Recapping the first day of the Sweet 16

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Player of the Day: Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State: If the tournament ended today, there would be a very strong argument to make for Thomas winning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. After going for 31 points and 12 boards in the opening round win over Loyola MD, Thomas chipped in with 18 points and seven boards against Gonzaga. Against Cincinnati, Thomas scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half, shooting 10-17 from the floor and grabbing four of his seven boards on the offensive end of the floor. Jared Sullinger’s play in paint and Aaron Craft’s defense spurred Ohio State’s run down the stretch, but it was Thomas who put the Buckeyes in control in the first half.

They were good too:

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: Sullinger had 23 points, 11 boards (five offensive) and three assists, helping to lead Ohio State’s game-changing run in the second half.

Brad Beal, Florida: Beal carried the Gators, going for 21 points, six boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks in a win over Marquette.

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: In a game that was won on the defensive end of the floor, Dieng was the star. He had nine boards, seven blocks and three steals.

Team of the Day: Florida Gators: Florida advanced to their second straight Elite Eight with a 68-58 win over Marquette. Brad Beal was the star of the game, notching 21 points, but what was more impressive is that the Gators were able to win despite the fact that Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Erik Murphy combined to go 8-for-32 from the floor and 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. The Gators are a streaky team, one that tends to struggle when the threes aren’t dropping and Boynton and Walker aren’t playing well. The fact that they were able to beat a very good Marquette team to get within a win of the Final Four on a night like this bodes well.

Game of the Day: Syracuse 64, Wisconsin 63: The first game of the night provided us with the most fireworks. After twice digging themselves a hole against the Orange, the Badgers managed to put together a run to get back in the game. Down 48-41 with 11 minutes left, Wisconsin hit threes on six consecutive possessions, putting together an 18-8 run to take a three-point lead. Syracuse answered with an 8-2 run of their own, taking a three-point lead. After Kris Joseph missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 18 seconds left, Bo Ryan didn’t call a timeout, forcing Jordan Taylor to take a tough three that would have won the game. Josh Gasser missed a prayer at the buzzer as he was falling down, and Syracuse advanced to the Elite Eight.

They’ve had better days: Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom: Marquette lost in large part because their big guns struggled. Crowder and DJO combined to go 10-for-30 from the floor and 3-for-14 from three as the Golden Eagles blew every chance the Gators gave them.

Them too:

Wisconsin Badgers: How often do you see a team go 14-27 from three, make threes on six consecutive possessions and lose?

Non-Draymond Green Spartans: With six minutes left in the game and the Spartans down 13 points, Draymond Green was the only player on the team that had made more than one field goal. And until Derrick Nix dunked in the final seconds of what ended up being a 13 point “blowout”, only two Spartans had managed multiple field goals.

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

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.