Late Night Snacks: The Marathon is on, but Doug McDermott, Shabazz Napier shine brightest

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: BYU 112, Stanford 103

All these new fouling rules? This is why they’re put into the game. So college basketball looks more like this than rugby.

Now, I’ll freely admit that the score of this game was almost entirely a result of the way that BYU plays. They love, love, love to get up and down the floor, even if it comes at the expense of being able to get stops, and on the nights where Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws get it going, they can do things like score 110 points.

But my point is that this was a game where two teams were able to penetrate without having a hand on their hip and they were able to cut through the lane without getting hip-checked three times. There was plenty of freedom of movement, and while we can’t expect every college basketball game to have final scores with more points than an average NBA game, anything is better than some of the 37-36 slugfests we were stuck with last year.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 6 Arizona head coach Sean Miller has been experimenting with his lineups early on this season. In the opener, Gabe York started at the two, pushing Nick Johnson to the three and Aaron Gordon to the four. On Monday night, Kaleb Tarczewski was back into the starting lineup, meaning Gordon was out on the perimeter. It didn’t matter much; Gordon finished with a double-double for the second straight game, going for 14 points and 10 boards on 6-for-8 shooting. Brandon Ashley added 16 points and seven boards in the 91-57 win over Long Beach State.

2) No. 19 Gonzaga lit up Colorado State, hitting 14 threes en route to a 93-61 win. Gary Bell Jr. led the way with 24 points on eight triples of his own.

STARRED:

1) Dougie McBuckets went all Dougie McBuckets on poor UMKC, finishing with 37 points. 34 of those points came in the first 24 minutes of the game. The Bluejays ended up winning 96-70.

2) No. 19 UConn handled Yale this afternoon 80-62, picking up their second win of the season. And star point guard Shabazz Napier looked every bit of an All-American, finishing with 14 points, 11 boards and 10 assists. He’s now averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 boards and 8.5 assists. Not bad.

3) Billy Baron went off for 27 points for Canisius in a season-opening win over South Dakota. He scored 13 of that 27 in the final 10 minutes.

STRUGGLED:

1) Napier was awesome. UConn’s big men weren’t. The six front court players that saw time for the Huskies on Monday afternoon gathered all of three defensive rebounds. They didn’t get a single offensive rebound among them. Yale, on the other hand, had 22 offensive rebounds. Not good.

2) Rhode Island shot 30.8% from the floor and 2-for-15 from three while committing 20 turnovers in a 31 point loss to SMU. Star point guard Xavier Munford was 1-for-11.

3) Rion Brown was 3-13 on Monday. He’s not shooting 6-for-23 from the floor and 2-for-9 from three on the season, a big part of the reason that Miami has not been taken to overtime by teams projected to finish near the bottom of the SoCon and the NEC. At least the Hurricanes beat Georgia Southern.

NOTABLES

  • Kent State went into Philly and knocked off Temple, 81-77.
  • Trae Golden had 16 points for Georgia Tech in a win over Delaware State.
  • C.J. Washington went for 18 points and 10 boards as UAB knocked off Rutgers at home, 79-76.
  • Oklahoma’s high-speed ways earned them another win on Monday, as Buddy Hield led the Sooners with 23 points in a 95-82 win over North Texas.

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.