Late Night Snacks: Providence, Colorado survive at home

Leave a comment

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 73, Brown 69

The Friars were up by as much as 16 points in the first half, but Brown made their run in the second half. The Bears completely erased the lead that Ed Cooley’s club had built, tying the game midway through the half. Brown was never able to take control of the game, however, and thanks to a three from Josh Fortune with just 37 seconds left in the game, they were able to escape the Dunkin Donuts Center with their second straight win.

Providence was playing without Kris Dunn (shoulder), Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock (suspensions). And while Bryce Cotton struggled a bit on Wednesday night, he was picked up by a pair of teammates. Kadeem Batts finished with 19 points and 11 boards while Tyler Harris had 21 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1)  For the first time since 1996, Colorado knocked off Wyoming on Wednesday night, 63-58. The Buffaloes lost to the Pokes on the road last season, which dropped them out of the top 25 permanently. Spencer Dinwiddie had 12 of his 15 points in the second half, Askia Booker went for 14 and Josh Scott chipped in with 12 points and nine boards. That said, it was another ugly performance by the Buffaloes. Colorado finished the night with four assists. Four!

2) Illinois picked up a win against Valparaiso at home on Wednesday night, knocking off the Crusaders 64-52. But it was not a pretty win by any stretch of the imagination. The Illini were never able to pull away. Rayvonte Rice led the way with 18 points.

3) No. 18 Oregon may be without two holdovers from last season’s Sweet 16 team (Dominic Artis and Ben Carter), but their newcomers are doing just fine. In the Ducks’ 107-83 win over Western Carolina transfers Joseph Young (36 points) and Mike Moser (26) combined to shoot 18-for-26 from the field. Add in 16 points off the bench from junior college transfer Elgin Cook and that was enough to take care of the Catamounts despite Trey Sumler scoring 29 points.

STARRED:

1) D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks clearly weren’t bothered by jet lag returning from South Korea. They went for 48 points and 11 assists combined in a win over Wright State.

2) How about Villanova freshman Josh Hart? He finished with 17 points and 11 boards in a win over Mt. St. Mary’s. He’s a 6-foot-4 guard.

3) Freshman Marcus Foster had himself a day, finishing with 25 points to lead Kansas State to their first win of the season, knocking off a better-than-you-think Oral Roberts team, 71-63.

STRUGGLED:

1) Seton Hall beat Kent State 78-76, thanks to 20 points and six assists from Sterling Gibbs, but the Pirates did everything they could to give that game away. We even saw a five-second call with 21 seconds left and Seton Hall up two with two timeouts left.

2) With 14 minutes left on Wednesday, Abilene Christian was up 44-38 at Maryland. The final score? Maryland 67, Abilene Christian 44. That’s a 14-minute, game-ending 29-0 run.

3) Tim Frazier had 13 points and seven assists, but he turned the ball over five times and played just 27 minutes while battling foul trouble as Penn State lost to Bucknell 90-80. Steven Kaspar had 25 points for the Bison.

NOTABLES:

  • A.J. Hammons returned to Purdue’s lineup with 12 points, five boards and seven blocks in 17 minutes in a win over CCSU.
  • Florida State handled Central Florida on the road on Wednesday, 80-68, despite playing without Kiel Turpin. Devin Bookert had 17 points and five assists.
  • Cameron Clark led five players in double figures with 14 points as Oklahoma beat Idaho.
  • Oregon State didn’t lose to a mid-major on Wednesday, surviving with a 79-73 win over Portland. Roberto Nelson had 24 points and seven dimes.
  • DePaul was up by double figures in the first half but couldn’t hold on to the lead, eventually losing to Southern Miss 75-68.
  • St. Joe’s big man Halil Kanicevic had 12 points, 11 boards and nine assists in a win over Marist.
  • Dayton improved to 2-0 on the season with a 70-56 win over St. Francis PA.
  • Holy Cross beat Sacred Heart 122-118 in double-overtime. Sounds like that was a fun one.
  • Mark Tollefson led five San Francisco players in double figures with 18 points as the Dons moved to 2-0 win a 91-82 home win over Cleveland State.

A season of highs and lows ends for Kansas in the Elite 8 again

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
1 Comment

For the second season in a row, Kansas was one-win shy of a Final Four appearance, falling to Oregon, 74-60, in the Elite Eight on Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

This comes a year after Kansas, as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, fell to eventual national champion Villanova in the Elite 8.

Just as stars such as Perry Ellis struggled in that regional final, so did KU’s freshman phenom Josh Jackson, whose quick two personal fouls that saddled him on the bench and appeared to take him out of the game mentally. Devonte’ Graham, averaging 20.0 points per game in the tournament, was 0-for-7 from the field. Frank Mason III’s first-half performance assured that Oregon would completely run away with the game before halftime.

The loss put an end to a tumultuous season for the Jayhawks.

Kansas entered the 2016-17 season as one of the favorites to win the national championship. The Jayhawks went on to win the Big 12 regular season title for an unprecedented 13th consecutive season. Frank Mason III, in the eyes of many, was the wire-to-wire national player of the year.

However, for all its accomplishments on the court, Kansas faced more than its share of issues off-the-court. Lagerald Vick, who was under university investigation for allegedly striking a female student. Carlton Bragg was arrested — and subsequently suspended — for drug paraphernalia. There was also the affidavit released a day before the start of the NCAA Tournament for the Jayhawks, detailing the incident outside a Lawerence bar from December involving both Vick and Josh Jackson. Even Devonte Graham’s arrest for an unpaid ticket made headlines during this string of non-basketball related news.

The Jayhawks downplayed talks of distraction before the start of the NCAA Tournament and backed it up by dominating opponents through the first three rounds. The average margin of victory was 30.0, and that includes victories over Michigan State and a 32-point beatdown of a Purdue team that held a massive mismatch on the interior.

It looked like Self was destined to add to his Hall of Fame résumé; a third trip to the Final Four — first since 2012 — was in front of essentially a home crowd. Instead, Oregon handed the Jayhawks their worst tournament defeat in the Bill Self era.

Seven times under Self, KU has made the Elite Eight and was sent home.

Perhaps, all would have been forgiven — or at the very least, overshadowed — had KU cut down the nets in Arizona.

Instead, its season ended in an all too familiar place.

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

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 4 FLORIDA (-3) vs. No. 7 SOUTH CAROLINA, 2:20 p.m., CBS: If you’re a fan of uptempo, wide-open basketball, of teams running beautiful offensive sets, spreading the floor and using the three-point line like it should be used, this game probably is not going to be for you.

This is going to be as physical and as tough as any game you watched all season long. Both the Gamecocks and the Gators are top five teams in defensive efficiency, and both of them get out and pressure defensively, Florida in the full court and South Carolina in the half court. They shun shooters for the toughest athletes on their roster. They pride themselves in being tougher, both mentally and physically, than whoever they end up playing.

And they think that a game played in the 50s is beautiful basketball.

So bet the under if you can.

But the pick I like is Florida here. Their ability to defend is going to make it very difficult for South Carolina’s offensive renaissance to continue, and their guards will be able to make the plays offensively that South Carolina dares you to make.

PREDICTION: Florida (-3)

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA (-2.5) vs. No. 2 KENTUCKY, 5:05 p.m. CBS: This is the rematch we all wanted, right?

Ever since that day three months ago, when Kentucky got 47 points from Malik Monk in a 103-102 win over North Carolina in Las Vegas, I don’t think there is a soul in the country that would have told you otherwise.

There are two major differences between these two teams now and those two teams then. The biggest is the presence of Theo Pinson, North Carolina’s best perimeter defender. Pinson has dealt foot injuries all season long, and when these two got together in December, he was not yet healthy enough to play. I assume that he will draw the assignment of Malik Monk, chasing around the man that had definitively been Kentucky’s most dangerous scorer. Pinson will make life more difficult for Monk than it was the first time around.

But is he going to spend the entire game on him?

Because after De’Aaron Fox’s 39-point outburst against UCLA on Friday night, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Pinson may be better suited to taking on the task of keeping Fox from getting into the paint. Whatever Roy Williams opts to do, the bottom line is pretty simple — if he needs to find a way to keep Kentucky’s back court in check.

The other difference between now and then is that Bam Adebayo has been playing up to his potential for the past six weeks. He was solid earlier in the year. He can be dominant at times now, and that is going to be critical for the Wildcats, who are going to be outsized by a significant margin by UNC’s front line. The Tar Heels lead the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, and they are one of the only elite teams that thrives playing two bigs at the same time. In other words, one of Wenyen Gabriel or Derek Willis are going to have to deal with Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. That’s a matchup that favors UNC, which is why Aebayo is going to have to play up to his size.

In the end, I think Pinson’s presence and North Carolina’s size advantage will be too much.

But if Fox and Monk play their game, they can carry Kentucky a long, long way.

PREDICTION: North Carolina (2.5)

Lawrence Police Department trolls Bill Self following Elite Eight loss

6 Comments

Kansas had its season ended with a 74-60 loss to No. 3 seed Oregon.

The Jayhawks were the top seed in the South region. They were playing a de facto at the Sprint Center, which is 40 miles away from the school’s campus. As you can imagine, fans in Lawrence were likely unhappy, especially since it’s the second year in a row KU has been bounced one-game shy of the Final Four.

The Lawrence Police Department, while prepping for potential riots, couldn’t help tweeting a joke at the future Hall of Famer’s expense.

Bill Self’s teams have been eliminated seven times in the Elite Eight during his tenure at Kansas. He’s led the Jayhawks to a pair of Final Fours, winning the national championship in 2008.

Kansas finished the season 31-5.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

Leave a comment

In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

Leave a comment

Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.