charleston Classic, and none of the high-major teams look like they will be tournament-bound.

The Puerto Rico tip-off is even worse. It features teams from the Missouri Valley, Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the SoCon. The best team in the event is either an Iowa State team that lost to Milwaukee at home by double-digits, a Tulsa team that lost to Lamar at home, a South Carolina team that got picked off in the first round of the event or Boise State, who wasn’t picked to be in the top two of the Mountain West.

It won’t get any better when the Paradise Jam starts today. The three best teams in that event are Houston, Colorado and Wake Forest and features an opening round game between Mercer and Liberty.

There are also a number of events in the Northeast this weekend and next week. I live an hour from New York City and I won’t be making the trek up to any of the games at the Garden or the Barclays Center until next Saturday, and these are what are supposed to be big games being held there for the next eight days. I cover this sport for a living, but I’d rather watch on TV and spend time with my son than go see Pitt play Penn State or Texas Tech square off with Boston College.

Even the Maui Invitational isn’t all that intriguing. Cal is down. VCU is down. Michigan and Marquette have struggled early. LSU is intriguing but only in the sense that they appear to not be a train-wreck this year. If Notre Dame doesn’t play Wichita State in the final, that tournament will not feature a single must-see game.

Now granted, much of this is due to the fact that Nike pulled 14 power programs out of the exempt event rotation for the PK80, and I’ll admit, that event should be fun. But man, it was such a buzzkill when I realized that the 16-team event was really just two eight-team tournaments.

It makes sense – you can’t have conference rivals facing off in the same tournament – but it just never clicked for me.

Which brings me back around to the larger point that I wanted to make: Can we start doing away with some of these events and play marquee non-conference games on campus again? On Thursday night, we got a chance to see No. 15 Xavier pay a visit to Wisconsin for the Gavitt Games, and it was everything that we love about college basketball. Two elite programs featuring an all-american facing off in front of a raucous crowd that spent the entire second half letting J.P. Macura know that they think he is an a******. Ethan Happ, the best post player in the country, according to Chris Mack, got pissed about not getting a couple of foul calls and proceeded to will Wisconsin back into the game only to see Trevon Bluiett bury two dagger threes in a minute stretch to put the game away.

After hitting those threes, Bluiett proceeded to shush the crowd. A minute later, after throwing down an alley-ooo to put Xavier up 12 with just seconds left on the clock, Macura proceeded to do the Gator Chomp over and over and over at the Wisconsin student section to remind them of who knocked the Badgers out of last year’s NCAA tournament.

That was awesome!

Yes, Macura was a little over the top, and yes, the Wisconsin fans probably earned Macura’s trolling, but everything about that game was what makes college basketball great.

And it was a game between the No. 15 team in America and an unranked Wisconsin program. It wasn’t even a marquee matchup. The environment at the Champions Classic rivaled that – there really is nothing better than having an arena packed with fan bases from both teams playing – but when those neutral site games don’t feature blue blood programs or teams with large alumni bases in the city or fans that are willing to spend the money to travel, it’s boring. Virginia Tech got upset by Saint Louis at Madison Square Garden last night and I’m pretty sure I could have put my son to sleep while sitting behind the basket.

So this is my plea to the NCAA tournament Selection Committee: Make it obvious just how much you value quality road wins in non-conference play. Make them so valuable that programs simply cannot afford not to play them. Make Xavier’s win at Wisconsin on Thursday night worth at least a seed line even if Wisconsin ends up being a bubble team.

That’s the only way we’re going to get teams to play great games on campus in the fall.

No. 15 Xavier’s win over Wisconsin should, and will, be rewarded by Selection Committee

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This Wisconsin team is probably not going to end up being quite as good as past Wisconsin teams.

That’s inevitable when you lose the players that they lost to graduation, but it also doesn’t change the fact that No. 15 Xavier went into the Kohl Center and snagged a win that is going to look quite good on Selection Sunday.

The Musketeers took care of the Badgers, 80-70, thanks to 25 points and nine boards from Trevon Bluiett and 20 points from J.P. Macura. Bluiett struggled to find a rhythm for much of the game, but he hit a pair of critical jumpers midway through the second half to stem a Wisconsin run and, with the game tied and just over a minute left on the clock, buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to lock up the win.

For a stretch midway through the second half, it looked like Wisconsin was getting ready to run away with this game. Ethan Happ – who finished with 21 points and eight assists and who Xavier head coach Chris Mack referred to as “one of the best post players in the entire country” – was in the midst of taking the game over and Wisconsin’s sold out Kohl Center was in full voice. That’s when Bluiett went into takeover mode, quieting the crowd and getting Xavier out of Madison with a win.

That shouldn’t be overlooked, and if there is any justice in the world, it will be the kind of thing that the Musketeers get rewarded for come Selection Sunday.

I enjoy the neutral site tournaments that pop up every year. They create some drama every November, and there are always some fun matchups over the weekend and afternoon basketball during the week. That’s great. But the best part of college hoops is the environment of playing a big game on campus. The crowd, the student section, players like Macura doing the Gator Chomp at the Wisconsin fans – the Badgers lost to Florida in the NCAA tournament last year – after they spent the entire second half bombarding him with ‘a******’ chants every time he touched the ball.

It was great.

And it will be better if that kind of a win, even against a Wisconsin team that is probably closer to being top 40-good than top 25-good, is something that the Selection Committee values. Those changes are supposedly coming, and it will be a good thing for the sport. Give top 15 teams an incentive to play road games in November.

Because Thursday night’s clash in the Kohl Center was everything that is great about college hoops.