Late Night Snacks: Trophies in paradise

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Games of the Day

1. Oklahoma State 76, No. 6 NC State 56  Marcus Smart announced his presence with authority, leading his unranked Cowboys over a team with Final Four aspirations. Oklahoma State put the clamps on the Wolfpack defensively, and that made all the difference.

2. UConn 89, Quinnipiac 83 (2 OT)  – Quinnipiac leader Tom Moore, who was once a UConn assistant, may have wanted to prove something to newbie head coach Kevin Ollie. This battle for the soul of Connecticut happened, amusingly enough, in the Virgin Islands. The Bobcats forced two overtime periods despite the early exit of star forward Ike Azotam with five fouls. Shabazz Napier played 47 minutes and scored 29 points in the win.

3. Colorado 81, Murray State 74  – We’ve talked plenty about Isaiah Canaan here, but Murray hung with the big boys in large part because of Ed Daniels’ 20 and 10 up front. Canaan did score 21, but the Buffs got a balanced attack, with four starters in double figures, led by Askia Booker’s 23.

 

Important Outcomes

1. No 16 Baylor 97, St. John’s 78 – It’ s never easy to bounce back from an early loss. In this case, it was Baylor that got back on track, thanks to an eight-pack of Brady Heslip three-pointers. St. John’s faltered again, falling to 2-2.

2. Western Michigan 58, South Florida 53 – The Broncs came into the South Florida Invitational, ran off three straight wins, and bumped off the host school to win the title for good measure. It was WMU head coach Steve Hawkins’ milestone 300th career victory.

3. No. 4 Ohio State 77, Washington 66 – DeShaun Thomas got his score on, pouring in 31 to help the Buckeyes stay unbeaten as they took home the championship trophy from the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic.

Starred

1. G Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) – 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, 4 blocks. Smart had heard the hype about No. 6 NC State, and took it in his own hands to upstage the Wolfpack. Not bad for a freshman, eh?

2. F Elias Harris (Gonzaga) – Harris hauled down 18 boards to help the Bulldogs stay ahead of South Dakota. He also had 16 points.

3. G Kwame Vaughn (Cal State Fullerton) – Vaughn scored 29 points in a terribly efficient way as the Titans held of Green Bay of the Horizon League. Vaughn was 8-10 from the floor, 2-3 from deep and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line.

Struggled

1. F C.J. Leslie (NC State) – Everybody’s All-American scored just two points on 1-5 shooting and played just 17 minutes before fouling out against Oklahoma State.

2. The Miami Redhawks – Twelve players saw action against Louisville. Every one of them went home with a single digit in the scoring column. New coach John Cooper, in his first year following the inimitable Charlie Coles, has his work cut out for him.

3. G Galal Cancer (Cornell) – First of all, that’s a rough name. Then you have to go and have a game like Cancer had against Wisconsin. He missed every shot he took, turned the ball over five times and finished with a whopping two points, earned at the stripe.

Three Facts 

1. Jim Baron rides again – The former Rhode Island head coach is making the most of things since he shuffled off to Buffalo. He has the Canisius Golden Griffins at 2-0 to start the season, having beaten a couple of decent teams in St. Bonaventure and Boston U. If he wins three more, he’ll equal the Griffs’ win total from last season.

2. Jordan Bachynski is the Eraser – The 7’2″ Canadian is rejecting shots at an epic rate, tallying 15 blocks in two games. Granted, those games were against height-challenged programs Central Arkansas and Florida A&M, but the Sun Devils will definitely benefit from Bachynski’s presence in the middle.

3. There’s no speed limit in Montana – The fastest program in America is currently the Montana State Bobcats. The boys from Bozeman jam a thrilling 84.3 possessions into each 40 minutes of action. That may be, in part, because their first game of the season was a loss to the Seattle Redhawks, who come in second at 84.2 possessions per 40.

 

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”