Wichita State v Gonzaga

Late Night Snacks: Recapping tonight’s Round of 32 action

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Before I get into the meat of this post, we need to just go ahead and thanks Butler and Marquette, as well as Wichita State and Gonzaga.

Because for much of Saturday — and, for that matter, basically the entire non-Florida Gulf Coast portion of this tournament — the basketball was a complete bore. The first five games of the day, and there were only eight total, were duds. Blow outs. Decided more or less before the first half was over. Memphis made a run at the end of the first half and VCU made a run to start the second, but generally speaking, Saturday started out as a disaster.

It was March Mollywhoppings.

And then Butler and Marquette came along and had their ridiculous finish. And Wichita State came along and upset the first No. 1 seed to go down in this year’s tournament. And by the time we were done, it ended up being a pretty good night of basketball, even if the first six hours left a lot to the imagination.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Wichita State

The Shockers pulled off the biggest upset of the day on Saturday, as they hit seven threes in the final 12 minutes to knock off No. 1 seed Gonzaga. The most impressive part? Wichita State made the run at a time when it looked like the Zags had grabbed complete control. Gonzaga was on an extended, 36-15 run. They had taken a 49-41 lead and finally had Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk playing well.

And then Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet caught fire, leading the Shockers back to their first Sweet 16 since 2006 and Gregg Marshall’s first Sweet 16 in his career. And if that wasn’t enough, Wichita State will lock horns with the winner of No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle next weekend, meaning that they are going to have a very real shot at getting to the Elite 8 and having a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four. How about that?

Who else was impressive?:

  • Louisville: Louisville dominated Colorado State. Just flat out dominated them. The Rams didn’t have one possession while the score was in reach where they looked comfortable offensively. No. 1 seed Louisville will advance to the Sweet 16 as a result and play Oregon.
  • Oregon: Speaking of Oregon, the No. 12 seed Ducks blew out heavy favorite St. Louis by 17 points on Saturday afternoon, rolling into the Sweet 16 despite being arguably the most under-seeded team in the entire tournament.

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Vander Blue, Marquette

Blue was nothing short of sensational on Saturday night, finishing with 29 points on 9-15 shooting to outduel Rotnei Clarke and lead Marquette to a come-from-behind win over No. 6 seed Butler. Perhaps the most impressive part about Blue’s performance is the fact that he shot 3-4 from three, hitting a number of big jumpers for the second night in a row. Blue also made a couple of enormous plays in the passing lanes to get layups at the other end. It was a terrific performance, and it came on the heels of a game-winner he hit to beat Davidson. The win moves the Golden Eagles into the Sweet 16.

Who else was good?:

  • Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith took over Russ Arena on Saturday night, scoring 27 points on 7-15 shooting to lead the Cards past Colorado State.
  • Mark Lyons, Arizona: Lyons went for 27 points as well, setting the tone early as Arizona smoked Harvard, jumping out to a 30-9 lead before the Crimson were able to wake up.
  • Mitch McGary, Michigan: McGary was the best player on the floor for the Wolverines as they moved on to the Sweet 16 with a dominating win over VCU on Saturday. He finished with 21 points and 14 boards while hitting 10-11 from the field.
  • Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon: Kazemi is one of my favorite players in the country to watch. He finished with 16 boards (seven offensive), three assists, two steals and two blocks to go along with eight points in the win over St. Louis.
  • Ron Baker, Wichita State: The freshman Baker, who missed 21 games prior to the start of MVC tournament play, finished with 16 points, six boards and four assists — with 11 points and two assists coming in the final 12 minutes — to lead the Shockers to a win over Gonzaga.

FIVE THOUGHTS:

1) Adreian Payne should be a first round pick: The idea that this draft is weak is incorrect. There aren’t franchise-changing talents at the top of the draft board, but there is a lot of talent in the mid-to-late first round. Payne is one of those guys. With his size, athleticism and shooting ability — and with the way he played this weekend — Payne could end up being the breakout star of this NCAA tournament.

2) Brandon Triche struggled again: Thursday’s beatdown of Montana made it seem like Triche had gotten over his slump, but after shooting 1-8 from the floor on Saturday night in a win over No. 12 seed Cal, it’s still a concern. The Orange need him to be a factor offensively.

3) Dominic Artis struggled again, too: Artis seemed to finally snap out of his funk on Thursday, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes, the most impressive work he’s done since injuring his foot. But he regressed again on Saturday, shooting 0-7 from the floor while Jonathan Loyd went for nine points, six assists, four steals and five boards.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Villanova’s Jenkins to return for senior season

Villanova forward Kris Jenkins (2) reacts to play against North Carolina during the second half of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After briefly taking part in the NBA Draft evaluation process, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins announced Monday night that he’s decided to withdraw and return to school for his senior year. Jenkins, whose three-pointer as time expired gave the Wildcats the win over North Carolina in the national title game, announced the news via Twitter.

2015-16 was a breakout season for Jenkins, who moved into the starting lineup and averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The 6-foot-6 forward shot 45.9 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc, and with starters Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu graduating he’ll have even more opportunities to produce next season.

Jenkins’ decision to return leaves wing Josh Hart as the lone Wildcats going through the early entry process at this time. Hart was a first team All-Big East selection as a junior, and his return would be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that many expect to be a national title contender in 2016-17.

Jenkins and Hart wouldn’t be the only returnees who had a part in the national title run, with guards Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth, wing Mikal Bridges and forward Darryl Reynolds back as well. To that group Villanova adds Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and a recruiting class anchored by Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter with Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney available after being hampered by injuries last season.

Delaney missed all of last year after undergoing surgical procedures on his hips, and DiVincenzo played a total of 74 minutes over the first nine games before having to sit due to a broken foot.

Florida State guard Rathan-Mayes to return for junior season

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) drives past Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger, left, for a score in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)
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With their top three scorers from last season all deciding to declare for the NBA Draft, Florida State was facing the possibility of having to rebuild their backcourt ahead of the 2016-17 season. However two of those three have decided to return to Tallahassee, with rising junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes announcing on Monday that he will be back in school.

Rathan-Mayes joins rising sophomore Dwayne Bacon in returning to play another season for head coach Leonard Hamilton, with Malik Beasley hiring representation and remaining in the draft.

Rathan-Mayes had more scoring help last season and as a result was able to concentrate more on the distribution aspects of the point guard position, as he averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists per contest. With the return of Rathan-Mayes and Bacon, Florida State will have two of its top three scorers from last season back on campus.

The Seminoles did lose some veteran players, most notably guard Devon Bookert and center Boris Bojanovsky, but the returnees and a recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American forward Jonathan Isaac means that they won’t lack for options next season.

Auburn lands third transfer within the last week

Auburn guard T.J. Dunans (4) and coach Bruce Pearl celebrate a 75-74 win over UAB in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, at Auburn Arena in Auburn, Ala.  (Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP)
Julie Bennett/AL.com via AP
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After receiving commitments from former Purdue/Houston guard Ronnie Johnson and former Presbyterian forward DeSean Murray, Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl continued to load up on the transfer market Monday. Forward LaRon Smith, who was named MEAC Defensive Player of the Year at Bethune-Cookman last season, announced that he will use his final season of eligibility at the SEC program.

Like Smith, Johnson will also be eligible to compete immediately for the Tigers while Murray will have to sit out next season before having two years of eligibility remaining.

The 6-foot-8 Smith played two seasons at Georgia State before transferring to Bethune-Cookman, where he averaged 7.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest in 2015-16. Smith played just over 25 minutes per game for the Wildcats, shooting 58.5 percent from the field.

Smith reached double figures in scoring in four of the Wildcats’ final seven games, including a 20-point, 11-rebound, three-block outing in an overtime win over North Carolina A&T. He joins a front court in need of depth following the departures of the likes of Cinmeon Bowers and Tyler Harris, with Horace Spencer, Trayvon Reed and incoming freshman Anfernee McLemore also competing for minutes in 2016-17.

SMU lands former Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt

Arkansas guard Jimmy Whitt (24) leaps for a layup past Tennessee guard Shembari Phillips (25) during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn., Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Arkansas won 75-65. (Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)
Adam Lau/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP
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With a five-member recruiting class set to arrive on campus this summer, SMU added a talented transfer Monday afternoon. Jimmy Whitt, who played his freshman season at Arkansas, committed to join Larry Brown’s program. Whitt, a 6-foot-4 guard from Columbia, Missouri, will have three seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2016-17 campaign.

As a freshman at Arkansas, Whitt averaged 6.1 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game. He reached double figures in scoring nine time, with the high being a 15-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri in mid-January. Whitt produced a stretch of four consecutive games in double figures during non-conference play, but he struggled to maintain that consistency against SEC competition.

At SMU he’ll join a perimeter rotation that will lose rising senior Sterling Brown following the 2016-17 season. Among those who will have eligibility remaining when Whitt becomes eligible are Ben Emelogu, Shake Milton, Jarrey Foster and incoming freshmen Tom Wilson and Dashawn McDowell.

 

Boise State assistant named head coach at Northern Colorado

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Courtesy UNCBears.com
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GREELEY, Colo. (AP) Jeff Linder is the new basketball coach at Northern Colorado. He spent the last six seasons at Boise State, where he was associate head coach for the Broncos since 2013-14.

Linder replaces B.J. Hill, who was fired last month amid an NCAA investigation into allegations of violations in the program.

University President Kay Norton and Athletic Director Darren Dunn announced Linder’s hiring Sunday.

Linder played high school ball in Lafayette, Colorado, and college ball at Mesa State and Western Colorado State. He began his coaching career under Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton.

In a statement, Linder said, “I look forward to returning home to the state of Colorado and continuing to build this program into something everyone can be proud of.”

Hill was 86-98 in six seasons at UNC.