Late Night Snacks: Devonte Brown, Indiana State lead exciting night of conference tournaments

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Games of the Day

Indiana State 51, Evansville 50

Devonte Brown blocked Ned Cox’s layup attempt as time expired as the Sycamores held on to top the Aces 51-50 in the quarterfinal of the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal. Brown’s block was a great counter to a long in bounds pass that landed in the hand of Cox. Brown led Indiana State with 11 points. Justin Gant knocked down a free throw to give the Sycamores the one-point lead.

Loyola Marymount 60, Santa Clara 58

What is Loyola Marymount doing? The team that lost 14 straight, now has won three straight. The team that won one conference game has now won three straight … all in the West Coast Conference Tournament. Anthony Ireland hit a shot to put the Lions up one, but LMU fouled on the ensuing possession. Brandon Clark missed the front-end of the one-and-one and LMU hit a free throw to sneak out a 60-58 win. Loyola Marymount will attempt to keep the magic going against (ahem) Gonzaga, (ahem) the No. 1 team in the nation.

UW-Green Bay 64, Illinois-Chicago 63

Rare we go three games of the day, but it’s March and Sultan Muhammad forced his way in when he hit a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining, pushing Green Bay past ICU in the Horizon League quarterfinals.

Important Outcomes

Kent State 68, Akron 64

This could be the downfall of the Zips. Alex Abreu is suspended indefinitely after being arrested and Akron is without an experienced point guard and knockdown 3-point shooter. The Golden Flashes are the second team to top the Zips in three games, after Akron rallied off 19 consecutive wins.

Harvard 56, Columbia 51

The Crimson had regained the lead of the Ivy League following a win over Columbia and Yale upsetting Princeton. Harvard had lost two straight, including one to Princeton, which lost them the top spot in the smartest league in the nation. The Crimson wrap up the season Saturday at home against Cornell. If the Crimson win and Princeton losses one of its last two games, Harvard will be dancing for the second straight season.

San Diego 72, BYU 69

BYU’s comeback fell short when Matt Carlino’s last-second three didn’t fall. The Cougars needed to make a run in the WCC Tournament and after the upset loss to San Diego, BYU will dread Selection Sunday.

Starred

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

The senior point guard has his Racers in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game following his 29-point, six-assist performance in an 81-73 win over Eastern Kentucky.

Doug McDermott, Creighton

The national player of the year candidate dropped 23 points and grabbed seven boards in a win over Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinals.

Anthony Ireland, Loyola Marymount

Ireland has his Lions alive, as LMU reached the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament, thanks in large part to his 23 points and seven steals. The Waterbury, Conn. native also hit a shot to put the Lions up for good with 5.2 seconds remaining. He’ll need to be just as good in the semifinals when the Lions take on top-ranked Gonzaga.

Struggled

Daniel Barnes, Illinois-Chicago

The Flames second leading scorer (12.1 points per game) was held to 1-of-10 shooting, en route to a five-point performance in a heartbreaking loss to UW-Green Bay in the Horizon League quarterfinals.

Akron 3-point shooting

The Zips struggled from behind the arc, shooting a dismal 22 percent of 6-of-27 3-point shooting. Alex Abreu was not in action after being suspended indefinitely. Abreu is shooting 39 percent from behind the arc on the season.

Colton Ryan, Evansville

The Aces’ leading scorer was held to more than half his season average of 20 points per game. In a one-point loss to Indiana State, Ryan shot 4-for-18 from the field for eight points. He dropped 31 points on Indiana State six days earlier.

Conference Tournament Recap

Atlantic Sun

Mercer 72, USC Upstate 64
Florida Gulf Coast 72, Stetson 58

Mercer and Florida Gulf Coast advance to conference finals

Horizon League

Wright State 66, Youngstown State 59
UW-Green Bay 64, Illinois-Chicago 63

Winners advance to semifinals

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

Siena 70, Marist 64
Fairfield 54, St. Peter’s 47

Winners advance to quarterfinals

Missouri Valley Conference

Creighton 65, Drake 53
Indiana State 51, Evansville 50
Witchita State 69, Missouri State 59
Illinois State 73, Northern Iowa 65

Winners advance to the semifinals

Ohio Valley Conference 

Belmont 82, Tennessee State 73
Murray State 81, Eastern Kentucky 73

Belmont and Murray State advance to conference finals

Southern Conference

Georgia Southern 60, Wofford 44
Furman 55, Sanford 51
UNC Greensboro 87, Chattanooga 81
Western Carolina 76, Citadel 61

Winners advance to quarterfinals

Sun Belt Conference

Western Kentucky 74, LA-Monroe 60
LA-Lafayette 74, North Texas 55
Troy 81, Florida Atlantic 79 OT

Winners advance to quarterfinals

West Coast Conference

Loyola Marymount 60, Santa Clara 58
San Diego 72, BYU 69

Winners advance to semifinals

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Pro golfer, Wisconsin fan Steve Stricker does not like J.P. Macura

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Wisconsin resident, Badger fan and pro golfer Steve Stricker was not happy after UW lost to Xavier on Thursday night.

For starters, his team lost.

That sucks.

Then J.P. Macura went and rubbed it in everyone’s face, doing the Gator Chomp at the student section after he threw down an alley-oop with less than a minute left:

Stricker was not having any of it:

Me?

I loved it.

And maybe, just maybe, the fact that Wisconsin’s entire student section spent the game telling Macura that he’s an a****** had something to do with his reaction.

Also … how many middle fingers do you see in this picture?

Thank you Badger fans. What a hostile environment.. I appreciate the love

A post shared by Jp Macura (@jpmacura) on

Lonnie Walker hurt as No. 11 Hurricanes beat A&M 90-59

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CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker IV twisted his left ankle Thursday night, and coach Jim Larranaga was sore himself after the latest lopsided win by the 11th-ranked Miami Hurricanes.

Larranaga said Walker wasn’t seriously hurt, and the coach seemed more concerned about his team’s effort and focus in a 90-59 victory over Florida A&M.

“I didn’t think we were very good from start to finish,” Larranaga said. “We need to play a whole lot harder, and better defensively. We looked sluggish. I told the team I was extremely disappointed in our effort.”

Walker was assisted to the locker room in the first half after stepping on another player. The Hurricanes are scheduled to play La Salle next Wednesday in Walker’s hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.

“We won’t know for a couple of days, but I think he’s fine,” Larranaga said.

Is he likely to play in the next game?

“Oh, he’s going to play in Reading,” Larranaga said.

Trump urges 3 UCLA players to thank China leader for release

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump urged three suspended UCLA basketball players on Thursday to thank China’s president for their freedom after they shoplifted in China.

The president’s suggestion came a day after he tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump. They were headed for 10 years in jail.”

The trio apologized that day and publicly thanked Trump, who was in Asia last week, for his help. On Thursday morning, the president sent another tweet: “You’re welcome. go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible.”

In the same tweet, Trump said, “HAVE A GREAT LIFE! Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

Later in the day, as he rallied House Republicans before a crucial vote on a tax overhaul, Trump talked about his efforts to release the players

Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas said Trump “personally engaged the Chinese president and it turned out the way it did,” with the players released. He said China is known for being “extremely punitive” with criminal suspects, adding: “This could have been a disaster for those families.”

Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were detained in Hangzhou for questioning last week before the Bruins beat Georgia Tech in their season-opening game in Shanghai. The rest of the team returned home Saturday.

Athletic director Dan Guerrero said the shoplifting occurred when the team had 90 minutes of free time on Nov. 6 in Hangzhou. He said the three took items from three stores.

The players are suspended indefinitely, and coach Steve Alford says they will have to earn their way back onto the team.

Weekend Preview: We’ve reached the oversaturation point of early-season exempt events

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Typically, I use these Weekend Previews to discuss the best games of the weekend, but this weekend, there just aren’t any games that are actually worth talking about.

So I’m going to go on a rant instead.

We’ve officially reached the point of over-saturation when it comes to the early-season exempt events.

This is the second weekend of the college basketball season and we’re right in the middle of what should be one of the better weeks of college hoops. The Gavitt Games are happening, the Champions Classic more or less lived up to the hype and, starting on Thursday, we dove head first into tropical locale tournament season.

Except … these events all suck.

The Charleston Classic started on Thursday. Auburn beat Indiana State to advance and take on Temple, who dispatched Old Dominion. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Clemson and Hofstra, because Hofstra upset Dayton in the first round. There are four mid-major teams in the Charleston Classic, and none of the high-major teams look like they will be tournament-bound.

The Puerto Rico tip-off is even worse. It features teams from the Missouri Valley, Conference USA, the Sun Belt and the SoCon. The best team in the event is either an Iowa State team that lost to Milwaukee at home by double-digits, a Tulsa team that lost to Lamar at home, a South Carolina team that got picked off in the first round of the event or Boise State, who wasn’t picked to be in the top two of the Mountain West.

It won’t get any better when the Paradise Jam starts today. The three best teams in that event are Houston, Colorado and Wake Forest and features an opening round game between Mercer and Liberty.

There are also a number of events in the Northeast this weekend and next week. I live an hour from New York City and I won’t be making the trek up to any of the games at the Garden or the Barclays Center until next Saturday, and these are what are supposed to be big games being held there for the next eight days. I cover this sport for a living, but I’d rather watch on TV and spend time with my son than go see Pitt play Penn State or Texas Tech square off with Boston College.

Even the Maui Invitational isn’t all that intriguing. Cal is down. VCU is down. Michigan and Marquette have struggled early. LSU is intriguing but only in the sense that they appear to not be a train-wreck this year. If Notre Dame doesn’t play Wichita State in the final, that tournament will not feature a single must-see game.

Now granted, much of this is due to the fact that Nike pulled 14 power programs out of the exempt event rotation for the PK80, and I’ll admit, that event should be fun. But man, it was such a buzzkill when I realized that the 16-team event was really just two eight-team tournaments.

It makes sense – you can’t have conference rivals facing off in the same tournament – but it just never clicked for me.

Which brings me back around to the larger point that I wanted to make: Can we start doing away with some of these events and play marquee non-conference games on campus again? On Thursday night, we got a chance to see No. 15 Xavier pay a visit to Wisconsin for the Gavitt Games, and it was everything that we love about college basketball. Two elite programs featuring an all-american facing off in front of a raucous crowd that spent the entire second half letting J.P. Macura know that they think he is an a******. Ethan Happ, the best post player in the country, according to Chris Mack, got pissed about not getting a couple of foul calls and proceeded to will Wisconsin back into the game only to see Trevon Bluiett bury two dagger threes in a minute stretch to put the game away.

After hitting those threes, Bluiett proceeded to shush the crowd. A minute later, after throwing down an alley-ooo to put Xavier up 12 with just seconds left on the clock, Macura proceeded to do the Gator Chomp over and over and over at the Wisconsin student section to remind them of who knocked the Badgers out of last year’s NCAA tournament.

That was awesome!

Yes, Macura was a little over the top, and yes, the Wisconsin fans probably earned Macura’s trolling, but everything about that game was what makes college basketball great.

And it was a game between the No. 15 team in America and an unranked Wisconsin program. It wasn’t even a marquee matchup. The environment at the Champions Classic rivaled that – there really is nothing better than having an arena packed with fan bases from both teams playing – but when those neutral site games don’t feature blue blood programs or teams with large alumni bases in the city or fans that are willing to spend the money to travel, it’s boring. Virginia Tech got upset by Saint Louis at Madison Square Garden last night and I’m pretty sure I could have put my son to sleep while sitting behind the basket.

So this is my plea to the NCAA tournament Selection Committee: Make it obvious just how much you value quality road wins in non-conference play. Make them so valuable that programs simply cannot afford not to play them. Make Xavier’s win at Wisconsin on Thursday night worth at least a seed line even if Wisconsin ends up being a bubble team.

That’s the only way we’re going to get teams to play great games on campus in the fall.

No. 15 Xavier’s win over Wisconsin should, and will, be rewarded by Selection Committee

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This Wisconsin team is probably not going to end up being quite as good as past Wisconsin teams.

That’s inevitable when you lose the players that they lost to graduation, but it also doesn’t change the fact that No. 15 Xavier went into the Kohl Center and snagged a win that is going to look quite good on Selection Sunday.

The Musketeers took care of the Badgers, 80-70, thanks to 25 points and nine boards from Trevon Bluiett and 20 points from J.P. Macura. Bluiett struggled to find a rhythm for much of the game, but he hit a pair of critical jumpers midway through the second half to stem a Wisconsin run and, with the game tied and just over a minute left on the clock, buried three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to lock up the win.

For a stretch midway through the second half, it looked like Wisconsin was getting ready to run away with this game. Ethan Happ – who finished with 21 points and eight assists and who Xavier head coach Chris Mack referred to as “one of the best post players in the entire country” – was in the midst of taking the game over and Wisconsin’s sold out Kohl Center was in full voice. That’s when Bluiett went into takeover mode, quieting the crowd and getting Xavier out of Madison with a win.

That shouldn’t be overlooked, and if there is any justice in the world, it will be the kind of thing that the Musketeers get rewarded for come Selection Sunday.

I enjoy the neutral site tournaments that pop up every year. They create some drama every November, and there are always some fun matchups over the weekend and afternoon basketball during the week. That’s great. But the best part of college hoops is the environment of playing a big game on campus. The crowd, the student section, players like Macura doing the Gator Chomp at the Wisconsin fans – the Badgers lost to Florida in the NCAA tournament last year – after they spent the entire second half bombarding him with ‘a******’ chants every time he touched the ball.

It was great.

And it will be better if that kind of a win, even against a Wisconsin team that is probably closer to being top 40-good than top 25-good, is something that the Selection Committee values. Those changes are supposedly coming, and it will be a good thing for the sport. Give top 15 teams an incentive to play road games in November.

Because Thursday night’s clash in the Kohl Center was everything that is great about college hoops.