Iowa State v Ohio State

Remember Aaron Craft, but don’t forget about the “charge” he drew

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Aaron Craft’s shot may be the defining moment of the NCAA tournament so far that wasn’t an alley-oop that sparked a rap video.

He’s a kid whose entire legacy is built on the fact that he’s a “winner” that played like garbage down the stretch — two turnovers, 2-5 free throws including two missed front-ends — only to redeem himself by hitting a game-winning three with 0.5 seconds left on the clock. And after hitting the three, he doesn’t run around screaming like a maniac. He holds his pose until the shot goes down, and then he tries to get his team prepared to play defense until a timeout is called.

Even if you hate Aaron Craft — and there are plenty of people that do — you have to, at the very least, respect what he did on Sunday afternoon.

But here’s the thing: it never should have gotten to that point.

Because the winner got a call that winners get.

With 1:15 left on the clock and iowa State up 75-74, Craft slid over on defense and drew a charge on Will Clyburn. It will look like a great play in the scorebook, but it wasn’t. Craft was late and slid under Clyburn while he was in the air. It should have been a block and an and-1. Clyburn should have had a chance to put the Cyclones up 78-74, in a great position to close out a game in which they used a thrilling, 13-0 run in a 2:11 span late in the second half to tie the game at 69.

Instead, arguably the most entertaining team in the tournament is heading home with a 78-75 loss to the Buckeyes.

This may be the most notable blown charge call in this year’s tournament, but it certainly isn’t the first. It’s an epidemic, really. Referees, who are now forced to focus on when a defender has their feet and whether or not they are outside the charge circle, are missing more and more calls under the basket. The Flagrant 1 elbow rule needs to be the first thing addressed by the rules committee this offseason, as that’s easily the worst rule in college basketball. But the referees need to get together and figure out how to start calling charges and blocks correctly.

Because it just cost Iowa State a berth in the Sweet 16.

Now, here’s the interesting question for the Cyclones: how long does Fred Hoiberg hang around?

He’s an Ames native and an Iowa State graduate. His nickname is ‘The Mayor’, and that refers to his time in the city he’s currently coaching in. But he’s losing five seniors and arguably his four best players this offseason. How set is he on remaining the Cyclone head coach?

Because I can think of a couple Pac-12 schools that would be interested in a guy that turned Iowa State into a relevant program this quickly. Hoiberg’s no a west coast guy, but he is a good talent evaluator and there are recruiters on his staff with west coast ties.

Just another name to toss into the rumor mill.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.