Championship Week: Day 6’s best game, top player

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Over the next 13 days, the brackets will start to take shape. Teams with no at-large aspirations will make one final push at the post-season. Teams on the bubble will look to assert themselves as worthy members of “The Big Dance”, and contenders will start priming their engines for a national Championship run. While “March Madness” officially begins following Selection Sunday, the real madness starts now.

Until Sunday, March 11,  this will be your home for Championship Week recaps and previews. The players and teams are starting to prepare for March Madness, so you should too.

Game of the Night: Murray State 54, Tennessee State 52
Tennessee State was just a Robert Covington 3-pointer away from handing Murray State their second loss of the season. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the shot caromed off the rim, and the Racers were able to hold on. Jewaun Long hit a tough baseline lay-up with 4.4 seconds left to give Murray State the lead and the Tigers could not answer at the other end. Tennessee State led by as many as seven in the second half, but Covington, the team’s leading scorer, sat for a long period of time due to foul trouble, and Murray State mounted their comeback. The game featured ten ties and eleven lead changes.

– They Were Good Too: George Mason 61, Georgia State 59
A Bryon Allen lay-up with 3.4 seconds remaining broke a 59-5 tie and won the game for the George Mason Patriots in Richmond last night. Georgia State led by as many as 11 points, but the experienced Patriots rallied behind Mike Morrison and Sherrod Wright, who scored all 11 of his points during a four-minute stretch in the second half. The victory of the Panthers sets up a classic rubber-match against VCU.

Player of the Night: Ryan Broekoff, Valparaiso
The Horizon League Player of the Year scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the Crusaders 65-46 victory over Butler in the Horizon League semifinals. The last time these two teams met, a week ago Friday, Broekoff scored just six points and shot 22 percent (2-of-9) from the field and was 0-of-4 from the foul line. But on Saturday, he shot 67 percent (6-of-9) from the field and 83 percent (5-of-6) from the foul line. The Butler Bulldogs will not be making a third consecutive trip to the National Championship game, and Broekoff is one of the reasons why.

– He Was Good Too: Michael Glover, Iona
The senior forward scored 29 points, and provided seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the Gael’s 87-63 win over Marist in the MAAC semifinals. Glover was 11-of-18 from the field and 7-of-10 from the charity stripe. This was the eleventh game of the season in which he has scored 20 or more points.

Team of the Night: Hartford Hawks
The No.6-seed Hawks provided the upset of the night, defeating the No.3-seed Boston Terriers 53-49 in the America East quarterfinals. The Hawks snapped a two-game losing streak, which included a 64-55 loss in the season finale to the Terriers. Nate Sikma scored 16 points, Andres Torres chipped in with 12 points and Mark Nwakamma provided 13 points and 16 rebounds. Despite being the lower-seed, the Hawks benefited from being the host team, and after the victory, received a court-storming from the fans.

– They Were Good Too: Illinois State Redbirds
The No.4-seed Redbirds trailed for much of the game, and were down by eight at the half, but put together a furious second half comeback in order to knock off No.1-seed Wichita State in the MVC semifinals. Tyler Brown led all scorers with 25 points and Jackie Carmichael chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds. During the final six minutes of play, Illinois State held Wichita State to just four points. The Redbirds will meet the Bluejays of Creighton in the finals of “Arch Madness”.

Saturday Results:

America East Quarterfinals
#6 Hartford 53, #3 Boston 49
#4 Albany 63, #5 New Hampshire 45
#2 Vermont 50, #7 Maine 40
#1 Stony Brook 78, #9 Binghamton 69

Atlantic Sun Finals
#1 Belmont 83, #6 Florida Gulf Coast 69

Big Sky Quarterfinals
#4 Eastern Washington 81, #5 Idaho State 75
#3 Portland State 75, #6 Montana State 53

Big South Finals
#1 UNC-Asheville 80, #7 VMI 64

Colonial Athletic Association Quarterfinals
#4 Old Dominion 88, #5 Delaware 74
#3 George Mason 61, #6 Georgia State 59
#2 Virginia Commonwealth 75, #7 Northeastern 65
#1 Drexel 59, #9 UNC-Wilmington 47

Horizon League Semifinals
#3 Detroit 63, #2 Cleveland State 58
#1 Valparaiso 65, #5 Butler 46

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Quarterfinals
#6 Siena 84, #3 Manhattan 82
#4 Fairfield 65, #5 Rider 63
#2 Loyola (Md.) 86, #7 Niagara 73
#1 Iona 87, #8 Marist 63

Missouri Valley Conference Semifinals
#4 Illinois State 65, #1 Wichita State 64
#2 Creighton 99, #3 Evansville 71

Ohio Valley Conference Finals
#1 Murray State 54, #2 Tennessee State 52

Patriot League Semifinals
#2 Lehigh 85, #3 American 66
#1 Bucknell 79, #5 Lafayette 52

Southern Conference Quarterfinals
#3N Western Carolina 82, #2S Wofford 59
#2N Elon 65, #3S Georgia Southern 58
#1N UNC-Greensboro 65, #5N Appalachian State 55
#1S Davidson 73, #5S Furman 54

Summit League Quarterfinals
#2 South Dakota State 77, #7 IUPUI 56
#1 Oral Roberts 71, #8 IPFW 67

Sun Belt Conference First Round
#9 Arkansas State 70, #8 Florida Atlantic 55
#7 Western Kentucky 67, #10 Florida International 63
#6 South Alabama 87, #11 Troy 81

West Coast Conference Semifinals
#1 Saint Mary’s 83, #5 San Francisco 78
#2 Gonzaga 77, #3 BYU 58

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.