Final Four - Ohio State v Kansas

Kansas overcomes Ohio State for wild Final Four win

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Thanks to a fast start to the second half the Kansas Jayhawks find themselves one win away from a national title few thought they could win back in October.

Thomas Robinson scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but once again the play of Elijah Johnson was a key factor in a Kansas victory.

Johnson scored 13 points and grabbed ten rebounds to help lead the Jayhawks past No. 2 seed Ohio State 64-62 in the second semifinal in New Orleans.

Ohio State led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but foul trouble for Deshaun Thomas led to offensive struggles for the East Region champions.

The reward for the Jayhawks is a match-up with top overall seed Kentucky on Monday night.

“Well, it’s kind of a tale of two halves, two games,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “The light came on and then we were much more aggressive the second half.

“They missed some shots, we controlled the glass, were able to play through our bigs, get out and run.  The biggest thing is we got stops and rebounded.”

Johnson wasn’t the only “unsung” hero for Kansas however, as Travis Releford also made some key plays during the second half.

Releford finished with 15 points, making 5 of 7 shots from the field, and grabbing six rebounds.

William Buford led Ohio State with 19 points and seven rebounds but Jared Sullinger struggled with the length of 7-footer Jeff Withey (seven blocked shots), shooting 5 of 19 from the field and scoring 13 points.

“My teammates definitely look at me and see me as a protector.  They know if they get beat, I’m there,” said Withey. “I’m there to help them block shots.  When I blocked Jared, I was standing straight up.  I guess my length bothered him.”

The Buckeyes did themselves in with poor shot selection, with 23 of their 59 field goals being attempted beyond the arc (making eight).

Down two in the final seconds, Ohio State guard Aaron Craft attempted to rebound his own intentional miss but was called for a lane violation.

According to the NCAA rule book a shooter cannot cross the vertical plane of the foul line before the ball hits the rim. Therefore the correct call was made. A quick in-bounds pass later it was Kansas advancing to the title game.

As a team the Buckeyes shot 33.3 percent inside of the arc, compared to Kansas making 48.9 percent of its 2-point shots. The win sets up a rematch of the November 15 meeting in New York, which Kentucky won 75-65.

The Wildcats shot 64 percent from the field in the second half of that contest, winning despite turning the ball over 19 times.

But the Johnson, Releford and Withey they’ll encounter on Monday are much different from the players Kentucky saw on that night.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

POSTERIZED: Wichita State’s Daishon Smith dunks on Oklahoma big man

WICHITA, KS - NOVEMBER 13:  Guard Daishon Smith of the Wichita State Shockers drives up court past forward Roschon Prince #23 of the Long Beach State 49ers during the first half on November 13, 2016 at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
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Daishon Smith is 6-foot-1.

Kristian Doolittle is 6-foot-7.

The lil guy won this battle:

Here’s another angle of the dunk, which sent Wichita State’s bench into hysterics:

POSTERIZED: Duke’s Grayson Allen with a Dunk of the Year candidate (VIDEO)

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It looks like Grayson Allen’s toe is healthy. I’d say his explosivness is back:

Whoa.

Yeah.

POSTERIZED: Five-star Class of 2017 guard Trevon Duval dunks on 6’8″ defender

CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 9: Trevon Duval during the 2015  Under Armour All-America Basketball Camp on July 9, 2015 at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Under Armour)
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Class of 2017 point guard Trevon Duval put down a huge poster dunk on a 6’8″ defender on Saturday as the five-star prospect showed why many consider him the top lead guard in high school basketball.

The 6-foot-2 Duval is considered the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.

Nigel Hayes shines against as No. 17 Wisconsin beats Marquette

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 10:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is fouled by Luke Fischer #40 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first half of a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 10, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time, Wisconsin dropped a home game to a Marquette team that was headed to the NIT.

This year?

The Badgers put six players in double-figures as they went into Milwaukee and knocked off Marquette, 93-84.

Bronson Koenig continued his hot shooting, finishing with 18 points and six assists while shooting 4-for-6 from beyond the arc. Vitto Brown chipped in with 15 points, Khalil Iverson had 16 and Ethan Happ chipped in with 11 despite battling foul trouble all afternoon.

But the really story here – hell, the story of Wisconsin’s season to date – has been the change in the way that Nigel Hayes plays.

Hayes was terrific again on Saturday. He had 17 points, nine boards, four assists and three steals. He shot 6-for-10 from the floor and attempted just a pair of threes, making one of them. He had the ball in his hands when Wisconsin was trying to kill off the game, and, more importantly, head coach Greg Gard has seem to start to take advantage of just how good Hayes can be as a facilitator.

There are a couple of points that need to be made here:

  1. When Hayes plays like this, he deserves to be in the all-american discussion. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 7.3 boards and 6.7 assists in the three games Wisconsin has played against high-major competition since the change, and the Badgers have won five straight games while playing easily their best basketball of the season.
  2. And it’s not just because of the numbers he puts up. When Hayes operates as Wisconsin’s de-facto point guard, it makes everyone else on the roster better. For starters, it allows Koenig to play off the ball, where he seems to be more effective. He’s at his best when he’s hunting shots and trying to create off the bounce, but his aggressiveness can be detrimental when he’s the only one touching the ball. It also means offense runs through Happ more often since Koenig isn’t dominating possession, and it lets guys like Brown space the floor because they’re actually able to get rhythm threes.

As of today, Wisconsin is the favorite to win the Big Ten, even if Indiana is far more likely to end up being a No. 1 seed in March.