Late Night Snacks: Two tickets punched, two conference tournament upsets

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Tickets Punched: Liberty (Big South), Creighton (Missouri Valley) 

Game of the Day: No. 2 Indiana 72, No. 7 Michigan 71 

After taking some heat for cutting down the nets following a “Senior Night” loss to Ohio State on Tuesday, the Hoosiers clinched the outright Big Ten title in Ann Arbor. Cody Zeller’s layup with 13 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as two Michigan shots missed the mark. Michigan was out-rebounded 53-30, and while Indiana managed to score just 17 second-chance points this is an area the Wolverines need to address heading into the Big Ten tournament.

Important Outcomes

1. Creighton 68, Wichita State 65

Doug McDermott didn’t go off like he did in the regular season finale between the two Missouri Valley rivals, when he scored 41 points. But Ethan Wragge hit five three-pointers and Jahenns Manigat scored a team-high 16 points, which included a key jumper to give the Bluejays a 68-65 lead with 13 seconds remaining, to lead Creighton to its second consecutive MVC tournament crown. Malcolm Armstead scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Shockers, who will also hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

2. Florida International 61, Middle Tennessee 57

For the second consecutive season a Middle Tennessee team with 26 or more wins will have to wait a week to learn its NCAA tournament fate. The 28-5 Blue Raiders were upset in the Sun Belt semifinals, and the hope now is that their win total and non-conference strength of schedule (ranked 11th) is enough to get them into the field. FIU reaches the title game in Richard Pitino’s first season running the program, which is quite the achievement for this group.

3. Temple 84, No. 21 VCU 76

Temple struggled some with the VCU press early but once their seniors got things under control the Owls were good to go. Khalif Wyatt hit just one of his eight three-point attempts but still scored 30 points, Jake O’Brien added 19 and Will Cummings scored 13 points off the bench to lead Temple. The win likely seals an at-large bid for Temple, which will be the three-seed in next week’s Atlantic 10 tournament. VCU will be the two-seed, and their loss means that Saint Louis is the outright regular season champion.

Starred 

1. G C.J. Harris (Wake Forest) 

In his final home game Harris helped lead the Demon Deacons past Virginia Tech, scoring 29 points (6-of-6 3PT) and dishing out three assists in the 90-79 victory.

2. G Malcolm Armstead (Wichita State) 

Armstead was sensational in a losing effort for the Shockers, tallying 28 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists in the Shockers’ 68-65 loss to Creighton in the MVC title game.

3. F David Laury III (Iona)

Laury accounted for 20 points (7-of-12 FG), 17 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in Iona’s 79-73 MAAC semifinal victory over top-seed Niagara.

Struggled

1. G Treveon Graham (VCU) 

Graham didn’t make a three-pointer (0-of-4) and shot just 5-of-16 in the Rams’ 84-76 loss at Temple.

2. G Devon Saddler and G Jarvis Threatt (Delaware) 

Saddler and Threatt struggled in the Blue Hens’ 58-57 loss to James Madison in the CAA semifinals, combining to score 16 points on 7-of-27 shooting. They also combined for eight turnovers, with Threatt committing five.

3. G Pe’Shon Howard (Maryland)

Howard struggled in the Terrapins’ 61-58 overtime loss at Virginia, going scoreless and accounting for just two assists and one rebound in 25 minutes of action.

Three Facts

1. Liberty became the first NCAA tournament team with 20 losses since Coppin State pulled off the feat in 2008. Dale Layer’s Flames began the season 1-10 due to injuries and other roster issues, but they got rolling at precisely the right time. Look for Liberty to play its next game in Dayton.

2. Stony Brook may not be in the same position as Middle Tennessee but the Seawolves’ hopes of an NCAA tournament bid came to a painful end. Albany’s Mike Black scored a layup in the final seconds to give the Great Danes a 61-59 win over the America East regular season champions.

3. Virginia’s work isn’t done in regards to getting back to the NCAA tournament but the Cavaliers avoided a loss they could not afford, beating Maryland 61-58 in overtime. Tony Bennett’s team earned a first-round by in next week’s ACC tournament with the victory.

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

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.