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.

Georgetown, John Thompson III part ways

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Georgetown has parted ways with head coach John Thompson III, sources confirmed to NBC Sports.

Thompson has been the head coach of the Hoyas for 13 seasons, going 278-151 during his tenure. He won three Big East regular season titles with the program, the last of which came in 2013, and he reached the 2007 Final Four, but in recent years the program has fallen on hard times.

Georgetown confirmed the news Thursday afternoon.

“For thirteen years, he has been one of the elite coaches in college basketball,” Georgetown president John J. DeGioia said in a statement released by the school. “His performance as a coach has been exceptional, and he has served our community with remarkable distinction and integrity, sustaining our commitment to the academic performance of our students and providing them with the very best preparation for their lives beyond the Hilltop.”

Georgetown is 29-36 over the course of the last two seasons and the Hoyas have missed the NCAA tournament in three of the last four years. They’ve failed to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since that Final Four, losing to five double-digit seeds in their last six NCAA tournament appearances.

Thompson is the son of John Thompson Jr., the Hall of Fame head coach that built the Hoyas into a national power in the 80s and 90s. The University just invested more than $60 million into a renovation of the team’s practice facility which is now named The Thompson Center.

“We are committed to taking the necessary steps to strengthen our program and maintaining the highest levels of academic integrity and national competitiveness,” DeGioia said. “We will work immediately to begin a national search for a new head men’s basketball coach.

“I remain deeply grateful to John for all that he has done on behalf of Georgetown University.”

The news was first reported by CasualHoya.com.

Jeter to transfer from Duke

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A former five-star recruit is hitting the transfer market.

Chase Jeter, a top-20 talent in the Class of 2015, will transfer from Duke, the school announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore could never really crack the rotation with the Blue Devils, playing less than 500 minutes total over two seasons. He averaged 14.9 minutes in 16 appearances this past season.

“Chase has been an outstanding young man in our program for the last two years,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement released by the school. “He has been one of our top academic performers since he arrived on campus. Unfortunately, he was held back this season due to injury. We wish nothing but the absolute best for Chase and his family.”

This past season Jeter dealt with a back injury, and he did not play after Jan. 14.

“I have loved my time at Duke, getting a world-class education and competing alongside my brothers every day,” Jeter said in a statement. “After careful consideration, I decided it would be best for me to transfer to a school closer to home. I’ve made long-lasting relationships here and I want to thank my teammates and coaches for the support they’ve given me over the last two years.”

Jeter, a Las Vegas native, chose Duke in the summer of 2014 over Arizona, UNLV and UCLA.

Feeling the love: Men’s hoops squad toast of South Carolina

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell knew South Carolina fans would be excited about the team’s Sweet 16 appearance. The response since he has been on campus, though, surprised even him.

As Thornwell walked to the student union after class, he couldn’t take more than a couple of steps without students swarming him for selfies or asking for some tidbit about the win against Duke on Sunday.

“We’re trying to embrace the moment,” Thornwell said Tuesday. “But that was wild.”

Everyone on campus, around Columbia and even the state seem to be savoring every minute. It’s understandable, the Gamecocks haven’t been in the Sweet 16 since 1973.

It’s been a wild ride for the Gamecocks (24-10), who some wondered if they’d even get invited to the NCAA Tournament let alone produce one of the signature moments so far with their 88-81 win over the second-seeded Blue Devi ls in the East Region.

Next up is third seeded Baylor (27-7) on Friday night at Madison Square Garden for the chance to advance.

Coach Frank Martin said he’s gotten more than 1,100 text messages about Sunday night’s win and two or three from people wondering, “So I guess you’re not going to respond?” he joked.

“That’s a good problem to have,” he said.

South Carolina is gaining the attention Gamecock fans have recently showered on the football, baseball or women’s basketball programs.

Steve Spurrier, featuring NFL standouts like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney , receiver Alshon Jeffrey and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, won the Southeastern Conference East Division in 2010 and had three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13.

Baseball won back-to-back College World Series under now athletic director Ray Tanner in 2010 and 2011. Thousands turned out for victory parades to the Statehouse when the team returned home.

Most recently, South Carolina’s women’s basketball team, led by new U.S. women’s national team coach Dawn Staley, has gained much of the attention with four straight SEC regular season titles. The Gamecocks have led the women’s game in attendance the past three seasons.

Now, men’s basketball is getting some love.

“We’re happy to be part of that,” sophomore point guard P.J. Dozier said.

There was a time when men’s basketball led the way at South Carolina when New York City native Frank McGuire turned a sleepy program into a national power with a pipeline of NYC kids like John Roche, Tom Owens, Bobby Cremins, Brian Winters and Mike Dunleavy Sr.

McGuire led the Gamecocks to the NCAA round of 16 three straight seasons from 1971-73 – there were just 25 schools involved – and his team was considered the cream of the crop in South Carolina athletic circles.

But McGuire’s touch ran out in the mid-1970s and the Gamecocks have struggled for an identity for more than 40 years.

South Carolina won its only Southeastern Conference crown in 1997, but lost in the NCAAs as a No. 2 seed. The Gamecocks returned to the tournament the next season, that time falling as a No. 3 seed.

The Gamecocks high-water mark until now may be the consecutive NIT crowns won by coach Dave Odom in 2005 and 2006.

Martin and these Gamecocks are out to add another level of success to the program.

The fifth-year coach said that being around Spurrier – “Steve calls me every day,” Martin said – Tanner and Staley make him a better leader and give him examples of building winning cultures.

“I’m a big believer in winning leads to winning,” he said.

An emotional Martin, overcome by his team’s Duke win, told the players in the locker room, “Let’s go win this thing.”

He said Tuesday he wanted his players to know that by beating Duke, they proved they’re good enough to play with anyone left in the field.

Thornwell heard that over and over from friends, family and hundreds of new acquaintances he’s made the past 48 hours.

“We’re just having fun,” he said, “enjoying the game, enjoying every moment.”

New LSU coach Wade unveils plan to awaken a ‘sleeping giant’

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Newly named LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade left little doubt about his intention to wear his players out.

It also sounded like the fresh-faced 34-year-old, who has known only winning in his four seasons as a head coach at Chattanooga and at VCU, knew better than to make immediate promises about turning the Tigers into champions before he’d truly discovered what he’s gotten himself into down on the bayou.

“You may beat us, but you’re going to know you’re in for a fight,” Wade asserted as he spoke of going “all out, all the time,” and defending “every floor board for 94 feet.”

“That’s going to be our identity,” Wade said.

At LSU, basketball has long been a sport that lags behind football and even baseball in popularity. The program’s history is one of inconsistent results and wavering fan support – despite considerable resources spent on upgrading practice and training facilities in recent years.

There are larger than life bronze statues of Hall-of-Famers Bob Pettit and Shaquille O’Neal in front of the basketball practice gym, and the Tigers’ home stadium is named for the legendary Pete Maravich. But LSU has been to a total of four Final Fours in program history. Its last Final Four in 2006 is the only one in the past three decades.

The top overall NBA draft choice in 2016 – Ben Simmons – played at LSU two seasons ago, but the team he led failed to make the NCAA Tournament. One season later, the man who recruited Simmons, Johnny Jones, found himself at the helm of a team mired in a school-record 15-game losing streak.

Now Jones, criticized by fans for allowing Simmons to put his personal goals before those of the team, is out after five seasons, and Wade has taken on the task of trying to turn things around.

Wade said he sees LSU, which went 10-21 this season, as a “sleeping giant.” He plans to wake it up with a high-energy approach and a focus recruiting the type of players who care about the way they represent LSU.

“We’re going to have unwavering commitment to put the team first,” Wade said. “This is a privilege to be here. This is not a right to be here.”

Wade also spoke of making sure his players are not only in class, but sitting in the first few rows. (Simmons was disqualified in college from receiving the Wooden Award, which takes academic performance into consideration).

“It’s all about culture from the start,” Wade said. “You’ve got to establish the way you’re going to do things and be absolutely uncompromising in those. … We’re not going to have shortcuts.”

Wade took his first head coaching job at Chattanooga following a stint as Shaka Smart’s assistant at VCU. Chattanooga was coming off consecutive losing seasons when Wade arrived and made them winners in his first season. Chattanooga won more than 20 games in Year 2 under Wade, who then took over at VCU when Smart left for Texas. Wade guided the Rams to a 51-20 record in two seasons and is now 91-45 overall as a head coach.

Wade acknowledged that the program he took over at VCU was “humming.” He was also at a school where basketball is king, and in a region known for college basketball.

But Wade said LSU offered something that some more traditionally successful programs could not – a chance to build something that represents his own vision of what a bigtime program should be.

“I really looked at this as an opportunity to try to put my stamp on something … and build it in the vision of how I would like it built,” Wade said.

After Wade’s ceremonial introduction at LSU’s student union near the center of campus, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was pretty specific about his expectations for the Tigers’ new coach.

“We should be one of the top teams in the SEC and go to postseason play on a regular basis,” Alleva said before dismissing the notion that it is somehow basketball’s lack of popularity at LSU that has made it hard for the Tigers to win consistently.

“Our fans are great, and if we win, they’ll come,” he said.

NTSB cites mechanical issue in Michigan plane incident

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YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) A preliminary investigation into the runway accident involving a plane carrying the Michigan men’s basketball team cites a mechanical problem.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued an update about the March 8 crash at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township, near the Ann Arbor school. The aborted takeoff caused extensive damage to the aircraft but only one minor injury during evacuation.

The report does not list a likely cause of the incident, but it says flight data recorder shows the right elevator – the primary mechanism controlling an airplane’s pitch – didn’t move during the attempted takeoff.

The plane carrying 109 passengers and seven crew members skidded 1,000 feet past the runway. The team was headed to Washington, D.C., for the Big Ten Tournament. They flew the next day and won the tournament and are now in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.