Hurricanes go ice cold, miss 41 shots in Sweet 16 loss to Marquette

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Never has MIA been a more fitting nickname for Miami.

The Miami Hurricanes entered Thursday night’s NCAA tournament East regional semifinal with Marquette as one of the nation’s top field-goal shooting teams and were ranked in the top-50 in effective field-goal percentage. But after 20 minutes of play, the No. 2-seed Hurricanes had just 16 points on 6-for-29 shooting, including a paltry 1-for-11 from beyond the arc. The second half wasn’t much better, and the end result was a disappointing 71-61 loss to Marquette at the Verizon Center.

Just three Hurricane players scored in double-figures. Shane Larkin finished with 14 points, Kenny Kadji added 11 points and Durand Scott chipped in with ten. But Kadji went 5-for-12 from the field and Scott finished 3-for-13.

Marquette made it a goal to force Larkin to rely on his teammates for offensive production, and while the Hurricanes got some open looks, very few of them fell in. “They did a great job in guarding the ball screen,” said sophomore guard Shane Larkin, who was just one of three Miami players to shoot at least 50% from the field. “They were pretty much trapping me and trying to get the ball out of my hands, and it was frustrating not being able to attack it because they were trying to get it out of my hands.”

While Marquette did have a great game plan, much of Miami’s struggles were self-inflicted.

“This is fact, it’s not fiction, it’s not an excuse. We didn’t prepare for this game,” said head coach Jim Larranaga following his team’s season-ending loss. “we didn’t practice on Monday. On Tuesday in the first rebounding drill we did, Durand Scott caught an elbow in the mouth. We didn’t have him, and then Raphael Akpejiori hurt his hand. We didn’t have him. We only have 11 scholarship guys eligible, we were down to 8 so practice wasn’t great without Durand, Reggie (Johnson), and last night Shane Larkin ended up throwing up all night, didn’t eat this morning, didn’t eat until the pregame meal at 3:00, so I think those guys didn’t have the juice that they normally do.”

Miami didn’t play terrible, but when an opponent is hitting shots and you aren’t, things don’t tend to work in your favor. “The game is very simple,” said Larranaga. “There are only two things you have to do in basketball one put the ball in the basket, two, stop the other team from putting the ball in the basket. We weren’t able to do either.”

Marquette finished 27-for-50 (54%) from the field, their best NCAA tournament shooting performance since the 2003 Elite Eight against Kentucky, in which they shot 56.4-percent from the field. But it also helped the Golden Eagles that Miami was missing their biggest space-eater, Reggie Johnson, who did not make the trip due to minor knee surgery.

“We definitely missed Reggie tonight,” said Larkin. “I think his size could have affected Otule and Gardner and they just played a great game. You can’t take anything away from them. There is no excuse on our end. Somebody had to step up and we as a team didn’t do that tonight.”

This was a Miami team that may predicted to win the East region and advance to the Final Four. You have to win fours game to make it to the Final Four, and usually, a team has to win one game in which they didn’t have their best performance but still found a way to win. For whatever reason, Miami could not find a way to win.

It also doesn’t help when you miss 41 shots. Miami took 63 shots on Thursday night and made just 22 of them.

Now that Fort Myers, Fla., is affectionately known as “Dunk City”, Coral Gables might have to stick with the trend and change their name to “Brick City’.

You can contact Troy Machir on Twitter at @TroyMachir.

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

This hire is surprising, not because it’s the wrong hire — I think they got this right — but because Indiana actually made the right decision.

The overwhelming sentiment since Tom Crean was fired was that UCLA head coach Steve Alford would be named the next head coach at Indiana because the Hoosiers wanted an “Indiana Guy”. Alford was born in New Castle, he played at IU for Bobby Knight, he won a national title with the program. The goal was to get the Indiana fan base back, a fan base that was so estranged from the program that Indiana had to play an NIT game on the road as a higher seed because they were reportedly afraid of allowing ESPN’s cameras to see the empty seats.

But just because a hire appeases the fans doesn’t make it the right hire.

Miller was the right hire.

If they really want to get the fans back, winning is the best way to do it. Archie is as good of a bet to win at Indiana as anyone.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.