‘A Quick 5’ with George Washington head coach Mike Lonergan

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Vin Parise is a former assistant college coach and the college basketball insider for NBC Sports.  He caught up today with George Washington’s Mike Lonergan.  The Colonials host #14 Butler tomorrow.

VP: Coach, your young team has five Atlantic-10 wins so far.  What’s the reason things have been going right at GW and how challenging has this rebuilding process been?

ML: Our kids have truly bought in and are really defending and rebounding the ball recently.  We’re not the greatest perimeter shooting team in the world, but we’ve made up for it by scrapping and hustling.  Early on, I thought we had a chance to be good — we lost to K-State at home by three and even in our other other losses, we weren’t getting blown out and we were showing progress.  But we’ve matured ahead of schedule and I’m proud of our guys.  Last year’s 10-21 season was the hardest year of my coaching life, but I put it in perspective as year 1.  But my staff and I worked our butts off and recruited nearly every night to make sure it never happens again.

VP: You start four freshmen.  Coming into the season, was your mindset to ease them into playing time or did you know early they’d be this much of a factor?

ML:  To be honest, our freshmen just beat out the guys that were older than them for starting spots.  Patricio Garino is our best wing, Kevin Larsen is our best center and Joe McDonald is our best point guard. Joe is also the best rebounding guard I’ve ever coached.  I’m really excited about what the future holds for my young guys.

VP: What has Villanova transfer Isaiah Armwood meant to your program?

ML:  He’s completely changed the culture of our basketball program. His work ethic is contagious and he just makes guys play harder every single day.  And he’s such a tough match-up in our league.  He’s not a true face-up 4-man and he’s not a true back to the basket guy either. He’s our leading scorer and rebounder and he’s been a dream to coach.

VP:  Word on the street is that your Butler game tomorrow is the talk of the town?

ML:  It’s crazy down here this weekend.  Since we don’t have football, this is our Homecoming Weekend so it’s a sell-out and our fan base is really excited right now.  And I’m sure the fact that we’re playing well helps.  It’s the first sell-out we’ve had here in years.  Our Board of Trustees will be here for a few events, so it’s a busy weekend all over the place.  I hope we come out and play well. It’s not every day that a Top 15 team like Butler comes into your gym.

VP:  What are your thoughts on this Butler match-up tomorrow and the rest of the A-10?

ML:  It’s a very tough match-up for sure.  They have experience, they are well coached and they play so hard on both ends of the floor.  How often do you play a team that has five starters in double figures?  I don’t want our guys to think too much.  It will be a great atmosphere and I know we’ll play hard.  If we could have some fun and make some shots who knows?  But at the end of the day, I just hope we’re one of the 12 teams that’s playing in Brooklyn for the A-10 tourney.  Our conference is great and it often seems anyone can beat anyone on any given night.

*George Washington hosts Butler tomorrow at 2:00 pm at the Smith Center in Washington, DC.

Follow Vin on Twitter @VinParise and check him out in studio for NBC Sports Network and SNY.

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.