No. 1 Gonzaga Shocked by No. 9 Wichita State

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The last time Gonzaga had lost, we were only three weeks into 2013. That is no more.

No. 9-seeded Wichita State climbed back from an eight-point second half deficit to upset No. 1-seeded Gonzaga, 76-70, knocking off the first No. 1 seed of the tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the process at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, Saturday night.

Wichita State used 50 shooting from the field, including 14-of-26 shooting from three-point range to erase that deficit and take the lead, 64-63, with 3:10 to play. That was made possible by three-pointers on back-to-back-to-back possessions over a three-minute span that ignited the Shockers’ offense.

Among those three-point shooters were Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early, both of whom were 4-of-6 from three-point range on the night. That impressive shooting night comes after shooting 2-of-20 as a team in the Round of 64 against Pittsburgh.

Gonzaga could not survive the upset despite grabbing 20 offensive rebounds on the night. Wichita State did a fine job of bothering big man and National Player of the Year candidate Kelly Olynyk, who needed 22 shots to score 26 points on the night. They also concentrated the offensive production in the hands of three players: Olynyk, Kevin Pangos, and Elias Harris. Those three combined for 81 percent of the team’s scoring.

Gonzaga becomes the third No. 1 seed in the past four years to lose in the Round of 32 and the first No. 1 seed to be eliminated from this 2013 NCAA tournament. And that comes after perhaps the shakiest performance by a No. 1 seed in the Round of 64, when No. 16-seed Southern ran the Bulldogs to the wire Thursday evening.

Lapses on the perimeter hurt Gonzaga and three-point shooting like it endured Saturday is not easily reconciled, even when rebounding on the offensive boards at a rate that they did.

For Gonzaga, it means another pre-Elite Eight elimination, meaning Dan Monson remains the only head coach to lead the Bulldogs past the Sweet 16.

This Round of 32 loss does little to substantiate the calls for more respect to be given to this batch of mid-major teams on the West Coast that came throughout the season. Those calls grew louder when Gonzaga reached No. 1 in the national polls. Of the seven teams from the Mountain West and West Coast Conference that made the NCAA tournament, only San Diego State has a chance to make it to the Sweet 16. The Aztecs tip off against No. 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday at 7:10 p.m.

That series of losses includes No. 3 New Mexico in an upset to No. 14 Harvard in the Round of 64, UNLV, and Saint Mary’s in that same round, as well as Boise State in the First Four and Colorado State in the Round of 32.

The Gonzaga loss could have one other lasting effect on the NCAA tournament: No. 1 seeding for mid-major schools. With this memory of Bulldog loss, there could be some hesitancy to hand another non-BCS school a No. 1 seed. The ironic part is, though, that many may fail to remember that it was a mid-major who eliminated that mid-major No. 1.

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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.