Late Night Snacks: Mid-major tournament upsets litter college hoops landscape

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Game of the Day: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 

This one didn’t look like a candidate for this spot in the first half, as the Cowboys were in firm command and led 42-24 at the half. But Travis Ford’s team didn’t retain control of the game, and the end result was Baylor’s Pierre Jackson getting one last shot for the win. Jackson scored 24 of his 31 points in the second half to get Baylor back into the game, but if anything the result is a microcosm of the season for the Bears. Scott Drew’s team will in all likelihood end up in the NIT, while Oklahoma State advances to take on Kansas State in the Big 12 semifinals.

Important Outcomes

1. Illinois 51, Minnesota 49 

Brandon Paul’s jumper as time expired proved to be the difference in a game the Fighting Illini looked to be in control of for much of the first half. John Groce’s team will hear its name called on Sunday, regardless of what happens against Indiana on Friday afternoon. Poor offensive execution and early foul trouble (and Tubby Smith’s refusal to play either Trevor Mbakwe or Austin Hollins with two fouls) put Minnesota in a tough spot, and they don’t have the look of a team that will be around very long next week.

2. Iowa State 73, Oklahoma 66 

Will Clyburn sparked a 12-0 second half run the Cyclones needed in order to avoid possibly landing squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. Clyburn finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and forward Melvin Ejim led ISU with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The victory gives Iowa State one more shot at Kansas, who beat them twice during the regular season (with the loss in Ames being a controversial one). Is Iowa State in? Only the selection committee knows for sure but Thursday’s result certainly doesn’t hurt.

3. Utah 79, California 69 (OT)

While the victory is certainly a good one for Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes the concern is what this defeat does to Cal’s resume. At 20-11 on the season the Golden Bears do have five RPI Top 50 wins to their credit according to warrennolan.com, but the loss to Utah is their first to a team ranked outside of the Top 100 this season. If anything this could be more of an issue from a seeding standpoint rather than whether or not Cal will get into the NCAA tournament. But if they’re going to be successful next weekend, the Golden Bears need a third scoring option to emerge alongside Justin Cobbs (26 points) and Allen Crabbe (21).

Starred

1. G Olivier Hanlan (Boston College)

The ACC Rookie of the Year went off in the Eagles’ 84-64 win over Georgia Tech, scoring 41 points and grabbing five rebounds. At one point Hanlan made 12 consecutive field goals, and his point total sets an ACC tournament record for points in a game by a freshman.

2. F Chris Evans (Kent State) 

Evans accounted for 25 points (10-of-17 FG) and 15 rebounds to lead the Golden Flashes past Buffalo, 70-68, in a MAC quarterfinal.

3. G Pierria Henry (Charlotte)

The 49ers won the wildest game of the day 68-63 over Richmond, and without Henry they wouldn’t have been in position to take advantage of the Spiders’ meltdown. Henry finished the game with 28 points (8-of-14 FG), 12 rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

Struggled

1. G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) 

Kilpatrick shot 2-of-12 from the field (0-of-8 3PT), scoring just four points in the Bearcats’ 62-43 loss to No. 5 Georgetown in a Big East tournament quarterfinal.

2. F Rodney Williams (Minnesota) 

Five points (2-of-7 FG), two rebounds and four turnovers in the Golden Gophers’ 51-49 loss to Illinois in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.

3. G Darrun Hilliard and G Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova) 

Hilliard and Arcidiacono struggled against the Louisville pressure, combining for ten points (4-of-14 FG), five assists (three by Hilliard) and ten turnovers (Hilliard- 7) in the 74-55 defeat.

Three Facts 

1. There were a number of mid-major favorites that met their demise on Thursday, including WAC co-champions Louisiana Tech and Denver, and in the MEAC none of the top four seeds reached the semifinals.

2. Both UCLA and Arizona advanced on Thursday, meaning that the Wildcats get a third shot at the Bruins this season. UCLA swept the season series, and if Arizona is to have a shot at winning Friday night they need to defend as they did in the first half of their win over Colorado.

3. Villanova struggled mightily against Louisville’s pressure defense, turning the ball over 24 times in their 74-55 loss to No. 4 Louisville. By head coach Rick Pitino’s estimation the Cardinals tallied 58 deflections, and if they can continue to play that well defensively Louisville may repeat as Big East tournament champions. Russ Smith, playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his high school coach, scored a game-high 28 points.

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

UCF’s Tacko Fall to miss the rest of the season with shoulder injury

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UCF junior big man Tacko Fall will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, it was announced on Saturday.

College basketball’s tallest athlete at 7-foot-6, Fall is UCF’s leading scorer and shot blocker while being second in the nation in field goal percentage at 76 percent. Putting up 11.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in only 21.3 minutes per contest, Fall is the most unique weapon on both ends of the floor in the college basketball.

Fall is expected to have surgery on his ailing shoulder later this week as he suffered an injury over the summer that never fully recovered. Fall has also dealt with a hip injury that forced him to miss time during the season.

The Knights have been crushed with injuries this season. Aubrey Dawkins suffered a season-ending shoulder injury before the season started and promising point guard B.J. Taylor missed over two months with a foot injury suffered during the season opener against Mercer.

UCF is still having a solid season at 12-6 and 3-3 in the American but they’ll need to forge on without its big man. They’ve also lost two consecutive games and need to figure things out in a hurry to earn a spot in the postseason.

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball tripleheader Saturday on NBCSN

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The Atlantic 10 comes to NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Saturday with three games that will air as part of a tripleheader.

It starts with George Washington at VCU at 12:30 p.m., continues with La Salle playing at Richmond at 2:30 p.m. and concludes with George Mason traveling to Duquesne at 4:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

Sexual assault investigation involving Saint Louis basketball players becoming public

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A messy situation could be unfolding at Saint Louis University as a sexual assault investigation involving the men’s basketball team is coming more into public focus.

Saint Louis is a private school who is going through a Title IX investigation and there hasn’t been a lot of publicity surrounding the case. Back in September, three women told police they were sexually assaulted by four members of the Saint Louis men’s basketball team at an on-campus apartment.

A lawyer for three of the four accused players is claiming that his clients committed no crime. Lawyer Scott Rosenblum spoke to Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, giving the players’ account of what happened that night in graphic detail. Rosenblum said his clients have received suspensions ranging from 18 months to two years and a fourth player was expelled.

According to Rosenblum, his clients don’t intend to stay silent as they are considering an appeal. Legal action against Saint Louis University has also been discussed.

“At the end of the day, on every college campus, unfortunately, both genders make decisions that after they walk away from that decision, they regret,” Rosenblum said to Frederickson. “They think, this maybe wasn’t the best decision. But it wasn’t a crime. And it wasn’t actionable.”

Rosenblum also claimed that Saint Louis has, “overly prosecuted with an agenda from the beginning,” as he posed several questions about the case.

One of the accused players had been allowed to play at Saint Louis while three others were held out, according to Rosenblum. The three players held out of games were also allowed to practice and travel with the team. Players were also told to move off campus, eventually welcomed back, then forced to move off campus once again. Suspensions were also handed out weeks into the new semester instead of the break between semesters.

Rosenblum’s remarks about the investigation are the most public details to come out about this investigation as Saint Louis University officials have remained silent throughout the process.

Government shutdown forces Air Force to cancel all athletic events

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The Air Force Academy has been forced to cancel all home and away games due to the government shutdown, the school announced on Saturday.

Announcing on the official Air Force Academy Twitter page, the school will attempt to reschedule as many missed events as possible.

Canceled games include a home men’s basketball game against Fresno State on Saturday and a home hockey game against Sacred Heart. According to a report from the Colorado Springs Gazette, the women’s basketball team is in Fresno, Calif., for a road game against Fresno State, but that game will also not be played.

This is an unprecedented measure for the Air Force Academy as they’ve been able to play through government shutdowns before. In 2013, the USAA gave a $230,000 check to help Air Force football travel to Navy for its game. Government shutdowns in the 1990s also never forced the cancellation of any major Air Force games in the past.

A source told NBC Sports that Army’s athletic department has not been affected as it is privately funded. Navy’s athletic department should also be able to operate and continue under the government shutdown since they are privately funded.

Without private sponsors helping, it looks like Air Force won’t be playing until the government shutdown is over. The Gazette also reported on Saturday that Air Force athletic officials knew that this could be a possibility and said it would be an “11th hour decision.”

Air Force men’s basketball is 8-10 with a 2-4 record in the Mountain West this season. While the Falcons haven’t been a major contender, they had the momentum of a small two-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s home game against Fresno State.

The Falcons are also scheduled to play on the road at Utah State on Wednesday and host Boise State next Saturday.

Bosnian professional team announces they have signed Billy Preston

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Billy Preston has signed with BC Igokea, a Bosnian professional team, according to a release put out by the club on Saturday.

“We are thrilled to welcome Billy Preston to our club,” the statement read. “We were watching his situation closely and reached out to his family to show interest and ultimately reached an agreement with the family attorney in California on a contract for the rest of the season. We know Billy is an NBA prospect so we will do our best to continue his development to help him excel for our club and fulfill his goal which is to be an NBA star in the near future.”

“Billy Preston is foregoing his eligibility to play at Kansas and has signed with a professional team in Bosnia,” head coach Bill Self said in a statement provided to NBC Sports. “Billy’s family has been very upfront telling us that his first choice was to stay at Kansas, but with the uncertainty of the situation they needed to look at other potential options. This opportunity in Bosnia came with a deadline for a decision, and the family reached that decision Friday afternoon.”

“We are all disappointed that Billy never had the opportunity to experience college basketball competition but we certainly support him and wish him the best. Although he has been frustrated with the situation, Billy’s attitude has been tremendous and he has developed as a person and as a player. I’m sure that will continue as he prepares for his professional career.”

Igokea’s roster also includes former UCLA guard Malcolm Lee, former Oregon and UTEP guard Dominic Artis and Katin Reinhardt, who played at UNLV, USC and Marquette.

Preston had enrolled at Kansas as a freshman this season, but he was involved in a car accident prior to the start of the season. He was held out from competition as the school attempted to find out who was paying for the vehicle.