Late Night Snacks: Kansas survives, UNLV gets important win in MWC

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Game of the Day: No. 9 Kansas 68, No. 14 Oklahoma State 67

It was not one of the double-overtime games we’ve seen this season, but Naadir Tharpe’s late heroics made for an exciting ending. His runner in the lane put KU ahead by one and Oklahoma State could not convert on its final possession, giving the Jayhawks the win.

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore had one of his roughest games of the season with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the floor, but Tharpe’s confidence helped Kansas in overtime. Marcus Smart did not shoot well from the floor for Oklahoma State, but he still managed 16 points by getting to the free throw line and converting.

Important Outcomes

1. UNLV 61, No. 22 Colorado State 59

UNLV was fearless on the interior and got a much-needed win in the Mountain West. The key for the Rebels is to take smarter shots and becoming a more efficient offensive unit. As Rob Dauster writes in the link above, this is a step in the right direction, but UNLV must prove its ability to win on the road, too.

2. No. 18 Ohio State 71, Minnesota 45

Ohio State needed to stop its recent skid before moving into the final stretch of its Big Ten regular season schedule. A big night from Deshaun Thomas and a good overall defensive game made that happen. The loss raises legitimate concerns for Minnesota, too, a team that is turning the ball over far too often to have success right now.

3. Kentucky 74, Vanderbilt 70

Kentucky could not lose this game if it wanted to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive. Thanks to Willie Cauley-Stein, improved backcourt play, and maybe even an intrasquad dodgeball game, the Wildcats pulled it out. Click the link above for the back-story on the dodgeball game.

Starred

1. Gonzaga’s Team Effort  (85 points, 58% FG, +21 rebounding margin)

The nation’s No. 3 team simply dominated Santa Clara on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs remain undefeated in WCC play and a legitimate force out West. Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk led the way with 17 and 15 points respectively.

2. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (20 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Without Nerlens Noel in the lineup, Kentucky got crushed by Tennessee over the weekend. Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only reason the Wildcats bounced back with a win over Vanderbilt, but his defense around the rim on the game’s final two possessions helped to seal the victory.

3. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State (32 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists)

Wolters already dropped 53 points earlier this season, but this performance was pretty impressive, too, coming just one assist away from a triple double. Oh, not to mention he also dropped 32 points.

Also of Note: Eric Mosley, St. Bonaventure (39 points, 12-of-18 FG)

Struggled

1. Ben McLemore, Kansas (7 points, 3-of-12 FG)

McLemore did not look confident for much of Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma State, especially contrasted with guard Naadir Tharpe, who took control down the stretch. This was the first game of his college career that he had truly struggled, so we will learn a good deal about McLemore when we see how he bounces back.

2. Minnesota Offense (29% FG, 2-of-15 3pt FG, 21 turnovers)

Granted, Ohio State is one of the nation’s better defensive teams. That being said, though, Minnesota’s offensive output was abysmal. The Gophers turn the ball over too much and it will be one of the biggest threats to its NCAA tournament hopes.

3. Greg Smith, Colorado State (4 points, 1-of-7 FG)

Smith averages close to 12 points per game for the Rams, but managed just four on Wednesday vs. UNLV. In Colorado State’s two-point loss, they could have used him.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: