Mississippi State and Loyola (IL) honor a game that should never be forgotten: In March of 1963, three years before Texas Western went and beat Kentucky for a national title with a team that included black players and earned themselves a spot in Hollywood history with the movie ‘Glory Road’, Mississippi State had to sneak out of their own state just for the chance to play Loyola in the NCAA tournament. At 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, the two programs will pay tribute to that game on ESPNU. Dana O’Neil wrote a terrific story about the event on Thursday, and if this intrigues you, I would suggest you check out Kyle Veazey’s book on the game.
Is West Virginia going to be able to turn their season around?: The Mountaineers struggled at the start of the year, losing three of their first four games and looking like they were a long way from being a tournament team. But with three transfers in the fold, a slow start was to be expected. And after following up those losses with wins over VMI, Marshall and Virginia Tech, it looked like the ‘Eers might have actually turned their season around. That was until they lost to Duquesne.
So will WVU be able to compete for a tournament spot? They’ll get a chance to make a statement on Saturday evening when they take on No. 3 Michigan.
The Battle of Anthony Grant: Anthony Grant took over for Jeff Capel at VCU when he took the head coaching job at Oklahoma. Grant didn’t last long with the Rams, as he took over at Alabama when Mark Gottfried resigned in the middle of the 2008-2009 season. That opened up a job for Shaka Smart, who may have actually turned VCU into a better program than Alabama. Those two teams will take the floor at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Who is the best team in Iowa?: For my money, it is either Northern Iowa or Iowa, and it’s just our luck that the Panthers and the Hawkeyes happen to be playing on Saturday afternoon on the Big Ten Network. Northern Iowa is a tough, defensive-minded team with a couple of versatile big guys and one of the nation’s more underrated back courts. Iowa is a bit more uptempo and wants to score more than UNI. It should be an interesting contrast of styles. It’s also not the only game of the event, as Drake and Iowa State will be playing the same day in Des Moines in the Big Four Classic.
Indiana will be doing the same thing: Iowa’s not the only state that will be putting together a mini-state tournament. Indiana will do the same with the Crossroads Classic at Conseco Fieldhouse tomorrow afternoon. It kicks off with Butler taking on No. 1 Indiana and ends with Purdue and No. 22 Notre Dame tangling.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
NEW YORK — It was with a whipping and a whimper that Baylor’s season can to an end on Friday night.
The final two minutes of the game wasn’t actually a game. No. 7 seed South Carolina dished out a 70-50 beatdown that wasn’t in doubt after the Gamecocks used an 18-0 run at the end of the first half to turn a rock fight into statement, and for the final two minutes of the game, the Gamecocks and, eventually, Baylor dribbled out the remaining seconds before joining arms at center court for a postgame prater.
It’s the third straight year that Baylor has been bounced from the NCAA tournament by a team seeded lower than them. In 2015, it was R.J. Hunter’s heroics that knocked his dad off of a stool and sent No. 14 seed Georgia State into the second round of the tournament. In 2016, the Bears fell in the first round to No. 12 seed Yale, prompting one of the most memorable press conference moments in NCAA tournament history.
And on Friday night, it was South Carolina that sent the Bears into offseason hibernation.
It was a disheartening end to a season, a loss that will surely provide fodder for the people that traffic in ‘Scott Drew can’t coach’ jokes, the irony being that the 2016-17 season was definitive proof that Scott Drew is almost certainly better at his job than you are at yours.
“When you coach for a while and you make Elite Eights and Sweet 16, you kind of start taking it for granted that you will always be successful in March,” Drew said. “But it’s a good reminder to be here and know how hard it is.”
North Carolina, the top seed in the South Region, led by as many as 20 en route to a 92-80 win over No. 4 Butler in the Sweet 16 matchup on Friday night at the FedEx Forum in Memphis.
The Tar Heels were led by 26 points, off 8-of-13 shooting, from junior point guard Joel Berry II. The 6-foot floor general had been hampered by an ankle injury through the first weekend. While he still seemed to favor that same ankle at times, his play was a big improvement on his 3-of-21 shooting through the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds. Justin Jackson nearly matched Berry’s game-high with 24 points.
Andrew Chrabascz, in the final game of his four-year career at Butler, finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
North Carolina, the last of the ACC’s nine tournament bids, advances to the Elite Eight to face the winner of No. 3 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky. The Wildcats own a win over North Carolina, defeating the Tar Heels, 103-100, on Dec. 17 behind 47 points from Malik Monk.
Missouri and new head coach Cuonzo Martin have landed the No. 1 player in the Class of 2017 a week after he took the job as forward Michael Porter Jr. committed to the Tigers on Friday.
Formerly a Washington commit under now-fired head coach Lorenzo Romar, the 6-foot-9 Porter was released from his Letter of Intent this week and many believed he’d end up back at Missouri.
The Porter family lived in Columbia for many years as two of Michael’s older sisters play for the Missouri women’s team while Michael Porter Sr. was an assistant coach for the women’s team.
When Porter Sr. was hired to Missouri to be an assistant coach on Martin’s staff this week — after losing his assistant coaching job at Washington when Romar was fired — it all but sealed the deal that the Porters would return to Missouri and Michael Jr. would play for the Tigers.
Missouri might not be an NCAA Tournament team next season after struggling to an 8-24 finish and 2-16 record in the SEC. But Porter might be the most productive freshman entering college basketball next season as he has a chance to be dominant in the SEC.
Oklahoma State has decided to promote assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach, the school announced on Friday.
Boynton was an assistant with the Cowboys under former head coach Brad Underwood, who left Oklahoma State to take the Illinois job last weekend. Also an assistant coach at Stephen F. Austin, South Carolina, Wofford and Coastal Carolina, Boynton is a native of New York City who played his college ball for the Gamecocks.
The hire of Boynton is surprising since he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience as it follows in the footsteps of Cal promoting assistant coach Wyking Jones earlier in the day. Boynton also notably won the job over broadcaster and former Oklahoma State guard Doug Gottlieb as Gottlieb interviewed for the job but wasn’t selected.
Rhode Island junior guard E.C. Matthews will return to school for his redshirt senior season, the school announced on Friday.
The 6-foot-5 Matthews led the Rams in scoring at 14.9 points per game this past season as he returned from a torn ACL and helped Rhode Island reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.
Besides for being a talented scorer, Matthews is a good overall playmaker for the Rams as he also put up 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
With Matthews returning, it gives head coach Dan Hurley a huge weapon for next season as Rhode Island returns everyone besides the senior front court of Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson.