College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Five Thoughts

Last word on Kansas-Missouri: I still can’t get over this game. I wrote almost 1,200 words on it after it happened, and I still think I shorted it. The way Missouri played for the first 25 minutes should be lauded. Its not easy to build up a 19 point lead on the road; its near impossible to do so at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a big game. The way that Kansas came back was even more impressive, as they fed Thomas Robinson over and over again what stymieing Missouri’s vaunted offense. There were too many clutch shots down the stretch to remember.

But more than anything, I think the fact that this was one of the best college basketball games you will ever see played in an environment unlike any other will do wonders for keeping this rivalry going. To be frank, the “rivalry” hasn’t been much of a rivalry over the last decade or two. Kansas is Kansas, and while Missouri fields some very good basketball team now and again, they aren’t on the same level as the Jayhawks. That said, during years like this — when Missouri is for real and Kansas is just as good — the games get taken to another level, just like they did on Saturday.

I think that will be enough to convince Kansas to play Missouri again, even if it helps Missouri more than it will ever help the Jayhawks. It won’t be next season. It may be five or ten years. Maybe more. But eventually, this game will come back. Until then, as Joe Posnanski said, we’ll miss it.

The Mountain West race will be fun this week: San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are all tied for first place in the MWC at 8-4 with just two games left this week. Barring another upset — which is a ridiculous assumption to make given how often rank has been a factor in the conference this season — SDSU has the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They already have a win over fourth place TCU, and they play at TCU. That said, TCU has beaten UNLV and UNM at home. Ugh.

UNLV looks like they will be headed for the No. 2 seed if they can win out this week. New Mexico has already lost to Colorado State, the fifth place team, but the Rebels won at home earlier this season and have to travel to Ft. Collins for the rematch. Oh, and Colorado State has beaten both New Mexico and SDSU this year. Double ugh.

So like I said, the end of the MWC race is going to be some fun this week. Buckle up.

Can the CAA get two bids?: It might be tough. Drexel and VCU are both going to have to make the title game of the league tournament. I’d also expect that Drexel has a better chance of getting in with an at-large bid, so we would probably need VCU to win the automatic bid. The Dragons will be an interesting case. They’ll have 27 wins if they make it to the title game. They’ll have won 25 of their last 27 games. Their 2-4 start? Two of those losses came when sharpshooter Chris Fouch was injured and the other two came when he was back on the court but not 100%. Think about it like this: Drexel, as of now, has lost once since Dec. 3rd and ran through an always tough and always balanced CAA, winning the league outright despite a couple of talented teams. That deserves heavy consideration.

Late whistles: There were a number of late calls that decided games this week. The most notable: the no-call on Phil Pressey’s drive and the foul called on Tyshawn Taylor’s drive in the KU-MU game; the charge called on Kyle Casey that erased what would have been the go-ahead bucket for Harvard in their loss to Penn; the no-call when Roscoe Smith drove in the final seconds against Syracuse. I’m sure I missed some.

My opinion is this: I think down the stretch, you have to allow a little bit to change in terms of how a game is called. You don’t call ticky-tack fouls that will decide the outcome. If a player is hit hard enough, yes, you should give him the whistle. The definition of a foul is termed as when “an advantage is gained”, and so long as the referees stick to that theory late, I think they’ll be fine. There was no advantage gained when Robinson hit Pressey at the end of regulation, but there was also no advantage gained when Taylor drove and drew a foul that gave Kansas their final lead. I like seeing players decide the outcome of a game, but if they draw a foul, it has to be given to them.

Also, I have an issue with how much folks talk about overworked referees. The best in the business get paid upwards of $3,000 per game. For two hours worth of work. If I got paid that much, I would be working 20 hours every day. And frankly, I don’t think refs get that tired flying around the country as much as they do. I certainly don’t blame bad calls on refs being travel-weary. I think the bigger issue is that some of these refs just aren’t that good.

Best game you won’t hear anything about this week: Weber State, who is led by future first-round pick, and Montana are tied for first place in the Big Sky. Weber State won the first matchup between the two by 16 at home, but they will be heading to Missoula, MT, for the rematch. Currently, the third place team in the conference is five games behind these two and the fourth place teams is seven games back; in other words, both Montana and Weber State are good. Which is why this matchup should be fun to watch.

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

Hot-shooting No. 5 Clemson ousts No. 12 New Mexico State 79-68

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SAN DIEGO — Shelton Mitchell and Gabe DeVoe led Clemson into the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years.

The Tigers are dancing into the weekend. The No. 12 seeds are all gone.

Mitchell scored a season-high 23 points, DeVoe had 22 and Clemson beat New Mexico State 79-68 on Friday night, closing out a perfect opening round for No. 5 seeds.

The 5-12 line is usually one of the top spots for NCAA 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 tourney since the First Four in 2011.

“We weren’t surprised at all by what we saw and I wasn’t surprised by how well our players played,” coach Brad Brownell said.

Clemson was nearly flawless at the offensive end against the WAC champions, one of the better defensive teams in the country. Marcquise Reed added 15 points as nearly everyone had a good night shooting for Clemson. Mitchell made 8 of 13 shots, while DeVoe hit 10 of 15 attempts. During one stretch of the first half, the Tigers made 9 of 11 shots.

It was an impressive showing for the Tigers after they stumbled over the final weeks of the regular season adjusting to the loss of Dante Grantham to a season-ending knee injury. They were just 7-6 after Grantham was injured.

With shooting like that, the Tigers are capable of beating anyone.

“The rim wasn’t unkind to them. They shredded us,” New Mexico State coach Chris Jans said.

It was the first time Clemson made more than half of its shots since a 53-percent performance against North Carolina State early in ACC play. The Tigers had failed to shoot at least 40 percent in four games after Grantham was injured — which made the hot shooting against New Mexico State so surprising.

New Mexico State had rolled through the WAC with the best scoring defense in the conference, giving up 63.8 points per game, but its pressure defense backfired against the Tigers. Clemson’s guards were able to beat the Aggies’ defenders off the dribble and finish when they got to the rim.

“We knew we had to be aggressive with the ball and be strong with it,” Mitchell said. “They are a feisty team, so really just playing strong at all times on offense.”

Zach Lofton led New Mexico State (28-6) with 29 points and Jemerrio Jones had 13 points and 14 rebounds, but the Aggies had too many inconsistent stretches while the Tigers were so good at the offensive end.

“Their guards really hurt us,” Jans said. “We knew they were good. It’s well documented how good they are. … They were a load. They were hard to handle.”


New Mexico State had one flurry midway through the second half, creating at least some concern for Clemson. Down 64-49, the Aggies went on a 13-4 run, closing to 68-62 on Jones’ rebound basket with 5:55 left. Mitchell answered with a 3 late in the shot clock and after a pair of empty trips, Mitchell hit a pair of free throws and added another basket to push the lead back to 13.

“We’ve been in that position before. We’ve come back from deficits like that. We couldn’t get that big stop and score that we needed,” Lofton said.


New Mexico State: The Aggies have made the tournament seven of the past nine seasons, but are still looking for their first tournament win since 1993 — a victory over Nebraska that was later vacated. The last tournament victory for New Mexico State that counted came in 1970 when the Aggies reached the Final Four.

Clemson: The Tigers shot just 42.5 percent during ACC play and topped 50 percent just once against conference foes. But during non-conference play, the Tigers had four games of shooting 55 percent or better, including a season-best 61 percent against Texas Southern.


New Mexico State: The Aggies are expected to contend in the WAC again next season with a solid core of players returning and a couple of transfers who sat out this season.

Clemson: The Tigers will face another team still overcoming a key injury when they face No. 4 seed Auburn in the second round on Sunday.

No. 11 Syracuse tops No. 6 TCU 57-52 to advance again

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DETROIT — Marek Dolezaj scored 17 points before fouling out and 11th-seeded Syracuse shut down sixth-seeded TCU for a 57-52 victory in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

The Orange (22-13) won for the second time in the tournament and advanced to face third-seeded Michigan State on Sunday by 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.

Syracuse led 50-49 before mid-range shots by Tyus Battle and Frank Howard pushed the lead to five. That margin was plenty in this game.

A tight, compelling contest throughout, the game nevertheless had an odd feel, with Little Caesars Arena having mostly emptied out after the Michigan State-Bucknell game. TCU and Syracuse played in front of a handful of fans who at times seemed as interested in periodic Virginia-UMBC updates as what was going on in front of them on the court.

TCU struggled offensively throughout, but the Horned Frogs did score eight straight points to finish the first half with a 28-27 lead.


It’s March, and Syracuse again looks like a threat after barely making the NCAAs as the last team selected for the field of 68. The Orange weren’t impressive at all on offense, but it didn’t matter. Now it’ll be Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s turn to try to solve that 2/3 zone.

TCU had one real highlight on the night — an alley-oop pass from Alex Robinson to Kenrich Williams near the end of the first half that traveled about three-quarters of the length of the court.


Syracuse had to beat Arizona State in the First Four to start this tournament, so the game against Michigan State will be its third in five days.

The offseason comes earlier than TCU would like, but the program is clearly making progress under Dixon.

No. 9 Florida State beats No. 8 Mizzou 67-54

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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 67-54 on Friday night in the West Region.

Florida State (21-11) will play No. 1 seed Xavier in the second round on Sunday.

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.

Kassius Robertson had 19 points for Missouri. Michael Porter Jr. scored 16 in what might be his final college game, with 13 in the second half. Missouri never got closer than six in the second half before the Seminoles sealed the win with 15 straight points.

The Tigers started well enough as Robertson opened the game with a 3-pointer, and Missouri scored seven of the first eight points.

That’s when Florida State woke up.

Cofer scored on a tip-in, starting an 11-0 run capped by Savoy’s 3-pointer. That would up as part of a 20-4 spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Braian Angola midway through the half. Florida State went into intermission up 42-20, and all 10 Seminoles who played scored.

This was just the third game this season for Porter, the possible NBA lottery pick who suffered a back injury in Missouri’s season opener. Even with another week of practice since the Southeastern Conference Tournament, he looked rusty. Porter had the ball stolen from him with 7:55 left in the first half and followed that up just over a minute later with an airball jumper.

The Tigers pulled within 52-44 on a pair of free throws by Porter as Missouri opened the second half by outscoring Florida State 24-8.

Cofer hit two of three free throws to start a 15-0 spurt that pushed the lead back to double digits. By the time Missouri scored again, Jontay Porter’s jumper with 5:08 left only pulled the Tigers within 65-46.


Florida State: The Seminoles came in having lost three of four. But they came in as the ACC’s third-highest scoring team, averaging 81.8 points a game, and they showed off their offense by smothering Missouri in points.

Missouri: The Tigers will never know how much having their second-leading scorer might have helped. Guard Jordan Barnett was suspended from Missouri’s first-round game after being arrested for driving while intoxicated last week . The senior guard was averaging 13.7 points per game.


Florida State: Playing Xavier for a trip to the Sweet 16.

Missouri: Waiting to see if Michael Porter Jr. enjoyed college life enough to stick around for his sophomore season or chooses to enter the NBA draft as a possible lottery pick.

UMBC becomes first No. 16 seed to beat No. 1 seed in beatdown of Virginia

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UMBC made sports history on Friday night by becoming the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The America East champions pulled off a shocking 74-54 upset over No. 1 seed Virginia in the South Region.

The Retrievers (25-10) not only made history by beating a No. 1 seed — they also knocked off the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament in dominating fashion. Tied at the half, UMBC jumped out to a double-digit lead and maintained its dominance throughout the second half by consistently knocking down three-pointers and keeping the pressure on.

Senior guard Jairus Lyle, the team’s hero in the America East title game, finished with 28 points to pace the Retrievers as he went 9-for-11 from the field.  Joe Shurburne (14 points), Arkel Lamar (12 points) and K.J. Maura (10 points) also finished in double-figures for UMBC, as they extended its winning streak to six games.

Virginia (31-3) won the ACC regular season by four games. They took the league’s conference tournament as well. The Cavaliers were the most consistent team in college basketball this season. The Cavaliers lost sixth man DeAndre Hunter to the season with an injury earlier in the week. They were still a heavy favorite in this game.

But Virginia struggled to knock down three-pointers. It was clear Virginia started playing scared once the upset became apparent. And that’s how once of the biggest upsets in sports history went down. Sophomore guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome led Virginia with 15 points each.

Virginia shot only 41 percent (23-for-56) from the field and 19 percent (4-for-22) from three-point range as they couldn’t find consistent offense or a go-to player.

UMBC advances to battle No. 9 seed Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats advanced earlier on Friday night with a balanced effort in a win over No. 8 seed Creighton.

UMBC social media won the night as much as the basketball team

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The eyes of the sports world are on UMBC. Cinderella has arrived.

The No. 16 seed shocked No. 1 seed Virginia by double digits on Friday night as the Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

UMBC’s basketball team wasn’t the only group from the school ready to go on Friday night.

The school’s social media presence was trolling everyone and showing tons of swagger as the Retrievers built a second-half double-digit lead on Virginia.

The UMBC Athletics account called out pundits, trolled doubters and had fun with fans during a special moment in sports history.

Some examples:

Now that the historic win has gone down, UMBC, and their social media account, have become immortal.