No. 2 Florida gets whooped by Arkansas, 80-69

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This is what I wrote on Monday morning: “Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.”

This is what the score was with just over nine minutes left when No. 2 Florida visited Arkansas on Tuesday night: Arkansas 36, Florida 13.

The Razorbacks would eventually hang on, knocking off the Gators 80-69 behind 13 points and five assists from future NBA Draft pick BJ Young. Only two other players on Arkansas reached double-figures — Marshawn Powell and Marshall Qualls both had 11 points.

And that right there should give you a glimpse of what happened here.

Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena is one of the tougher places to get a win in college basketball. It’s loud, it’s hot, and the Razorbacks — a streaky, pressing team that thrives on the energy of their crowd — are always ready to play. That’s precisely what happened on Tuesday, as Arkansas made 13 of their first 16 shots and seven of their first nine threes in opening up that 36-13 lead.

Florida simply didn’t have an answer.

There were a couple stretches at the end of the first half and during the second half where it looked like the Gators were ready to make a run and turn this into a ball-game, but inexcusable mistakes cost them. Florida started going 1-on-1 and forcing jumpers, they started settling for threes, they stopped being patient offensively. In the stretches where they moved the ball and got some post touches — essentially, when they ran their offense — Billy Donovan’s club got good looks and chipped away at the lead.

Here’s the perfect example. Midway through the second half, Florida had gotten the lead down to 14 points and had momentum heading in their direction. Then Scottie Wilbekin turned the ball over trying to force penetration. Casey Prather missed two free throws on the next possession, which was followed up by a missed Wilbekin three. After that, Prather threw the ball away, then missed a layup which was followed by another missed layup from Wilbekin and a turnover by Michael Frazier.

Seven possessions. Three turnovers. Two missed free throws. Two turnovers. And a missed three.

That’s not how you make a come back on the road.

College basketball, especially this year’s version of college hoops where there really isn’t a stand-alone team, is a sport where, every so often, a team simply doesn’t show up. It happened to North Carolina last year at Florida State, and they still made the Elite 8 despite losing their lottery pick point guard. Duke isn’t the same team without Ryan Kelly, but they still bounced back nicely from the mollywhopping they received from Miami.

Did Florida’s stats get inflated by absolutely pounding some weak SEC competition? Probably.

Were they overrated heading into Tuesday? It sure looks that way.

Is this still one of, if not the best team in the country? Yes.

And while I wish I hadn’t said that this group is “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” yesterday, I still think that Florida is very much in the conversation for being the best team in the country.

But let’s see how they bounce back from this defeat before we (i.e. me) go and do something like call Florida “what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team” again.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 7 South Carolina upends No. 3 Baylor to advance to the Elite 8

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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.”

No. 1 North Carolina handles No. 4 Butler en route to Elite Eight

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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 lands No. 1 player in Class of 2017 as Michael Porter Jr. commits

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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 promotes assistant coach Mike Boynton to head coach

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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 E.C. Matthews will return to school

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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.