Maurice Creek, Varun Ram

Maurice Creek, George Washington proving to be a match made in heaven

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Maurice Creek’s college basketball career was destined to be short-lived.

11 games into his freshman season at Indiana, the 6-foot-4 guard from Oxon Hill, MD, was averaging 17.6 points and shooting 45.3% from three, the star of Tom Crean’s first recruiting class at Indiana that also included Jordy Hulls and Christian Watford.

He was getting noticed by the national media and NCAA scouts alike. Putting up 31 points on Kentucky will do that to you. But that all changed four years ago this month when Creek landed awkwardly on his left leg after getting fouled on a layup attempt in an otherwise-irrelevant blowout win over Bryant. He had fractured his kneecap, the first of a series of three devastating injuries Creek would suffer while in Bloomington.

That college career that was on the fast-track to the NBA had become a four-year battle with his health, as Creek endured three major surgeries that limited him to appearances in just 54 games as a Hoosier.

“I’ve been through a lot,” Creek said. “I don’t even want to look back to what I’ve been through.”

And that is why Creek is one of the best stories of the college basketball season.

Given a fifth-year of eligibility by the NBA and a chance to continue his collegiate career by George Washington as a graduate transfer, Creek, who is finally healthy, has taken full advantage. Entering Sunday’s game with Maryland in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in DC, Creek was averaging 15.3 points and shooting 45.7% from three. A much needed dose of perimeter scoring pop, he’s been one of the major reasons that the Colonials were 7-1 on the season with wins over Creighton, Miami and Rutgers.

On Sunday, Creek hit the biggest shot of the season for GW.

After blowing a 14-point lead over the course of the last seven minutes of the game, the Colonials (miraculously) were able to break Maryland’s press and call a timeout at half court with 8.1 seconds left. The game was tied at 75, and after watching his team turn the ball over eight times in the final 4:11, there was no way that Creek was allowing anyone else to get the final shot.

“I just told coach I wanted the ball in my hands,” Creek told NBCSports.com. “He said, ‘Go get the ball.'”

Creek made his coach look like a genius, hitting a step-back 20-footer with 0.6 seconds left to give the Colonials the win, finishing with 25 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.

And with that, you saw why Mike Lonergan went out of his way to bring Creek into the program.

George Washington has athletes. They have talented, defensive-minded perimeter players. They have big men that can run the floor, that can rebound, that can block shots. What they were missing last season was a guy that could stretch a defense with his ability to shoot the ball. That’s what Creek does best. He also just so happens to be a kid that was once an all-Big Ten caliber player, a veteran that’s been to the Sweet 16 and that has the, ahem, intestinal fortitude to take and make a big shot in a big moment.

Creek was the missing piece, and his addition has been more than GW could have asked for.

“I came to great university, but they wanted me because they needed me,” Creek said.

But it works both ways.

Creek needed GW just as badly as GW needed him.

He needed a chance to play again, a chance to work his way to the top of a rotation and to see the court. Winning is great, and riding the coattails of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo to Big Ten titles certainly has its benefits, but when you’ve experienced being a star, sliding into a role as a deep reserve on the bench in a tough pill to swallow. That’s what made the Buff and Blue a perfect fit. They needed a leader, they needed a star, and Creek needed a place to land.

With the first month of the season now over, it’s safe to say that the union has been a dream come true.

GW is now 8-1 on the year, the latest team to look like they’ll be willing and able to give VCU and UMass a run for their money at the Atlantic 10 title.

Whether or not that ends up happening will play out over the course of the next four months, but the bottom-line is that GW will have a puncher’s chance. They have the ability and they’ll have the opportunity, and for an athlete, is there anything else you can ask for?

“Everybody knows I worked hard to get to this spot,” Creek said. “To go through all that and now have this? Everything’s just clicking together.”

It’s about damn time.

VIDEO: Gillon’s banked in 3 gives Syracuse win over Duke

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As I watched John Gillon’s shot soar through the air, crash off the backboard and fly through the rim to beat No. 10 Duke at the buzzer, I found myself thinking about ‘Jurassic Park.’

Syracuse, like life, finds a way.

The Orange, for nearly the last two seasons, have simply navigated a path toward their destination, even if it looked blocked before they got started.

Gillon’s banked in 3-pointer at the buzzer, which gave the Orange a 78-75 win over the Blue Devils, is emblematic of Syracuse prevailing in the least expected ways.

The Orange came into the night squarely on the bubble. They had lost their last three games to drop their record to 16-12. They trailed Duke by as many as nine only to take the lead and then give right back.

It didn’t matter. The Orange found a way, however unlikely, to win the game.

That’s been their M.O. since last season. Syracuse dropped five of its last six games of that year. The Orange got blown out by Louisville and Pitt before losing close ones to North Carolina, Florida State and then Pitt in the ACC tournament.

Despite the swoon, the selection committee found a way to slot them as the 10th seed in the Midwest, where they blew through the first two rounds, snuck by Gonzaga and then came roaring back from 16 down in Chicago to defeat top-seed Virginia to earn the program’s sixth Final Four appearance.

They found a way.

With their NCAA tournament hopes very much in the balance against Duke, it was very much the same.

Luke Kennard, who scored 23 points and had five assists, took the ball with just over 10 seconds to play outside the 3-point arc. The 6-foot-6 sophomore found the 6-foot Gillon on an island trying to guard him alone. Kennard went left, then right – unable to find a shred of daylight as Gillon denied him an inch – and finally spun back left. With him with every step was Gillon, who contested Kennard’s jumper from the elbow and watched it clank off the rim into teammate Tyus Battle’s hands.

Battle passed across the court to Gillon with five seconds left. Gillon raced in a straight line across half court and was met by three Blue Devils. He pulled up, had a slight double-clutch as he gathered himself in mid-air and launched Syracuse’s chance to win into the awaiting space.

The backboard lights lit up right before impact, signalling the expiration of the clock, but also drawing attention to what was about to happen there in tenths of a second.

Ricochet and through. The Orange found a way.

Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. There’s no guarantee of another magical Final Four run, or even an NCAA tournament berth, though that certainly looks prevailingly likely now.

This loss doesn’t really wound Duke, who saw its seven-game win streak stopped, but it props up the Orange to continue to pursue their goals. Any which way they can.

No. 3 Kansas clinches their 13th straight Big 12 title

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It’s official.

No. 3 Kansas has now tied UCLA for the most consecutive conference titles one program has won as a 87-68 win over TCU locked up at least a share of the 13th straight Big 12 championship that Bill Self has won in Lawrence.

Self already held the record fro the most consecutive league titles that a single coach has won; John Wooden won the majority of UCLA’s 13 straight titles, but head coaches Gene Bartow and Gary Cunningham were part of that streak as well.

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Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham combined for 37 points and 11 assists in the win, and Josh Jackson chipped in with yet another double-double, adding 15 points, 11 boards and four assists to go along with a tweaked ankle, but the story of this game is the record.

It was a foregone conclusion after they had beaten Baylor in Waco last weekend — Kansas wasn’t going to lose their last four games of the season, are you nuts? — but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular.

The popular refrain for people that aren’t Kansas fans is to let everyone know that this record occurred in the Big 12, a conference where the Jayhawks are the only elite basketball program. UCLA has to contend with Arizona. Duke has North Carolina and Louisville. Indiana has Michigan State. You get the point, and frankly, there is some merit to that point, even when you factor in just how good the Big 12 is and has been in the KenPom conference rankings. Those numbers stem from the fact that the league is as deep as any conference, and the bottom of the league tends to be as good or better than the bottom of just about any league.

Put another way, the Big 12’s computer numbers always look great because the gap between the second-best team and the second-worst team is as small as any power conference on a consistent basis.

I say second-best because Kansas — as a program, historically, and as a team, annually — is a cut above the field. I think we can all agree on that.

But it’s still a dumb argument, because even the best program in a conference has down years. Gonzaga, who is clearly the class of the WCC, didn’t win the regular season title in 2012, snapping Mark Few’s streak of 11 straight seasons as champion. Or how about this: Kentucky, who is the SEC’s version of Kansas and is rolling under Coach Cal these days, didn’t win the SEC regular season title in 2011, 2013 or 2014.

Perhaps the most impressive part of all of this is that Self hasn’t slowed down in the one-and-done era, where program continuity is so difficult to achieve.

That should tell you everything you need to know about this streak.

It should lock up Bill Self’s trip to the Hall of Fame this spring.

And if it doesn’t convince you about how incredible this streak is or how good Self is at his job, then there is no hope for you.

Jayson Williams says Charles Oakley lent him $20K while at St. John’s

24 Jan 1999: Jayson Williams #55 and Sam Cassell #10 of the New Jersey Nets cheer on of the St John''s Red Storm during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. The Blue Devils defeated the Red Storm 92-88. Mandatory Credit: David Leeds  /Allsport
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Another Madison Square Garden tenant has been brought into the feud between Charles Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan.

St. John’s.

How, exactly, do the Red Storm figure in? Well, the story comes courtesy of former St. John’s and NBA standout Jayson Williams, who spoke to Gio & Jones of CBS Sports Radio.

“So, how we did it at St. John’s was when you were in your senior year, and the guys who made it before you goes to the NBA, that guy would give you,” Williams said, according to CBS Sports, “let’s call it like a loan so you don’t have to go out and get an agent or put St. John’s in any trouble with the NCAA. So when my year was up and I was a senior, it was Mark Jackson. Now if anybody knows Mark Jackson, Mark is the greatest human being on Earth – but cheap as the day is long. That man is so frugal.”

As such, Jackson didn’t lend Williams any money, but his teammate on the 1989-90 Knicks, Oakley, did. More from Williams:

“He said, ‘Come here, man. Once you ask somebody once and they ain’t going to give it to you, you don’t beg. What you do is follow me home after.’ Went home and he gave me 20 (and said) ‘When you get drafted, I’m going to want 25 back.’”

And after that the two became fast friends, even if Oakley charged Williams “mafia rates” on return, Williams said. Williams has been one of many outspoken defenders of Oakley, who is in a very public dispute with Dolan after an ugly incident at MSG.

Williams averaged 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his final season with St. John’s before being taken. in the first round of the 1990 draft.

Oakley was one of the few people that came to prison to visit Williams in prison after Williams was sentenced for fatally shooting a hired limo driver in 2002.

“Charles Oakley came to see me once every month like clockwork,” Williams said. “This is why people are so adamant about supporting Charles Oakley.”

 

Bubble Banter: California, TCU and Syracuse with critical games tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears stands on the court during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon State Beavers at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see listed below come from. 

This post will be updated throughout the night.

STILL TO PLAY

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (RPI: 50, KenPom: 42, first four out), 6:30 p.m.

Michigan (RPI: 52, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed) at Rutgers, 6:30 p.m.

No. 10 Duke at Syracuse (RPI: 84, KenPom: 48, first four out), 7:00 p.m.

Pitt (RPI: 59, KenPom: , next four out) at Wake Forest (RPI: 40, KenPom: 31, next four out), 7:00 p.m.

TCU (RPI: 54, KenPom: 43, play-in game) at No. 3 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

Southern Illinois at Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 50, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Saint Louis at VCU (RPI: 26, KenPom: 41, No. 9 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Xavier at Seton Hall (RPI: 47, KenPom: 59, play-in game), 7:00 p.m.

Texas A&M at Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 51, No. 9 seed), 8:30 p.m.

No. 6 Oregon at Cal (RPI: 39, KenPom: 47, No. 10 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Providence (RPI: 69, KenPom: 58, first four out) at No. 23 Creighton, 9:00 p.m.

Man arrested for selling fake Duke-UNC tickets

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels throws the ball in against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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A man was arrested in Durham on Feb. 9th, the day of the Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, for selling counterfeit tickets to the game, according to the Durham Herald-Sun.

The man, a 24-year old from Ft. Myers, Florida, named Andrew Frank Arvai, was busted in a sting that was set up by someone that had bought fake tickets from Arvai before.

From the Sun:

DPD spokesman Wil Glenn alleged that Arvai placed an ad on Craigslist for the tickets and set up a meeting with a ticket broker from stubhub.com at Northgate to sell the tickets to the Feb. 9 game.

Glenn said the broker had purchased tickets from Arvai in the past and the Feb. 9 transaction was a sting. The broker called mall security and alerted a police officer that he was going to meet the scalper, who he accused of selling phony tickets.

According to Durham jail records, he was charged with four counts of scalping tickets, four counts of counterfeiting a trademark and four counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.