10 tidbits to know: Cuse FT struggles, Bama’s youth movement

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports. Look for his Top 10 Tidbits every week.

1. As impressive as the Syracuse Orange are, free throw shooting is a major flaw with Jim Boeheim’s team.  At 64% they are one of the worst from the charity stripe in the Big East.  But that was not the case last night as they shot 17-18 from the line in the 72-66 win over Providence.  But I’m concerned that this weakness could bite them one game in March.  Remember their one loss this year vs Temple?  15 missed free throws.

2. How about the bounce back of Duke’s Quinn Cook this week.  A career high 27 points in the Blue Devils win over Clemson.  Cook went 0-11 from the field in the prior game against Wake Forest.

3. At only 8-6 right now it’s easy to not take notice of the Alabama Crimson Tide — but this team is going to scare some people by February.  They keep improving and Anthony Grant is in the middle of a serious youth movement.  Don’t schedule them next year.  Bama currently starts one junior, three sophomores and one freshman.

4. It was a tough 58-56 loss at Madison Square Garden for St. John’s last night by the hands of Rutgers.  But no time for the Red Storm to feel sorry for themselves.  They battle in less than 48 hours Saturday morning vs Georgetown at the Garden.  The Hoyas and St. John’s tip-off at 11:00 am.

5. If you Google efficient point guard, Pierre Jackson from Baylor should pop up — 19.8 ppg – 6.3 assists – 3.6 rebs – 44% from the field – 36% from 3 – 80% from FT Line.

6. Speaking of point guard play, Seton Hall is a team that has taken a lot of knocks this season for turning over the basketball so often. But Kevin Willard’s young guards can build off last night’s Louisville loss.  The Cardinals force turnovers better than any club in the nation.  Credit Pirates Tommy Maayan and Aaron Cosby for combining for only six turnovers in 54 combined minutes of play.

7. Did you realize that Steve Alford is only 47 years old and has 369 Division 1 wins already?  78 at Southwest Missouri, 152 at Iowa and 139 wins and counting at New Mexico.

8. Despite the disappointing 11 point home loss to Boston College, Virginia Tech’s Erick Green still leads the nation in scoring at 24.6 points per game.

9. Georgetown was not only ice cold offensively in their 73-45 home loss to Pitt, but they could not manufacture points either.  Two great ways to manufacture points are pounding the glass and causing turnovers.  The Hoyas only had 7 offensive rebounds and only 2 steals in the worst home loss of the John Thompson III era.

10. Here’s a great office pool for the rest of the season –  Who will lead the nation in blocked shots when it’s all over?  Jeff Withey from Kansas or Chris Obekpa from St. John’s?  They are both currently averaging 5.07 blocks per game.

Vin Parise is the College Basketball Insider for NBC Sports. You can catch him on NBC Sports Network’s SportsTalk – Mon-Fri. 6 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @VinParise

Jordan Mathews three sends No. 1 seed Gonzaga past No. 4 West Virginia

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Jordan Mathews hit a three with less than a minute left and West Virginia missed a pair of threes on the final possession of the game as No. 1 seed Gonzaga won a dogfight, 61-58, over No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Mathews, who finished with 13 points on the night, spent 4:30 on the bench before checking into the game right before hitting the eventual game-winning three.

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for lay-in, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is definitely the star, but Bell and Dorsey could round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford ended practice on Thursday by drilling a half-court shot on the first attempt.

According to the Associated Press, this has been a season-long battle between the UCLA coaching staff and the players.

“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”

No. 3 seed UCLA is set to play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Memphis. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 97-92, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 3.

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to enter NBA draft

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is entering the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-4 junior made his announcement on Instagram on Thursday and also informed the school of his decision. He did not say whether he intends to hire an agent, a move that prevent him from returning to school.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 10.6 points per game this season and averaged 4.8 assists, which was sixth in the conference. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6-to-1 was third in the ACC.

The All-ACC defensive team selection helped Florida State (26-9) reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Seminoles advanced to the second round before a 91-66 loss to Xavier.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 12.4 points in his three seasons with the Seminoles and is the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Rutgers guard Corey Sanders to enter NBA Draft

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rutgers sophomore guard Corey Sanders is entering the NBA draft.

In making the announcement Thursday, the university said Sanders will not sign with an agent.

Sanders will be able to attend workouts scheduled by NBA teams and will be eligible for invitation to the league’s combine next month. Players have until 10 days after the combine to remain in the draft or return to school, as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Sanders started 31 of 33 games this season, averaging 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Sanders needs to make an informed decision on his future.

“My dream has always been to play in the NBA,” Sanders said. “I look forward to determining where I am in that journey.”

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.