Did the same old No. 11 Creighton make their reappearance?

1 Comment

Creighton was one of the best offensive teams in the country a season ago, finishing fifth nationally in offensive efficiency according to Kenpom.

Their problem was on the defensive end of the floor, ranking as the 178th best team. Namely, the Bluejays were the third-worst team in the country at forcing turnovers and were in the bottom-half nationally in effective field goal percentage, which is essentially a nerdy way of saying teams shot the ball really well against the Bluejays all season long.

This season was supposed to be different, and while no one was going to confuse the Bluejays with Louisville, there did appear to be an improvement through the season’s first six games. Creighton was 67th in defensive efficiency coming in. Small sample size, yes, but anyone watching Creighton play could see an improvement. Penetration was tougher, help side was quicker, shots were challenged. Things just didn’t look as simple for opponents.

That’s a good thing.

But it was a trend that ended on Wednesday night, as Boise State left Omaha with Leon Rice’s first win over a ranked team as head coach. Boise State shot 60.7% from the floor and 10-19 for three in an 83-70 upset of the Bluejays, scoring 1.277 PPP for the game.

That’s … well, it’s not good.

The problem is that Creighton was never able to get back into the game. Boise State opened up a double-digit lead early in the second half and the Bluejays simply couldn’t string together enough stops to make a serious run. The only time they did get three stops in a row, Creighton went on an 8-0 spurt in the span of about a minute, cutting the Bronco’s lead from 75-70.

I don’t need to tell you that Creighton cannot win basketball games this way. Creighton fans certainly know that. The team absolutely does. They wore shirts with their defensive ranking from last season on it throughout the preseason. The Missouri Valley has looked strong early on this season. Wichita State won at VCU. Northern Iowa was impressive in their losses out in the Bahamas. Illinois State and Indiana State both have some quality pieces on their roster.

And most importantly, all of those teams are willing and able to muck-it-up defensively. If Creighton can’t iron out these kinks on the defensive end, they’re going to have a tough time trying to bring home the league title.

The one thing I’m almost certain of here: I don’t think that practice is going to be very enjoyable for the Bluejays on Thursday after this performance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the performance of Derrick Marks. 35 points. 13-19 from the floor. A bucket any time he wanted one. Throw in Anthony Drmic and Jeff Elorriaga, and you’ve got a pretty solid perimeter trio. The Broncos won’t compete for the Mountain West title this season — they may not even finish in the top half — but they’ll be a tough win on a nightly basis.

It’s also worth noting the value of this win for the MWC as a whole. Creighton is going to end up being highly ranked with a good RPI. And Boise State just beat them in Omaha. That’ll be a nice bump.

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

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

Leave a comment

Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

1 Comment

UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

2 Comments

Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
7 Comments

NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

Rob Carr/Getty Images
1 Comment

Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: