Khalif Wyatt, Temple hang on to beat N.C. State

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Leading 38-22 at the half, East Region 9-seed Temple looked poised to put 8-seed N.C. State away with relative ease and pick up the program’s second NCAA tournament victory since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2001 (they beat Penn State in the 2011 tournament).

The Wolfpack would make things interesting in the second half, cutting Temple’s lead to two in the final seconds but they could not get over the hump. The end result is a 76-72 victory for the Owls, who will take on either top-seed Indiana or 16-seed James Madison on Sunday.

Khalif Wyatt scored 31 points (9-of-22 FG) and dished out five assists to lead Temple, but just as important were the 18 points scored by Jake O’Brien. O’Brien scored 13 of those points in the first half, with N.C. State failing on multiple occasions to identify the Boston University transfer.

Temple shot 53.3% in the first half, due to a combination of solid offensive execution and the Wolfpack’s defensive “indifference.”

N.C. State shot 70.4% from the field in the second half (55.8% for the game), with Scott Wood (ten points) finally getting going down the stretch after going scoreless in the first 20 minutes. Lorenzo Brown scored 22 points and handed out nine assist to lead the way offensively for N.C. State, with C.J. Leslie adding 20 points and Richard Howell posting a double-double (14 points, 15 rebounds).

But the Wolfpack’s lethargic start could not be overcome. And with that a season that began with such high expectations for Mark Gottfried’s team ends with a relative whimper, as the preseason pick to win the ACC heads home after just one NCAA tournament game.

As for Temple’s chances on Sunday (against in all likelihood Indiana), they’ll need to take care of the basketball as they did on Friday. Fran Dunphy’s team turned the ball over just five times, converting 13 N.C. State turnovers into 17 points. And getting outscored 48-24 as they did is something the Owls can’t afford to have happen against the Hoosiers.

But when you have a player like Wyatt, who has arguably the best “old man game” in college basketball, you’ve got a puncher’s chance at the upset.

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

Gonzaga’s Mark Few named AP Coach of the Year

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Gonzaga head coach Mark Few has added to his program’s banner season with an individual award, being named AP Coach of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

Few led the Bulldogs to their first Final Four. The Zags enter the national semifinal with a 36-1 record. Up until Feb. 25, they were flirting with a perfect season. A loss to BYU is currently the only blemish on their season.

Few also won his 500th career game during the course of the 2016-17 season. Since 2014, two coaches from outside the major conferences have earned his honor. Gregg Marshall was named AP Coach of the Year in 2014 after leading the Shockers to a perfect regular season.

This was a very competitive race this season. Sean Miller lost two players expected to be key pieces this season — and had Allonzo Trier miss 19 games — but guided Arizona to the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Jay Wright led Villanova to another Big East title despite two cornerstone pieces — Ryan Arcidiancono and Daniel Ochefu — gone from last season’s national championship team. For a while, Baylor’s Scott Drew seemed to be the favorite. The Bears didn’t receive a single vote in the preseason top-25 poll but went on to earn a No. 1 ranking.

Few’s season continues on Saturday against South Carolina.

Frank Mason is named AP Player of the Year

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Kansas point guard Frank Mason III was named the AP Player of the Year on Thursday afternoon.

The senior floor general for the Jayhawks headlined the AP All-American team, which included UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Villanova Swingman Josh Hart, Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan and North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson.

Mason averaged 20.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and shot 49 percent from behind the 3-point line during the 2016-17 season. He helped guide Kansas to its 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

He becomes the fourth senior in a row to win the award, preceded by Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminksy and Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

He had previously been named player of the year by NBC Sports.

TJ Leaf declares for the 2017 NBA Draft

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UCLA freshman forward TJ Leaf announced he is declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-10 Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. His shooting numbers were also impressive, connecting on 62 percent of his field goals, including 27-of-58 from beyond the 3-point arc.

This news comes six days after Lonzo Ball officially announced he had played his last game at UCLA. Neither move is shocking, with Ball in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and Leaf also pegged as a first round selection.

The Bruins will have quite a bit of turnover next season with guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausting their eligibility. UCLA head coach Steve Alford has a six-man recruiting class set to come in to help replenish the roster. It’s led by versatile forward Kris Wilkes, point guard Jaylen Hands, and big men Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”