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

New LSU coach Wade unveils plan to awaken a ‘sleeping giant’

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Newly named LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade left little doubt about his intention to wear his players out.

It also sounded like the fresh-faced 34-year-old, who has known only winning in his four seasons as a head coach at Chattanooga and at VCU, knew better than to make immediate promises about turning the Tigers into champions before he’d truly discovered what he’s gotten himself into down on the bayou.

“You may beat us, but you’re going to know you’re in for a fight,” Wade asserted as he spoke of going “all out, all the time,” and defending “every floor board for 94 feet.”

“That’s going to be our identity,” Wade said.

At LSU, basketball has long been a sport that lags behind football and even baseball in popularity. The program’s history is one of inconsistent results and wavering fan support – despite considerable resources spent on upgrading practice and training facilities in recent years.

There are larger than life bronze statues of Hall-of-Famers Bob Pettit and Shaquille O’Neal in front of the basketball practice gym, and the Tigers’ home stadium is named for the legendary Pete Maravich. But LSU has been to a total of four Final Fours in program history. Its last Final Four in 2006 is the only one in the past three decades.

The top overall NBA draft choice in 2016 – Ben Simmons – played at LSU two seasons ago, but the team he led failed to make the NCAA Tournament. One season later, the man who recruited Simmons, Johnny Jones, found himself at the helm of a team mired in a school-record 15-game losing streak.

Now Jones, criticized by fans for allowing Simmons to put his personal goals before those of the team, is out after five seasons, and Wade has taken on the task of trying to turn things around.

Wade said he sees LSU, which went 10-21 this season, as a “sleeping giant.” He plans to wake it up with a high-energy approach and a focus recruiting the type of players who care about the way they represent LSU.

“We’re going to have unwavering commitment to put the team first,” Wade said. “This is a privilege to be here. This is not a right to be here.”

Wade also spoke of making sure his players are not only in class, but sitting in the first few rows. (Simmons was disqualified in college from receiving the Wooden Award, which takes academic performance into consideration).

“It’s all about culture from the start,” Wade said. “You’ve got to establish the way you’re going to do things and be absolutely uncompromising in those. … We’re not going to have shortcuts.”

Wade took his first head coaching job at Chattanooga following a stint as Shaka Smart’s assistant at VCU. Chattanooga was coming off consecutive losing seasons when Wade arrived and made them winners in his first season. Chattanooga won more than 20 games in Year 2 under Wade, who then took over at VCU when Smart left for Texas. Wade guided the Rams to a 51-20 record in two seasons and is now 91-45 overall as a head coach.

Wade acknowledged that the program he took over at VCU was “humming.” He was also at a school where basketball is king, and in a region known for college basketball.

But Wade said LSU offered something that some more traditionally successful programs could not – a chance to build something that represents his own vision of what a bigtime program should be.

“I really looked at this as an opportunity to try to put my stamp on something … and build it in the vision of how I would like it built,” Wade said.

After Wade’s ceremonial introduction at LSU’s student union near the center of campus, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was pretty specific about his expectations for the Tigers’ new coach.

“We should be one of the top teams in the SEC and go to postseason play on a regular basis,” Alleva said before dismissing the notion that it is somehow basketball’s lack of popularity at LSU that has made it hard for the Tigers to win consistently.

“Our fans are great, and if we win, they’ll come,” he said.

NTSB cites mechanical issue in Michigan plane incident

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YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) A preliminary investigation into the runway accident involving a plane carrying the Michigan men’s basketball team cites a mechanical problem.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued an update about the March 8 crash at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township, near the Ann Arbor school. The aborted takeoff caused extensive damage to the aircraft but only one minor injury during evacuation.

The report does not list a likely cause of the incident, but it says flight data recorder shows the right elevator – the primary mechanism controlling an airplane’s pitch – didn’t move during the attempted takeoff.

The plane carrying 109 passengers and seven crew members skidded 1,000 feet past the runway. The team was headed to Washington, D.C., for the Big Ten Tournament. They flew the next day and won the tournament and are now in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Butler, Purdue use true grit to get programs into Sweet 16

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Coach Matt Painter kept believing in his team even as he watched Purdue fritter away a 19-point lead.

He did, after all, recruit these players to excel in tough times. And he did spend two years using the lessons from consecutive overtime losses in the NCAA Tournament to show his team what it took to survive in March.

So when the Boilermakers steadied themselves, retook the lead and reached their first Sweet 16 in seven years, Painter wasn’t surprised. He simply knew the Boilermakers, finally, were tough enough.

“No question, having that grit back after not having it for a couple of years helps,” Painter said. “We put a lot of skill on the court, but we also have guys who are competitive.”

Painter, after all, grew up a fan of former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight, went on to play for Gene Keady and then served on Keady’s staff briefly before succeeding his former coach.

Experience has taught Painter just how delicate it can be to find the proper balance.

After finishing last in the Big Ten in 2013-14 with guys who were content to rely more on their athleticism than mental toughness, Painter changed course.

He brought in gritty overachievers who embraced old-school principles built on effort and led Purdue to its first outright conference title since 1996. Nothing reinforced those beliefs more than last weekend’s comeback against Iowa State.

“Leads are blown throughout March Madness, which is all about close games. I always tell the guys, `If it’s not a blowout, then it is a close game,”‘ junior forward Vince Edwards said Monday. “We have learned to be able to take a run – like Iowa State’s – and be able to withstand it.”

The best teams always do, which is why fourth-seeded Purdue will now face top-seeded Kansas (30-4) in one of Thursday night’s Midwest Regional semifinal games .

Finding players who are the right fit is a challenge for every coach and program.

At Butler, it’s a tradition that has been passed down through nearly a half-dozen coaches over a span of two decades. Former coach and current athletic director Barry Collier started the process by turning the Bulldogs from perennial also-ran into a regular conference contender and NCAA Tourney hopeful.

Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter kept the momentum going before taking other jobs, and Brad Stevens perfected the script as the Bulldogs posted consecutive national runner-up finishes.

Things didn’t always go smoothly. Fans still remember watching the Bulldogs blow an upset against Florida in the 2000 tourney and the inexplicable 2002 tourney snub.

Eventually, though, those painful moments gave way to a litany of program-defining memories.

Against Louisville in the 2003 tourney, a teammate handed his dry shoes to the late Joel Cornette so Cornette could help close out an upset against Louisville in 2003. In the 2010 title game, junior center Matt Howard had the foresight to set a pick and give Gordon Hayward a clean look on his half-court heave that just missed.

The next year, Howard managed to draw a foul in the waning seconds against Pittsburgh to keep Butler’s postseason run alive.

“The stories are unbelievable,” point guard Tyler Lewis said. “That was a special group because they really made the community believe Butler was not just some small school. Butler was a school you didn’t mess around with.”

Stevens and his predecessors moved the school up the pecking order by recruiting late-bloomers or players who were often overlooked by bigger schools. They asked them to play selflessly, a style that defines The Butler Way.

While that philosophy worked well in the Horizon League and the Atlantic 10, Chris Holtmann needed to make some adjustments to thrive in the stronger Big East. Holtmann has recruited better athletes and is looking for more physical players, but the same basic philosophy hasn’t changed.

“I think it (toughness) has been valued here at a really high level, from those who came before me,” Holtmann said. “I just hope I’m doing my job to carry it on.”

The good news is he hasn’t had do too much.

Here, players like leading scorer Kelan Martin don’t complain about coming off the bench if asked. Grad transfers like Avery Woodson and Kethan Savage are both happy to help any way they can in their first and only NCAA appearance.

And it will be that way again when fourth-seeded Butler (25-8) tries to upset top-seeded North Carolina (29-7) in the South Region on Friday night.

“What makes us so tough is that we believe in each other,” said Lewis, who started his career at North Carolina State. “It’s an honor putting on this Butler uniform because it reminds us of what the guys did that came before us.”

Sweet 16 Preview: Thursday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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The Sweet 16 kicks off on Thursday night, and the games are going to be terrific.

Oregon-Michigan should be thrilling, Gonzaga-West Virginia is a fascinating contrast of styles and Kansas-Purdue features arguably the two best players in college basketball.

Oh, and then there’s Arizona-Xavier, with Sean Miller and Chris Mack doing battle.

For an in-depth look at each region, check these out:

SWEET 16 PREVIEW: Midwest | West | South | East

No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 7 Michigan (-1.5), 7:09 p.m. (CBS): So this run that Michigan on, is it a fluke?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is. Derrick Walton has been awesome for the better part of two months while Michigan’s perimeter shooters have always been shooters and the duo of D.J. Wilson and Mo Wagner are legit. I honestly do not believe that the Wolverines are a team of destiny after the plane crash. They are just really good and a perfect roster for John Beilein to tinker with.

That’s why they’re favored on Thursday night. But here’s the thing … Oregon is pretty good themselves. Dillon Brooks is going to be guarded by a big man, which should be a matchup that Brooks can take advantage of, and Tyler Dorsey has been playing terrific basketball since the start of the Pac-12 tournament.

If you like small-ball, spread-the-court basketball, you’ll love this game.

PREDICTION: Michigan (-1.5)

No. 1 Gonzaga (-3) vs. No. 4 West Virginia, 7:39 p.m. (TBS): On paper, I think Gonzaga should win this game. They have a good back court in Nigel Williams-Goss and Josh Perkins, a pair of talented point guards that have won a lot of games in their career. Gonzaga is also the best defensive team in the country. So if they don’t turn the ball over against West Virginia’s press and they make it difficult for West Virginia to score in the half court and get into their press, they should be able to win this thing, right?

Well, maybe not.

My concern with Gonzaga is game-pressure. They didn’t handle it well down the stretch against BYU in their one loss of the season, and I’m not convinced that they win that second round game against Northwestern if the officials don’t blow the goaltending call. How are they going to handle an endless wave of Mountaineers in their face?

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-3)

No. 1 Kansas (-5) vs. No. 4 Purdue, 9:39 p.m. (CBS): More than any other game this weekend, I’m fascinated to see how these two teams decide to try and play each other. Kansas has, essentially, one big man that Bill Self can trust, and he’s going up against a Player of the Year candidate in Caleb Swanigan and one of the best big men in the country at drawing fouls in Isaac Haas. Will Self double-team Swanigan knowing that Purdue may be more effective offensively when Swanigan can find shooters out of the double-team, or will he risk Lucas getting in foul trouble by trying to guard Swanigan one-on-one?

Then, at the other end of the floor, how will Purdue deal with the Kansas back court? Frank Mason III, the NBC Sports National Player of the Year, and Devonte’ Graham are a nightmare for anyone to deal with, let alone a team that struggles against penetrating guards and that lacks rim protection. It should be a fascinating coaching battle.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-5)

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 11 Xavier, 10:09 p.m. (TBS): On paper, Arizona should be able to handle a Xavier team that doesn’t have Edmond Sumner or Myles Davis. That said, as we all know, Chris Mack and Sean Miller are very close and used to work together. Mack knows everything that Miller is going to do and vice versa. I think this game will be a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair that comes down to the final minutes.

PREDICTION: Xavier (+7.5)

Shayok and Reuter transferring from Virginia

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Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.

Marial Shayok and Jarred Reuter will both transfer out of the program, the school said.

“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”

Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.

Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.