Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Syracuse, No. 15 Kansas win key conference battles

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 15 Kansas 80, No. 9 Oklahoma State 78

At the conclusion of last season’s meeting at Allen Fieldhouse Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart pulled off a celebratory backflip. While both teams stated that last year’s finish would have no effect on Saturday’s meeting, it was clear that these two teams are too fond of each other. A Frank Mason strip of Le’Bryan Nash in the final seconds preserved the victory for the Jayhawks, who received an outstanding performance from center Joel Embiid.

Embiid finished the game with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks, helping the Jayhawks navigate a quiet afternoon from Andrew Wiggins. For the Cowboys it was Phil Forte III who picked up the slack for a struggling Marcus Smart, hitting seven three-pointers and scoring 23 points.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 2 Syracuse 59, No. 22 Pittsburgh 54

After years of this being a big matchup in the Big East the Orange and Panthers met with first place in the ACC on the line, and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis was the difference-maker in the end. Ennis, who finished the game with 16 points and three assists, scored six points late to ensure that the Orange would remain undefeated. Pittsburgh dropped its first ACC game, but if anything the Panthers likely proved to the skeptics that they are an ACC contender.

2) Michigan 77, No. 3 Wisconsin 70 

Since Mitch McGary was ruled out for the remainder of the season John Beilein’s team has won seven straight games, the most recent being a seven-point win in Madison. Nik Stauskas, who’s expanded his game since last season, put up 23 points, four rebounds and four assists to lead the way. The win is Michigan’s first in Madison since 1999.

3) No. 25 Oklahoma 66, No. 12 Baylor 64

The Sooners didn’t play well in the first half, shooting 23% from the field in Waco. The good news for Lon Kruger’s team at the half: they only trailed by six points. In the second half Buddy Hield scored all 19 of his points and Cameron Clark added ten of his 14 to lead Oklahoma to a solid resume-building victory.

STARRED

1) Andrew Rowsey (UNC Asheville)

The freshman scored 35 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the Bulldogs’ 80-76 win at Charleston Southern.

2) Sam Dower (Gonzaga) 

28 points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in Gonzaga’s 82-72 win over Loyola Marymount.

3) Richaud Pack (North Carolina A&T)

Pack scored 30 points, dished out eight assists (one turnover) and grabbed five rebounds in the Aggies’ 88-82 win over NJIT. NJIT’s Damon Lynn scored 34 points in a losing effort, shooting 9-for-18 from three.

STRUGGLED

1) N.C. State

The Wolfpack shot just 8-for-16 from the foul line and committed 21 turnovers in their 95-60 loss at No. 23 Duke.

2) Branden Frazier (Fordham) 

The Rams’ second-leading scorer (19.0 ppg) ran into No. 24 Saint Louis’ stingy defense and the results weren’t good, as he went scoreless and shot 0-for-10 from the field.

3) Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)

Ferrell shot 2-for-14 from the field, finishing with nine points and just one assist in the Hoosiers’ 54-47 home loss to Northwestern.

NOTABLES

  • Styles make fights, and in the case of Florida State and Virginia this may simply be a bad matchup for the Seminoles. The Cavaliers won 79-66, sweeping the season series with both wins being convincing.
  • No. 13 Kentucky rebounded from a slow start to beat Tennessee 74-66 in Knoxville. Andrew Harrison led the way with a career-high 26 points.
  • No. 23 Duke looked like the team many expected them to be on Saturday afternoon in their 95-60 win over N.C. State. Jabari Parker scored 23 points and five other Blue Devils scored at least nine points.
  • Utah picked up a huge win for its program on Saturday afternoon, beating No. 25 UCLA 64-59 in Salt Lake City. Jordan Loveridge led four Utes in double figures with 17 points (and nine rebounds).
  • No. 5 Wichita State moved to 19-0 with a 68-48 win over Indiana State, with Ron Baker leading four Shockers in double figures with 16 points.
  • Toledo made a nice statement within the MAC, winning 75-61 at Akron in a matchup of two of the early favorites to win the conference. Julius “Juice” Brown scored 25 points and J.D. Weatherspoon added 20 and 14 rebounds for the Rockets.
  • Georgetown’s in trouble, as they fell to Seton Hall at home 67-57. Prior to this year the Hoyas hadn’t lost to the Pirates and Providence in the same season since the 2003-04 campaign.
  • Speaking of the Friars they won their third consecutive game, beating No. 20 Creighton, 81-68. Bryce Cotton led five Friars in double figures with 23 points.
  • No. 18 Louisville picked up an important resume-building victory, winning 76-64 at UConn. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie wasn’t around for the finish, and Russ Smith scored 23 and Montrezl Harrell added 18 and 13 rebounds to lead the winners.
  • Jonathan Holmes scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Texas to an 86-76 win over No. 8 Iowa State.
  • Casey Prather made his return in No. 7 Florida’s 68-61 win at Auburn and he played well, scoring 21 points and grabbing six rebounds off the bench.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

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.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: