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.

Top 50 SG Tyler Herro de-commits from Wisconsin

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Last September, Wisconsin landed a pledge from a highly regarded 2018 prospect as shooting guard Tyler Herro announced that he would remain in state and play for Greg Gard. Tuesday evening Herro, considered to be a Top 50 prospect by many of the major recruiting services, announced that he has decided to reopen his recruitment.

“After a lot of conversations with my family and prayer I have decided to reopen my recruitment and explore all of my options,” Herro said in a statement released via Twitter. “The past year since I committed I have grown not only as a basketball player, but as a person. My drive to become the best on all levels has been the fuel that drove this decision.”

With Herro’s change of heart, Wisconsin is now without a verbal commitment in the Class of 2018. The 6-foot-4 Milwaukee native picked Wisconsin over Arizona, Florida, Indiana, DePaul and Marquette, and given his talent Herro’s recruitment should not take long to pick up following his decision to open things back up.

The Badgers added three scholarship freshmen to the program this summer, with two being perimeter players in Brad Davison and Kobe King. Wisconsin currently does not have a senior in its perimeter rotation, which helps from a numbers standpoint when it comes to 2018. But to lose a recruit of Herro’s caliber, and an in-state prospect at that, is a major hit for the Wisconsin program to absorb.

Bob Knight requests to not be included in Assembly Hall sculptures

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On Tuesday it was announced by Indiana University that five sculptures will be placed throughout Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall to pay tribute to the teams that have won national championships. With former head coach Bob Knight, who has not been on good terms with the school since his dismissal in 2000, being the head coach of three of those teams it’s fair to wonder if he would be a part of any of those sculptures.

Unfortunately Knight will not be in the sculptures for the 1976, 1981 or 1987 national championship teams, as it was noted in the release that the former coach requested to not be included. According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana athletics director Fred Glass said that it is school policy to request permission to depict someone on this kind of project. The school reached out to Knight, who declined the request.

The sculpture honoring the 1976 team was the reason for the school reaching out to Knight, as it honors the team that is the most Division I team to go through an entire season without a loss. That teams was led by the likes of Kent Benson, Scott May and Bobby Wilkerson, and won the first of Knight’s three national titles at Indiana.

After being fired prior to the start of the 2000-01 season, Knight spent a year away from coaching before accepting the head coaching job at Texas Tech. Despite Indiana having honored former players and teams of Knight’s in recent years, the relationship between the former coach and the school he led to three national titles remains strained to this day.

As for the sculptures, fans will be able to see them for the first time at Hoosier Hysteria on October 21.

Rick Pitino files federal lawsuit against adidas

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Former Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s quest to prove that he had nothing to do with the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball produced another development on Tuesday. As first reported by ESPN’s Jay Bilas, Pitino has filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Louisville with adidas being the lone defendant.

Per media reports, Pitino is suing the company for its “outrageous conduct in conspiring to funnel money to the family of a college basketball recruit.”

Adidas’ connection to the ongoing criminal investigation is that two of its employees within the basketball department, Jim Gatto and Merl Code, were among the ten people arrested. While no one directly tied to Louisville has been charged, FBI documents revealed connections between members of the basketball program and the accused parties.

As a result of the investigation Louisville freshman small forward Brian Bowen is being withheld from all basketball activities by the school. Bowen and his family have since hired an attorney in an attempt to get the freshman reinstated.

Among the instances of wrongdoing documented by the FBI was a transaction in which $100,000 was paid in exchange for a recruit committing to attend Louisville. The timeline of the events were close to Bowen’s commitment timeline, with the five-star prospect announcing that he would attend Louisville in early June.

As a result of the investigation Pitino was placed on unpaid by Louisville, with the school’s Board of Regents voting unanimously to fire the head coach with cause on Monday.

Northeast Conference Preview: Who survived after transfers gutted the league?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the NEC.

The NEC was absolutely brutalized by outgoing transfers this offseason. Of the 11 non-seniors that were on one of the three all-NEC teams, just four of them return to school. That includes three first-team all-NEC sophomores, but I’m not sure anyone in all of college basketball got hit quite as hard this offseason as Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian did.

Coming off of an NEC regular season title and his second trip to the NCAA tournament in the last five years, Christian saw three key pieces opt to leave. Elijah Long, a sophomore guard that was a first-team all-league player and the Mount’s leading scorer a season ago, transferred to Texas. Miles Wilson, the team’s third-leading scorer and one of the best freshmen in the conference last year, transferred to Miami. Mawdo Sallah transferred to Kansas State.

The Mountaineers do return Junior Robinson, a 5-foot-5 dynamo that will be one of the most entertaining players in the mid-major ranks, as well as Greg Alexander, but Christian is going to have his work cut out for him.

With Mount St. Mary’s – and Robert Morris, another perennial power in the league that is dealing with the loss of a star player (Isaiah Still) transferring – the favorite is probably St. Francis (PA). The Red Flash, despite losing Josh Nebo to Texas A&M, return Isiah Blackmon and reigning Freshman of the Year Keith Braxton. They return the most talent of anyone that finished in the top half of the league.

Fairleigh Dickinson is a team to keep an eye on as well, although it will be tough for them to overcome a pair of their own transfers, as Stephen Jiggetts is now at South Florida and Earl Potts left school. But Darian Anderson returns, as does Mike Holloway and Darnell Edge.

Despite losing their top two scorers from last season, LIU Brooklyn should also be back in the mix. Jashaun Agosto returns for his sophomore season after a promising freshman year while Joel Hernandez, who averaged double-figures as a junior, is back after missing last season through injury. Bryant could find their way into the mix as well, although Nisre Zouzoua’s transfer was a massive blow.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

 PRESEASON NEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Darian Anderson, Fairleigh Dickinson

Anderson is the leading returning scorer in the NEC this season, and he’ll be playing on a team that will be competing for the league title. With the Knights losing their second- and third-leading scorers from last year, Anderson is going to have more of the offensive load to carry.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-NEC TEAM

  • Junior Robinson, Mount St. Mary’s: Robinson is the second-leading returning scorer in the conference, and with the Mount losing so much, the 5-foot-5 point guard will be asked to do a lot.
  • Keith Braxton, St. Francis (PA): Braxton was the best freshman in the conference a year ago.
  • Isiah Blackmon, St. Francis (PA): Blackmon was a third-team all-NEC performer as a sophomore.
  • Joseph Lopez, Sacred Heart: Lopez is back to anchor a front line for the most veteran team in the league.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. St. Francis (PA)
2. Fairleigh Dickinson
3. LIU Brooklyn
4. Robert Morris
5. Mount St. Mary’s
6. Bryant
7. Sacred Heart
8. Wagner
9. Central Connecticut State
10. St. Francis-Brooklyn

Ohio Valley Conference Preview: A trio of teams lead the way

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ohio Valley Conference.

Two-time OVC player of the year Evan Bradds has graduated, but Belmont remains one of the favorites to claim another conference title.

The first task for the Bruins will be figuring out how to replace or replicate Bradds’ bucket-getting that powered the offense to a 23-win season. Amanze Egekeze and Dylan Winder would both seem to be the natural heirs after posting effective field goal percentages over 60 last year. Like Bradds, both are terrors on the inside, shooting better than 65 percent on 2-pointers, but also have a dimension that Bradds didn’t – 3-point shooting, with Egekeze converting 38.7 percent and Winder 40.2 percent from distance. Without the high-usage Bradds on the roster, both will likely see huge increases in roles, with guard Austin Luke setting them up.

Murray State suffered its first losing season in over 30 years when they went 16-17 last year in Matt McMahon’s second season since succeeding Steve Prohm, but the Racers appear to be on track for an immediate bounce back. Some of the struggle last year can be attributable to plain old bad luck as Murray State went 0-4 in the regular season in overtime games and went 1-8 in games decided by five points or less. The Racers, though, will have to clean things up on the defensive end if they want to challenge for a league title. They were below-average in just about every single facet of the game on that end, and adding five freshmen into the mix may make real strides there difficult. Murray State does have, though, Jonathan Stark, who averaged nearly 22 points per game last season, and he’s a game-changer. They also added junior college standout Anthony Smith, which makes them a threat to capture the conference.

Jacksonville State didn’t look much like a spoiler heading into March last year when they finished with a 9-7 OVC record, but the Gamecocks reeled off three wins, including over league champ Belmont, in the conference tournament to snag an NCAA tournament bid. Second-team all-OVC guard Malcolm Drumwright returns for his senior season and to give coach Ray Harper another dangerous team. Seven-footer Norbertas Giga is also back after putting 30 on Louisville in the NCAA tournament. It will be critical for the Gamecocks to defend the 3-point line better this season. Between Giga and junior Christian Cunningham, Jacksonville State has solid rim protection, but allowed opponents to shoot nearly 38 percent from distance. Some of that is sure to just be variable, but bringing that number down will be a huge determinant of success.

Beyond that, the OVC is tough to project this season, as a number of last season’s contenders lost some key pieces. One group to keep an eye on: Eastern Kentucky. With Asante Gist and Nick Mayo returning, Dan McHale has one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON OVC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jonathan Stark, Murray State

The 6-foot guard returns after averaging 21.9 points in his first season with the Racers after transferring from Tulane. He got up nearly eight 3-point attempts per game, converting at a 42.5 percent clip. He’s the rare high-volume shooter that also plays efficiently.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON OVC TEAM

  • Malcolm Drumwright, Jacksonville State: All-conference guard will lead the charge for the Gamecocks to get back to the NCAA tournament.
  • Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky: A 39 percent 3-point shooter, Mayo scored 18.5 points per game last year.
  • Denzel Mahoney, Southeast Missouri: Mahoney was a breakout star last year as a freshman, putting up nearly 15 points per game and shooting 37.7 percent from 3.
  • Terrell Miller, Murray State: A double-double threat every night, Miller averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @OVCSports

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Belmont
2. Murray State
3. Jacksonville State
4. Tennessee State
5. Eastern Illinois
6. Eastern Kentucky
7. SIU-Edwardsville
8. Tennessee Tech
9. Southeast Missouri
10. Morehead State
11. UT Martin
12. Austin Peay