Craft and Company ran out of miracles this time

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Ohio State junior point guard Aaron Craft has established a bit of a pattern in the NCAA tournament. As the Buckeyes faced down Iowa State in the Round of 32, it was Craft who pulled up with the game on the line and coolly buried the game-winning three point shot. Against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen, Craft saw LaQuinton Ross open on the wing and fed the hot hand – it was another dramatic three-point splashdown to save the Buckeyes’ title hopes.

Not this time. Not against Wichita State, the No. 9 seed stocked with freshmen and transfers. The Shockers pulled out to a sizeable lead, as high as 20 points in the second half, which gave the Buckeyes a chance to rev up their eye-popping comeback mojo machine, and it looked like Craft and Company would do it again.

Craft nailed a trey with :06 left on the game clock to get the score to 70-66, and when WSU’s Tekele Cotton missed both free throws on the other end of the floor, Craft had another shot at closing the final gap. This time, however, the hole was too deep. The Buckeyes needed four points to play on, and Craft’s three – which missed – wouldn’t have changed the outcome even if another prayer had fallen in.

In the end, Craft’s past caught up with him. He hit only two shots – both of them from behind the arc – throughout the game, and had as many turnovers to his credit as assists. That was too much wrong to be put right before the clock ran out. Sometimes – most of the time, in fact – it’s better to be consistently good than consistently lucky.

Craft’s teammates were a mixed bag in this one, too. DeShaun Thomas, a CBT preseason All-America choice, went for 23 points on the interior, and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross continued a string of solid postseason performances by knocking in 19 from all areas of the floor. In the end, two solid performances simply weren’t enough to get the Buckeyes back to the Final Four.

Thad Matta may have yet another shot at the brass ring next season. Thomas, despite his accolades, is rated by DraftExpress as the 62nd-best  NBA prospect in the nation, and Craft is well behind him, ranked 88th. With Ross developing into a dangerous player, and Thomas and Craft back, Matta will have a perfect three-man core to build his next title contender around. Perhaps even one that doesn’t have to rely on the buzzer-beater to advance into late March.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

CBT Fancast: Catching up with famous Final Four fans: Adam Morrison, Marcus Paige, Neil Everett

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For today’s episode, I spoke with the famous fans of the programs in the Final Four, from the greatest player in Gonzaga history to the almost-star of last year’s Final Four to the most famous dual Gonzaga and Oregon fan in the world.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game, but South Carolina head coach Frank Martin doesn’t seem too concerned.

“I’ve got a bug myself. Luckily I don’t have to play,” Martin said. “He had a little body temperature last night when we landed. And he was a little better this morning. But I kind of told our trainer, just feed him fluids, do what doctors do and let him rest rather than stress him right now. He’s our most intelligent player. And I don’t mean to say that demeaning the other guys. He understands basketball at a high, high level, he doesn’t need to be on the practice court to understand what we’re doing.”

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.