NCAA Basketball Tournament - Louisville v Florida

Lenzelle Smith, Chane Behanan spark Final Four runs

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People are incorrect when they say that it was the play of Kemba Walker that carried UConn from the first day of the Big East tournament to 11 consecutive wins and, eventually, an NCAA Championship.

Kemba was sensational, don’t get me wrong. But he was sensational all season long. He went for 42 points in the second game of the regular season. He scored 90 points as the Huskies ran through the Maui Invitational in the third week of the regular season. There was the triple-double he had against New Hampshire, the game-winners he hit against Villanova and Texas, the 31 points and 10 assists he had against Georgetown.

You get the point.

As good as Kemba was, it was the emergence of Jeremy Lamb as a secondary scorer, Alex Oriakhi as a dominant rebounder and Shabazz Napier as a capable ball-handler that allowed Jim Calhoun to make a run to his third national title.

If we’re going to take anything out of UConn’s run, it’s that simply relying on a star is not enough to get a team to the Final Four. It’s the production of the supporting cast — both expected and unexpected — that is the difference between hanging a Final Four banner and heading home after the tournament’s first weekend.

You needn’t look any further than Saturday night’s Elite Eight action to see it.

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Louisville has one of the weirdest roster compositions you’re ever going to come across.

The Cardinal’s two most important players — Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva — happen to be the fifth- and sixth-leading scorers on the team, respectively. Their two leading scorers — Kyle Kuric and Russ Smith — have gotten more attention this season for the shots they’ve missed than the shots they’ve made.

Perhaps the least-talked about member of Louisville’s team is Chane Behanan, the undersized power forward whose physical, blue-collar presence in the paint is the perfect compliment to Dieng’s ability as a shot-blocker. Behanan, who averages 9.3 ppg and 7.4 rpg, has made a name for himself thanks to his ability to finish around the rim, often times with a powerful dunk in traffic. But he’s far from what you would consider a big-time scoring threat; he scored 17 or more points just three times this season heading into Saturday.

But against the Gators, Behanan did just that, finishing with 17 points and seven boards.

It was more than the number of points he scored, however. It was when he scored them. With the Gators up 11 and less than nine minutes left in the game, Behanan reeled off seven straight points in less than two minutes to get the Cards back within six. With three minutes left in the game — and with Siva on the bench with five fouls — Behanan hit a short jumper in the lane that tied the score for the first time since the 10 minute mark of the first half. With 1:12 left in the game, Behanan hit another short jumper that gave Louisville a 69-68 lead.

Florida wouldn’t score again, and Louisville would advance to the Final Four with a 72-68 win.

“Really wanted the ball, really played terrific down the stretch when we needed him,” Pitino said of Behanan. “Very surprising for a freshman.”

It was more than just Behanan’s offense that changed the course of this game, however. Florida torched Louisville’s zone in the first half, to the tune of 8-for-11 shooting from three. Rick Pitino switched to a man-to-man defense in the second half, but Florida began to expose the mismatches by using whoever  Gorgui Dieng was guarding in a pick-and-roll.

So down the stretch, Pitino had Behanan and Dieng essentially rotate the big man they were guarding, with Dieng protecting the rim and Behanan switching onto whoever set the screen. It was his ability to defend those ball-screens that led to Louisville’s 18-3 run over the final eight minutes of the game.

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Lenzelle Smith, Jr., has been one of the most enigmatic players on the Buckeye roster this season.

Smith had reached double figures just once this season when he exploded for 28 points in a 17-point win over Indiana in January. Three games later, Smith had 17 points in a 15-point win over Michigan. In between those two offensive explosions? Smith had a total of two points.

Seriously.

Two points. In two games.

So heading into this tournament, it really wasn’t a secret that Smith was able to score in bunches. What was unknown, however, was when he was actually going to show up. On the nights that Smith does show up, he makes Ohio State such a different basketball team. We all know about Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, but with the youth on the rest of the roster and the inconsistency of William Buford this season, finding another source of points has been vital.

On Saturday, Smith was that guy. He finished with 18 points in Ohio State’s 77-70 win over No. 1 seed Syracuse, scoring 16 of those 18 points in the second. Included in that stretch were arguably Ohio State’s two biggest shots of the night. With just under 12 minutes left in the second half, Syracuse had whittled a 10 point lead down to three when Smith buried a 3-pointer. Four minutes later, Syracuse had gotten the lead down to a single point when Smith hit his third triple of the second half.

The Orange would never have the ball with a chance to take the lead the rest of the game.

I guess at this point it would probably be prudent to remind you that Smith knocked heads with Brandon Triche hard enough to split over his right eyebrow, which required three stitches to stop the bleeding.

Smith had hit 25 threes in a row during Ohio State’s shootaround on Saturday, but it took a while to convince head coach Thad Matta that shooting touch had carried over to the game.

“[Smith] had lost his man on defense and given up a three and then came down and threw kind of a wild pass that almost got picked off,” Matta said, “and I was literally saying he doesn’t have it at the moment, let’s get him out and we’ll talk to him.”

“Then he bangs a three, and I’m like, he’s back.”

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Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas combined for 33 points and 16 boards against Syracuse, while Aaron Craft provided his typical, petrifyingly tough on-ball defense.

Gorgui Dieng was only credited with one block while adding eight points and six boards, but he controlled the paint in the second half against Florida. Peyton Siva, before he fouled out, finished with nine points, eight assists and just a single turnover. Russ Smith chipped in with 19.

Chane Behanan and Lenzelle Smith weren’t alone on Saturday night. But they were the difference makers.

And they are just as much the reason the Buckeyes and the Cardinals are still playing as anyone.

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

VIDEO: Mike Krzyzewski’s touching tribute to Jim Valvano

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The Jimmy V Classic, which Duke is participating in this season, is an event created to raise money for cancer research in honor of Jim Valvano, the legendary N.C. State head coach that passed away from the disease in 1993.

Mike Krzyzewski and Jimmy V were close – after his famous ‘Don’t give up’ speech, Coach K is one of the men helping Jimmy V off of the stage – and he spoke with Dear World about his memories of Valvano.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Frank Mason III, Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball stand out

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 03:  Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks is reacts after making a basket during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Allen Fieldhouse on December 3, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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1. Frank Mason III, Kansas: The latest impressive performance from Mason came against Stanford, as he finished with 20 points, five assists and four boards in a 15-point win over the Cardinal. He’s the engine that makes that team go, averaging 19.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.5 boards while shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and 48.4 percent from three, and he’s still the proud owner of the biggest shot of the season. Is anyone else fired up for when the Jayhawks head to Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky in January?

2. Josh Hart, Villanova: Last Tuesday, we talked about how Hart has improved his three-point shooting and has added the ability to operate in ball-screens to his offensive repertoire this season. Then he went out posted a triple-double in a win over Saint Joseph’s while averaging 9.5 assists in two games. Prior to last week, Hart had never averaged more than 1.9 assists in any season in college.

3. Lonzo Ball, UCLA: The value that Ball brings to this UCLA team goes well-beyond the numbers that he’s putting up, and his numbers are already quite impressive. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 5.0 boards, 1.3 blocks and 1.0 steals on the season, but it’s the nation’s-best 9.3 assists that he’s averaging that makes the difference. He, quite simply, makes everyone on the court around him better. It’s a cliché that’s used with point guards too often, but no one fits that mold better than Ball.

We saw it on Saturday against Kentucky. Ball struggled early in that game, committing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes as the Bruins dug themselves a 23-14 hole. When he finally turned it on, UCLA torched Kentucky’s defense, which is one of the best in all of college basketball. His unselfishness has permeated that roster. Watching the Bruins move the ball against a set defense is a thing of beauty. Draft Express posted a terrific breakdown of just what makes Ball’s passing so difficult to deal with last week.

4. De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: The Wildcats ended up losing to UCLA on Saturday afternoon, but it was no fault of Fox, who finished with 20 points and nine assists while doing the heavy-lifting in keeping Lonzo Ball more-or-less in check. Fox is a terror in transition, nearly impossible to keep out of the paint, unselfish when he draws extra defenders and an elite on-ball defender. If he can find a way to become a consistently jump-shooter, he’s going to be very, very good.

5. Luke Kennard, Duke: Kennard has been Duke’s best player this season, and that did not change in the last seven days, with the return of Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden. He had 20 points in a win over Michigan State and followed that up with a career-high 35 points as the Blue Devils knocked off Maine. If Tatum turns out to be as good as advertised and Grayson Allen eventually returns to health, think about how scary a Duke back court is when Kennard is the third-best weapon offensively?

6. Markelle Fultz, Washington: Let’s put the numbers that Fultz is averaging this season – 22.7 points, 6.7 boards, 6.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks – into perspective. No college basketball player since 1993 has averaged 22 points, six boards and six assists in a season before. Only 14 times in that time-frame has a player averaged 20 points, five boards and five assists, and only one of those 14 played at the high-major level – Evan Turner in 2009-10, when he averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 boards and 6.0 assists and won National Player of the Year.

Making those numbers even more impressive is that none of the 14 players on that list have A) averaged more than one block per game or B) come close to shooting 48.4 percent from three. It’s early, yes, and Fultz still hasn’t played any elite competition, but what he’s done this season is remarkable.

Washington, who is just 4-3 on the season, will get their first real test of the year when they square off with Gonzaga in Spokane on Wednesday.

7. Mo Watson, Creighton: For all the love that UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is getting this season, it’s worth noting that Watson is doing something similar for the Bluejays. He’s averaging 12.0 points and 9.0 assists, second nationally to Ball, for a Creighton team that is in the top ten and running one of the nation’s most high-powered offenses. He’s been terrific.

8. Joel Berry II, North Carolina: We saw Berry’s value last week when he struggled against Indiana in Assembly Hall and the Tar Heels played their worst game of the season to date. He’s now dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out for the next two games. With freshman point guard Seventh Woods stepping into the starting lineup against Davidson on Wednesday, we should really get a feel for just how imporant he is to this team.

9. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: Evans was held in check for the most part in Oklahoma State’s loss at Maryland on Saturday and he still managed to finish with 16 points, five boards and five assists.

10. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Swanigan had a rough outing against Louisville last week. His finished with 14 points and 13 boards, but he also committed six turnovers and was one of the reasons that the Boilermakers had so much trouble on the offensive end of the floor in the first half.

JUST MISSED THE CUT

Melo Trimble, Maryland
Malik Monk, Kentucky
Alec Peters, Valparaiso
James Blackmon Jr., Indiana
Marcus Foster, Creighton
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Yante Maten, Georgia
Johnathan Motley, Baylor
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s

All in the family: Duke coach to face her own daughter

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 03:  Coach Joanne P. McCallie of the Duke Blue Devils directs her team duing a win over the North Carolina Tar Heels at Carmichael Arena on February 3, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Duke won 84-63.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie is trying to treat Thursday’s game against Elon like any other. That might not be so easy, because McCallie’s daughter, Maddie, plays for the Phoenix.

“I’ve always known the game was on the schedule, but it always seemed so far off. Well, now it’s here,” the coach said.

“Elon’s a great school. Elon’s a little mini Duke,” she added. “We pay them money and that helps their program, so it made sense. I felt it was the right thing.”

But the rarity of coaching against her daughter, a reserve guard at Elon, wasn’t lost on McCallie.

“It’s a good story,” she said. “I feel honored for my family. I also have two nieces who play Division I basketball.”

Maddie McCallie is just excited for the chance to play at No. 21 Duke in its famous home building, Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a lot of fun to play in Cameron,” Maddie McCallie said. “It’s a little weird seeing my mom right there on the sideline, but overall it’s another game.”

As much as the McCallies downplayed their mother-daughter matchup, it is definitely unusual. Cal State Bakersfield coach Greg McCall has gone against his daughter, Erica, twice over the last two seasons when his team played Stanford.

Although college players often play for their coaching parents, McCallie was happy her daughter chose Elon after transferring from Miami, Ohio, a few years ago.

“I’m really proud of her and she’s at the right place for her,” McCallie said. “I think it’s unique. One thing it speaks to, as much as I’d like Maddie on my team and she could have been, it’s really important to let your kids do their own thing. It would be fun; I didn’t think it was something that would help her develop. A lot of parents don’t know how to step away, and try to over-coach their kids. The best thing you can do is love them and step away and let other people coach them.”

Elon is only about 45 minutes from Duke, so McCallie has gone to see her daughter play a few times this year. Because the teams are scheduled to face each other, she had Maddie ask Elon coach Charlotte Smith for permission to attend.

Maddie had both her parents in the stands on Sunday. Hours after Duke upset No. 3 South Carolina, they were cheering on Elon against North Carolina.

“They have five seniors this year and are a terrific team,” McCallie said. “We talk often, but mostly not about basketball. It’s mostly about family. She’s really proud of her team. She was a starter last year and comes off the bench now. I’m really proud of her.”

While mother and daughter both know where they will be on Thursday, a big question will be where Joanne McCallie’s husband, John, sits and who he supports.

“I have a feeling that my dad will support me,” Maddie McCallie said, laughing. “Both ways are kind of weird to think about and both ways are kind of exciting. My dad will probably be supporting the Elon team and be sitting behind our bench.”

John McCallie, an economics professor at North Carolina, said it’s going to be a very tough choice.

“I haven’t decided on what to wear or where to sit yet,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “Definitely going to have both colors on.”

As far as which team he’ll be rooting for, that one was easy.

“I’m definitely pulling for a Duke win,” he said. “After all, we just got ranked and would like to keep that. It is going to be exciting, though. I’m really proud of Maddie and what she’s done forging her own path.”

Nicholls State coach DoBee Plaisance knows what the McCallies will be going through. She faced her daughter, Theresa, in 2010 when she was a freshman at LSU. The game was billed as a mother-daughter matchup, and the coach got LSU to take the hour-long trip to Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Six years later, Coach Plaisance still gets emotional talking about it.

“I remember the game like it was yesterday,” she said. “It was for me a very emotional, passionate struggle. There was a struggle from the onset. Scheduling the game, I didn’t want to do it. It was emotional for me for a while. Did I do right for the team? Did I show both teams respect?”

Her daughter had eight points, five rebounds and three assists in the 88-35 victory by LSU. The Nicholls State coach has a framed photo of a postgame hug with her daughter in her office, a constant reminder of a special day.

“The look on my face was a relief that it was over with,” said DoBee Plaisance, a court coach for McCallie at USA Basketball in 2006. “I hope Joanne has the same relief when her game is done.”

Follow Doug on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg

No. 20 Arizona’s Jackson-Cartwright out up to 2 months

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Parker Jackson-Cartwright #0 of the Arizona Wildcats drives against the Butler Bulldogs during the championship game of the 2016 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 25, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Butler won 69-65.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright will miss about eight weeks with a high-ankle sprain, Wildcats coach Sean Miller said on Monday.

Jackson-Cartwright was injured last Wednesday in No. 20 Arizona’s home win over Texas Southern and did not play in the Wildcats’ loss to No. 8 Gonzaga in Los Angeles on Saturday.

The loss of Jackson leaves Arizona with its top distributor – 5.3 assists per game – and its roster even thinner.

The Wildcats lost forward Ray Smith to a season-ending knee injury during an exhibition game and Allonzo Trier has yet to play this season due to unspecified reasons.

North Carolina to be without star point guard vs. Davidson

North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2) drives to the basket against Long Beach State's Gabe Levin (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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North Carolina announced that Joel Berry II, the team’s star point guard, will be out for Wednesday night’s game against Davidson.

Berry suffered the injury in the second half of Sunday’s win over Radford. The school listed him as questionable for Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

Berry is averaged 14.8 points, 4.7 assists and 3.8 boards on the season while shooting 41.9 percent from three. His absence puts the Tar Heels on upset alert, as they’ll be starting true freshman Seventh Woods at the point against a good Davidson team that features Jack Gibbs, one of the nation’s most lethal scorers.