Late Night Snacks: Recapping the last day of the tourney’s first weekend

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After a relatively boring start to the NCAA tournament, Sunday provided us with enough fireworks.

We’ve got a No. 15 seed in the Sweet 16 for the first time ever. They are joined there by a No. 13 seed, a No. 12 seed and a No. 9 seed. We’re still without a true buzzer-beater or an overtime game in this tournament, but we did get two game-winners tonight that both came within the final 2.5 seconds of regulation.

We also saw two No. 1 seeds get all they could handle before advancing, as well as a No. 2 seed that needed some big shots to survive. And lastly, we saw two teams get a gift from the officials down the stretch that may have changed the outcome of a game.

Here’s a recap of the final day of the NCAA tournament’s first weekend:

TEAM OF THE DAY: Florida Gulf Coast

The Eagles are the first No. 15 seed to make it to the Sweet 16, and they did so in impressive fashion: running past and dunking over both No. 2 seed Georgetown and No. 7 seed San Diego State. It’s not just the best story to come out of the NCAA tournament; it’s the best story in all of sports right now. It’s the best story we’ve had in college basketball since … well, I can’t come up with anything comparable off the top of my head, which should tell you how awesome this run is.

I’m not going to overload you with FGCU stuff here. We’ve written plenty about them this weekend already.

Who else was impressive?:

  • La Salle: The Explorers overcame a lack of front court depth against a bigger opponent for the second time this weekend, knocking off Ole Miss and canceling Marshall Henderson Show. Ramon Galloway had 24 points in the win, but Tyrone Garland is the MVP for his description of the game-winner he hit:
  • Kansas: I’m talking specifically about second half Kansas here, the one that absolutely ran North Carolina off the floor, outscoring them 49-28 in the final 20 minutes and doing so while getting absolutely nothing out of star Ben McLemore. Kansas will advance to take on Michigan in the Sweet 16.

PLAYER OF THE DAY: Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast

I know, I said I wasn’t going to inundate you with FGCU information, but there really wasn’t anyone that had a more dominating performance in a more influential role than Comer did on Sunday night. He doesn’t score like Sherwood Brown or Bernard Thompson and he can’t dunk like Eddie Murphy or Chase Fieler or Erik McKnight, but Comer is the engine that makes FGCU go. He finished with 10 points and 14 assists on Sunday.

Who else was good?:

  • Ramon Galloway, La Salle: Garland hit the game-winner, but Galloway was the best player on the floor for the Explorers on Sunday, finishing with 24 points on 8-13 shooting, hitting 6-10 from three.
  • Khalif Wyatt, Temple: Temple couldn’t pull out the win against Indiana, but it wasn’t Wyatt’s fault. He finished with 31 points on 12-24 shooting, doing everything he could to keep the Owls ahead.
  • Jeff Withey and Travis Releford, Kansas: Withey had 16 points, 16 boards and five blocks while holding James Michael McAdoo to 5-19 shooting and Releford had 22 points, eight boards and three steals as the Jayhawks overcame a dreadful first half to run the Tar Heels out of the gym.
  • Mike Rosario, Florida: Rosario finished with 25 points, hitting 8-12 from the field and 6-9 from three, in a 14 point Florida win.
  • Rion Brown, Miami: Brown had 21 points and hit 5-10 from three, including a pair of huge threes late in the game, as the Hurricanes knocked off Illinois and advanced to the Sweet 16.

FIVE THOUGHTS

1) Aaron Craft’s game-winner: What made it impressive wasn’t that he simply hit the game-winner, it’s that he did so after essentially choking away the game with missed free throws and turnovers. Not many people could have overcome those struggles.

2) Shane Larkin’s step-back three was more impressive: With minute left and Miami behind after having blown a seven point lead, Larkin hit a ridiculously tough, step-back three to put the Hurricanes up 57-55, a lead they would never relinquish.

3) The common bond?: Unfortunately, neither Larkin’s nor Craft’s shots will be the lasting memory to come out of those two games. Ohio State held on to beat Iowa State is large part due to a brutal charge called against Will Clyburn with Iowa State up 75-74 and about a minute left in the game. Miami may have won anyway, but with 42 seconds left and the score 57-55, the referees blew an out-of-bounds call that was blatantly off of Miami.

4) Duke is going to need more out of Ryan Kelly: Kelly had just a single point in Duke’s win over Creighton on Sunday night. Remember all that talk about how he was the best player on the Duke team? He did a great job on Doug McDermott, but he’s going to need to make an appearance offensively.

5) Julian Gamble is my hero: Yup.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

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The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.