First Weekend Superlatives: MVP, Best Dunk, Best GIF

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FIRST WEEKEND MVP: Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast

This pick was easy, really. The FGCU point guard is the engine that makes Dunk City run. In wins over No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State, Comer averaged 11.0 points, 12.0 assists and 4.0 boards, setting the table for each and every one of those ridiculous alley-oops that his lanky and athletic front court finished for him. Perhaps more incredibly, he finished with just five turnovers 64 minutes despite throwing some ridiculously difficult passes. The Eagles want to get out and run the floor. They want to score in the 70s and the 80s and they want to be the Greatest Show in March. Comer is the guy that allows them to do just that.

All-First Weekend Team:

  • Khalif Wyatt, Temple: Wyatt couldn’t lead his Owl team out of the first weekend, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort: he went for 31 points against both No. 8 NC State and No. 1 Indiana.
  • Vander Blue, Marquette: Vander Blue had 16 points and a game-winner in a win over No. 14 Davidson, then finished with 29 and four steals, sparking the Marquette comeback, as the Golden Eagles knocked off Butler.
  • Ramon Galloway, La Salle: Galloway led the Explorers from the First Four to the Sweet 16 by averaging 21.3 points. 4.0 boards, 3.7 assists and hitting 12 threes.
  • Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon: Kazemi averaged 10.0 points, 16.5 boards and 2.0 blocks as Oregon knocked off both No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 4 St. Louis on the way to the Sweet 16.
  • Jeff Withey, Kansas: Withey was the best player on the floor for Kansas in a win over WKU and then turned into a dominating force on both ends in the second half rout of North Carolina. He averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 boards and 6.5 blocks in the two games.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PERFORMANCE: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

The opening round was supposed to be highlighted by Nate Wolters vs. Trey Burke, but Wolters picked an awful time to have a terrible game. He finished with just 10 points on 3-14 shooting as the Jack Rabbits lost to No. 4 Michigan 71-56. Ironically enough, Wolters may have actually helped his NBA cause with that performance, as he did a solid enough job defending the National Player of the Year Trey Burke.

BEST GAME: No. 3 Marquette 59, No. 14 Davidson 58

For all the talk about how boring the first day of the tournament was, it did provide us with our best game of the first weekend. Marquette, one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, avoided elimination by hitting three threes in the final minute to shave down a Davidson lead. Then with less than 10 seconds left, Davidson was up 58-57 and simply had to try to drain the clock, but managed to turn the ball over, setting up this final possession from Vander Blue:

MOST OVERHYPED GAME: No. 4 Michigan 78, No. 5 VCU 53

This was supposed to be a thrilling matchup between Havoc and the nation’s best point guard, but it turns out that Havoc couldn’t hang. The Rams were shredded by the Wolverines, who eventually stomped every last ember of VCU’s will in a thorough whooping of Shaka Smart’s crew.

WHO WAS UNDERSEEDED?: No. 12 Oregon

The Ducks suffered half of their losses this season with Dominic Artis out of the lineup. They were coming off of a Pac-12 tournament title. They were a top ten team in the country before Artis went down with his foot injury. And for all of that work, the committee gave them a No. 12 seed? Oregon proved them wrong, beating both No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 4 St. Louis in impressive fashion while advancing to the Sweet 16.

WHO WAS OVERSEEDED?: Everyone in the MWC?

For a league that generated so much hype during the season, it’s a surprise that there will not be a single member of the Mountain West in the NCAA tournament’s second weekend. Boise State lost in the play-in game and Colorado State got bounced in the round of 32 by Louisville. That’s understandable. But No. 5 UNLV lost in the opening round to No. 12 Cal, No. 3 New Mexico was upset in their first game by No. 14 Harvard and No. 7 San Diego State became the second victim of Dunk City.

BEST DUNK: Comer-to-Fieler vs. Georgetown

There were about 25 options from FGCU alone, but between the moment, the unexpected nature and the fact that Chase Fieler had his hand above the square … yeah, this was incredible:

WORST DUNK: Chane Behanan vs. North Carolina A&T

This is about as embarrassing as it gets:

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BEST SHOT: Aaron Craft’s game-winner

This was the closest thing we had to a buzzer-beater during the first weekend:

BEST GIF: Julian Gamble, photobomb

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BEST PICTURE: The Wat-swat

Christian Watford’s block on Anthony Lee may have saved Indiana from getting eliminated in the round of 32:

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(Image via Terry Gilliam / McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

AP Photo/Athens Banner-Herald, AJ Reynolds
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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.