NCAA Basketball Tournament - Louisville v Florida

Teacher beats the student as Louisville heads to Final Four

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The teacher beats the student.

Russ Smith came off the bench to score 19 points as No. 4 Louisville used a 18-3 run to close the game and knock off No. 7 Florida 72-68 to advance to the Final Four. If that wasn’t bad enough for Billy Donovan, a win would have been his first against his mentor Rick Pitino.

Making Louisville’s late-run all-the-more impressive is that the Cardinals were able to do it despite the fact that their star guard — and the kid that has carried Louisville to this point in the tournament — had fouled out with 3:58 left and Louisville down by a point.

Florida looked to be in complete control of this game. They took an eight point lead into the half on the strength of 8-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc and pushed that lead to as much as 11 midway through the second half. But with just under 11 minutes left in the second half, Rick Pitino was called for a technical foul after Peyton Siva picked up a questionable fourth foul. Erving Walker hit four free throws to take an 11 point lead, but the Gators never seemed to get into an offensive rhythm the rest of the game.

Where this game changed was on the defensive end of the floor. Florida was torching Louisville’s zone; their ability to use the dribble to get into gaps and find shooters is how the Gators built their lead. In the second half, the Cardinals went man-to-man. Once Florida started attacking Gorgui Dieng in the pick-and-roll, Rick Pitino switched the defense again, keeping Dieng in the paint and using Behanan as the pick-and-roll defender.

The move completely changed the course of the game. Not only were the Gators 0-for-9 from three in the second half, but Florida managed just three points in the final eight minutes of the game and didn’t score again after Kenny Boynton’s jumper put them up 68-66 with 2:43 remaining. In Florida’s final 14 possessions, they were 1-of-12 from the floor, 1-for-3 from the line and committed two turnovers. That ain’t good.

Chane Behanan came up huge for the Cardinals, finishing with 17 points and seven boards. He also provided arguably the two biggest baskets of the game, tying the game at 66 with 3:32 left in the game and giving Louisville the lead with 1:12 remaining.

Louisville will advance to take on the winner of tomorrow’s Kentucky-Baylor South Region final.

If the Wildcats advance, the state of Kentucky may cause our nation’s second Civil War.

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

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A Big 12 and a Big Ten showdown

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.

We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR

  1. Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
  2. Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
  3. Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
  4. Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
  5. No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
  • No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.

 

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Buddy Hield isn’t going anywhere

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket as LSU guard Antonio Blakeney (2) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.

And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.

The rest of the top 10?

They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: