Late Night Snacks: Teams do harm to NCAA tournament resumes on Super Bowl Sunday

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Game of the Day: No. 23 Minnesota 62, Iowa 59 

The Golden Gophers found a way to win at home, as Austin Hollins’ three-pointer with 11.6 seconds remaining gave Minnesota a 60-59 lead. Two things that stand out from this one: Iowa allowing a needed resume-building win slip from their grasp and the lack of production from Minnesota’s bench. On the first point, Fran McCaffery’s team is now 3-6 in Big Ten play, and losing contact with the top half of the conference is a major issue for the Hawkeyes in their quest to get into the NCAA tournament discussion. As for Minnesota’s reserves, who didn’t even attempt a shot much less score, someone has to step up this month despite Tubby Smith’s desire to lean on his starters for production if they’re to have a shot at knocking off No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday night.

Important Outcomes 

1. Georgia Tech 66, Virginia 60 

The Cavaliers have done themselves no favors when it comes to their NCAA tournament resume. While Tony Bennett’s team has some good wins they also have stunning losses that will not help their cause, and this one can be added to the list. Virginia led 57-48 with 8:12 remaining but scored just three points the rest of the way, and the Yellow Jackets took advantage with a game-ending 18-3 run. Mfon Udofia scored 15 points to lead the way with Robert Carter Jr. and Chris Bolden scoring 14 apiece for Georgia Tech. Joe Harris led all scorers with 18 points.

2. Providence 55, Villanova 52

Jay Wright’s team has two wins over Top 5 teams on their resume, and now they’ve also got a season sweep at the hands of Providence. Bryce Cotton’s three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining proved to be the difference, with the Friars avoiding an epic collapse after leading by nine with two minutes remaining. Cotton finished with 18 points and six rebounds and Josh Fortune added 15 on five three-pointers. Darrun Hilliard shot 3-of-13 from the field but still managed to score 17 points (10-of-10 FT) to lead Villanova.

3. Wisconsin 74, Illinois 68

John Groce brought Brandon Paul off the bench today and the move didn’t work, as Illinois’ leading scorer struggled offensively and as a team the Fighting Illini continued to have issues defensively. Wisconsin shot 55.6% in the second half and Ben Brust led three Badgers in double figures with 20 points. Illinois may have shot just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc but if they show the ability to get stops consistently their chances of winning would have improved greatly. Now 2-7 in conference play, Illinois has a lot of work to do if they’re to factor into the NCAA tournament conversation.

Starred

1) F Rhamel Brown (Manhattan) 

Brown posted his fourth double-double of the season in the Jaspers’ 57-49 win over Saint Peter’s, scoring 21 points (8-of-10 FG), grabbing ten rebounds and blocking seven shots.

2) G Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) 

In the Huskies’ 64-59 overtime win over South Florida the junior point guard accounted for 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

3) F Josh Huestis (Stanford) 

Huestis finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in Stanford’s 81-73 win over Oregon State.

Struggled

1) G Brandon Paul (Illinois)

Head coach John Groce made the decision to bring Paul off the bench and Illinois’ leading scorer didn’t react well, shooting 3-of-13 from the field in a 74-68 loss to Wisconsin.

2) G Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa)

Marble went scoreless for the first time since his freshman year in the Hawkeyes’ 62-59 loss at No. 23 Minnesota, attempting just two shots in 17 minutes of action.

3) Villanova 

Rough day for the Wildcats, who shot 27.5% from the field and committed 18 turnovers in their 55-52 loss to Providence.

Other Notable Happenings 

1) Stanford picked up its third consecutive victory, beating Oregon State 81-73 in Palo Alto. Chasson Randle scored 20 points and Josh Huestis added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinal, who have been successful in part due to their improved perimeter shooting (14-of-25 3PT on Sunday). Next up for Stanford is a trip to Arizona on Wednesday, and a win there could vault them into the Pac-12 race.

2) No. 12 Louisville closed the first half on a 37-15 run, going on to beat No. 25 Marquette 70-51. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva combined to score 32 points for the Cardinals, and as a result of Louisville’s win the top seven teams in the Big East standings are separated by just one game in the loss column.

3) Mackey McKnight scored 21 points to lead five Lehigh starters in double figures in the Mountain Hawks’ 85-76 win at Army. Lehigh remains in a tie for first place in the Patriot League with Bucknell, and with Lafayette two games back at 4-3 in the standings the two preseason favorites have some separation at the halfway point.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

Elite 8 Preview: Sunday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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No. 4 FLORIDA (-3) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 2:20 p.m., CBS: If you’re a fan of uptempo, wide-open basketball, of teams running beautiful offensive sets, spreading the floor and using the three-point line like it should be used, this game probably is not going to be for you.

This is going to be as physical and as tough as any game you watched all season long. Both the Gamecocks and the Gators are top five teams in defensive efficiency, and both of them get out and pressure defensively, Florida in the full court and South Carolina in the half court. They shun shooters for the toughest athletes on their roster. They pride themselves in being tougher, both mentally and physically, than whoever they end up playing.

And they think that a game played in the 50s is beautiful basketball.

So bet the under if you can.

But the pick I like is Florida here. Their ability to defend is going to make it very difficult for South Carolina’s offensive renaissance to continue, and their guards will be able to make the plays offensively that South Carolina dares you to make.

PREDICTION: Florida (-3)

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-2.5) vs. No. 2 KENTUCKY, 5:05 p.m. CBS: This is the rematch we all wanted, right?

Ever since that day three months ago, when Kentucky got 47 points from Malik Monk in a 103-102 win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, I don’t think there is a soul in the country that would have told you otherwise.

There are two major differences between these two teams now and those two teams then. The biggest is the presence of Theo Pinson, North Carolina’s best perimeter defender. Pinson has dealt foot injuries all season long, and when these two got together in December, he was not yet healthy enough to play. I assume that he will draw the assignment of Malik Monk, chasing around the man that had definitively been Kentucky’s most dangerous scorer. Pinson will make life more difficult for Monk than it was the first time around.

But is he going to spend the entire game on him?

Because after De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point outburst against UCLA on Friday night, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Pinson may be better suited to taking on the task of keeping Fox from getting into the paint. Whatever Roy Williams opts to do, the bottom line is pretty simple — if he needs to find a way to keep Kentucky’s back court in check.

The other difference between now and then is that Bam Adebayo has been playing up to his potential for the past six weeks. He was solid earlier in the year. He can be dominant at times now, and that is going to be critical for the Wildcats, who are going to be outsized by a significant margin by UNC’s front line. The Tar Heels lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and they are one of the only elite teams that thrives playing two bigs at the same time. In other words, one of Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis are going to have to deal with Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. That’s a matchup that favors UNC, which is why Aebayo is going to have to play up to his size.

In the end, I think Pinson’s presence and North Carolina’s size advantage will be too much.

But if Fox and Monk play their game, they can carry Kentucky a long, long way.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (2.5)

Lawrence Police Department trolls Bill Self following Elite Eight loss

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Kansas had its season ended with a 74-60 loss to No. 3 seed Oregon.

The Jayhawks were the top seed in the South region. They were playing a de facto at the Sprint Center, which is 40 miles away from the school’s campus. As you can imagine, fans in Lawrence were likely unhappy, especially since it’s the second year in a row KU has been bounced one-game shy of the Final Four.

The Lawrence Police Department, while prepping for potential riots, couldn’t help tweeting a joke at the future Hall of Famer’s expense.

Bill Self’s teams have been eliminated seven times in the Elite Eight during his tenure at Kansas. He’s led the Jayhawks to a pair of Final Fours, winning the national championship in 2008.

Kansas finished the season 31-5.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.

No. 3 Oregon heading to first Final Four in 78 years

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Oregon, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, made what looked to be a smooth path to Phoenix into a bumpy road. But after 78 years, the Ducks are going back to the Final Four, defeating No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, in Elite Eight on Friday night in Kansas City.

Everything went right for the Ducks in the first half. Josh Jackson was called for two fouls in the less than three minutes. The Jayhawks were limited in transition. Tyler Dorsey’s two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds gave them a double-digit lead at halftime. Oregon stretched it to as many as 18 in the second. Kansas couldn’t buy a basket from three (a far cry from the 3-point barrage it put on Purdue two nights earlier). When the Jayhawks drove to the basket, it was Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks) who either blocked or altered their shots.

However, the Ducks not only left the door open for the Jayhawks, they held it open. Kansas’ comeback attempt was a mix drink that was equal parts KU putting the clamps on defensively, Oregon playing a bit of hero ball, and the Ducks playing not to lose instead of to win. Up six with less than two minutes remaining, Dorsey (27 points) buried a dagger 3-pointer that all but sealed the win — and a spot in next week’s Final Four — for the Ducks.

Oregon will play the winner of the South region, which will either be No. 1 North Carolina or No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday.

The slogan of the NCAA Tournament is “The Road to the Final Four”.

Outside of Duke, the runaway preseason favorite, and it’s months-long narrative of “Is Duke back?”, you could make the case there wasn’t a Final Four contender with a journey filled with more ups and downs than Oregon.

Weeks following a season-ending loss to Oklahoma in the Elite Eight, Oregon learned that both Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey would return to school for the next season. In July, Dylan Ennis was granted a sixth-year of eligibility. With Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell returning, and Payton Pritchard joining the program, the Ducks were an easy choice for a preseason Final Four pick.

Brooks’ offseason foot surgery — and the recovery that followed — raised concern about whether or not Oregon could fully reach its preseason potential, entering conference play without a notable win. Brooks’ Pac-12 Player of the Year season put to rest the status of his foot, leading the Ducks to a 16-2 Pac-12 record.

Hours before Oregon was set to battle with Arizona, it was announced that Chris Boucher had torn his ACL and would be out for the remainder of the season. Not only could this have played a role in the team’s seeding by the selection committee, but Boucher offered more than rim protection, as he helped space the floor given his ability to step out and shoot from the perimeter.

After fending off a good fight from Iona, the Ducks looked to be part of a Rhode Island’s magical postseason run. Tyler Dorsey ended that. In the Sweet 16, Oregon was matchup with Michigan, dubbed as the team of destiny. Bell and Dorsey, Oregon’s two tournament stars, stepped up in critical moments once again. Slated as an underdog for the second straight game, Oregon proved its Final Four worth by handing Kansas its worst tournament defeat of the Bill Self era in a regional final game that was played 40 miles away from the KU campus.

“I’m happy for our team,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said following the game. “I’m happy for, as I mentioned, our university and our state. It’s been a long time coming and now we just need to go continue to play well.”

For Oregon, its road to the Final Four has come full circle.