Will Cummings

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.

Four-star PG Jaylen Fisher de-commits from UNLV

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Coaching changes can wreak havoc on a program’s recruiting class, and that’s been the case for UNLV thanks to the tumultuous nature of their search for a new head coach. Thursday evening one prospect who remained committed to the Mountain West program throughout the process that ultimately led to Marvin Menzies landing the job announced that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.

Four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, announced via social media that he’s decided to de-commit from UNLV.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a Rebel this year,” Fisher wrote. “But there have been a lot of changes with the program since I committed to UNLV; changes that have made me reconsider whether UNLV is still a good fit for me. So with that in mind and after much consideration with my family, I have decided it’s best that I reopen my recruitment.”

Fisher’s decision leaves wing Justin Jackson as the lone member of UNLV’s 2016 class at this point, with Jackson telling Scout.com in early April that he was undecided as to whether or not he’d reopen his recruitment. The school’s search for a coach began in January when they parted ways with Dave Rice, promoting Todd Simon in an interim role.

After deciding not to retain Simon, who’s now the head coach at Southern Utah, UNLV hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard…who left for Texas Tech less than two weeks later. UNLV landed Menzies, who they passed over for Beard, and he’s got a lot of work to do to field a roster that will be competitive in the Mountain West next season.

As for Fisher, the Arlington, Tennessee native should be a popular prospect with his decision to reopen things. And with Memphis losing former commit Charlie Moore, the Tigers are in need of help at the point. The question now is whether or not new head coach Tubby Smith will look to reach out to Fisher.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal

NCAA rule change that impacts Memphis coaching staff now official

Memphis forward Dedric Lawson (1) goes up for a shot between Connecticut forward Shonn Miller (32) and guard Daniel Hamilton, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the American Athletic Conference men's tournament in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
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One of the more popular topics in college basketball in recent weeks was the status of Memphis assistant coach Keelon Lawson and sons Dedric and K.J. in the aftermath of the school hiring Tubby Smith. Would Smith keep the elder Lawson on staff as an assistant, thus in all likelihood ensuring that Dedric and K.J. would return as well? Would he let go or attempt to reassign Keelon, and as a result risk losing two players from an already limited roster?

Ultimately Smith decided to reassign Keelon to a non-coaching position, making him director of player development. And with the NCAA having a rule that those with a connection to a prospective student-athlete had to serve in a coaching capacity for the player’s first two seasons, the question was whether or not Memphis would need a waiver to pull off the move.

Luckily for Memphis the NCAA was looking into an alteration of the rule, and on Thursday with the NCAA not taking action on Proposal 2015-30 the change became official.

Under the new rule a coach’s two years on staff would begin immediately upon his arrival. In the case of Lawson this is key as he spent a year on former Memphis head coach Josh Pastner’s staff before Dedric and K.J. enrolled. With the two-year requirement ruled to be served under the new proposal, Smith could reassign Keelon Lawson without having to ask the NCAA for a waiver.

The next step as far as Memphis is concerned is Dedric, who ultimately entered his name into the NBA Draft pool (without an agent), withdrawing and returning to school for his sophomore season. As a freshman Dedric was the best freshman in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers. DraftExpress.com currently ranks him 28th amongst college freshmen, which makes him no sure thing to be drafted should he decide to stay in the draft.

At the very least the next month should result in Dedric receiving constructive feedback from NBA scouts and executives that he can use to improve next season.

K.J. played in just ten games last season due to a lingering Achilles tendon issue, averaging 8.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. The hope is that K.J. will be granted a medical redshirt for last season, thus preserving a year of eligibility.

Chattanooga men’s hoop coach McCall gets 2-year extension

Chattanooga head coach Matt McCall directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) Chattanooga men’s basketball coach Matt McCall has received a two-year contract extension after leading the Mocs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in his debut season.

The school announced the extension Thursday. McCall’s contract now runs through the 2021-22 season.

Chattanooga went 29-6 last season to set a school record for victories. The Mocs captured their first Southern Conference regular-season title since 1994 and also won the league’s postseason tournament to earn their first NCAA bid since 2009.

Indiana beat Chattanooga 99-74 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Athletic director David Blackburn said in a statement, “We had great confidence in who we hired a year ago, and that never wavered. This is in recognition of him and his staff’s great work in equipping our student-athletes for success.”

Jim Valvano’s title-winning N.C. State team to finally get White House visit

FILE - In this April 5, 1983, file photo, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano embraces sophomore forward Lorenzo Charles moments after Charles had dunked a shot to give North Carolina State the win over Houston in the national championship game at the Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
(AP Photo/Leonard Ignelzi, File)
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The N.C. State men’s basketball team never got invited to the White House after they won the 1983 National Title.

It wasn’t a tradition in those days. They spoke with President Ronald Reagan, but they did so from the confines of a television studio in Raleigh. It’s commonplace now to see title winners from all sports making their way to the Oval Office to shake hands with our nation’s leader, but back then, the funding and invitation weren’t always available.

And that never say right with the guys on that team. Since Lorenzo Charles, whose memorable dunk was the title-winning bucket, passed away in 2011, that team has had a reunion every spring, and the topic of going to the White House to celebrate the win always came up. That inspired Thurl Bailey, who was the No. 7 pick of the 1983 NBA Draft, and his friend, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, to write letters to President Obama requesting that the ’83 iteration of the Wolfpack get their White House visit.

“As definitive as a National Championship sounds, as an athlete there always seems to be unfinished business,” Bailey told N.C. State’s website. “You’re always looking for the next challenge, the next opportunity. This was it for me.  If I could get this done, it would be yet another story for me and the other members of that team to be able to pass along to our kids, grandkids and generations after that.”

Bailey’s efforts proved successful.

On Thursday, N.C. State announced that President Obama had not only received the letters, but he has issued a May 9th invitation for that 1983 team to visit him in Washington, D.C., meaning that Bailey, Dereck Whittenburg and the rest of that 1983 title-winning team will finally get to meet the Commander-in-Chief.

“The joy and the euphoria of winning a national title against all odds, as well as the pain and devastation of losing members of that family, are important parts of who I am,” Bailey said. “Contacting President Obama was one piece of our incredible journey that had eluded us for far too long.”

Los Angeles to host new college basketball doubleheader

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
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LOS ANGELES (AP) A new men’s basketball doubleheader will be played in Los Angeles featuring Arizona, BYU, Gonzaga and Southern California.

The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Wednesday announced the one-day event, to be played at Staples Center on Dec. 3.

The Wildcats will play the Zags and the Cougars will face the Trojans.

Tickets will go on sale May 4. Game times and television broadcast information will be announced later.